Rapid-Fire Reviews | The Secret World of Arrietty

Info:

Genre: Animation, fantasy

Director/s: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Running Time: 94 mins

Budget: $23 million (US)

Released: 17 July 2010

Thought I’d try something new by introducing ‘Rapid-Fire Reviews’, these articles will not be replacing my standard film reviews, instead their purpose is to inform readers of films that caught my attention, but don’t necessarily require 1500 – 2000 words of explanation.  I watch a lot of films and don’t always have enough time to write about them, thus Rapid-Fire Reviews will serve as an informative, fast-delivery platform that will inform readers in a speedily fashion whether or not I thought a film was particularly good, mediocre or just plain crapola.  Anyway, so I don’t really watch that much anime anymore, but Studio Ghibli always has my attention due to the sheer quality and entertainment value of most of their films.  And I say ‘most’ because not all of the studio’s films have Hayao Miyazaki behind the wheel – Miyazaki, one of the industry’s greatest directors a man whom the West have referred to as the Eastern Walt Disney.  Moving on, The Secret World of Arrietty is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (1952), focusing on a young borrower (a 4-inch tall human) named Arrietty who together with her father, embarks on her very first borrowing.  Unfortunately for Arrietty, she is discovered by a young sickly human named  Shō (Shawn for the US dub) who attempts to befriend her.  However Arrietty’s father has made it clear that once a Borrower has been discovered they must move.  Needless to say Arrietty and Shō form a friendship much to her parents disapproval and the film is somewhat predictable as a result, but it makes up for it in production value as the film is beautifully animated in the traditional Ghibli style.  The animation alone makes the film well worth your time, however if you’re expecting something as imaginative as Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away then you will be sorely disappointed.

Conclusion

Not the best that Ghibli has to offer as the story is predictable and rather unimaginative (compared to their usual work) but the animation alone makes The Secret World of Arrietty worth ninety minutes of your time.

Grade: B

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Cat Shit One – Episode 1

Info:

Genre: Action, drama, military

Studio: Studio Anima

Director: Kazuya Sasahara

Running Time: 22 minutes per episode

Number of Episodes: 12

Aired: 17 July 2010 – ??

I first saw the trailer for this series last year and was very impressed by it.  Planned as a 12 episode series, Cat Shit One episode 1 has aired, so is it any good? In a word – yes.  Instead of using the traditional 2D cell animation that’s synonymous with Japan, the animation studio has opted for using lifelike 3D animation and the result is quite impressive.  In fact the animation is so impressive that it makes me wonder whether or not the production company will be able to keep up the same level of quality consistently over 12 episodes. The animation is of film calibre and time will tell whether or not it stays that way.

The animation is superb and somewhat disturbing seeing as how cute and cuddly rabbits are running around shooting and stabbing 'people' as opposed to munching on lettuce...

The world is populated by anthropomorphic rabbits and camels – rabbits being the good guys (American equivalents no doubt) and camels representing the Middle-Eastern insurgents.  In the first episode, Cat Shit One and his partner must rescue a couple of prisoners and they manage to do it in a wonderfully realistic fashion.  Based upon a manga called Apocalypse Meow – a three-volume series created by Motofumi Kobayashi.  Unlike the manga, where the story is focused on a group during the Vietnam era, the Cat Shit One series has been updated to modern times and mimics the war in Iraq.

This scene reminded me of the gunship sequence in Transformers - simply awesome.

The one thing I think the Japanese should really improve upon is their choice of titles for their films and series.  I mean ‘Cat Shit One’ – what were they thinking?  I don’t think the Japanese really have a grasp of the English language and decide to use any string of English words for the title as this will be ‘undoubtedly edgy’.  Here’s a thought, if the Japanese have such arduous requirements for learning their language how about they take some time to learn ours?  Anyway, I shall be keeping a close eye on this series and see how it develops.  Do yourself a favour and watch this series and if possible, watch it in high-definition – it looks awesome.

Michiko to Hatchin (ミチコとハッチン)

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Info:

Genre:  Comedy, drama, action

Studio:  Manglobe

Director:  Sayo Yamamoto

Running Time:  23 minutes per episode

Number of Episodes:  22

Aired:  15 October 2008 – 18 March 2009

Plot:

Hatchin is a girl raised by strict foster parents who has long given up her dreams of freedom. Michiko is a sexy criminal who escapes from a supposedly inescapable prison. When she suddenly enters Hana’s life, these two very different women set off on a journey across a lawless land in search of a missing man from both their pasts.

Review:

I am a Shinichirō Watanabe fan, some of his most notable works include; Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo and Macross Plus.  Needless to say I was quite pleased to hear that he had a hand in Michiko to Hatchin as the music producer.  The  musical scores he incorporates into the projects he works on has always been brilliant, from the jazz & blues themes of Cowboy Bebop to the hip hop beats of Samurai Champloo (who else but Watanabe, would think to use hip hop for a samurai show and manage to pull it off).  Michiko to Hatchin is no exception, having a jazzy theme throughout the series, including the wonderful opening theme by Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, a Tokyo-based club jazz band.

Michiko to Hatchin marks the directorial debut of Sayo Yamamoto, and she has done a brilliant job indeed.  The series is pretty fast-paced, throwing you into the action from the first episode as Michiko escapes from an ‘inescapable’ prison in order to rescue her ‘supposed’ daughter Hana, from abusive foster parents and track down Hiroshi, Hana’s father and the man Michiko loves.  Michiko is a sultry, Latino woman who generally spends the entire duration of the show getting into trouble, kicking ass (much to Hana’s distaste) and getting her own tail whipped although Michiko is as hard as nails and is generally able to take whatever abuse she is dealt.  The artwork is also of note, detailed characters and backdrops, including the various fictional towns that seem to be based on Brazil, create a vivid and detailed world.  The series is set in a standard format of twenty-two episodes and thankfully there isn’t a ‘recap’ episode (I detest them), the show stays interesting, with each episode being ‘continued’ adding suspense to the series as fans will be anxious to find out what happens next.

The animation in Michiko to Hatchin is pretty damn impressive.  Including that of the curvacious Michiko.

The animation in Michiko to Hatchin is pretty damn impressive. Including that of the curvaceous Michiko.

Plenty of action, brilliant animation, a sexy protagonist and great music; this combination makes for a great anime series, and fairly unique in that I don’t ever recall watching a ‘Latino’ anime.  While I wouldn’t call Michiko to Hatchin ‘essential viewing’, it is an entertaining series and one that I’m sure anime fans will enjoy.

Score: 3/5

Trigun (トライガン)

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Info:

Genre:  Comedy, action, drama, western-sci-fi

Studio:  Madhouse Studios

Director:  Satoshi Nishimura

Running Time:  24 minutes per episode

Number of Episodes:  26

Aired:  01 April 1998 – 30 September 1998

Plot:

Vash the Stampede is a gunman on the run with a 60 billion double dollar bounty on his head which has made it difficult for him to go anywhere without being chased and shot at. Every town he ever visits ends up being destroyed because of his pursuers, but miraculously no one ever gets killed. Meryl and Milly are two insurance agents that have been sent to find Vash the Stampede and keep him under surveillance so no more damage is caused. Meryl, who leads the pair, refuses to believe that the man they have met can possibly be the legendary gunman. This spikey haired, gangly, young man is extremely friendly, a pacifist, hates blood and suicide, absolutely loves doughnuts, and is a dork and a crybaby (far from a notorious outlaw). But there is more to Vash and his past than meets the eye.

Review:

Trigun is an anime series that I first watched years ago and the VHS copies that I had were in terrible condition, although at the time it seemed like the greatest thing ever.  So I’ve recently acquired the wonderful DVD version of the series and decided that I would re-watch this classic.

Trigun is quite bizarre in that the first half of the series is pretty much solid comedy, with the ‘badass’ protagonist Vash the Stampede getting himself into all sorts of impossible situations and managing to somehow come out on top.  However, the moment Legato arrives on the scene, the series suddenly becomes all drama-like and serious and while comedic moments still exist, they become few and far between as Vash has to fight off the myriad of foes that come out of the woodwork to challenge him as well as facing off against Legato and the mysterious Knives.  The series comprises of some of the typical plot elements that this genre shares, hero on a journey, mysterious past, gaining allies along the way and then facing off against a team of specialist villains with unique skills all of which serve a sinister master only seen towards the end of the show, much like Gun X Sword.  It’s a genre that I’m very fond of though and thus I enjoyed Trigun very much.  Great protagonists, awesome villains, combined with a space-western theme make for a superb series and one that I highly recommend to all anime fans whether you’re a veteran that missed it years ago or a newbie looking for something interesting to watch.

"This world is made of, LOVE...and PEACE!"

"This world is made of, LOVE...and PEACE!"

Extra:

Trigun the movie (animated) has been confirmed for 2009.  I’m quite curious as to why they decided to do a movie, over a decade later.

Score: 4/5

Digital Juice

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Review

Genre:  Psychological, short subject

Studio:  Studio 4°C

Director/s:

  • Hiroaki Ando
  • Osamu Kobayashi
  • Kôji Morimoto
  • Hidekazu Ohara
  • Tatsuyuki Tanaka
  • Kazuyoshi Yaginuma

Running Time:  20 minutes (total)

Number of Episodes:  6

Aired:  Collected in January 2002 as a direct-to-DVD package film (OAV).

Plot: Digital Juice is a series of six shorts. Each short is directed by a different director. The shorts deal with a variety of subjects, but they share an emphasis on psychological issues, fantasy, and mystery.

There isn’t much to say about Digital Juice as I’m quite incapable of describing how weird and unique it truly is.  It’s one of those things you just need to see for yourself.  The total compilation  of this film looks like some-body’s acid trip but is essential viewing for all anime fans or people who are stoned or seeking an alternative to mind-altering substances.  The only drawback of Digital Juice is that the segments are too short to really sink your teeth into, some are as short as movie trailers.

Digital Juice is comprised of the following six shorts:

1) Lords of the Sword

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A 2 minute and 8 second short directed by Hidekazu Ohara, “Lords of the Sword” takes place in a town in the Muromachi era, and is characterized by intense action.

2) Chicken Insurance

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A 3 minute and 24 second short directed by Hiroaki Ando, “Chicken’s Insurance” is a CGI animation about chickens and supposedly produced by chickens. The short features the vocal talents of Yūji Ueda who plays the role of Chicken.

3) Kin Jin Kitto

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A 31 second (Wikipedia incorrectly states 2 minutes and 9 seconds) short directed by Tatsuyuki Tanaka, “Kin Jin Kitto” represents a portion of preview footage for Tatsuyuki Tanaka’s first original manga.

4) In the Evening of a Moonlit Night

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A 4 minute 29 second (Wikipedia incorrectly states 2 minutes and 35 seconds) short, “In the Evening of a Moonlit Night” represents the directorial debut of Kazuyoshi Yaginuma. A simple tale of a girl and two boys, the short is characterized by intense color.

5) Table & Fisherman

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A 5 minute and 18 second short directed by Osamu Kobayashi, “Table and Fisherman” is a love story between a fisherman named Jack (Hisao Egawa) and his companion named Stefany (Yūko Nagashima). After coming upon a symbol for infinity, the two find themselves racing rapidly into the infinite. Along the way they encounter a bewildering variety of fellow travelers including the Great Western King (Hirofumi Tanaka), the Queen of Singer (Yuka Komatsu), the Mini Prince (Tomoko Kaneda), and the mysterious Samu (Keisaku Baba).

6) Aerial Bar

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A 4 minute and 26 short directed by Kôji Morimoto, “Aerial Bar” is set in a saloon floating high in the sky. The story is told from the perspective of Wine-chan and recounts a sequence of events that unfold one strange evening as a number of bizarre characters gather at the saloon. “Aerial Bar” is notably shot primarily in live-action instead of animation as Morimoto is known for.

Score: 3/5

K-ON! (けいおん!)

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Review

Alternative Title:  Keion

Genre:  Comedy, slice-of-life, music

Director:  Hisako Yamada

Running Time:  24 minutes per episode

Number of Episodes:  13

Aired:  02 April 2009 – 25 June 2009 (Complete)

Plot:  Story revolves around three Japanese high school girls who are members of the school’s Light Music Club and to try to save it from being disbanded.  However, they are the only members of the club, and the last recruit, Hirasawa Yui, joins the club thinking that ‘light’ meant ‘easy’ since she has no experience in playing instruments or reading sheet music…

K-ON! is my very first anime review, I’m quite surprised at myself that it took me so long to do one as I’m quite an anime fan and have nearly a terabyte of the stuff.  Anyway, I sort of go through phases with anime, sometimes going months without watching any and at other times I’ll spend the entire day doing so, such was the case with K-ON! (finished in two days).

Usually I’m able to gauge after watching the first episode or so, whether or not I am going to enjoy a particular series and the first thing that struck my eye with K-ON! was the animation.  Animation plays a major factor for me and there are many anime out there that have the typical generic animation and while I enjoy them nonetheless, great animation adds to the overall enjoyment.  This series has wonderful, fluid animation and vivid detailed backgrounds and character animation.

K-ON!_01

So apart from the animation, K-ON! is a very enjoyable series.  Sure it’s filled with the standard staples of slice-of-life anime series’, beach episode, school fairs and Christmas episode, as well as the typical character stereotypes but for some reason I never tire of them and always find it enjoyable.  The protagonists include: Yui Hirasawa, the typical ditzy character.  Tsumugi Kotobuki, rich girl with ‘mother hen’ personality.  Ritsu Tainaka, chairman of the Light Music Club as well as the wild-type character.  Mio Akiyama, the shy-type with excellent grades and at the same time a bit of a scaredy cat.  Azusa Nakano, the newest member (enters the scene about halfway through the series) looking to join a serious music club and ends up joining the Light Music Club who spend most of their time eating cake and drinking tea, even though she disapproves, she invariably ends up having fun and is moved by the performances that the group are capable of.

Overall, K-ON! is a highly enjoyable series that I would recommend for any and all anime fans, give it a shot, it won’t disappoint. Below I’ve posted some info on real-life Japanese school clubs. I thought it was fitting given the nature of the show.

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In Japan, there are after-school activities available called Bukatsu (部活) which range from computer clubs to judo, kendo, cooking and so on.  The pupils who’d rather go home at 3pm or whenever the day officially ends (like I used to as our options were extremely limited) are known as Kitakubu (帰宅部).  A lot of these ‘slice-of-life’ anime series’ contain such things and while I’m pretty sure anime isn’t an accurate representation of Japanese life, it’s nice to see something that actually does take place.

Below I’ve posted an example of some real-life Bukatsu activities, wish it was like that at our schools.

Score: 3/5