Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd Gig, Gantkutsuou, and an early look at Golog 13 and Street Fighter Alpha: Generations
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
There's been a lot of good anime coming out (as well as a few dogs) and this week we look at some titles that you really shouldn't miss. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is back for a second season, and this one promises to be just as exciting as the first. Not only that, but the first GitS Log has been released. Previously only available in Japan, this book and DVD combo set has everything you'd want to know about the first part of the first season. Tetsujin 28 which has the look and feel of the old Gigantor shows and Gantkutsuou, a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo are two other new series that are worth taking a look at. We also have a table of upcoming releases and Holly's back with some more anime deals. We end up with an early look at both Golog 13 and Streetfighter Alpha Generations.
We open this week's column with a surprise. Every once in a while an anime series will arrive that just doesn't sound very good. That was the case with the first volume of Kodocha. The previews that FUNimation included on other DVDs made it look REALLY stupid. It's obviously a Shoujo title, which isn't necessarily bad, but it concerns an ultra-cute and hyper girl who sings. Ugh. As it turns out though, this is an amusing show. Right from the start it gets you laughing. The opening credits have various members of the cast doing a Macarena-type dance to the opening music in different countries and times. There's just something about seeing a dinosaur doing the Macarena with a bunch of humans that's funny. The show is very kinetic and frantic, there is always something going on. A cross between Excel Saga and Azumanga Diaoh, it has the high energy of the former and the odd sense of humor of latter; a winning combination.
You know, in human history there have been several forms of torture that have been carried down through the ages. Everything from water torture to death by a thousand cuts seem like child’s play after being forced to sit down and watch six volumes of DICE. This is easily one of the worst thought out and most poorly executed shows we have ever seen and it is plagued with problems. The concept is unoriginal, the writing is horrible, the voice acting sucks, and the animation is very repetitive and sloppy. Even the show’s target age audience (3+) will be hard pressed to find anything to love about it. Avoid it at all costs unless you are a masochist or are buying it as a gag gift for a friend.
Norse mythology meets Japanese culture: sounds like an interesting idea. That's the premise behind Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok, a boy detective series with the young detective being none other than the Norse god of mischief. The only problem is that so far the only things they've taken from Scandinavian tales are the names of the characters. Their personalities, abilities and talents are no where to be found. To make matters worse the characters are very dull and the stories aren't that exciting either. Move along, there's nothing to see here.
One of the staples of anime for generations has involved a boy and his robot fighting the powers of evil so this remake of a classic series, Tetsujin 28: Monster Resurrected, struck a chord recently. Maintaining a similar look as the original, but now offered in color, the show detailed the adventures of boy detective Shotaro Kaneda as he laid claim to his father's invention from years prior, Tetsujin 28. Fans of the old Gigantor series will appreciate the care that went into this faithful rendition of the show with Shotaro facing his destiny. If the rest of the series maintains the level of quality this one showed, a whole new generation of fans will soon follow.
Girls Bravo 2, on the other hand, will appeal to the pervert in all of us as young Yukinari finds that being the male lead in a harem show isn't all sweaty bedroom antics and ice cream. The aliens from Seiran are back with a vengeance as the cast adds a few members to follow in the footsteps of Tenchi Muyo and other shows of this nature but it also adds a bit of spice many of those shows were missing. Torn between doing the right thing and following her heart, Miharu must make a decision that ultimately leads to more mayhem so check out this volume if you want to see what I mean
Azumanga Daioh is just about the most adorable and personable anime around. The show focuses on a rich cast of characters and takes place in a high school where the teachers are just as crazy as the students. The episodes are broken down into sub-episodes and are filled with entertaining stories, wild humor and extremely memorable characters. This is definitely a complete collection that is worth picking up because the show is absolutely priceless.
Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek is a horror anime film. With so many chilling horror movies coming out of Japan, the idea of a scary anime sounds like it would be great. With the freedom to animate things that couldn't be done in a live action film and the Japanese penchant for horror, this should have been a really scary and edgy show. Unfortunately it wasn't. While the character designs and the animation were good, it just didn't deliver in the scares department. Very short, even for an OVA, this was a disappointing disc.
The third volume of Kyo Kara Maoh has another five episodes of this solid show. This time around King Yuri is a bind again. First he's kidnapped, and then he spends most of the volume shackled to one of his retainers on the run from people who think he's a young bride trying to elope. Like the other volumes, these shows are light and fun and sure to entertain.
The sixth volume of Stellvia starts off with a bang. A rescue attempt and big space battle along with some mysterious events kicked this volume off in high gear. Unfortunately the show shifts down into low after that and we're left with a pair of episodes that are pretty slow where not a lot happens. Stellvia started off as a fun and enjoyable show, but it has really started to slow down in the second half. There's just not enough action to balance out the teen angst that seems to be taking over. Another thing that's hurting the show is the short volumes. With only three episodes per disc the show has to be better than average to get recommended. Though this show started off at that level, it hasn't been able to stay there.
At the end third volume of Otogi Zoshi the story came to a conclusion that wrapped up just about all of the plotlines. So what happens in volume four? The story takes a drastic change in tone and shifts over 1000 years into the future to present day Japan. The main characters have the same names as the people in the first half of the show, but their personalities are totally different. The storyline bears no resemblance to the events in the first half and, what's worse, this new story doesn't seem to have a point. While the first half was entertaining, it looks like this half is going to be pretty painful.
Ayu Tetsushi and her pal with magical powers, Nina Sakura, were fighting the good fight in Ultra Maniac V3: Magical Stone as they tried to stop a rival witch, Maya, from obtaining some magic stones said to be able to enhance the powers of any witch to the point that they'd be the strongest of them all. Between battling bulls and fighting over the affection of fellow students, the gals came across as kind of generic to us but worth a look for fans of the genre.
Rushuna and Yajiro are back in the newest volume of the Grenadier series. Tenshi is still hunting them down and now she has sent some of her most skilled warriors after her. The series is proving to be a lot of fun, though we still question how and why Rushuna keeps her spare bullets wedged into her cleavage. Grenadier is packed with plenty of humor and action, and will definitely keep everyone who loves fanservice happy.
Fans of Gothic horror and twisted tales of vengeful ghosts will enjoy Le Portrait de Petite Cossette a whole lot as a young guy falls under the spell of a long dead gal who died a horrible death. Seeking to find release at the expense of those around her, Cossette d'Auvergne's unearthly spirit tries to trap young Eiri by means unknown to most people. As the OVA unfolded, his friends and family attempted to intervene but ultimately only he could save himself, or choose oblivion with the young object of his fascination in a tale that combines elements of Lolita with large helpings of Edgar Allen Poe.
A mix between Sailor Moon and Cinderella, Prétear is an above average magical girl series. ADV has now released the entire show (without extras) as a boxed set at a very reasonable price. A fun Shoujo anime show, it has romance in it, but it doesn't go overboard (well, maybe at the very end...) This fast paced show is sure it thrill fans of the genre, but also entertain other anime fans too. Recommended.
In Japan a successful anime series will spawn all sorts of toys, games, and other merchandise to feed the public's desire for such things. Unfortunately, on this side of the Pacific we don't often get the chance to spend our money on anime tie-ins. It makes the fan-boy inside of me cringe whenever I see a cool accessory from one of my favorite shows that's only available in Japan. Well that might be slowly changing. Bandai and Manga have teamed up to bring over the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Official Log Volume 1, a product that was released in Japan that I never thought I'd see in English. This book and DVD combination really gives you a lot of information on the series, and even the most die-hard fan will learn something new. This volume covers the first 19 episodes of the series in detail and though it is pretty pricey, it's well worth checking out, even for casual fans.
Speaking of GitS, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - 2nd Gig is one of the most anticipated series of 2005. Now that the first volume has been released, fans everywhere are discovering that this second season is just as good as the first. The four episodes on this disc are all excellent, and the show has a good mix of action, drama and humor. More than that though, the story is just first rate. The plots are tight and the show is very engrossing. This is one of those discs that you pop in and don't even notice the time passing until it's over. Destined for this year's best of list, this show is Highly Recommended.
Gilgamesh reaches the halfway point with volume three, and the series is still going strong. Some mysteries are starting to become a little clearer, while some new perplexing situations crop up. The story is still interesting, but ss the series goes on the horrible animation and odd character designs really start to wear thin. It really detracts from the show, constantly reminding the viewer that they are watching a cartoon. This volume gets a light recommendation.
Ippo finally makes it to the finals in the Eastern Japan Rookie Championship Tournament in the seventh volume of Fighting Spirit. Like the volumes that preceded it, this is a really exciting set of shows, with a lot of fights and a good amount of humor too. A show that quickly grows on you, this program a lot of people are missing out on.
Alexandre Dumas' classic novel of revenge also found itself revisited this month with Gantkutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo V1 showing the Japanese are no strangers to European classics. Much like Samurai 7, the story is a modernized update that involves a futuristic society of social status but this time handled in a more straightforward manner of a mysterious Count taking a young man under his wing. While only just starting in this initial volume, the characters can already be seen as complex with a unique style of animation lending itself to assist in making the show as much a piece of artwork as an intriguing version of storytelling. If the rest of the series maintains the levels of quality shown here, it will surely encourage other classics to be handled in like manner; a win-win situation for all of us.
Najica Blitz Tactics is an interesting series that showcases more panties than your local Victoria’s Secret. This futuristic espionage thriller spends about as much time showing women’s panties as it does letting the bullets fly. The main character Najica not only works at a cosmetic company, but also doubles as a secret agent. When the dangerous threat of the Humaritts surfaces, she goes behind enemy lines to discover just what’s going on. There’s plenty of humor and action, but the fact that there is a pair of women’s underwear being shown in every scene leaves this one to be appreciated by otaku who like that sort of thing.
Scheduled for release on Oct. 18, 2005
Scheduled for release on Oct. 25, 2005
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by Chris Tribbey
GOLGO 13: THE PROFESSIONAL
No, this isn't the anime retelling of The Professional with Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. This is the first anime that used CG (or so the widely accepted opinion goes). Those scenes, made up of buildings and helicopters toward the end of Golgo 13: The Professional, are the worst in the movie.
Everything before that is really, really good.
Golgo is the best hired gun out there, and he's a stud. If he isn't picking off targets from long range, he's bedding random, gorgeous women. He says all of two words in the first 45 minutes, yet imparts of distinct "don't #@*% with me" attitude by the way he walks and romps. He's good, like a James Bond figure without the one-liners or British smarminess.
The problem for Golgo here is that he's pissed off the wrong people, after assassinating the handsome son of a rich oil tycoon, who vows revenge. At this tycoon's disposal are an unlimited number of henchmen. Some are dumb guys in suits just waiting for a bullet in the head, while others are frightening, sadistic, even otherworldly monsters, who could pose Golgo a threat. Imagine a few minutes of build-up, followed by an hour of wave after wave of bad guys against Golgo. That's the bulk of this movie.
And the amazing thing is, for all the crazy killers and dismemberments and dislodged eyeballs, Golgo 13 has an excellent twist at the end. A "smart" action adventure anime.
The violence is wonderful, the CG thing is a neat footnote, but this
DVD is Highly Recommended because it's cheap, feature-length, and
directed by Osamu Dezaki, who can do no wrong in my book (Black Jack,
minus Pinoko at least, and Lupin III.)
STREET FIGHTER ALPHA: GENERATIONS
Street Fighter Alpha: Generations is the directorial debut of Ikuo Kuwana (a key animator for Princess Mononoke and Blood: The Last Vampire) and is the prequel to Street Fighter Alpha. It gives us the back-story of Ryu, our video game hero, and Akuma, the gnarly-looking brute with the funky hair and huge necklace.
Yes, actual moves are used from the game, yes, Ken and a different version of Chun-Li drop in, yes, the premise is the worn concept of two guys under one master taking separate paths. Ignore the familiarities, and just enjoy the fights damnit. There's more than one good one between Ryu and Akuma, with lots of dark hadou flying about, but the highlight is the Chun-Li character getting schooled.
Generations is a bit on the short side, though that didn't stop
me from enjoying it. I will say I prefer seeing fighters like Vega and
that big Russian dude go at it, instead of watching Ryu go from boy to
man. In other words, I was more entertained by the Street Fighter II
V series than the OVAs. But Generations lightly and painlessly
fills in the back story of Street Fighter Alpha. At the very least
it let's me know just what the hell Akuma was all about. Recommended.
What do you think about the column? Like what you see? Don't like it? Have a comment or suggestion? Drop us an e-mail and let us know!
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