Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Sky Crawlers DVD Impression

When a feature length anime movie is released from legendary Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame, well any self respecting otaku better take note. The Sky Crawlers is that movie and while it has its moments there is a bit of magic missing from this visually stunning feature.

Kildren, young pilots fighting in a war they are too young to remember beginning. One such pilot, Yuichi, is assigned to a new post with a handful of fellow pilots. His young, female CO is Suito and she has secrets both about the plane Yuichi is assigned as well as the fate of its former pilot. As Yuichi learns more about his situation the war rages on and aerial battles commence, both small and large. His journey of discovery shows that these Kildren are indeed human and not just killing machines but how will his personal relationships shape his piloting, which is the joy of this journey.

Short story description but more on that in a minute. First the animation and design. Beautiful is the only way to describe the dogfights. The mechanical design and detail on each aircraft, use of computer animation is the best there is on the market, cutting edge. A sharp contrast is the design of each character, very ordinary looking with not a ton of detail. These are believable, ordinary looking characters. The setting reminds of WWII European countryside as does the building design. The dogfights are by far the best, absolute best, part of this DVD and it’s a true shame there is not more because the story is not so great.

There is mystery about Yuichi, what happened to the former pilot of his new plane, something stated on the DVD case. As viewers watch there are more questions and mysteries, especially around Suito. The conversation, time on the ground, for these pilots is very serious and thought provoking … thoughts like should I fast forward to the next dogfight. If you’re a viewer looking for a nice, deep human drama with a bit of action then The Sky Crawlers is right up your alley but comparing this to Ghost in the Shell in any way is not justified. The war is never really explained, Suito is just an annoying character and things like the enemies ace pilot the Teacher, his possibly being an adult and the ending are all just annoying without proper explanation. Vague on these points yes, why … because there are folks who will enjoy this DVD.

At the end of the day The Sky Crawlers is just not for me. I loved the superior animation and action but the human drama just felt empty. A good movie but not great on the level of Ghost in the Shell even after all this time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Claymore DVD vol. 4 & 5 Impression

The battle for survival begins for Clare in Claymore volumes 4 and volume 5 from FUNimation. An excellent manga series translates very well as an anime and none of the dark and moody world is lost in translation.

Claymore DVD volume 4
Hunted by the Organization, Clare must disguise herself as she searches for Rocky. While suppressing her power she sees from the outside how her kind is viewed, or more accurate how humans live when Claymore at not around. A chance encounter leads to a fight with an awakened one in which Clare meets number 9 Jean and number 3 Galatea. Histroy is revealed as the Creatues of the Abyss are revealed, three powerful awakened that have divided up three of the four territories. On a new mission, one that looked to be a way to eliminate Clare and her fellow ‘trouble-maker’ Claymore she and the other learn how to go beyond their limits and come back with a bit of help. After going their separate ways a new mission is revealed, one that has a large group of Claymore heading north to contront one of the Creatures of the Abyss, the only male, Silver King Isley.

Claymore DVD volume 5
The battle continues as a scouting party of awakend under Isley’s command challenge the Claymore, now organized into groups with the highest ranked a leaders. This skirmish can only mean the invasion of Pieta is about to begin. While Clare searches for Rocky he is also looking for her and encounters a young girl in his travels and her older companion. Rocky grows close to these two as they travel north together and he learns who the little girl is, it’s an awakened named Pricilla and her companion, none other than Isley. As the Claymore take out the scouting party they formulate their plans and then the invasion begins with many awakened under Isley’s banner and under the command of Rigaldo, the Silver Eyed Lion King. He takes on and eliminates many of the leaders but finds more than he can handle with a surprise attack by Clare. Can the Claymore defeat a legendary awakened one, can they hope to survive with so many high ranked dead?

Lots of fighting in these two volumes. The animation and design is spot on from the manga and very unique in the look department. The story is moving along at a much faster clip. Main points to take away, first is the four Claymore who realize they can come back from their limits, second is Rocky’s encounter with Isley and Pricilla and third is the battle in Pieta, a major turning point for the series. It’s all about action and unless you’re a fan of the series now then don’t start with these volumes, go back to volume 1, you won’t be disappointed. Now looking ahead is fun and I’m guessing the battle will conclude and there just has to be a second season of Claymore coming soon, fans of the manga know what I’m talking about.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes Game Trailer

Just like Street Fighter before it now Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is getting a full makeover just for download on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. This game looks hot and the best of this series was seen on the Dreamcast and Saturn. Now gamers can delight in an excellent gaming experience that will get a bit more pub thanks to the remakes of Street Fighter, release of Street Fighter IV and of course the Wolverine X-Men movie. Check out the trailer below ...

Ouran High School Host Club Part 2 Impression

Volume 2 of Ouran High School Host Club from FUNimation, also the final volume gets a bit more serious without losing any of the humor that makes this series one to own … by guy or gal.

As Haruhi continues to work off her debt she comes to learn the history of each member of the club and how Tamaki recruited them. Tamaki comes from a family with a very strict grandmother, one who dictated to his mother, who remains in Europe, conditions of how he was to be raised and where. Kyoya also participates in the club at the ire of his father. Being the third son means he will never gain the company business even as he’s the most successful. Honey has his own irritants in the form of his younger brother always seeking a fight (and assuming Honey is not quite human due to his sweet tooth). Not all is doom and gloom as the Lobelia Girl’s Academy kidnaps Haruhi to participate in a play to steal her first kiss. Actually things get very serious as the host club is dissolved when Tamaki’s fiancé appears and he goes along with his grandmothers commands yet again. How can such a unique club come to such an abrupt end?

Ah the host club, even in volume 2 with such a serious flavor, is still such a charming and funny series. The animation and character design seems right out of any Shojo manga with a bit more serious Shonen edge to the characters. They have their moments of hostly dreaminess but can be as arrogant, funny and wacky as can be expected. In a nutshell don’t judge this serious by its sappy, flower included cover. The story keeps the humor and awkward moments from volume one but gets a bit more serious with background stories and some brutal family situations. Even the twins have a pretty dark past of playing tricks before being recruited. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill volume 1 and 2 can draw similar comparisons. Volume 1 was all action (Ouran all humor) while volume 2 of both goes with the background and storytelling before a final confrontation. That final confrontation in Ouran is so pleasing as viewers start to see some of the emotions coming out, this time from Haruhi, that have been percolating on the surface the entire series. While the show does get a bit more serious learning about each character gives a greater appreciation for each, how they can act like they do, why they act as they do, what the club offers each. It also sets the stage for some very satisfying events, few takeovers and surprises at the end but I’m not going to ruin that.

Overall if you watched volume 1 you owe it to yourself to get volume 2. The storytelling takes on a whole new level of seriousness mixed with the humor that makes Ouran so special a series. Looking for funny, looking for romance, looking for a series for guys and gals … yeah, Ouran nails each of these on every level so check it out, one of my faves.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Maid Sama! vol. 1 Impression

Maid Sama! volume 1 from Tokyopop takes a very strong personality student president, one working to keep her school strong, and places her in a job that could ruin her reputation. The hitch, the most popular guy in school knows her secret but for some reason he won’t tell.

Class President Misaki has a daunting task. She is the only female student council member in school that is 80% boys. Having just switched to being co-ed the boys are still a little … rough and Misaki takes it upon herself to clean-up their acts and make the school safe for, and to attract more girls. Things get tricky as her personal life forces her to take a part-time job at a café that is catering to a certain cliental. Halfway across town, far from school Misaki works at a Maid Café to help her family with bills and basic expenses. The hitch, local mega-hot and popular Takumi Usui finds her working there and the cat is now out of the bag, he will tell everyone and Misaki will be ruined. But a strange thing happens at school the next day … nothing. He did not tell, but why? Seems Takumi has his own reasons for not telling and as he continues to show up day after day at the café and even helps Misaki in a few situations (like a bad theme at the school fair) the two grow closer in the most peculiar ways. Will anyone find out about Misaki’s job or will Takumi continue to torture her, time will tell.

Hiro Fujiwara, you have created a manga that takes a very particular fetish and weaves a story that is both fun to read and engaging. The character designs are a bit different than typical Shojo stories. Beautifully detailed characters hook the reader and the backgrounds are just outstanding. Many manga pass over backgrounds but not Maid Sama! This book is really pleasing to look at and it does not hurt that the attractive school president spends half her time in a uniform, the other half in a maid outfit. That should hook most male readers but don’t overlook the story. Learning more about Usui is so much fun as he really tortures Misaki with his knowledge while helping her out with three admires other students who wonder into the cafe and also with some thieves. She’s no slouch with her study habits and marital arts skill but she learns through sickness that even she can require help. The reader can start to guess where this story is going but it’s how we get there that’s fun. A class of boys who play strip rock-paper-scissors, yeah it’s kinda crazy.

Overall the book is a fun read, similar in its humor to another of my recent post, Ouran High School Host Club, but with more Shojo mixed in, meaning the stories romantic layer gets resolved in this first volume, it’s not dragged out. The art is plain great, really no wasted panes in this manga volume. Now there is a bonus story by Hiro about a girl who always had a crush on a boy. That boy passes away but she can see him as can his best friend. They talk and share some special moments. He ends up passing on and she learns about herself. Quick synopsis but this story is very touching and a nice bonus, not just some thrown in. Fans of romantic, comedic Shojo manga will enjoy Maid Sama! and anyone that enjoyed Ouran should check it out also.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dusk volume 1 Impression

Dusk; a series of vampire stories that what the reader expects and twist it around just a bit. Unlike most stories about the very romanticized blood suckers, Dusk puts it focus on one particular familiar, Eve, and how she servers the vampire in a way not explored in most vampire tales.

Meet Eve, vampire enforcer, hired muscle. This is one girl that does not run errands to her closest vampire Ash; she enforces vampire law with all the strength and speed of a true vampire. Whether it’s tracking down a vampire who turned a human, going overseas to take out a law breaking vampire, confronting her past or showing a high-school kid the dark arts are not something to mess with, Eve has her hands full in the new life she lives. First Eve takes out a vampire who turned an unsuspecting human who himself does not know how to handle his change. Next Eve revisits her past life and ex-husband, a hidden test from Ash then she heads to Europe to face-off with a vampire law breaking vampire and finally Eve must convince a young boy to lift a curse.

So those are the main story points as written by David Doub and what each does is introduce a bit more about Eve and the world she lives in. First we meet her as an enforcer, one who uses blood from Ash to ‘power-up’ for lack of a better term. She lays down the law and sticks with Ash even at his urging for her to return to her former life, a life she revisits in the second story. The third story outlines how the vampire world does have law, even overseas, that must be enforced. Finally a jaded high-school student decides to go all Carrie on his classmates and meets an end that shows life is cruel. The stories, their non-linearity, really offer a satisfying look, a different look, into the world of vampire. Eve is both strong and very flawed and the world she lives in is not all romance and the undead. The cover art and design by Brett Middleton Joamette Gil is really cool, yeah cool (great descriptor no?). The art for each story is by different artist and sadly is not the strong point of this book. The first story makes excellent use of shadow and has a very hommies feel to it that would have been perfect for the entirety of the book. Maki Naro delivers some very dark and moody art that really enhances the dark storytelling. The rest of the art tells the story but does not stick with the reader.

Overall there is one chapter of solid art but an entire book of interesting stories that just touch on Eve and the vampire world she is part of. If you like vampire stories then Dusk is worth the purchase as its original and different. Vampire tales that don’t center on the romantic figures and deal with points of addiction, abuse and murder is not for the faint of heart but it is for fans of engaging tales from a different angle.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit vol. 1 Impression

Near death experience and surviving a deadly disease. These are just two events that could cause an individual to reevaluate their life and live more fully. In Viz’s latest tale, Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, another method is applied to the entire populace to accomplish this goal and its all government driven.

The National Welfare Act takes effect when children are in grade school. They are urged to live meaningful and productive lives then they’re injected and the countdown begins. 1 in every 1,000 injected students will die between the ages of 18-25. In order to be productive and enjoy life the fear of death, the real lottery chance is instilled in children and while the odds are long the reality is someone will die no matter their stature in life. Due to their brave sacrifice the soon to be departed are given 24 hours notice and their families are compensated. The messages are delivered by a group of messenger who are entrusted ahead of time about the departed identities. There are rules as new messenger Fujimoto learns. The process for injection is random. Three departments 100% isolated from the outside world and each other contain the keys to who has been injected and they do not put together the pieces until near the time of death is to arrive. Families are compensated unless the notified go off the hook, say on a crime spree, then they must compensate the victims. Even within the messengers organization injection can be done on purpose if one does not … cooperate with the rules and guidelines set forth. Fujimoto learns these rules and their exact workings as he delivers is messages. One such message sees a boy ridiculed through school seek vengeance against those he wronged while another plays a song from his past. The cause of death does not change but how each individual reacts does.

What would you do with only 24 hours to live? Spend time with loved ones, go nuts on a bender or fade quietly into the next life. This is the question that will pop into readers minds are Motoro Mase unleashes a story that seems so foreign but not that farfetched. The meat of Ikigami lies in its story as the art is very ordinary both in setting and character design. These are real people in very relatable situations which makes the narrative all the more haunting. The two stories put forth highlight just two examples of how individuals deal with imminent death, one carries out his vengeance while the other tries to remedy past wrongs. All those who survive do gain a deeper appreciation for life, and I’m sure we will see that side of the story soon, but for now it’s all about the rules, the cruel randomness of a nationwide game Russian roulette. 1 in 1,000 chambers is loaded; who pulls the trigger is random. It’s how real these characters seem that will touch a cord with readers. This is not some strange far off universe full of aliens; these could be your neighbors, friends even family.

Overall Mase creates a very real world with such a simple premise it’s scary. What if the government enacted an act like this, who could object? This is a chilling tale of how the human mind works when put into a situation where death is unavoidable. How far off is this vision, how simple a concept that could rob the world of promising minds, athletes and more. The man who would discover the cure for cancer, dead at 24 and nobody would ever know. A chilling world, relatable well told stories highlight terror on a new level with Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Waq Waq vol. 1 Impression

Waq Waq volume 1 from Viz has a cover that does not even touch on the action found in the pages that follow. The manga created and illustrated by Ryu Fujisaki will please manga fans looking for some action and a little prophecy.

The Kami is the savior, a being from another land that will return and with their red blood will grant the Guardian who possesses him (or her) their ultimate wish. For good or bad, that will be the choice of the Guardian. The Guardian protects the humans from machines, machines that roam the land and destroy and kill. One such Guardian is Shio, at least after his father is killed protecting a young girl from the machines. This girl has red blood and Shio takes it upon himself to protect her with his Gojin-Zou. With her red blood the target of all Guardians, adverse affects on machines and humans alike and a mysterious shadow urging other Guardians against Shio, how will everything turn out …?

So check this out, the art is very cool, messy at times, but very slick. When I say messy it’s like a sloppy star athlete, still better than the average athlete even when they seem to not by trying. Yeah, the cover is very colorful and really tells nothing about what is inside this book. It’s action that is just made to be animated. The background settings remind me very much of Desert Punk, post apocalyptic settings where humans live in habitats, and now about the story. So humans on this planet (not Earth) live in habitats isolated away from machines that roam the land, machines that are violent and enemies. The humans bleed black blood and they foretell of a Kami, a chosen one who will save them from the machines. The Guardians, humans who team with Gojin-Zou, special machines, symbiotic, to fight machines are the ones who will have a wish fulfilled if they possess the Kami. So these are the basic points and the story kicks in with the Kami showing up, but it’s a girl from Earth who has no idea what is going on, is approached by a mysterious shadow (bad guy, mysterious I say) and is saved by Shio’s father. She makes humans angry and wants to kill her and machines seem to gather around her. So what’s the deal, how will she grant a wish? Two questions, and trust me there are more. There are other Guardians ready to fight Shio and each Gojin-Zou has unique powers like fire for example.

Overall the story can be a bit, discombobulating, but give it a shot. Its great action mixed with a story that has so much potential, so much mystery and story to be revealed. Not typical but oh so tasty.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Game Trailer

Aerialbots, Seacons and Combaticons in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?

Are they in the movie ... maybe but if you combine the movie trailer and the game trailer (below) and the movie trailer then fans can assume that the Aerialbots, Bruticus, Seacons and maybe Stunticons are all in a crazy Combiner fest to go along with Devestator and Soundwave (his voice is halfway through the game trailer). So here's the deal, the game trailer looks good, full of third-person melee and ranged action on the ground and in the air. So the game looks hot, but what about more characters, lets speculate ... and remember that games can add in bonus content for fans so I could be reading too much into this, but ...

Aerialbots - At about the 1:28 and 1:30 mark of the trailer there is an F-16 with very familiar lighting bolt marks on it's wings. In the movie trailer there is a pyramid scene where (assuming) Sam is face to face with a very large jet transformer but not running.

Seacons - A big stretch, not from the game trailer but rather movie trailer. Who else could fish out Megatron (three bots underwater in trailer) than the Seacons, another Combiner group.

Combaticons - A Decepticon tank burning everything in the game trailer and it's not the new Megatron form. In a movie, possibly, filled with many Combiners why not think the Combaticons are making an appearance.

Stunticons - Nothing real solid here but a lot of cars in the movie, why not the Stunticons?

This is of course speculation, heck the trailer looks like it has Jazz in it also, but with so many fireballs coming to Earth in the latest movie trailer this is going to be one crazy movie and can't reveal all during teasers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blood: The Last Vampire Live Action Movie Trailer

Saya is the last of her kind, a half-breed destined to hunt those very real monsters that do more than bump in the night. They are called Chiropterans, more than vampires, they are monsters that thirst for blood and can disguise themselves as human. Saya’s past is a mystery but her ties to these monsters leads her to hunt as part of a secret government agency, her latest mission, infiltrate a high school in post WWII Japan on a US Military base, find the monsters and kill them.

Saya’s story first hit US shores with the animated Blood: The Last Vampire feature in 2000. This 45+ minute masterpiece gave otaku just a taste of what the Blood novels carry in droves. Next up is the ongoing Blood+ anime from Sony, manga from Dark Horse. A longer, retold version of Saya not related to the Last Vampire Movie. Both are excellent and are among the best anime available today, especially for vampire fans looking for something a little different.

As for the live action movie, here is what we can tell from the trailer. This movie seems closer to the animated Blood: The Last Vampire opposed to Blood+. Saya is in the same school uniform, looks like a US military base due to her younger sidekick, American girl who replaces the school nurse from the anime. There are many more Chiropterans in a few scenes surrounding Saya which leads one to think they are not as tough as in the anime where just one monster is a handful. The movie also looks to flesh out the history a bit more showing scenes from the past. Saya herself looks spot on how fans would view her and her thick accent leads to one who has lived for a long time. Hands down this movie looks hot, a truly good reproduction of one of the most beautiful (too short) anime in the past 10 years. Check out the trailer and chime in, for this fan this movie looks mega hot.