What is the Matrix? Before the Neo Saga, nine different stories are told, each highlighting a different facet of Earth, the Machine and the Matrix. These are stories of how humankind deals with the world it now lives in.
It delves in the present, the imminent attack on Zion. It looks at the past, how the machine finally usurped man. It looks at the training freed humans now have to undergo to fight against the machine. It shows how the Matrix influences people currently living in it. It describes how people strive to free themselves and turn machine against machine.
It shows us how a lonely boy can try to escape from reality. Or is it reality? Just what is the Matrix?
Animatrix is an interesting experiment. With so much interest in the Matrix franchise, the producers pushed for a product. The Wachoski brothers obliged. They are already anime otakus, so they decided to provide a few more stories based in the Matrix franchise world and get some of the best Japanese Directors and studios to produce them. The result? Nine brilliantly told visual masterpieces.
The stories are pretty average on their own, with a broader insight being set for the Matrix world in anticipation of the remaining films in the trilogy. What makes this series are the visuals. Simply breathtaking. Each episode is as varied as can be, but every one of them is sumptous to look at.
The sound and voice acting is of a very high quality, adding to the overall appeal of the package.
Because of the short story format, the series isn’t really coherent, but Matrix fans who aren’t into anime will enjoy this venture into this new world of visuals and likewise, the hardened anime fan will thoroughly enjoy the visuals brought to them by these great animation houses.
(Historical Note: This was written back in February 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then!)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animatrix
12 years on since the original anime run, and Yasuhiro Nightow’s popular creation Trigun finally makes its triumphant return to the spotlight, with Trigun: Badlands Rumble, a 2010 movie directed by Satoshi Nishimura and produced by Madhouse.
20 years ago, Vash the Stampede, the Humanoid Typhoon with a $$60 billion bounty on his head, interfered with one Gasback’s perfect bank robberies, leading to the escape of Gasback’s three mutinous henchmen, as well as the deranged giant of a man sporting a complex gun in place of one of his hands.
Fast forward to today and Gasback is back, wreaking havoc across the dusty planet and making some very wealthy people pretty scared, scared enough to put out the call for all bounty hunters to assemble in an attempt to take down Gasback before he strikes again, luring the lot of them in with the promise of a huge bounty that has now been placed on the thief’s head.
And Vash? Of course he just happens to be heading that way as well, happens to bump into a beautiful young female bounty hunter that seems to be taking this Gasback business for more personal that what she should be, and just happens to have a LITTLE bit more interest in this whole affair than what he lets on!
If you enjoyed the anime series then you will undoubtedly love this movie as Satoshi has gone to great lengths to produce something that feels that it has been plucked straight out of the original run, featuring exactly the same style of art, tone and storytelling we all know and love, and of course bringing in all of the fan favourites in terms of characters, to produce what in the end is a polished, enjoyable film that has a decent enough twist at the end in order to make sure it isn’t all a ho hum, we knew what was coming, affair.
Of course, that said, older viewers who didn’t enjoy the original series will certainly not enjoy it thanks to its remarkable similarity to the original run, and younger viewers with no exposure might find that the art style feels a little dated for a movie release. However, Trigun was a big hit in the West when it was eventually released there, and there is simply no reason that this polished film can’t incite a new generation of Trigun fanboys!
After all, where else can you expect to find a proper futuristic, gun-toting action slapstick comedy set in the classic Wild West (but out in Space) gunslinger period piece to enjoy?
Visually, Trigun is polished with great 90’s style action sequences that take up large quantities of the screen time, interspersed with some great usage of deformed animation when the need arises. The visual style matches the action slapstick-comedy tone well, and there is very little to complain about in terms of the art department. Similarly, the voice actors are well cast and match up with their various (and varied) characters well, complemented by a fantastic background music score.
Overall, this is an enjoyable film in a genre that really isn’t catered all that much for any more, a bit of a relic from the 90’s one could almost say. But that is also what makes it so refreshing, for a change not having to sit through a harem of scantily clad, overly cute characters who have to rely on fanservice in order to make it entertaining. It is a polished story that is humorous, action-packed and very entertaining, making it a definite must see for fans of the original series, and certainly worth picking up for any other anime fan who enjoys some dusty western action comedy time!
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trigun:_Badlands_Rumble
A comedic magical girl show that doesn’t quite follow the usual magical girl formula – this time around you get samurai for your money!
1999’s thirteen part Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch is the brainchild of director Akitaro Daichi and studio Madhouse, who combined their powers to present us with this action comedy series that takes elements out of the classic magical girl genre and instead applies them to the realm of the samurai, resulting in a modern-day tale that transforms one rather unwilling teenage girl (Jiyu Nanohana) into the embodiment of master swordsman Yagyu Jubei and forces her to defend against a 300 year old feud between the Yagyu and Ryuoji schools of swordsmanship!
What follows is loads of slapstick comedy and wit, which is enough to pull a chuckle or two out of you as you watch some rather animated and quite lively characters have a go at it. But while most of the comedy is resigned to the day to day activities usually revolving around school, when the swords get drawn the anime takes on a far more serious and focused role, making for an entertaining result.
The animation is perfectly acceptable, nothing that stands out too much, but it does capture the silly slapstick nature of the comedy quite well, as well as being able to effortlessly change gear and present the more serious action sequences in a convincing manner.
Iron Man Arrives in Japan – So Marvel’s Iron Man has come to Japan at last, under the steering hand of comics maestro Warren Ellis and anime director Yuzo Sato, who bring to us a 12 episode long anime series from the combined efforts of Marvel Animation and the legendary Madhouse.
According to the press releases Madhouse has been given free reign with Marvel’s house of superheroes, meaning the potential for unchained re-imaginings with a Japanese slant is heavily on the cards, starting off with Marvel’s current film poster-child, Iron Man.
Marvel Anime: Iron Man episode 1 kicks the proceedings off and unlike the recent Iron Man: Armored Adventures which is more geared towards kids, Iron Man puts the familiar playboy billionaire genius Tony Stark right in front of us, making his way over to Japan in order to oversee the completion of his ambitious arc reactor project which seeks to bring free energy to the whole of Japan.
However, one thing no one could have expected is that Tony Stark is also in the process of stepping down from his role as Iron Man, instead handing over the reins to a new generation of pilots who will be piloting a new Iron Man model nicknamed the Dio.
But of course, for a man as flamboyant as Tony, fitting into the more culturally reserved Japan is going to prove tough enough on its own, never mind the fact that despite his desire to step down, a sinister organisation known only as the Zodiac is about to rear its very ugly head!
Episode 1 is a solid start to what should be an entertaining anime series, even if it clocks in at the short 12 episode mark. We have already been given a good plot line to follow up on, been introduced to some sinister new enemies for the armoured hero and more importantly, been introduced to all the necessary supporting characters who no doubt will keep us entertained as the differences between the West and East are further highlighted as the show progresses.
In terms of the animation, once you get over Tony Stark’s rather foppish hairstyle and face lines, you’ll realize that this is one slick animation presentation. Fluid, great detail and some fantastic action sequences make for a very good looking, and enjoyable anime experience. The CG is particularly well handles and integrated into the 2D animation and as a whole, Iron Man, simply put, looks damn good.
Similarly, the soundtrack together with both the opening and closing music tracks are all a hit, in addition to which, it must be mentioned that Keiji Fujiwara provides a rather fitting voice to our playboy Mr. Stark.
In other words, a good start for what looks to be a decent anime series well worth checking out, particularly if you are as big a Marvel fanboy like I am! :)
Download Iron Man 1:
Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s original 1993 Ninja Scroll was somewhat of a sleeper hit until it finally hit our Western shores, gaining immense popularity and a cult following for this blood-soaked, violent samurai epic. It took however ten years before anyone thought of capitalising on its success, and in 2003 we finally got Ninja Scroll: The Series, a 13 episode long series directed by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico; Stellvia) and animated by MADHOUSE studios.
Ninja Scroll: The Series follows master samurai Jubei Kibagami as he inadvertently gets dragged into an age old conflict between the Hiruko and Kimon ninja clans, sparked anew by the awakening of the Light Maiden Shigure and the revealing of the legendary Dragon Stone, the key to untold treasures and fortune.
And that pretty much sums it up. Unfortunately there isn’t all that much substance to the story of Ninja Scroll: The Series as essentially each episode serves as a new battleground for Jubei to take on and defeat a new and even more outlandish than the last opponent before moving on to the next episode and rinse and repeating. There is limited character development in the beginning and towards the end of the story, but for the most part the majority of characters simply make an appearance in one episode to be killed off in the next. The Dragon Stone and the accompanying march of the Light Maiden acts as the vehicle for this tale of destruction and this is pretty much par for the course for the rest of the series.
We do get a couple of supporting characters to add to the ‘story’ and ‘mystery’, but unfortunately they really aren’t good enough to add anything special into the mix and unfortunately this leaves one with no other choice but to declare Ninja Scroll: The Series as pretty much a brain-dead exercise in futility. BUT, and it is a big but, if on the other hand you don’t really care all that much about story and instead just want plain, all out action, then Ninja Scroll simply doesn’t put a foot wrong. Each and every fight is a masterpiece with innovative opponents and ‘abilities’ for Jubei and his trusty compressed air sword skill to tackle, all of which usually comes to a sharp end with a lot of blood and body parts flailing about. It’s certainly as visceral as its predecessor, that much is without a doubt (although I do have to mention that some of the characters and abilities kind of go a bit overboard, leaning quite far out to the ridiculous and just plain stupid category – though if you are already a big Naruto fan then this shouldn’t bother you even in the least! :P).
Artistically, MADHOUSE goes for some fairly interesting and not necessarily attractive facial designs, but overall their character models and environments are all very nicely detailed and portrayed, making Ninja Scroll: The Series certainly look a little bit above ordinary. The chosen colour palette is surprisingly vibrant though, a little bit of a mystery to me as I might have thought that they would have opted for a slightly more gritty feel to the visuals just to try and make the animation a little darker, edgier perhaps. Oh well, at least I can’t complain about the smoothness of the animation and the excellently choreographed fight scenes which really do at times keep you on the edge of you seat. Actually, there are in fact a lot of stylish samurai conventions packed in for good measure as well, so fans of the genre should be kept pretty happy on the visual front as well then.
Musically, Ninja Scroll comes up strong with some excellent arrangements and a very peculiar but perfectly positioned opening number (by Kitaro and Peter McEvilley) which certainly serves to kick off the show with a bang. Similarly the majority of the voice actors all do a stellar job, with the two lead voice actors in veterans Houko Kuwashima as Shigure and Rikiya Koyama as Jubei both putting in exceptionally strong voice performances.
So in summary, if you are looking for a nice juicy, meaty samurai-influenced story then Ninja Scroll: The Series doesn’t exactly offer all that much. However, if you want to see some awesome, extremely well-executed and violent fight scenes with a lot of blood splatter then you will most certainly enjoy it, meaning that ultimately it is up to the type of viewer as to who will get the most satisfaction out of this short, but polished anime series.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninja_Scroll:_The_Series
I recently revisited one of those seminal anime titles that first introduced me to the world of anime way back when… and boy am I glad that I made the effort. Cyber City Oedo 808 is considered one of the original cyberpunk genre releases and is set in the year 2808, in the megalopolis of Oedo (Tokyo). The three part OVA was first released in 1990 and is directed by famed anime director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, with animation duties handled by the ever brilliant Madhouse Studios.
Essentially in a high tech, but pretty dystopian future, the Japanese government has set up the Cyber Police unit to better combat computerized crime. What makes this unit different however is its use of hardened criminals with a history of hi-tech offences and deadly assault to do all their dirty work for them. These criminals are controlled via an explosive collar attached to their necks and are generally motivated to work by the promise of reductions to their sentences in return for successful missions.
Three such criminals are Sengoku, Gogol and Benten who are serving their 300-or-more year sentences in an orbital penitentiary…
The OVA is split into three distinct episodes, focusing in turn on each one of these three characters, though at the same time making sure to emphasise that these three often work together on cases, thus presenting an almost pseudo teamwork feel to the story. Each episode is self-contained and all three pretty much investigate completely different scenarios, the first being a battle against a sentient computer that is controlling one of Oedo’s super skyscrapers, the second being a battle against a military grade cyborg capable of blowing you to bits with its sonic blasts and the third investigating modern day vampirism thanks to a nanotechnology infusion gone wrong.
The stories are all action packed with a hint of intrigue and generally make for a pretty absorbing watch. What pushes Cyber City Oedo 808 up the ladder just that little bit extra is however without a doubt its stunning visuals, with some highly detailed backgrounds and character models, as well as its particularly smooth and stylish animation (which is brilliant considering that this is an early, early 90’s production). The musical score is just as polished and as a package this OVA was certainly one of the top shelf releases for the period.
So if you enjoy a bit of cyberpunk and want to see one of the earliest good entries in this particular genre, you would do well to check out Cyber City Oedo 808. It is not exactly the most awe-inspiring of creations that will leave your jaw on the ground, but it IS an extremely polished and tight package that shows you exactly what can be done with a lot of effort and a good director behind the helm of an OVA.
And besides, it is another Madhouse masterpiece, so why the heck haven’t you seen it yet? :P
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_City_Oedo
Junpei Manaka, currently a student but more importantly an aspiring movie director who wants to put his all in creating the best movies that he possibly can.
However, Junpei isn’t exactly the most secure or decisive of boys and his relationship with girls is confusing to say the least. However, one thing that will never leave his mind is the beautiful girl that dropped out in front of him on the school roof on that fateful trip to see the sunset back in middle school and more importantly, the glimpse of her strawberry-patterned panties, the vision that is to rule his life for a long, long time to come.
Fast forward time just a little and Manaka finds himself in high school with both new and old friends and part of the Film Studies Club that he himself helped start up again. However, if you know Manaka then you know one thing – he is still unsure about a girl and is thus stuck in the middle of a four-way love triangle and it seems no matter what he does, all the girls still like him…
…it is just a pity he can’t decide which one he likes back the best!
Ichigo 100% is based on the popular manga that appeared in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine by female mangaka, Mizuki Kawashita. It consists of 26 short 12 minute long episodes that were originally aired in a half-hour block, and is directed by Osamu Sekita and produced by anime studio powerhouse Madhouse.
The story falls into the shonen-orientated genre in that it comes across as a ‘boy with multiple girls who fall in love with him’ kind of story, but then adds to the complexity by splashing on a lot of romance and drama, balancing everything out with loads of comedy and then finishing it off with sprinkle of fan service here and there. The end mix is a nicely balanced, character driven show that keeps you laughing, frustrated and happy, immediately opening the show up to a much larger audience that may originally have been targeted by the initial premise alone.
If you like the whole ‘boy can’t decide which girl he likes the most but continues to interact with all of them anyway’ type of story, then you are sure to enjoy Ichigo 100% because outside of this main story element the show doesn’t offer all that much else apart for some seriously funny physical comedy. All the usual overwrought teenage angst is there on display, and there are points where you just want to strangle a character for not noticing the bleeding obvious at times!
Visually Ichigo 100% doesn’t present much to write home about, but its animation and designs are certainly up to scratch and the show looks as polished as any other comedic/romantic anime show currently on TV. The line work is all pretty clean and the colouring stands out nice and brightly, making it fairly easy on the eyes. Backgrounds aren’t overly elaborate but they get the job done and help set the scene, so I guess there really aren’t any complaints there.
The character designs are all pretty simple, nice and neat, but with exaggerated facial characteristics to help distinguish the characters from one another. (Note: thanks to the occasional fan service panty shot that gets served up, school uniforms do seem a little shorter than normal, but I’m getting used to this in anime anyway).
The voice actors for Ichigo 100% all do a bang up job and there isn’t really a single voice that stands out as being painful or just plain bad. Similarly, the show’s musical score is a great affair with some decent arrangements slotted in here and there. Because of its comical and high energy nature, the show kicks off with a high paced and cute little number called “Shine of Voice” by J-pop sensation dream and ends off on a similar note with the addictively cute “Ike Ike” by Hinoi Team.
Ichigo 100% is pretty average I guess, with decent enough visuals and sound. The story is frustratingly slow and painful at times, but admittedly it did make me laugh out loud more than once and that always goes a long way to scoring well. The drama and romance lie heavy on this title, but thankfully the scriptwriters go a long way in always keeping its sense of humour and energy intact, making it a fairly easy watch and something that won’t demand all that much attention from you in the first place.
I’m not sure who Ichigo 100% appeals to the most, but if you like the comedic ‘boy with multiple girl trouble’ romantic stuff, then perhaps this title is for you.
Me? I could have done with some more explosions please.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichigo_100%25
For any non-gamer out there, Capcom’s Devil May Cry is one of the most popular extreme action titles to ever grace the PlayStation 2 and there are currently 4 titles in this hugely successful franchise (the fourth game is in post production for the PlayStation 3). This 12 episode long anime series is produced by the Madhouse Studios and is directed by Shin Itagaki.
The anime details the exploits of the permanently broke and in debt (but always ultra cool) half-human, half-demon Dante as he struggles to make ends meet with the operation of his gun-for-hire business, Devil May Cry. Each episode is annoyingly self-contained and ends up being pretty much the standard demon of the week story, with Dante being challenged by some beastie which he then kills off by the end of the show. The stories are all well told, but the lack of a continuum or an advancing storyline soon becomes very frustrating and leaves Devil May Cry wallowing as a VERY average title.
The writers attempt to be clever and string the last couple of episodes into an arc, tying into the very first episodes story, but to be honest, at this late stage in the show it is a little too late. This is quite a disappointment because with the richness of the Devil May Cry universe, there was more than enough scope to come up with a compelling or richer storyline for this show than just the run of the mill monster-of-the-week formula it degenerated into.
(However, don’t get me wrong, the standalone episodes themselves are all pretty good. Predictable yes, but well executed and all interesting in their own right – perfect fodder for Anime society screenings or something along those lines then.)
In terms of animation quality, Madhouse studios, as per usual, doesn’t disappoint. Although there is a remarkably noticeable difference in animation quality between the opening and last episodes of the series (as always the big budget is spent on the two ends of the series), Devil May Cry screams pure, unadulterated style. The action sequences are fast, fluid and extremely stylish in presentation, following very much in the vein of the cut-scene style from the legendary game series. The demon character models start looking a bit flat and uninspired as the show progresses, but the main characters such as Dante, Lady and Trish never fail to shine.
Note that this is an older-teen orientated show, so there is a fair bit of on-screen violence and gore, particularly towards the end of the series.
Devil May Cry features a very competent voice cast, but it really is the soundtrack that shines above all. Heavy rock riffs feature throughout the show and add to the pace and style of every episode. If you enjoy music with a harder edge, then Devil May Cry certainly wont disappoint.
In summing it all up, to say that I was bitterly disappointed by this show is an understatement. As a fan of the game, the anime was perfectly adequate, just disappointing, while to any other anime fan this show would be pretty much an average affair and lie around on the heap with all the other mediocre titles around. The style and flair which Devil May Cry is known for has been captured well in the anime, but the lack of a cohesive storyline really, really hampers the enjoyment of this show and I can only recommend it being watched one episode at a time, spread over a decent length of time – It simply doesn’t warrant hording all the episodes and then watching everything at once.
Thank goodness it does at least try and save itself from complete ignominy by putting on a great show right at the death of the series, but it is too little too late though, and as much as I hate to say it, Devil May Cry should not be at the top of any anime fans must see list :(
Enjoyable, fun, but stops a long, long way off from being great.
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_May_Cry_%28anime%29