Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Direction This Blog is Going


It's been a long time since I've made a post like this (or made a post at all, really), and I figured I owe it to anyone who actually reads this to give you some insight into why things are they way they are. To be fair, though, I really doubt anyone more than the few people I've managed to rope in on Facebook actually take a glance at this place, and I'm probably screaming into an echo chamber, haha.


I started this blog to give myself an excuse to actually WATCH all that anime I was collecting. I didn't have a job and had just been forced to leave college, so I had a lot of time on my hands and wanted to do something with it. I don't come from a happy household, and due to a lifetime of being made to feel like a sack of shit, I wanted to at least be doing something 'productive', as my dad would so often say.


November of 2012 I can't even remember if I was living at home or at my grandparents; my grandmother had died in August of that year, and while I still TECHNICALLY lived with my parents (on paper, still do despite being out of the house), I had jumped ship to live at my grandparents' house since my mother was there and I couldn't stand being around my dad anymore. I holed up in the parlor (barely used, it was a couch to sleep on) and mum and I stayed at that house for a few months while she got over her mother's death and helped out around the house to get my grandpa acclimated to living without her. I had been housekeeping for them for years already, so it was pretty easy. (For those wondering, my grandpa is extremely resilient---they were always social folks and helped out in the community, and he still does, giving people rides to the doctor, playing scrabble at the senior centre and joining in the local golf league. Pretty sure he cooks more than my mom does now.)


I needed to show that I was doing SOMETHING with my time, and watching anime then writing about it was a way to show that at least I had SOMETHING, ANYTHING going on. Mum and I moved back to my parents' place around late winter/early spring of 2013, and I had continued housekeeping there. I was also volunteering with anime clubs around this time (still do), so I had a few irons in the fire to show that I wasn't a COMPLETE hikikomori. Eventually, though, it wasn't enough (of course, lol), so in addition to looking back into college, I got a job and at the same time, a boyfriend, in September of 2014. My time eventually dried up, since by this point I had 2 jobs, a boyfriend, and was still volunteering.

By December of that year, though, I was let go from my job and depression reared its ugly head again. It took me 8 months to find a job again, and during that entire time I was juggling avoiding my father as much as possible (it didn't help matters that by this time he had injured himself bad enough to be forced to retire from his self-employment and take a retail job, so he was in pain AND angry over his job), looking for work, going to the local government offices to apply for state insurance and maintain my relationship with my boyfriend. By that August I ended up moving out of the house and into my boyfriend's parents' place (we live in an outbuilding, thankfully), and one of the places I volunteered at hired me on as a paid employee. So while things looked up, my time dried up again, and combined with the depression it became too much of an effort to keep on a continued schedule of watching and reviewing things. (One 12-episode series in a regular format is 6 hours of content, did you realize that!?)

At present I can't and won't make any promises that this little corner of the internet is coming fully out of retirement, but at least it's alive, just dormant. Stick around if you can, since there will be new content, just at a slower, less consistent pace. Roxy's still around and I've encouraged her to review things as well, and I'm trying to fulfill a New Year's resolution by studying Korean, so there may even be some Korean Dramas or shows in here, who knows.

Through this entire post, and the history of this blog, thanks if you've stuck around (I understand if you haven't, haha). It makes me so excited to see the pageviews on each post, and even moreso when I see that some of them come from all over the world. It means a lot. It also makes me think about how, if people are actually reading this, I should make some more stuff for it. It's encouraging. So thanks.

(If it's no trouble, leave a comment, even just a hi, or a :), or a single letter. Means I'm not writing this to myself, haha.


-KK

Oshiete! Galko-chan


Raunchy, chaotic, and cutesy, Oshiete! Galko-chan is a short-form series with 12 8-minute episodes to its name. Beginning life as a manga almost 2 years ago, the series is continuing and the anime ran from January to March of this year. It's bright and colourful, which matches the silly overall feeling, but the level of perversion in this series gives Family Guy a run for its money. Be warned.

From left: Otako, Galko, Ojou.

The show follows 3 high school girls in a slice-of-life type setting, with questions being asked multiple times over the course of the show that are then answered with the actions of the characters. The titular (or, should I say, tit-ular) character is a girl nicknamed Galko because of her stereotypical Gyaru look and perceived free and loose lifestyle, punctuated by her (quite large) breasts. As is common with most anime, all of the stereotypes and rumours are completely false, and she's actually quite the opposite in personality. Her best friend, Otako, LOVES taking advantage of this to make Galko the butt of her perverted jokes. In the meantime, their mutual friend Ojou tries to get in on the action, but mostly because she just desperately wants to be friends.
In the end, it all comes back to sex jokes, but at least this one wasn't aimed at the usual.

It's all gag humour, all of it. Basically every joke, and perverted gag humour at that. At first it's funny, then you just start to feel bad for Galko, then (like her), you grow numb to it and just wait for the next one to drop. It's not too much a bad thing, it just relies too heavily on this type of humour; despite her name being in the title, the show would benefit a bit if it could take some of the pressure off Galko. Assumptions and misunderstandings mean nothing if they don't have some truth to back them up, and in this regard, most of the tension falls flat. Just because a girl has blonde hair, big boobs, and is tired in the morning, doesn't mean she was out all night partying. But I suppose that's the point?

I can confirm that this is untrue.

At the very least, we DO get to know some of the other members of Galko's class (with some even being included in the opening, to my surprise), and perhaps because of the probing subjects, there's a good amount of character depth to some of them, mostly Otako and Galko. The final episode serves as a backstory episode and seems to even take some nods from The Breakfast Club. The entire series serves to make fun of Galko (or, at least, stereotypes of people, if you want to get philosophical about it), but by doing so, we get to see more of her. She's a great cook, likes to read, and goes out of her way to look after her classmates.

Galko gets flustered from reading about kissing scenes, so you can imagine what she's feeling right now.

The music wasn't really memorable, though I do remember thinking that part of it sounded like background music for a mini-game or perhaps even shojoesque elevator music. The opening was nice (though my copy wasn't subbed, so I skipped it a few times). Animation was average, but the artwork itself sparkled and shined, sometimes literally. They took liberties with some of the colours to give it depth and make it pop, and it really paid off (such as using a dulled pink to convey the shadows in Galko's hair). Even barely-speaking background characters were given personality, so at least we can know the creators cared, even if it was just a little.
DON'T YOU KNOCK THAT WAFUKU ENSEMBLE

DO NOT under any circumstance show this show to anyone younger than high school. The period jokes ALONE should have been enough for that, but to further things, the first lines spoken in the first episode were "Is it true that people with big boobs have big areolas as well?" Watch with discretion and probably at home. It's ecchi at best, thankfully, so there's no ACTUAL nudity. The worst I can remember was bare breasts covered carefully by hair.
In the end, it's shown that underneath the surface, Galko is a contentious, observant, and kind person.

Galko-chan is available from HorribleSubs, PosedLook, DeadFish Encodes (with BakedFish covering the redos), RabbitHole (Chinese), Krosis (Italian), and PuyaSubs (Spanish). While it's not licensed for any official releases outside of Japan yet, the manga has been licensed by Seven Seas entertainment and is set to start in North America in November of this year.
KITTY STOCKINGS

3.5-4/5


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Memories of Matsuko

Spanning a little over 2 hours, Kiraware Matsuko no Issho (more commonly known as Memories of Matsuko) came out in late May of 2006 to Japanese audiences, sweeping up some awards in its native land that year. The movie is a dark musical comedy about a woman whose life gets progressively worse as time goes on. Captivating, colourful, and quirky as hell, it was certainly a trip.

Matsuko herself is a very varied, interesting character. A woman of many faces.

The movie opens with the titular character's nephew, Sho, receiving a call from his father asking him to clean out his Aunt Matsuko's apartment. They both live in Tokyo, and as Matsuko has recently died, Sho's father wants a relative to go through her things. His father, while coming to retrieve the ashes, has other obligations and was estranged from his older sister, wanting nothing to do with her in life or death. Sho, through sifting through her garbage and getting second-hand accounts of Matsuko's few friends, learns of an interesting, if extremely sad, life.

The movie is told via a cast of eclectic characters.

From the start the movie pokes fun at itself. The colour palette, the special effects, even some of the music are there to subvert the horrible events and make light of the gloomy atmosphere Matsuko is thrust into. The musical numbers in particular are campy as all hell and push it into the over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek catagory of black comedies. It also gets a nice, wide range of musical diversity in there, with everything from Japanese hip hop to classic jazz sung by Michael Bublé.

So saturated is the movie that even the most benign of backgrounds gets a watercolour bath.

If Matsuko being dead wasn't enough, other people die over the course of the movie, get beat up, or are put into overtly sexual situations, meaning that even with joyful little numbers like 'Happy Wednesday', this is not a movie that should be shown to young children. If anything, the happy little numbers only add to the sarcasm the movie has, so even if it DIDN'T have the objectionable content it still wouldn't be good for children, since it would likely go over their heads.

Amidst the cutesy atmosphere is an underlying grit of domestic violence and hopelessness.

Matsuko is a movie I have returned to see again and again. Though it never received a North American release, Matsuko did see a DVD and Blu-Ray release in the UK by Third Window Films, meaning getting a copy is as easy as going on Amazon or googling for a torrent. If you search, you can also find it in languages other than English or Japanese, but be warned that live-action movie torrents will often pop up on dubious sites. Use good judgement!

Through it all, Matsuko never really seems to lose the spirit of that little girl inside.

4-4.5/5

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kaiba


Premiering in Spring of 2008, Madhouse's Kaiba is a 12-episode anime series that is described as "a sci-fi love story". Though it lives up to this standard, it paints a very confusing picture along the way, both visually and metaphorically. Still, it made for an engaging watch, meaning that even if i couldn't understand it, i could still enjoy it.

It at least has the romance it describes, even if it's hard to find.

In a distant future, law and order have fallen to pieces as technology has advanced to the point where memories can be stored as digital information. People buy and sell their bodies, using memory chips to ensure their consciousness will live on after they die. Electric clouds blanket the sky, destroying any memories that pass through; above is the realm of the rich and spoiled, while below is the realm of the poor and hungry. Enter Kaiba, a memoryless boy who wanders the stars searching for answers for himself, and for the woman in the locket around his neck.

A portion of the show is done in flashback, which only adds to the pile of evidence that there are no "Good" guys and "Bad" guys.

Kaiba attracted me from the start with its super-unique visual style. It's arty, it's interesting, and weirdly enough it looks a little like a western cartoon (or even French). Everything moves and flows beautifully, and it all looks like a modernistic painting. I was even contemplating showing this to the kids i mentor, and asked people about it--and i'm glad i did, as an acquaintance explained why this is CERTAINLY not for kids.

Body-swapping is extremely common in this show, but with a different angle due to the memories. Both the girl and the hippo belong to Kaiba, additionally, and neither are the original body.

Despite its style, Kaiba deals with some VERY adult subject matter. (Not to spoil too much, but someone actually gets sexed to death in episode 2. Not kidding.) Even getting past the graphic and the gorey, the plot is something that likely wouldn't be easy for kids to grasp, either, having the politics of memory-trading and corruption come into play. I'm a grown-ass woman and i had trouble understanding it at times. Mind you, that's also due to purposeful ambiguity, but that only adds to my point.

This show also plays on the "friends are foes and vice versa" idea, making it that much more difficult to wrap ones' head around.

If the visuals weren't enthralling enough, they also chose to engage us with the music. Before i even watched the series i had the opening ("Never" by Seira Kagami) on my music player, and knew all the words. It's a real feast for the eyes and ears, and if you're into conspiracy subplots and intrigue, then a feast for the mind, too.

Picking sides isn't really a thing you can do in this show, either.

Overall, despite the feeling of disorientation at the end of it all, Kaiba did not disappoint in the slightest. I DO wish they had followed it up with some more material (a manga, an OVA, a second series, whatever), but i suppose having it is enough, and maybe on the second or third watch i'll feel a little more fulfilled since i may understand the action better. As such, please, PLEASE don't show this to kids. Some adults may not even like it--that sex scene in episode 2 goes on for QUITE a while.

Seriously, it's pretty bad.

3.5-4/5

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time


Based on a successful media franchise starting in 1965 and encompassing 2 books, 3 TV series, 5 films and a manga, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was originally authored by Yasutaka Tsutsui, with a 2006 anime film adaptation by Mamoru Hosoda. Hosoda would also later bring us Summer Wars and Wolf Children. The voice actress who played the main character would also later go on to play the protagonist in the 2010 live-action film.

'Twas born into a Tasty legacy.

Makoto Konno is your average teenage tomboy. She has 2 best guy friends, an annoying little sister, and likes to play baseball. The chronic oversleeper wakes up late on a school day in mid-july and rushes right out the door into one of the worst days of her life. After school, while performing some classroom chores, she slips in the science lab and falls onto a walnut-shaped item, then proceeds to hallucinate from the resulting head trauma. Shaking it off as a dream, she runs out of school and onto her bike to deliver some peaches to her aunt as a favour to her mother. But as she speeds down the hill, her brakes have stopped working...sending Makoto flying right in the path of a commuter train. Or did it? As she wakes up on the pavement next to her toppled bike, she sees the train that just killed her speed by further down the street, leaving her unscathed...
Well, PHYSICALLY unscathed, if not mentally.
From the start, the premise of this movie was interesting. Obviously it's been interesting enough to carry it in various forms for 50 years now. But this Girl Who Leapt Through Time is actually a spin-off of the original book, leaving this as technically a standalone. With Hosoda and Madhouse behind the wheel, however, there was never any doubt that this was going to be good, and they definitely did not disappoint (mostly).
She's wearing her Important Hat.

Right from the start you can tell this is a Hosoda work because of the art style. The facial structure, much like any artist (say, for example, Ghibli or Tezuka), stays the same in all of his movies (sans One Piece, but there isn't much room for flexibility there....though he seems to have relaxed them to his pace a LITTLE bit), from the Digimon Adventure movie (1999) to Wolf Children (2012). His style is somewhat close to Ghibli, with roundish eyes and more realistic noses, but has a wider colour pallet and more variety. His relationship with Madhouse was well-suited, since their animation is also quite fluid. Both make for a relaxed film, which is nice in this context since it's part sci-fi, part slice-of-life.

Yuuup. this is DEFINITELY a Hosoda film.
Given that this is a standalone in the Time franchise, one can't expect much characterization from previous works to be present. However, in this regard we should be thankful that Hosoda is the director since his characters never suffer from a lack of personality. Makoto in particular reacts just as one would expect a teenager to react to certain tough situations, such as changing intra-personal relationships. She also uses her newfound time powers for completely frivoulous reasons and cries when she loses her friends. An interesting point is that, while this is a spin-off and these are all new characters, they're not ALL new. Makoto gets plenty of counsel and advice from her Aunt, the original "Girl Who Leapt Through Time".
Don't Do Drugs, Children.
The only major beef I can find with this movie is the ending. Sure, the music's passive and the plot can be hardish to follow, but the ending almost made me flip my laptop. (Almost.) Even with the rest of the franchise propping it up, the creators should ALWAYS assume their work to be a standalone, in that the viewer either may not have access to or have the will to seek out any sort of additional work. The loose ends they leave are not just sloppy, but a slap to the face of the viewer. One could argue that the ending "wrapped up nicely" with a simple smile and "I'll Be Waiting!", but this viewer is not satisfied without some kind of resolution.

On the upside, sometimes she gets to look like a stupid badass.

Despite that rude ensnarement, the movie was still quite enjoyable and long overdue on my part. I'd expect no less than this from Hosoda, a director I greatly enjoy, and though being frustrated with the outcome, was pleased with the middle. This is typical anime fare, but unlike other typical anime fare there's no fanservice. Sure, there's theoretical death, but no gore (and actually, no real images of anyone striking any trains) is shown. The closest it comes to being "inappropriate" is a few harsh words. Ergo, show this to almost anyone you want. As long as they get it, it'll be fine.

This and maybe a few swears. That's all.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is licensed on DVD and Blu-Ray in North America by Bandai Entertainment. It's seen TV and theatre airings in the US, and some theatre airings in the UK. Though it was not expected to be as popular as it was (and indeed, only recieved limited theatre distrobution in Japan at first), word of mouth increased its popularity exponentially and it eventually went on to several international film festivals, winning most of the awards it was nominated for. Wikipedia is hazy on other releases, but the copy I had (which was a Blu-Ray rip) had a Spanish subtitle track, so it stands to reason that there will be other language sub tracks if you search for them, too.

#TheStruggleIsReal

2.5-3/5

Metropolis


Metropolis was originally a German silent film from 1927. At the time, it was the most expensive movie in the world, and the first feature-length science fiction film. Though some of the content was questioned at the time and it recieved mixed reviews, it was widely regarded as a classic and a massive leap forward for the genre. This inspired Osamu Tezuka to make his 1949 manga based off the movie, which in turn was made into the movie we have today in 2001.

Even disconnected from the parent work, the movie is beautiful.

Metropolis opens with us seeing daily life in the massive city of Metropolis, a city where humans and robots live together, with one above and one below. One of the city's elite, a real estate magnate and engineer named Duke Red, is about to unveil his latest and greatest addition to the city's architecture, the Ziggurat. Elsewhere, PI Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi arrive in the city from Japan, tracking an international criminal named Dr. Laughton. Later on, Duke Red goes to see this exact criminal to inquire about a secret project he was commissioning, a made-to-order robot girl named Tima. However, after a moment of sabotague, Laughton's lab burns to the ground. Shunsaku was on the scene to arrest him, but unfortunately fails, leaving Laughton dead and his work gone. But where is Kenichi? And what happened to Tima?

DON'T JUST STAND THERE, BOY

Like its predecessor, the 2001 movie was a juggernaut for the sci-fi genre, so much so that it was actually played on the old Sci-Fi channel in the US several times. However, Tezuka never actually saw the movie, so the plot of both the comic and the animated film differ greatly from the 1927 version. The two share the name, art style and genre only; beyond this, they're more of standalone works.

SO MUCH CG

The art style, keeping in line with the original film, was quite retro for the period (a delight for someone like me who's into that), and vaguely reminded me of a 3-way combo of the 00's reboot of Cyborg 009, The Big O, and Kaiba. It holds to the original era in that the buildings are all very art deco and modernesque, while the characters scream out Tezuka's classic style of big, rounded characters, eyes, limbs, and hands, something very typical of anime and manga of the 50's and 60's. The result is a weird sort of future-nostalgia, nouveau-retro, though it works beautifully.

Not all of it was done in CG. It appears mainly the surface was, due to the detail it had.

Keeping along with the 20's theme, every track on there was some form of jazz, be it smooth, freeform, or swing. It evokes in me an excitement of the period I get when I listen to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which in itself would fit in fine on this soundtrack.  It compliments the background nicely, however given the plot I'd say that were it not for the buildings almost any sort of music could have fit. It seems a bit like a colouring book in that regard. The music would have been influenced by what the writers decided to draw in the background.

The Picture of Excess~

The movie was a touch long, but was otherwise quite engaging and worth the watch. I really felt for the characters and their plight (except for that psycho Rock), unlike some sci-fi themed works where the characters are all just stock red-shirts that can be changed out like socks. I will say that, due to some shootouts and a possibly disturbing image or two, you probably shouldn't show this to little kids, but children over 10 should be fine. There isn't really much to understand here (nothing to make it quintessentially "anime", such as a schoolgirl plot or giant robots or anything), so there shouldn't be much problem showing to almost any demographic.

I'm not sure which series influenced which series (Tezuka to Cyborg 009?), but they all look like each other.

Metropolis saw several US showings and releases, including airtime on both Sci-Fi and Adult Swim. It was released on VHS , and is currently available on DVD in the US as well. Elsewhere, you can easily find torrents with a google search.

Ded

4.5/5

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Perfect Blue


The late Kon Satoshi brought us many widely-acclaimed films and shows such as Paprika and Paranoia Agent. However, in 1997 he made his directorial debut with Perfect Blue, adapted from Takeuchi Yoshikazu's novel of the same name. Though originally intended to be a longer, live-action film, the 1995 Kobe earthquake leveled the studio where it was being made, and reduced the budget of the film enough to make it into an OVA instead. Madhouse was hired to animate it, and after an international promotion campaign, it became quite successful.

Things started off so well...

Mima Kirigoe is the sweet, successful centre of the pop idol group CHAM!. However, in a shrewd career move on both her and her agents' part, she leaves the group to be an actress, much to the disappointment of her fanbase. Some become so upset by her image change that they abandon her altogether, but when people around her start turning up dead, it becomes obvious that other fans have other plans....

Scary shit right here.

Though it deviates from the book, Kon received the author's permission first and it turned out quite successfully. A live-action follow up movie, Perfect Blue: Yume Nara Samete, premiered in 2001 and stayed much closer to the book. The subject matter, despite starting off lighthearted and charming, gets dark VERY quickly, earning this movie a solid R for Rape.

BEWARE THE PERILS OF THE INTERNET, CHILDREN

The animation was, as to be expected of Madhouse, lovely, though it shows its age slightly. Kon's style choices (pouty lips and rounder, more realistic eyes) are showcased in full here, bringing back mental images of Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers. Kon also does the dead inside image quite well, making him tailor-made for the psychological thriller that this movie is.

Seriously, she looks like a shell here.

Given that she's originally from a pop idol group, music is a major element in this movie, and they did it well. The action scenes had a lovely overhyped electronica track to go with the quick movements, and the pop musical numbers were cute and fun. The dub was excellent as well, and they even managed to translate the songs into english and have them work out beautifully. It came as a surprise when most dubs just leave the original song in and sub it. (This may be due to the timeframe.)
This is what anime looks like in a Satoshi Kon movie.
I wasn't expecting it to wow me, and it sure as hell did. This may be because i went into watching it with the wrong mindset, but by the end of it i was literally on the edge of my seat. I never saw the twist coming, and it really proves Kon as a director, since from what i can tell the ending likely wasn't the same in the book. He also managed to play up the disassociation with reality through Mima's dream sequences and her internal conversations. You really start to see her mind unravel.

Pleading won't rid you of the demons in your head.

With that in mind (hah, pun), you reeeeally can't show this to anyone under 18. There are only two versions out there rating-wise, and the lighter of the two is R. There's a rape scene and several murders, shown in graphic detail, along with a few full-frontal shots, so don't show this to anyone without a strong stomach. This would also make a horrible introduction to anime, much as parents of the early 90's had their tastes coloured by the likes of Ninja Scroll and Ghost in the Shell.

Just as bad as the internal turmoil is the external. Acting or not she's got a tough row to hoe.

Perfect Blue has been distributed by Manga Entertainment on VHS in 1999 and on DVD in 2000, so both are likely out of print. Torrents are easy to come by on google, but do yourself a favour and quality-check before you commit (as in, before showing this, watch and re-download as necessary). The copy i got suffers from major artifacting issues and some colour problems as a result. :\

KIRA KIRA~

5/5