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NFT Anime season August 22, 2006

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.

This year’s anime season featured several choices that weren’t technically ‘anime,’ including a few live-action movies based on manga and some CG animation. Nevertheless, I continue to support the NFT‘s yearly effort. Plus, ADV always show up with free stuff.

YonnaYonna in the Solitary Fortress:CG animation with Final Fantasy written all over it (FF’s Kengo Takeuchi produces, writes and directs). Animation-wise, it’s good, but not so impressive given the prevalence of this style in video games today. Indeed, there’s nothing really outstanding about this at all, leaving audience feeling short-changed. Yonna is a girl with magical powers. Vilified by the villagers she and her brother flee to the titular fortress. Years later, a young government official comes to ‘free’ her. At least I think that was the idea. To be honest it got pretty confusing.Where’s the rest of the RPG?

Negadon: The Monster from Mars: In contrast to Yonna, Negadon is an outstanding CG animation, and a perfect homage to kaiju eiga and giant robot genres. Best of all, it does so through the feel of the genre instead of tongue-in cheek camp. Negadon is a monster (from Mars) mistaken brought to earth by a terraforming project. The film, however, is more the tale of aged scientist Narasaki, whose daughter was killed in an accident involving his greatest project. Negadon at once evokes the dilemma of science as savior or destroyer, a common theme since Gojira, but subverts expectations with a twist on the Gundam theme – it’s not a young pilot who climbs into the giant robot, but the inventor himself. The animation is exquisite, particularly the skin texture and character designs – not quite photo-realistic but not quite manga-esque either. There’s loving detail in every shot, right down to the retro ‘wear’ on the print.

Tetsujin and Black ox

Tetsujin 28: A live-action version of a ‘classic’ giant robot anime (Gigantor in the West), this proved very disappointing. A 12-year-old boy named Shotaro inherits the giant robot built by his father, and grandfather before him. This is just in time to take on a terrorist ex-billionaire, hell-bent on destroying the world. Though the story sounds typically ludicrous, the film starts well enough, with characterisation rather than silly costumes and cheap special effects. We get to know Shotaro, a boy struggling to fit in, raised by a single-parent and with the gift of a photographic memory. The story is clearly relevant with themes of terrorism and even a robot manipulated by a video-game controller. The initial CG of the ‘Black Ox’evil robot is impressive and for the first half, the audience empathises with the kid. But when Tetsujin shows up it just gets embarrassing. A 20 foot robot may move slowly realistically, but it’s like watching sumo wrestles attempt boxing. And from there the CG flitters between photo-realistic and Nintendo Entertainment System. At this point the water-works really begin, culminating in a truly excrutiating ‘flashback’ scence, told by sobbing mother to sobbing son, complete with the ‘world’s smallest violin.’ And the Shotaro becomes irritating as hell. The movie’s saving grace is the genius-inventor played by a rather attractive young woman.

Area 88Area 88: More ‘traditional’ anime based on the classic manga series. Shin Kazama is an ace pilot betrayed by his best friend and forced to serve as a mercenary in a middle-east country. For a 2005 production, the animation is slick but a little bland. The use of computer animation works for the planes, but for me traditional 2D animation reproduces the excitement of a manga-panel far better than clinical CG. Nevertheless, like all mecha shows, Area 88‘s strength is its characters. Each episode The first four episodes represent the story well, and one never tires of the wounded and lonely hearts of warriors.

Koi no MonOtakus in Love (Koi no Mon): Utterly bonkers, but fanastic look at Japanese otaku culture. Mon is a struggling ‘rock manga’ artist – he literally constructs manga out of rocks – whose life is turned around by manga-obsessed Koino. Their bizarre lives lead to a bizarre, and tortuous, courtship. The best otaku drama leave you caught between laughter and (exruciating) tears and Otakus in Love certainly achieves that. The worrying thing is it’s probably not far from the truth. Exploring the insecure side of humanity, the film is about dreams – what must be done to achieve them and at what point must one abandon – or at least adapt – them? Entertaining and oddly profound.



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