Redline Review (Movie)

Animation ProductionMadhouse Studios

DirectorTakeshi Koike

Redline is the most visually entertaining animated movie to come out of Japan for years, now out on Blu-Ray it is a must own for anyone who has watched anime. It debuted back in August 2009 at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland and was released in Japan in October 2010. It has been a instant hit with critics and anyone lucky to see screenings of it but now anyone can see it.

The man responsible for Redline is Madhouse Studio’s Takeshi Koike, who started out as an animator under the wing of the well known director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Redline is Koike’s   full film directorial debut, before this he did the “World Record” segment of the Animatrix as well as directing the pilots of Samurai Champloo and Iron Man. At the age of 43 we have a lot to look forward to from Koike who has shown us that he has a eye for action and  animation design.

It is set in an intergalactic future where the biggest underground racing event in the world, Redline, is being held on a hostile planet which doesn’t want the race there because of their hidden military secrets. The plot is simple enough, we follow a human racer, JP, who uses a traditional car which doesn’t have any weapons equipped up against a cast of characters from different planets. The character are outrageous and fun to watch, JP has a retro style going with his classic muscle styled car and pompadour. Redline is all about the visuals and action, the sense of pace that is visualised is incredibly cool, the height of it is when JP use his nitro boost. Action also comes into play with the other racers using their weapons to take each other out as well as the military on the planet trying to take out the racers to protect their secrets. There is a cool Akira sort of vibe with one particular biological weapon that pops up mid race that blew me away.

I’ve forgotten the last time I was so impressed by the creativity and visual style on show in an anime. Redline is a definite must watch, buy the Blu-Ray show your non anime watching fans, it is that good.

Rating – A +

Genre – Action, Racing, Science Fiction

Year – 2010

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

Level E Review

Animation Production – Studio Pierrot and David Production

Director Toshiyuki Kato

The premise of Level E is that aliens live on Earth hidden among the general populace and hundreds of aliens species come and go every year without the majority of humans noticing. A high school kid moves alone to a rural Tokyo town to play baseball and finds in his new apartment an alien who turns out to be a prince of a faraway planet called Dogura. The main plot line of the show is about this prince and why he’s here along with side stories about the other aliens on Earth.

Sounds interesting doesn’t it, but it lacks substance and episode are mixed in quality. Starts off ok and didn’t really grab me until the last 3 episodes which wrap up the story. I felt very little compelling for most of the series with one note characters and mediocre side stories. The overall concept is decent but it didn’t play out to potential in terms of being a comedy and supernatural mystery. The main problem is that the characters are not interesting, we don’t get much time to learn about any of them and the main character, the prince, is just a jerk with no-one else to counter balance him.

Episode 11 was the best as it played out like a good Haruhi episode where a group of people are trapped in a supernatural situation and are trying to figure out what to do. Episodes 12 and 13 conclude the series and I would just recommend just watching the first couple episode and skipping to the last 3, you won’t really miss much. All episodes are streaming on Crunchy Roll if you want to watch Level E.

Rating – C

Genre – Comedy, Mystery, Drama, Science Fiction

Length – 13 Episode Series Year – 2011

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

Trigun: Badlands Rumble Review (Movie)

Animation Production Madhouse Studios

Director Satoshi Nishimura

Twelve years after the release of the original series in 1998, the busy Madhouse Studios have finally revisited the hugely popular world of Trigun with Vash the Stampede back for another adventure. Original director Satoshi Nishimura returns having directed very little in the meantime (other than highly regarded Hajime no Ippo TV series) and staff credits in shows such as Eden of the East, Monster and Kiba.

Trigun is one the classic anime TV series from the 90’s but don’t expect this movie to expand on any of the themes of the original. It is feature length side story involving a bank robbery gone wrong, a crew lead by the infamous robber Gasback is betrayed by his crew and twenty years later he is about to exact his final act of revenge. Gasback has a bounty of 300bn on his head and rumours of his next heist draws bounty hunters everywhere to Macca City, including Vash the Stampede.

If you haven’t seen or don’t remember the TV series (I can barely recall much about the story) Vash is a misunderstood bounty hunter who has built up a criminal reputation for being involved large robberies. People call him the humanoid typhoon but in reality he is there to prevent the crime from succeeding and stop anyone from getting killed. Vash’s normal demeanor is an obnoxious goofball which makes an excellent cover mistaking him for an impostor.

Twelve years ago this sort of cartoony comedic action was the norm but Trigun differed in that it had an interesting backstory and world. It is set in a futuristic wild west but not in the way Cowboy Bebop was, it is more steam punk with a mix of old and new but very steeped in the traditional western atmosphere of deserts, isolated towns and rampant crime. If I remember correctly the world that they are on is not Earth but some planet that was colonised after large colony ships crashed there.

This movie is a fun return to the world of Trigun but it is definitely missing the broader themes and story of the original series. It has plenty of great over the top action scenes which is a throwback to the 90’s which is infrequently done well these days. It is nice to see a HD widescreen version of Trigun, as the original was 4:3, the animation really pops with the vibrant colors of the original. I’d recommend people see the TV series if they haven’t and if they want to see more just keep in mind this is really just a side story.

Rating – B +

Genre – Action, Comedy, Science Fiction, Western Year – 2010

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