Oe Kintaro, age 25. A professional wandering spirit, he withdrew from Tokyo University Law School before graduating, but only after he had already completed all the requirements for graduation. Ever since, he has travelled the highways and byways of Japan, trying out new jobs and positions, and learning about life to the fullest. Riding his favourite bike, the Mikazuki 5, he keeps moving forward, always on the lookout for new knowledge and adventure.
In tip top physical condition and sparkling mental health, his hobby is studying the world (and the girls) around him. And who knows, someday perhaps he may just be destined to save Japan – or even the world.
Or then again, maybe not.
Golden Boy is based on the manga written by Tatsuya Engawa (who even makes a cameo in episode 6). It is an extremely funny 6 part OVA that takes a look into the life of Kintaro Oe, a professional wandering spirit. Kintaro is a free spirit, moving from job to job whilst travelling throughout Japan on his trusty bicycle. Kintaro is a very bright, athletic and healthy boy, though one wouldn’t say so from watching his actions. Kintaro is a good man with a good heart and will go out of his way to help others without them even realising that he is helping them. Coming across as an idiot and a nobody, Kintaro uses this to his advantage to learn more about the world around him. All his experiences are jotted down in his trusty notebook, his crib notes for life. Kintaro’s only weakness is his eyes for beautiful girls. Kintaro is a bit of a pervert, who can’t stop thinking about sex and pretty girls. Although never doing anything about his perverted visions, Kintaro does have one strange vice – the weird obsession with hugging and drinking from the toilet that a pretty girl has used.
The OVA follows Kintaro through six of his adventures, all involving a host of pretty women. He works as a software house janitor, a noodle maker, a swimming instructor, a house boy, an election campaigner and even an animation production assistant. And in each job he finds some girl that needs his help – even if she doesn’t know it yet. The stories are all funny and charming, with one sitting on the edge of their seat to see how Kintaro resolves matters right at the last moment. The only problem with the series if there is one, is that the stories all follow fairly the same plot. Kintaro finds job, Kintaro sees girl, Girl has problems, Kintaro solves them before running off into the sunset. However, given that this is only a six-part series, it gets away with it just fine.
The animation for this title is excellent. The use of facial expressions to emphasize the humour couldn’t have been better done. Every time you see Kintaro doing or thinking something stupid you can’t help but laugh. The women are all sexy and well-proportioned and the action sequences are fluid and exciting. The colours look a bit washed out, but that may just be the copy I watched. The voice acting for both the Japanese and the English versions are good, though I must say that the English version brings across the blithering idiot character of Kintaro across far better than its Japanese counterpart. The opening sequence animation and score aren’t up to much though it must be said.
If you are looking for a good ecchi laugh, the Golden Boy will deliver. A truly funny anime, it is a must see for all serious guy otaku.
(Historical Note: This was written back in October 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Boy_(manga)
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
Ten years after the great defeat, the Japan emerges from the chaos created by the Nazi occupation. The necessary reorganisation, known as the Age of Growth resulted in the isolation of the country. But it also resulted in many social problems. Unemployment increased drastically. Urban overpopulation led to more criminal activity. Most importantly, it led to the rise of anti-government groups, that the police were unable to control. These groups caused much social unrest. To avoid bringing in the army and to restrain the ambitions of the police, the government chose a third option. An armed force with special powers, based entirely in Tokyo: The Metropolitan Security Police or MSP. Mobile and heavily armed, this third force imposes itself as the guardians of public order.
But the situation changes radically and the opposition parties are soon outlawed. These parties fade away and are reborn as part of the rebel group known as ‘The Sect’. The Sect allied with the Panzer Corps to oppose the MSP. They turned the city into fire and blood and angered the general public. So as the population dreamed of prosperity, the Panzer Corps and The Sect become more and more isolated. The Panzer Corps fights on without respite, but the mission of the warriors is slowly coming to an end. They are on the verge of fulfilling their ultimate objective.
A peaceful protest march becomes violent after members of The Sect detonate explosives amongst the police forces. The MSP receives the order to move in, and a squad is dispatched to the sewers to hunt the escaping Sect terrorists down.
Fuse Kazuki is one of the top members of the elite counterterrorist unit of the MSP. As he chases down The Sect members in the sewers, he comes face to face with one of their fleeing operatives, a young girl known as Agawa Nanami, codenamed ‘Short Hair’. However, as he stands before her, something inside him tells him not to fire. But as fear grips the young girl, she takes matters into her own hands – and detonates the bomb she was carrying.
Haunted by the images of her death, Kazuki seeks to learn more about the girl. In his investigations he discovers her older sister, Kei. Can these two people reach out to each other and heal the other’s wounds?
Meanwhile, a plot is hatching against the MSP. As the players in the higher echelons of the country’s security forces play their political games, alliances shift and treaties are made and broken. It would seem that the MSP’s Panzer Corps’ days are numbered.
And to achieve this, a scapegoat is needed. An officer who may have already been broken. Fuse Kazuki. But rumour has it that another force moves within the MSP. A secretive group, watching their own and protecting themselves. The Wolf Brigade.
Who knows whom these animals are, hiding amongst men? The only thing for sure is once a wolf, always a wolf.
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a powerful film written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. Jin-Roh’s setting is Tokyo-not the Tokyo of the future, but of an alternate past. Jin-Roh presents a Japan that lost a different Second World War-not to America, but to Nazi Germany. Now, more than ten years after the defeat, the occupation troops have left, but their legacy is Jin-Roh’s twilight-zone city where the domestic terrorism of ‘The Sect’ plays out in everyday bombings and street battles against the counterterrorist Capital Police-and their elite armoured, helmeted, and red-goggled Special Unit.
The story revolves around Kazuki Fuse, a top member of the elite Panzer Corps unit of the MSP. After witnessing the suicide of a young Sect member, Kazuki becomes plagued by visions of her and her death. Not understanding why he didn’t take action, Kazuki seeks to learn more about the young terrorist he failed to kill himself. Kazuki is a special-forces operative who kills in the name of the law. Like Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell, he doubts the worth of his humanity. But unlike Kusanagi, Fuse is yet a man of flesh and blood, and he still remains human enough to feel cold-to be frightened-and to seek, with quiet desperation, to be absolved.
The movie Jin-Roh is about those in society who are predators among prey. But these ‘beasts’ never bother to change their shape; like Red Riding Hood’s wolf, they merely drape themselves with human clothes that do not even disguise the eyes, teeth and claws of a killer. Society rightly fears them. In Jin-Roh the Capital Police are themselves hunted – marked for elimination as a force by their own government, and by a public eager to forget the past and look the other way from the present. So what is it then, writer Oshii asks, that draws the human ever closer – when she can see that the wolf hides nothing?
The characters of Kazuki and Kei are fascinating and complex and they are well suited to the backdrop painted by Jin-Roh’s dark vision of the past. The rest of the supporting characters on the other hand fail to be given much story time, meaning that they remain pretty much 2-dimensional and seemingly without much purpose.
The animation for the movie is sumptuous, with beautifully detailed backgrounds and a rich palette of gloomy colours and textures. The characters and foregrounds are painstakingly detailed and the animation is smooth and flowing. The action sequences are intense and very well handled.
Likewise, the voice-acting for the show is top-notch and the film is complemented by a beautiful and haunting soundtrack. In fact, the entire sound production for the movie is of a particularly high standard.
Overall, this is a movie of very high quality and should not be missed, especially by fans of one of the masters of anime, Mamoru Oshii. However having said that, the story is pretty convoluted and takes a lot of attention to watch it and get the most out of it. This is not a simple film and won’t make for good pop-corn mindless fodder. Only serious movie-watchers should apply.
(Historical Note: This was written back in September 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin-Roh:_The_Wolf_Brigade
Patlabor 2: The Movie is often referred to as one of Mamoru Oshii’s most underrated films. After watching it, I have to disagree. It simply isn’t accessible or enjoyable enough to make it a fan favorite in my opinion, and certainly not one I’m willing to recommend, unless you are one of those really, really intellectual film viewers who turns up their nose at the stuff normal people watch.
This fairly philosophical film plays out in Japan, as a terrorist group blows up an important bridge but attempt to frame the American military in the process. These incidents escalate and eventually police turn against the military as a potential coup threatens to destroy the very stability of the Japanese nation.
In the midst of this, the Metropolitan Police Labor academy under Kiichi Goto’s lead, attempt to unravel the events and find the true cause of the issue, with the help of a shady government official who appears to be hiding as much as what he is revealing!
Despite the title marking this as being a Patlabor movie, there is actually very little Patlabor in it. Instead, the movie is slow-paced and methodical, as Oshii stresses out all the political and back alley machinations to build up to a strong story, but ultimately a fairly boring movie if you came here for something a little bit more action orientated, based on the name alone. Sure there are some brief gun fight scenes towards the end, but outside of those, this is one long plod, interspersed with a few brief moments of humour.
Of course, all of that said, this actually is a very well written movie, with a good cast of characters and a solid premise, so even though I didn’t really enjoy watching the film, I can’t say it is because it’s no31t a polished piece of work.
The animation as you can expect from Production I.G. is top class, with beautiful backgrounds, military vehicles, and of course character designs. Clever lighting adds to the beautifully muted colours and as such, Patlabor 2 looks everything like a Oshii movie should.
Similarly the music score by Kenji Kawai backs up the story well, with a competent and enjoyable vocal artists rounding off what is a very polished package.
In summary, you’ve really got to like the heavy, intellectual stuff to get the most out of this movie, which of course means it isn’t for most people. Nevertheless, it is a strong movie and certainly skillfully made, meaning that if you are able to enjoy something like this, go for it. It is after all an Mamoru Oshii production.
As for me, the fact that a mecha movie (based on the franchise name) didn’t deliver what a mecha movie should, it did leave me quite disappointed, and with the feeling that I had just wasted two hours of my life. Oh well, can’t win them all I suppose.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patlabor_2
2010 saw the release of Halo Legends, overseen by 343, the appointed managers of the hugely successful Microsoft Halo gaming franchise. It is a seven part anthology (eight if you count the fact that “Origins” is split into two episodes), consisting of episodes ranging in length from ten to twenty minutes each, and produced by some of Japan’s hottest anime studios and directors, including work by Studio 4°C, Production I.G., Casio Entertainment, Toei Animation, and Bones, never mind the fact that the applauded director Shinji Aramaki also wades in on the act.
So this is the marriage of the Western Halo gaming franchise with Japanese anime, a mix that doesn’t always work that well in practice, but which does actually stand a fairly good chance to successfully translate this time around, thanks mainly to Halo’s focus on mecha and space ships, one of the staples of anime design!
Anthologies are not my cup of tea as the short nature of the stories means that you don’t easily get sucked in, and if they aren’t linked up in a coherent storyline like say Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic or Green Lantern: Emerald Knights managed to do, it becomes somewhat of a waste of time in my opinion.
And this turns out to be very much the case.
Ignoring the slapstick “Odd One Out” episode which is completely out of line in terms of tone to the rest of the DVD, the short stories are all haphazardly placed in the Halo mythos, and apart from Origins which at least gives us a deeper look into the historic timeline of the franchise, the rest of the stories really matter very little indeed.
In other words, unless you are already a hardcore Halo fan, there really isn’t all that much for you here.
In terms of the animation, each studio uses completely different techniques, resulting in a very disjointed affair, reminiscent of the problems that plagued the poor The Animatrix anthology release back when it was originally published. That said, the animation employed by the various studios do all for the most part work and work well, with particular mention being made of the absolutely gorgeous and fluid CG used to render Shinji Aramaki’s The Package insert. However on a similar note, the horrid watercolor effect completely destroys Hiroshi Yamazaki’s The Duel piece, and while Toei’s Dragonball Z-like animation suits the tone of the “Odd One Out” story, it just serves to re-enforce how much this episode really doesn’t belong in what would otherwise be a pretty serious group of tales.
One thing that does however work across all the episodes is the great choice in voice actors cast to fill the characters’ shoes, as is the splendid music that often serves to provide a hauntingly beautiful and epic backdrop to each and every one of the stories being told.
All in all, Halo Legends is probably something best left to the fans of the series, especially those who are interesting in the single player storyline of the Halo franchise, and not those just in it for the multiplayer. For me it suffers from the same sense of pointlessness of the other anime-inspired anthologies that have come before it, in other words The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, meaning that I really can’t recommend it to anyone other than those aforementioned hardcore fans.
Still, it’s not like it doesn’t have its pretty moments though…
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_Legends
The King of Fighters: Another Day is a short five minutes each four part ONA anime series that was produced by Production I.G. and directed by Masaki Tachibana as extras to the KOF: Maximum Impact fighting game release from SNK back in 2005.
The four short stories all revolve around a single plot with an unknown devastating fire breaking out in Southtown and four separate groups getting caught up in it.
The first episode has Soiree Meira trying to lead the rescue operation in the midst of the affected area, before being drawn into a fight with Iori Yagami. The second episode has Rock Howard being drawn to a battle between Lien Neville and the assassin Billy Kane, before jumping in to try and save Billy Kane who get tossed over the edge of Geese Tower. The third episode features K’ and Maxima attempting to extract information on the kidnapped scientist Makishima, but their hacking attempts are detected and leads to a scuffle onboard a underground tram with Leona, Ralf and Clark.
Finally, the fourth episode ties all the events of the first three episodes together, reveals Ash Crimson and then gives us a fight between Kyo Kusanagi and Alba Meira. Nice.
Because of the extreme short length of the episodes, there isn’t much all to say about the story, but the way they are interlinked is well done and for fans of the fighting game series, it is pretty cool to see some of your favourite KOF characters get some proper screen time.
Other than that, this really is a showcase for the artists, as we get treated to some fantastic and detailed artwork, with smooth animation and great fight choreography, which means that all in all, King of Fighters: Another Day looks pretty darn good.
Oh, and it sounds pretty cool too.
Retro and Pandy, two unlikely renegades, awaken naked on Earth with no recollection of their past, but with superior physical abilities. After embarking on a brief but devastating crime spree for food, clothing and transportation in downtown Tokyo, they are captured by authorities and sent to the infamous prison called Dead Leaves, on the half destroyed moon.
But it doesn’t end there. Soon they have managed to slip their shackles and spark a full scale prison break – and are now running head first down the track to learning the truth of their situation regardless of whether they want to or not!
Surprisingly rising out of the superstar animation house that is Production I.G. back 2004, Dead Leaves was Hiroyuki Imaishi’s directorial debut, who has since gone on to direct both the acclaimed Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007) and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010) series.
Although it actually contains quite a neat little sci-fi storyline within it, you’ll be excused for mostly ignoring it as the film hurtles from start to finish at breakneck speed, never once letting up for you to catch your breath thanks to its frenetic pacing. And then of course, you would also have needed to look past all the crude and mostly vulgar fart, dick, sex and violence jokes that makes up most of the storytelling, all of which translates into a movie which has a rather limited target audience that will actually enjoy it.
If you have seen either Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann or Pant & Stocking then you will know the frenetic, simple line, highly exaggerated artwork that Imaishi employs for his fast paced approach to animated movie making, and while it certainly fits the pace of the story perfectly and works well for what is essentially an action movie from start to finish, it doesn’t exactly look pretty and nor will its style win it any awards. That said, it is unique, and you’re not going to find anything else like it out there, so maybe it does work for you after all.
The accompanying soundtrack keeps pace nicely with the visuals and the story, and is suitable epic where it needs to be, and this combines well with a good choice of voice actors who all fit their various manic personas pretty comfortably.
Overall, I can’t really think of anyone I can actually recommend Dead Leaves to. It is certainly different, I’ll give it that, but it lacks any sort of charm and the juvenile humor really will only amuse a select sort of people, meaning that as far as I’m concerned, this is one of those rare things to come out of Production I.G. that you can safely ignore.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Leaves
Utter, absolute drivel. I’m not sure who in the right frame of mind can find this forced absurdity and parody even remotely funny, but let’s just say that I’m putting this one down as definitely not one of Production I.G.’s finest moments.
Anyway, Cromartie High School tells the story of one bright Takashi Kamiyama who is forced to attend Cromartie High School as he embarks on his high school career, not the best of moves thanks to Cromartie High’s unenviable reputation of being quite a rough and tumble, delinquent breeding institution. However, the steely nerved Takashi is adept at fitting into his environment and in time even assumes the unofficial mantle of the ruffians’ leader.
Episodes are about ten minutes a piece and they are all basically a bunch absurd gags and parody, held only together thanks to the singular location of Cromartie High School. It attempts to be funny by being stupid and doing the unexpected – all the time – which means that you get very tired of it very quickly unless you actually like this sort of television. They throw all sorts of inane characters at you, like a mute Freddie Mercury lookalike, a 300 pound gorilla, a mechanical robot, a gigantic 1st year boss who suffers from motion sickness, and a rival boss with an afro that has a life of its own – you name it, they stuff it in.
The premise is tough delinquents, but the execution is stupid morons, and to be honest, I just couldn’t find the spark that made Eiji Nonaka’s work such a popular shonen manga back in 2002 when it won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award – or rather I really don’t know how it did managed to walk off with that award in the first place!
As for the artwork, although it accurately depicts some very angry young men by always making them frown, it is very flat and static and not all that well animated as far as I’m concerned, though I guess the simple style does suit the type of show it is trying to be. The voice actors are however all well matched, and they do well to capture the absurdity that makes up this show.
It is 1966 and not much is known about the demanding Saya, other than that she is quite young, prefers to carry a katana and slices and dices some very unsavoury things, working in the employ of some shadowy organisation. Oh, and she’s also what they’ve dubbed, “the last original”.
Her mission is simple. Identify, locate and destroy the monstrous, murderous, blood-sucking bat-like creatures known as Chiropterans.
And did we mention she is rather violent?
This 45 minute short feature film was released way back in 2000 and remains one of the crowning achievements for the powerhouse that is Production I.G., as it marked the first time a Japanese studio produced an anime almost entirely in English with Japanese subtitles, priming it for deeper penetration outside of Japan’s borders. Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Blood: The Last Vampire is a completely original concept, not coming from some or other existing anime or manga series.
Set around the American Yokota Air Base located in post-World War II Japan and just before the Vietnam War, the film tells the story of a mysterious girl charged with destroying rather monstrous creatures called chiropterans. Because of its short length, don’t expect much by the way of character development, but rather sit back and enjoy the fluid animation, violence and a piece of work that just exudes style and flair.
It is a dark story with a lot of violence and death, but it is masterfully executed, even when you boil it done and realise that all you have sat done and watched is one extended fight scene between a girl with a sword, three bat creatures and one witness who believes she may just be going mad.
Visually Blood: The Last Vampire is simply divine. A muted color palette highlights a very strong main protagonist and Katsuya Terada’s character designs are all completely spot on for this horror tale.
The animation is very fluid and detailed, and as such, there is almost nothing you can fault it on – it is just that damn good! Part of this is of course thanks to the steady hand of animation director Kazuchika Kise and more importantly, the exclusive use of digital animation rather than the time honoured tradition of animation cels. This means that the entire movie was inked, colored and then animated with computers, one of the main reasons behind its distinctive sleek look.
As for voices, Youki Kudo reprises the role of Saya, fitting the character like a glove. Likewise, Joe Romersa fits the role of the handler David perfectly, making for a great sounding combination. Yoshihiro Ike is responsible for the music and manages to come up with the perfect score balance between dramatic and action, resulting in a fantastic aural experience.
In summary, despite its relatively short length, Blood: The Last Vampire is a fantastic piece of work, both beautiful to watch and enjoyable to take it. It is blood-soaked action of the highest quality and thus most deserving of its status as an anime legend!