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 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.

High School of the Dead Episode 7

Episode 7 Dead Night and the Dead

Summary: On this episode a father and daughter seek refuge from the zombies and knock on a house with lights on. The family in the home fearing for their survival kill the man (by homemade spear) leaving his daughter alone. Hirano sees this situation from the balcony of the apartment and despite warnings to not make any noise snipes off zombies to protect the girl. Takagi goes to save the girl on his bike and we get some cool bike vs zombie action. Hirano supports Takagi sniping zombies in the way while the rest of the group prepare to leave the apartment on the hummer. Takagi while saving the girl fires of his gun alerting the horde of zombies to him. The girls and Hirano come to the rescue in the hummer and they get the hell out of there.

Impression: Based on the episodes so far I don’t have expectations that this show will be any good in comparison to the other shows going on right now. I could be spending my time watching better shows but it’s too late from a blogging perspective. It’s just mindless zombie action with some interesting aspects and that is probably just what the creators were going for.

Episode Screenshots

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.

High School of the Dead Episode 3

HOTD Episode 3: Democracy under the dead

Episode Summary: The zombie pandemic has been confirmed as having spread all over the world. In the U.S. the white house has been evacuated to a naval warship, Beijing is ablaze and Paris & Rome are a disaster with mass lootings. In London the authorities are doing a better job at maintaining public safety while no one has heard anything from Moscow. Everything was alright in the morning highlighting the fact that it has spread over the world in a matter of hours. The nurse brings up that  the pandemic is akin to black death in 14th century or the spanish flu but much more deadly. They also speculate whether the zombies will decompose after a few weeks in the sun but aren’t sure if normal rules will apply to the zombies. On the plus side they do confirm that the zombies only react to sound not sight or smell.

As they make their to the bus they pick up another group of survivors who are clearly not as zombie ready as our lead group. One of then cause an echoing sound that attracts all the zombies in the school to their location. When they reach the bus another group of survivors rush to them including another teacher Mr Shindo. Rei immediately shows her disgust towards Mr Shindo and unsuccessfully tries to urge them to go ahead with out him. Why does Rei hate Mr Shindo so much? There are definitely some history between them but his first action in the show sets up his character, as he is guiding his group of students to the bus one of them fall and all he does is a foot to face saying “that’s it for you“.

They all get on the bus and leave the school and soon after Mr Shindo tries to take charge to become group leader. Here is where the democracy in the episode title comes into play. Mr Shindo is voted as leader with the majority of votes. Rei can’t handle this and gets off the bus, Takashi follows and a runaway bus full of zombies crashes near them. They get separated from the bus and plan to meet up at the police station at 7pm later in the day or at the same time the next day.

The end of the episode involves the best part of the series so far (for me), a crazy awesome encounter occurs with a motocycle helmet wearing zombie. I don’t know why this was so awesome to me but let’s hope there are more moments like this.

Summer Wars (Movie) Review

Director Mamoru Hosoda

Animation ProductionMadhouse Studios

After the excellent 2006 movie “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” Mamoru Hosoda was a man to watch in the Japanese animation industry. Given a larger budget he set out to create a summer blockbuster with the appropriately generic name “Summer Wars“. It’s a summer blockbuster in every way in terms of the film’s budget, marketing and broad appeal which instantly should have signalled that it was not going to be like his comparatively indie classic “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time“. A blockbuster approach doesn’t necessary have to result in poor plot and character that are overshadowed by the action but in the majority of the cases this is what happens. “Summer Wars” does exactly what it sets out to do trying to appeal to the broad Japanese audience which from my view (an Anime fan outside of Japan) was never going to impress me. I was bitterly disappointed that it is not as good as his brilliant previous film but it is a different type of movie that sets out to do precisely want it wants, enjoyable for the 2 hours but there after completely forgettable.

The premise of “Summer Wars” surrounds high school math wiz Kenji Koiso who takes on an unusual job offered by fellow student (Natsuki) who is from a large prestigious family (descendants of a warrior clan). Natsuki initially tells Kenji his job is to come to Ueda to help with Natsuki’s Grandma’s 90th birthday. But in reality his job is to pretend to be her girlfriend as she promised her ailing Grandma she’d bring her boyfriend the next time she visited. This is all just to conveniently set up Kenji to be in the right place at the right time. The internet has evolved into a true virtual world called OZ which controls the real world (traffic, gas, water, and even over military weapons) and has become a business hub,  and essential for the functions of the government. An A.I. has taken over OZ by hacking and controlling user accounts causing havoc by messing with important services all over the world. There is definitely a need suspend your disbelief (especially if you know anything about networks and security) which might turn off some people but to the general audience they have no idea that this is pretty ridiculous situation. Kenji has to try and get rid the A.I. as he is surrounded by a family who have strong ties to OZ and the problematic malignant A.I.

The implausible plot is my main problem with the film which just escalates as you watch. The ridiculous ending, let’s just say it involve playing cards, was the peak of the problems. The characters were my other problem with an annoying cop the worst culprit. Everything else is fantastic, which definitely does allay some of the problems. The animation is amazingly detailed with vibrant and lively colours of the countryside contrasting with the virtual world of OZ. There are really some great backgrounds and sequences showing us the beauty of Ueda’s countryside and life. Like “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” there are some humorous moments but nowhere near as hilarious. Also this is the first time I so clearly noticed embedded advertising of well known products in an animated movie (i.e. NDS, Sony monitors, iPhone).

Ultimately it’s a techno thriller that has been done better elsewhere. It treads familiar ground and doesn’t do much more than what it aimed to do as a summer action blockbuster. It is still worth watching with some redeeming qualities but mostly because there is shortage of decent big budget Japanese animation movies.

Rating – B

Year – 2009 Length – 1 Hour 54 Minutes

Genre – Adventure, Action, Comedy