Friday, October 29, 2010

Anime Series I Don't Have Anymore & Why

                                Anime Series I Don't Have Anymore & Why: Mini Reviews
                                                                             Jay Agan

  1. Hellsing- I liked the Anglican vs Catholic angle but it couldn't carry what was a rather disjointed series. Seems they wanted to cram as many story arcs as they could to satisfy as many fans of the manga as possible. The best one was Vicky Seras getting used to her new life or rather death (Should have kept the first disc.). After that it's just lame. Heard the OVA to be better.

   "What a beutiful night to go out for a bite to drink!"

  2.  Irresponsible Captain Tylor- What a .......goofball! A slacker with a way past irritating manner/outlook joins the military for what he figures to be an easy way through life. Instead of reality slapping him down, he dumps on reality. I know, it's supposed to be a comedy, but this character really set my teeth on edge. Beetle Bailey is a paragon of reserve & industriousness compared to this guy. I gave this one to someone who is sorta/kinda like this character. He even skipped basic training! A story in & of itself.

   "Pecko! Pecko!"

  3. Gunslinger Girl- What started to look like an interesting series soon falls into repetition with similar characters with different firearms doing pretty much the same story arc over & over: Traumatized lolitas with personal issues are cybernetically altered as enforcer/asassins & paired with older male counterparts (What's up with that?). Upbeat/downbeat ending of the series doesn't help.

   Bang! Bang! You're bored.

  4. Planetes- Several story arcs involving a group of specialists who clear orbiting space junk to make travel safer. A more realistic space series that I liked but not loved. Would have kept it if it hadn't taken a tacked on, hokey, philisophical stance the last three episodes.

   "Everything's connected!" Yeah. I guess so (yawn).

  5. Trigun- Oh geez! Capt. Tyler with guns.

   Vash the Stampede has a sixty billion double dollar reward out on him as he's reputed to leave untold high levels of death & destruction in his wake. I think it's because he's a whackjob so irritating, hardly anyone can stand to be around him. This character, to me is a downer & a half. It's pretty bad if the main reason to watch a series is to spot the random cat. I couldn't finish this & gave it to the same guy who got the Tyler series.

    "LOVE!.....AND!.....PEACE!" Oh go away, could you? Fast? Please?

                                                Article copyright © Jay Agan


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Love Those Special Effects!

                                                 Love Those Special Effects!
                                                                       Jay Agan

        Lived in the OSU (Ohio State U.) area back in the 90s. One would think it to be on the wild side but as I was a few blocks east, up against the State Fairgrounds, it was relatively quiet. Yeah, there was some "spillover". Every time the Buckeyes won/lost, a lot of "liberal arts" types would be burning up (Literally!) 12th Ave. a few blocks south.

        "Get away from the car. I don't care if the Bucks won/lost, dont' touch my car. You are not going to overturn/set fire to/dance on my car. Just 'cause the car is blue it does not mean it's from U. of Mich. (thumbs the hammer back). MOVE AWAY FROM THE CAR! NOW!"

        Yes, fun times at OSU. I made it a point to be out of town or "hunkered down" on game day.

        Wasn't just game days. Occasional gunshots would be heard. Screams/yells, firecrackers, & other "party" related noise added variety. Every so often a dumpster would "happen" to catch fire & the Dept. was called. Once I caught three guys trying to break into my car (Ah, kids these days.....). They took off when I hit the kitchen window. A subsequent call to the police revealed they couldn't send an officer to investigate as they were all at the OSU parking garage because a campus officer had been shot. One showed up a couple days later to take my statement.

        One "appropriate" little incident happened while watching George Romeros'  1969 "classic", Night of the Living Dead.

        Late October, 1990, (Halloween time!). Channel 8, a now defunct low power station atop the Levesque-Lincoln tower was broadcasting NOTLD. It was a great little station having all these older films I so much love. I was glad it was around in those (for me) pre-VCR days.

        As during any flick I'd get up every so often for snacks. At the part where Duane Jones rolls the flaming barcalounger off the porch, I get up for a Coke. Reaching in the fridge, I just happen to look out the window.

        Some idiot set a mattress on fire in the alley! Talk about atmosphere! The Dept. was called but as the fire spent itself, not much happened.

        I didn't mention anything to them about flesh eating zombies by the way.

                                                 Article copyright © Jay Agan


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Few For Halloween & One Not

                                                   A Few For Halloween & One Not

                                                                              Jay Agan

        Yes, Halloween! My favorite time of year & what better way to celebrate than with that grand tradition of THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Here's five flicks to get you in the mood.

 1.    House on Haunted Hill- No not that abortive remake from a few years back but the great one from 1958.

        Millionare Frederick Lauren (Vincent Price at his slightly hammy yet sinister best.) is throwing a party. A haunted house party. He  commandeered the idea from his avaricious wife & invited only five people unknown to one another. Survivors (Or next of kin.) get ten grand each if they last the night.

        The party takes place at "the only truly haunted house in the world". Thrown into the mix of ghosts, acid vats, creeping ropes, & bloodstains are party favors packed in little gift coffins. Colt .45 automatics! Soon, everyone is armed & precarious. And the fun hasn't even started yet!

        A mix of toungue in cheek, & deadly seriousness, the film is both funny & absorbing. Along for the ride is character actor Elisha Cook Jr. who even steals a scene or two from Price. This is a must see for any haunted house fan. Rated R (Don't know why. It's not that "mean" a film.).

 2.    The Ghost & Mr. Chicken (1966)- Luther Heggs (Ably portrayed by Don Knotts.), a nervous, high strung, homely type, must, on a dare, spend the night at "the old Simmons place". This is on the 20th anniversary of a murder/suicide that had taken place there. The house is about to be torn down & Luther is assigned by his paper to write a story.

        Complicating matters are sneering townsfolk/coworkers, a Simmons relative keen on tearing the place down, a possible romance, & poor Luthers' chronic squeamishness of life in general. A nice, scarey, little comedy about a "little" man overcoming obstacles & fears within. "Atta boy, Luther!" Not rated.

 3.    The Uninvited (1944)- The first American made film to take the haunted house theme seriously. A brother & sister (Ray MillandRuth Hussey) buy an old English mansion & encounter the spirit residing within. As the story unfolds & mystery unravels, it becomes apparant supernatural forces are intent on harm of the living through the living. A great, atmospheric, little chiller. On VHS only. Not Rated.

 4.     The Legend of Hell House (1973)- A wealthy man hires a team of researchers to investigate "the Mt. Everest of haunted houses" for proof of life after death. A scientist, his wife, & two psychics spend several days there in the chaos that follows. These ghosts are not happy & are quite clear about it (Watch out for the killer kitty!).

        Decadence, possesion, dementia & death well portrayed in an oppressive atmosphere of encroaching doom. The "action" scenes in this early 70s chiller more than show it not to be one of those cozy little tales. Rated PG.

 5.    Burnt Offerings (1976)- A writer (Oliver Reed) & his family lease a vacation home that is not haunted but the haunter itself. The family gradually falls under its' spell as it slowly draws the life from & enslaving them before going in for the kill. An interesting study of materialism & obsessivness. Quite  a bit different for a movie of its' type. Rated PG.

                                                                 And One Not

 6.    The Haunting (1963)- Acclaimed by critics & viewers alike, a masterpiece of horror. Or so they say.

        I just can't see it that way. I found the story dull & the scares unexiting. The characters are mostly bland except for Julie Harris. What she does is whine, whine, whine!, making a rather boring film excrutiating as well. I included this due to its' popularity. A lot of folks seem to like this one though I can't.

        There you have it. There are other flicks fitting into this category, but these are the ones (& one not) I enjoy most.

                                                       Article copyright © Jay Agan

Disclaimer: All film ratings are on the films respective containers. Discretion is up to you.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Just Who IS This Guy? The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt. 3

Credit: Kyoto Animation

                                               Just Who IS This Guy?
                                     The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt. 3

                                                                       Jay Agan

     In this third & last installment I'll go into what I think is the biggest head whack of all in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. No it's not Endless Eight. While a bold experiment, it fell rather flat with the fans in Japan (So much so, Aya Hirano & the studio made a public apology.). A lot of U.S. fans weren't too happy with it either. Eight eps (Weeks?) of the "same" thing? Could have been worse. Be glad it wasn't Endless EighTEEN! Maybe Kyoto Animation could come up with a "third" season. Take out 5 or 6 of Endless Eight, replacing them with eps from an untouched story arc(s) from the light novels.

    For me, the biggest trip/mystery of the series is that Kyon person.

    Who IS this guy? Kyon (A nickname given him by an unseen grandparent.) isn't even his real name. No older relations are ever seen (Adults being peripheral, at best, in this series.). His little sister doesn't have a name at all (Every one else refers to her as "little sister". Even in the closing credits.)

    Though not the title character, he is the main one. As "narrator", everything is seen from his POV, filling in & keeping things rolling.

    You're not sure at times if he's narrating, thinking, talking to someone, or just mumbling/whining to himself. These things run/meld into each other. It always takes me aback when another character unexpectedly replies. (Itsuke claims an inability to read minds & it's not certain Haruhi can either. At times they "respond" when it seems Kyon wasn't talking to anyone at all.)

    Sometimes he acts surprised when something strange happens. Other times not. Does he know more than what he lets on? Is he really the hapless mortal he's playing?

    In spite of his "ordinaryness", he figures greatly in Haruhis' scheme of things. He did, after all, get the ball rolling (ep 1) when he suggested she (who must be obeyed) be more of a mover & shaker in life. (Coming from a guy who wanted to coast & slide through life, don't you find that a bit.....odd?) For some reason she has "chosen" him & her jealousy is, at times, evident.

    Kyon is the only one who stands up to Haruhi. The others are "forced" to go along as they're observers for their respective factions (Could they actually be there to observe Kyon & not Haruhi?). In spite of Haruhis' self centered obnoxiousness, she actually listens to him & takes  his  advice.....sometimes.

    I wonder about this guy. Is he more of a force in the proceedings than we're led to believe? (Here's a guy who had all given up on anything wondrous happening in life, reduced to a jaded cynic (ep 1), only to have "IT!" dropped right in his lap.) Could he be the one making things happen & not Haruhi? Is this all nothing more than some fantastic form of (sub)concious wish fullfilment on his part?

    Maybe I'm thinking too much. When it comes down to it, it' only a "cartoon", right, right?

Article copyright © 10-22-10 Jay Agan

The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt. 2

The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt 1


DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Night Stalker: A Laugh Out Loud Moment

Ace reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) "crosses" paths with
vampire Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater). Credit: ABC/MGM
                                 The Night Stalker: A Laugh Out Loud Moment


                                                                    Jay Agan

      Back in the early 70s, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, Maneschevitz ran a series of tv ads. Little comic asides on Jewish tradition in extolling their line of table wines. The ads always started with someone saying, "whatever happened to tradition?".

      The ads had absolutly nothing to do with Dan Curtis' "The Night Stalker", but for one crazy little moment.

      It was 1972, I'm in my last year of high school at the JVS. One night, we're all in front of the set watching the ABC Movie of the Week (ch6, WTVN). It's the second time they ran "The Night Stalker". We missed out the first time as the set was busted.

      The flick itself is a not bad little made for tv thriller about vampire, Janos Skorzeny, loose in Vegas. Based on Richard Mathesons' "The Kolchak Tapes", it follows the book well. Darren McGavin as newspaperman Carl Kolchak, & Barry Atwater as the title character, give excellent performances as does a supporting cast of familiar faces. One part was made quite hilarious due to the insertion of a commercial break.

      Skorzeny's ransacking a hospital blood storage facility, stuffing a valise with IV bottles full of you know what, when he is rudely interrupted by several of the staff. Being the supernatural fiend he is, he proceeds to mop the floor with them. In a "two shot", he grabs one aide & hurls him through a second story window. Right after the aide "exits" the building, audience POV from the outside, a commercial abruptly cuts in.

      "Whatever happened to tradition?"

      I double up, laughing quite loudly. So much so, Mom expressed vigorous disapproval.

      You had to have been there.

Article copyright © 10-20-10 Jay Agan


DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Early "Preview" Of Colorization

                                                    Poster credit: Warner Bros. Studios                                        

                                           An Early "Preview" Of Colorization                             

                                                                                  Jay Agan
      Some time after the discovery of fire, a media mogul named Ted Turner promoted film restoration on a scale never before dreamed of. As part of his plans to reintroduce classic films to the world, he promoted colorization technology. I take it this was in an effort to instill an appreciation of older black & white films to the superficial, shallow, thrill seeking youth of this age. (Who know the price of everything & the value of nothing.) Youth is wasted on the young. They don't Know what to do with it. A co-worker used that statement in reference to young women being wasted on young men for the same reason. However, I digress.
      Before Mr. Turner crashed onto the national scene, two friends & I were heavily into the wargaming hobby. In the summer of '75 we attended a small regional convention at a college in Cinncinatti. It was there I experienced a most singular phenomenon.

      After a long Saturday of Afrika Korps, Stalingrad, & Angrief, we repaired to one of the dorms common rooms wherin resided a color TV set. They Died With Their Boots On, a late 30s black & white western with Errol Flynn, was being aired & we settled in to watch. Something slowly registered as we watched. It gradually dawned on me something about this movie wasn't quite the same as previous viewings. Then it hit, literally between the eyes.
      The film was in color! Sort of.
      TV reception wasn't as good as it should have, being from a local station & all. Maybe the antenna was slighty "off" or its connections were defective in some way (picture slightly fuzzy though still very watchable). Maybe the signal was interacting with the set in an odd way. What I do know is the film came across as color. Moderatly faint & fluctuating at times, but color nonetheless.
      And the colors were in the right places. Fleshtones nonexistant, but every thing else was there. Right down to the reds & blues on the feathers of the Indians war bonnets. Highlights in the actors eyes in some shots had a bizarre multicolor effect but this only added to the experience. Suffice to say, I enjoyed this new dimension for as long as this lucky accident lasted. Wich was right to THE END.
      Of course it doesn't compare to todays processes, but this odd set of circumstances had me enthralled that night in 1975. Until I heard about colorization a year or so after, I had often wondered if such a thing was possible to be done deliberatly. As it was, I felt fortunate to have experienced something that (at the time) I thought I would never see again.

                                                       Article copyright © Jay Agan


DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Angel Beats: Not A Haruhi Clone

The three protagonists of Purgatory: Otanashi, Yuri, &
Angel/Kanade. Credit: P. A. Works & Aniplex.
                                             Angel Beats: Not A Haruhi Clone                      


                                                                        Jay Agan

      One thing I've liked about anime is the willingness of the artists involved to try new concepts & ideas. Unlike the "safe"strategies followed by our animators, the Japanese "school" of animation exhibits a much greater willingness to experiment. To be sure it's pretty much hit or miss, but when it does hit, it can be an interesting viewing experience indeed.

      One of these "hits" is Angel Beats. Even if an anime is seemingly of a sub-genre I don't care for, (In this case, cutesy, moe, school girl crap.), I'll take a chance if it has a plot/theme I might go for. Here, the high school schtick is merely part of the backdrop. In actuality, the show is a techno-theological, action thriller.

      I've read some opinions likening this to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, some even going so far as to refer to this (& one of the protagonists) as a Haruhi clone. I beg to differ. This series is so different as to stand on its' own. The only "sameness" I could find is that one protagonist bears a very superficial resemblance to Haruhi. How many other anime series feature "magical", assertive/energetic, schoolgirls? Not too sure but I THINK there may have been a few.

      On first viewing, I thought it was rather disjointed (Still do but much less so.) as well as violent & bloody. The final episode (More on this later.) however, made me want to rewatch the series.

      Theologically, it has something for every one. A Catholic(?) purgatory (In the form of a large high school boarding academy.), where those whose lives were lacking in some way come to resolve failed experiences/mistakes, and unload spiritual/emotional baggage before "passing on" (It must be Purgatory. The data tech there is Windows!). Reincarnation is a factor. There is even a "rapture" element in the way those who find peace leave the scene. (I'm what some would call a Christian fundamentalist though I don't subscribe to the "gospel" of Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye.) No matter what faith/theology one follows, anyone willing to see past what might be looked on as "pagan/infidel" & focus on what's compatible, may find this show intrigueing.

      The series centers around three main characters: The amnesiac, Yuzuru Otonashi who regains memory(s) overtime. Yuri Nakamura, a resentful girl who has it in for God due to a horrendous experience when she was alive. The target (Literally!) of Yuris' resentment is title character Angel/Kanade Tachibana. She's ostensibly there to enforce the "status quo" & help others find peace, sending them on their way. Due to Yuris' ongoing war with her, she's more preoccupied with countering (through VR tech-data manipulation) the operations of the Afterlife Battle Front, Yuris' band of "merry men". Thus all the gun & swordplay going on. Oh yes. Since you're already dead when there, you can't be killed. One usually "revives" a few minutes to a day later, either where you fall or in the schools' infirmary. Still hurts like,  uh.....purgatory, though. Ouch!

      The series is 13 eps long, packed with interesting twists & turns. Iwasawa, lead singer of the battlefronts' diversionary rock band (Girls Dead Monster) finds fulfillment in her music and disappears before one and all (ep 3). New enemies emerge (eps 5,7, & 10). (One, Naoi, joins the battlefront.) Differences with Kanade & Yuri are eventually ironed out (ep 7) then "rekindled" (ep 9). Yuzurus' memory is fully regained & back story told (Important!) (ep9). Yuri realizes the futility & waste in "fighting" God & has a "temptation of Christ" moment (ep 12).

      It is during these events Yuzuru & Kanade "connect" & later conspire with two others to help Battlefront members gain fulfillment and leave the scene. One they succeed with is one of the more endearing characters of the show, Yui, a girl who had been paralyzed when alive & wanting to accomplish much. (Along with her slightly "gothed" attire, she sports a set of little bat wings in the small of her back and a spearpoint tail. Took me awhile to notice. Makes one wonder who she's working for. My guess it's an insider joke.) The ending of this characters' last scene (ep 10) is poignant & touching to say the least.

      Many others, (Including the afore mentioned rock band.), partly on Yuris' suggestion & realizing the pointlessness of resisting God, life, & ultimatly, themselves, take their leave en masse (ep 12).  The departures of most of the "principle fighters" of the battlefront take place between eps 12 & 13 & thus are not seen.

      The anti-climactic 13th episode is a masterpiece of a heartbreaker that I guarantee at the end will .....TEAR..... YOU..... UP.  Aptly titled: Graduation, the three principal characters & two others (Hinata & Naoi), hold a do it yourself high school grad ceremony as cloture & say their goodbyes. (I hope I'm as joyful & matter of fact as Yuri & Hinata when it's my time to meet the Lord.) See this episode past the powerful credits ending for FULL IMPACT. You have been warned.

      "Let's meet again somewhere."

      "See ya, buddy!"

                                                Article copyright © 2010 Jay Agan

Angel Beats article: Angel Beats Redux here.

Angel Beats article: Episode 4.5 here.


DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Anime Movies I Got: Mini Reviews


                                                                          Jay Agan

    1.                                                Voices of a Distant Star
               Makoto Shinkais' first theatrical release, mostly made at his home studio. In spite of the limitations & short length, the film is nonetheless sweeping & visually breathtaking.

               Young lady makes it to the space forces in a war against a vaguely defined enemy, the Tarsians. As the fleet goes deeper into space in pursuit, time differentials make communication with her true love longer & more difficult. Sort of covers the same ground as Gunbuster in a shorter time (23 min) with a different ending. Disc also comes with Shinkais' first film, Short subject: She & Her Cat. Rated TVPG-V

     2.                                    The Place Promised In Our Early Days
                Shinkais' third film. Life doesn't always deliver on it's earlier promises. Circumstances, politics, events, etc. tend to curtail or cancel things. Also, what correlation is there between dreams & parallel universes?
                Two Young men set out to fulfill their dreams of flight & keep a promise made to a young lady while up against incredible obstacles. One of which is World War lll. Rated TVPG-V

     3.                                            Panda & the Magic Serpent
                Found this for a buck at Family Dollar. A little film that impressed me a lot as a kid & made me cognizant of anime. Made in 1956, it's the first full length color anime film & reputed to have inspired Miyazaki to enter the field of animation.

                It's the story of a young Chinese man meeting a young lady who, in reality, is the spirit of a pet snake he had when he was a boy. A hostile, though well meaning magician, believing humans & demons should not meet, intervenes, causing much suffering to the couple. Separated, the young mans' two panda friends & a fish spirit aid him in reuniting with his love. This has got to be G rated.

    4.                                                     The Silent Service
                Anti-American screed of a Japanese crew siezing a joint-project super submarine, declaring themselves an independant country (Yamato), & taking on the U.S. Navy. Smug look on the face of main protagonist throughout film, makes one alternately want to slap him around or cheer him on.
                 Rated 13 up.

    5.                                                            Paprika
                Can there be a technology for entering peoples' dreams for therapeutic purposes? What if this tech ends up in the wrong hands? What if the wrong hands try merging the realm of dreams with reality? It's up to the perky title character (The alter-ego of a co-inventer of said tech.) to seek out the perps & put a stop to the chaos. A total head trip of a movie if there ever was one.

                Warning: This film has a "hentai moment". Not for the kiddies. Rated R (Violent & sexual images.)

     6.                                                   The Sky Crawlers

                The planes are WWll. The pilots are Japanese. The cities are metro Poland. The countryside is Ireland. And the "ambiance" is Euro-American retro from the 40s on.

                Now the wierd part. It's gradually revealed the pilots are clones. Aerial warfare is a form of "entertainment" to control the masses of asses. As pilots are attritioned, they're replaced. The base commander incrementally sinks into subdued insanity as one carbon copy after another of a former lover (& father of her child) cycles through the mill. One must watch past the end credits for full impact. Rated PG-13

      7.                                              Jin Roh, the Wolf Brigade

                The retelling of Little Red Riding Hood against the backdrop of a post-war, mid 60s, fascist Japan. Police/political intrigue unravels as authorities try to disband an anti-terrorist division only to run afoul of a rogue sub-unit, members of which think more like beasts than men. Rated 16 up.

    8.                                                               Akira

                Bikers battle for dominance in 21st century, post-WWlll, Neo-Tokyo, riddled with political unrest, & terrorism. One gang stumbles upon a secret project involving governmental exploitation of mans' next evolutionary stage. Cataclysmic disaster of apocolyptic proportions results with authorities unable to handle it. Biker leader & activist babe take matters into their own hands.

                This film was actually the next stage in the evolution of anime. A fabulous combination of digital & hand drawn animation. Richly detailed & wildly expensive it almost broke the bank for the studio. It also launched the early 90s anime surge. Rated R.

     9.                                              Cowboy Bebop the Movie

                If you have the series, you must have the flick. It is episode 23.5 after all.

                The five bounty hunters of the aforementioned series, a sympathetic corporate operative, a rogue corporation, police & military, are on the trail of a terrorist with viral induced dementia. Aided by a thrill seeking techie, he plans to distribute the same virus on the unsuspecting Mars populace on Halloween. Rated R (Some violent images.).
          10.                                     The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

                Time waits for no one but you can travel through it.
                What would you do if you stumbled on a device enabling you to time travel? Correct past mistakes? See great historical events? "Save/take over the world"? Or something else great & momentous?

                 Or if you're an angst filled adolescent, would you use it to untangle your oh so complicated little existance & make things easier? It is those frivolous little things complicating life & you sure can do without them. Since they're small nagging obstacles, any consequences would be trivial if at all, right? It's obvious this kid hasn't seen The Butterfly Effect or she'd know better. Oh well. The only way she'll learn is to go ahead & get bruised. Kids these days.....                       Rated 13 up.

    11.                                                     Submarine 707R

                Combined UN naval forces are wiped out by a rogue sub navy led by a smirking, self righteous, Nemo type named Admiral Red. It's up to resourceful Cmdr. Hayami & the obsolete title vessel to put a stop to the sanctimonious ones' plans. Rated 13 up.

     12.                                                Barefoot Gen 1 and 2

                 Story of a young boys' survival in Hiroshima after Tibbets drops the big one. Rather gruesome blast/aftermath scenes in spite of the then "crude" animation. Based on Keiji Nakazawas' experiences of survival & endurance, of the loss of most of his family (The scene of his father & two siblings dying before his eyes always gets to me.) & the will to live in spite of the odds. Rated 13 up.

                Second film continues in immediate post-war Japan as Gen & his dying mother (radiation poisoning) struggle to make a living among the ruins. Bittersweet ending. Don't know wether to feel happy or sad. Rated 13 up. 

    13.                                                 Grave of the Fireflies

                 After the loss of their mother in a firebombing, a young man & his little sister experience wandering & unsympathetic relatives in the aftermath. Taking up shelter in the countryside, they struggle to make a life & wait for wars end. A movie you only want to see once, but will keep on your shelf always. Rated 13 up.

     14.                                                    Porco Rosso

                 The only Miyazaki film I have. Yes, I know they're all classic. I also know they're all "kids' stuff". Not that they're bad, they aren't. With the exception of Spirited Away (Overly long & No Faces' puke fest turned me off. Whoa! There he goes again! Baaaaarf!), I actually like them. They're just not my kind of movies. Porco is a bit different.

                 For adults & kids, Porco Rosso wings off for adventure over the post WWl Adriatic, fighting sky pirates & dodgeing Fascists. It's not known why he looks like a pig ("Id rather be a pig than a fascist!"), but he doesn't act like a swine.

                 Sky pirates plot to get Porco out of the way by hiring Curtis, a hot shot American pilot as "hit man". Complications ensue as Curtis' wandering eye gets the better of him. It all ends up in a delightful fiasco involving the hand of a young lady, culminating in a royal air battle & a fist fight in the surf! I love it! Rated PG. 

       15.                                                           Memories

                 Three part sci-fi based anthology.

                Magnetic Rose: Space salvagers, following a distress signal, stumble on a virtual reality constructed from the memories of a long dead opera diva.

                 Stink Bomb: Hapless pharmaceuticle lab tech inadvertantly becomes a super bio weapon headed for Tokyo. Military helpless to stop him. Believe it or not, this is a comedy!

                 Cannon Fodder: The war is on & has been for generations. Why? 'Cause that's the way it is.

                 Three great stories. ALL worth watching. Rated PG-13.

       16.                                                  Kite/Kite Liberator

                 Girl asassin meets boy asassin as they skip out on their vigilante cop employers after their last few jobs. Liberator is an unfinished work with an abrupt non-ending.

                 Rated 16 up. Gen. release version (the one I have.) Rated 18 up for other versions.

       17.                   Dirty Pair-Project Eden/Flight 005 Conspiracy/Affair At Nolandia

                Three movies about my favorite semi-homicidal girls n' guns anime duo.
                Project Eden: Vizarium makes mass space travel possible. A Prof. Wattsman may know something more about this element than is popularly thought. Complicating the investigation is an adventurer bent on stealing the remaining bottle of De Gaulle, a wine bottled after the liberation of Paris in 1944. Rated TVPG-V.

                Flight 005 Conspiracy: The best of the three. The Lovely Angels investigate a spaceline sabotage involving 800 passengers & no insurance claims. Turns out to be a coverup in the abduction of a scientist needed in a power grab by local govt. forces, & organized crime. Rated TVPG-V.

                 Affair At Nolandia: Another air "accident" this time involving mind control. Local planetary govt. & various factions plan to exploit artificial life for their own ends. The key to it all may be Missani, a little girl Kei & Yuri must find on a remote plateau. One time Pokemon fans might like this for the myriad little critters that show up. Rated TVPG-V.

    18.                                            Area 88/Area 88, Burning Mirage

                 Area 88: Shin Kazama, tricked by a "friend" into joining a mercenary air unit, fights to survive in the skies over civil-war torn Aslan in the mid-east. Meanwhile, the "friend" plots to take over Yamato Air Lines & steal Shins' girl. Rated TVPG-V.

                 Area 88, Burning Mirage: Sequel. Shin hangs onto living & plots to escape his forced employment. His "friend" tries to marry the girl. Rated TVPG-V.

     19.                                                     Steamboy 

                 Young Ray Steam is caught between his grandfathers' vague idealism & his fathers' corporate collaboration as the victorian world is on the verge of COMPLETE utilization of steam power. A process of unleashing 100% of steam power with no waste will revolutionize civilisation.

                Will blind idealism or corporate greed win out? Will Ray Steam make up his mind? The industrial revolution was never like this! Rated PG-13.

                                                 Article copyright © Jay Agan


DISCLAIMER: The ratings were taken from the films respective disc cases. Discretion is up to you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rabbits, Actual & Human


                                                              Jay Agan

       At an unmentionable merchandising/grocery chain I cashiered at, I would often banter with the customers, usually about the items they bought. Many was the time I would refer to birdseed as "organic cat food". The vast majority of these clientele had a sense of humor/proportion & would smile at the joke without a further thought. These are "kinder, gentler" times howsomever & a "correct thinking" type would take offense every so often.

       One such was a "lady" with her little boy in tow. On hearing my comment on cats finding birdseed useful, she rhapsodied on how wonderful our feathered friends were & how they brightened the world about us. Being an ex country boy myself, I gave a vignette or two about things I had seen in nature over time. She mentioned bluejays being so pretty. I replied offhand on what little killers they could be when there were enough of them around. Niether she nor her kid showed any emotion as we conversed.
      About a quarter hour later, the manager takes me aside saying a customer reported I had distressed her child with my bluejay comment, & would I be oh so very careful in the future as to not make children sad, etc. I don't recall the kid being "distressed" in any way, shape or form. He was just, well, there & nothing else. My guess it was the mother who was the one distressed. A problem with working in a place with a pharmacy, is you too often encounter over/under medicated people. As an animation fan, I often wonder what an effect a film like Watership Down would have on such folks.
      Made in the late 70s era of pre-political correctness from the book by Richard Adams, Watership Down is a no holds barred look at nature in the raw. It is the film Bambi should have been but Disney couldn't bring himself to make (Felix Saltens' book was quite fatalistic & brutal.).
      A group of rabbits leave their overcrowded warren in the face of impending doom (suburban construction) in search of a new home. They face several trials & predators as well as competition from a "police state" rabbit warren nearby.
      This film contains several scenes of fighting, death, (yes, rabbits can & do kill) & spilt blood. The life of a bunny is not an easy one & a lot of "Disney myths" are dispelled. The only "spoiler' I'll reveal is the film shows death & life are intertwined, one being a part of the other. I can think of no better movie for kids to cut through the ritalin haze to reality.
      I remember Old Yeller putting me through an emotional roller coaster but as I got older, I started seeing life as it is. I began to notice death is all around. Roadkills, birds fighting, pet dogs & cats out hunting, etc. I found that critters not moving fast enough ended up as lunch. People can be like that if one is not careful. Life is hard. Harder if your'e deluded. And no amount of shielding yourself & your children from reality will ever change that. You only set yourself & the kids up for a hard fall if you do.
      Life can be good however. Just keep your eyes open. 

                                                     Article copyright © Jay Agan


Monday, October 11, 2010

Transylvania Noctourne


                                                                   Jay Agan

              Photo credit: Universal Studios.

          One AM, an early July or August morning 1983.
          I was a bit tired & had just quit DXing (station hunting) on AM & shortwave. Not wanting to do any reading either (it was my heavy Lovecraft period) I thought I'd turn on the tv in the hope something watchable was airing. Had no idea what could be on. The Mt. Vernon News had this annoying habit of putting only "movie" in the listings spaces. Sure, you knew a flick was on the way but.....what?

           Saturday Night Live wound down & ch 4 (WCMH) proceeded with the All Nite Theater (Jerry Beck long since left that gig by then. Sad.) Oh. The 1931 Lugosi Dracula. Hadn't seen that one in a while (Had an old audio tape I recorded of it back in the 70s.) What the hey! I settled in to enjoy myself.

           What the hey, indeed. From the moment the opening credits ended I noticed something different right off. Not only was the picture sharp & clear, but the sound (except for a slight background hiss) was as well. To say I was astounded would be an understatement. Never before had I seen such a clean, viewable example of an old film of any kind let alone this one. No scratches, burn marks, "hair", jumpcuts/splices either. I never thought beutiful prints like this ever existed. By far, worlds better than the worn examples I'd seen on other stations.

           This was a time before Ted Turner et al. grabbed the bull by the horns & got the film restoration movement of today rolling. What's routinely commonplace today was certainly a treat back then, I'm here to tell ya. You younger film buffs have no idea how good you have it now. Cheers.

                                                 Article copyright © Jay Agan


DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

It's A Mind Game, Right, Right? The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt. 2

Credit: Nagaru Tanigawa, Noizi Ito, Kadowkawa Shoten,
& Kyoto Animation.

                                    The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 2


                                                                     Jay Agan

      So what is it about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya  that's had anime fandom by the short hairs since 2006? Sure, the concept, plot, storyline, & stand alone eps are great. Animation, artwork, music (both original & use of classical), are more than well done. These, of course go a long way in ensuring the success of a show. But there's more to it than the sum of the above. I think it's the little brain whacks you're hit with from time to time. They certainly make it for me. Here's a few.

       First, there's the convoluted plot from the light novels made even more so when it was put to the screen. As a result, there are two "seasons". Certain selected story arcs were used for the first season leaving out intertwining events/episodes from other arcs thus leaving "gaps". Not that you'd notice. Second season (Of which I have every intention of getting.) includes the 14 eps of the first plus another 14 with extra material, thus most of the gaps filled. Because of this curious way of producing a program, the show can be viewed three or more(?) ways: Broadcast, "chronological", or DVD. It all makes for a seemingly well thought out tapestry where everything is connected & not as confusing as one might think.

      An interesting little order anomoly is ep 00 of season one: The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, an amateur film made by Haruhi & the gang as a school project. It's also the "final" ep in The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya story arc from the SECOND season. One wonders why this would be a first ep as the "movie" seemingly makes no sense at all. A subsequent viewing after watching the first season, has all these little details jumping out at you (Oh! Now I get it! Don't know what it is, but I get it! Huh?). It's also a great little study on how NOT to make a movie (Turn off auto focus. Have an actual script & shooting schedule. Get people who can ACT, etc.).

      The Sigh arc, by the way, shows what an inconsiderate, abusive, little jerk the title character can be, resulting in the best & worst scene in the series. Best, as Kyon is about to deck her for her abusing Mikuru (Liquoring her up to make her more compliant for the movie.). Worst as Itsuke stops him (So what if the world could end? Supreme being or not, the kid's got it coming!)

       I find the first few seconds of the first season opening credits sequence, interesting. (I understand a new one has replaced it for season two. It's nice but I really like the first.) A long shot of title character looking up longingly at the night sky. "Camera" sweeps in, accompanied by the sound of church bells & the singing of the first line to the opening number ("The answer is always in my heart."). The heavens open up, a hand reaches down. As she clasps it, the look on her face transforms from absolute, dumfounded surprise to sheer, total, joy of the moment. She's found it! Or it's found her! (Rapture believers, take note.) Amazing how the manipulation of a line or three of a subjects face can make for such a great effect.

       In ep 06/05 (Season 1/season2. I refer to the dvd order.), the Anthropic Principle is set straight. The universe is NOT the way it is because mankind sees it that way. It's as it is because Haruhi sees it as just so. Well I guess that pretty much settles that. One can rest easier in knowing. Vox Haruhi. Vox Dei.  

       The series is like one of those movies (ex. The Wrong Box) where you see something new every time you view it. There's always something going on in the fore/background, some related to not only the ep being viewed, but to later ones. Ex: In ep 07/06 we briefly see two members of the ENOZ rock band practicing under a tree, in a long shot toward the end. They don't show up again until ep 12/26, Live Alive, which has a lot of fore/background action itself.

       The anticlimatic last ep, Someday In the Rain, depicts a rather "ordinary" day for the members of the aptly named SOS brigade. Haruhi, being the user she is, & Kyon, Mikuru, & weasel Itsuke, being the "victims" they are. The only "extraordinary" thing happening is a long sequence of Yuki, "on station", seated, back to the camera, reading a book as we hear events in the school building taking place around her. We've all heard of "the banality of evil". Is this epsode an illustration of "the banality of the divine"? Haruhis' last gesture pretty much says it all. I guess the joke's on us.
       Next week: The third and last part of The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya. The head trips within  the biggest head trip of the series. "See" ya then.

Article copyright © 10-11-2010 Jay Agan

The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt. 1

The Head Trip of Haruhi Suzumiya Pt. 3


DISCLAIMER: All images used on this blog are strictly copyrights of their owners. I do not claim credit/ownership for any images used here in my blog unless stated otherwise. If I have offended anyone by posting any images on my blog, please contact me via email and I will remove specified image(s) ASAP.

Friday, October 1, 2010

TV Animes I Got: Mini Reviews


                                                                          Jay Agan                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
                                                                     Outlaw Star

       Gene Starwind & the crew of the aforementioned ship (who is also a crewmember) search vast reaches of space for a vaguely defined treasure known as "The Galactic Leyline". Not only having to contend with various factions of government, pirates, & assasins, each member of the crew has his/her own reasons for finding it.

      I disagree with those saying this is a sorta/kinda not as good alternative to Cowboy Bebop. An apples/oranges  comparison, I like the series for its own merits. One of which is Aisha, the beast babe. She kicks posterior! Oh yeah. Watch out for Fred.

      Rated 13 up.

      "Better Get Ready!"

                          The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (AKA Goddess Whackjob)
      A multilevel theological/metaphysical/sci fi satire. Title character just happens to be God (or at least a god). She may not know it but certainly acts like it! Various friends/factions (some with special "talents") endeavor to keep her from finding out. Otherwise the universe is in the tank.

      A fun head trip that actually has you thinking. Evangelicals viewing this will be forced to rethink their positions. Not!

      Rated 13 up.

      Vox Haruhi. Vox Dei.

                                                         Serial Experiments Lain

      Perhaps it should be titled Surreal Experiments Lain. Another theological/sci fi mind bender about a young lady coming to a startling realization: She's the physical extension of an all powerful entity existing out on all electronics & telecommunications, including the net. The "Wired" becomes the weird as the viewer is toured on various aspects of theology/metaphysics,  technology, history, conspiracy theories, UFO lore, & self awareness conceptivity.

      Anyone coming away from this thinking he's "got it" is only fooling himself. I've viewed it several times & still don't "get it" though I enjoy the process. You come away with what you take from it.

       Rated 16 up.

      "You don't seem to understand......"

                                                                     Hell Girl

      A Wednesday Addams/Penny Dreadful type not only takes one there but gives 'em a taste of it beforehand. Here's the deal: Pull the red thread off the straw doll & she'll take the one you hate to you know where. For a price. Which happens to be your soul when you kick off. Is the jerk worth it? YOU decide. I'd sooner get back at someone by "taking it out in trade" than spend eternity in "the other place" (Cleveland?). When you see the flowers comin' at ya, DUCK!

      Rated TV14 V.

      "This is vengeance. And I am to ferry you to Hell."


       I don't care for giant robot shows but this is an exception. Short early Gainax 6 ep series starts off as a parody then turns serious. Seems mankind is only a virus to the "organism" we call the galaxy & the colossal insectoid "space monsters" act as antibodies. The "virus" disagrees & is determined to survive. This, & the added factor of faster than light time differentials, make for an intrigueing show.

      Rated 16 up.     
      "Hard work & guts!"

                                                                     Kinos Journey

       It's not the destination, it's the getting there. Title character & sentient motorcycle travel from place to place  spending 3days/2nights taking in the locals strange ways. They're either hostile or weird in some way. The "Then Came Bronson" of anime. By the way, Kino's a girl.

      Rated TVPG V.

      "The world is ugly, therefore it is beutiful."

                                                                   Gunsmith Cats

      Gun store owner/marksman Rally Vincent & her bomb making little buddy, Minnie May Hopkins are bounty hunters in 1990s Chicago. The 3 ep mini-series finds them contending with gun runners, a corrupt BATF, an anti-gun politician, & a rogue Russian agent in a plot to transfer guns, drugs, money, & pass more restrictive gun laws. The NRA & Tea Partiers would love this show as do I.

       Animated violence, strong language & mature situations. Parental guidance suggested.

       "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

                                                          Otaku no Video (Fan Video)

       Gainaxs' mini 2 ep series is a self parody of their beginnings. Two guys set out to be the greatest super fans of anime/manga & go full bore into the business end of the hobby. With theatrics/melodrama along the way, they fulfil their dreams beyond their wildest imaginations. Best viewed when leaving out the superfluous live action parts.

       Brief nudity, adult situations.

                                                            Full Metal Panic: Fumufu

       Young mercenary Susuke Sagara has a double assignment: Watch over a future resource named Kaname Chidorie & finish high school. First part's easy enough. The second? Not so easy.

       Brought up in the hyper-military shadowland of the Mithril merc organisation, he has no idea what normal civilian life is about. Even the most mundane situation could be interpreted as dire or deadly & he acts accordingly. Part of the joke is though he's  supposed to be watching over Kaname, she's working way overtime covering for him & preventing the school from being destroyed.

       A master of covert ops, Susuke thinks he's doing a great job in concealing his position when in fact he stands out with all flags flying. Everyone notices he's heavily armed but never arrested (This is Japan after all.). His bearing/demeanor is beyond atypical. Destruction & collateral damage are mysteriously paid for along with a generous donation to the school.

       Tried watching the original series that led up to this one  but contains too much giant robot stuff for me to take. Fumufu by itself is a great watch though. Watch this one if you want to know what this "fumufu" thing is. Has something to do with "the Pokemon effect".

      Rated TVPG V.

      "I don't follow but it's not a problem."

                                                                         Stratos 4

      Fifty years from now, Earth will be going through a period of heightened comet/meteor activity. The second of the two stage defense system of the Cosmic Emergency Managment Agency, is the Meteor Sweepers. This division is composed of pilots & cadets flying planes as old as I am now (TSR80 & YAK28s), blasting comet fragments before they impact.

      Mikaze Honjo must get past personal difficulties & work with her team mates as they save the Earth. This, along with two subplots (An X-Files type & a lesbian subplot that turns out NOT to be a lesbian subplot {trust me on this}.) make for an interesting series.

      Rated 16 up.

      "I'm going to outer space!"

                                                       Mezzo Forte/Mezzo DSA

       Kick-butt babe Mikura, Pops & Harada, are the Danger Svc. Agency. A hand to mouth trio of gun toting troubleshooters taking on all sorts of risky jobs. As such they deal with gangsters, assasins, an alien, & a corrupt, lolita complex afflicted police chief. That VW takes a beating too.

      Forte is a two part "series" involving gangland infighting. DSA is a 12 ep series with several story arcs, & a subplot of a little girl idolizing Mikura & her problems with bullies & asserting herself.
      Forte rated 16 & older. DSA rated 15+.

      "Reach for the sky if ya wanna live long enough to eat dinner!"

                                                                     Area 88

       Shin Kazama is a mercenary pilot, but not by choice. Railroaded into flying for an at-war mid-eastern country by a "friend", he must serve out his contract before being let go. If he survives that is. Two motivators are to wed his fiance, & kill the aforementioned "friend".

      70s era story also features a veritable circus of war planes for the military history buff. Two previous movies cover the same ground, the second being the better of the two.

       Rated TVPG.
                                                                 Black Lagoon

      Four anti-heroes, a Nam vet, an electronics/computer genius, an "abducted" business negotiator, & an ultra foul mouthed, trigger happy, uber babe form the Black Lagoon Co. Operating out of a lawless area of southeast Asia, they'll do any job for anybody if the price is right. Gang/Mafia infighting, pirating/theft, smuggling, killer nuns (redundant), & incestuous vampire kiddies  (What?!). All this & more in Black Lagoon. Everybody but the Creature shows up (Why not?).

     Warning: Not only is this show ultra-violent but  the F-bomb is uttered almost 300 times in the series. Not for kids. Rated 16 up.

                                                Dirty Pair OVA/Dirty Pair Flash

      Girls 'n guns! Babes'n Bullets! Collateral damage! Horrendous loss of life! My favorite semi-homicidal, girls 'n guns, anime duo. Kei & Yuri (code name: Lovely Angels), a pair of "trouble consultants" for an FBI-like organization: The Worlds' Welfare Work  Assoc. (3WA). (The "Americanized" comic book version from the early 90s, by Adam Warren & Toren Smith got me hooked on the franchise.)

      If a case proves too tough for the locals, the 3WA sends agents on request. If it's these two, watch out! Dirty Pair is their unofficial nickname (wich they hate) as their missions tend to get out of hand. Civilizations wipe out, & whole planets have been known to melt when they're around. The central computer (An Apple?) always clears them of any wrong doing. I suspect the Dirty Pair are a cynical governmental form of population control as they're quite good at keeping the numbers in check.

      The Dirty Pair Flash reinvention is supposed to be about a couple of young ladies bearing the same name a century later, but we know better.

      The three (original) Dirty Pair movies, Flight 005 Conspiracy, Affair At Nolandia, & Project Eden, I rank in that order. Have every intention of getting the original 28 ep TV series when it comes out on disc.

       OVA rated TVPG V. Flash rated 15+.

       "It's not our fault!"

                                                                 Paranoia Agent

      Is he for real? A figment of someones' imagination? A figment of a figment, maybe? A warped 13 ep series about mass hysteria, urban legends, rumors, & yes.....paranoia. Woooooooo!

      Who is Lil' Slugger, this assailant on inline skates wielding a warped ball bat? Where will he strike next? And .....who's next? You? Me? The guy down the block? Owwww! That hurt! A lot! Strangely, I feel relieved about it. Ahhhh!

      Rated 16 up.
                                                                      Cowboy Bebop

      The best for last. The one. The only. THE anime essential. This is the anime, not only for fans, but for those who don't like anime. It's that different.

      The sponsers told the makers they didn't care what was in it as long as it had spaceships. This gave the studio latitude other creators can only dream of. Bebop is great not only for what it has, but also for what it doesn't. The vast majority of "tropes", cliches, & stereotypes are absent (No giant robots! Yay!). What ones there are, are downplayed, or as in the case of the Ed character, turned on its head (At times literally!).

      Jet, Spike, Faye, Ed, & Ein are itinerant bounty hunters cruising our solar system doing what they do. Set to great jazz, story arcs, some excellent stand alone eps & interesting characterisations, make for great viewing of a very atypical anime. The movie should be watched between eps 23 & 24 for continuity.

       Rated 13 up.

      "Whatever happens, happens."

      "You're gonna carry that weight."

      "See you in space..... cowboy."

      Disclaimer: Ratings are what were on the respective disc cases. Discretion is up to you.

      Next Time: Anime Movies I Got: Mini Reviews.

Article copyright © Jay Agan