Genius Party Beyond Review

Animation ProductionStudio 4C

Release Date – February 2008

Genius Party Beyond includes 5 short animated films that where not included in the original Genius Party, a Studio 4C led collaboration with the industry’s top directors and animators.

Dimension Bomb – Directed by Koji Morimoto who in the past also directed Magnetic Rose which was part of the Otomo short story anthology Memories (one of my favourite collection of short films). Sadly nowhere as good and frustratingly abstract despite the cool gritty cityscape imagery.

Gala – Directed by Mahiro Maeda a famous mech designer (Gunbuster, Last Exile, Escaflowne etc.) and animator who in the past also directed Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. No mechs in this short, taking its cue from the nature motif in Miyazaki films (who Maeda did key animation work on). I didn’t care for this one at all, the art style really put me off.

Moondrive – Directed by Kazuto Nakazawa a noted character designer known for working on El Hazard and Samurai Shamploo. It’s no surprise that the animated short with the most charm, humour and wackiness was done by a character designer. This was my favourite of the bunch with its hand drawn art style and it not being a typical abstract short film. It’s about a ragtag gang on the moon looking for treasure.

Toujin Kit – Directed by Tatsuyuki Tanaka who in the past did Kin Jin Kitto in Studio 4C’s other series of short films Digital Juice. My second favourite out of the bunch about a strange world where a girl is raising alien lifeforms in stuffed animals. I like the art direction the best in this short as it evokes a depressing dystopian environment.

Wanwa the Puppy – Directed by Shinya Ohira a key animator in many of the biggest movies in anime such as Akira, Redline and Studio Ghibli movies. A short about a kid’s dream full of child fantasy imagery of candy, monsters and a puppy.

Overall not as good as the first anthology with only 2 out of the 5 worth watching. Hard to recommend over other anthologies and clearly the left overs that didn’t make it into the first Genius Party release.

Rating – C

Genre – Short Film Anthology

Length – 5 Shorts (Roughly 15 to 20 minutes each) Year – 2008

Akira Blu-Ray Review

DirectorKatsuhiro Otomo

Animation ProductionTokyo Movie Shinsha

Akira was originally screened in Japan on July 16th 1988, around 22 and a half years ago, and is coincidently exactly 1 month older than me. I can’t remember the first time I saw it but it was sometime in the early 2000’s. It didn’t entirely wow me at first because it was built up in my mind to be something else and it was also very early in my anime and film watching days. But revisiting this classic once again on Blu-Ray and this time in the best possible conditions outside of a theatre, I completely agree with why this is praised as the best Japanese animated film ever created.

Set in Neo Tokyo 2019 years after a nuclear like explosion destroys a large section of Tokyo, the military continues to experiment with this devastating uncontrollable power that started the whole situation. Since then Tokyo has turned into a run down cyberpunk looking city full of gangs, protestors and a strong military presence.

The main characters, Kaneda and Tetsuo, are the typical delinquent teenagers who are in a biker gang. Kaneda is the strong charismatic leader of the group while Tetsuo is the shy childhood friend. During a intense chase scene with a rival gang Tetsuo encounters a genetically modified human which awakens the power within Tetsuo. He is then quickly whisked away by the military and is experimented on to try and control this power within.

The name of the movie refers to one of the original human experiment, Akira who was the cause of the original disaster. Akira in the mind of some of the Tokyo population has became a messiah figure and is seen as an all powerful being. It’s hard to explain but he wielded an ultimate sort of energy which was unlocked in his generic material. The scientist couldn’t control him which resulted in the disaster. Despite this the military continued experimenting to awaken this power within others.

Lony ago there were people who tried to gain control of that power. That is, all of the government’s requests. But they failed in their attempt, and it triggered the fall of Tokyo. And that power is something that is totally out of our….

What I like most of about the film is the quality of the animation and visual detail. The iconic red bike of Kaneda and his orange jacket are so memorable along with the use of red throughout the movie. It is a movie with a grand scale and a sort of maturity that isn’t really present in anime anymore.

As for the Blu-Ray features there is usual set of language option with a sparse number of extra features (trailers, storyboards). But the key is the picture quality which looks sharp and a noticeable difference over VHS, but I’m not sure about how much better it looks from DVD. Definitely one to keep on your shelf and revisit over and over again.

Year – 1988 Length – 124 Minutes

Eden of the East Movie II: Paradise Lost Review

Director – Kenji Kamiyama

Animation Production – Production I.G

“If someone gave you 10 billion yen and told you to improve this country, how would you use it?”

The second and final movie concludes the series of events that started in the TV series as the game the characters are participating in finally ends. I have to say I’m not entirely sure what to think of this series now that it is concluded. The movie focuses much more on political and societal problems related to Japan and I just don’t have the context to fully understand what’s going on. Someday I would like to revisit the series again with some greater background on the problems Japan has been facing for the past 20+ years.

So what happens in the movie? Akira finally gets his memories back from his childhood and learns about his American connection. Eden of the East is under investigation for the links to Akira who is portrayed as a terrorist in the media. And the game finally comes to a sudden end in a rather anti climatic fashion. Basically Akira broadcasts to every cellphone in the world a final message, he rallies the NEET’s to a new purpose and urges the older generation to give up some control and put more faith in the youth of Japan.

One thing that I have always liked about Eden of the East is their approach to technology. In the movie they use a fictional program called Airship which is a VOIP application for mobile devices that makes secure phone calls. It’s a lot like Skype on mobile devices which only just enabled VOIP calls over data connections. The augmented reality image searching stuff that was introduced in the TV series is still a cool idea and something that we could see very soon in reality.

It wasn’t a terrible conclusion to the series but it didn’t wow me either, however there is no reason you shouldn’t watch this movie if you have watched the TV series and the first movie.

Rating – B +

Year – 2010 Length – 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Genre – Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

High School of the Dead Review

Animation ProductionMadhouse Studios

Director Tetsuro Araki

On the surface High School of the Dead (H.O.T.D.) seems like it has everything going for it, production by Madhouse and directed by the director of the Death Note TV series. It has zombies, which have been all the rage for at least the last 5 years, and at least in the first episode seemed like it would take a more serious approach to the subject. But dig deeper you will find an amalgamation of fan service, Japanese high school antics, violence and typical bs anime plot. Granted it is done with some competence but don’t expect anything more, this show is entirely alright for just some occasional interesting action set pieces involving zombies.

The show is structured on group of high school students who group together to escape their zombie infected school and aim to find out if each of their families are okay. It looks like they plan to do a lot more than 12 episodes as we only get to one family in this season. The show ends up focusing quite a lot on romance and the situations they encounter as they find a way to travel back to their homes. While watching the first few episodes I was excited about how the Japanese would tackle the idea of zombies. Aspects such as what attracts them and what people and authorities might do to protect themselves were explored but not that much. One particular aspect I though was cool was the barricading of bridges and using a bulldozer to clear zombies on them.

What this show does do quite well, is that at least once an episode there is an genuinely awesome action moment usually involving some interesting zombies. Some of my favourites are the children zombies, which Hollywood is conscious of always excluding, and zombies with weird attire such as the motorcycle helmet zombie. There are also quite a few vehicular action moments that are typical but fun to watch regardless. It is probably not enough to recommend people to watch the show but there is always a time and situation for these type of shows. The epilogue of the season ends with the crew in front of a shopping mall, so we know what to expect for the next season of H.O.T.D.

Rating – C+

Genre – Action, Drama, Horror Length – 12 Episode series Year – 2010

Adapted from manga


High School of the Dead Episode 11

Episode 11 Dead Storm Rising

Summary: A more moody episode with tensions reaching their peak and some questions answered. Mr Shido is back and is initially let into the mansion compound. We learn Shido’s father was politician who left his mother who then commited suicide. For some reason Shido then left home to be a teacher. The tension between Rei and Mr Shido is explained, Shido’s father is having trouble with Rei’s police chief father and calls Shido to make Rei fail a grade.

At the end of the episode we cut to US nuclear submarine as they are given orders to launch the nuke. Russia and Usa are firing MIRV’s at each other and it looks like the world is heading into armageddon. A MIRV if you don’t know is a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle with carries multiple nukes on a single ballistic missile.

High School of the Dead Episode 9

H.O.T.D. Episode 9 The Sword and the Dead

Episode Summary: Separated from the group Takashi and Busujima head to Takagi’s house, they find it too tough on foot so they go to the bike shop we saw in the previous episode. Instead of taking a bike they find a ground/water vehicle in the garage. To draw the attention of the zombies so that they can sneak to Takagi’s house they drive the vehicle into a pond and make it go in circles. Next we have the awesome part of they episode (it’s funny that there always seems to be only just one) where we see some cute zombie children and Busujima completely freezes. Takashi saves her by blasting the kids away and then they take refuge in a nearby shrine. Here we learn a bit about Busujima’s past where she reveals she was attacked by a drunk while walking home from school but instead of just running away she plays along so that she could turn on him and beat him down with her training sword. They spend the night in the shrine and the next day they reach Takagi’s mansion.

Comment: This show is just so ridiculous, they creators fully know what they are doing. It is definitely not meant to be taken seriously which I probably should’ve been aware of from episode 1. They don’t seem to be going into further depth explaining the zombies and I don’t really know what the overall plot is going to be other than that the survivors are trying to reconnect with their families. I’m having fun watching it in the way that people like to watching bad movies and I’m pretty sure the creators know this too.

High School of the Dead Episode 8

H.O.T.D Episode 8 The Dead Way Home

Episode starts on airforce one where the US president has been bitten and facing death doesn’t choose to enter the code to release the nukes. It seems the logical option as it doesn’t seem like the zombie outbreak was maliciously created by any government.

Cut back to our group of survivors who cross the river on the hummer and decide to drive to Takagi’s house which is the closest. They run into more zombies but this time they get cornered with the road blocked off by a wire mesh designed to prevent zombies from getting through. They are saved by Takagi’s mom who is a firefighter but are now separated from Busujima and Takashi.

Eden of the East: The King of Eden Review (Movie)

Animation Production – Production I.G

Director – Kenji Kamiyama

The Eden of the East TV series was straight up a well produced sci-fi mystery by Production I.G. This first movie continues on the from the end of the unresolved series so it is a good idea to first watch the TV series and then the movies. While this is a movie targeted to viewers of the TV series it is extremely well produced where Production I.G continues their excellent record with crisp detailed animation and an interesting continuation of the plot of the TV series. If movies like Summer Wars disappointed you because of the unbelievable plot then you will find that Eden of the East deals with a technology driven plot in a much more realistic and well thought out way.

The plot can be summarised as a group of 12 people in Japan have been selected to take part in a game to save Japan with each access to 10 billion Yen and a concierge via phone who will execute requests. The events of the movie pick up months after the 60 missile strike on Tokyo where Takizawa has become a cult hero as he is potrayed as the one who saved Japan by averting any casualties. He then goes on to declare that he would become the King of Japan, wipes his memory a second time and leaves the country without trace except a message for Saki “I’ll be waiting at the place where our Journey began“. The state of Japan has changed with the PM resigned, Japanese financial markets tanked, and the global economy in downturn. The Japanese government have proposed to add a new 100% tax on inheritance to encourage the older generation to spend their savings or risk losing all of it when the die. By saving Japan from a deadly missile attack Takizawa hasn’t saved Japan in the underlying sense and the game is still going on with the remaining Selecao plotting against each other to complete the goal. Eden of the East, now a proper startup company with an office as a result of their popularity, are trying to track down Takizawa and piece together the actions of the other members of the game.

The underlying theme of the show is so interesting in that it is a direct representation of the state of current Japanese society. It comments on the state of the Japanese economy and more importantly the problem of social outcasts in society.  On the bright side there is some injection of hope with Eden of the East’s transformation into a proper company. As well as in the series Takizawa used the latent workforce of the Hikikomori to save the day. But the naiveté of some of the members of the game to try and save Japan is a shot at the narrow-minded nature of many of the Japanese population. The portrayal the younger Selecao (other than Takizawa) have been outright psychotic. For example in this movie we have a young filmmaker obsessed with shooting real life scenes by calling on the concierge to put Takizawa in fatal situations.

Like I said with my review of the TV series there needs to be more shows like Eden of the East that are mature in its presentation and don’t fall back on the Japanese animation cliches. Kenji Kamiyama knows how to craft a good sci-fi story and Production I.G is the best in the industry at what they do. Let’s hope the second final movie can wrap up the series in a satisfying way (already shown theatrically in Japan, waiting for the DVD release).

Rating – A –

Year – 2009 Length – 1 Hour 22 Minutes

Genre – Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

High School of the Dead Episode 5

High School of the Dead Episode 5: Streets of the Dead

Summary and Impressions:

Starts of by taking a break from the high school kids and looks at the situation elsewhere. On a remote seaside airport accessible by ship where only the high ranking officials and the staff necessary to run the airport are allowed. But despite being completely isolated someone infected must have been transported in and now zombies roam the runways. A special forces team was already on the island due to terrorism concerns and were able to secure the area, taking out zombies with a sniper rifle.

Cut to the bus stuck in traffic and Hirano and Takagi talk about survival options. They think that the only safe shelter would be smaller island areas such as Okinawa, Hokkaido and Kyushu. Planes become important to getting people there but only if airports are maintained. In the city the containment strategies by the police and armed forces are to use the bridges as choke points which are guarded by using high-powered water cannons as non lethal crowd control tactic. On the bus Mr Shido is becoming increasingly fanatical (like a cult leader) and Hirano, Takagi, Busujima and Ms Marikawa decide to leave the bus. They don’t get far before they are overwhelmed but when under attack Takashi and Rei comes to the rescue on the bike. The cool action moment of the episode is the dramatic entrance of Takashi by jumping the bike off a trailer from a lower freeway to the one above. And of course the other cool moment is a slow-mo bullet scene where Hirano get to use the gun Rei took from the dead cops in the previous episode. After clearing the present danger Ms Marikawa suggests they take shelter in a friend’s apartment nearby. This friend of her’s is the ace military sniper, who we see in the beginning of the episode, and she has a Hummer who Marikawa calls a tank. Looks like next episode will be low on action and based on the preview it is the anime cliche bath episode.

High School of the Dead Episode 4

High School of the Dead Episode 4: Running in the dead

This is a recap episode for the first half with the second half focusing on Rei and Takagi as they make their way to the rendezvous point. It is definitely way too early to be showing a recap of the past events but it is well cut and over fairly quickly. They show the timeline of events interspersed with some cuts to present time. There are also some nice backgrounds of a zombified Japan such as shots of a ramen restaurant and an a wrecked beamer. And we get a quick scene of Mr. Shindo as her continues to be a psychotic perv. capitalising on the fact that he is in charge.

In the second half of the episode Rei and Takagi as they travel to meet up at the police station come across a crashed cop car slammed into by a truck. Rei salvaged the cop’s gun and show some her knowledge with weapons (as the daughter of a cop). Next they stop to fill up on gas, in Japan some of the gas stations are self-service where you have to enter cash or a card before you can fill up. They are out of money so Takagi goes into the store and fulfills a fantasy of many by smashing open a cash register with a baseball bat. Meanwhile a crazed survivor sneaks up on Rei and holds her hostage.

Overall it was an alright episode, pretty pointless but there are some parts worth watching. It is heavy with emotions of Takagi reflecting on the events of the past 24 hours telling us a bit more about the characters and their state of mind.