They’re the best Anime that 2009 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Mai Mai Shinko to Sennen no Mahou, Afro Samurai: Resurrection, Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, and more!
5: Mai Mai Shinko to Sennen no Mahou
English: Mai-Mai Miracle
MAL Score: 7.22
The story is set in 1955 in Kokuga, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
One thousand years ago it was the site of the ancient capital, Suo no Kuni, and traces of the Heian Period (year 794-1185) are passed down to us in the form of ruins and historical place names.
The protagonist is Shinko, a third grade elementary school student, who was born and raised in one of the town’s venerable families. She is a little girl whose characteristic is a strange curl on her forehead (she calls it her “Mai Mai”), and her love for playing in the fields. On the other hand, her secret joy is to imagine and to daydream about the world of one thousand years ago. Her fantasies travel far into the days of the Heian Period…
One day, a girl called Kiiko transfers from Tokyo and enters Shinko’s class. This girl from the big city has difficulty feeling at home in this small town, but gradually her friendship with Shinko deepens.
Before long, the two of them become engulfed in a strange incident of one thousand years earlier…?!
A simple but wonderfully executed story of a countryside girl and her everyday fun adventure. Well people have said it has a typical ghibli atmosphere but its definitely not a copy. The taking of the movie has its own distinct way of keeping you engaged in watching further.
Story [10/10]: Shinko, the main protagonist, who imagines all kinds of people and places based on her grandfather’s stories of 1000 years ago, meets Kiiko who has comes from Tokyo and who is attending the same schol as Shinko. Quickly due to her appearance and the coloured pencils Kiiko has all other kids in the class become curious. So does Shinko. She follows Kiiko to her home where she sees all kinds of foregin objects and is quiet fascinated. Their freindship develops. Shinko tells Kiiko about the how the countryside they are living in used to be a capital a thousand years ago (which her grandfather has told her about). Shinko also tells her that she believes there was a princess, about her age only, who lived in this country. She wants to meet her to play with her. This is were the alternate story begins. The princess in the story is lonely and wants someone to play with. From what I understood from the story the princesses feelings somehow reach Shinko. And maybe that is why Shinko to is able to imagine what kind of a girl the princess could have been and where and how she might have been living. From there follow the little games that Shinko, Kiiko and their school friends have. To sum it all the sotry ends with both Shinko and the princess in the alternate stories finding their best friend. The story has a very rich base plot, being set in a countryside and of a historical date. So lots of space for innovation with the characters. And it has been very well executed in the direction.
Art [8/10]: The landscapes are beautifully drawn. They aptly bring out the beauty of the countryside and the overall atmosphere. Though the charatcres could have been a bit better drawn. But overall they definitely have a good impact on the viewer.
Sound [9/10]: Background music is typical of a childrens movie in a good way ofcourse. Voice of Shinko could have been better if it had been a little more girlish and sounding of her actual age. The current voice sounds like that of a tomboyish girl (which Shinko is kind of) which issometimes a bit annoying.
Character [10/10]: Loved the way all the characters have been portrayed. The runny nose boy, other classmates, teacher, Shinko’s grandfather, mother- watching everyone makes you believe that they are actually typical countryside people.
Enjoyment [10/10]: Enjoyed the movie thoroughly.
Overall [9/10] I deduce 1 mark only for a bit of disappointing voice for Shinko and the art of the characters themselves. Other than that its a perfect score on the story. Just go and watch *thumbs up*
Despite the popularity of his foray into action, he’s mainly a Ghibli-esque storyteller with the majority of his resume being family friendly stuff that contain very familiar plot points to those who’ve watched Castle in the Sky or Future Boy Conan. And by the majority of his resume, I mean his three other anime (one series and two movies) that no one even knows exists, because he’s not actually associated with Ghibli bar assistant work on Kiki’s Delivery Service, and it’s not like their are many other options in terms of anime studios with Disney-levels of success willing to throw the amount of money and resources needed to properly get his name out there. Even though he’s now under contract by Mappa to make a movie adaptation of the historical manga, In This Corner of the World, the combination of a not-very-popular manga and Mappa not being able to appeal to the mainstream crowd in terms of blu-ray sales makes it hard to secure funds for the project and I’m not even all that sure it’ll come out in 2016 like MAL says it will. I really hope it does though, because it looks like a solid historical drama.
Anyways, this review is centered on Mai Mai Miracle, his lesser known 2009 film with Madhouse that can basically be summarized as his own version of Ghibli’s more slice-of-life-y affairs like My Neighbor Totoro and Only Yesterday. And by his own version, I mean a slice-of-life anime centered on the countryside with an increased focus on realism and, ironically, an increased amount of diabetes.
The story is centered on Shinko, an elementary-school girl with a cowlick on her head that she calls “Mai Mai” – hence the title of the film – who likes to daydream about what her town was like in the past, reminiscent of the dream sequence from Whisper of the Heart if it was channeling Air: The Motion Picture. One day, a Tokyo girl named Kiiko moves into the countryside and immediately stands out due to wearing what’s basically the equivalent of royal clothing in the middle of Somalia, resulting in the fish-out-of-water nervousness you’d expect from such a situation. But that doesn’t stop Shinko from befriending her, and from then on, we follow the two as they hang out with the other kids, deal with personal problems, and even share the same daydream – although trust me when I say it doesn’t really lead to anything of significance.
It’s pretty damn easy to see why Mai Mai Miracle never drew a big audience considering that it itself draws most of its appeal from showcasing countryside life as well as the tribulations of youth passed through a giant “it’s for kids” filter. Hell, apart from Madhouse’s production values, I’m not really big into the movie myself. The story leans a wee too hard on nostalgia and the calmer parts of youth in general to the point that it’s like an Eternal Sonata-level JRPG: it can be fun to actually experience the thing, but watching someone else do it is about as interesting as watching grass grow. And it doesn’t help that not all the plot points come together very well to begin with. Aside from being friends, the plot point regarding a girl’s dead fish could not be any less related to the plot point involving one of the boys’ role models dying.
At its heart, Mai Mai Miracle is about reality clashing with youth, but because it’s a kids’ movie, it can’t go all the way with it. There’s a particular scene in the finale where Shinko and one of her male friends go to a red-light district for reasons I won’t spoil other than it involves the death of a minor character. And whilst it’s aesthetically rough on the surface from the prostitutes to the yakuza, said scene ends with the crooks they encounter sympathizing with the kids and allowing them to go free. Not that I’d want anything worse to occur from said confrontation because I don’t like seeing people that young getting put through the ringer and another one of the movie’s main points is that reality isn’t all bad anyways, but it’s a very good example of how Mai Mai Miracle doesn’t have the bite I prefer when it comes to these types of stories. Even American Graffiti had more of an edge in regards to its take on reality versus youth – and whilst it was good for its time, American Graffiti is kind of plain by today’s standards.
But of course, if you’re watching this for the visuals, you’re in for a treat. I wasn’t kidding when I said Madhouse’s production values interest me, because Mai Mai Miracle really does a good job at nailing the calm atmosphere it’s going for with its imaginative dream sequences and lush cinematography, even if said atmosphere isn’t too my taste. This is a beautiful-looking movie with an appropriately soothing soundtrack that complements it pretty damn well. They even throw in a kiddy version of The Carpenters’ “Sing a Song” into the mix, which got a smile out of me. I may come off as a sap for saying this, but I really like that song. It’s cute in all the right ways.
For those of you who like slice-of-life/light-hearted anime, Mai Mai Miracle should definitely be right up your alley, as I can’t seem to find many faults in the product for lovers of the genre. But then again, I wouldn’t know how to separate your Arias from your Dog Days, so what do I know? Nevertheless, whilst some of the plot points could have been handled better, it has a genuinely heartwarming and relevant story that’s good for its target audience, it’s well-made, and the characters are likable enough as well – acting close to real kids during the time period this movie takes place in. Doesn’t appeal to me personally, but then again, I’m the asshole who thinks Azumanga Daioh became boring eight episodes in. At best!
There isn’t any one central conflict to string the story along, but the characters learn to make friends, express themselves, and admire their prolific ancestors who once made the land a mighty cultural center. An imagined story of an ancient princess runs parallel to the lives of the characters as they must struggle with issues like death and abusive fathers. The story isn’t a tragedy, however, as the kids must simply learn to deal with reality and see the best in things and in each other.
Mai Mai Shinko draws obvious comparison to My Neighbor Totoro, with two young female main characters, the rural Japanese setting and predictably a little sister getting lost along the way, but unlike a typical Ghibli film, Madhouse has strayed away from the fantastic, restricting it to the minds of the children. It still draws recommendations from Ghibli fans, and anyone who wants to reminisce about their energetic childhoods.
4: Afro Samurai: Resurrection
English: Afro Samurai: Resurrection
Japanese: アフロサムライ Resurrection
MAL Score: 7.35
After obtaining the Number One headband, which proclaims him to be the best of all warriors, Afro spends most of his days in peace, though his nightmare-filled nights are not so tranquil. His life crescendos into chaos once again when Jinno and Sio, his former friends from long ago, take the headband from him, as well as the remains of his father. Challenged by Sio to don the Number Two headband again and exact revenge on them for their actions, Afro embarks on another journey as the wearer of said headband—an item for which anyone would kill him.
Afro Samurai: Resurrection follows Afro as he fights a second series of battles against all manner of foes, wading through the sea of corpses in his wake so that he may once again quench his never-ending thirst for revenge.
Afro Samurai: Resurrection takes place after the events of the original series with Afro finding peace in the mountains after killing countless people because of his number 1 headband. It seems that after being on this road for so long, Afro seems to be losing his way and it is at this point when Afro is attacked by his old friend/nemesis Jinno and a mysterious female warrior named Sio, who wishes to have the head of the famous number one warrior because of the death of the people he has killed. And that my friends are basic elements of this story for this film and to be honest it sucks. The best thing about Afro Samurai was its originality and I know it’s hard to follow up good material with sequels, but it seems like Resurrection really lost its ‘cool’ factor here, the story is basic at best and the new characters involved are just ridiculous and for some reason you want to kill Ninja Ninja in this anime. I’m happy to report that the animation and art style is still sick and beautiful and while the music hasn’t got the flair of the original it’s still pretty nice.
Overall Afro Samurai: Resurrection really wasn’t the sequel that people wanted, the story is unoriginal and the main female antagonist feels far too simple along with all other new characters. The animation and music however are still pretty good and while it’s still watchable one can’t help but feel sad for the way this turned out and hope that the third installment rectifies this anime’s mistake.
“Afro Samurai 2: the Absurdity Continues”. Honestly that would have been a better title than the insanely overused title “Resurrection”. However, this is the kind of anime where they probably intentionally used a cliche title to pay homage to early, terrible anime like the infamous “Ninja Resurrection”. Afro Samurai is NOT an anime that you are supposed to take seriously! It is basically like Kill Bill the anime…or more accurately Kill Bill the 100% anime since Kill Bill Volume 1 was partly done in anime format.
Story and Characters-
The story begins where the last movie left off. Afro finally got revenge and claimed the title of World #1 swordsman. However, the #1 headband in addition to granting godlike power and immortality also consumes the sanity and soul of the wearer. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36 . This quote isn’t actually used in this movie, but since Samuel L Jackson is the main character, I feel randomly quoting scripture is appropriate here. Afro is doggedly pursued by several characters who all want revenge on him for killing their friends and family members in pursuit of his own vengeance. The primary message of the movie is that revenge only begets more revenge. That was also going to be the main plot and theme of Kill Bill 3, but unfortunately that movie will never be made now. Since Samuel L Jackson was the executive producer of this anime and close friends with Tarantino , I wonder if he wanted to make this as a sort of spiritual heir to Kill Bill 3? The people who want revenge on Afro decide to create an absolutely ridiculous plan to resurrect Afro’s father, just to torture him and piss off Afro. Since his father was the only person Afro ever cared about, they figure that the only way to really hurt Afro emotionally is to bring him back and kill him again! Seriously! That’s the fucking plot in this movie! The antagonists hilariously succeed, only to get killed by an insane cyborg version of Afro’s father. Afro then must put his own father back to rest, and continue his journey of wandering. Afro never really learns anything or pays for his sins committed in pursuit of revenge, so the theme is rather undermined. The movie ends with a bullshit cliffhanger and a teaser for a sequel that now probably will never be made.
The soundtrack is once again performed by RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan. If you love those guys, you will love this soundtrack. If you aren’t a fan of the Wu-Tang…you will obviously hate this soundtrack. Personally, I rather like the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu-Tang Clan AINT NOTHIN TO FUCK WIT!
The animation is smooth and gorgeous. It is easily the highlight of the entire anime. The fights look spectacular and are just fun as HELL to watch!
If you liked the first Afro Samurai, you will like this one. It has the same awesome fight scenes, beautiful animation, and pulse pounding hip hop soundtrack. Is it a deep, philosophical masterpiece? Hell no! Is the writing and dialogue Shakespearean? Of course not! Is is a fun action series if you feel like rotting your brain for 2 hours? HELL YEAH! I recommend Afro Samurai 2 to anyone who loves mindless action with LOTS of gore and hip hop!
This OVA begins some time after the original series of AfroSamurai where Afro is tired, sick of all the fighting knowing that it is an endless cycle. “Kill or be killed, there is no option”. We see Afro in a little hut, accompanied only by a Buddha statue and multiple wooden figurines. Peaceful, but lonely.
So, when Jinno appears on a motorcycle and drags Afro by his hair through the tundra, it is appalling. In the previous installment one takes Jinno to be slayed, but he has returned along with is sister Sio who vouches revenge on Afro for making her family, and herself, suffer. For killing mercilessly. To do this Sio takes Afro’s father’s skull and disappears, promising to make Afro tremble by brutally tormenting his father and himself. However, before departing, she takes up Afro’s number one headband and sends him on a journey to recover the second.
The art was similar to the previous episodes, this time portraying Afro as a war-stricken man who seems to have gone through many tumultuous events. The lighting is spectacular, giving you a feel for the scenery and making significant symbols jump as they are supposed to and details are down to a tee. The viewer is never disappointed, the gore assimilating perfectly with every slash and vengeful strike. The sound and music fit the anime down just right. However, it is rather difficult to discern some words that are spoken and takes you a good minute after rewinding the anime to figure out what was said.
Some of the characters, like Afro and his imaginary pal are just as awe inspiring as the previous anime. There is substantial character development but some, like Sio, will end up pissing you off in the end. Sio may look ample and plumped up, but her vendetta ends up driving her up the wall. Over and over again she speaks of revenge for the pain Afro caused and it gets really tiring after a while. After an hour into it, honestly, I just wanted to smack the bitch.
More characters are presented into the story and reveals a little more into Afro’s past.
My enjoyment and overall score would have to be rated a 7. There were times when I just wanted the OVA to end, and there were times when I was anticipating what would happen next. The plot is good but a little used up. Certain things will surprise you, especially the events that happen near the end of the animation. I was rather disappointed by the way the mangaka presented the anime in this sequel, but, all in all, it is not bad to watch.
3: Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
English: Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~
Japanese: テイルズ オブ ヴェスペリア
MAL Score: 7.60
Ten years after the Great War against the demon-beasts, the empire rules over the world and prosperity relies on the massive use of aer.
Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo are two young men who have just enrolled the ranks of the prestigious Imperial Knights. One day, they are sent to the town of Ceazontania, where abnormal aer activity has reportedly caused the proliferation of horribly mutated beasts, with serious threat for the whole region.
Meanwhile, the Knights Supreme Commander Alexei Denoia and the naive Princess Estellise are involved in a behind-the-curtains struggle for power in the capital. The situation in Ceazontania deteriorates as the garrison of Imperial Knights finds that they cannot expect any immediate support from the capital.
Then, Niren Fedrok, commander of the Imperial Knights in Ceazontania, takes an unexpected decision that is going to change Yuri and Flynn’s destiny forever.
What are the secrets behind the extraordinary events that are happening around Yuri and Flynn? Will they be able to defend the innocent people of Ceazontania and stay true to their beliefs?
However, while outright adaptations are rife, prequels and sequels to games are actually quite rare, and it’s here where Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ separates itself from the horde.
The story takes place a few years prior to the game and follows two of it’s main characters, Yuri and Flynn, during their early careers as knights of the empire in the town of Shizontania. Unfortunately the town isn’t as safe as it used to be, and their captain, Niren Fedrock, suspects greater forces are at work.
One of the criticisms that people may throw at this movie is the fact that it is very open ended, however given that this is nothing more than a prequel to the game, the reason for this is understandable. The story itself is pretty straightforward, with a remarkable lack of convolution that can sometimes appear in game adaptations and spinoffs. The main advantage of this is the fact that it is easier to tie the events in the movie to those in the game, however the downside is that the plot lacks a degree of depth that simply can’t be hidden, which is often the reason why such terrible plot convolutions occur in thefirst place.
Thankfully first time director Kamei Kanta and writer Yoshida Reiko have kept things simple and direct, and because of this Tales of Vesperia actually manages to become interesting to a degree, enough to at least enjoy the movie and maybe consider buying the game (more on this in a bit). The one thing that most surprised me though, is how very different the feel and tone is from the game, and while both have lighter and darker moments throughout their respective stories, there is a certain brevity inherent in the movie that the game lacks, partly due to the RPG nature of the latter, and partly because of the need to wrap the story up within 110 minutes.
Many people will be familiar with the work of Production I.G. and it’s nice to see that they’ve maintained their standards in terms of art and animation.
Maintained though, not bettered.
Overall the show is well put together, with some nicely detailed backgrounds and atmospheric settings thrown into the mix. The characters are modelled along the lines used for the original game for the most part, with the two leads and sundry other characters who appear in both looking pretty much the same. It should be noted though, that there are a number of characters who only appear in the movie (for example, the twin female knights Shastele and Hisuka Aiheap), a fact which may confuse some fans of the game. Be that as it may, in terms of design the movie is pretty solid, however that is as far as it goes because of the design limitations placed upon it by the source material.
One thing I should point is that this movie is far more graphic in its depiction of violence than the game, and doesn’t shy away from some of the more greusome occurences which have only really been shown in a very sanitised manner within the Tales series thus far.
As for the animation, while the majority of the film runs very well there are some scenes where things just feel off kilter. This unfortuantely occurs in several scenes which involve CG animation of some sort, and while the problem isn’t large enough to warrant major criticism, it is noticeable so it bears mentioning.
The sound quality is very good throughout the movie, especially when it comes to choreography. The music is, for the most part, absent from proceedings, however this serves to enhance its effect when it is used. The choice of tracks is also well thought out, and while there is a degree of genericism about those used for dramatic or action scenes, overall the quality of the pieces adds to the scenes.
One point I should mention about the music is the surprising, and pleasing, choice of theme song. Like the original game, the Tales of Vesperia movie has “Ring a Bell” by Bonnie Pink as the title track, a fact which may please fans of the game.
In terms of acting, this film has a big plus in that the characters of Yuri, Flynn, Estellise, Rita and Raven are played by the actors and actressses who took on the roles for the game. This factor adds to the sense of continuity that is needed in any direct prequel or sequel, especially as the seiyuu in the other, movie specific roles are equally as comfortable with their lines as their more experienced colleagues. That doesn’t mean there’s hamming it up, but for those most part the acting is pretty natural and flowing.
The biggest problem with Tales of Vesperia is the characters. Because this is both a movie and a prequel to a larger story, there is little in the way of major development. That said, the two lead characters do grow to a degree, and anyone who has played the game will no doubt find the additional information about them pleasing. However, those who have had neither the opportunity or inclination to play the game will probably find there is a distinct lack in this department.
That’s not to say that the characters are bad though. As a stand alone movie they work fairly well, however the open ended nature of the tale leaves one feeling that more could have been done with the time. In essence, the fact that this is a prequel, something which in terms of plot content is an advantage, becomes a flaw when considering the the characters as they an “unfinished” quality about them comethe end of the film.
Be that as it may, I found that I actually enjoyed the movie, however I should point out that I have completed the game, so for me the additional story was a bonus. Unfortunately, it’s all too possible that many viewers will find this less of an enjoyable experience, mainly because the story is open ended. If one were to be very harsh, then it’s possible to consider the movie as nothing more than a glorified advert for the game. This seems an unfair criticism to me as while there is a clear message to play the game should one wish to complete the tale, the story is original enough to warrant a degree of separation.
The major plus point though, is the fact that the effort has been made to enhance the game’s storyline instead of regurgitating it. That said, making a prequel or sequel doesn’t always work in terms of content (Advent Children – looks awesome, and that’s pretty much it), so it’s nice to see that the main aspects of the tale have only lightly been covered, and that the focus is more about showing where the lead characters came from.
On the whole, Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ is one of those movies that you can’t fully appreciate unless you know the full story, and that’s its biggest flaw. People don’t really want to be burdened with having to complete a game that they may not even be interested in just to find out what happens next, which plays a major part in whether one can enjoy this movie or not. The more rlaxed viewer may not be overly concerned with the lack of a true ending, and the movie does have a good degree of entertainment value in its own right, but in all honesty, this is one for fans of the game and the Tales franchise.
Whatever the opinion though, this movie deserves some credit for being not only a prequel, but an original tale, as it could very well have been just another adaptation.
What amazing luck. I happen to complete the game the same week the movie comes out. This caught me completely by surprise, but I was extremely excited. When I initially started the game, I thought it was a bit corny and maybe even childish, but a few hours in and there was incredible character development and storyline threads stretching across, to the point where I even cared for the villains. Truly an exceptional experience from the game.
If you are a fan of the game, then there’s no doubt you will love this movie. I went in with no expectations, except knowing that it’s a prequel. That being said, I was very impressed by not only the quality of the movie, but the pacing, character development, seamless crossover between the prequel and the original game, while introducing new characters without harming the original.
The story was simple. But very effective. I really enjoyed the Yuri/Flynn bond throughout the game, and it was great seeing the roots of it in this movie, while also getting some more backstory on Flynn’s past. This movie had be laughing at loud at some parts, and crying at others. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but it was a complete package.
I didn’t feel cheated or upset by the way things were done, in fact, I think many other game to anime adaptions should look at this movie as a role model. Simply perfect.
I really enjoyed it, and I’m certain so will you, perhaps even if you have not played the game. Definitely check this out!
Tales of Vesperia focuses on the world, called Terca Lumireis, which uses an energy source called blastia for all its needs, including creating protective barriers around its cities. The story focuses on Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo, two knights who have just joined the Niren Corps, together with two of their senior knights and fellow Corps members. They are sent on a mission to investigate an abnormal activity of aer in the area and to protect its citizens.
Well, this one is quite a challenge to assess. If you forget about the game, which is the direct continuation to this movie and to have a full understanding of the world of Tales Of Vesperia, you will have to play it, Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ is just a beautiful movie, with a likeable cast that gets enough development for one movie, but not as enough as it should be, great OST, with many famous Japanese voice actors, which also has an amazingly heartbreaking storyline. However, if you assess this movie together with the game, Tales of Vesperia is something worthy of being called a masterpiece. While the movie does have a somewhat slow start: where many characters still have not been introduced and you have 0 clue of what is happening, or how this all will end, after having played the game you will understand how beautiful and dramatic Tales of Vesperia really is.
While the main characters both in the game and in the movie do get quite a good development, which is nothing special, to be honest, the supporting cast gets as much development as the main cast. And this is something amazing, Tales of Vesperia has such a big world, with so many heroes and antiheroes and they all have a story to tell. On top of that, you never get tired of them, because they all are so different and this makes your Tales of Vesperia journey even more fun to undertake.
OST and animation wise, taking into consideration the fact that both the game and the movie were made quite some time ago, they have a very enjoyable animation: a very likeable character design and stunningly detailed background, just an eye candy. OST wise, Tales of Vesperia has an amazing OST, which helps you appreciate the series, as well as the game even more. What is more, many characters of Tales of Vesperia were voiced by famous Japanese voice actors: such as Kousuke Toriumi, Mamoru Miyano, Mai Nakahara, Rika Morinaga, and Eiji Takemoto. Yet, both the game and the movie also have quite a good English dub, so it is up to you, which version you would like to check.
With the game: Tales of Vesperia (The Movie) is a prequel, which plays a very important role for the world of Tales of Vesperia and absolutely no doubt about it, it is a pure masterpiece I cannot give anything less than 10/10;
Supposing I had never played the game, Tales of Vesperia (The Movie) is a very weak 8/10.
All in all, it is up to you, if you want to play the game, or not. But this will be worth your while. Do try to find the time for both the movie and the game.
2: Layton Kyouju to Eien no Utahime
English: Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva
MAL Score: 7.63
Professor Hershel Layton—renowned archaeologist, puzzle-solver, and extraordinary gentleman—and his young aspiring apprentice Luke Triton receive a mysterious letter from his former student Janice Quatlane containing tickets to an opera at the Crown Petone. They soon discover that it is no ordinary opera, but rather a devious game for the legendary Fountain of Youth—the giver of eternal life. However, this only scratches the surface of an unfolding mystery that the pair must solve together in order to survive.
Despite being faced with complex puzzles and fervent competition, Professor Layton and his trusted assistant Luke never forget to uphold the standards of true gentlemen… and a true gentleman never leaves a puzzle unsolved.
Not all adaptations are bad though. While many adopt a rather simplistic method using the existing storyline and characters (and nothing more than that to be honest), there are a few that take a more revisionist approach and attempt to reconcile various elements of the game’s storyline (tightening up the plot, adding new themes and improving existing characters amongst other things – Tears to Tiara is a good example of the revisionist approach at work).
On the other side of the coin there are anime adaptations that simply use the game’s existing characters and the world in which they live to create a totally new story. Titles like Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike have proven how this method can enhance the game in a way a straightforward adaptation cannot, however this method also has its own inherent issues (for example ensuring the plot actually works within the framework of the game’s world).
Layton Kyouju to Eien no Uta Hime (Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva), falls into the latter category of adaptations, and while it may look like a show aimed at kids and fans of the games, there’s surprisingly more depth to it than one might expect.
The story begins with Professor of Archaeology and puzzle enthusiast Hershel Layton and his self styled “number one apprentice” Luke investigating the theft of Big Ben (to those of you who don’t know, Big Ben is actually the nickname of the bell, although most people use it for the tower). Following the successful completion of this investigation the pair continue with their normal affairs until Layton receives a letter from an old acquaintance, the opera singer Jenis Quatlane.
And so another adventure begins.
One of the things that stands out right from the start is the acknowledgement that not all viewers may be familiar with the games. The opening five minutes offer a concise introduction to the characters and the world in both a visual and descriptive sense. By necessity only the important facts are imparted, however there is enough information given during the first few scenes to allow all but the most pedantic viewers to enjoy the movie.
Given that this is ostensibly a movie for children, the story proper is well formed and proceeds at a nice pace, but there is an inherent predictability about certain characters and events. The plot is somewhat simplistic for the most part, however there are flashes of ingenuity that can keep the viewer guessing – no matter their age. What is probably the most surprising aspect of The Eternal Diva though, is that it’s actually a rather interesting movie to watch.
The movie incorporates several aspects of the game’s mechanics into itself in a rather interesting manner. Given that this is based on the world of Professor Layton there are the obvious puzzles to solve, but in addition to this there are scattered references linking the movie to the games in some very subtle ways. One example of this is the numerical notation for the first puzzle Layton and Luke have to solve a short way into the story, as the font is exactly the same as that used for the puzzles in the games. This attention to detail may cater specifically to those who have played the games, but the immersive quality it allows may also be tangible to those who’ve never heard of Professor Layton.
In terms of visuals The Eternal Diva is everything fans of the game would want to see. Layton and Luke appear exactly as they do in the games, while the rest of the characters have been designed to look as individual as possible. Everyone in the movie has a different look and feel, right down to their clothing, and one can only applaud the effort that has gone into their design. Granted they are on the simplistic side, but the sheer number of individual characteristics on show really does set this movie apart from many others. This attention to detail also applies to the scenery, which is as quaint and expressive as fans could wish for, and while the usage of CG does stand out a little from the backgrounds, the discrepancy is very minor, and not enough to upset the balance of the scenes.
The movie also features some very good animation, much of which is very fluid and well choreographed, however there are certain character actions and movements which are a bit on the ludicrous side. That said, this is a kids movie, and the stranger aspects of the animation may appeal to the movie’s target audience more than it would to someone older.
Besides, I liked the fact that I got to watch Layton fight whilst holding onto his hat.
The Eternal Diva is a little bit unusual when it comes to the acting as the lead roles of Layton and Luke are played by Oizumi Yo and Horikita Maki, who also voice the characters in all three of the games. The rest of the cast is made up of some rather well known names, including Mizuki Nana as Jenis Quatlane and Orikasa Fumiko as Melina Whistler, and the experience they all bring to the movie really is telling.
There are a wealth of effects on display here too, each very clear and well synchronised, but one of the stars of the show is actually the music. As the title suggests music plays a key role in The Eternal Diva, and the movie makes great use of the pieces on offer. In addition to this the vocal tracks are just as absorbing as the instrumental ones, all of which add an air of authenticity to proceedings.
One small gripe though, is that a movie is nowhere near enough time to develop characters in any meaningful way, and The Eternal Diva is no exception to this. One of the aspects of the anime that may not sit too well with some people is the fact that both Layton and Luke are only fully appreciable if one has played at least the first game, hence the reason for the 5 minute introduction. The problem though, is that even if one has played The Curious Village and Pandora’s Box (the only two games released before The Eternal Diva), there is still something lacking. The movie doesn’t really try to develop Layton or Luke in any way, and while I do like them as characters, the truth is that they are very one dimensional from start to finish. Granted there is some decent characterisation at work in the film, but unfortunately it’s not enough to carry the characters forward, and it’s more like they’re simply going through the motions of having an adventure rather than actually … having an adventure.
This “shallowness” is also present in near enough every other character with a speaking role, and while it doesn’t really detract from one’s overall enjoyment of the movie, it also makes it more difficult to take it seriously. Unfortunately it seems to be a legacy from the movie’s video-game origins, and one can only hope that future productions attempt to test the characters instead of simply letting them out for a run in the yard.
Be that as it may, in all honesty I rather enjoyed The Eternal Diva, but then again, I rather enjoyed the games as well. The movie isn’t overly complex or taxing in any way, and there are some nice concepts introduced that make the story into something more like a strange cross between Sherlock Holmes, Tomb Raider and The A-Team (you’ll understand why when you watch the movie), all wrapped up in some very proper manners and dry British wit.
Granted this is movie is very obviously catering to kids and fans of the games, but there’s enough going on to keep most people happy. The Eternal Diva isn’t so much an adaptation as an extra chapter in the story of Professor Layton, and because of this it has an appeal that many straight forward conversions just can’t seem to match.
That said, I do have to wonder how many more games the franchise will sell as one could also view this as nothing more than a glorified advert.
‘Eternal Diva’ is the first in a planned series of anime films based on the Professor Layton series of puzzle games. Though the games aren’t for everyone, the movie takes place years before the games’ timeline (with the exception of a brief scene at the beginning, but it’s easy to tell what’s going on), so the uninitiated needn’t worry over catching up to a long, pre-existing canon. The plot is simple enough: Layton and Luke find themselves trapped in the middle of a contest, hosted by a strange masked man, in which the winner will gain immortality, and the unfortunate losers will all die. But not all is as it seems (is it ever?), and the professor and his young apprentice make it their mission to get to the bottom of the affair.
The plot is multi-layered, thought-out, and pristinely paced, though it never quite stops itself from being patently ridiculous (Hershel Layton built this helicopter in the jungle with a box of scraps!). As the film builds towards its climax it becomes increasingly bizarre, but by that point it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. That said, it’s fun all the way through, and if the viewer can suspend his disbelief long enough to watch Layton fall hundreds of feet through the air and land with his trademark top hat undisturbed from its place, he shouldn’t have too much trouble with the rest of the plot.
The writing does a remarkable job of fleshing out even the minor characters; they all have their reasons for pursuing the prize of immortality (some more noble than others). Every character has a defined personality and motivation without resorting to “quirkiness” (with the exception of Growski, though he’s not a bad character—bless justice-serving, shark-wrestling, moustache-having hairy bosom). As for the main characters, the titular Professor is an almost paternal character whose patient, distanced and logical approach to even the most outrageous of subjects gives the viewer a sense of respect for the character, rather than seeming elitist or even creepy (as it would were it guided by clumsier writing). Luke Triton, our young Watson, manages to be cute and believably childlike without grating on the viewer’s nerves.
The character designs are unique among anime, and they will further endear some viewers (like myself) and drive others off. The art style is a very simplistic kind of imitation of Western cartoons with an unmistakably Japanese twist, and the film is set in dusty, sunny Edwardian England, unafraid to dabble in steampunk. The art and even the way the characters move is expressive and fluid enough that even a quick glance over a character gives the viewer an idea of their personality. Upon seeing the character designs, one could be forgiven for expecting the same childish cartoon art in the whole picture, but OLM takes care to render the Victorian architecture—and other settings—in loving detail.
Those familiar with the Professor Layton games will recognise a few songs from their soundtracks making cameo appearances here, particularly Layton’s own catchy leitmotif. The film’s original songs aren’t too shabby either, sporting surprisingly entrancing vocal work by Nana Mizuki (let it be said that this is the first time I’ve found her voice to be anything other than grating). There’s not much I can say about the voice acting, simply because it’s very good—though some minor characters have exaggerated, embellished ways of speaking, it works, and it’s not unexpected (this is, after all, a cartoon).
If it sounds like I’m gushing about the movie, it’s probably because I am. It’s hard to remember the last time I enjoyed an anime this much, and although it can probably be attributed to my fannish expectations and love of the games it’s based on, I can’t imagine anyone honestly calling Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva a bad movie. It’s worth a chance; give it one.
It all starts with Prof. Layton and sidekick Luke being invited to an opera by a very important person who happens to be a former acquaintance of Prof. Layton, Seeing that this is a Layton movie, Things suddenly go awry the moment the whole performance is finished, puzzles ensue.
The score, as heard on all the Prof.Layton games, is astoundingly staggering and the art makes you feel like you’re watching a show that’s done by Studio Ghibli, it may rely a bit on CG, but it actually goes quite well with everything.
Regardless, I’m disappointed that they didn’t release this in cinemas throughout the US, It had the potential to outsell Ponyo. If you want an anime that will make you feel that excitement you once experienced back when you were a kid, this is the anime you’re looking for.
1: One Piece Film: Strong World
English: One Piece Film Strong World
Japanese: ワンピース フィルム ストロングワールド
MAL Score: 8.14
Upon hearing news that islands in East Blue are being destroyed, Monkey D. Luffy and his crew go to investigate. On their way, however, an outlandish pirate ship appears out of the sky, helmed by the infamous pirate Shiki “the Golden Lion”—a man who ate the Float-Float Fruit and the first ever prisoner to escape from Impel Down. In his quest to defeat the World Government, Shiki kidnaps Nami to be his own navigator and sends the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates to his floating islands as hostages, leaving her in a dilemma. Separated in a land under Shiki’s absolute control, Luffy and his crew must survive the mystifying terrain in order to bring back their navigator and friend.
I don’t wish to ruin anyone’s enjoyment, that’s why I will try to be as objective as possible and give all the arguments necessary for my score decisions.
BUT LET ME WARN YOU, THIS IS A NEGATIVE REVIEW AND IT MAY CONTAIN SOME SMALL SPOILERS, SO DON’T READ IT IF YOU KNOW IT MAY AFFECT YOUR VIEWING EXPERIENCE!
STORY: The story is nonexistent. There is absolutely nothing in this that could be considered a story. The crew just beats the crap out of the bad guy saving the damsel in distress in the process and all for some cheap reason. When I say that the reason is not worthy to mention is because the viewer just doesn’t seem to relate to the seriousness of the situation, mainly because we only HEAR about what the bad guy (Shiki) is going to do. There is almost NO VISUAL REPRESENTATION of the tragic that such a situation would represent, so the viewer remains unfazed emotionally most of the time. My score for the story is 3, yes you read it right, 3. All the hype about Eiichiro Oda being the one to write the script for this film I think it was mainly done for publicity reasons, as there is little substance to the actual story.
CHARACTERS: The characters that we all love and adore are full of clicheistic behaviour and unnatural reactions. But let me elaborate a bit on what I mean. The Straw Hat crew seem to behave throughout the story mostly in repetitive ways from past series’ episodes. Now, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if done with care and moderation, but here we just see this many behaviour patterns brought together from several different arcs from the anime series and mixed to form this “thing” that lacks substance. On the other side of the barricade, the bad guys are… well… just silly. I mean, Shiki is one bad dude, his power is awesome, I can’t deny that. I was really surprised by it, but his personality is just demeaning for the “legend” that he is supposed to represent and his actions and his master plan are just at a kindergarten level. His crew is stupid, and I mean stupid… There is no way such a crew could ever pose any threat to anyone, especially Gol D. Roger. They’re not scary, they’re not smart, they’re not powerful and they’re not even funny… especially funny. The jokes are terrible. And not only their jokes, but the jokes throughout the hole movie. They’re really D grade material. The only thing that really stands out about the characters is the clothes they wear. Now, I don’t dislike them, they’re pretty cool, but I think this is mainly for the fanservice and the publicity and don’t really fit well with the adventurous atmosphere that the One Piece world should have. So… for the characters I think a score of 4 is just about right. There are some good points but too few to make a difference. The not so good points just seem to overwhelm everything…
ANIMATION: The animation, at first really blowed me away, but slowly started to seem less and less attractive. The opening and the first part of the anime has astonishing graphics, wonderful views with top notch computer finishes. The battles are also very beautifully animated and really give a sense of awesomeness. But… yes… there is a but here too… There are some sequences where the animation just seems rushed and others where it seems plain. Not many I might add, but it still adds this feeling of inconsistency throughout the movie. Talking about inconsistency, the pace is very uneven. Either a fast pace is invoked or a slow one and they don’t really transition smoothly between one to another. So, for the animation, I think an 8 is appropriate, and yes, I don’t think I’m being generous. This is probably a fair score.
SOUND: Now… here you will find a problem. One of the first thing you may notice is that there is NO SOUND… yes, you heard me correctly… NO SOUND. And when I say this I mean there is no music through much of the film. The music is the most important thing when one wants to create an atmosphere suitable for the different situations that arise. And this movie lacks everything when it comes to atmosphere, and mainly because of the music. I was really disappointed by this. The characters’ voices are pretty decent… the ones’ everyone’s already familiar with, so no problem here, although there isn’t really much dialogue to be found. So for the sound, another 3, and now I’m being generous…
ENJOYMENT: I was really flustered about my expectations from this movie and it’s real value. So, while I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it I can’t say I felt any kind of satisfaction either. More like dissatisfaction. So… for the enjoyment, let’s say… 4 will do.
RECOMMENDATION: If you’re a One Piece fan, watch it. Also, if you’re age is not greater than 12 you’ll probably find it cool. Otherwise don’t waste your time with it.
OVERALL my score is 4. Now, I don’t know, maybe I was in a bad mood when I watched it and it deserves more, so don’t go screaming your eyes out at me. If you disagree with me then I’m really happy for you, because the time you spent watching this film was enjoyable and it probably became a happy memorable experience for you.
Story (9): The story is great. I suppose they couldn’t do more in just one movie. The Strong World: Episode 0 OVA helped buying a lot of time. Like in any One Piece arc, the story moves fastly, no matter what has been shown before.
Art (9): Once you watch One Piece (anime) and see how the art isn’t that good in many parts of the series, you’ll notice that this movie contains a great art. Like, Franky had a banana on his hair. What the hell is that? Brooke was smoking. Well, I liked it and all, but the clothes were strange, and I have to admit it. Anyway. Great art and this is it.
Sound(9): The sound is great, but it has nothing “unexpected”. New soundtrack, but once it’s a movie, it had to be like this. The voices were great (duh) like on the anime.
Character(10): Luffy’s crew is so original that I can’t give it less than 10. Their personalities, the clothes they were wearing (strange, but original)… Shiki was, as well, an outstanding character. I have nothing bad to add about the characters.
Enjoymen(9)t: If you like One Piece and you aren’t expecting a lot of this movie just because Oda wrote this, then you’ll love this movie and even give it a 10. The key is: Don’t overrate it.
Overall(9): Well, many may not agree with me and rate this movie with a 10. But in a general analysis, 9 is a great note for this movie. All of the terms were combined and this is what we got: 9. The absence of logic in some parts (once I may not write spoilers, I’m not telling which parts these are), besides One Piece lacks logic on the anime itself many times, makes me feel like if this movie deserves a 9.
We open with ships floating in the sky. We cut to a pirate who causes them to fall on a group of government ships. We then cut to silly putty brain and his crew wandering around on a floating island. Why? Well the film quickly moves into a flashback to show a pirate named Shiki, the same guy who made the boats float, trick elongated man’s paint chip eating roommate and his crew into crashing on the island so he can kidnap Nami. What’s the point of showing the events out of order? I have no idea, it doesn’t make sense. There’s no story reason for this structure nor does it create tension. Anyway, Shiki wants Nami to join his crew because he needs a good navigator so that he can take over the world. Okay, so the story is pretty cliche. How’s the execution? Well, the first issue is that Shiki isn’t even remotely threatening. He has sword legs which just look stupid and shouldn’t be functional. Swords, they don’t work that way. He also looks like the love child of Jay Leno and Kraven the hunter, making him very difficult to take seriously. Then there’s his crew, which consists of a clown who wears shoes that make fart sounds, a pink gorilla and a bunch of nameless henchmen. I’ve seen more menacing villains in the Care Bears. Maybe they’re trying to be funny, but there’s not a lot of humour here. There were all of two funny scenes. Another thing that really bugs me is that they use the term “Evolution” when what they mean is mutation. Science, how does it work?
The characters are pretty one-dimensional. Let’s be generous and say that they’re relying on us knowing them from the show. But those characters who I remember from what little I’ve seen of the show haven’t changed, except for their outfits. Rousai’s disappointing grandson is still an obnoxious moron and the rest of the cast is pretty under-developed and bland.
The art… I don’t even know where to start. I have to admit that I hate the art in One Piece. The mostly lidless and blank eyes, the mouths that always seem to have their teeth showing for no reason, the bizarre proportions, the random things that replace various body parts. I will give the film credit though, most of the fight scenes do look pretty cool.
The voice acting is okay. I really can’t stand Tanaka Mayumi’s performance, although I don’t really blame her since I know she can act. It’s probably the direction. The rest of the voice actors do a decent job albeit exaggerated a times. The strongest performances are probably from Cho and Okamura Akemi. The music is pretty underwhelming and forgettable.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. There isn’t any in this.
So, how does Strong World fare? It’s not that bad. The story is pretty stupid, Elastic girl’s brain damaged admirer is the worst aspect and the weak antagonists don’t help matters. To the film’s credit, the fight scenes are pretty good and a lot of it does fall into the “so stupid it’s funny category.” So, I’m going to give it a 4/10.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. One Piece Film: Strong World
2. Layton Kyouju to Eien no Utahime
3. Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
4. Afro Samurai: Resurrection
5. Mai Mai Shinko to Sennen no Mahou