Mobile Suit Victory Gundam

gundam-victory

fpastar020TO START

In 1979, Yoshiyuki Tomino inadvertently kicked off an entire subgenre of mecha anime with Mobile Suit Gundam (or 0079 as it’s sometimes referred to), deemphasizing the seemingly integral aspects of unrealism and ‘logistics that simply work because it’s a cartoon’ wanton disregard for physics and gravitas in favor of a more hard science fiction approach to mechanical warfare and dealing with living or fighting in outer space.  For the next decade, anime producers and directors would mimic and explore the things he introduced with that landmark show, creating works varying from Ryosuke Takahashi’s Armored Trooper Votoms to Sh­ōji Kawamori’s famed Macross franchise.

Mobile Suit Gundam went on, more or less, to be the subject of twelve more series and numerous OVAs, specials, & films.  Tomino directed the next three sequel series, up to Victory Gundam in 1993, continuing to work within the Universal Century timeline he’d created with the 1979 series. After Victory Gundam’s broadcasting, UC timeline wouldn’t be wholly revisited again in series format, as future directors and creative teams would focus more on alternate scenarios and universes that happened to feature Gundam suits.  For anyone interested in a guide to the Gundam franchise, I’ve written an overview and guide available here. Read more of this post

The Tree of Life

If I were to describe this film in one word, that word would be “overrated.”  On further reflection, however, words such as “disjoint,” “muddled,” “confused,” and “pretentious” would suffice as well.  The only problem is that none of those words carry the same weight of disappointment that came upon me after the final twenty-some minute long climax and dénouement had finally croaked its weariness into the comforting blackness of the closing credits.  Then again, perhaps that simply describes Terence Malick’s game face in general. Read more of this post

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Plus Some

If there is anything that can be said succinctly about Puella Magi Madoka Magica, it is this: don’t buy into the hype.  Maybe that includes a corollary “don’t buy into anything you read about it, either,” which would even include this very review.  That’s up to you.  While I wouldn’t call it a polarizing series in the slightest, it’s certainly something that seems like it would leave an impression on most people.  A lot of director Akiyuki Shinbo’s output with Studio Shaft is like this.  Some love it, some hate it, and others—particularly in the case of Madoka—find it entertaining but not worth the unreasonable amount of praise it seems to garner. Read more of this post

Osamu Dezaki: In Brief Rememberance

No doubt, some of us will probably be saying “The King is dead, anime has died, there is no point watching cartoons anymore,” when Hayao Miyazaki eventually passes on.  And certainly, when Mamoru Oshii kicks the bucket, countless anime fans, pretentious film buffs, and intellectual wannabes will spend some time in mourning (others will likely breathe out a long-awaited “finally,” I’m sure).  We’ve already witnessed the reverberations of Satoshi Kon’s untimely demise just last year, and those who were around will remember the sorrow left in the wake of Osamu Tezuka’s death.  Other accredited figures associated with anime will surely leave remarkable hollows in their wake, at least for those familiar with their works. Read more of this post

Macross Plus

If someone were to ask me to compile a list of the best OVAs ever made, there are a few titles that would immediately leap to my mind.  Gainax’s landmark 1987 anime Gunbuster is one, and so is Giant Robo, which had its first episode released in 1991.  FLCL (2000), Time of Eve (2007), Green Legend Ran (1992), Cat Soup (2001), Key: The Metal Idol (1991), and Bubblegum Crisis (1987-92) would each probably have places on that list as well.  It isn’t that there must be anything of profound substance in a work, nor even any incredible feats of narrative brilliance, for me to consider it worthy of inclusion among the “best ever made”.  A lot of it comes down to sheer enjoyment, I’ll admit, but the compilation of such lists inevitably involves some amount of subjective preferences.  But there’s no denying that a lot of that enjoyment relies on things such as animation quality, the uniqueness or quality of the cinematic form, the adroitness of the writing, the development of the characters and the presentation of the themes, etc.  And while I’d certainly consider these titles—and others, probably—as being within the top ten or twenty, I don’t believe any has what it takes to be the best ever made. Read more of this post

Dirty Pair, or Why Aren’t You Watching The Lovely Angels?

The magic of the Lovely Angels is difficult to describe.  There’s something irrationally appealing about the mannerisms of their characters, the intonations and inflections of their voice actors, and their general screen presence.  It extends beyond mere lines and color on two dimensional cells, and it’s something less concrete than the pleasantly eye-catching character models.  The infectiousness of this attachment blurs on the fringes of moè tinged with no small amount of the erotic, facilitated no doubt by provocative costumes, hot women in dangerous situations, and their seemingly effortlessly-written banter.  Kei & Yuri are fantastic characters, to say the least, as admirable as they are humorous and sexy.

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Black Rock Shooter

Released in July of 2010 after some amount of hype, Black Rock Shooter is an OVA scripted by the respected Nagaru Tanigawa (Haruhi Suzumiya novels) and directed by relative newcomer Shinobu Yoshioka.  Although there isn’t much to anticipate from Yoshioka’s side—seeing as how he’d mostly worked as staff on other projects but none featured him in a leading role—Tanigawa’s involvement is enough to spark most fans’ interests.  Well, any who has enjoyed the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise, both its television series adaptations and original novel source material.  Although the storyline of the novel series hasn’t yet reached completion, Tanigawa has proven himself a capable writer with Haruhi’s rather intriguing thriller-like narrative, balancing the serious against the mundane with what seems like effortless ability.

So although expectations for Black Rock Shooter may have been somewhat high, I don’t mean to imply that anyone was expecting the next Yuasa artfilm out of this OVA.  At the most, a thrilling, action-packed, balanced story with at least marginally strong characters were of foremost importance and likely guaranteed based on Tanigawa’s track record.  And suffice to say, these aspects were certainly delivered—just not that well.  For all of its pretenses and for everything it DID manage to do well, Black Rock Shooter remains surprisingly unremarkable and dull. Read more of this post