Anime Boston 2007 and Cutey Honey
a bi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Here we go, here we go, here we go again! We've been hard at work muscling our way through one anime after another. In between it all Todd even found time to go to Anime Boston for three days! Wen-Tsai offers some more bargains for us and our spotlight review this week is for Cutey Honey the Movie from Bandai Entertainment.
If you have been following it, the second volume of Coyote Ragtime Show came out a little while ago. This new series from ADV takes the frantic joy found in Cowboy Bebop and combines it with Oceans Eleven. The end result is a short show that absolutely pops with interesting characters and a bunch of episodes that are fast and refreshing. Next to Chevalier D'Eon this is one of the best recent additions to ADV's catalog.
The Prince of Tennis anime series finally makes to to region one, but was it worth the wait? Based on an incredibly popular manga in Japan, Prince of Tennis is the story of Ryoma, a tennis prodigy and son of a professional tennis player who is now a monk. He's just started going to junior high and joined the tennis team and though the 7th graders typically just practice and pick up balls, Ryoma has so much talent that the school has allowed him to compete for a spot of the school's 'regulars', the team that competes in tennis tournaments. While there are a lot of great sports anime series, this isn't one of them. The animation is done on the cheap, some of the tennis is ludicrious, and a few of the plots stretch ones ability to suspend disbelief. To top it off, the main character comes across as stuck up and isn't very likable. While the show did have its moments, this set of the first season's 13 episodes should be rented.
If you have been following the anime news pulse then you probably already know that Gaogaigar is going on hiatus. The show is being reformulated by Media Blasters and will include a Japanese only dub. Personally I'm fine with this because it means the show will still be released and not cancelled but there are many who are upset for sure. In the meantime we took a look at volumes 3 and 4. Both were strong installments with a combined total of ten fantastic episodes. Volfogg, the ninja robot, was introduced in the third volume and became a prominent character in the rest of the episodes. Here's looking forward to the rest of the series no matter what language it's presented in!
Tactics is still going strong four volumes into its release. Published by Manga this is one of the most soothing series that I have ever seen. It may sound strange to say that but with the surreal atmosphere, low-key presentation, and often soft-spoken characters it's more like watching a piece of artwork rather than anime. If you're looking for a new show to check out that is offbeat and interesting definitely give this one a spin. Filled with Japanese folklore and mysticism you'll be hard-pressed to find another show like it on the market.
If you only check out one show this year be sure to put Noein at the top of your list. The first volume was something of a peculiarity and left you with many questions regarding multiple dimensions, quantum physics, and a mysterious armada of black-clad warriors known as the Dragon Knights. By this point in the show many questions have been answered and many more have been raised. The series handles each of these delicately and the writing is absolutely phenomenal. Quite honestly this is one of the most worthwhile and important shows to come along in quite some time.
If blood, guts, and nudity are your thing you'll probably want to check out Go Nagai's Demon Prince Enma. The first volume of the OVA has been released with two episodes and tells the story of a Demon Prince who has come to Earth to collect the souls of escaped demons. Accompanied by an ice Princess, a kappa creature, and a sentient hat, Enma burns his way across Japan vanquishing monsters and "saving" the humans they possess. To be honest it's hard to tell whether he's a good guy or a bad one because most humans tend to kick the bucket in his presence. This is a unique twist on the horror genre and something that fans of Go Nagai will want to check out.
Best Buy & BestBuy.com:
Titles without links may be purchased at your local store if they are in stock or they can be ordered at the store computer kiosks (BestBuy.com)!
Right Stuf Weekly Specials / Bargin Bin Closeout Items:
by Todd Douglass
Each year otaku from around the country gather on their local anime hotspot for a weekend of fun and festivities. While I have been enthralled with anime for years my exposure to these events has actually been very limited. Anime Boston is the only convention that I have had the opportunity to go to and considering the 2007 con just rolled around you bet your bottom dollar that I was there.
Last year's event was a blast. With so many top notch panelists on the docket, things to do, things to buy, and friends to meet I found myself swirling like a whirlwind from one place to the next. It was three days of fun and I vowed going into 2007's Anime Boston that it was going to be more so.
Taking place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday April 20 through April 22 otaku from around the north east began to swarm Boston. If you find yourself wanting to hit the Hynes Convention Center for Anime Boston needless to say, you can probably just follow the throng of cosplayers rather than look at a map. Dressed in their favorite cosplay garb these brave souls walked through the streets and navigated their way beneath on the subway. There's always something surreal about finding yourself sitting between Vash the Stampede and Son Goku on a train though it's more amusing to see the expressions of passersby who have no idea what's going on.
Once I arrived at the Hynes it was evident that most of the attendees had the same thoughts about showing up on Friday. The line was huge to say the least and I have to admit that I was thankful for having a Press Pass waiting for me. While this was certainly appreciated I do have to admit that there was a fair bit of annoyance associated with the Press thing this year. I inquired about getting my hands on some information for press events and the like but every volunteer I spoke with was ill-informed. Throughout the course of the weekend every time I went to the "Press Room" the door was locked and the volunteers at ConOps and Information had no clue. Needless to say I couldn't get in on the press events but thankfully the rest of the convention was a blast!
Like any great convention, Anime Boston had A LOT to do and if you couldn't find something you were interested you probably aren't into anime. With guests, panels, and workshops galore there were three days so full of stuff that you had to pick and choose events to attend. Being forced to decide between an autograph session and industry panel is a tough call any day of the week and a fair amount of preparation was required to map things out.
The guests this year included many personalities from Japan. Yasuhiro Imagawa (Giant Robo OAV, Beserk), Hiroshi Iwata (Macross, Outlanders), Junji Nishimura (Ranma ½, Samurai Deeper Kyo), and Kenji Terada (Final Fantasy, Kimagure Orange Road) all took the long flight to Boston. On our side of the ocean there were many voice actors and industry veterans who made the trek to the Hynes. Greg Ayres, Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Luci Christian, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brina Palencia, Mike McFarland, and Travis Willingham were on site as some of the Guests of Honor.
For the most part these industry personalities paid their dues on stage with some Q & A sessions. They also sat down for a round of carpal tunnel syndrome with pen in hand to sign some autographs for the throngs of fans that lined up an hour ahead of time. Despite all of this, even if you didn't have stars in your eyes there were many workshops to attend. Becoming a samurai in an hour, making a plush, learning some Japanese language basics, partaking in an Anime Music Video contest, discussing some philosophies surrounding Final Fantasy, and going to a late night hentai party barely scratched the surface of things to do.
In the off time simply wandering around the convention halls was a hoot. Stopping to chat with random otaku, admiring some fine cosplay, and even taking part in an impromptu conga line with Jesus were fun distractions. Then again my wallet also felt the stung of the dealer's room which featured overpriced merchandise and DVDs at or above MSRP. There were a few treasures to be found but for the most part dealers had no problem charging exorbitant amounts for their wares.
Of course my biggest disappointment with the dealer's room was the lack of Pocky and Pretz! Due to convention regulations vendors weren't allowed to sell these tasty treats. Just a little hint for future anime lovers visiting Boston, if you're craving Japanese snacks though take the T out to the Super 88 Market on Herald Street. They have an amazing selection of Asian food and there is a food court inside with some fantastic bubble tea from Lollicup.
When the weekend was done my frustrations regarding the disorganized press information were long gone. I had a great time, met some interesting people, and scored a few rare trinkets in the dealer's room. If other conventions are anywhere near as fun as Anime Boston I definitely have to get out and do some traveling. If you're looking for a new convention venue or live in the New England area then you owe it to yourself to check out Anime Boston 2008. Just be sure to bring a DS to kill time with when you arrive for registration.
by Todd Douglass
Go Nagai is legendary in the world of anime and manga. His vision has brought us many series throughout the years and he is credited with helping to form the magical girl genre with Cutey Honey way back in the 70's. With many renditions under its belt Honey has been a popular franchise for the better part of thirty years. The series themselves may be hard to find but the latest rendition has finally hit store shelves here in America.
When I first heard about the live-action version of Cutey Honey I was naturally skeptical. I have been a fan of the franchise for a long time and didn't think a live-action release would be able to capture the spirit of the original. Other similar endeavors have been met with failure in my opinion but I may just be a stickler for things the way they were originally intended to be seen. That being said Cutie Honey is a mildly entertaining romp through the Honey universe and is worth checking out if you enjoy low-budget, campy films.
The movie starts with Honey Kisaragi (model Eriko Sato) soaking it up in a bathtub and having a good time of it. Unfortunately her moment of respite is interrupted by a phone call from her uncle who is in some kind of trouble. Naturally Honey jumps out of the tub and yells "Honey Flash!" which is supposed to transform her but doesn't because she's low on energy. Wearing nothing but a trash bag and underwear she runs down the street to grab a bite to eat so she can transform into Cutie Honey.
With a good days work behind her Honey goes back to her normal life of chilling around her apartment and working a menial desk job. When she attempts to call her uncle to say hi she learns that he was kidnapped by Panther Claw again and sets out to rescue him. At this point the movie brings Natsuko and Seiji into the fold as her sidekicks and the trio reluctantly begins to work together. When Honey isn't fighting a Panther Claw minion she's developing a relationship with her new friends. It's one of the driving forces for the picture and in all honesty makes the kidnapped uncle plot seem like a mere distraction.
At any rate Sister Jill, leader of Panther Claw, wants to get her hands on Honey's power system when she learns about the lovely hero. This escalates into a final showdown between good and evil that leaves a resounding impact on Tokyo. It's good, cheesy Cutie Honey form from start to finish and as far as live-action films derived from anime are concerned this is one of the better endeavors that I have seen.
It should go without saying that you have to take this movie with a grain of salt. As long as you don't come expecting to be blown away by a sweeping narrative or award winning performances you'll be reasonably entertained. Cutie Honey stars models who look better than they act and low-budget effects akin to Power Rangers but thanks to direction by Hideaki Anno it actually works somehow.
As a fan of Cutey Honey I had a lot of fun with the live-action version. Sato may not be the best actress for my money but her cute looks, perky charm, and presence in front of the camera matched by expectations for Honey perfectly. The rest of the cast churns out performances that leave a lot to be desired but given the campy nature of the film they are acceptable. This movie may not make an otaku out of you but if you hold a place in your heart for anime you owe it to yourself to check out. It stands out as one of the better live-action attempts and is something Honey fans shouldn't miss.
Cutie Honey is presented on DVD with a brilliant 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The film features a wide and vibrant color palette and every frame absolutely pops no matter how you look at it. The picture is relatively free of flaw though some film grain and softness appears from time to time. There was no compression to gripe about and contrast stayed fine with natural tones throughout.
One thing worth mentioning while talking about the film is the visual approach to recreating the look of the anime. There are a few clips tossed in here and there and the entire affair has a certain cartoon-like appearance. For instance when Honey leaps and flips through the air this is handled by clipping live-action stills together to create a frantic sense of movement. There are other throwbacks to the anime as well and it definitely gives the film the look of being animated at times.
As one might expect, Cutie Honey comes with English and Japanese language tracks. Both dubs receive a 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround which is something that doesn't happen often with anime related discs. While both dubs are competent I found the original Japanese to be the better of the two in terms of quality. As far as the technical aspects of the disc are concerned the stereo offerings sound just like you'd expect them to. The 5.1 surround mix offers a greater sense of immersion with the rear speakers kicking in when the action heads up. My system really came to life at a few points as bullets whizzed and swords clanged.
Unless you spring for the Limited Edition release of Cutie Honey you can expect to find few features on the regular edition. There is a teaser included for the film as well as the theatrical trailer. A twenty-three minute making of featurette can be found in the extras menu as well. This provides some light commentary about the project with some behind the scene and candid moments from the cast. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles this feature was entertaining enough and was the perfect accompaniment for the movie. It's relatively light on content but fun to watch regardless.
Cutie Honey was campy from start to finish. The special effects were weak, the acting was poor, and the story elements were pretty light. With all of that being said this movie was actually more enjoyable than it should have been. The cast had some great chemistry and in many instances the film captured the spirit of the original anime. Fans should definitely check it out though really anyone who would consider themselves an otaku will find something to like about it. Come expecting a low-budget movie with a lot of personality and you won't be disappointed. Recommended
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