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

Durarara!! Review (TV Series)

Animation ProductionBrain’s Base

DirectorTakahiro Omori

Durarara, one of the biggest new anime of 2010, is an action mystery set in the Tokyo city of Ikebukuro where a mysterious headless motocycle rider is heard blazing through the streets. The 24 episode show has two different arcs, the first half is a mystery surrounding the Dullahan (a celtic myth of a headless knight riding a horse with their head under an arm) who is looking to find her missing head. The second half is a tale of gang warfare in the fictionalized Ikebukuro with the same cast of characters who aren’t what they seem when initially introduced.

Brain’s Base has produced few shows that interest me, but when combined with Omori they have an excellent track record. Together they put out the unique crime tale Bacano! which is a personal favourite of mine as well as other well received shows such as Natsume Yujin-Cho and most recently Kuragehime. He was also, strangely enough, the director of Koi Kaze which seemed to be well liked by fans of the genre but that genre is incest romance, definitely not a show I had any interest in. Anyway the point is that anything Omori does is well made and tries to do something interesting.

One of Baccano’s strong points was its action scenes, this carries on to Durarara which has some interesting and unconventional action moments. Some of the characters have supernatural powers and the way they fight are much more than the typical brawl. Another strong point of Omori’s works are the characters and in Durarara the strong points are the side characters ranging from the Celty the Dullahan, a black market doctor, a super human bartender, an information dealer and even a friendly russian sushi chef. However some might say that the main characters, who are a bunch of high school kids, are dull but as things progress their characters get more interesting.

Another positive point is the music which is appropriate in adding to the atmosphere of the scenes and didn’t seem repetitive. The animation is also sharp and fluid completing the whole package.

Durarara is an excellent show that deserves to do well in the the upcoming US DVD release (25th January). There are so few anime (2 or 3 a year) that appeal to my sort of tastes and I’m just glad this was made and was actually done well.

Rating – A

Genre – Action, Supernatural, Mystery Length – 24 Episode series Year – 2010

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 10

Episode 10 The Dead’s House Rules

Summary: While they are now safe at Saeko’s large mansion the group are frustrated being part of a larger group who treat them as kids and don’t give them any responsibilities. Saeko is mad at her family for only protecting themselves and not coming for her. Saeko’s father is the head of an important family and leads with a strong sense of traditional honour.