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

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

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

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

Cromartie High School Review (TV)

DirectorHiroaki Sakurai

Animation ProductionProduction I.G.

Genre – Comedy

Cromartie High School is one of those shows that requires you be an old-school fan of anime and manga if you are going to get the most enjoyment out of it. It is a comedy that parodies the juvenile delinquent (yankii) manga of the 70s and 80s as well as using many pop culture references of that time period. The TV series was adapted from Eiji Nonaka’s Kodansha award-winning manga (tied with Beck in the Shonen group in 2002) by Production I.G and TV Tokyo. It was broadcast in the US on Tech TV’s (now known as G4) anime programming block and the DVD was released in 2005 by ADV.

The first thing that comes up at the start of every episode is this tagline “Dear viewers sitting in front of the television the guys that appear in this anime are delinquents. So please do not under any circumstances imitate what you see in this anime, or you will end up like this (in jail).” So straight away you know it is a comedy and it is going to involve delinquent high school students, other than this I didn’t know what to expect. But when watching the opening credits animation for the first time three characters that stand out; a gorilla, a robot and a someone who looks like Freddie Mercury that are attending this school. The main character is Takashi Kamiyama a normal student among a school full of delinquents and acts as a sort of arbiter in many of the bizarre situations that occur.

The show is pretty much a string of different situations with very little overarching plot that are enclosed in short 12 minute episodes. It’s joke after joke like a sketch show and since there is very little continuity the episodes are almost standalone. The general theme of the comedy is making fun of the delinquents who deep down aren’t really tough guys and have some sort of problem or other ambitions (i.e. motion sickness, become a comedian). But I have to admit most of this goes over my head as I am not familiar with the juvenile delinquent genre. Most of my enjoyment in the show comes from the gorilla, robot and Freddie and there are plenty of episodes that surround these characters. For example the gorilla becomes a sushi chef, the robot is scrapped and repaired into a motorcycle and Freddie pops up all over the place. I don’t know what it is but seeing Freddie Mercury pop up and never talk but doing things like riding a horse to school or acting manly is hilarious. So this is Cromartie High School a quirky, irrelevant and very Japanese comedy anime that should definitely be watched if you are familiar with what they are parodying. However if you are like me your enjoyment may vary.

Rating – B

Year – 2003-04 Length – 26 episodes 12 minutes each

Eden of the East Review

eden of the east title

Animation Production Production I.G.

Director/CreatorKenji Kamiyama

Eden of the East is the latest project by the team of Production I.G. and Kenji Kamiyama who most notably directed the critically acclaimed Ghost in the Shell T.V series. It is so far an 11 episode series with 2 movies planned, the first “The King of Eden” is due out in Japan on the 28th November 2009.

Set in current day Japan the show involves a game surrounding a select group of individuals, “Selecao”, who have been chosen to save Japan. The founder of this game believes Japan is in stagnation and needs a revolution and he has charged 11 individual with 10 billion yen and a phone that will execute any requests. The show revolves around Akira Takizawa who is one of the Selecao and Saki Morimi who is a member of a group called Eden of The East. If you want further information about the plot take a look at my previous episode summaries.

This is the kind of show that entirely appeals to my tastes, I love the mix of mystery and believable science fiction set in modern day Japan. The technology involved in this show is not as crazy as what we have seen in something like Ghost in the Shell but has more to do with the internet and applications surrounding it. Eden of the East is a group who have developed an image recognition software and utilise the public to effectively tag people and objects. It is accessible on mobile phones and puts into focus possibilities for real life application. This aspect is not a main focus but gives it some depth along with the mystery elements surrounding the premise of the show.

One of the main underlying themes is the societal problems in Japan surrounding the NEET’s. But this isn’t a show like Welcome the the NHK, it has some upbeat attitudes towards them and they are involved at various points in the series. Akira utilises the strengths of theses NEET’s as a collective to try and save Japan. Other Selecao have different ideas on how to save Japan such as missile attacks on the elderly and NEET’s. Some buckle under the pressure or the greed overtakes them with 10 billion yen to spend. The actions of the Selecao sum up the different views on the current state of the society in Japan.

Go out of your way and watch this show, there needs to be more like this.

Rating A-

Genre – Mystery, Science Fiction Length – 11 Episode series Year – 2009

Eden of the East 11 – The East Goes on Further

eden11

Episode Summary

This final episode wraps up many of the remaining mysteries and sets it up for the first movie, The King of Eden.

  • Akira used the NEETs as a collective workforce to evacuate people from targeted areas before the initial “careless Mondays” missile attacks. However the evacuated people were suspicious of them knowing where exactly the missiles were going to fall.
  • Akira deflected the blame of the attacks to himself in front of the NEETs who were then sent to Dubai to shield them from the public eye.
  • To prevent the upcoming missile attack Akira used this time the collective minds of NEETs to come up with solution.
  • Akira believing he can’t just make the public believe this latest attack attempt was the fault of terrorists makes himself King/Prince of Japan. “And just like that he became a prince, in a country with no kings”

It’s tough making a final episode for a TV series where you satisfyingly resolve enough of plot but keep it open for future development. I think Kamiyama has done as good of a job as he could with a 11 episode series (around 4 hours total), with such a short amount of time it is hard to develop characters and flesh out this alternate reality. A full series review will be up soon.