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Bloody Battle is 10% more futuristic than its predecessor, as measured in the new style fancied in the gangsters of the day — gas masks. The two movies take place in a familiar post-apocalypse, one where it’s likely that down under Master Blaster upholds his power in Barter Town, though Japan has a more cyberpunk feel (if Versus can be said to have a horror movie feel, for example). The war-torn buildings and desolate interiors offer an appropriately impressionistic environment for our formidable heroine Milly, though they also offer the audience’s best guess that Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle is after all, a budgeted affair.

Though a larger world is implied, much of the story unfolds in parking garages and non-descript warehouses, with the occasionally dressed-up set peppered in for world-building’s sake. Fortunately, by the endgame this actually registers as insignificant, because the action these environments house is a specific flavor of stylized ultraviolence, one with flying kung-fu, cool poses, and wacky weapons that inflict impressive spectacle when unleashed on smug, gas-mask-clad do-wrongers.

The action in the film is one end of the Hard Revenge Milly equation that’s so frustrating. The premise of this sequel doesn’t stray far from the original’s plot, certainly not for the purposes of puzzling out what’s so problematic in an otherwise highly entertaining gore-fest. Milly, after massacring the gang that brutally murdered her husband and set her baby on fire, while at the same time tearing her body apart with knives and forcing her to watch, finds herself hunted by friends of the gang — as we learn from the hardly comparable Chan Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy, revenge is a cyclical, spiralling affair.

At the same time, Milly is approached by a young woman whose lover was killed, and seeks training for vengeance of her own. It may not sound like much, but keep in mind that the original movie was 45 minutes long, and this one still isn’t quite average feature length, clocking in at 74 minutes.

So what’s the trouble with Hard Revenge Milly?

The opening fight scene embodies a rare and beautiful ideology in action movie filmmaking, where the action hero is depicted as a slasher villain in how he/she dispatches foes. The only contemporary example that springs to mind is the critically discarded Punisher: War Zone, a film that sees Frank Castle slaughtering villains as if they were zombies — heads explode, bodies explode; the carnage is front and center, and there’s a gleeful joy in the application of a crazed badass to the action.

When this badass is essentially the Terminator, the entertainment is in the creativity of the hero killing slimy villains rather than the drama of ‘will the hero prevail?’ since there would clearly never be a question (there never is a question, regardless of what action movie you’re watching, but let’s not parade on the dreams of the Len Wisemans and the McGs of the world*). Punisher: War Zone succeeds where the 2004 Punisher fails (for one) in the villain department, because there’s a nemesis cold war going on — Frank Castle might be crazy, but Jigsaw and Looney Bin Jim are batshit. John Travolta? Not very threatening and surely no threat to Thomas Jane, which deflates the drama of ‘will the hero prevail?’

War Zone goes above and beyond, then, where Castle has gangsters to kill like a regular Jason, but with more RPGs, and these guys are no threat, but also a villainous element that provides any measure of suspense. Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle, as well as its predecessor, have the same pretty Japanese pop-singer dude who happens to be a badass.

It’s odd, because while the end fight of the original is much longer than any other fight scene in the movie, it’s less entertaining because the guy offers a sizable opposition, and this is not what we were being driven toward with Milly tearing through people earlier. What makes this guy special? His kung-fu seems to be pretty good but he looks like everyone else and isn’t characterized appropriately in this regard. The sequel does a little better by having the villain be a cyborg, but any cyber-fuelled cool factor is negated by his villainy stemming purely from his sexual deviance — aka homosexuality. That’s great, guys.

This may sound like a lot of talk for something pretty unimportant, but the in-the-moment result is that Milly gets thrown around a lot by these lame villains where she should be trouncing everyone, save for something actually impressive. Anything other than yet another gangster dude. Like the Bride, Lady Snowblood, or Lady Vengeance, Milly gets her gender-equality fair share of the action movie beating, but to me it doesn’t make a lot of sense given the premise of what these movies are. This might sound like sexism, and it probably is, but this time, I honestly just don’t give a fuck. I don’t want to see a woman nicknamed Hard Revenge Milly getting her arm chopped off and defeated, only to win with further cyborg upgrades further down the road.

Not to mention that Milly technically falls into that more recently popular category of kick-ass females, here dubbed the Dragon Tattoo category, where only rape or violence against the heroine can incite bloody rebirth. That’s not a big deal here, because not only is Milly’s origin story so absurd, the movies are extremely obviously not meant to be taken very seriously.

I mean, look — when Milly cuts some dude’s body with her elbow sword, their high blood pressure sprays in an initially hesitant fountain in the grand tradition of Chinese and I think Japanese cinema. It’s great, silly fun, but it is metered a bit by Milly’s qualified badassery. That said, Bloody Battle is an improvement over an already entertaining original, one that reaches for eleven on the novelty dial in the fight scenes: we never know what her metal body’s gonna drum up next to slice and dice her foe, or what lethal new form this familiar weapon will take, but we know it’s gonna be bloody as hell. Meanwhile the action is intense and fantastical, remaining compelling through the whole of the two films with the promise that they’ll end in brutal, comedic splatter.

This movie is also interesting for its essence as a sequel. This is an instance where the follow-up deconstructs the original, showing the aftermath of the events in the first movie and the effects they have on the heroine. She isn’t just a killing machine, she’s a killing machine with no sense of control and a lost past that she can’t even be sure of. In a peculiar moment, Milly questions her memories in a spot of dialogue lifted straight from Ghost in the Shell. The self-deprecating doctor character plays Batou here, swatting down her Shirowesque cyber-Descartes existential quandaries much in the way the audience might.

Philosophical questions about revenge are paid equal lip service, but it amounts more to an intriguing setup to a theoretical third installment than an actually compelling discussion. Milly might be cursed by her vengeful journey, which infects others and only begets violence and death, but we’d rather see her kick some ass than mope around like the Major.

Or get her ass kicked by the villains, for God’s sake. Somebody needs to give this director, Takanori Tsujimoto, a bigger budget and put the lead, Miki Mizuno, in more action movies — they make a great team.

 

*Because I like Len Wiseman for some reason and I really enjoyed Terminator Salvation for some reason

It’s the inexplicable and unexplained post-apocalypse, where we’re told that Japan is nothing but a wind-swept plain. Elsewhere, in the two abandoned buildings of this plain, Milly seeks hard revenge for the murder of her family and the fleshy parts of her body.

Hard Revenge Milly is a smart action movie. Not only does it grab the attention immediately with some sword-thanked arterial spray, it deals directly with the genre’s #1 problem — action movies can be unbelievably, shockingly boring. It does this by its runtime, which is roughly 43 minutes (it lasts the whole way, through the credits and after), effectively minimizing the exposition and everything between the fights that is empty content. There is almost no actor who can carry a movie without playing a character, which is why Arnold Schwarzenegger movies (barring End of Days) will always be great, and that’s often what happens in action movies across the globe. The effort given toward an original, compelling story is akin to the writer sullenly kicking an empty soda can across a dusty road.

Whether it’s reliant on special effects or physical combat, action can be pretty expensive, and cannot realistically fill 100% of the movie. Usually, unless it’s a John Woo flick, the action will be peppered in. To be fair, a lot of Hard Revenge Milly is talking and her waiting around for the action. Fortunately the action feels like live-action anime, which may sound pretty crass or cliche, but the end result is that while the choreography may not be as complex or impressive as we’ve seen elsewhere, there’s a fantastical logic to the martial arts that makes it difficult to keep up with, but what we do know is that those violent flashes sure look cool.

As we learn from Versus, there’s a tendency with these overly violent, stylized action movies coming out of Japan (perhaps taking inspiration from Versus) to favor how things look over the movement, such that still frames taken from any point in a fight scene will be well composed and super cool looking. This is where the anime comparison comes in — as early Japanese animation featured a lot of drawn still frames being physically manipulated for the camera, a style that’s been updated over the years to largely the same effect, where there’s detailed characters jumping through the air but moving somewhat stiffly when compared to the detail-lite but smoothly animated Disney cartoons.

With Hard Revenge Milly, there’s probably twenty total minutes of violence, but it’s pretty fun to watch for just such animated reasons. In one instance she does this kick thing and kind of flies off the guy, only to follow up with another attack in the next shot, sans any sense of momentum… or reality. She’s also got a sword — which extends from a pretty odd spot on her arm — that magically grows when convenient, like John Cho’s in Trek ’09. That’s the true joy in a movie like this, though the inventiveness of dismemberment tactics and the absurdity of the violence. Martial arts killers in Japan have an extra talent to turn people into geysers, which never gets old. Thankfully, because this movie isn’t really a movie but a short film, it doesn’t get old, which makes me wonder about the sequel, Bloody Battle.

Futuristic cell phones

There’ll be a review shortly for that one because there’s more I wanted to say about villains and feminism and stuff.

Spoilers incoming

There are three routes you can take if you want to be a film-snob, these routes of course often intersecting at grotesque and pretentious crossroads. They’re arthouse, indie, and foreign, the big bad three. F the first two, but let’s pause for a moment and examine the last. I’ve seen a few foreign films in my time, mostly Korean as of late (representin’*), and I’ve seen a lot of shit because of it. Granted my least favorite film of all time is American-made, and science-fiction, but a lot of Takashi Miike movies would be up there, as would Irreversible if I were in a crass enough mood (it’s got moments). We tend to view foreign films as a higher form of film art because the mainstream stuff is filtered in. We get Shaun of the Dead and In the Mood for Love because they’re so good they deserve international release. But I don’t think they put the live-action Wicked City on the Criterion Collection yet (I know because I’m looking for it).

These foreign films most Americans see, in addition to simply being good, don’t steep themselves in their culture to the extent where we might not fully appreciate what’s going on. Then there are movies like Audition, which is perhaps the most well-known, or second well-known after Ichi the Killer, Takashi Miike flick — a good movie that can be enjoyed on a base level, but requires minor, but further, knowledge of Japanese culture.

The reason Audition makes it to US shores is because it’s one of the most acclaimed horror movies in recent times, its claim-to-fame being a climactic torture sequence, as well as a particular limbless guy-in-a-bag who eats vomit. Gnarly stuff, the kind of stuff that American teens (and Eli Roth or James Wan) would definitely be into. For me, I wanted to see if this would be another Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance — a comparison that will be revisited later — and I was interested in seeing a Miike jab at feminism. Here’s a spoiler: it involves a lot of needles.

Without speaking down to you (because this is basically trivia), the thing to be aware of going in is that Japan, historically, has been behind the times on the whole ‘women’ thing. They like women, as most of us do, but seeing them as equal I believe wasn’t instant — like… it was here. Characters treat women as objects in a game in this movie, which is the premise, so we aren’t totally lost going in, but knowing context is helpful to pick up what Miike’s putting down.

Is it possible that after years of being assholes to women, there will be repercussions? That’s the question being asked here, and it seems to have a pretty straightforward answer, as you might imagine. It fucks people up, bottom line. Also, burning little girls’ legs with fire, that fucks em up too. I was interested to see this movie because it is Takashi Miike, a man who deals heavily in violence against women and movie rape, things I’ve given up on — mostly because of him. This must be his penance or whatever, though there do remain those uncomfortable moments. The difference here is that they’re supposed to be uncomfortable.

Also uncomfortable is the cutting off of limbs; the torture scene isn’t nearly as hard to watch as really any moment in Ichi, or the more extreme bits in Chan Wook Park fare, but it’s worth the price of admission, even for non-torture-porn fanatics. The movie truly shines though in its first and second acts. The setup to the darkness we know is ahead in my mind takes greater directorial strength than the 2001-like trip through layers of unreality, or the transcendent pain — it’s a slow-boiling family drama, one with humor and small, touching moments.

This is where I was engaged the most, because as ghastly as holding wife auditions is, I couldn’t help but feel for the character, his supportive friend Ishikawa, and his son. I actually liked them — Miike characters. But then the movie goes a bit haywire and a dream sequence of sorts takes us out of the emotional realm and into the depths of hell.

The character is drugged, and as he’s falling to the floor he gets visions of backstory for the girl character. I take issue with this sequence for many reasons, but chiefly, it doesn’t make any goddamn sense. We’re led to believe that he’s experiencing all of these things, that he now knows that the uncle tortured her. It’s possible he inferred it all in a fever dream, which also saw his late wife returning, but it’s hard to say. At this juncture, I was really lost, and it took me out of the movie. I knew what was coming next, so every time there was a false ending to this sequence I was getting more and more frustrated. Not necessarily because I needed to see the torture, but because I assumed it’d be up next.

So he goes all David Lynch, which stretches what could’ve possibly been a short film to feature length, and is an interesting move from an artist. It’s not something you see a lot, especially in a movie like this, which could’ve been just as satisfying with a pared down A-to-B-to-torture structure. I appreciate it, but didn’t really buy into it as fabric in the greater movie.

It’s not a huge problem, didn’t ruin the movie for me. I think the reason why I enjoyed Audition as much as I did is because I was able to see a real master work his craft without being demented by his own weirdly-o sigs. It’d be like watching Pulp Fiction for the first time after seeing Kill Bill and Death Proof — given you aren’t a fan of feet like QT is. Miike puts a lot of weight into detail. Notice the torture tools the girl uses — needles, wire, syringes — they’re feminine in that they’re finesse, less about blunt force and more about pinpoint tactics. She’s engineering his pain, talking him through it and being methodical. Half of the terror is psychological warfare, which trickles down to the audience very effectively: this chick is totally nuts (“deeper, deeper, deeper“).

As wild as this scene is, it really isn’t as bad as I imagined. I went into Audition as anyone would — anticipating some hardcore fuckedupperies. I wanted this to be another Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a movie you could show to a friend, preferably a female one, and be like, “This is the charming tale that gets a little dark. It’s about these guys who kidnap a little girl, and then things go south.” When they go south in Mr. Vengeance, they go south and never let up. Movie gets pretty rude. Audition doesn’t really, and I don’t think it’s the director holding back, rather it’s a measured dose of violence, despite its craziness — and tameness.

Miike doesn’t want to chance the ending becoming tongue-in-cheek. Every time Ichi kills somebody, it’s a gore-fest, but he’s being a bastard screeching and running around like a jerk, so it’s madly challenging to take seriously. Or handle, period. It’s almost an affront to the institution of cinema violence, but that’s why we have the blonde dude, I suppose. Audition doesn’t need the blonde dude, because it isn’t really about the violence, though that is the clear centrepiece. He’s using violence this time, not being used by it. So this time I didn’t really feel had by Miike. I think that this time, he was simply trying to do a good movie.

This isn’t to say that he doesn’t every single time set out to make a good movie, it’s more that he isn’t full of himself in this case. Let’s go back to white Takashi Miike for a moment: Audition is like the Reservoir Dogs of the Tarantino canon. It’s a solid movie, and it isn’t bleeding with Tarantinoisms. I happen to like Tarantino, so I liked Death Proof and even Inglourious Basterds. I don’t like Takashi Miike, but I did like Audition. If you’re looking for a place to start with the dude, duck his latest effort and go straight to this one. It’s low-key horror, chilling and intense while intelligently stopping short of lame-o torture porno.

*Not really. I might be Korean in flesh, but not in spirit, which is good, because it’s opened my eyes to the stupidity of taking pride in one’s heritage

So interweaved are elements as science, philosophy, cyberpunk, police procedural narratives, conspiracy, comedy, and action, the work blends conventions to invisibility just like the technological binding holding each characters’ spirits in a bodies. No saying that any of these elements is up to the par set by succeeding entries in the series, but Shirow’s original was the first, and the first to do it right. This in itself is compelling; from what I understand of the man’s earlier works, The Ghost in the Shell came out of nowhere in terms of pure Shirowesque creativity. The first volume of the manga is a stand alone work, where a story arc is uncovered across a series of smaller stories. We follow Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team of elite Japanese police known as Section 9, a cyborg special-ops squad dealing in anti-terrorism. Like 24‘s CTU, but more high-tech and with less betrayals. As they tackle troubles of the day, they explore some pretty lofty ideas that often coincide with the artist’s more cartoonish tendencies in the illustration.

Going into the manga, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect. Shirow has often attracted criticism (at least, from the three anime-related podcasts I subscribe to) for being the idea-man, and nothing else. He’s given the world Ghost in the Shell, but really he gave Mamoru Oshii Ghost in the Shell, and he made something great with the material. Having finally read the thing for myself, I can say that this is not entirely true, but not unfounded either.

The chief issue one familiar with the anime might find paging through the comic is its tone. Whereas the two movies are deadpan serious, and the series feels very western in its handling of light-heartedness (in moderation), the comic is relentless in its plain goofiness. The humor itself isn’t necessarily terrible, but its presence is felt, and it feels inappropriate. Every issue ends similar to how some of the Stand Alone episodes of Stand Alone Complex do — the Major and Batou solemnly discuss the philosophical or psychological undercurrents of what just happened. Sometimes this will include a panel of the guy who’s been hacked to believe he’s got a wife and kids, and this moment is pretty sombre, but also a satisfying conclusion. Classic Ghost in the Shell. But then we get one more panel at the bottom with superdeformed Aramaki barking some order and the Tachikomas, or Fuchikomas, squawking about a farcical robot rebellion.

It’s not fair to say that this is simply what to expect when one reads Japanese comics, because the last time I reviewed a manga it was Phoenix, and that was consistent in art style and tone throughout. At the very least, it was balanced, confident in its tone. Yet, I can’t help but imagine that indeed this is simply what to expect when one reads Japanese comics. Why else would Shirow include it? He’s got to be playing to a culture, a rich history of titles with these types of jokes and breaking the seriousness every once in a while.

That would be perfectly fine were it not for what the humor sidelines often distract from. The Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow to me was like the bible for the rest of the series — from this point stories were drawn for elements in Innocence, episodes in Stand Alone Complex, and the arc for Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Ghost in the Shell SAC: Solid State Society. Because of this, the stories are a delight to behold. It also takes the approach closer to the series than the movies in terms of the characters; Saito and Pazu and Boma aren’t seen a whole lot (I’m pretty sure “Paz,” as he’s called, never makes an appearance), but they’re there, where they never show up in the films (except for Saito for a frame or two in the first movie, without his eyepatch).

The artwork, when it isn’t superdeformed, is in my opinion pretty superb. I qualify with “in my opinion,” because my experience with the medium is limited, so it’s difficult for me to judge what truly great comic art should be like. The cityscapes and robot designs are particularly striking; Shirow undoubtedly has an eye for design, which I suppose is why Shinji Aramaki gets hired to bring his stuff to the silver screen. Guns are another big thing for me, and they get their due, as do the vehicles.

Most impressive would have to be the cyborg stuff. When somebody gets shot up real bad, the metal gets all jagged and wires stick out. Sometimes — as in the making of a cyborg — we see heads split open and mechanical brains inside. The detail in these drawings is inspiring, and we couple that with footnotes provided by the author that discuss the ludicrous science behind it all.

It’s certainly a unique experience, and though it’s been recognized time and again that The Ghost in the Shell exists mostly to create a formula for other things, its own merits should not be undervalued. There is a great deal of entertainment and provoking thought to be had in the volume, and if you’re as big a Major fan as I am, it’s always nice to see her in more adventures. I suppose that if you’re a real Major fan though the series would constitute as the “more adventures,” but whatever. To each his own Ghost in the Shell.

It will be difficult for me to get across in words just how much I appreciate the Ghost in the Shell series, how much it means to me as a fan of science-fiction and… things that are good. I suppose that’ll make the next post somewhat ironic, but beyond that it’s all uphill, or downhill–good stuff anyhow, all good stuff. Ghost in the Shell appeals to me on almost every level as someone who’s watched a fair to nearly good amount of science-fiction movies and shows and never really ‘fallen in love’ with anything beyond the nostalgia movies of childhood.

They take a premise, which is that in the future we’ve blurred the line between metal and flesh, man and machine, such that our brains are computers and can be manipulated. But what of humanity?, and they don’t just make it about a detective or some dude, they make it about a paramilitary organization within the Japanese government–and they run into some crazy stuff. Of course, Ghost in the Shell 2 is more about detectives, but you still get the same dose of robot suits, cyber-terrorists, gadgets, gross bodily harm, artificial intelligence, and existential musings the series is known for.

It’s cyberpunk, or post-cyberpunk if you must, with a heavy philosophical bent. An obvious influence on the Deus Ex series in this regard (though it’s probably more successful), and something that took a few notes itself from the likes of Gibson and Blade Runner. The world it creates is much more frightening than 2019 Los Angeles, or the Sprawl, however, as the future tech has become so advanced it’s invisible. You can have a shotgun in your arm and walk around town fully loaded while none would be the wiser. That’s not really the scary part, but it’s kind of a fun idea. What’s scary is the ability to be hacked…

We don’t really feel for computers when they cluck up–we feel for ourselves and our wallets. But what if we could be compromised mentally by the will of some motherfucker with good hacking skills? What if an artificial life form created on the Net wanted no more than to exist, but first needed you to believe you have a family when you don’t? One minute you’re some poor dude and the next you’re a terrorist. Or, one minute you’re a terrorist and the next you’re a meat puppet killing all your friends and waiting for somebody to cap you–depends on who’s team you’re on.

Ghost in the Shell is much more concerned with cyborgs and virtual reality than megacorporations or cyber-drugs or androids; there’s a prevailing preoccupation with the man-machine interface and the loss of humanity. The Major can’t quite be sure of herself, as her body was patched together before our very eyes in a lab, and there exist fake memories, like Blade Runner. Might she just be a collection of false lives inside a robot shell? At least she’s got her personality… but we’ll get into that.

This choice of cyberpunk tropes is what I like most and least about the series, but we’ll get there too…

Before we begin, I suppose I should note something. I’ve never watched a single volume of Ghost in the Shell with the original language track, so… see ya.

If you’ve decided to stick around to see what I have to say–thank you, that’s very courteous. The truth is: the dub is excellent. Which dub? All. With the exception I suppose of the first movie, all the voice talent is consistently good. There are those weird pauses and awkward intonations that you’d expect from any translated work, but these are few and far between, and perhaps appropriate, given the inhuman nature of the cast.

Ghost in the Shell is one of my very favorite things in the realm of science-fiction, so I’ll try to do it justice here. It’s all worth seeing, so if you haven’t yet, I recommend you get your ass to Amazon right quick, and here to help is a Ghost in the Shell Buyer’s Guide, because it can get kind of confusing:

(These are things that I’ve bought–they’re all good. I won’t speculate on anything)

1. Ghost in the Shell DVD, released by Manga Entertainment: $10 on Amazon. Light on special features, from what I recall, but it’s probably the most essential to own for any cinema buff. If you prefer high-def, you’ll have to settle for Ghost in the Shell 2.0, which is nearly the same movie, but with awkward CG rendered scenes in the beginning.

2. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence Blu-Ray, released by Bandai Entertainment. There was a big curfuffle surrounding the original US release of Innocence. The DVD by DreamWorks Video has apparently a terrible subtitle job, which is basically just closed-captioned. If you want to know that a helicopter is making noise or that footsteps are happening, check this one out (Netflix ships this one), but if you want a real version or the English dub, look no further than the excellent Blu-Ray disc. Along with the Stand Alone Complex cast dub, it’s also got some Oshii-esque special features: a trip to Cannes and a look at how some scenes were animated. It’s $149.99 New on Amazon, which is shocking because it definitely was not that when I picked it up. Sorry. The DVD version, with its weird naked girl cover is equally absurd, at $49.99. The poop CC version will have to do, it’s a more modest $11. Honestly, the CC isn’t that terrible…

3. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – I have yet to buy this one, because I watched it all on Netflix streaming, which it is currently on right as we speak. At the time, 2nd Gig wasn’t, so…

4. Ghost in the Shell: Anime Legends 2nd Gig, released by Bandai Entertainment. If I remember correctly, this is the same deal as the Cowboy Bebop I have–something like a Franchise Collection line, I don’t really know. It’s the cheaper version of the real thing, so you get all the discs but it’s bare bone–no special features. Being the whole second season I suppose $20 on Amazon isn’t bad, especially compared to the current cost of a new ‘real’ version, which may have better cover art, but’ll run you in the ballpark of $299.99. Used is only $24.95 at this moment, so if that doesn’t bother you it’s probably worth it. Like the first Gig, this is on Netflix streaming, so there’s an instant alternative if you have the subscription.

4. Ghost in the Shell SAC: Solid State Society Limited Edition Steelbook, released by Manga. Yikes this one is also expensive, running at $37.98 Amazon price. I paid maybe $20 for it so maybe the tides will turn in time. As it stands though it’s not a terrible deal. Three discs, including the soundtrack, which is pretty good–From the Roof Top by Ilaria Graziano is awesome–but not the series’ best. Considering the Blu-Ray is ten dollars cheaper I’d probably go for that one. The Limited Edition Blu-Ray is so expensive that it isn’t even available. (laughs)

5. Ghost in the Shell, PS2 game. Yeah I bought this for some unreasonable amount of money for the PS3, a system that refuses to play it. I think it was like $3, which wouldn’t be so bad but I also bought one of the PS2 classics–Zone of the Enders 2–the same day, and it wouldn’t play either. Thanks, Sony. You’re a pal.

So that’s the list. Pretty expensive. But worth it. I guess there were also two books, but… damn it. I’ll get to those later.

 

This is an exceptional piece of science-fiction. It is at once contained within a broader serialized, narrative structure, and a story that escalates from the personal to the grandiose on a cosmic level in a brisk but dense 260 pages. It mixes humor and tragedy, cartoon buffoonery and provocative SF what-ifs?, all while telling a rich and engaging story. The final half recalled to me one of the most startling moments in science-fiction I’d experienced recently – “The Last Generation” segment of Childhood’s End. Its turbulent story kept getting larger and larger and more exciting, similar to how “The Last Generation” seemed to encapsulate Children of Men and Akira as it discussed the end and transcendence of humankind. Plotwise, Phoenix isn’t too far off, telling a story about the death and rebirth of mankind as its hero Masato is granted immortality, a terrible burden he can’t handle, and illustrates that point by shooting himself in the head – to no avail.

You’re probably wondering why I’m only talking about Volume 2, and the answer is simple and sad: the first volume is hella lot of money, and as much as I’d like to read it, just can’t. I don’t think Volume 3 is even in my price range either, so I’ll have to shoot right on to 4 from here on out. I don’t the answer for this price-kerfuffle, but I assume it’s some company/international/licensing fuckups. One of those words. From what I read of the back cover of this particular volume, each story is self-contained, so I suppose it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Indeed, I can’t imagine what a “Phoenix, Vol. 3” would even look like – if I were a writer I would scratch my head bloody on where to go from here.

In the future, people have destroyed the planet. Or perhaps, in the near future, we’ve destroyed the planet, and this has forced our children and grand-children underground in massive subterranean cities. These cities are governed by supercomputers, think HAL 9000 but switch out the ‘homicidal’ for ‘genocidal.’ Eventually the computers, whose orders must be carried out unquestioned, want to wage nuclear war. Meanwhile, our hero Yamanobe Masato escapes the city into the dangerous surface-world where he eventually meets up with old Dr. Saruta and his robot friend Robita. Masato was on the run for harboring an illegal alien creature, and fellow space-patrolman Roc was after him. Masato made the mistake of falling in love with a shape-shifting “moopie,” whose dreams transport people to virtual worlds of wonder and romance. In Dr. Saruta’s terrestrial dome fortress, the moopie Tamami and Masato run into a magical bird of fire that transcends space and time and can speak telepathically…

Despite the comparison to works of Arthur C. Clarke, Phoenix is far from hard science-fiction. In fact, it would have the more conservative SF nerdlets among us pissing their pants in frustration (I don’t suppose people actually do that) for its seemingly freewheeling mixing of genre tropes from both science-fiction and fantasy. Nobody likes the term space-fantasy, or science-fantasy – so let’s just discard subgenres for a moment. Indeed, there are magical birds that can shrink to smaller than an atom co-existing in a future of robots and spaceships, and my jaw dropped with each revelation of something fantastic. We go from futuristic city to shape-shifting aliens to magic birds to God in two-hundred pages, and it sounds clumsy when I say it, but it all gels so well, and you never doubt its confidence, as this is afterall the masterwork of the godfather of the medium.

This is my introduction to Osamu Tezuka, who’s perhaps best known as the creator of Astro Boy. I was attracted more to Phoenix than his iconic boy android for what little I’d hear about on podcasts and blogs; in my head I concluded that this was The Fountain in comic form before we had The Fountain in comic form. Themes of immortality and combating death were things I enjoyed from that particular movie, and wanted to see again. Tezuka does deal with these things, but never hacks at your soul and makes you depressed like Arrenofsky did so skillfully and so underratedly in 2006. He interweaves humorous touches that are sometimes deftly performed and sometimes not so much, but are always in keeping with the tone.

What tone is that? I hardly know, but Phoenix comes off as a pulpy science-fiction story with a tremendous amount of pathos and a heart-breaking, literary story. As much as it blows your mind with moments like Masato lamenting his eternal life span and contemplating how he’ll live the next billion years, it’ll keep things light with its visuals and characters who aren’t always as serious as the situations they occupy. In this way, Phoenix did for me what Rin Taro’s Metropolis from 2001 did for others. Metropolis, and I could see this, juxtaposed rough – albeit PG-13 rated – violence with cute Tezuka designs, in doing so heightening the impact of that robot being shot, probably by Roc. He does that.

Another thing I greatly enjoyed about Phoenix is that every character was at least memorable. At best they were downright compelling in their metaphyical journeys, and at the least they were good for a gag or two. Even the villain in the piece, Roc, isn’t a total bastard, though he does kill Robita, which was uncalled for. I went into this with a bias against Roc from Metropolis, where, if I remember correctly (probably not), he was a plain dick-o. In this story he does terrible things, but there are moments where genuine humanity flashes through those immovable sunglasses. His relationship with Masato is interesting; it’s clear they were once friends, but the job ate Roc up and turned him into a monster. He is humbled by his doom at the hands of radiation, and goes out reflecting and appreciating the environment around him, something he probably never did as a space-patrolman.

Phoenix’s haughtier themes never seem preachy because there is an underlying innocence that should really, in the end, read: earnestness. This is a passionate work of art with a social conscience, and like Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, which outlines the evils of drugs by showing what measures we must go to end them, provides a very human story amidst the fantastic, never losing its inspiring sense of wonder and tragedy.

Like Ridley Scott, Mamoru Oshii is an unsung hero of science-fiction in film. He became a name among nerds in America in 1995 with the global release of Ghost in the Shell, a film that touted itself as the next Akira, as I suppose every anime movie does or should. It was based on a manga by Masamune Shirow, but having read quite a bit of the source material myself (ten pages?), I can tell you that the movie is definitively a product of Oshii.

We can also see this as true because another Shirow flick, Appleseed, is child’s fare intellectually compared to Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell. The man has a style, he has obnoxious signatures, but above all, he’s willing to use the medium of film to do what so few other science-fiction filmmakers dare to do – explore. Whether it’s ideas of personal or metaphysical philosophy or new and profound imagery, Oshii always has something fascinating to say, and an equally fascinating way to say it.

I think I’ll paraphrase a quote used to compliment The Fountain – something like it’s a film that’s as deeply felt as it is imagined. That’s a beautiful criticism, and for a cerebral, thoughtful science-fiction film, I can think of no higher accolade. Such an accolade can easily be applied to movies like Ghost in the Shell, Innocence, Avalon, Patlabor 2 (though I really didn’t like that one), and even Jin-Roh, though he didn’t direct that one (it’ll still be covered here). Sure, his movies lack the emotional depth of The Fountain, but they make up for it in science-fiction themes generally unique to the director.

His visuals are matched by their ideas, and in this was he’s a director who fills out what I believe to be the height of science-fiction film. If the greatest, most important sci-fi flick is Blade Runner, this is because it makes us think, maybe it scares us into thinking but I like to think it moves us to do it as well, and dazzles us with visuals that spark our imaginations.

That is what I ask of sci-fi filmmakers to do, because I personally find that to be the best, most engaging experience I can have watching a movie. The images and thoughts of Oshii linger in my head long after the Major’s joined the Sea of Information, long after Ash has joined the Sea of Information, long after Batou has… walked off with a dog.

I also got some of his older stuff in the mail, two of which I haven’t even seen. Hopefully they’re good, because that’s what we’re starting with…

After Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, this is one of the first movies of one of Japan’s most well-known filmmakers, Hayao Miyazaki, whose body of work has inspired environmental attitudes, joy in people of all ages, and retrohate. His other celebrated movies are Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, and most recently his Ponyo was released in America with another strong English voice cast. Miyazaki can be approximated as the Japanese equivalent of Pixar – while other anime movie directors like Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon were making movies aimed at an older audience, Miyazaki continued doing family-friendly films that all ages could enjoy.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is no exception; as much as this movie is simply amazing, I think it’s a really important film to show to a growing child. All too often American animated movies that are aimed at children (100% of them) seem to be made just for the laughs, for example every Dreamworks movie, and some of the lesser Pixar flicks. They also rarely tackle the realities of the world, and this is because of an implicit attitude that goes into creating an animated film, that this world should be entirely removed from our own, and that violence and death are better left to the PG-13 animated movies, and the last one of those was… Beowulf? Star War: The Clone Wars? Cool World? These are really rather rare.

There is violence here, and there is death, but these aren’t gratuitous. In fact, everything that happens is deliberate and serves a higher purpose in the whole of the movie, and this should be a good stepping stone for children in their own journeys through early development. It’s a whole movie just as it is wholesome, with heroes and villains and brilliantly realized landscapes and creatures.

The themes dealt with in Nausicaa on the surface are environmental, that we should make peace with nature and live in harmony with the planet, but if Miyazaki never made another Nausicaa-esque picture (he did with Mononoke and countless others) the major theme we’d extrapolate from the environmental ideas is living in harmony with each other. It’s an anti-violence film just as much as it is an environmental one, something of an Avatar, but less overwrought in its message. It’s more subtle, and the characters aren’t simplistic archetypes.

Eponymous heroine Nausicaa in particular is a wonderful character, a perfect role model for kids, and – in this is significant to the themes of the movie – a female. Once again, if Miyazaki never made another movie, one would think that Nausicaa as a female was deliberate, but almost every other one of his movies has a young female hero, and they all look the same. It would seem deliberate here because action movies – never mind science-fiction action movies – rarely feature women in the heroic roles, unless they end up being romantically involved with our manly man hero.

And that really pisses me off.

*spoiler alert*

In Nausicaa, it works particularly well because there is a theme of progression. It tells of a world that exists long after ours, where nature has reclaimed the Earth after the people of the past (us) destroyed it with pollution and war. Because it was the men who make war and instigate women’s rights eras and lead the politics of the world in the past, it will be up to a woman to change the world for the better in the future; essentially, guys, we’ve had our time in the sun, and we failed. This is made most obvious in the prophecy noted early on in the film, where it’s been said that a hero clad in blue will save the planet, and the accompanying picture on the tapestry depicts a male. At the end of the movie, we find that the prophecy has been fulfilled, but it’s a woman clad in blue.

*end spoiler*

Of course, there are other things that make our heroine compelling, and one of my favorite element to her character is that she’s complex. Just as she kills several badguys in a fit of rage, she breaks down and cries; she’s realistic, and in this way we can begin to sympathize with her plight. It doesn’t hurt that the adventure she goes in is equally compelling; in the events of the movie Nausicaa traverses a massive land whose scale is expertly laid out and builds up to creating a weight to the situation by the climactic battle at the end.

We are witness to giant flying snake-like creatures, the mighty Ohm, and of course, the larger-than-life God Warrior, as animated by another famous name in anime, Hideaki Anno (see my Evangelion review for more info on that… dude). The world is also full of natural wonders and even history – there is a grand sense of mythology permeating the story, and it’s also implied that an older civilization came before, but was completely obliterated.

What also makes Nausicaa a great movie to show to the younger is that this is pure storytelling, surprisingly streamlined and made simple. It’s surprising because there is a lot going on in the narrative. We have warring nations, a major threat from the planet itself, conflicting agendas, the aforementioned mythologies and prophecies, and round characters on all sides. The professionalism in the way the story is told can be analogized in the God Warrior. What’s explained isn’t what the warrior is aside from an old world-killer, but what it’s importance is in the narrative. Here we have scifi storytelling not bogged down by extraneous world-building, because that wouldn’t be appropriate in the context of the film.

Not only is the story told well, but the messages are conveyed just the same, though if I do have one complaint, it does have to do with that message. All too often does Nausicaa say “We need to stop with this violence!” and other bits of dialogue repeat to get the same points across. These instances are few, but there is some minor sense of telling but not showing in this way.

If you’re a parent, I highly suggest that this be one of the earlier movies your kid sees – it’s bound to spark imagination just as it will progressive thought in terms of feminism and environmentalist thought, and it’s realistic about death. It’s also a good entry way into the medium of Japanese animation, which is an entity very different from American animation, as we’re sure to see later.

I come to Evangelion as a scifi fan first, but I do have some knowledge of the anime medium. I know enough, just listening to anime podcasts, that it’s not worth discussing the series, as everything’s been said. The people who love it, the people who hate it, whatever. It’s possible that I could offer something new, but I wouldn’t know – I wouldn’t know where to begin with research on what people have to say, I know there’s so much. Evangelion is the story of how interesting premises can become subverted by messily constructed story and characters.

 

 

What we have here with Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone, which I’ll call Evangelion from now on, is a shorthand version of the famous Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the most popular shows from Japan ever, right up there with Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, and Naruto. Evangelion the movie is a remake of some portion of the series with the same story and characters, but updated visuals. Because it’s the first in a proposed trilogy, it’s a technically incomplete story.

That’s certainly the least of its problems in terms of plot. This is an incredibly poorly constructed story; you’d think with all these various releases and revisions of the same story, there’d be a refined, decent version. But as far as I can tell, this movie begins in media res, and continues through a terribly paced and dull 1 hour and 41 minutes. I figure though I shouldn’t harp too much on the story, as it is a compressed version, and since I haven’t seen the original series, I cannot blame the movie entirely for sucking in the story department. It’s very possible that if I watched the compressed Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex movies without seeing the series, I’d feel the same way.

But I do know for certain that the characters in the movie are all awful. While only versed in the various pieces of Anime Bullshit through sources such as Fast Karate for the Gentleman and Anime World Order, for example – superdeformation, incest, gothic lolitas (?) – I did see some stupid pedo-shit, like the 14 year old girl nudity. There’s one instance of an entire face getting red from embarassment, which I’ve seen before in Pokemon and stuff. So this is sort of the level of cool we’re working with – Shinji and the gang are a real smooth bunch.

The girl who picks him up and makes him pilot the synthetic biomech, the Eva Unit 1, whose name is Katsuragi, which I only half remember because it reminds me of Kusanagi, acts like she’s 12 years old and gets way too excited to be eating dinner with an actual 12 year old kid. The scene where she’s drinking beer and pitching the idea of hanging out to Shinji is embarassing but only characteristic of the rest of the movie. Then there’s the father, AKA Douch McDoucheDoogalson. It’s probably within the artistic intent to make all the characters assholes, but that makes it all the more difficult to appreciate their plight. It’s a catch-22 for sure. But just look at Cowboy Bebop, the quintessential ‘cool’ anime. Faye is a backstabbing, whiny, lazy character, but that bit of pathos in her story was surprisingly poigniant – to me, at least. And she’s bearable because she’s one of four characters, two of which are totally sweet. Who’s totally sweet in Evangelion? Eva Unit 1, and he’s hardly a round character.

I recall that in the Akira Episode of Dreck Fiction: The Original Series, as it shall heretoafter be referred to as, I said that I didn’t understand anime fandom. Evangelion has by example taught me, or rather reinforced, because I already knew why anime was popular – I was just being stupid. Evangelion made me realize why anime was cool, because of all the things it almost does. Anime is cool because of movement and designs. There is some of that in this movie, especially in the design, but it’s always minimized by another problem. In fact, there are actually two things that were interesting. The first and foremost is the mech designs. They’re so spindly and weird, I love it. Eva Unit 1 is an awesome thing, and even though we saw little of Eva Unit 0, it was similar looking. They do look more like monsters than robots; they’re like Kaiju on Weight Watchers. The second thing is the city of Tokyo-3, which is militarized in every sense. I like how the buildings flip down and cannons appear everywhere – it’s like an automated battlefield.

Throughout the course of the film, our hero Shinji battles with three Angels, each decreasing in visual coolness. The plot is set up so that each time an Angel attacks it’s a big event of coercing Shinji, mobilizing, launching, and fighting the Angel. For some reason there’s always a countdown toward the end of the fight, as though we need something to tell us in the most basic manner that this is exciting – it’s the equivalent of having a laugh track in your unfunny sitcom. We’re running out of time! But anyway, everything in between is gag-inducing. Whether it’s the naked 14 year old sequence alluded to earlier, or the depressed antics of the hero, none of it is compelling, meaningful, interesting, or anything that generally makes a scene good.

Of course the biggest complaint I have about the movie is a combination of the two previous complaints. I talked about Katsuragi and the father, and how there’s also a naked 14 year old named Rei, who’s a complete blank slate (compelling character!), but then there’s Shinji. If Wikipedia.org is to be believed, this character is a direct reflection of the director Hideaki Anno. He was a pretty depressed dude, and thought about the otaku lifestyle as a form of social retardation. So Shinji is depressed and a social outcast.

Apparently Evangelion was meant to be postmodern, with commentary on this lifestyle. It’s very, very apparent in dialogue that the main theme of the film is not to run away from your problems, and as a premise, this is interesting. But remember what I said about premises and this movie. Disregarding the fact that the whole giant robot thing could be dumped and the not run away from your problems theme could be paired with anything else, the delivery of the ideas within the theme is a product of one terrible script.

And this is a problem that traces right back to Shinji. He’s so freaking down on himself that he becomes downright inexplicable and overall very annoying. It kind of reminds me of Frodo in the Rings movies, where you’re just yelling at him to toss the ring or be nice to Sam but in that case he was being a douche because of the ring; there was internal logic, which isn’t necessarily always warranted in a fantasy world, so good on them I guess. But there are scenes and scenes where Shinji hesitates or mopes around and you just want to reach into the screen and grab him by the collar like Katsuragi did. If only Kusanagi did, she would’ve popped his head right off. Now that would have been stellar anime.

Even if you did buy into the character and was right there with him, all asking himself why me, why me and shit, I don’t believe you’d make it to the end. He repeats himself so many times he’s essentially defined by his unhappiness in being a kid soldier. That’s sensical, I mean, I wouldn’t want to be a kid soldier, unless of course piloting a giant robot was involved, in which case sign me – oh wait, they’re constrained by power cords. The hell?

I tired very quickly of his problems. His motivations were also strange, as he is swept into this unexplained conflict and forced to do something just because. The only reason we have children saving the world is because it’s their destiny. Goddamn man, I’m really sick of no-good reasons for no-good things. I hate kids in movies so much, and when you give me no reason why they’re there, I just can’t handle it.

I haven’t the slightest idea why this series is as popular as it is, if this movie is any indication of the other pieces of the media franchise. How could the same person say they liked Cowboy Bebop and turn around and say they like Evangelion? That’s like if I said yeah Jaws was pretty good, but I’m more partial to Shark Attack 3: Magalodon. The shark was bigger in that movie.

There are the religious symbols, which could translate as pretenses to a higher plane of intellect if misinterpreted. The creators have noted that the laser crosses and giant-alien crucifixions are only there because they look cool, so I don’t really see the intellect in that, unless you have a Twilight situation where most likely the books and movies are terrible, but they’re brilliant in the sense that they perfectly target and manipulate a willing and waiting audience. I don’t think that the books can be considered literature, but the fans will have you think different, for sure. Anime fans are like video-game fans – the game journalists and fans pissed themselves over Heavy Rain and BioShock because they, theoretically, would bring their medium to a higher level of consideration among the general populace. If Evangelion is as smart as the fans want it to be, then that’s a good thing to them.

I guess it would be like if Mamoru Oshii or Shirow came in and said that Ghost in the Shell was actually about space cows traveling through time and none of the existentialism was a legitimate expression of real ideas – pretty dissapointing. But when you think about it, what do laser crosses have to do thematically with anything going on? What does it say about anything?

I’m never one to complain about English dubs, because subtitles are appropriate here, and dubs are appropriate here. It’s an argument I don’t care about. But this dub was not very good. Watching a few bits of anime I’ve come to actually recognize a few actors, and some who I consider to be pretty good, like the cast of Stand Alone Complex, and the guy who played Kuze, who was Gemma in Ninja Scroll and the ponytail guy from Sky Blue. Everyone in this show was just a whiny bunch and I didn’t recognize anyone. But now I have to ask myself – were they bad actors, or was the script just that bad that it reached out and sucked the lifeforce out of them? In better words, was it just a script that made them seem bad?

How I managed to write so much about this I am still dumbfounded. Here’s some more: I’ve heard this series described as a giant monster show, and apparently the Evas are actually cyborgs anyway, so that’s kind of like a monster. All the hallmarks of Kaiju movies are there – millions of bullets and tank fire hit the monster, but nothing is as effective as the other monster. But this is like one of those bad Godzilla movies, where the fight is like five minutes long. The only fight that’s worth a damn in Evangelion is the first, and it’s not that good. Mostly because the sounds that come from the Eva Unit 1 were and irritating. Don’t rent this.

And now for the last of my conclusions: the scene that sums up the entirety of Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone occurs during the second battle where Shinji runs out of Gatling Gun ammo and the guys underground supply him an Assault Rifle, a huge Shinji Aramaki-esque gun design that’s totally sweet and you’d totally take if you were a giant robot pilot. But he doesn’t. And therein lies the key to which I have unlocked why this movie did not work for me on the chief level – the split between audience and character is too great. We want him to do so many things that he doesn’t, it’s like there’s an anticlimax every second. Ultimately, this movie is just like a weak version of Appleseed (2004). In Appleseed, you have action scenes and you have non-action scenes. The action scenes are damn good. The non-action scenes are grating and pretentious. Evangelion doesn’t even have good action scenes. Add on top of that that Appleseed isn’t even that good a movie.

I got tired of looking at those robots... I much prefer the designs of Yoji Shinkawa, though my stupid PS3 isn't able to play Zone of the Enders 2...

Blade Runner is a film whose echo can still be felt today. Bubblegum Crisis, Metal Gear Solid, Minority Report, AI, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Dark City, Natural City, Sky Blue, even Star Wars – they all take visual cues from the movie in some way, or in the case of Natural City, an entire plot and philosophy! I figure I’ll explore the movies and shows and video-games that were affected by Blade Runner before talking about Blade Runner, so that it is made known the magnitude of the film we’re dealing with…

One day, some guy in Japan saw Blade Runner and misinterpreted a lot of it. He got the visuals though, and some of the names of things. It was probably a fan sub. Anyway, he got to work, and Bubblegum Crisis was born.

There are many different spin-off series of the 8-episode OVA that I saw (through YouTube.com, no less) and I don’t know if it’s based on a manga or not. As kind of an okay-to-averange anime fan, I’m not really the best resource for these things anyway. While the original series is heavily informed by the look, the subject, and the style of Blade Runner, apparently later iterations like The AD Police mix Ghost in the Shell and Robocop in.

Add on top of that callouts to Battlestar Galactica and it’s almost unbelievable that modern Internet dorks didn’t made this, but real professionals. It’s so dangerously close to fan fiction – how could it carry such a name for itself? There’s a few reasons for that.

For starters, it’s pretty good. For a show about robot suits and robots, it’s decently entertaining, though I don’t know how much of that I have to owe to Fast Karate for the Gentleman bumping up the entertainment value by commenting on every single helicopter incident (all the helicopter pilots in the show, every episode, say “I’m going in for a closer look,” which heralds their deaths by robot laser). It’s also got a very naive mentality to it, something uncommon considering its subgenre. It exists in a world where the super-powered robot apocalypse is flanked by 80’s workout music and heroes who have a front as lengerie store owners.

80’s is probably the key word there. Just like the great films of our time, Commando, Total Recall, Die Hard, Robocop, Predator Bubblegum Crisis has that action movie feel because it combines good-to-gooder fight scenes with shenanigans of all varieties, totally forgoing anything that makes other better known cyberpunk anime good – intelligence, seriousness (that’s subjective of course). There are so many ridiculous things that happen in this show, it’s hard to believe that somewhere among the inspirations was a story by Philip K. Dick, arguably the hardcorest science-fiction author.

Bubblgeum Crisis, so named for the idea that the city (MegaTokyo) is on edge like a bubblegum bubble about to pop, transplants the Blade Runner look and some of the ideas into a Streets of Fire/Metropolis world where robots, created by the evil, evil, evil Genom Corporation, run rampant frequently, and it’s up to the vigilante, all-female, robot-suit clad squad known as the Knight Sabers to fight them!

What? I swear – Blade Runner the anime doesn’t do this show justice. For example, exploring any part of the show to any degree of depth as you would Blade Runner reveals some inconsistencies; how exactly do the Knight Sabers afford the most expensive most powerful armor suits on the planet?

And how are they vigilantes, you might ask, if they only fight robots, like Rick Deckard? Well in each episode someone who was ‘friends’ with our main character Priss (as opposed to Pris) gets killed in some way by Genom, and it’s up to the Knight Sabers to fight them! It seems to be revenge every episode, so I suppose that vengeance fueled their creation? Damn bad luck if they’re still in operation… Stop making friends, or confusing the word ‘friend,’ with ‘barely-an-acquaintence…’

The reason I say that the Japanese guy behind this (yeah I’m sure it was just one guy) misinterpreted Blade Runner is because the parallel is imperfect. Yes the cityscape is very derivative in Bubblegum Crisis, but I don’t see the connection with Genom to Tyrell, for example. Tyrell is amoral, not immoral. Genom wants to destroy the world with robots, and that’s why heroes have to fight them. Why the company is popular I don’t know. Tyrell the man didn’t anticipate Roy Batty and the Replicants, and is only out to make a whole lot of money.

But that’s whatever. Bubblegum Crisis doesn’t align with Blade Runner entirely because there’s no good reason it should (see: Natural City). It was just a good idea – add rocknroll, transforming motorcycles and the clichest villains ever and you have Bubblegum Crisis – check it.

For More on Blade Runner, check out The Blade Runner Directory

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