Sawako Decides

Hikari Mitsushima is one hell of an actress. I haven’t looked too much into her past, but from what I gather she is a gravure idol-turned-actress, who started out with small bit parts in feature films, notably the live-action Death Note series. I have not seen these films, so this means next to nothing to me. She first really made waves in circles of Japanese Cinema fans in Shion Sono’s masterpiece, Love Exposure, as the protagonist’s obsessive love interest, who put him through hell. Though she was one of the major characters in Love Exposure, it is in Yûya Ishii’s Sawako Decides which she truly shines. After having only seen two of her films, she has already put herself in contention to be one of my favorite young actresses working today.

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Stefan’s R&A: Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

Also known as "Evangelion, New Theatrical Edition: Break"

[Due to the pre-existing nature of the film’s source material, this article has been split into two separate groups. The first half of the article is a traditionally written movie review for Evangelion 2.22 free of important spoilers that might ruin the experience for first-time viewers. The second half of the article is a in-depth comparative analysis between Evangelion 2.22 and the television show it was based upon: Neon Genesis Evangelion, and even a look as to how art can sometimes imitate life, and is targeted for those who have watched both the film and the original television show.] 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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Love & Pop

1998; Japan; 110 minutes; Directed by Hideaki Anno; Produced by Toshimichi Otsuki; Dist. by Toei Company

Hideaki Anno used to have a really solid grasp of clear simple story-telling. Really, he did. Back when we was working with Hayao Myazaki and directing Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Anno had a very charming, “Miyazaki-esque” style of story-telling that pulled in his audience and made them smile throughout the story while occasionally pulling at a few heart-strings. You’d never guess that by looking at his more popular work, Neon Genesis Evangelion, where Anno seems to channel a darker, more complicated side of his self and produces quite unnerving angles to an already dismal story premise.

Anno’s trend of complicated and unsettling visceral story-telling seems to be realized to its fullest with his first live-action, experimental film Love & Pop, a coming-of-age story about a young girl, named Hiromi Yoshii, who struggles as she watches all of her friends grow up into different people. Read more of this post

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

Golgo 13: Queen Bee

In the commentary for Golgo 13: Queen Bee, director Osamu Dezaki and executive producer, Mataichirô Yamamoto, discuss why it took them 13 years to create a sequel to their first Golgo 13 film titled The Professional. I’m not entirely sure they ever really deliver a solid answer, even though both seem to love the character, the series, and desire to do more. Or maybe I just missed it because the two spend the majority of the runtime talking about sex. They talk about it culturally and philosophically and socially and fictionally, but mostly they talk about how they tried to use it to define their titular character whom, in the span of 55 minutes, gets at least four sex scenes. The pair mentions that they didn’t want to come across as just two dirty, middle-aged men, but I’m not sure they succeeded.

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