Friday, January 21, 2011

Video Backlog: Week 3, 2011

"Howl's Moving Castle"
Publisher: Buena Vista Japan
Format: Region 2 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub, French Dub and English, French and Japanese Subtitles
Length: 119 minutes
Production Date: 2004
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

This film had a very rough birth. Originally to be directed by Mamoru Hosoda, he left the project and Studio Ghibli in 2002. I had read once that the studio had gone back to him at least once to redo parts of the film’s pre-production because they weren’t happy with it. He must of got sick of the process and left. Well after “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Summer Wars”, clearly Ghibli’s loss is Madhouse’s gain. So as you may know, Hayao Miyazaki became the director. I originally saw this film in 2005 in the cinema (subtitled too), the day after I resigned from my shitty old job. While I really enjoyed the film as it’s classic Ghibli/Miyazaki stuff, I thought it lagged a bit in the middle. I also had some problems with a couple of plot points such as how the Witch of Waste found Sophie and a couple other parts which didn’t quite add up. I think after “Princess Mononoke”, Miyazaki’s films have become rather surreal and a little nonsensical. And what’s up with the black goopy creatures that seem to inhabit every single one of his films since Mononoke? I think I do prefer pre 1997 Miyazaki to modern era Miyazaki. Still, it was quite a good film. Miyazaki’s female characters are always fantastic, even when their based off of another work. I will give it 8.5 out of 10.

"Tales from Earthsea"
Publisher: Buena Vista Japan
Format: Region 2 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English and Japanese Subtitles
Length: 115 minutes
Production Date: 2006
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

Ah, the other Miyazaki, Goro. Another Ghibli film I first saw in the cinema (subbed as well), however I was originally not very impressed with it. I think this was because the film was an obvious DVD projection in the cinema (damn cheap of you Madman Entertainment!) and I didn’t enjoy the experience. Having watched the DVD some three years later, I have changed my mind completely. Sure Goro may be Hayao’s son and it seems they hated each other’s guts during the production, but god it’s quite a good film. I don’t it quite has the magic of many other Ghibli works, but it’s certainly more commercial that the Ghibli films of Takahata. Apart from the fantasy elements which I really like, there’s more of a western setting in this film which has been missing from a lot of Ghibli’s more recent works. This film really reminds me a lot of “The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun” (aka “The Little Norse Prince”), Takahata’s fantastic film from 1968. Unlike his father, the focus here is on male characters, which I didn’t mind at all. Despite all the hate the film got in Japan, I really liked it. It’s a solid Ghibli film, though probably not the best in their catalogue. For a debut film, it is pretty fantastic. 8 out of 10.

"s-CRY-ed"Publisher: Bandai Entertainment (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 26 Episodes x 24 minutes
Production Date: 2001
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

Watching this show, I recalled how good the animation studio Sunrise is and wondered why fandom never seems to give them due credit. I can only think of one really mediocre Sunrise anime, “King of Thorn”. Everything else I’ve seen of theirs is at the very least quite entertaining. “s-CRY-ed” is a typical Sunrise show. It’s got quite a good plot, a bunch of great characters and some great designs. Yeah sure, the character designs are by Hisashi Hirai who like Keiji Goto has probably overstayed his welcome (like Goto, his designs are very distinctive), but you have to admit the designs are really attractive. At the core of this show, it’s really just a fighting anime, but it’s a heavily disguised one. I think if Sunrise had just made this show an ordinary fighting anime rather than adding the other plot elements, it’d get really tired pretty quick. At one point it becomes a bit like a bishonen in armour show (like “Saint Seiya” or “Samurai Troopers”). The relationships and interactions between all of the main characters are very good. I think where the show falls down a bit is with the secondary characters. Most of them are caricatures and have no real character development. Also some of the powers the Alters have are just absurd. The watermelon guy just takes the cake. The absurd elements really take away from the drama and any realism the show was striving for. The end was also really silly. It didn’t make any sense to me especially after what had happened in the previous 25 episodes. The packaging Bandai Entertainment is absurdly over the top, especially when you consider that the DVDs themselves come in a standard digipak case and the only extra was a metal key chain. So much wasted space. I was going to be mean and give this show a 6, but’s really better than that, it’s just that a number of elements really let it down. 7 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 20 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

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