They’re the best Anime that 2007 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Genius Party, Cheonnyeon-yeowoo Yeowoobi, Keroro Gunsou Movie 2: Shinkai no Princess de Arimasu!, and more!
5: Genius Party
MAL Score: 7.19
A collection of seven individual and unique shorts which range from touching to downright bizarre. With each story different from the last, we encounter monsters going to school, a man who has a hard time dealing with himself, and a child who learns the hard way about the circle of life, as well as many other unique characters and experiences.
A journey through the minds of the most prolific artists in Japan, this compilation truly is the setting of a Genius Party.
Genius Party – What an amazing way to begin the series! Atsuko Fukushima, also known from makin op/ed of Robot Carnival served her job and made an excellent introduction episode. It’s very surreal, full of symbolisms and graphic looks also a lot better than in Robot Carnival.
Shanghai Dragon – Yet again we see Shouji Kawamori from the different side. I really love his sense of humour. I enjoyed watching Project Omega in Anikuri and this parody short isn’t an exception either. Yea there are lots of mechas, lots of actions but still the main attention is directed to an useless brat which saves the world. Characters really manage to shine in this 20 minutes.
Deathtic 4 – My least favourite part. There’s lack of story, depth and characterization. The only thing that makes Deathtic special is 3D graphic. Shinji Kimura was working on it after all. He has done a marvellous job for Steamboy as well, which is the most expensive animated film in Japanese history.
Doorbell – Very unique. First of all I must say that the Director is Yoji Fukuyama , who isn’t famous with anime at all. The atmosphere is really intense whole 15 minutes long. The design isn’t as strong as the story, though I mostly enjoyed it. Anyway Doorbell is another interesting version of developing Paranoia.
Limit Cycle – Philosophy is always the strongest point of anime, that’s why Limit Cycle is one of the best episode. 20 minute of monologue about life, death, religion and etc. But what mostly surprised me was the name of the Director: Hideki Futamura. In most of animes where he took part in, Hideki had a secondary role. So this was his time to shine and he definitely managed to show us his talent.
Happy Machine – Another Surreal addition to Genius Party from Masaaki Yuasa.Yea, he’s the one I was looking forward to most and I must admit that Happy Machine didn’t disappoint me at all and remains as my favourite short. I also understand that 15-20 minute isn’t enough for a build-up + satisfying result + big impact but that’s what directors should resolve and Masaaki Yuasa did stand out.
Baby Blue – Baby Blue is another high-school romance with some action elements in it. What also made it outstanding was the characters and sweet soundtrack. In a nutshell Baby Blue is a worthy appendage to Genius Party collection.
So Genius Party is a great chance to get know to some remarkable Directors and their talents. I am sure everyone will find their favourite ones. As for me I think strongest ones were definitely Happy Machine and Limit Cycle. The only thing I was a bit disappointed with was the romance shorts. Anikuri within 1 minute had much more to offer. I mean the episode from Akemi Hayashi (Gainax) exceeded my expectations. Overall the shorts itself are creative, neat and although they do vary somewhat in quality, there is so much to see in such little time that it is more than worth it.
Genius Party is a brilliant anthology of mind-stimulating shorts which attempt to shatter modern animation paradigms. Driving the stories is the idea that the human mind is filled with unknowns, and that our universe is clearly incomprehensible. With such obvious observations, it follows that anime as an art need not have its content presented in a segmented and understandable way, for that would fail to emulate the very world we live in. Rather, life is too complex to be understood, and it is through its confusion and novelty that we must wade in order to find the answers. As human nature would have it, we can find meaning in anything as long as we believe in its significance, although whether or not anything truly has significance may be indiscernible.
Commenting on Genius Party as a whole is difficult. It is, after all, a collection of disparate stories from a diverse cast of directors. They all succeed in providing a snapshot of current anime trends and capabilities, but their goals are as varied as their plots. It is without question that all the shorts have the asset of awesome animation, motivating soundtracks and captivating stories. Even if they fail to resonate with the audience, boredom seems distant due to the sheer novelty and excitement of the works.
Genius Party comes highly recommended not only for the anime enthusiast, but for anyone who has even the slightest interest in cinema and entertainment. The audience is certain to pick favorites among the stories – which stories you find interesting may depend on your life experience and perspective. It may serve as an interesting exercise to contemplate why those stories click with you; you just might learn something about yourself.
7. Limit Cycle
This one was really bizarre. This is the longest short at about 18 minutes, but struck me as the worst of the whole thing. Basically a man made out of static and moving motifs goes on a very long, fast paced speech about…. literally nothing. Usually if I see someone say something attempted to sound complicated but falls under its own weight I don’t believe them, but I see this as one of those cases. The man talks about a variety of philosophical, religious, sexual, and biblical topics with absolutely no context, all in one stream. This must have been a nightmare to sub, it was almost a nightmare to watch as well. Maybe the point of this short went completely over my head, I wouldn’t put it past me, but if you are expecting any kind of explanation of what is going on or any kind of basic premise on which your interpretation can be based on, you will not find it in this short. If I had to guess optimistically, the point was to be as chaotic and nonsensical as possible, in order to make some sort of “sentence-art” phenomenon to go on. This would work out well with the visuals, which are extremely spectacular, both technically and creatively speaking. A variety of colorful motifs and symbols take up the screen most of the time, and it is cool to see. Not enough to make the short itself fun though, unlike in the Genius Party opening short.
This short also struck me as weaker than the rest. The premise revolves around college student looking man, who finds himself unable to walk into places or houses because a specter of himself is already in the house, and no one can see him. This sounds strange on paper, its also strange on screen. Although this short is about 13 minutes, it still felt a bit too long. At least half of the short revolved around the nameless main character walking around town, which isn’t exactly a technical marvel or art style or animation I might add. In the end it was rather boring because of this, as well a premise that didn’t interest me. The climax obviously carries some deeper meaning, and I won’t reveal exactly what it is just in case some are reading the review without seeing it. My interpretation is that the young man is either bipolar, or it has something to do with how people put on different faces and sub-personalities based on their environment. Definitely not strong on that though, as it was an ambiguous climax. I wouldn’t watch this one a second time.
5. Shanghai Dragon
The theme of this short is the imagination of children, and the premise is a young chinese boy acquires a futuristic device that allows him to create basically anything using it like chalk, that is he makes a drawing out of something with it on the ground and it comes into reality. Overall I was mixed with this one. Unlike Doorbell or Limit Cycle, I never got bored while watching it, but I wasn’t stunned by anything either. The theme of children’s imagination conquering the evil robot overlords was cool but, when you think about it, all of these Genius Party shorts already have a theme on imagination to begin with. The visuals definitely had a style to them, but it wasn’t a very unique style like the one used in Deathtic 4. The action and chase sequences were both very fun to watch, as well as the finishing scene were the boy powers up into his imaginative toku suit of armor to fight evil. Again, didn’t blow me away but its just another addition to the compilation, and is good variety in retrospect. Cool crayon art stuff on some scenes. Salute to Sai and his cuban cigars.
4. Baby Blue
This short is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the well known director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. A high school student asks a girl to skip class with him and go somewhere. The girl agree and they head off, all the while small talking and reminiscing a little bit. It turns out they don’t really know where they are going, but eventually decide they want to make a turn for the beach, and off they go. Baby Blue features very hushed voice acting, which gives off a subtle feel compared to the rest of the compilation, and the banter between the two really complimented the atmosphere well. This isn’t one of those shorts that tries to hit you over the head with symbolism, its just kind of a simple story that I can’t really describe much further without spoiling, but it works well. There were some funny scenes too, most notably the part where they were intercepted by the bike cop. Bike cop had a cool voice too, good audio experience indeed. I liked the ending too. Another good short and a nice quiet anime to compliment with the crazy action of some of the other shorts. Besides that, not much else to say about this one.
3. Genius Party (short)
This is the titular short of the compilation, the first of the pack in order, and also the shortest at around 5 minutes. It is similar to Limit Cycle in where, you really don’t know what the hell is going on. That is to say the events that transpire are without any form of context are background information. Big difference though, it isn’t 18 minutes long and full of monotonous nonsense. Instead, its an explosive piece of animation, with awesome art style and spectacular choreography to boot. Everything is colorful and complimentary, it is a huge visual and audio presentation and a great way to start off the short. An animation explosion is what it is. It’s so short you could watch it on youtube in a few minutes so I won’t say whats going on in the short besides theres these really happy rocks and they love to dance. Great anime.
2. Deathtic 4
CGI oh no! The CGI is really cool though because it has something many CGI anime lack, and that is detail to the art. Usually because CGI isn’t meant to look like art i.e drawings in the first place, thats for the modern traditionally animated anime. This short features a bunch of zombie dudes trying to send a frog who fell into zombie land through a tornado in the sky or something (Uzu Uzu.) They get embroiled in some shit on the way. Plot is straightforward. Fantastic art though seriously, its like some kind of woodcut style thing. I usually hate CGI but I really loved the style of the background and the art. The style was particularly cool, everything is dead and zombieish, character designs fit the bill and they are all very unique. Props to the zombie police and Posse. This was one of the most entertaining shorts for me, mostly due to the reasons above, I really like when the shorts feature experimental animation or art or cool design, this one has all three. Details on the CGI, its basically like the characters themselves are computer generated, but they have a caricature style that you usually don’t see in CGI anime, although you see it in western CGI alot. The backgrounds were mostly drawn in though. Anyways its a short with a simple premise but its unique because of some really funny scenes and cool style. Also all of the characters speak in some kind of bizarre, incomprehensible Scandinavian/Russian which only adds to the out of worldness of the environment.
1. Happy Machine
This was my favorite short in the compilation, and is directed by one of my favorite directors, Yuasa Masaaki who directed Kaiba, Kemonozume, and The Tatami Galaxy. If you had to relate this short to anything complete he has worked on, it would be Kaiba. In a sense, Happy Machine is a visual prototype for the style and the atmosphere featured in full on Kaiba. The visuals and the design of characters, creatures etc. are very unique, in fact they are my favorite of the entire short, even more so than in Deathtic 4. I love how chaotic and enjoyable the director can make a short with such a simple premise that it goes without words, but will go with words for the sake of the review: A baby is taken care of in a bizarre machination of a day care center, only to leave it on a combination of impulse and accident, and ends up venturing out in a world that really doesn’t have any laws of physics to speak of. The short is made up of several main scenes, like parts where the baby encounters a flame who burns his crackers, and riding a gigantic horse plant thing. It is not reliant on detail to add to the experience, instead more so on really cool atmosphere, music, and funny scenes. This is a kind of anime that you can just turn your brain off too and go wide with wonder, kind of like the baby. I wonder if this was the intention. Happy Machine has a theme about the cycle of life that only really makes sense at the end of it. It is really entertaining, an animation and style experiment that eventually matured into Kaiba, which was also one of my favorite anime. A great one to watch with friends.
4: Cheonnyeon-yeowoo Yeowoobi
MAL Score: 7.29
Yobi, The Five Tailed Fox revolves around a kumiho, a nine-tailed fox that can assume different forms including human. Kumiho are familiar figures in Korean folk tales, and they are usually depicted as magical creatures that take female form to lure and prey on humans. This time, however, our protagonist is a young, kind-hearted fox with only five tails, instead of nine.
After losing her family to fox hunters, five-tailed Yobi lives in the forest with some shipwrecked aliens, far away from the humans. When one of her alien friends gets captured by a villager, Yobi has no choice but to adventure into the human world to rescue him. At the village, Yobi meets many humans, including Geum Yee who studies at a school for maladjusted children. Interested in Geum Yee, Yobi joins the students and revels in the fun of human life, but both a fox hunter and a mysterious shadow man are on her trail.
One of the more worthy efforts of recent years is, surprisingly, not Japanese at all. Yobi, The Five Tailed Fox is a Korean animated movie made in 2007, and directed by Lee Seong-kang (who also directed the critically acclaimed Mari Iyagi), and while the film does have it’s problems, the end result is pretty good, especially given the penchant for viewers to make comparisons with Ghibli movies.
The story follows the life of a five tailed fox (a slight variation on the kumiho, or nine tailed fox), called Yobi, who lives in the forest with her friends, a group of stranded aliens who crash landed on Earth 100 years before.Yobi has lived with her friends for all that time, having been abandoned in the mountain forest when she was a cub. She spends her days wandering, playing, and generally having fun, until a group of children come to the forest on a test of courage.
As far as plots go, Yobi begins in fairly well. The first portion of the movie follows a fairly placid progression through the story, with much of the emphasis on Yobi and the aliens, however the film takes a very sudden and unexpected turn to the dramatic. It’s actually unfortunate, especially as Yobi had a lot of potential, that the plot for the latter two-thirds of the movie is nowhere near as good as the first portion, and this is because the movie loses it’s focus in a big way.
To put it simply, there’s just too much going on. For a good portion of the movie it seems as though the screenwriter(s) were simply putting every idea they had on paper instead of sticking to the point, and while the movie does make an effort to tie up the numerous loose ends, it ultimately fails to do so as there is simply not enough running time. For a story to be as busy as this one, then it must, by any logical standards, be at least a twelve episode series – not an 85 minute movie.
The simple fact is that while the movie has several very interesting paths of development, it would have been better served if the director had chosen one (at a push, two), of those routes for plot progression. It’s unfortunate that the end result is confusing, and the repeated use of “conveniences” simply reinforces this.
In terms of art and animation, the movie is at times breathtaking. The artwork especially, is lush, vibrant, and extremely eye-catching in both it’s detail and composition. There are many moments when the background scenery will cath the viewers eye far more than the foreground action. The characters are designed fairly well, and I particularly liked how Yobi’s human form (child), still retains the look of a fox due to her age and inexperience, while her adult form just looks wierd. The human characters are all well realised, especially the children, and my gripe (and a minor one at that), is with the design for the aliens as they reminded me of Ewoks more than anything else.
The one design that did puzzle me though, was the spirit in the shape of a wash basin.
The animation is actually very good for the most part, however there are some occasions where the characters look or act oddly (and no, I don’t mean during the wierd song about the Sphinx). The movie also makes some good use of CG, and while it’s generally encapsulated well into the whole, the CG does sometimes stand out because the colours don’t quite match the rest of the scene.
The music used for the movie is very good throughout, reflecting a good range of emotive nuances, and the various tracks used for mood enhancement work well in their respective scenes. The ED is a rather pleasantly melodic ballad that reinforces the bittersweet ending to the movie, and rounds the whole thing off rather nicely.
I have to admit that at first I was a little confused given that the speaking language in the movie is Korean (and with me being so used to hearing Japanese), however once I got over that little hurdle, I found the acting to be surprising good. Emotively, the Korean seiyuu are at least as talented as their Japanese counterparts, and the cast portray their roles extremely well, especially Son Ye-jin (Yobi), and Ryu Deok-hwan (Hwang Geum-ee), both of whom do a sterling job with what are effectively the two lead roles (although it does take the movie a while to make this clear).
This is actually a rather enjoyable, if at times confusing, movie to watch. Given that the story heavily involves spirits and a forest, I found the distinct lack of an environmental message to be rather refreshing. There are, however, those problems with the plot, in particular the busy nature of the story and the seemingly wilfull use of deus ex machina. There are also several loose ends that never get tied up, in particular why yobi was abandoned, why are there aliens in the story, what the hell is that wash basin spirit all about, etc, etc.
Even with the various problems it has though, Yobi is still a good movie, and while it ultimately can’t shake off all of the issues it has, it does, at the very least, resolve some of them (which is more than I can say for certain other titles).
To be honest, I’m not sure who would actually enjoy the movie more as the whole thing is designed to appeal to children and adults alike. Fans of nature and spirit based anime like Mushishi, Miyori no Mori, Mokke, Mononoke Hime, My Neighbour Totoro, etc (why do most of them begin with M?), may find this to be a pleasing addition to their viewing lists. Fans of mythology and legend (like me), may also want to check this out as, while it deals with what is ultimately supposed to be a nine tailed fox, it is the Korean kumiho rather than the Japanese Kitsune.
At the end of the day, even with all of the spirits, nature, antics, drama, and other stuff, Yobi, The Five Tailed Fox is at heart a coming of age story, and not for the humans, but for Yobi herself. The movie makes the point of highlighting the fact that although Yobi is over 100 years old, she is still very much a child both physically and mentally, especially as kumiho can live for over a thousand years.
It may have it’s flaws, and it may not appeal to everyone, but Yobi, even with it’s problems, is a great example of what Korean animation is capable of, and bodes extremely well for the future of Asian animation.
To say that the quality of Yobi, the Five-Tailed Fox is mixed would be a bit of an understatement. On the one hand, Yobi is fleshed out enough as such where she is rather likeable as a character when she comes to learn more of the humans she stays with, understand them and bond with Geum-ee. Her bonding with him and the other humans is genuine and the movie devotes enough focus on this development to make it engaging and relatable to audiences.
On the other hand though, the movie gets into the bad habit of trying to cram in too many plot threads and attempts at symbolism into its 85-minute run. The introductions of the mysterious shadow and the fox hunter created unnecessary attempts at conflict within the movie with villainous characters that could have just as easily not been implemented into the film. Also, the movie’s attempts at implanting symbolism involving American Indian and Eastern mythical and religious influences comes across as rather heavy-handed, usually don’t lead anywhere and often get lost in the convoluted story developments that take place with Yobi’s development and the mentioned villainous conflicts she gets into. Also, I have to feel a bit befuddled over why this movie has aliens in it when a good chunk of its storytelling and symbolism is influenced through Eastern folklore.
Overall, I would say my reception to this is a bit mixed. While I did enjoy the focus on Yobi’s bonding with the humans at the school she sneaks into, the movie seemed to lose track of what type of story it wanted to tell with its addition of aliens, villainous characters and folklore symbolism that could have just as easily been left out of this film to focus on Yobi coming to understand humans. It’s still worth a look if you want to see more Korean animated films, but it would be hard to get into multiple watches of it.
3: Keroro Gunsou Movie 2: Shinkai no Princess de Arimasu!
English: Sergeant Frog Movie 2
Japanese: 超劇場版 ケロロ軍曹２ 深海のプリンセスであります！
MAL Score: 7.31
During a vacation Natsumi is visited by a female alien and male alien who she later gains feelings for from the ocean that makes her the Deep Sea Princess who, along with the rest of the Keroro Platoon, encounter many dangers summoned by a mysterious creature.
the gang go on vacation to an exotic island on the caribbea, completely unaware of the lurking danger. Maru,a self proclaimed princess abducted natsumi in order to make his princess. at first Natsumi was hesitant, but maru had a kero ball that makes all of his dream comes true. Pay attention to the choice of word, Maru used the word princess and not queen.
It’s 20 minutes longer than the first movie which means thereare more rooms for story development and tension building.
It contains spoiler so read on your own risk
I must remind you that this is nonetheless a japanese made movie, so no matter how cruel and regardless of damages the damages they have down bad guys are easily let off the hook dan don’t take any responsibility.
Maru tried to absorb Natsumi and was going to destroy the planet when Keroro and friends interfered. Just like that , Natsumi let Maru go. To me the story would have been perfect had maru died, because he was the villain. The maker might have reasoned that this show for kids and maru was still a kid, heck do you want kids to think that they can do whatever want and would still be forgiven. that’s not educating.
Personally i lke ts better than the first movie because my favorite duo Koyuki and dororo had more screen time and bigger role in the story. sweet because Koyuki rarely appeared in the tv series.
This time moa also saw some action , however there is a thing that made unhappy. Moa had to use the full power of harmageddon to block maru’s energy beam. How can the same force that could destroy planets unable to defeat Maru’s beam. It means Moa is not of the strongest being in the galaxy, but what make moa interesting as a character is that what you call don’t judge the book by its cover this girl is very dangerous . She couldn’t defeat a kid.
The solution to me is the reason it happened was because Moa only used 1/1000000 of her power because she didn’t wat to destroy the whole city
2: Appleseed Saga Ex Machina
English: Appleseed: Ex Machina
MAL Score: 7.34
Deunan, a young female warrior, and Briareos, a veteran cyborg-soldier, are both partners and lovers. As members of E.S.W.A.T., the elite special forces serving Olympus, they are deployed whenever trouble strikes. The two fighters find their partnership tested in a new way by the arrival of a new member to their ranks—an experimental Bioroid named Tereus.
This film starts off with the most illogical SWAT attack on a building ever, consisting of Deunan just basically throwing herself at the enemy, not a care in the world if she alerts other bad guys either through her bullets blowing crap up or the dispatched baddies not reporting in.
Why are UN diplomats even being held hostage in a cathedral? No explanation given, its all just part of this John Woo produced disastrous attempt at cool posturing. That is all that’s on display here, one ridiculous pose after another.
Ex Machina goes through every cliche in the book. Dialogue about a daughter from a secondary grunt character = person who will obviously die later on. A character who appears early on who looks like a ghoul = obvious bad guy revealed later on. There’s even a scene where the main bad guy explains his entire plan FOR NO REASON.
Needless to say the story was probably ghost-written by a 12 year old relative of screenwriter Kiyoto Takeuchi. There are so many plot holes, contrived and convoluted coincidences and cringe-worthy dialogue it’s like being insulted for 1 hour and 44 minutes; these people think you have no intelligence at all, it’s like everyone involved in this horrible mess of a production has only just discovered filmmaking. Who knows, maybe their next production will discover subtext? Just kidding, lets not get ahead of ourselves.
The animation in the previous film had a more refined and unique look, whereas in Ex Machina it’s more polished and generic. The dip in quality from the first film to the second is heavy all across the board.
John Woo continues his reign of terror, even as producer, and to think this was the man who gave us Chow Yun Fat sliding down a banister shooting people with a toothpick in his mouth. The world weeps.
STORY – The sypnosis given on this website is crap (as is ANN’s, since that’s where it came from) and the information it highlights has little importance in the movie, Wikipedia’s summary is a little better, though still lacking in proper details. I suppose those summaries are sub par in part because the movie’s complexity, though. There are actually several smaller subplots interlinking throughout the Ex Machina, and the grand scheme the characters must overcome is not clarified until maybe halfway through. This makes for some interesting crossover between the substories, but it also means that someone who doesn’t care for the subplots could become quickly disinterested before the main one locks into place.
Neither the substories nor the main story are particularly innovative though, probably because cybernetics, war, and mind control are such frequently visited themes within the sci-fi and cyberpunk genres. They’re still entertaining enough, but there’s definitely nothing profoundly new or deep here. The love story is cute, but lacking substance (I always dislike it when characters’ love for each other is 100% pure and lacking in any uncertainties or doubts). The villain’s motivation seems a bit contrived and the automation of a mechanized disaster a cop-out. It was disappointing mostly in that there seemed to be potential for a lot more material because the environment was set up so well, but none of it was ever realized.
CHARACTER – Ex Machina is another movie that falls into the trap of a full cast of generic characters. Deunan is a femme fatale that might be called a wannabe Motoko Kusanagi except that she’s completely and utterly in love with Briareos, who himself is a typical tough guy cyborg. This relationship seems to force Deunan into a more typical "female" role, placing her in situations where she inevitably needs to be saved by her man and taking away from her otherwise badass persona. This might have been a decent way to put more depth in her character and I might be less irked about it if it weren’t for the fact that Deunan seems to change completely depending on whether the scene calls for her to be badass or vulnerable, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a thread connecting her two sides.
The entire character of Tereus and his subsequent subplot seemed pointless to me. While it seemed to toss a wrench in the canon relationship for a little bit, it didn’t last long and ultimately amounted to nothing because Deunan and Briareos’s love is pure and nothing can pry them apart! As a "bioroid," he wasn’t supposed to have very many emotions, but he more or less acted the part of a normal human, albeit one with a flat personality. Everyone else was very much the same — Athena was a typical suspicious leader-type, the commander was a typical commander, the villain was a typical mad scientist that you recognized at first sight even though you probably shouldn’t have, and so on. But you know what bugged me the most? That one guy that always seemed willing to ignore all rules and protocol to help out our protagonists even though he had no clear motivation or reason to do so. Come on. That’s just cheap.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Ex Machina was very beautifully animated in a style reminiscent of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The use of motion capture made the characters’ movements realistic and smooth, and the highly rendered environments made sure that they fit in their surroundings. The mecha designs were unique and fun too. A few of the special effects (such as explosions) could have probably looked better, but in general, the movie was very pleasing to the eye. (Don’t forget to keep an eye out for your John Woo doves!)
MUSIC – It’s a pretty score, but nothing particularly noteworthy.
VOICE ACTING – I saw this movie dubbed, and I must say, it was a pretty darn good dub. The voices were appropriate (if not typecasted), anyway, and with so many Greek-themed names like Briareos and Athena, pronunciations were likely much more accurate than they were in the original. Wikipedia also notes that the movie’s forward is more detailed in the English release.
OVERALL – Ex Machina wasn’t a bad movie. As a cyberpunk fan, the story was alright enough, if a little lacking in originality. The characters could have definitely been better, but if nothing else, they were on par with the story’s sophistication. The animation was probably its strongest point, but it was good enough that it may be worth a watch just for that.
So, what’s so good about it? Well, firstly they’ve gone the 100% 3D CGI route,which, as with any technology, just keeps advancing in leaps and bounds, and the imagery used here far surpasses anything else I’ve seen to date. Buildings and backgrounds are captured in magnificent detail (the Gothic cathedral in the opening sequence has to be seen to be believed); lighting and textures are first-rate (well, to art-ignoramus me anyway), the characters are fully integrated into their surroundings (now that I think about it, maybe Appleseed 2004 didn’t use animation for the characters, but they did often look ‘painted in’ when compared to their realistic CGI surroundings.) and for once they finally seem to have CGI humans moving as humans do. No doubt it’s due to the influence of producer/director, John Woo (who, like or hate him, knows how to put an action film together), but the fight sequences are extremely well choreographed, especially the aerial battles involving the land-mates. Not to mention the fluid motions of the characters in these scenes. The programmers really earned their keep on this show and if this is where state-of-the-art CGI stands at the moment, I wait in anticipation to see what the future has in store for us.
Story-wise, I guess it’s nothing too original. Billed as a sequel to Appleseed 2004 (more on that later), it picks up at some time not long after the last film. Deunan & Briareos (not a name I’d like to try and call out in a moment of passion) are still members of ESWAT, defending Olympus against what seems to be a string of random terrorist attacks involving cyborgs. At the same time, President Athena is pressing the remaining world powers for a unified satellite system, to further ensure world piece. Needless to say, somebody has other plans for such a unified system and it’s up to our heroes to thwart his plans for world domination.
During all this we actually get to see more of the dynamics of Deunan & Briareos’ relationship here than we did before, especially after Briareos gets injured and Deunan’s new partner, Tereus (is nobody called Bob in the future?) is a bioroid, cloned from Briareos’ genetic material, thus looking, sounding and even thinking like B did, before winding up as a walking tin-can. How the three of them deals with this adds a decent human (well, human-cyborg-bioroid) element that was missing from the first film. All the classic elements of a good old rough and tumble action film are present and fortunately, they all work. Maybe the only “meh” bit is a scene towards the end which could have been lifted straight from one of the later “Matrix” movies.
Without wanting to sound like a rabid fanboy, I’ve been trying to think about negatives to discuss, in the interests of balanced writing, of course. I’d have to say that there are precious few. True, it’s probably not the most original story you’re likely to see, but then again, I never expected to learn the meaning of life from watching this. I expected to be entertained for nearly two hours, and in that respect, it delivered. However, another potential weakness of the story is the fact that it’s a sequel and it assumes that you’ve seen the prequel. So, although all the familiar characters are present (Hitomi, Pres. Athena, et al) they aren’t re-introduced, but are just ‘there’, which could make them seem pretty insignificant to the uninitiated. It’s not a biggie, as the story really is about our three protagonists anyway, but somebody might wonder why Hitomi invites Deunan to her birthday and why she later…oops, nearly let a spoiler out the bag there.
I guess the final criticism comes down to a combination of the shortcomings of CGI (no matter how advanced it is) and budget. As good as the character design is, it’s no more than ‘realistic’. Facial expressions are minimal and often the only thing that moves on a character is their mouth. Blinking obviously wasn’t added to the jobcard, so the minute a character has a close up for longer than a few seconds, your eyes start to water in sympathy. Lastly, as good as the faces and bodies are designed and textured, hair seems to have been last on the list and in many cases looks as if they’ve had a large blob of plasticine moulded on their skull. Again, it’s a small point, but it does jar, when there’s been so much attention to detail elsewhere. Then again, I always remember comments about “they spent a quarter of the budget on her hair” when Final Fantasy was released, and yes, her hair looked great, but I wish they’d spent a bit more of that budget on the scriptwriter.
Final opinion? Even if you aren’t a fan of anime (just think of this as a Pixar CGI movie, ok) and you enjoy action or sci-fi films, you won’t be disappointed with this latest incarnation of the franchise. Anybody who saw and enjoyed the first film will lo-… er… really enjoy this one.
1: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone
English: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone
MAL Score: 8.04
In a post-apocalyptic world, the last remaining human settlement in Japan is the heavily fortified city of Tokyo-3. Fourteen-year-old Shinji Ikari is brought to the headquarters of Nerv, an underground organization lead by his estranged father, Gendou. He requests that Shinji become a pilot of an “Evangelion,” a colossal android built to fight against monstrous and destructive alien creatures known as “Angels” that wreak havoc on the planet and threaten the survival of the remaining human race.
Although initially reluctant, Shinji is swayed by the idea of reconciling with his father, and agrees to aid in mankind’s perilous endeavor against its alien threat, as the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. Thrust into the midst of a dangerous battlefield, Shinji must find the necessary courage and resolve to face against the Angels’ incursions before it is too late.
So yes, this is basically a retelling of the original Evangelion in movie mode, and it’s the first of 4 movies. This first movie covers the first six episodes of the original series, therefore not exactly innovative or anything shockingly interesting about the story. However, they did remove most of Shinji’s self-pitying/emo-ing/bitching moments, so it’s definitely one improvement from the original series.
The art is simply fabulous. The original series already had excellent artwork for its generation, and they’ve managed to improve it. Introduction of CG was definitely a great move, and it made scenes even better, especially the fighting parts. They completely redid the scene with the Angel Ramiel, replacing traditional hand-drawn Ramiel with CG designs. Needless to say, that scene turned into absolute eye-candy. Other uses and integration of CG were more subtle, such as introducing it into the graphs, computer charts, and background. The human character designs were sharpened a bit from the original, but otherwise remained unchanged. But it was integration of CG into this remake which really stole the light.
The sound remained mostly the same, but they did add new sound effects, most notably to the EVAs and Angels, and an excellent new ending song.
Characters remained virtually the same, except they cut out a lot of Shinji’s bitching/whining, so definitely a good move. Made the movie a lot more enjoyable, as we only seen about 5 minutes of whining, opposed to the half episodes of manbitching in the original series.
Seeing this movie was definitely fun to watch, because they basically took the original series, and remade with better graphics, with a few minor changes, so that it’s enjoyable to watch without feeling it’s the same as the original series, yet not different enough that it strays away from its original roots. This definitely will bring back nostalgic feelings from older fans whilst giving something new for them to watch and admire.
This movie is actually a good enough retelling that a newcomer to EVA can watch this instead of the original series, and will be able to know nearly everything that happened. (Of course, it’s not really recommended, seeing how it’s the original that was so profound and revolutionary.) After seeing this, I have high hopes for the following three movies, although I am a bit doubtful about the last one.
I just got back from seeing Evangelion 1.0 in theaters, and it was some experience. Though I didn’t end up bringing the boom box playing a ripped CD of Prince’s 1999 (and a bloody shame that is, too) it was still a real treat. The crowd was bigger than I had anticipated – I wondered if I might actually have the theater to myself, this being such a niche release and all, but it turns out I was dead wrong. While I wouldn’t say every row was packed – it wasn’t exactly a Transformers crowd (though one guy did have a Transformers T-shirt) – I would readily say that well over half the theater was filled out. Incidentally, I also believe I was one of roughly half the audience that was present who had bathed within the last 24 hours, and of that I am proud. There was some brief buzz and exchange before the movie started, but in quick manner, start it did.
Well, first things first: It shouldn’t be hard to tell from the trailers alone, but I can confirm that this movie is absolutely gorgeous. The animation is silky smooth, the attention to detail is breathtakingly rich, the CG is (contrary to some early rumors) largely well-incorporated, the Sadamato character designs are as beautiful, expressive and subtle as ever, if not moreso. Everything from the Evas to the heavy machinery to Misato’s lingerie is rendered in a level of painstaking detail that the budget of a now-multimillion-dollar franchise can allow for. (Although it seems their only revenue isn’t just from moviegoers and anime fans – Doritos® brand corn-based snack chips™ from Frito Lay® are now prominently featured in Misato’s apartment, and Tokyo-3 seems to have accepted a hefty investment from Pizza Hut®.) This is one visually eye-popping movie. Speaking of eye-popping, this has a shocking amount of T&A for a PG-13 movie – in addition to the most memorable fanservice shots from the show, prepare to see a lot of new takes on Shinji’s and Rei’s (and even Kaworu’s) naked buttocks, not to mention several surprise nip-slips from the latter (Rei, that is).
Audio-wise, the music is extensively and suitably upgraded from the show’s questionable production values. Shiro Sagisu’s new score contains a satisfying mix of new themes, extensively reworked versions of classics (a choral version of “Angel Attack” is particularly memorable), and even some faithful rehashes of songs from the original that have earned their places in fans’ hearts. His musical style is still decidedly… unconventional, and I’m still not sure if I personally prefer him to the likes of, say, Kenji Kawai or Kaoru Wada. But hey, he’s Anno’s choice for a composer, and I respect that. One certainly can’t argue that the music for Evangelion isn’t iconic. On the translation/voice acting side, there’s likewise some new and some familiar (in fact, that statement could pretty much apply to anything about the movie). Spike Spencer and Allison Keith naturally steal the show with their leading roles that they only continue to perfect over time. The various newcomers all get the jobs done; I wouldn’t necessarily pick them over the cast members they’re replacing, but at least there aren’t any stinkers (which is more than can be said for the last two times the show was recast…). Greg Ayres plays Kensuke a little too high-pitched (even by Greg Ayres standards), John Swasey is still no replacement for Tristan MacAvery, and while I’m generally a fan of Colleen Clinkenbeard, I’m just too used to Sue Ulu’s voice as Ritsuko to really accept her; conversely, Brina Palencia did a far better job at Rei than I could have ever anticipated (even as REI, she still stands out), the new Keel Lorenz has the deep and foreboding voice that he always should have had, and the new Kaworu (from the maybe 3 lines of dialogue he speaks) seems to get the character just right. The translation is effective, but seems to lack just a little bit of that Woolsey-ish magic that made the original so memorable. This being a Funimation production, the general dialogue flows more smoothly and naturally than most dubs, but it’s a little disappointing to see how they’ve altered a couple of iconic lines (fortunately, “I mustn’t run away” isn’t one of them). Also, SEELE no longer has fünky accents. Of this, I vehemently disapprove. It reminded me a lot of playing the newer, re-translated versions of classic video games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV; the translations may be more accurate and natural-sounding now, but they’ve lost a little bit of that 90’s charm they once had. I wouldn’t quite say it ruins the experience, though.
Now, for the most important part: the plot. For the first half of the movie, I really had one word going through my head: rushed. Because that’s what it is. It really just seems like the movie is racing to knock off one highlight moment from the show’s first four episodes after the next. The pacing and even the dialogue feels rushed. It’s quite interesting, then, that by about the half-way mark (or what felt like the half-way mark, anyway – I wasn’t keeping time) the movie suddenly slows down not to relish action sequences or even to recreate familiar scenes, but to linger on moments of character interaction and inflection. The familiar scenes range from painstakingly recreated to subtly altered in significant ways, but cleverly hidden among them are several new scenes that, while easy to miss, imply some crucial new angles on the plot. The shocking scenes with Lilith and the SEELE moon base have already been remarked upon by all who have seen them, but less widely noted – and, in my opinion, even more significant – is a new scene of interaction between Gendo and Fuyutsuki, in which Gendo explicitly states that “the Children are acting out the scripts we wrote for them 14 years ago.” More chillingly still, he states that “soon Shinji will begin to get closer to Rei”, among other predictions that seem to break the fourth wall. (Keep in mind, while in Evangelion’s world “14 years ago” marked the beginning of Second Impact, in OUR world 14 years ago marked the beginning of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Hmmmmmm……)
Which brings me about to what is really the #1 theme of this movie, and which I suspect will become much, much more important down the road: recursion. The film simply does not stand on its own as an independent experience; I know I personally would hesitate before showing it to someone who hadn’t seen the series already. It rushes through a lot of the crucial scenes, and skips vast amounts of exposition, to linger solely on moments that are particularly potent for those who have seen the series before. I’ve had my suspicions for a while, but after seeing the movie I’m now quite certain that this is absolutely not a mere retelling of the series; Anno clearly knew when making this that the vast majority of the audience would be people who had already seen the series, and while it seems to play coy with this fact on the outside, it doesn’t take much digging (at least as far as I see it) to uncover that film is tossing a mocking wink and nod at viewers at every possible opportunity. In addition to the aforementioned altered and new scenes that drastically undermine the plot as we know it, there is that aforementioned theme of “recursion”. On top of Gendo’s dialogue with Fuyutsuki, motifs of “fate”, “recurrence” and “rebirth” are rampant. One new visual motif many have noticed is the rainbow, which shows up at a number of crucial scenes and as far as I can see is a new symbol of recurrence and rebirth. SEELE’s stepped-up logo now features actual, printed lyrics from the “Ode to Joy” – a song/poem that has quite a bit to say about fate. And with Kaworu’s remarks in the final scene, he might as well be looking straight at the audience and quoting Homer Simpson: “Why are you paying to see in theaters what you could watch for free at home [or in this case, have already bought multiple times]?? If you ask me, everyone in this theater is a complete moron, especially YOUUUUUU!!!!!!” I’ve heard a number of things (probably too much) about the second movie, and all I can say is I am now 100% confident that the 4.0 will be a complete, unabashed mindf**k directed squarely at a base of viewers who, in Anno’s opinion, should not still be paying to see essentially the same thing over and over anymore (in regards to the anime industry at large).
But like before, Anno’s beloved brainchild is not merely a disgruntled, cynical commentary on the world and the anime industry. It’s also a very personal journey and parable. For a good chunk of the movie I wondered if not even Evangelion could reach my heart anymore; it was once the case that I felt right there in Shinji’s shoes, sharing all his struggles and tribulations. Now, at 18, I don’t know if I can still relate to the 14-year-old character in the same way. I’ve developed differently over these years, and the struggles I face now are so different, yet so uncomfortably similar; yet all around, the ways in which I can and must face my troubles are different now. Maybe I felt so separated from the film for the same reasons I feel so separated from others; I’ve locked away my emotions, all my fear and sadness, and thrown away the key, someplace where even I can’t find it. I can no longer be so open, so in touch with those things as Shinji is. But there were crucial parts of the film that, ultimately, made even me remember what I truly hope for in life. Those few, tender, tantalizing moments of closeness and understanding that Shinji has with Misato and Rei near the end of the film are a reminder, a reminder I needed so very, very much, about what can be truly beautiful about the interactions between people. That simple motif of holding hands spoke more than any words could…
And so, as an anime fan, as a film enthusiast, and as a person, I am proud to say that I am back in the world of Evangelion, and I will be eagerly following the progression of this new series. The themes of rebirth and dogged hope are those which are deeply relevant to me this time around, and while I try to put the cracked and shattered pieces of my life together, I look forward to making the journey to love and self-affirmation with my old friend Shinji once again.
The movie covers episodes 1 through 6, beginning in much the same way as the series did, and ending with the 5th Angel’s attack. We see much of the scenes faithfully recreated, up until Misato comes to pick up Shinji, and they begin talking as fast as they possibly can. The dialogue moves by ridiculously fast, in an incredibly thinly-veiled attempt to cram as much of the series as they can into the space of a single movie, with horrible results. Their sacrifice of quality for the sake of quantity thoroughly destroys the pacing, which, upon retrospect, was a big part of what made Evangelion what it was. There were a lot of long, atmospheric shots that helped to build the tone of the series, and here, they’re gone.
In fact, even the overall style feels different. It seems to opt for darker, richer colours than the original, which honestly doesn’t suit the style of the original series at all. It could be argued that animation has since moved on from the original series, but then, look at End of Evangelion. That was fantastically animated, and kept with the style of the series perfectly.
Another thing it seems to have lost track of is the soundtrack. Another interesting part of how the original series was directed was how rarely they used background music, often opting for silence punctuated only by the cicadas. Here? Pretty much every scene has a musical score behind it. This is how normal shows function, not how Evangelion is supposed to function. And even then, some of it actually seems like something Gainax would have used in Gurren Lagann, as opposed to Eva. Even with their choice to use more music taken into account, it still feels like they could have done a better job, although this is a comparatively minor nitpick.
Another major point is that the dub is very badly done. Aside from the fact that all the acting is forcibly quite bad (although this is less the actors fault and more the fact that they have to talk very fast to keep up), one particularly noticeable thing is that most of the original cast has been replaced, mostly by much less fitting voice actors. Whilst some changes are welcome, for example Touji sounding considerably better than he ever did in the main series, most are very distracting. And even the ones who stayed don’t sound remotely similar to how they did 14 years ago. The most noticeable example is Spike Spencer’s performance as Shinji. For the first half of the movie, I was thoroughly convinced that they had replaced Shinji’s voice actor. With a female one, no less. Shockingly, Spike is still in the role, but sounds absolutely nothing like he should. How this could happen is an absolute mystery, considering he’s been playing nothing but Shinji and Shinji knockoffs for the last 14 years, but somehow he botched his performance quite badly.
Now, I know that a fairly basic argument against this is that it isn’t trying to be like the original series. This is somewhat thwarted by the facts that A: Pretty much everyone who watches this will be judging it by the standards of the series, and B: It doesn’t stand up very well on its own either. The pacing and dialogue have ruined any chance this had of being a replacement Evangelion in its own right, as well as the plot and directing being skimmed over. Considering the series always had a habit of throwing you in without knowing what the fuck was going on, imagine how that works when everything is thrown at you at a mile per minute. Hint: NOT VERY WELL. I can’t imagine a newbie to the franchise would have the slightest clue what the fuck was going on.
All in all, I was somewhat worried that Hideaki Anno might have lost it, what with being sane now. And to my surprise, I was right. This has completely failed. It doesn’t capture anything that made Evangelion a loveable series, and while it does clear out some of the faults it had, it doesn’t balance things out nearly well enough. The only redeeming features are a handful of new scenes, all of which are quite good, and strangely more in the vein of the show than anything else in the movie, most notably the final scene that raises an enormous amount of questions about Kaworu, and promises that the single greatest reason to watch this movie is the promise that the next one will do things very differently.
Final Words: What a disappointment. Let’s just hope 2.0 makes it worthwhile.
Voice Acting: 2/10
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone
2. Appleseed Saga Ex Machina
3. Keroro Gunsou Movie 2: Shinkai no Princess de Arimasu!
4. Cheonnyeon-yeowoo Yeowoobi
5. Genius Party