Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt: Trippy

Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt is a 1995 film brought to us by our old friends at Studio Hibari, whom you may recall from their work on Kashimashi & Venus Versus Virus. So, how do these folks handle a children’s film and is it going to be any better than their track record would indicate? Let’s give it a shot and delve in.

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Story:

Papadoll has gone missing. His smallest human, Meeko, is convinced that he’s been kidnapped by aliens but her brother, Toriyasu, doesn’t take her seriously. In fact, the little brat doesn’t seem to care saying that Papadoll just lay about all day anyway. That’s when Meeko notices a strange cat observing them. That night, three strange cats burst into their room, wanting to take Toriyasu away. Meeko insists on going along.

The big flaw with the film on a narrative level is that it’s paced pretty awkwardly. You get a long, kind of boring scene where the characters plan their next move intermixed with scenes of what the antagonists are doing and ending with an action sequence that’s welcome, at first, but just drags after a while And the film is barely an hour and a quarter long so the way the scenes still manage to drag, even if just a bit, is kind of a big deal.

On the positive side, the concept behind this is fairly creative. I also do like that it makes a big theme of Toriyasu being forced to come to terms with his own behaviour and how it’s contributed to the problem. There aren’t many works of children’s media that demand that level of self-reflection.

Characters:

The characters vary a bit as well. Some of the dynamics come across as contrived and don’t work very well. The whole conflict turned into a kind of creepily close respect between Toriyasu & ChuChu being the prime example. A lot of the side characters are also pretty one-note. However, I do have to give the film some credit. Toriyasu’s character arc works quite well. The antagonist, Buburina, is pretty terrible but she’s not just the purely evil villain you get in a lot of children’s media. She does have redeeming qualities. She may not be at the level of a Ghibli villain, but it does give her some dimension.

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Art:

The art also varies. One the negative side, the character designs don’t look very good. That being said, a lot of the backgrounds are creative and interesting. The whole world of Banipal Witt looks like a drug-induced hallucination. It’s almost like Hibari took visual inspiration from Apple Films’ opus, Yellow Submarine. It’s a very strange looking world, but one with a lot of atmosphere. The film’s action scenes also work quite nicely.

Sound:

The cast is pretty decent. Hiroaki Hori, Sasaki Mirai & Hidaka Noriko all do quite well. Saegusa Shigeaki handles the music and it works nicely enough.

Ho-yay:

Don’t expect any. To be fair, an emphasis on romance really wouldn’t work for the film in general.

Final Thoughts:

Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt was actually pretty enjoyable. Yes, it could have been better, particularly in some areas. However, it’s also creative and interesting enough in its own right. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Tomorrow I’ll end this year’s film festival week with a look at Mononoke Hime.

Hanare Toride no Yonna: Stupid, but at least short.

Hanare Toride no Yonna is a CGI film from CoMix Wave Films. You may remember them from Hoshi wo ou Kodomo & Byousoku 5 Centimeter. This film was released in 2006. So, how does it hold up compared to the other CoMix Wave Films productions I’ve seen? Let’s check it out and see.

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Story:

We open with a brother and sister going about their daily lives. Then a strange boy comes by, sees the sister and scarpers. We cut to an indeterminate amount of time later when the siblings are living together in a fortress without anyone else nearby and a young man is trying to break in and it might seem like I’m skipping crucial plot details, but that’s exactly how the information is presented to us.

Therein lies the first major flaw of the series. The story is all over the place. While you do eventually gather why the siblings are on their own, it gets thrown at you far later than it should be and in a stilted exposition dump. Which is a general problem with the dialogue, actually. Nothing sounds natural. The pacing is also pretty bad with the story rushing through things that need more time and wasting time on random scenes where Yonna interacts with little imps.

Characters:

The biggest issue with the characters in this film is that their motivations are vague, ill-defined and don’t really make that much sense. Stan’s motivation seems to be wanting what’s best for his sister, which would make sense, but he also doesn’t seem to give a shit what she thinks or has to say. Yonna has a vague “wanting more” motivation but she somehow needs someone else to taker her away from solitude instead of just talking to her brother. Garuda starts out doing a mission but decides to help Yonna for no adequately explored reason. So, ultimately, you get motivations that are both one-dimensional and nonsensical.

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Art:

The art in this looks pretty bad. It’s not the first time I’ve reviewed something with bad CGI animation and I doubt it’ll be the last. The big issues are with the movements, which look janky and awkward and with the facial expressions, which largely look like “dull surprise.”

Sound:

The acting and music aren’t bad. They aren’t good, but there’s also not a lot that’s wrong with them. About the worst I can say is that Mitsuhashi Kanako & Kenn both under-act a bit.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t much in terms of romance at all.

Final Thoughts:

Hanare Toride no Yonna is a pretty bad film. The story is nonsense. The characters don’t have anything to them. The artwork looks terrible and the sound is weak. That being said, it isn’t one of the worst things I’ve ever reviewed. It’s mainly just kind of stupid and boring. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Tomorrow I’ll continue film festival week with Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt.

Magic Tree House: The Tree House’s Chameleon Circuit doesn’t work

Magic Tree House is an American fantasy series by Mary Pope Osborne. The books have done very well, having been translated into over thirty languages. In 2011, Ajia-do animation works produced the first film based on the series. I’ll be completely honest, I haven’t read these books. I’m not going to know if the film version stays true to the original. I’ll be looking purely at how well it stands on its own. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Magic Tree House.

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Story:

We open with a sorceress helping some children in a library. Once they’re on their way out she’s attacked by a mysterious wizard and turned into a mouse. We cut to a more recognisable world where our heroes, Jack & Annie experience an incident at school involving chasing a frog. Apparently their teachers are very bad at maintaining order. On their way home, the two stumble across a tree house filled with books that can take them through time and space based on where they want to go from the books. They discover that there are four hidden medallions that they can find to make a miracle happen. While in pursuit of the second they encounter Morgan Le Fay, who tells them of her troubles and enlists their aid. Can they find the medallions and return Morgan’s powers?

The big failing of the narrative is that their visits to the various locations while they’re searching for the medallions aren’t that interesting. Most of them involve the kids wandering around, locating the medallion and getting chased by something. It gets pretty repetitive for a film that doesn’t even run for two hours. There’s also a lot of bluster surrounding whether or not Jack will play Romeo in a play but there’s no reason to get invested in it since there are no real stakes to whether or not he does. Really, the whole thing amounts to a kind of heavy-handed illustration of his whole character arc and how he’s learning to be more adventurous. There’s also the whole de-powering and transformation of Morgan that kick off the adventure. The most intriguing narrative aspect throughout is wondering why. When the answer does come out it’s a big let-down.

That being said, the whole concept is a good one. The disparate settings are also interesting, even though most of them follow the same basic formula.

Characters:

The cast doesn’t have that much to them. Annie is adventurous. Her brother is more reserved and bookish. They’re character types we’ve seen before but there’s nothing really wrong with the portrayals here.

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Art:

The artwork is a bit mixed. I’ll use the dinosaur setting as the big example. When they travel to the world of dinosaurs the flora looks good, the scope is grand and the dinosaurs themselves look like they didn’t have much effort put into them. Even ignoring the fact that they forgot the feathers, the dinosaurs have blank looks and just look like they were drawn in five minutes. The same holds up throughout the film. You have some stuff that’s nicely detailed and others where the art team doesn’t seem to have tried.

Sound:

The acting is perfectly passable. The kids are voiced by Ashida Mana & Kitagawa Keiko. They aren’t the best performances but there’s also nothing really wrong with them. I could say the same basic thing about the music. It’s fine.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any, nor would I expect a children’s film to have any.

Final Thoughts:

That’s Magic Tree House. How does it hold up? Well, I can’t call it a good film. There are much better out there, including films made for children. That being said, I also wouldn’t call it bad. In terms of kids’ films it’s pretty average. While it has an interesting concept and the visuals can look nice at times, the story is also kind of dull. The characters are over-used tropes and there are just a lot of points where they decided not to bother putting in much effort. My final rating is going to be a 5/10. Tomorrow I’ll continue film festival week with Hanare Toride no Yonna.

Love Live: The School Idol Film- μ’s Takes Manhattan

I’ve talked about the first two series of Love Live. In both cases the results were fairly positive and I rather enjoyed the experience. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “but you’re literally the biggest killjoy in existence, you aren’t allowed to like things.” I’m sorry, but that accusation is still hilarious to me. Putting that aside, the second series of Love Live ended with Hanayo getting a message and running off excitedly, followed by the other members of μ’s. This film, released last year, follows that plot thread. So, does it lead somewhere interesting or will this be a waste of our time? Let’s look. 

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Story:

We open with the members of μ’s learning that the next love live competition is going to have a larger venue than any before. With plans for it to be held at the Akiba Dome. In order to make those plans come to fruition, they’re asked to go overseas as the winners of the last competition and gather interest. In the process, they find themselves riding a sudden wave of popularity, forcing them to question whether they really want to disband. 

The biggest weakness of the film is that a lot of the main conflict is based on retreading through the ending of the second series and the questions the girls have to ask themselves do lose some of their impact. 

That being said, overall, the film works quite well. The pacing is well done. The charm and fun of the series are very much present. Even the retreading does kind of work, given that there’s a strong impetus for them to have second thoughts. 

Characters:

The cast doesn’t develop all that much beyond where they were in the series proper. Which makes some sense, given that the film takes place directly after. The film’s strong suit lies in taking these familiar characters and putting them in a new situation. Which allows some new facets to emerge for their characters and enables some strong interactions among them. 

Art:

The artwork looks a lot like the artwork from the series.Which isn’t a bad thing by any stretch. the dancing and musical numbers are vibrant, interesting and very nicely done. The characters look good, particularly when it comes to their costuming, and the backgrounds are nicely detailed. 

Sound:

I can’t complain about the sound. The cast is made up of excellent singers who are also strong actresses. The sound track is as magnificent as you’d expect based on the series. 

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Ho-yay:

The film doesn’t include les-yay to the extent that the series does, probably because they don’t have as much time. However, they still have a good amount. Hanayo & Rin get a romantic moment. Niko gets seemingly jealous over seeing Maki act close to another girl. Niko, Honoka & Eri share a bed in the Honeymoon suite and there’s just a lot of general intimacy among the girls. 

Final Thoughts:

Love Live: The School Idol Film is about what you’d expect. It’s a charming film with endearing characters, superb acting and music and ample amounts of les-yay. I would say that it’s well worth the watch. As such my final rating is going to be an 8/10. Tomorrow, I’ll look at something where I don’t have a good idea of what I can expect. I’ll be looking at Magic Tree House

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children- The Angel’s Return

Final Fantasy VII might just be the most influential instalment in the entire FF franchise. It’s not my personal favourite and the polygonal graphics certainly don’t hold up well compared to most of the other instalments, but it did have an epic story with a grand scale and some fantastic characters. Naturally, Square-Enix decided to take advantage of the game’s legacy with a prequel game, a sequel game and some film/OVA adaptations. Most of which were not good. This brings us to Advent Children, quite possibly the best received of all of those tie-ins. The film came out in 2005 with a slightly longer, complete version coming out in 2009. We’ll be looking at the complete version and asking a simple question. Does it hold up?

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Story:

Two years after the events of VII, a strange disease called Geostigma is decimating the populace. With that to be concerned about, Rufus Shinra, who wasn’t quite dead, is approached by three silver-haired pretty boys clad in leather and looking for their mother. These are Kadaj, Loz & Yazoo, they call themselves remnants and are after Jenova. Obvious conclusion is obvious. With things starting to move elsewhere Cloud has gone missing due to his own Geostigma affliction.

The biggest issue with this film is just the ending. Everything wraps up far too nicely and easily where the narrative would have really benefited from a more bitter-sweet conclusion. It’s like they’re afraid to take some risks which is strange given that the source material had plenty of sad and downright depressing moments that added to its gravitas.

That being said, there are plenty of strong moments to Advent Children. The build up and pacing are both fantastic. What the story is building up to is pretty obvious, but it’s also compelling enough that you want to see the whole thing unfold. I will also give it credit for holding up pretty well as a sequel. It uses those elements that were already a part of the story and expands on them.

Characters:

The main cast of VII returns, including Aerith & Zack who make their appearances in spirit form. They don’t have the same level of development as they did in VII, since that was a three disc game and this is a film that runs for less than two hours. That being said, they’re all recognisable and there are some strong character arcs. I will also give them credit for using Cait Sith just enough to get his character across but not enough for him to get to be a nuisance. Cloud in particular has an arc that centres around him learning to rely on his compatriots instead of trying to shoulder everything. The culmination of the whole thing comes up during an action sequence, but it actually works really well. The minor problem with the characters comes in the form of a group of small children. They show up, they have Geostigma and we’re supposed to feel sorry for them. Which doesn’t really work. I don’t know anything about these kids nor am I ever given a compelling reason to care. That being said, there are some strong character moments involving Marlene. So, you can’t say that having the children was a complete waste. 

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Art:

The animation in this is absolutely fantastic. The character designs are nicely upgraded. The action sequences are amazing. The game’s world comes across as lively and vivid, with large crowds and sprawling landscapes.

Sound:

It had to be quite the challenge to take characters this iconic and choose just the right actors for them. Fortunately, Square Enix did a pretty stellar job in that department. Sakurai Takahiro, the voice of Rockman X & Kururugi Suzaku, is fantastic as Cloud Strife. Morikawa Toshiyuki gives a strong performance as the One-winged angel himself. Really, there are no bad performances in this. The music is superb, including an excellent rendition of the one-winged angel theme.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any in this.

Final Thoughts:

Advent Children holds up remarkably well, actually. That being said, it’s really for fans of the game. Especially since the character investment relies heavily on you already knowing Cloud, Tifa and the others. You can get the gist of the characters and understand what’s happening without having played the game, but there’s not much reason to be invested in it. For FF VII fans, it’s an opportunity to see the characters you know and love in a new adventure with a compelling story in its own right. As well as possessing music, voice acting and artwork that are all top-notch. My final rating is going to stand at an 8/10. Tomorrow I’ll forge ahead with film festival week with a review of Love Live: The School Idol film.

Kara no Kyoukai Mirai Fukuin

This feels like the end of an era. So far, every film festival week I’ve done has featured the Kara no Kyoukai franchise. But this is the last of the films, not including the 3D remake of the first film. I’m not going to review that one because 3D is a cheap gimmick and the first film was awful. So, unless they fixed all of the plot problems it’s really not worth bothering with it. That being said, let’s look at the eighth and final film in the franchise to see how it holds up. 

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Story:

We open with Shiki stalking through a parking garage, chasing a bomber. It quickly cuts to a young lady who can see the future. She just so happens to encounter Mikiya and enlists his help in stopping a man from getting into an accident that will kill him. The story from there basically follows two main narrative paths, both about people with precognitive abilities.

The biggest flaw with the film is simply when it’s set. The bulk of it clearly takes place before the seventh film, which really weakens the tension since we know how things are going to basically play out. Aside from that, Mikiya’s scenes aren’t that interesting. He just spends the bulk of his time talking with the young lady. 

That being said, Shiki’s part of the story still manages to be compelling, in spite of you knowing how it’s going to end. The way they establish the different types of precognition is also quite interesting, albeit the execution could have been better. The action is quite strongly done as well. 

Characters:

The cast varies a bit. The established characters, Shiki, Mikiya & Touko have a strong sense of personality. The main antagonist, Mitsuru, is kind of interesting, but could have been developed better. Shizune isn’t very interesting. They also add in young Mana. She’s the same type of character as Chibi-Usa from Sailor Moon except with not as much going for her. KnK1.png

Art: 

I have to give Ufotable full credit here. The artwork and animation are both strongly done with detailed backgrounds and some tense action sequences. Mirai Fukuin is easily on par with the best of the films in that department. 

Sound:

This is another aspect where I have to give them credit. There are a lot of really good actors in this. Suzumura Kenichi, Sakamoto Maaya & Honda Takako make their triumphant returns. Ishida Akira makes his appearance as the antagonist and he’s quite brilliant at it. That being said, the people who are playing less interesting characters don’t give their best performances. To be fair, both Kanemoto Hisako & Iguchi Yuka are good actresses. This is just a case where the characters they’re playing don’t demand much from them. The music is nicely done. I can’t fault Kajiura Yuki’s work on that. 

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any in this film. 

Final Thoughts:

Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin has some aspects that do weaken it. That being said, it’s a really solid film overall and there’s plenty in it that works really nicely. It isn’t the best in the franchise, but it’s worth watching. My final rating is going to be a solid 7/10. If you like the franchise just fine, consider checking it out. Tomorrow I’ll continue this year’s film festival week with Advent Children

300th Review: Of this one, there’s nothing Askew

Here we are, three hundred anime reviews, not counting those few manga ones I’ve done. Those of you who are more familiar with my reviews are probably expecting something Sailor Moon related just because the hundredth and two hundredth reviews were both Sailor Moon series and it would be strange if this wasn’t one. You are, of course, absolutely right. In keeping with that tradition, I’m going to talk about Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S, the third anime series to come to light. It ran from 94 to 95, but I digress. In the first series we saw the sailor soldiers defeat Queen Beryl & the dark kingdom, sacrificing themselves in the process. In the second series, their reborn bodies regained their memories and they bid farewell to their normal lives, which was especially difficult for Usagi given her finding ordinary life most endearing. They fought a pair of aliens and their Hell Tree and then proceeded to take on the challenge of the Black Moon clan with the help of ChibiUsa, the most annoying character in the series and Usagi’s future child who didn’t even have the decency to time travel in a police box or something else interesting. So, let’s dive in and see what new adventure awaits us. I’m sure there will be much to discuss.

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Story:

We open with a new threat. One that gives our heroines a cold sweat. They call themselves the Death Busters. Emerging from deep dimensional clusters. At the same time new soldiers appear. Representing a new era, we have Uranus and Neptune, both quite queer. I don’t mean that in any kind of demeaning sense. So please don’t take offence. It’s quite literally true. These girls quickly cause yuri to ensue. The Death Busters are seeking talismans for reasons unknown. The Sailor Soldiers seek to make them atone. First, however, they must discover the talisman’s locale. As well as Uranus and Neptune’s motivations and rationale. Can they stop these villain from stealing the crystals of people’s hearts? What’s the best way to bring down these upstarts?

There’s only one real narrative failing. At times the story seems to be flailing. Rather than pushing forward and progressing with the story. Fighting further monsters gives them glory. In all fairness, filler episodes are nothing new. The positive side to it is that they allow the characters to develop their dynamics without much ado.

On to more positive aspects. The narrative works in many respects. The battle against the Busters has some high tension. The whole conflict with Uranus and Neptune, revolving around differences in outlook, adds dimension. This is also the funniest the series has ever been. With plenty of humorous episodes and many a comedic scene. There’s also some strong romance. Not betwixt Mamoru and Usagi, they’ve already blown their chance. The romance between Uranus and Neptune is really strong. You can tell that together they belong. There’s also a budding romance when Hotaru and Chibi-Usa meet. It’s really very sweet. The climactic battle is very intense. Containing several factors for suspense. It makes for quite interesting viewing. Seeing the plans that have been built up and the attempts at their undoing.

Characters:

The cast in this works really well. Adding Haruka, Michiru & Hotaru really helps it excel. The three all get fleshed out back stories. Which help elevate them above simple categories. The villains are also quite interesting, I must profess. The way they’re written has finesse. Like the other villains we’ve seen, they’re quite sympathetic. They aren’t just evil for the evils and unapologetic. You actually feel for them and hope to see them mend their ways. Before they find themselves going out in a blaze. Our favourite soldiers all make a triumphant return. Complete with more facets still for us to learn. I also have to admit that Chibi-Usa is vastly improved. With her more annoying attributes from the last series virtually removed. The character dynamics are very strong. Especially given that the cast has become a veritable throng.

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Art:

The artwork in this looks quite dated. It’s not bad but it’s also not to be venerated. It has the usual over-used stock footage attacks. It also spends too much time with the transformations and those are facts. That being said, the backgrounds can look pretty nice. The series also has some more active action sequences that help add spice. All things considered, it all looks decent enough. Albeit it can be a bit rough.

Sound:

The series brings back its already stellar cast. With additions for the new characters amassed. Ogata Megumi, Minaguchi Yuko & Katsuki Masako all make their appearance. Fitting in with perfect adherence. All the acting is quite terrific. With many actresses prolific. The music was composed by Arisawa Takanori and it’s really good. Helping convey the mood and build the atmosphere as it should.

Ho-yay:

S has more yuri than the first two series of Sailor Moon. In that area,, the addition of Haruka & Michiru is quite the boon. These two have les-yay with all five main sailor soldiers, Haruka especially. There’s even a scene where Ami, Rei, Makoto & Minako compete over which of them will dance with her when she’s back from dancing with Usagi, freshly. That being said, it’s their dynamic together that’s truly a sight to behold. It just gets cuter as we watch it unfold. We also get Chibi-Usa and Hotaru’s relationship. It’s certainly no stranger to skin-ship. There’s also a nice little scene where Ami gets jealous seeing Rei with another girl. Only to have really obvious relief when she discovers that it was perfectly innocent and not a romantic whirl.

Final Thoughts:

That’s it for Sailor Moon S, how does it hold up? Well, it’s quite strong in terms of set-up. The characters get fleshed out and developed well. Their relationships are certainly swell. The artwork holds up the least. The rest of the attributes are surprisingly uncreased. Of the three I’ve looked at so far, I’d say this is the best. Being a definitive cut above the rest. In terms of rating, a 9/10 is how I’d rate it. Although I’m sure, like the first series, the English dub is shit. Starting this Sunday I’ll go into this year’s film festival week since it seems like good timing. Although those reviews will be sans the rhyming. I’ll start with Kara no Kyoukai Mirai Fukuin since starting with a KnK film has become a habit. So let’s see what’s in store for the world they inhabit. Thanks for sticking with me for three hundred reviews. I hope my words have helped amuse.