The 2nd Dimension

Thursday, March 31, 2005


According to AnimeNation:

Production IG has opened its official homepage for the BLOOD Night anime TV series based on the 2001 anime film Blood: The Last Vampire. The official site states that details on the series will be revealed April 10th. The series will premier on May 9th.

While I don't really like vampire stories in general, and didn't really care for the Blood: The Last Vampire movie in particular; I'll be interested to see how this TV series turns out. Hopefully it will give some background to the story that was never covered in the movie. And the fact that it is going to be produced by Production I.G. doesn't hurt either.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Quick Rant: If there is one thing in this world that I really am no good at it is the ability to explain why I do or do not enjoy something. It's like I watch a movie and I really enjoy it so I tell everyone I know that they should go see it, but then they'll ask me what I think is so great about it or why do I like it so much and for some reason I never know what to say. And it's especially irritating when someone is bad-mouthing a movie that I really like and I get so mad and I want to retort with all of the film's finer points, but I just can't because I can never seem to be able to nail down just what those finer points are. It's pretty frustrating.

So you'll have to excuse the fact that this review of Steamboy is so late relative to when I actually saw the movie (last Sunday) because I've pretty much been trying to figure out what I liked about it myself. I know that I did like it -- I loved it in fact -- it just took me a while to nail down the logic behind my opinions. It still may not make total sense, but I'll give it a shot anyway.

The Review: I mentioned in an earlier post that most all reviews of Steamboy -- both positive and negative -- say that it has awesome action and visuals, but that the plot is pretty basic. And I totally agree on both points.

The plot is very strait-forward: a young inventor, Ray, recieves a mysterious object called a "steamball" from his grandfather and is told that it holds the secret behind the powerful science of steam. Ray must ultimately decide on the best use of the new technology while simultaneously trying keep himself and the whole of London from getting blown up in one phenominal explosion after another. Something like that anyway.

It is also true that the art and action of the animation are spectacular -- but not I don't mean it in the same way as in other types of action movies (I, Robot comes to mind) where the effects are kind of cool and the action if fast, but it doesn't really seem to add anything special to the overall experience. In Steamboy the visuals add a sense of scale and imagination that forces your brain (or at least my brain) to push itself just to absorb the hugeness of it all.

If there is one thing that Katsushiro Otomo is good at it is the ability to represent enormous settings and objects and events in a way that gives the audience a really solid sense of the emense scale of it all. He achieves this through a combination of relativity and an obsessive devision to detail. (I know he uses other techniques, but I'm just going to focus on the one I'm most interested in.)

When Otomo wants to give the audience a sense of size, he does not just draw a really big object, he goes the extra mile to add a ton of miniscule details. That way the audience can see what the size of the huge object is relative to the small details. This not only makes the object seem huge, but because there is just so much detail, it also feels very solid. Even the explosions seem so solid and massive purely because you can actually see the reaction of every tiny fragment of whatever object, building, or fortress that has been blown up.

So while many reviewers say that they were bored by the simple storyline; I was happy with it because it was involving enough to be interesting, but not so complex as to distract you from absorbing the awesome scale and intricate details of the action and visuals.

Of course, I also loved the variety of cool steam-powered inventions that were popping onto the screen from every which direction and at this awkward point I will give a nod to them because they really were imaginitive. But without that attention to detail (where you can almost see exactly how each machine worked -- another benefit to Otomo's attention to detail), they would have not been nearly as impressive.

I guess it's all in what you tend to focus on when watching a movie. If someone doesn't give two craps about the visuals and just tends to casually watch the objects move across the screen, then they wouldn't be interested in the detail and my whole idea of "relative scale" would be wasted on them.

That's not to say that I think that impressive visuals can take the place of a good story, because there have been more than enough movies that have proven that idea to be false. But I think that the art and animation in Steamboy is just too big of a factor to be casually tossed aside as a minor aspect to the movie.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Steamboy 2?

According to Anime News Network:

The Steamboy 2 story will focus on main character Rei's further adventures, but there are also plans for an episode of heroin Scarlet becoming "Steamgirl" to be produced as a separate work.

Steamboy producer Watanabe Shigeru said in a speech on July 17th, "I talked with Otomo about what Rei does afterwards and the story of Scarlet becoming a "Steamgirl". We will try to realize this within 2 years. I would also like to see Miss Suzuki and Miss Konishi (voice actors) on board the coming project."

"I hope I will still be able to do a girls voice in two years" said Scarlett's voice actress, Konishi Manami, who is twenty-five.According to Natsume Maya it was stated that the sequel may be another movie, or it may be a TV anime.

According to the official Steamboy website, there will be a manga released in Weekly Young Magazine to commemorate the Steamboy theatrical release. The Manga will be released over three weeks, with this week's installment a 10-page story called "Steam Jiji-san" (Steam Grandfather).

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Production I.G. News

A couple old-news items from my all-time favorite animation studio - Production I.G.:
  • has revealed that Production IG and FLCL & Dead Leaves director Hiroyuki Imaishi are at work on an anime film titled "OVAL X OVER." The film is based on Japanese Indy car racing. Voice actor Mitsuo Iwata (666 in Dead Leaves, Itsuki in Initial D) will star. [Source: Animenation]
  • Production IG is also involved in the animation involved in the new Musashi: Samurai Legend video game. A review of the game is available as well as a super cool-looking trailer.

Nausicaa in Theatres

According to

The English dub of Nausicaa will receive a small-scale theatrical release this summer according to sources close to Disney. This will be the first opportunity for US viewers to see the film on the big screen outside of the occasional film festival.

Nausicaa is currently available on DVD from Disney.

Friday, March 18, 2005

GTO Live Action Movie

According to ICv2:

Media Blasters has announced it will release GTO the Movie, a live action 108-minute feature film, on DVD on July 26th. The film, featuring Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, will have a $29.95 MSRP. The plot follows Great Teacher Onizuka, an ex biker punk, who uses his street smarts and martial arts to teach high school.

GTO (or Great Teacher Onizuka was orignially a great manga by Tohru Fujisawa, and was later made into an awesome anime.

I was recently able to download the entire 12-episode live action TV series (I've only watched the first two episodes thus far), but was unable to obtain the live action movie. I guess now I know why (since usually once a title is licensed, most websites will stop making it available for download).

Speaking of which, I'm hoping to post my own review of the series in the near future, so make sure to look out for it.

Howl's Movie Castle Details

According to Anime News Service:

New information was released in Japan Thursday on the American release of Howl's Moving Castle. The film, directed by Hayao Miyazaki will debut in the U.S. on June 16th in 60 cities. All told, it's expected to appear on 700-800 screens. An initial release in 3 cities (Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco) will occur June 10th. The English voice cast includes: Christian Bale (Batman Begins) as Howl, Jean Simmons as Old Sophie (Young Sophie is undecided), Lauren Bacall as Witch of Waste, Billy Crystal as Calcifer and Blythe Danner as Madamm Salliman. Distribution will be handled by Walt Disney. This will be the 3rd Ghibli film to open in the USA following Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Spirited Away grossed a 10 million 56 thousand dollar profit in America and the expectation for Howl's raises that figure by about 2 million 375 thousand dollars. Monsters Inc.'s Pete Doctor will direct the English dialogue.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

TANK S.W.A.T. 01 Trailer

The official site for the previously mentioned TANK S.W.A.T. 01 now has a trailer available.

It doesn't look especially visually impressive in my personal opinion, but it's still worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Steamboy Hodgepodge

Just to get you psyched for tomorrow's Steamboy premiere, here are a list some new info about the movie:


The reviews -- whether positive or negative -- all pretty much say the same thing:

  • Too little character development. The characters' personalities are unoriginal and/or stereotypical.
  • The characters' dialogue tends to be overly philosophical.
  • The story is not as original or engaging as Otomo's previous directorial hit, Akira.


  • The animation was awsome.
  • The mechanical designs were original and imaginative.
  • The action sequences were top-notch.

All of these points are in every review, the only thing that determined whether or not a reviewer liked the film was what they tended to focus on: visuals or story. Check out the reviews to see what I mean:

Here's another review that sums up reviewers' attitudes nicely. It basically says that Steamboy isn't as bad as reviewers tend to make it out to be. It's just that everyone expects it to be another Akira and it just isn't.

I'm not going to be able to see it until Sunday, *Sigh*. But for anyone in the Detroit area, it will be showing at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Shirow's Tank Police Going CG

According to AnimeNation:

The May issue of Japan's Animage magazine includes a bonus DVD containing a promo clip for the full CG animated "TANK S.W.A.T. 01," created by Urda creator Romanov Higa and based on Masamune Shirow's Tank Police Dominion manga series. Japanese fan site Shirowledge hosts a full page ad for the animated clip.

According to Anime News Network:

TANK S.W.A.T. 01 is the first work from the Digital Tokiwa Village Project, a government initiative aimed at fostering independant CG animation. Digital Tokiwa brings promising creators together in Osaka, giving them the chance to collaborate. The artists creative independance is respected by the program, however it provides them with business guidance in areas of sales, financing and advertising. Although release details have not been announced, TANK S.W.A.T. 01 will receive its first official presentation on March 18th at the L-Osaka building in Osaka. [Source: Natsume Maya]

Masamune Shirow's (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, Orion, Black Magic) Dominion manga has been previously released as anime in in two different OAV series -- Dominion: Tank Police, and New Dominion: Tank Police. The original Dominion OAV is is not exactly my favorite anime, but it does hold a personal significance to me because it was the first anime series that I was (knowingly) exposed to. That was way back in... I don't know... something like 1994 maybe. It was airing on the Sci-Fi Channel on their annual week-long Japanese animation marathon. (The next year I think they started a "Saturday Anime" series where they would show a new anime movie every week. But I don't know what happened to the run after that.) I just happened upon it one day while channel surfing, and that pretty much started my unbridaled obsession with the medium. Ah, the nastalgia...

Anyway, I am guessing that this is going to end up being something similiar to the Appleseed movie in terms of visuals (cell shading and all), but I don't know for sure.

That Digital Tokiwa Village Project is interesting though. I wonder if they are trying to push CG animation as a way of competing with (or at least matching the success of) Studios like Pixar and Dreamworks. Considering how Japan's previous attempts at CG feature films (Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within, and Appleseed) seemed to be box-office flops -- especially in comparison to the traditional cell animated films like Howl's Moving Castle (though Miyazaki's films may be more of an acception than a rule) -- I kind of fail to see why that kind of push would be necessary. Maybe they're just trying to encourage the use of technology to enhance the medium, considering how animation is an influential Japanese cultural export.

Anyways, I'm glad to see that animators are getting more respect and support from their government. I'll be interested to see how the TANK S.W.A.T. 01 movie turns out.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Battle Angel Video Game?

According to a CVG article as well as an article on, James Cameron is planning on developing a X-Box video game to coincide with a "major motion picture" release. He apparently doesn't specify what the movie or game project is, but seeing as how he is currently working on the Battle Angel Alita movie, it's not to far of a leap in logic to say that the video game is going to be based in the Alita universe as well. Says Cameron:

"In my next film, I can only tell you what we're planning on doing which is simultaneous developing a major motion picture and hopefully a major game title that co-exists in the same world, that share characters." He continued, "Going into that world will actually inform those watching the film and vice-versa. I don't want to say anything more than that because I don't want to give away some of the cool stuff that we're working on."

Also remember that Cameron was hoping to make a trilogy of movies assuming that the box office results from the first movie agreed with him. Maybe this video game thing is just another way to include more of the Battle Angel storyline. Microsoft did not help clarify the issue when the obvious was pointed out to them:

"I'm not going to argue with those observations, but the fact remains we have not made any announcements," was all a representative for the company would say.

Regardless, it looks like Cameron's getting serious about this story. More news to come, I'm sure...

[And just as an extra piece of useless trivia, there is actually already a Battle Angel video game out there called GUNM: Martian Memory, though I am not sure if that was ever release in the US so good luck trying to get your hands on it. ]

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Initial D Movie Website

The official website for the live action Initial D movie is now open for business. I originally mentioned this project back in October, so if you haven't seen anything about it since then, here are few extra nuggets of information.

The movie will be a Cantonese movie and is produced by Hong Kong studio Media Asia Group. The budget for the movie is $7.7 million US. The filming begun in October 2003 in China and also Japan. Three Toyota AE86 Sprinter Treuno's were specially made by Toyota for this project. [Source: Flora-Fleur.Net]

I've read on a few sites that Jackie Chan was originally set to be the director, but it was not to be so they handed over the wheel (heh heh) to Tsui Hark. Then he dropped the job and was replaced by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.

I also read somewhere that they wrecked 8 AE86's during filmmaking. Also:

  • Toyota built three new AE86's for the movie! And they made the AE85 like the 86...With the headlights and such. (I'm assuming they are talking about Itsuki's 85.)
  • The movie is scheduled to be released this summer.

Other credits mentioned on the official site:

I'm not really knowledgable about Japanese or Chinese actors, though there are a few movies that I do recognize. For instance, Anne Suzuki was in The Returner and Snow Falling on Cedars (I actually never saw that movie, but I did read the book in highschool...if that counts).

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Finally! Yukikaze Volume 2

According to Animenation the final installment of Sentou Yousei Yukikaze will be released in Japan this spring, so the final 2 DVDs should be scheduled for release soon in the US. The second volume will include episodes 3 and 4. The third volume will include episode 5 as well as the Mave-chan spin-off episode.

I loved the first volume and have been eagerly waiting for it to continue, but hadn't heard anything about it for a couple of years. I did see some info on the Mave-chan thing which totally confused me because I did not understand how they could have a spin-off of something that had not yet been completed.

Well, apparently the production of episodes 3-5 got delayed and Geneon had no idea until after the first DVD had already been released. So that explains the long wait. Hopefully getting all that extra time means that the final product will be that much more extraordinary.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Oshii: Miyazaki wants to destroy Japan

In a very interesting LA Times Article, Mamoru Oshii and Ghibli Studio's Toshio Suzuki discuss the dying creativity of modern anime creators. The most cynical of the pair is Oshii who says:

Animation studios are surviving, animators are getting better paid, but the quality of new works is not improving ... On the surface, it's thriving...But in reality, there's very little new happening.

What I really got a kick out of was how the animators tended to quip at one another. Take Suzuki's comments on Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy):

There is only one theme in all his films: the conflict between adults and children. It's an old Japanese theme: The child fights against society, fights against evil. Otomo's thinking is rather old.

But the best comment of all came from Oshii who apparently thinks Miyazaki is a closet homicidal sociopath:

I think inside his head Miyazaki wants to destroy Japan ... But even though he knows his generation has created a nasty society, he has this hope that children will make a better world. So he makes movies that families and the children can enjoy. And it won't change until he makes the movies he really wants to make: bloody works; lots of bloodshed ... Miyazaki is hiding. He has a passion to destroy Japan, but he's not making what he really wants to make.

The article finishes up with Suzuki's insightful take on the personalities behind the animation:

Unlike his dark anime visions, Oshii is cheerful and easygoing in person, while "Miyazaki's personality, on the other hand, is very pessimistic," says Suzuki. "Miyazaki has to put a brake on his thinking" when making a movie to get those happy endings.