They’re the best Anime that 1996 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Armitage III: Poly-Matrix, Dragon Ball Movie 4: Saikyou e no Michi, Lupin III: Dead or Alive, and more!
5: Armitage III: Poly-Matrix
Japanese: アミテージ ザ サード POLY-MATRIX
MAL Score: 7.07
In the year 2046 humans are moving away from using robots and begin to trust them less and less. In this time life becomes very perilous for the beings known as seconds. The seconds are the most recent line of robots, as far as the public knows. This is the world Detective Ross Sylibus lives in. Detective Sylibus is transferred to Mars by his request after his partner was killed by a robot. As he arrives he falls headfirst into a murder where a country singer on his flight was murdered. He steps off the plane and watches as a scene unfolds and he meets his partner, Armitage a female cop with a major attitude. A rash of murders begins when yet more women are killed. As the investigation is continued a secret is uncovered. There is another line of robots known as Thirds. More and more Thirds turn up missing, as a serial killer who is intent on wiping out all the Thirds runs rampant. Armitage in her quest to put the murderer to justice reveals a secret. She herself is a Third.
(Source: ANN, edited)
Welcome to the year 2046. The Earth became overpopulated and therefore, mankind created a colonization in Mars with the help of first type” androids and built the city of Saint Lowell. Seventy years later, the city is inhabited by humans and “Second-type” androids, which are improvements over the first type and this new robots talk and react like real humans. On the space-port, a man named Ross Sylllibus arrives on Mars to meet his new partner, a young woman named Naomi Armitage, which for a partner she does know how to dress up nicely. However, all hell goes down when Armitage stops a man with a briefcase that she shot down and in the case, they find the body of a country singer named Kelly McCannon, which turns out that she’s a “third-type” robot, able to act like a human but in a more advanced realistic way. Now humanity loses faith on the robots and now hellbent on destroying every last one of them, Armitage and Ross must now stop the man that’s committing these murders and discover the secret of the “third-type” robots.
As you probably know by now, the story is the main selling-point of this movie and why people love it so much. It asks the question of why did mankind create robots when in reality they want them dead cause robots are becoming smarter than their creators. Did we wanted to create robots for our miserable enjoyment, to treat them like slaves, to make us feel better or to have them do our dirty work for them on the city? While it doesn’t go too deep, it still talks about the issues with man’s relation with machine and the fear that machines will become stronger creatures than man itself, kind like The Terminator. The 2 main characters are charming and to my surprise, they are well developed. Armitage is a woman who is different from the rest of us but doesn’t care about it cause she just wants man and machines to live together in the city and will do anything to protect her kind. Ross Syllibus is also a great character. He’s a cop who lost trust on robots since his beloved one was murdered by a robot but in the end, he learns that not all robots are programmed to be killers and has faith that both kinds can live in harmony. The side characters are just boring, minus one character that I won’t spoil here. They are useless and throughout this movie, they do nothing despite that there are riots in the city and no other cop does a damn thing about it.
The animation by AIC, the animation company that worked on Oh My Goddess and Inspector Gadget, looks phenomenal for a 1995 anime film. The cyberpunk look is impressive, giving it a Blade-Runner inspiration style, and the water color art is beautifully rendered in the background. The English voice acting is good but you have to get used to them in order to appreciate it. Elizabeth Barkley starts off strong as Armitage and she gives a top-notch performance out of her character. Kiefer Sutherland starts weak as Ross cause he sounds bored at times but in the second half of the series, he does improve a bit more than the beginning of the film. The music is fantastic and it gives you chills on your spine on how well the music is composed here.
Armitage III: Poly Matrix is a fantastic anime that should be watched by everyone. The story and themes are excellent, the 2 main characters are well-developed, the action is excellent, the animation is top-notch and the music is phenomenal. It’s a great addition to the cyberpunk genre and I do hope that someone remake this film to a new generation of cyberpunks fans… In a good way of course.
The artwork is hand drawn in painstaking detail, as CGI was in it’s infancy at the time, so the background artwork is very rich and complex. The main characters in the American dub were voiced by people who were A-list stars at the time, so you can expect great voice acting.
One last word of warning though: Like many cyber-punk movies of the time, nudity and ultra-violence is prevalent throughout the movie. Certain naughty bits appear on screen with no warning at all.
On the surface we have a standard cyberpunk cop story set on Mars, with Naomi Armitage meeting her new partner, Ross Syllabus. He’s a cyborg with a deep disdain for electronic lifeforms, and it turns out she is secretly the next big step in that direction.
And looking back this where it’s issues lie. An android capable of human conception? Is it even possible? OR necessary? Add some odd interpretations of feminism and it’s not the best write looking back. It was okay even though I never realized it was very flawed.
But it was a gateway title for me. One of the first I’d seen and it stuck in my memory because of that. I like the style, the soundtrack is good, and it was future spacey enough that I paid money for it when I had no way to get money.
So warts and all, it’s worth a watch. An icon from the time when a Pioneer label wasn’t a historical relic.
4: Dragon Ball Movie 4: Saikyou e no Michi
English: Dragon Ball: The Path to Power
Japanese: ドラゴンボール 最強への道
MAL Score: 7.13
A retelling of Dragon Ball’s origin with a different take on the meeting of Goku, Bulma, and Kame-Sen’nin. It also retells the Red Ribbon Army story; but this time they find Goku rather than Goku finding them.
Better renderized, it just became beautiful and gives joy to watch. The original magic got stronger with this special animation and it surely won’t disappoint anyone who loves DB, and even the ones who had never watched it.
Some characters were excluded, like Pilaf and his comrades, and some members from RR (Colonel Silver, Captain Yellow etc.), but those were less important in the saga. What matters is that it shows us, in 75 minutes, all that happened before Piccolo Daimao’s appearance.
So, basically, the story goes from Goku meeting Bulma, Oolong, Yamcha, Puar and Master Roshi, to the complete defeat of the RR’s army, with some small changes in the way it goes and the exclusion of Goku’s training with Kuririn, as well as their first Tenkaichi Budoukai.
Ending credits with “Dan Dan Kokoro Hikarete ‘ku” as its background made me cry (this song really moves me). Any real fan of this incredible saga should watch it! Strongly recommended!
We open with Goku meeting Bulma for the first time. Yay, another re-telling like the first film. So, they meet Oolong and Yamcha and then things surprisingly get switched up and they encounter the Red Ribbon Army. So, instead of a straight up re-telling, it’s more an alternative scenario where the group encounters the Red Ribbon Army while first hunting for the dragonballs instead of Pilaf and his minions.
The biggest issue with the narrative is that some parts of it are overly predictable. Like, the big climax is very much of the “everything is obvious before it happens” variety. Of course, this isn’t a franchise that’s known for its surprising twists. It’s known for its big, over the top action sequences. But it’s usually not quite this obvious with every single beat being super telegraphed. The film also repeats some of the gags from the series verbatim and they just don’t have the same impact. It doesn’t help that they aren’t even close to the funniest gags from the series.
On the positive side, changing things around so that the group’s first major conflict is with Red Ribbon, does change things up enough to give the film a sense of uniqueness, in spite of being an alternative re-telling. Which is something of a rarity. It also does mostly capture the sense of fun of the series proper pretty well.
Chances are, most of you are familiar with the major Dragonball characters like Goku, Bulma and Roshi. You also get more minor supporting characters like Oolong & Pu’ar. There’s also Yamcha for the one person out there who likes Yamcha. Fortunately for the rest of us, he pretty much just follows the group and gets used as a butt monkey. The somewhat surprising character is Cyborg Eight, or Hat-chan if you prefer. He gets used quite extensively in this one. It’s a fun cast, not all that deep but well suited for the film’s aesthetic.
Mostly, the artwork is pretty well done. There are some cool action moments. The character models look good. Bulma has purple hair instead of her usual teal for some reason and Goku wears a blue gi instead of his usual orange. Probably because the non-canon GT had just come out and he wore blue in that. The only real issue with the art is that they really overdo the shadow effects and there are points where it just looks a bit rubbish.
The acting is well done. They got the usual cast with Nozawa Masako, Tsuru Hiromi, Tatsuta Naoki, Iizuka Shouzou and the others. So, it’s a group who know the characters they’re voicing really well and are good at them. The music is typical for the franchise. Which isn’t a bad thing. Dragonball consistently has some pretty strong music.
Areas of Improvement:
1. A little surprise to the climax. Yes, this is a formulaic franchise but they could still put in something a bit unpredictable to make things more interesting.
2. Rework the gags a little. There’s a reason Spamalot doesn’t use the exact same jokes as Quest for the Holy Grail. Gags are funnier when they’re fresh. If you know the punchline, they just don’t work as well.
3. Stop Putting shadows over everything.
Saikyou e no Michi is a solid Dragonball film, in spite of its late release and fans of the franchise will probably enjoy it once they stop complaining about Goku’s wardrobe change and Bulma’s hair dye. For myself, the climax was far too obvious and the recycled gags didn’t land particularly well, but I still thought it was a solid film. In the end, I’ll give it a 7/10.
“The Path to Power” is the Dragon Ball 10th Anniversary movie that backtracks to the origin of the series, with apparently an “alternative take” on how Goku met up with his friends.
If truth be told, I was pleasantly surprised by “The Path to Power”. Unlike most of the other DB movies that I’ve seen, this one actually has a story. Yeah, you heard me right. The usual set up for Dragon Ball movies is this: Introduce some new villain(s) within the first 5 minutes that’s out to take over the world… and then the rest of it is just a long drawn out battle between Goku and co with the aforementioned villain(s). At some point, Piccolo would make an “unexpected” appearance in order to save Gohan (Goku’s son), then gets beaten up before Goku saves the day. The end. Surprisingly, this movie deviates from that much used formula. Shocking though it may seem, THIS movie actually has a story to tell, a story that can actually be considered a proper adventure, albeit one with lots of time spent battling enemies. However my point is there IS story development here and not just a simple 5 minute set up to face up to the newer, badder, stronger than ever enemy. This is what makes it so refreshing in comparison to the other Dragon Ball movies. The story itself is decent too, and kept me interested for most of the duration of the movie despite some parts being quite predictable.
I enjoyed the comedy element of the movie as well, I remember one classic line “I don’t want to touch your dirty ass” that had me LOLing for a bit. The animation is of the usual sub-par Dragon Ball standard, though I’m grateful for the lack of typical fast exchanges of blows style battle animation that’s so prevalent in other Dragon Ball movies. The character designs are typically uninspiring, with young Goku looking exactly like Gohan in the other movies – they are so similar in fact, that I thought this was Gohan’s story at first. It’s quite funny (in a good way) to see a young, naive Goku. He’s makes for a decent lead character. The frankenstein character wasn’t so good though – there was one point where he suddenly changed in a way that doesn’t make much sense from a character development point of view. Oh well, what the hell am I doing being so fussy about the characters in a Dragon Ball movie anyway…
My main issue with this movie isn’t actually with the quality of the content (my expectation wasn’t exactly sky high in the first place), it’s with the frequent fanservice. I’m not a fan of fanservice even during the best of times, but it’s worse here because it’s highly inappropriate considering the age group of the audience thats being targeted.
Though “The Path to Power” still a way from being good, I’d definitely give it a thumbs up for good effort, and for succeeding to be one of the more interesting Dragon Ball movies.
Extended edit: having watched the first Dragon Ball movie “Curse of the Blood Rubies”, I’m even more impressed with “The Path to Power” now, because comparing the two movies revealed just how different this one is to its predecessor. It’s not just a copy cat version of the original (which is a trap that remakes can easily fall into) – it came up with a completely different storyline that achieves the same aim and is by no means inferior to the old one.
3: Lupin III: Dead or Alive
English: Lupin III: Dead or Alive
Japanese: ルパン三世 DEAD OR ALIVE
MAL Score: 7.16
Lupin, Goemon, and Jigen take a mini-helicopter and head to the mysterious “Drifting Island” looking for a treasure rumored to be hidden somewhere on it. Through their exploration of the island, the trio encounters the lethal “Nanomachine,” the island’s security system. The trio triggers the alarm, springing “the Nanomachine” to life. The key to solving the island’s mystery lies in the small nation of Zufu. This once prosperous nation is now ruled by the ruthless, knife-collecting, General Headhunter. Fujiko does her usual probing and hacks into General Headhunter’s computer hoping to find some crucial information. Zenigata has received a video message from Lupin in which Lupin announces his desire for the priceless treasure. Oleander, a fiery blond officer with some hidden secrets of her own, steps in to help Zenigata. Armed with their newly found information, Lupin, Goemon, Jigen, and Fujiko go back to “Drifting Island,” but this time they are followed by General Headhunter.
This time Lupin and the gang, based on a rumour, head to a mysterious island to find a massive hidden treasure. Upon their arrival, they are attacked by a super sci-fi based security system and narrowly escape. The key to finding the treasure on the island is by unlocking some secret a small dictator nation has.
Although the plot is not too bad nor is it really good by any means, this Lupin movie is pretty average for the most part. Production was incredibly rushed and Monkey Punch basically only designed the opening and ending sequences, the most action packed parts of the movie. The rest of the team “filled” in the rest of the movie, which is why Dead or Alive has a bit of a slower pace and many questions and plot holes until magically filled in at the end. Basically, Monkey Punch did what he could to make this respectable.
Animation and sound are nothing spectacular. All of the usual Lupin characters are present as well as a change in Fujiko’s look and the basic Lupin driven femme-fatale character. Nothing really seems to stand out as good or bad in this anime. Even the evil villain in Dead or Alive seems too much of an evil gimmick. Dictator General Headhunter collects knives and is ruthless enough to kill with said knives. This character may be a gimmick but at least fits the evil villain role well right up until the end as he should.
The sci-fi element is what drives Dead or Alive. As opposed to the usual Lupin heist, this is more of a mystery treasure hunt. With this aspect it can either disappoint those who wanted more or intrigue those who wanted something different out of Lupin. However, for the fan familiar with Lupin and the gang, it is an average anime with a neat little science twist to drive the plot.
There a weird love story around the character development woman, but to me, it has a natural way of playing out. She seems pretty real about it around everything that’s happened, and I’m ok with her ending. It’s kind of obscure, but I’d say it’s enough.
I feel like the art and sound quality fell short on this one. I would recommend this to new Lupin fans, and people new to anime.
2: Crayon Shin-chan Movie 04: Henderland no Daibouken
Japanese: クレヨンしんちゃん ヘンダーランドの大冒険
MAL Score: 7.17
A modern horror style fantasy depicting a laughable adventure in Gunma Hender Land, the largest theme park in the north areas around Tokyo. Nohara family fight with Toppema Muppet (a talking doll from Magic World) against two gay ‘witch’ men Makao and Joma, who came from Another World and try to invade the Real World.
(Source: Manabu Tsuribe)
1: Slayers Return
English: Slayers Movie 2
MAL Score: 7.32
The inhabitants of the village of Biaz, forced to labor in the serivce of the world-domination-happy Zein organization, hires Lina Inverse and Naga The Serpent to drive off the invaders. Lina and Naga agree, lured by stories of Elfin treasure sleeping below Biaz, only to get considerably more trouble -from the Zein and from the treasure – than they ever expected.
The film furthers the misadventures of Lina Inverse and Naga the Serpent. A young woman named Saleena finds them and requests their help to save her village, which has been taken over and the villagers forced into labour unearthing some strange device. Lina agrees, much to Naga’s surprise, when she hears the village’s name and remembers tales of elven treasure. The humour in this is highly effective and enjoyable throughout. The story itself is much better paced than Perfect’s. It does a good job of building up some suspense and the climax is both funny and interesting.
The characters don’t have much depth. That being said, they are very effective from a comedic standpoint. They’re ridiculous, absurd, and quirky. They all have a lot of comedic potential and their interactions are really funny.
The art is a lot better than it was in the first film. It’s more like the actual series in that it looks like time and effort went into it as opposed to looking rushed. Its bright, vivid and the characters have interesting designs. The action scenes are really well executed and the backgrounds look nice.
The vocal cast remains excellent. Hayashibara Megumi and Kawamura Maria, both amazing actresses, are joined by Hiramatsu Akiko, Ootsuka Akio and Utsumi Kenji, all of whom are masterful at their craft. The music is really splendid as well.
The Ho-yay factor is a 2/10. There are a few moments where things between Lina and Naga look a bit homo-erotic, like Naga telling Lina to pay for her meals for the rest of their lives, but nothing substantial.
That’s Slayers Return. It is an improvement over the first film, with a lot of that film’s problems being absent. It has a lot of really funny moments, the art is great, the voice acting and music are excellent. If you want a good comedy, check it out. My final rating is a 9/10. Next week I’ll finish up March with a look at Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, unless something unexpected happens.
The gist of the plot is that an evil organization called Zein is looking to obtain an artifact from a small village, Biaz. To that end they have enslaved the citizens of the village, and it’s up to Naga and Lina to save them – though of course Lina is mainly interested in fulfilling her own goals.
Slayers Return is a lot more enjoyable to watch than Slayers Perfect; it’s funnier, for one thing, and the character interactions are amusing to watch. There’s not much for character development – Lina, Naga, and the rest are pretty stagnant – but let’s face it, we watch Slayers for comedic moments and parody, and character growth is optional (though not completely unwanted). Thus, the lack of metamorphosis is not a bad thing at all.
The scriptwriter is nothing to sneeze at; while Slayers Return takes place before the animated television series, and is pretty much a part of a series of episodes involving Naga and Lina’s adventures, it can absolutely be watched as a stand-alone work. It makes no references to either the previous movies or OVAs, or to the television show. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with being familiar with the characters beforehand, and honestly, it would probably bolster your enjoyment of the movie a lot.
Technically speaking, the palettes used in Slayers Return are pretty dark. However, the animation is fairly fluid most of the time bar jitteriness during running scenes. Fight scenes themselves are pretty well-animated. There’s also a good amount of detail in many frames. Characters look just like themselves and the movie-only cast have pretty good designs.
Soundwise, the movie is fairly average. The OST is all right, though not very memorable in my opinion. It does its job for the most part. I will say I did like Slayers Return’s soundtrack more than Slayers Perfect’s. The movie features a vocal track sung by Hayashibara Megumi and Kawamura Maria. It’s entitled Just Be Conscious and plays during the credits. It’s a very enjoyable song to listen to and it’s definitely the highlight of the soundtrack. It certainly bolsters up the sound rating.
Overall, Slayers Return is a nice little standalone title that I certainly liked watching, and I’d recommend it to any Slayers fan.
There’s really no point reiterating my thoughts on Naga and Lina, or the animation and music. There’s nothing that makes these films distinct in any way; neither from their predecessors nor from anime movies in general. This one has a weak plot, boring side characters, uninteresting action, and can be summed up as: eh. It has an occasionally decent chuckle here or there but I don’t understand the appeal of these. First of all, they have nothing to do with the vastly superior television series. The TV series is well-balanced, with a cast of characters that work off of each other and a plot that allows for enough action and comedy to keep the viewer engaged. The movies and OVA’s, so far, have showcased a very different Slayers, one that isn’t so much a parody of fantasy as much as a stagnant fantasy/comedy of its own.
A friend of mine put it best: the Slayers movies are filler. The problem is, filler is annoying in the context of an ongoing series (such as the Excalibur filler of Soul Eater) but even more annoying when it comprises an entire product (such as this, or the whole seasons of filler in Bleach).
Return isn’t a bad movie; it’s just another average, unmemorable money grab.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Slayers Return
2. Crayon Shin-chan Movie 04: Henderland no Daibouken
3. Lupin III: Dead or Alive
4. Dragon Ball Movie 4: Saikyou e no Michi
5. Armitage III: Poly-Matrix