Another long-time staple of story-telling involves a journey. Not merely a journey of distance, but one of emotional growth or of physical prowess or even of understanding your place in the cosmos. And I’m not talking about a trip to the local Starbucks for a $3 Pumpkin Spice latte or even all that walking to hatch an egg for ‘Pokemon Go.’ I am talking time and space and voyages and struggles and trials and tribulations and all that other stuff that makes life more interesting than a $3 PSL at Starbucks. Now, after this rather loquacious introduction, let’s get down to brass tacks. (more…)
The “Joker” Went Wild
With all the genres that are afforded to anime, the spy thriller is one that is badly underplayed. Perhaps someone feels that they can’t compete with a James Bond or a Jason Bourne, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the only other spy series I saw, “Night Raid 1931” was more of a fantasy/supernatural, as those people had special powers and abilities. What if we take a special caliber of person, one with a clear idea as to what is expected of them, and mold them into a strong agency? Thus, the idea behind “Joker Game” (“Jōkā Gēmu”). (more…)
I was honestly not expecting a second season from this quarter, but we have “Mushi Shi: Next Passage”. For the first season, I felt they were just tales of the weird and of these odd creatures called Mushi. It wasn’t until the second season that I saw it for what it really was: a caliber of horror. But it is done in a deliberate way, and not relying on gore and dismemberment and other bloody tropes that bedevil many horror shows. Intellectual horror? That’s a good term.
Ginko is still wandering the countryside, trying to help people in regards with their Mushi issues and always working to expand overall knowledge of them. The opening credits show a variety of Mushi. Take note, as you will be seeing most of them throughout the season. This also had something that I never thought I would see: Ginko lose! One thing that bothered me throughout the season is that Ginko seemed surprised. Look, if he has been a Mushi master for 15 to 20 years (how old is he, anyway), nothing should come as a surprise. I will let you get away with “I have never encountered this before”, as it is a big world out there, but he should never be shocked or surprised or perplexed…except the episode where he loses (Episode 17 – “Azure Waters”). (more…)
I used to complain (and still do) that anime was always about the future, but this one, “Junketsu No Maria” (“Maria the Virgin Witch”) takes place in the past, the far past, like the Hundred Years War past (1337 to 1453). I think this one takes place during the Caroline War segment of it, so we can put it between 1369 and 1389. Above us is Maria the Witch (and her two familiars in their owl form, left to right, Priapos and Artemus). She helps the people of the nearby village with medicines and other kind of support.
For the most part, the church tolerates her (barely), but when war comes to this part of the world, she gets on her broom and conjures up spirits to send the English packing. Well, this does not bode well for her, either with the Church or with God. No, He doesn’t make an appearance. Besides, who would do the voice? Chris Ayres? Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Seriously, Archangel Michael comes down to threaten Maria not to use her magic in public, as it is an affront against God. He sends a minion of his to watch over her, Ezekiel, a rather slight girl, to do what she has to do to stop Maria, up to and including dispatching her, if necessary. (more…)
Movie Review – “Bamboo” is Not a Weed
Another Studio Ghibli release, “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (Kaguya-hime no Monogatari) is 95% of a marvelous film. A rather cheap-out ending mars an otherwise magnificent effort, both in story-telling and animation approach.
A bamboo cutter named Sanuki no Miyatsuko lives high in the mountains, plying his trade. One day, while doing his rounds, he discovers a glowing bamboo shoot. Inside is a tiny, tiny girl. Believing her to be a divine presence, Miyatsuko and his wife decide to raise her as their own, calling her “Princess“. The girl grows rapidly and conspicuously, marveling her parents and earning her the nickname “Takenoko” (Little Bamboo) from the other children in the village. Sutemaru, the oldest among Kaguya’s friends, develops a particularly close relationship with her. (more…)
Short Run Series XVIII- “Circus” Catch
We have the third season of “Black Butler: Book of Circus”, which gives a complete story approach (much like the second season), but is far more entertaining, and far more heartless.
It is February 1886 and Ciel has been asked by the Queen to help her again. It seems that there is an epidemic of children disappearing, and not just one or two, but lots of them, as if they have been Pied Pipered away. The only link is the Noah’s Ark Circus, which has been to the towns that have missing children and it just happens to be coming to London in the next few days. The Queen wants Ciel and Sebastian to investigate and at least prove or refute the charges.
To this end, they infiltrate the circus, pretending to be commoners and apply for a job. The series details their adventures to crack this mystery. (more…)
It’s the past. (The past? How did that happen? Anime is about the future!) The year is 1931 and we find ourselves in Shanghai. There is a great build-up of forces from Japan, which threatens to engulf the area in war, as the need for conquest and land acquisition looms. Into this volatile mix is flung a group of people, collectively known as the Sakurai Agency, but they really are a spy ring. But they are more than they seem. They are, from left to right:
Aoi Miyoshi, Kazura Iha, Yukina Sonogi and Natsumi Kayiga. Not pictured is their boss, Shin’ichirou Sakurai. But these people are no ordinary spies; they have special abilities that aid them in their investigations. Their powers are, respectively, telekinesis, teleportation, telepathy and tele-clairvoyance. (OK, I couldn’t help myself). He is also an excellent sniper.
Together, they battle the Kwangtung army and its mysterious leader, Isao Takachiho, who is bent on the idea of Pan-Asianism, and will use any and all means to achieve it.
Now, if you put aside the special abilities folks seem to have, this is a series with loads of intrigue, from the era of pulp novels and detective work. It is a very good-looking series, as you really get a feel for Shanghai of the 30s. The fact that we know the eventual outcome for all of this does not detract from the agency’s attempt to prevent it. (more…)
Worked into a “Frenzy”
I am not a big fan of ‘historical’ anime, as they always seem to play fast and loose with the rules. Modern sensibilities, placed on a different era, sometimes equal a show that just doesn’t make it, either as anime or history.
“Shigurui” plays out more like a Kurosawa film, akin to “Rashomon” or “Yojimbo”, but the level of mayhem and violence places it within the realm of “Gantz” or “Deadman Wonderland”.
The story begins in 1629, as we are seeing a tournament between, perhaps, two of the country’s best swordsmen. However, they are using real swords and not wooden practice ones, so this will be a fight to the death.
The two men participating, Fujiki Gennosuke (who has one arm) and Irako Seigen (who is blind) not only have a history, but each has a history together. The show is a flashback as to how these two ended up here and in their current physical situation.
It all begins at the Kogen dojo, where Gennosuke is the star pupil and Seigen is the brash upstart who puts Gennosuke in his place. Kogan Iwamoto, the head of the dojo is, for most of the year, mentally unbalanced and is slowly rotting away, but for a brief period once a year, he becomes lucid and coherent and makes decisions that affect the dojo for the next year.
Seigen, blinded by his arrogance, carries on an affair with Lady Iku, who is looking for something away from Iwamoto. Well, the sensei finds out, which leads to their physical travails and both are sent packing. However, years later, Seigen comes back, seeing revenge by brutalizing the students of the dojo in savage ways. (more…)
Kingdom First Impression
Taking a play from an old ad campaign that use to run here in the states to discourage parents drug habits from having a transitioning influence on their kids; I can only start off by saying that I can imagine some unsuspecting adolescent quietly watching Kingdom in the comforts of his own room until his father busts in on him:
In the Warring States Period of ancient China (475-221 BCE), Shin and Hyou are war-orphans in the kingdom of Qin. They dream of one day proving themselves on the battlefield. One day, however, Hyou is taken to the palace by a minister. Winding up on the losing side of a power-struggle, Hyou manages to return to the village, barely alive. Shin then meets a boy who closely resembles Hyou, Ei Sei. For now he is the king of Qin; later he will become the emperor Shi Huangdi. (more…)