The Case of Alice and Hana (2015, Steven & Steven/Rockwell Eyes)
Hana to Arisu Satsujin Jiken
Tetsuko "Alice" Arisugawa has just moved to the rural countryside with her mother. She doesn't feel very welcome when she catches the neighbour staring out the window at her. Not only that, no one wants to be near her at the local school for some reason or the desks left empty in their classroom for that matter. As the days pass, she soon learns there used to be a student who was murdered that sat at her seat. Now everything that happens around her is somehow linked to that very incident. As Alice continues to get caught up with people who know bits about the incident, she starts to investigate.
Here's a movie I was kind of curious about because Makoto Shinkai had praised at one point. I knew nothing about the movie and haven't seen any of Shunji Iwai's other works before so didn't know what to expect.
It starts off quite creepy but turns into some hilarious wild goose chase and the dynamic characters with their snappy reactions and sarcasticly voiced lines just adds to it. It's a funny movie in a strange sort of way as one thing leads to another thanks to its entertaining, lively combination of characters that just makes you laugh. Street smart Alice doesn't let anything get in her way and gets carried way quite easily. Despite all the hilarious moments, it manages to hint at some new info about the murder that kind of makes you feel a chill.
It's a prequel to the live action movie Hana and Alice which was originally made up of 4 smaller short films to celebrate 30 years of Kit Kat in Japan back in 2003 apparently. I guess that's why Shinkai was invited along to its premiere because that's the way 5 Centimetre's is composed too although, it actually started off as a bunch of draft short stories. On a side note, Kit Kat's popular during examination time because someone in marketing must have thought of the ingenius idea that it sounded like "kitto katsu [sure victory]".
Anyway, animation's really rough although I guess it's because it was done using rotoscope style animation where the artists spend time tracing over real world photos as reference to animate characters.
A hilarious wild goose chase full of mystery, romance and friendship. Guess you could say it's a movie with girls doing silly things too in a way.
Nadia The Secret of Blue Water (1990, Toho/Gainax)
Fushigi no Umi no Nadia [Nadia of The Mysterious Seas]
Optimistic young inventor and machine enthusiast Jean is off to Paris to take part in a flying competition. Along the way he is captivated by a dark skinned girl and is immediately determined to befriend her. He wasn't expecting to be chased by dangerous armed figures but he is determined to protect the girl. Soon he learns her name was Nadia, an orphan like himself and the people after her wanted the Blue Water pendant she possessed. After losing her place at the circus she had been travelling with, she decides to join Jean.
Meanwhile, many ships have been sunk by what is rumoured by sea monsters but countries across the world accuse each other of secret weapons. As Jean and Nadia continue to escape from their pursuers, they soon find themselves aboard a submarine full of ancient but advanced technology and, the secrets behind Blue Water begins to slowly unravel on their journey.
Saw a bit of this classic show and decided to watch it as it's directed by Anno Hideaki best known for Evangelion. Right off the bat, you'll recognise familiar music and fonts that feel like something out of Evangelion. Well, Gainax did take part in the production and Shiro Sagisu composed the music but it's awfully similar. Show itself feels like a mix of Laputa with the magical pendant and villains, persistent boy meets girl from Kiki's Delivery Service except the villains are like the idiots from Pokemon. We've even got a Mei from Totoro.
Interestingly enough, Hayao Miyazaki was indeed involved in the concept of this show during his pre-Ghibli studio days and is based on Jules Verne's French novel "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater". It started off as a sequel to Future Boy Conan (a great show) but Miyazaki then founded Studio Ghibli and decided to use some of those ideas to focus on his studio's first movie Laputa. This was when the left over plan at NHK was given to Hideaki from Gainax to continue building on which resulted in this show. Evangelion itself was originally supposed to be a sequel to Nadia too apparently which explains all the Evangelion and Ghibli vibes. Crazy bit of history which means this show could be called "Future Boy Conan II" and Evangelion "Future Boy Conan III" in a way.
I can definitely see Evangelion's roots from this show along with reminiscent of Ghibli's Laputa. They all started from the same show after all. Those of you have watched Evangelion and Laputa like me will spot them right away and throughout the show which is quite funny in itself.
It starts off quite kiddy-ish. When it's not the kids outsmarting the incompetent villains, it's Nadia praising and then mocking Jean's inventions. It's got some good principals similar to Ghibli movies like Totoro and Kiki so not all bad influence instead of just plain violence like Dragon Ball or worse (well, mostly).
However, it doesn't take long before there's a lot of cold blooded killing and cults. There are some cruel moments and, despite no bloodshed the art can get quite eery and there are some philosophical moments akin to the later Evangelion. 2/3's way in it does have a fair bit of gore. In contrast there are some nice peaceful moments before it moves onto the next arc.
It's entertaining watching Nadia and Jean on their adventure along with the rest of the gang. Obviously it's not all happy times as they travel with the crew of the Nautilus and they are made to make hard decisions that the young kids find it hard to understand.
Pacing's good until just about the last quarter where it kind of feels dragged out with the dessert island setting. Last third feels kind of weak as it drags out and feels like it's going all over the place, deviating from the main plot. Interestingly enough, Hideaki only directed episodes 1 - 22. After that it was the co-director Shinji Higuchi if you pay attention to the credits in the OP animation which explains why they lost the plot.
I think art is as good as it can get from 1990s and some of it reminds me of another classic Space Battleship Yamato like the Nautilus submarine and Captain Nemo (which means "nobody" in Latin interestingly enough). Other than that, there's a bit of fan service where Grandis is trying to impress but not the blatant kind like in modern day shows. Well, there's the odd bath and changing scenes similar to Evangelion.
It's a fun action comedy with a bit of mystery in it where you can think of a Ghibli story but with bits of Evangelion direction. Odd combo huh?
A sci-fi action comedy and I enjoyed almost every episode. Watch out for the scene change in episode 36 OP.
There's also a sequel movie that takes place 3 years later so just before the epilogue. Half an hour of it is just recaps with Nadia reminiscencing about her adventures and the main plot isn't all that excitingly new but, it's pretty cool to see the the grown-up Jean and Nadia working hard towards their goals. Important figures across the world are evaporating and it seems to be the work of the Neo Atlantis remnants. Meanwhile, Jean finds a girl with amnesia drifted ashore who only remembers herself as Fuzzy. As Nadia uncovers their secret as a apprentice journalist in London, Jean and the rest of the gang find themselves out to save the world again.
Worth A Watch
86 (2021, A-1 Pictures)
Vladilena Milize, better known as "Lena" is a Handler from the Republic of San Magnolia, District 1 who are involved in overseeing squadrons from District 86 in the war against the autonomous Legion army of the Giadian Empire. It was estimated it would be a 2 year war before the Gladian runs out of resources. A system known as the Para-RAID allows the Handler to share the "Processor" commander of a squadron's senses and rumours had it the "Spearhead" squadron Lena was being re-assigned to drove many Handlers to madness thus, gaining the nickname "Undertaker" but Lena was unfazed.
However while human, those who did not possess silver hair like the Alba are exiled to District 86, recognised only as "drones" and are never revealed to the public. Their Handlers get all the glory. As such, Lena finds it revolting the people of her home should act in such a way and continues to show her discontent despite much disapproval. At the same time, the extremely under-equipped 86 with old model Juggernauts don't appreciate her sympathy and attempts to treat them kindly. Despite that she does not give up and continues to do what she must to support them as she continues to oversee them in their battles. Soon she learns there are many other darker secrets hidden behind the seemingly peaceful republic she resided in.
There's a lot to get your head round with shows like this as it immediately hits you with all kind of names and terminology. It's got quite a deep world setting but not too hard to pick up. It probably had plenty of room to do this as a light novel series. It kind of has a bit of Attack on Titan vibes to it but sci-fi version fighting an AI enemy; privileged behind walls, discriminated at the front lines and an ever looming sense of doom and despair. Lots of death. More you watch, darker it gets.
Despite that, Lena's cute expressions along with the way the Spearhead gang interacts lighten up the mood. Probably more than AoT since the gore isn't as heavy. Funnily enough the composer who worked on AoT's music, Hiroyuki Sawano also worked on half the scores in this show and they're mostly the intense techno battle themes although he did manage to compose some of the more serene piano scores too. His vocal tracks sound great and have lyrics that match the Spearhead Squadron's struggle well.
Background art's quite pretty in contrast to the plot but the simplistic 3D models ruins the scenes. Guess A1's 3D modelling team aren't quite there yet. It's got quite a nice piano score. Fan service you get a bath scene but doesn't linger long and also a shower scene which is actually more plot driven than fan service.
It's not the first show to do it but ending song is different every episode as well as the visuals. The characters that appear towards the end of the OP also changes but not every episode. Starts from episode 5 onwards.
It's one of those shows that basically says stay positive and live life to the fullest. A sci-fi Attack on Titan show in a way so it's got an interesting plot going and builds on it. Interestingly enough the first cour only covers 1 out of the 10 light novel volumes out.
Worth A Watch
SSSS.Dynazenon (2021, Trigger)
One day, highschool student and part-timer Yomogi Asanaka is on his way home and meets a starving man named Gauma, a self-proclaimed "Kaiju user". After generously giving him a leftover sandwich Gauma swears he would repay him one day and ends up following him around. One day a girl named Yume Minami infamous for asking boys out but later standing them up asks Yomogi out too but both suddenly find themselves inside a giant mecha named, "Dynazenon" together with Gauma. Unemployed Koyomi Yamanaka and his cousin Chise Asakawa also happens to get caught up while out watching the fight.
They soon learn Kaiju Eugenicists are controlling the Kaijus and wrecking havoc across the city. And so, the new pilots accept their new roles without a second thought, practicing to become better, learning why Kaiju are appearing in the world as well as Gauma's part.
Aesthetically the show looks great and noticed all the main characters have brightly coloured eyes. It's got a nice ending animation and tune, "Strobe Memory". Fan service wise, it's probably quite mild compared to Trigger's other works with your usual awkward camera angles, a pool episode. Music also happens to be composed by Shiro Sagisu best known for his compositions for Evangelion and also Nadia Secret of Blue Water reviewed above. Taking place in the same universe as the previous show Gridman, it's quite a different start but it has its signature over-the-top enthusiastic-filled, action comedy direction Trigger shows have. Other than that, I think the only common feature are the mecha and Kaiju fights.
It's not as mysterious either because everyone can see the Kaiju so there isn't much surrealness. Kaiju are more like an everyday occurrence in this world setting. On top of that, the new pilots just go with everything like it's just the norm. They even hang around with the enemy like it's nothing too. I guess part of the entertainment is watching them fit their daily lives around their new hero roles with a complete stranger and as part of those new bonds, start to face and resolve their own personal problems.
It has quite a few "slice-of-life" scenes with long pauses which I don't quite get other than, maybe they're trying to show how comfortable characters are in each other's company?
Not a bad watch but I prefer the previous show.
Worth A Watch
God of High School (2020, MAPPA)
Jin Mori is late for his first preliminary match of the day in the "God of High School" tournament in Seoul. Along the way he passes a thief who stole an old woman's purse and ends up meeting fellow combatants Han Daewi and Yoo Mira who he gets along with right away. Each of them were scouted by the administration behind the tournament and has a wish they want granted by winning the tournament; Jin wanted to become stronger so that he could be with his grandpa again, Mira wanted to keep her family's Moon Light Sword Style alive while Han needed immense funds to keep cure his friend.
However, there was something more to the tournament that the three new friends didn't know about. As they make their way through their matches, the friends learn more about each other's wishes and the true intentions behind the tournament.
Behind the scenes, the organisation behind GOH and a cult named "Nox" are both seeking out the fighter who possesses "The Key" for the ultimate Charyeok, an ability that allows someone to summon forth a other worldly being to fight for them.
Yes, this is actually an Anime based on a Korean Manga (AKA Manhwa, the Korean word for comics) so you'll find it full of Hangul and Korean names. And like a lot of Korean games I've played it's filled with voluptous female character designs. Other than that, it's actually fairly tame considering how sparse and brief the actual fan service scenes are. Characters look like they have bad colds with their red noses.
Music is very upbeat and hip-hoppy like a lot of KPOP. Art isn't really that great but the fights are intense and sometimes brutal; all super human abilities full of flashy move names too of course. The choreography's good enough for you to follow and feel those hits. For the first half it's fairly clean fisty fights but after that powers get involved and it gets gorey.
At points it feels like a mish mash of mainstream Anime show ideas but it's good to see the plot doesn't deviate from its title. It kind of becomes like Persona where the characters can summon beings (mostly East Asian gods) to fight for them or borrow their power. It got to the point where I was just waiting for a scene similar to, ""I am thou, thou art I..."
At first it seems like another action comedy show full of flashy over-exaggerated moves and super powers, characters looking for ever stronger opponents filled with flashy moves with a equally trope cast of characters. Well, almost... There's a lot of familiar setups and jokes but just a little variation. Starry-eyed Jin's fairly much like your other straight forward protagonists like Goku and Luffy but loves to over-exaggerate people who are in need of help.
Half way through it's quite enjoyable watching the three friends grow and support each other amidst the greater threat they've been roped into. There are some wholesome moments as the Charyeok lacking friends grow and support each other. I think the good thing is the show isn't afraid of letting the main cast lose although I guess the tournament setup kind of lets them keep characters around even when they do lose.
There's the odd extra scene after the credits so don't miss those in this mish-mash action comedy.
Worth A Watch
B The Beginning (2018, Production IG)
There are a number of serial killings by ruthless criminals who like to abuse and toy with their victims. As the Royal Investigation Service team try to hunt them down, they always find them brutally murdered with a sign "B" left behind. "Genie (German for 'genius')" Keith Flick who disappeared from the team long ago re-appears showing an interest in Killer B, hunting his friend's killer for the past 7 years.
As they investigate each case, they soon realise the psychopaths behind each killing spree are merely just pawns but they have yet to discover for what. Rumours have it that it was a mysterious organisation named "Market Makers" who orchestrates the crimes and may even be working under the royal family.
As Lily Hoshina from the RIS continues to be nagged by the problem she decides to confide in Keith to learn what he's picked up through his efforts and together, they find themselves discovering a much darker side of the kingdom. It becomes a fight against the odds.
A Netflix original I knew nothing about and just jumped in blind. It opens up quite violent full of blood and gore. Not pretty as there's a lot of decapitated bodies, over-done violence; probably worse than Akudama Drive. It kind of reminds me of late night Anime that used to be on but not quite at that level.
I guess if you like Psycho-Pass it's not far from that. Season 1 actually feels like the first season of Psycho-Pass when Kogami was hunting down Makishima but whereas that had a straight forward plot, this just keeps you in the dark too much to make this show good instead of clearing up bits and pieces as it goes. Just when it does, it goes back to filling the show with riddles and rhythms. So you're thinking, "Ah, so that's what's going on!" and then suddenly it's all riddles again. Just look at all those complex formulaes and words appearing the screen. This show must be clever.
On one side you have the local authorities investigating serial murders and thwarting psychopaths trying to cause chaos in society while on the other, it's a whole bunch of characters with powers. Despite that, it's got enough mystery to keep you watching as long as you don't mind the graphic and brutal murders.
Some episodes will have you laughing while the others might just baffle you and make you grimace. It's got some spine-chilling moments so the direction's good at least.
The story is set in a city with features from America, Europe and Japan blended together in the "Kingdom of Cremona" which doesn't look too bad. Characters are your familiar trope with your usual genius Keith being an oddball while the overly-enthusiastic Lily manages to help him gain new insights into incidents. The combo fairly much gives some comic relief to the otherwise dark show.
I think the first line of the ending song is enough to tell you what a cheery show this is, "Someday I'll be gone..." sung by Johnny from the Man with a Mission band.
Visually it's fairly average. For the most part it's a dark show. The RIS office has a dark tone to it while the city is bright and colourful but those scenes are short. Nothing impressive or original but I guess it's an interesting world setting with all the Western cities blended together with some Japanese elements. One Piece fans should recognise Sanji's voice, Hiroaki Hirata right away or maybe his role as Gojo from Saiyuki.
Season 2 picks up right after S1. Funnily enough it uses the same intro scene as S1 when Lily rushes out to work. Right away you're left guessing what's happened although the direction's as familiar as before mostly. The good thing is it doesn't try to be clever any more and fill itself full of riddles again atlhough at only 6 episodes long, I guess they don't need the padding.
The short season might also be why the background art looks more detailed too. Not a very good wrap-up as it ends in the most abrupt way. Those of you from Glasgow might recognise the square courtyards of Glasgow University with the big tree and also the Necropolis near Strathclyde University.
It's basically a familiar supernatural show that tries to disguise itself as something clever by literally filling the show with riddles. You can tell what's going to happen and the riddles feel like they're just there to look smart but beyond that, the scale of the plot and fun character trope makes it worth a watch.