Tag Archives: Anime

Yousei Hime Ren: A Headache

Yousei Hime Ren is a short OVA from the mid 90s. Dangun Pictures did the animation for this. And it’s not exactly a well known OVA but short, comedic OVAs tend to be either really good or really terrible. So, let’s take a gamble and check it out.

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Story:

We follow a young self-proclaimed treasure hunter named Gou as he follows the universe’s most random treasure maps to try and find treasures. Naturally, he leaves devastation in his wake.  He escapes one outing, nearly falls to his death and encounters a naked fairy named Ren. Why is she naked? Because she was doing a Princess Sally cosplay and her boots fell off while she was flying. Or because this was designed for fourteen year olds who can’t get a hold of actual porn.

That’s pretty much the entirety of this OVA. Gou goes somewhere to try and find treasure, some sort of mechanical device gets activated and Gou manages to wreck it by accident. Let’s discuss the big problem with the humour. The bulk of it is based around characters shouting, failing at basic communication and then something breaking in a contrived, over the top way. And characters shouting while failing at actually conveying anything isn’t funny. It’s just really, really, really annoying. You can have loud acting and still make it work. Galaxy Angel did. So did Muteki Kanban Musume. But they had actual jokes.

You want to know how to be funny with your dialogue, loud or otherwise? Clever word play, jokes with a strong use of comedic timing and just generally giving a shit about comedy. none of which are present here. It’s like Big Bum Bim just drained all the comedy and replaced it with obnoxiousness. A complex contraption falling apart for absurd reasons can be funny, but it’s not executed well in this series. So, it isn’t.

Characters:

Gou might be one of the worst comedic leads to watch. He’s nothing but a constant stream of annoying prattle. The best part of the OVA are those few scenes where someone hits him. Which should happen considerably more often. He actually reminds me of the portrayal of Sonic in that one cartoon where he does nothing but shit Looney Tune style bits to the robot chicken and drill handed bloke. Except that was marginally more tolerable. Mari is just the typical “she has a crush but the guy she’s interested in is clueless, has no redeeming qualities and will probably die of an opium overdose when he’s twenty two.” Ren is just boring. The fairy who follows her, Leen, is just a tsundere. Gou’s many identical older sisters are just vaguely ambitious strong women. And there aren’t any compelling characters to be found. There aren’t even any with vague shticks that are funny once.

Art:

Like many poor excuses for comedies, Yousei Hime Ren tries to make up for its lack of quality comedic content by having overblown fan service. Quite literally every major female character in this is shown nude at some point. Both fairies, Gou’s older sister (they all look alike so the specific one doesn’t matter) & Mari. So, if you really want some tacky fan-service, there you go. Aside from that, the art is pretty bad. It’s lazy, they have no good visual gags and there’s just nothing noteworthy about it.

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Sound:

Dangun did get some solid actors. They have Hisakawa Aya in this and Yamadera Kouichi. Both fine actors who have portrayed much better characters in anime like Sailor Moon or Cowboy Bebop. sadly, if you only heard them in this you would probably not get the impression that they’re good at what they do. You would probably get the impression that they’re kind of shit because the direction in this calls for everybody cranking up the volume, shouting out their words quickly and exaggerating like all hell. Because if you don’t have a headache from watching this, they’ve failed their purpose in making it. That’s right, this is actually a promotion to sell more aspirin. They just made it as loud and annoying as possible so you would need some. The music might be the best element of the entire work and it’s sub-par, at best.

Ho-yay:

Leen is tsundere for Ren, and snogs her at one point with no apparent provocation. Luckily for her, Ren doesn’t seem to mind and will not be filing charges.

Final Thoughts:

Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me that this OVA didn’t get enough of a positive response for them to put out a third episode. It’s loud, obnoxious, painfully unfunny and just a bad experience. It may not be the worst comedy of all time, but it’s down there  in the excrement. I give it a 2/10. Next week Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san. Which, realistically, will almost certainly be better than this. Not that that’s a high bar to surpass.

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Film Festival Week: Aki no Kanade

Here we are at the end of this year’s film festival week. Aki no Kanade was created as a part of 2015’s Anime Mirai project. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that is, it’s designed to train young animators. Harmonie was also created as a part of it, just for the 2014 Anime Mirai. JC Staff headed the project. Yes, the Toradora, Azumanga Daioh studio.

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Story:

We open with a drumming performance. Then we cut to the performers having some beers and chatting. One of them, Aki, seems to be feeling down. Probably because all of them have to have side jobs. The next morning she gets a phone call from her former teacher asking her to return to her home town in order to teach the drums. She agrees and quickly takes the train back.

The biggest flaw with this film is simply that it tries to do a bit too much. There’s this ongoing theme about past traditions being lost. There’s also quite a bit that ties into the difficulties of pursuing your dreams as an artist, specifically a musician in this, in the modern world. And all of that gets tied into flashbacks about how Aki became enamoured with the drums. And this isn’t a decent length film. It’s about as long as an ordinary episode of an anime. Which, basically, means that it can’t handle all of those ideas in any amount of detail. So, we get a cursory handling of the topics that basically relies on them being immediately relatable. Which, to be fair, they are.

That being said, what we do get of them is really well done. You get enough of a glimpse of Aki’s troubles as a musician to make it relatable. You see enough changes to convey the idea of traditions being laid to rest in the name of progress. And you see enough of Aki’s journey as a musician to give you a decent idea of what the drums mean to her. And it’s good enough that you want to see more. Seriously, I would watch a full anime that was just this as a more fully fleshed out narrative. It also does have a good amount of charm to it.

Characters:

The main focus is on Aki herself. And she is a very strong character. Her arc of returning to her roots and regaining her passion is well handled. The characters around her are, fortunately, developed enough that they have verisimilitude. They might not be the most complex characters of all time, but they have enough to them to make them feel like real people. And they’re probably the best you’ll get from a twenty five minute film.

Art:

I’ll give the young animators full credit on this one. The film is well animated and the art just looks great in general. With nice backgrounds, good looking musical performances and characters that look pretty nice. About the worst it gets is that the driving animation is a bit hovery due to them not liking to show the wheels.

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Sound:

JC Staff got some strong actors. Satou Rina takes the leading role. Nakahara Mai & Kugimiya Rie take secondary roles. And they all deliver strong performances. The music is really good as well. There are some nice, traditional drum performances.

Ho-yay:

Aki’s friends, Megumi & Akane, hang onto each other in a way that’s pretty homo-erotic.

Final Thoughts:

Aki no Kanade is a solid short film. For twenty five minutes, it does everything it needs to do and handles its themes as well as it can given the time constraints. I quite enjoyed it. Ultimately, I give it an 8/10.

Film Festival Week: Xiao Qian

Xiao Qian was released in the late 90s from the studio Triangle Staff. That’s right, one of the studios behind Uchuu Kaizoku Mito and the studio we have to thank for Serial Experiments Lain. It’s based off of the short story Nie Xiaoqian. So, let’s see how it holds up as a film. 

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Story:

We follow a young debt collector, Ning as he takes a journey to forget his former beloved Lan Siu who left him on account of his ignoring her in favour of earning money. Dude, we get it you need money but a successful relationship is built on communication. You can’t just ignore your partner. In any case, he encounters a pair of ghost busting monks who purify some evil spirits in front of him. While he runs and  waves his arms about like a right useless bastard. After the excitement, he continues on his journey only to find himself in  city filled with spirits and uncertain how to survive. 

Let’s dig right into the primary issue that plagues this film. The pacing. And this isn’t like yesterday’s subject either where the pacing could have been better but wasn’t that bad. In this it’s an absolute mess. Once the film’s gotten going we can’t get a couple minutes between one long action sequence involving a lot of shouting and the next. Its like Ning’s whole shtick is getting carried into absurd situations where he’s completely useless. He’s like Yamcha. There’s also the big romance plot. Which is complete tripe. Our leads have no chemistry, seemingly nothing whatsoever in common and no apparent reason behind one being attracted to the other. He basically looks at her and thinks “wow, she’s pretty.” then she sees him and thinks “I’m going to steal his life force” but then changes her mind and falls for him for no apparent reason. Which is a general problem with the film. A lot of the “motivations” are nonsense. The ending is pretty shit too. 

Characters:

In addition to the motivation problem, one of the big character issues has to do with consistency. I touched on that with the romance, but it goes deeper than that. There are characters who will quite literally switch their positions in five minutes without any compelling reason to do so. But the worst element of the characters has to be Ning. Not only is he pretty damn annoying, but he’s a completely useless character. This isn’t like Spirited Away where an everyday protagonist goes to a world of spirits and does well for themselves. This dude is completely out of his depth the entire time. And that type of character only really works in a comedy and even then you don’t want them as the lead. 

Art:

The art is a bit more mixed than the other elements. On the positive side, some of the supernatural designs look pretty good and the film does do a good job with making the city of spirits look pretty vibrant and unique. On the negative side, the animation is very clumsy and the designs for the more ordinary parts of the world are crap. There’s also the issue with the CG elements not meshing well with the more traditional animation. 

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Sound:

The acting is, at best, barely passable. Maybe it’s just that the script involves a lot of frantic shouting and it’s really grating. Maybe it’s that the actors, as a whole, sound like they don’t give a shit but the consequence is that the performances just aren’t very good. The music is okay. 

Ho-yay:

There is none. Which suits me fine because, judging by what they do with the romance they do have, it wouldn’t have been good. 

Final Thoughts:

Xiao Qian is pretty bad. It’s riddled with story problems, characterisation is weak and inconsistent, it doesn’t look or sound good. I’m going to give it a 3/10. Tomorrow  I’ll end the week with a look at Aki no Kanade

Film Festival Week:Mary to Majo no Hana

Mary to Majo no Hana is based on a children’s story by British author Mary Stewart. The anime film was Studio Ponoc’s premiere work. Basically, they’re a group of creators who splintered off of Studio Ghibli, probably because they were mortified by Tales from Earthsea and the only way to distance themselves from it entirely was to start their own studio. With black jack and hookers. Let’s see how much of a splash they made.

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Story:

We open with a building on fire and a hooded girl scarpering while magical beasts try to chase after her. We then cut to a young girl, Mary, suffering from boredom since her great aunt’s house has no games and a broken television. I mean, she has books so maybe read?  I know when I was a kid I’d do that literally all day on occasion until my mum caught me and made me go outside because she thought bug bites built character or some such shite. One day she’s eating lunch outside when she encounters a pair of cats. She follows them into the woods and down the dell, the path is strange but they know it well. There in the woods she finds a strange flower and thus begins the journey. Basically, it gives her magical abilities and she finds herself in a strange land where there’s a magic school. Unfortunately for her, this magic school hides a dark secret.

And no, it isn’t copying Harry Potter because there’s a magic school. The book this is based off of came out way before Harry Potter. Just like the majority of things that get accused of copying Harry Potter for some reason. Seriously, I’ve seen the late Sir Terry Pratchett accused of “ripping off” those books because of Ponder Stibbons, a character who was introduced in 1990. Seven years before those books existed.

The biggest flaw with the story telling in this film lies in the pacing. There are some long, dragged out moments that are mainly intended to build atmosphere but they just go on too long. And, to exacerbate the problem, there are some really important moments that get really glossed over. And the big example of that lies in the big “important” friendship betwixt Mary and Peter. They barely exchange a few sentences and go from not particularly caring for one another to besties for no apparent reason. The film is also a bit inconsistent with things like how long the effects of the flower actually last.

That being said, pretty much everything to do with the magic school is really good. The animal scenes in particular are fantastic. The film also excels at building up its big twists enough so that they make perfect sense and you can kind of see them coming but not to an extent where they’re really obvious or come across as contrived. And the atmospheric scenes may drag at times, but they are pretty effective, especially when they actually do end at sensible points.

Characters:

This varies a bit. Mary is a compelling character and her complex about her hair does add some depth to her and is just very relatable. Her great aunt is also quite interesting, particularly when the film goes into her history. I also like that there’s effort put into humanising the antagonists, in spite of all the really not okay things they do. In contrast, Peter is just a generic good lad and the other side characters are just “the gardener” or “housekeeper.” And you don’t really expect the side characters to be super interesting given that the film has to do other things but Peter is a major character. He should not be dull as tepid dishwater. He is, but he shouldn’t be.

Art:

You can tell that this was made by former Ghibli staff. It looks gorgeous. The backgrounds are really well detailed. The magic school has a sense of whimsy and wonder about it along with some phenomenal visuals. The designs are interesting. The action flows really well. It’s just a very nice film to look at.

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Sound: 

Young Sugisaki Hana does a great job in the lead role, in spite of having very few voice acting roles. Ootake Shinobu is also very good. As is Satou Jirou. And none of them have a lot of voice roles. Muramatsu Takatsugu’s soundtrack is pretty good as well.

Ho-yay:

It’s based off a children’s book from the 70s. It has exactly as much as you would think, bugger all.

Final Thoughts:

Mary to Majo no Hana may not be the best film out there, but it is pretty damn solid. It has a good degree of charm, adventure and whimsy. Its biggest problems are Peter, some contrived character dynamics and some unexplained inconsistencies. None of which are all that bad everything considered. I’ll give it a 7/10. It’s a good film. Tomorrow, Xiao Qian.

Film Festival Week: Futari wa Precure Splash Star- Tick Tack Kiki Ippatsu

I’ve looked at quite a few Precure works already. That list includes Splash Star, the first Max Heart film and the second. This film came out towards the end of 2006, while the anime was still going. I predict some les-yay and them going to some random kingdom because that’s been all the films thus far. Although one of them was considerably better at executing that vague premise than the other.

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Story:

We open with Mai waiting for Saki. Oh, they have a date. That’s precious. Unfortunately for her, Saki is still at home sleeping. Well, we know who isn’t getting a goodbye kiss today. And yes, I know I could go with a more explicit joke but they are way too young for that. In any case, they encounter a strange man who looks like he came out of Vampire Hunter D. He asks for directions to a really old clock. And they oblige, being helpful young ladies, before hurrying on to the karaoke competition that they’re entering as a pair. Time freezes for everyone but them during the competition, and not in the figurative lovey dovey way.

The two find their way to the land of clocks where the man they saw earlier is trying to stop the clock for everyone but him. You know, so he can have time to read all the books. Until he breaks his reading glasses and there’s no one to fix them. Or maybe he wants to remodel all the buildings into coffee houses so he can sip coffee while doing readings of bad poetry and not get produce thrown at him, finally. Now they have to stop Sirloin and unfreeze time for everyone’s sake.

The only thing I can really criticise the film for, narratively, is that it’s got the same basic strokes as the other two. Which I did expect. But it is a bit lazy. And it doesn’t help that we all know these events will never be so much as referenced in the series proper.

There are quite a few things I like, though. The major conflict betwixt Saki and Mai, and the whole narrative surrounding it, is really good. It’s a fight that works for them, given their personalities and the arc of the whole thing ties into the film’s action really well. And the way they symbolically connect it with their initial meeting is really good.

Characters:

Saki & Mai continue to be great characters with a strong dynamic. The film’s new characters are relatively simplistic. We have Hours and Minutes, two faeries from the land of clocks who are meant to parallel Saki and Mai in order to help them return to the proper path. Which is kind of interesting. There’s also Sirloin who doesn’t have the most developed motivations in the world, but has perfectly passable ones considering that it’s a film and that he’s a very minor Precure villain. Even Kabuki guy got more screen time than him.

Art:

The big difference betwixt the art in the film and the series proper is that stock footage isn’t an issue. The land of clocks has an interesting look  and the time-based faeries are pretty nicely designed. I do like Sirloin’s design quite a bit. It has a nice, gothic aesthetic. I do like the imagery when Saki and Mai are going through their low phase. It’s nicely done.

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Sound:

Enomoto Atsuko & Kimoto Orie continue to be fantastic, but I’ll focus primarily on the new characters since I’ve talked about the main cast in detail. there are some really strong performances from Hayami Show, Tarako & Kikuchi Masami. Hayami Show in particular. Sato Naoki’s music is solid. Which isn’t a surprise. Although I don’t think there’s much in the OST that’s actually new. I’m relatively certain that the bulk of it, at least, was recycled from the series.

Ho-yay:

This film is the most heavily laden with ho-yay thus far. There’s some talk of Saki & Mai being the only possible partners for one another. They also have quite a long scene where they talk about forging the future together and how they’ll always be together. It sounds like they’re planning to get married at some point. And they probably are because this is Precure. I assume Moop & Fuup will carry  the rings and flowers respectively. Is that one of the aims of the films, I wonder? To move the subtext into text. Because the second Max Heart film did the same kind of thing with Honoka & Nagisa, albeit to a smaller extent.

Final Thoughts:

I have to admit, I really enjoyed that. More than I have any other film thus far this week. Not that it’s hard to be better than two of them. Honestly, I liked it better than the other Precure films I’ve reviewed too. So, I’m going to give it an 8/10. If you liked Splash Star and want to see a lot of concentrated gay for Saki & Mai, this film has got you. I promise this is the last Toei animation film for the week. I’ve looked at an absurd number already. Tomorrow, Mary to Majo no Hana.

Film Festival Week: Mahoutsukai Sally

Mahoutsukai Sally is a franchise that goes way back. It started as a manga in ’66. And then got turned into a Toei anime from the end of ’66 to the end of ’68. From there, Toei decided to revive it in the late 80s. This film was made in 1990, about midway through that run. I’ll be honest, I’d  never heard of the franchise before browsing random films. So, let’s take a look at its only film and see what it’s about. 

Story:

We open with a young girl dreaming about her lost birth mother. I’m sure that will have nothing to do with the events of the film. It’s an unseasonably cold spring. A young girl, Sumire, calls Sally to discuss a strange picture book she’s going to bring over. Probably just cutesy PharMercy pictures and completely unrelated to anything else. Don’t worry about it. Sally contacts her parents, who tell her that the cause is trouble in the fairy realm. Sugar, stop playing your piccolo. You’ll kill us all. Sally’s parents explain that they’d investigate, but they’re very busy trying to bring the spice back into their marriage before they split up to find younger partners. Actually, they can’t enter because the fairy realm doesn’t allow adults. She returns home to find everyone  who’d gone over is missing and there’s a picture book about faeries on the table. Naturally, she gets sucked in and finds herself on a quest to save the fairy realm from a witch. 

The biggest issue with the film is just that everything’s kept far too easy. It’s like they decided that, because it’s for children, there can’t be any kind of credible threat. So, there are some relatively minor problems where the remedy is really simple. And it’s just not compelling. I’m not asking for something grandiose or super complex from a half hour film for children but at least have something. 

I can’t complain about it too much since it is, clearly, for young audiences and there’s nothing seriously wrong with it.

Characters:

The characters don’t come across as super complex, but they do seem passable given the target audience. You even get the impression that they have a little more to them than just the basic archetypes, but you don’t really get to see many hints of that due to the length constraints. I appreciate that the witch has sympathetic motivations, but what they ultimately do with it is pretty mundane. 

Art:

The art style is very much that old fashioned, kind of low effort fare with wide-eyed innocent character designs. Which is fair enough. It probably looks exactly like the anime. Unfortunately, it’s not a style that has aged well. 

Sound:

The acting is okay. You won’t find Sumire listed as one of Hisakawa Aya’s greatest roles. I’d be surprised if Sally was considered one of Yamamoto Yuriko’s, but I’ve heard her in only a few very minor roles aside from this, so I can’t say for certain. The music is, likewise, all right. 

Ho-yay:

There might be some in the series, since most magical girl anime possess some level of les-yay, but if there is it doesn’t come across in the film. 

Final Thoughts:

Mahoutsukai Sally, the film is, ultimately, pretty average. It doesn’t have much in terms of attention grabbing, interesting content but, for a short children’s film, it works. It’s inoffensive and will likely keep their attention. So, I’ll give it a 5/10. Maybe at some point in future I’ll watch the series proper and give a more complete picture of how that holds up. Tomorrow, I’ll keep the week going with a look at the Futari wa Precure: Splash Star Movie

Film Festival Week: Godzilla- Kaijuu Wakusei

Godzilla Kaijuu Wakusei is a 3d anime film that aired last year with a screenplay by Urobuchi Gen, yes the writer of Madoka & Psycho Pass. Polygon Pictures led the way for this one. Yes, the studio behind Ajin. So, I’m pretty hopeful. I haven’t reviewed anything bad from Urobuchi. Plus, Godzilla is just easy to write for. So, let’s see how this goes.

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Story:

We open with a space ship. Aboard, we find a young man, Sakaki, threatening to blow a shuttle craft to smithereens because he doesn’t want the higher ups to send a bunch of elderly volunteers down to a harsh planet and, most likely, their deaths. His grandfather talks him down and he’s arrested. We then go into a painfully long exposition dump about how the humans were forced to flee Earth when Godzilla appeared. And here you thought that climate change was going to make our planet inhospitable for us. After failing to find a readily accessible planet to colonise, the crew decides to return to Earth and try to retake it. Thankfully, Sakaki has a plan that might be able to beat Godzilla if she’s still there.

Okay, here’s the big problem with the film. We barely see Godzilla. And I know that was common in the old films but they were dealing with a guy in a rubber suit or animatronics with a limited budget for a model city to destroy. There were practical reasons for it that don’t exist in an animated feature. We see Godzilla very briefly in the flashback and then we see her almost an hour into the hour and a half film. And there’s nothing interesting to take up that time.  There’s a long exposition dump, a bunch of technobabble and a bunch of non-characters looking around what’s become of Earth.

Here’s another issue, there’s not much reason for them to actually want to retake Earth. They know, even before they land, that Godzilla is still  on there and the atmosphere’s become such that they can’t survive outside of their space suits. One of the characters actually suggests settling on the moon and taking scavenge trips to Earth for resources as a safer alternative, but it’s after they’ve landed and it’s become difficult and I just wonder  “why didn’t they do that from the get go?” Seriously, if their probes showed them the atmosphere issue and they knew Godzilla was still stomping around, why didn’t they just make that their first plan? Because then they wouldn’t get the Earth itself back? You mean a planet that’s really hostile for them? Oh no, what a tragic loss. *sarcasm*

So we don’t just have a tedious build up but we also have  a conflict born out of nonsensical decisions. And you’d think maybe it gets entertaining when they actually encounter Godzilla, but that isn’t the case. The climactic battle is really shit. I’ll go into more detail when I talk about the art.

Characters:

There’s not much to say about the characters in this. Sakaki is obsessed with revenge  because his parents died due to Godzilla when he was just a lad. The other characters fulfil very basic roles like the religious one, the stern warrior or the girl. Considering how much time we spend with these guys before the action even starts, you’d  think they’d have some modicum of personality. But, no.

Art:

Let’s get right into the big problem with the big, humans versus Godzilla sequence. Godzilla barely fucking moves. Seriously, most of the sequence sees her standing like a bloody log with the occasional light tilt to fire off  a burst of atomic breath. Then we get to see the humans in their futuristic vehicles shooting at Godzilla and grimacing. When the unwieldy rubber suit moves more dynamically than your animated version, you know you screwed up. And the futuristic vehicles look less impressive than the ones that were in that C.O.P.S cartoon I reviewed. Yes, the cartoon from the 80s with lazy animation looked better than this film.

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Sound:

This is one of those works where you know the actors are capable (they got actors like Miyano Mamoru & Sakurai Takahiro) but the script really gives them nothing to work with so you end up with performances that are, at best, barely passable. Hattori Takayuki’s OST is, unfortunately, not very good either. His work for the Slayers film was much better.

Ho-yay:

Sakaki and his male alien friend are pretty touchy, but they also aren’t well enough developed for their relationship to have much to it. I will say, it’s the closet thing to a romance the film has  but that isn’t saying much. It’s basically just the least shit relationship dynamic so it wins by default.

Final Thoughts:

This film is pretty abysmal. To recap, long exposition dump, a bunch of techno babble, nothing and a disappointing climax where the monster barely moves. the only Godzilla film that this is better than is the American one from 1998 and the cartoon based off of that was better than this. It earns a full 2/10. Tomorrow, Mahoutsukai Sally the film version, obviously.