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

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The Sky Crawlers Review (Movie)

Animation ProductionProduction I.G

Director Mamoru Oshii

The Sky Crawlers is a 2008 movie from enigmatic director Maroru Oshii who is famous for directing the Patlabor movies, Uresei Yatsura TV series and most notably the Ghost in the Shell movies. He is a much lauded director whose directing style is much more subdued, primarily relying on visuals and character design to covey his message. He isn’t a director whose every work is a masterpiece but he is capable of putting out a classic every so often, unfortunately The Sky Crawlers isn’t one of them. The concept is interesting enough as it is set in an alternate history where war is privatised and played out for entertainment. But it is a long fairly uneventful movie, while beautifully animated movie there is very little going on to universally recommend it to anyone.

The movie starts off (in a typical Oshii way) with an impressive CG action scene of a dogfight with a very high level of detail put in the mechanics and design of the planes. Once it’s over the opening credits roll among the clouds and ends in a peaceful landing of a plane piloted by the main character Yuichi Kannami. Yuichi is a new arrival at small airfield replacing a pilot who died in mysterious circumstances as he was not killed up in the air. The movie is about the mystery of this and Yuichi’s connection to past events.

The events in the movie play out with a familiar but uncanny mood to it as things are slightly off. It is evocatively quiet most of times which give you the time to scan the screen and examine the visuals. You definitely need to watch the movie with a different mindset and get into the deeper underlying themes that Oshii is trying to convey. Yuichi and the rest of the participant pilots in the war are all children. They are not normal children because they don’t age, they stay the same age and usually only die if killed in battle. They are genetically engineered and are referred to as Kildren and their only purpose in life is to fight this war controlled by adults as a spectacle for TV. They have the freedom to do whatever they want in their down time but they are just so different from everyone else. There’s a big revelation that serves as the climax of the film but if you want to enjoy the film you have to let your mind mull over the philosophical themes and implications of the film.

Rating – B

Genre – Mystery Length – 121 Minutes Year – 2008

Halo Legends Review

A compilation of 7 loosely related shorts in the Halo universe by 8 different directors and 6 studios. Like other US and Japan collaborations, such as the Animatrix, Halo Legends aims to tell the definitive back story of Halo universe (overseen by 343 Industries Frank O’Connor) as well as depicting different aspects of the covenant and human conflict.

The breakdown of director and animation studio is:

  • Origins (2 parts) directed by Hideki Futamura and animation production by Studio 4C.
  • The Duel directed by Hiroshi Yamazaki and animation production by Production I.G.
  • Homecoming directed by Koji Sawai and animation production by Bee Train.
  • Prototype directed by Yasushi Muraki and Tomoki Kyoda and animation production by Bones.
  • Odd One Out directed by Daisuke Nishio and animation production by Toei Animation.
  • The Babysitter directed by Toshiyuki Kanno and animation production by Studio 4C.
  • The Package directed by Shinji Aramaki and animation production by Casio Entertainment.

There is a wide range of different animation styles which on the most part are reflective of the studio that produced the short. For example the one done by Toei is in in that simple bright animation style that is reminiscent of Dragon Ball while Studio 4C in “The Babysitter” use their highly detailed realistic style (or in Origins their abstract style). Some of the shorts have a Japanese take on Halo such as in “The Duel” where the Covenant are basically depicted as Samurai but on the most part it sticks to the familiar Halo we know from the games. There is also quite a lot of focus on female spartans while Master Chief only prominently stars in the last short “The Package”.

Out of the 7 my favourite is “The Babysitter” produced by Studio 4C which involves an assasination of a covenant prophet by a Spartan and a small ODST group. This short was around 20 minutes and was paced very well with a complete self contained story. As mentioned before the animation in this is very detailed, especially the architecture of the ruins and looks to be the one with the highest budget.

Out of the directors there are 2 high profile director in Daisuke Nishio and Shinji Aramaki. Daisuke Nishio directed the Dragon Ball series and his short is the only light hearted one and involves a clumsy spartan named 1337. Shinji Aramaki, director of Appleseed, does the only 3D animated short with a studio that hasn’t done anything else of note in anime. Both of these are alright but typical of their style and the anime cliche they popularised.

Overall not much here unless you are a story obsessed Halo fan, there are some decent action scenes but nothing comes close to the CG in the Halo games or amazing commercials for the game. As a Japanese animation fan it is interesting to see how each studio adapted their animation styles but I would say only Studio 4C (in “The Babysitter” not “Origins”) does a good enough of a job that is must see.

Rating – B –

Genre – Action, Science Fiction Length – 120 Minutes Year – 2010

The History of Manga and Anime

This is part of a series that aims to educate anime fans about the history of the medium.

Japan: The literal translation of Manga is “whimsical pictures” and referred to a range of picture books, sketchbooks, comics and drawings from the 18th century onwards. Manga as we know it today originated from post WWII Japan (1945 onwards) when American culture permeated throughout Japan due to the U.S. occupation of Japan. Modern manga is influenced by both traditional Japanese culture and art as well as American cultural influences. Manga artist Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), widely known as the father of manga and anime, created the manga series Astro Boy (Tesuwan Atomu, lit. “Mighty Atom”) which was first published in 1952 and the anime first broadcast in 1963. The other great influence on manga was Machiko Hasegawa who was responsible for Sazae-san which was a comic strip that ran from 1946 to 1974 in the Asahi Shimbun. The anime series of Sazae-san began in 1969 and continues today making it the longest running television series ever.

The origin of the Japanese word Anime came from the abbreviation of the English word animation. This term became widely used from the 1970s onwards but the Japanese had experimented with animation since 1917. It was only until the 1960s and 1970s that anime became popular and became distinct from the western influence of animation. Astro Boy was the first 25 minute per episode anime series, while Three Tales was the first ever Japanese anime broadcast in 1960. Some other early anime series were Tetsujin 28 (1963), Mazinger Z (1972), Space Battleship Yamato (1974) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979). Hayao Miyazaki, the most widely known anime film maker, started his directorial career with the anime series Lupin III (1971-1972) and it’s film The Castle of Cagliostro in 1979.

Rest of the world: Manga refers to comics originating from Japan and Anime refers to Japanese animation. In the U.S. one of the first commercially translated manga was Keiji Nakamura’s Barefoot Gen in 1980 (fan translations pre-date this by a couple of years). Other early translated works included Lone Wolf and Cub, Akira, Golgo 13, Ranma 1/2, and Nausicaa.

Anime entered the worldwide markets in the 1960s and it’s popularity was a major reason that contributed to the introduction of manga to the world. Astro Boy was also the first anime series broadcast outside of Japan in 1963 where NBC adapted 104 of the 193 episodes into English for syndication. Later on popularity of anime exploded with titles such as Robotech/Macross, Dragon Ball and more recently Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop.

The next part in this series will be on the genesis of the manga/anime art style and go into more detail about the pioneers in the industry.

Tensai Okamura

Anime Industry – Director Spotlight

 

Currently directing Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor.

Age – 47 (1961) Changed first name from Yutaka to Tensai.

 

Notable Past Works as Director

1995 – Memories (Stink Bomb)

1999 – Medabots

2000 – Kikaider

2005 – Wolf’s Rain

2006 – Project Blue Earth SOS

2007 – Darker Than Black Season 1

Storyboard Work for Cowboy Bebop, Rahxephon, Full Metal Panic

He wanted to do a modern Tokyo based anime with spies and as a result we have Darker Than Black. An awesome concept that is paying off now in a time with very few mature action/mystery shows.

Genius Party Review

Animation Production – Studio 4C

Graphically and thematically diverse collection of shorts of varying quality.

Genius Party screenshot 1

Genius Party – Atsuko Fukushima (Animator) – Dialogue less opener, visually fun to watch.

Genius Party screenshot 2

Shanghai Dragon – Shoji Kawamori (Famed Mech Designer and Escaflowne Creator) – Enjoyable premise, kid finds a device that creates whatever he can draw, giant robots.

Genius Party Screenshot 3

Deathtic 4 – Shinji Kimura (Background Artist and Art Director) –  Zombie kid finds a living frog, world full undead, zombie police (above right).

Genius Party Screenshot 4

Doorbell – Yoji Fukuyama (Manga Artist and Story) – Disappointingly bland.

Genius Party Screenshot 5

Limit Cycle – Hideki Futamura (Animator)- Philosophical monologue, 18 terribly boring minutes, just fast forward through it.

Genius Party Screenshot 6

Happy Machine – Masaaki Yuasa (Kaiba, Mind Game, Kemonozume Director) – Same animation style as kaiba, cute but quickly descends into abstractness.

Genius Party Screenshot 8

Baby Blue – Shinichiro Wantanabe (Cowboy Bebop Director) – Pulls a Makoto Shinkai, guy is about to move to a different town and spends time with childhood friend, bike chase scene pretty awesome.

Overall a decent collection of shorts but none stand out as a must watch.

Rating – B

Available on DVD (86mins)

Anime Directors – Satoshi Kon Part 2

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Perfect Blue 1998 – His directorial debut is a psychological thriller which depicts a pop-idol turned actress who has a obsessive fan/stalker. It became a classic which was praised by famous movie directors and reviewers. It cemented Satoshi Kon as a talented up and coming director.

Millennium Actress

Millenium Actress 2001 – An ambitious time spanning movie about a documentary film maker interviewing an actress about her past roles. The blend of complex fiction and reality is again present in this film. It was a critical success having won various awards.

tokyo_godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers 2003 – A departure from his usual themes involving a makeshift homeless family who find a dumped baby and try to return it to the parents. An interesting view on a different world which gives insights on family issues and values.