The 2nd Dimension

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A long wait for Gedo Senki

According to the October release of Newtype USA, the latest Studio Ghibli work: Gedo Senki (aka Tales from Earthsea) will not see a US release until at least 2009.
In a post on her website, Earthsea novel author Ursula K. Le Guin noted that a US release of Gedo Senki will happen "when the contract with the TV people for their film and rights runs out: not before 2009." She's referring to her publisher's contract with The Sci Fi Channel, which produced an Earthsea TV miniseries in 2004 and has the US rights to make movies based on the original books for four more years.
Gedo Senki is actually directed not by Acadamy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, but by his son Goro Miyazaki. There has been some high profile tension between father and son over this movie relating to the younger's inexperience in animation. Regardless though, according to Newtype the movie "grossed over one billion yen in ticket sales in its first week, and distributor Toho is anticipating a final tally of over ten billion yen, which would make the anime film one of the biggest in Japanese movie history."

Not sure if Disney would automatically have the rights to this one since it's not directed by Hayao, but I can't help but wonder how high anticipation for it will be in 4 years. I guess it just gives that much more time for fan-subbers to work on it. ;D

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Viewing Journal: Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children

Movie Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B+
Story = B-
Video = A
Audio = A


This movie seems to have been specifically designed to appeal to people who have finished the Final Fantasy 7 video game -- which makes sense considering that it's a direct sequel. FF7 fans will love all of the homages to the music, setting, characters, storyline, and fighting techniques of the game. But for non-fans, much of this will probably just go right over their head. Oh, sure, there's some expository introduction at the beginning of the movie, so to some extent I'm sure non-fans could follow along. But for the most part there is not a lot of plot explanation, and there is practically no introduction for the FF7 characters other than of Cloud and Tifa (I don't even think they mention the names of most of them). Thankfully though, there is a great extra on the DVD which recaps key scenes from the game. So for people who haven't played the game, it makes a nice summary, and can be a refresher for those who haven't played in for a while.

The one thing that will definitely impress the audience -- regardless of your gameplay experience -- is the immense volume of eye candy that abounds in this film. There's a lot of matirx-like fighting (ie, slow-down, speed up, slow down, speed up...), which you may or may not like; but the gravity-defying battles, impossible camera angles, and just gorgeous visuals are sure to make just about anybody stop and gape in awe. The director says (in one of the DVD extras) that they didn't want to limit the film's potential by confining the characters actions to real-world physical laws. Their only rule was basically, if it looks cool then do it.

As far as the movie's storyline, in the beginning the story seems like it has a lot of potential; but after a while it seems to ditch story/character development in favor of over-extended (but really cool) fight scenes. And for some reason the ending fight seems kind of deflated. Sure it's visually climactic, but storywise there isn't enough explanation as to why cloud wins at the end (sorry for the spoiler, but come on, like you didn't already know that was going to happen). Maybe I missed something, but after the fight was over I really expected there to be more. I did like how the very last scene played out though so I guess it wasn't all that bad.

Overall, I'd say that if you have played the game then watch this movie because you'll get a kick out of the game references. If you haven't played it, you'll have to take the story with a grain of salt and just accept that you aren't going to understand everything. If nothing else, you can at least enjoy the eye candy.

Viewing Journal: Last Order Final Fantasy VII

OAV Overview
(Not yet licensed in US)
Bittorrent Download

Overall= B-
Story = B-
Video = B
Audio = B-


I'm not quite sure how to handle this one because it's basically an animated version of a part of the FF7 story. So if you haven't played the game then you won't know what is going on at all. And if you have played the game then you already know what is going to happen. But all that aside, there's just something fun about watching the FF7 characters in anime form.

This one-episode story mainly revolves around Zack and how he and Cloud are on the run from Shinra. It does a good job of clarifying some elements that didn't play out as well in the game -- like Cloud and Zack's ride in the truck, and how exactly Zack died. The animatoin is great, and the music is good, though nothing about the later really sticks out in my mind at the moment. So if you're a fan and get a chance, then check it out.

It was originally released in Japan as an extra on the FF: Advent Children DVD, but for some reason it wasn't on the US version for some reason. So sad.

And that's pretty much all I have to say about that. :D

Viewing Journal: Fafner - Right of Left

OAV Overview
(Not yet license in US)
Bittorrent Download

Overall= C+
Story = C+
Video = B
Audio = B+


This Fafner prequel takes place a few months (?) before the events of the TV series and revolves around a last-ditch effort to keep the Festum from discovering the location of Alvis. While watching the show, at first I thought this was kind of a stupid story idea since -- if you've watched the TV series -- you know that the Festum are going to find the island eventually anyway. But as it turns out, the inevitability of failure makes for some tragic drama, and in the end I thought they made a good explanation for why achieving peace -- however temporary -- is so important. So all-in-all, the story is pretty good -- not great but worth seeing if you're a fan of the show.

One thing I was really disappointed by was the fact that it doesn't do much in the way of providing insite into the Festum or Fafners and why they do what they do, especially since there is a lot of stuff in the series that I still don't understand. But... Eh..

The visuals are a definite step up from the TV show. The Festum themselves are rendered in greater detail and the battle scenes are a lot more fluid. The music in the OVA is good too, but I don't think it's quite as good as in the show. Angela has a new song in the soundtrack, so that in itself is something worth listening for.

Overall if you are a fan of the original series I'm sure you're going to want to give this extra little Fafner episode a try. Though if you are not a fan, I don't think this will change your opinion one way or the other.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Viewing Journal: Tenjho Tenge (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= C+
Story = C+
Video = B-
Audio = B-


This was a frustrating show. I loved the first six or seven episodes, and I thought the characters were great and the action was great and it was just an all-around fun high-school-students-battle-one-another-while-conveniently-exposing-their-underwear type of show. The animation was top-notch and the fighting was intense and there was even a surprising amount of character development. For instance, when I first saw Masataka I would have bet anything that he would have been a typical weak-but-nice character. And then what happens? He kicks Souchiro's ass something fierce. So by the time the sixth (or so) episode rolled around, all the characters seemed to have a pretty good relationship developing and their goals seemed all set out.

Then, just when everything was set up and I was really excited to see what happens next, it dumps all the best characters in favor of an all-too-long flashback. What the heck?

I'm not saying that the flashback had a bad story at all -- in fact it was great with it's own set of interesting and cool characters. It's just that it needed to be (and could have been) edited by maybe half. That's because by the time it wrapped up it had taken up most of the show and after a while I just wanted to get back to Souchiro, Masataka and the gang. I mean, learning about Maya, Mitsuoumi and Shin was all well and good, but I wanted to find out about the other "present day" characters too. Like why does Souchiro have so much potential as a fighter, and what's the history of him and his mom, and why did Aya fall instantly in love with Souchiro to the point where she automatically proposed marriage? And how did Masataka get so powerful and what's the history of him and his brother? In fact, after the flashback story ends Masataka fades into the background as pretty much a non-character. Which sucked because after he gave Souchiro his ass-whuppin' I was really looking forward to see what Masataka would do next.

Now I know this is an Oh Great! battle/fan service show -- hell, that's what attracted me to it in the first place. But you can't expect to start out with a certain set of characters and start to build them up and them dump them for most of the series. I mean, when you have only five characters represented in the show's opening animation, you'd expect that they'd get a little more air time at least. I don't know...

Anyway, speaking of which, this show had one hell of a catchy take-over-your-brain kind of intro. I still find myself singing "Bomb a head" out loud on occasion to the point where I can practically feel my brain cells breakdancing in my head. It's that bad (but in a good way).

As far as the ending of the show is concerned, there really isn't one. (Yet more evidence that the flashback should have been edited-for-time.) The show is apparently going to be concluded in two OVA episodes, but Geneon hasn't said (to my knowledge) when/if they will be released in the US. [Edit: After some research, I discovered that the last two episodes of the US release are in fact the 2-episodes from the OVA. So I guess we'll never get a chance to see the final tournament fight after all. There is also a movie that just re-tells the flashback arc called The Past Chapter. So there really is no new Tenjho Tenge.]

So in summary, Tenjho Tenge was a fan-servicey martial arts anime that followed up with some depth to the story. Unfortunately, that depth came came in the form of a good-but-over-extended flashback that crowed out some of the original characters. But when it's all said and done, nobody is going into this show expecting deep characters or story. They just want plenty of high-intensity fighting and exposed flesh, and on that this show undeniably delivers.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Death Note: The Last Name trailer

Here's the trailer for the second Death Note movie, due out in Japan later this year.

On a related note, the official site for the Death Note anime is up. No trailer for that one yet though.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Final Fantasy 7 : COMPLETED

Yes I finally finally FINALLY finished this freaking game. All told it took me about 9 years before I finally got around to taking the time to see it through to the end. This latest session recorded over 60 hours worth of play time. And that's not counting the times at during the last part of the game when the Playstation froze up 4 freaking times forcing me to restart and loose about 2 hours of playtime.

Anyway, the ending was pretty cool, though I wouldn't have minded seeing a bit more of a resolution (at least something more than the short "500 years later" scene after the end credits).

Of course, the whole reason I was motivated to finish the game was in preparation for watching the Advent Children movie as well as the Last Order anime. So, God willing, it will be worth it. According to a comment I got a while back from straightfromthecask, playing the game gives you a greater appreciation for the movie. I guess I'll find out when I watch it, which I plan on doing after I finish up Tenjho Tenge.

More later...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

More info on new Evangelion movies

From Anime News Network:

According to the October issue of Newtype (Japan) (On sale September 10), four new Evangelion movies are in the works. The four movies will include a prequel, a mid-series movie, a sequel and a "final" movie. The prequel movie is due out early summer 2007.

While the new story will be set during the same time frame as the original TV series, Newtype states that it will be an entirely new project, not be a remake or improvement of any sort. Newtype also mentions that viewers will not need to have already seen previous Evangelion material in order to understand and enjoy the new movies.

Hideaki Anno will write the scenario for the first movie and will be the general director and manager for the entire project. Kazuya Tsurumaki will direct the movies while Yoshiyuki Sadamoto will provide character designs and Ikuto Yamashita will provide mechanical designs. Shinji Higuchi will provide storyboards for the first movie.

Khara, a new studio that shares office space with Gainax, was recently set up and is seeking production staff to work on Anno's new project.
According to Hiroaki at the AnimeNation Forums:
  • 1st movie (90 minutes) is due out May 2007;
  • 2nd movie (90 minutes) is due out February 2008;
  • 3rd & last movies (each 45 miutes) are due out May 2008;
  • "these movies will solve all of Eva's doubt". :D

Thursday, September 07, 2006

CONFIRMED: 4 New Evangelion Movies

From Anime News Service:

Apparent scans from the October, 2006 issue of the Japanese edition of Newtype Magazine (not officially due out on shelves until this wekeend) have appeared online, backing up almost word for word the information reported below. Images Copyright (c) Kadokawashoten 2006 / (c) GAINAX - Khara / Project Eva

The title for the new film series is "Evangelion Shin Gekijou Ban", it will consist of 4 parts (First volume, Second part, Latter part and Final story) with the first part arriving in Japanese theaters in early summer, 2007. Staff include General Supervisor: Hideaki Anno, Director: Tsurumaki Kazuya , Character Design: Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Mecha Design: Ikuto Yamashita, Animation Production: Khara (Color) Studio. The scenario of the 1st part will be written by Hideaki Anno with storyboard by Shinji Higuchi.

Key points of an interview in the magazine with Toshimichi Ohtsuki of King Records have also been circulating. According to that information:

  • The content is quite different though the time base of the story is the same as the original TV series.
  • It will be a remake, however, it is not a re-creation but a "new work".
  • The approach will be different than what Tomino-san did with the Gundam Z New Translation films, there will apparantly be a large amount of new material.
  • Even if the TV series has not be seen, the viewer will be able to enjoy it. Though the content becomes easy, it is not redundant to those already familiar with the series.
  • The technique that purposely scatters difficult words and phrases will not be used any longer.
  • As an antithesis to current animation industry segments, it is an attitude on the production side to pull the act in the age that started from Eva.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Viewing Journal: Yugo the Negotiator (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B
Story = B
Video = B
Audio = B-


This is a hard title to categorize. You can't really call it an action title, because there is very little action in it. And you can't really call it a drama because there it's not really about relationships. It's not a mystery, and I don't even think I'd call it a thriller.

The closest thing I could come up with is that it is a smart, character-driven political suspense story, and it's a damn good one at that. The story revolves around Yugo Beppu who is a negotiator (as you may have guessed). This means that he represents his clients in talks with another party and tries to make deals in order to get something (usually a kidnapped person) that the client wants.

Now I know that doesn't exactly sound like the most exciting plot, but Yugo is a negotiator like Indiana Jones is an archiologist. So his negotiations often end up involving exotic locations, violent war mongerers, and excruciating torture.

The thing that really makes this show stick out above the rest is the fact that you'll never see Yugo try to fight his way out of a tight spot. Instead, he uses two things to get himself out of trouble: his smarts and his communication skills (well that and an uncanny ability to resist torture). It's a strange thing to watch because I've just been conditioned to expect fists to fly when characters get in certain situations. But the fact that Yugo doesn't makes the show that much more involving because I started to think "well, if he's not going to fight, then how is he going to get out of this mess." And thus it pulled me in.

The thirteen episodes in the series cover two unrelated story arcs: the first takes place in Pakistan and the second in Russia. I wasn't quite as impressed with the Pakistan one because it seemed to focus more on how tough Yugo was than how smart he was. But the Russia arc was was smarter and more complicated and I think had stronger characters. So I loved that one, and if there ended up being more Yugo like the Russia arc, I'd definitely buy it.

Another cool thing is how realistically the show tried to portray situations. Not just the historical or scientific references, but the visuals too. Like when Yugo's wrists have been bound or tortured, the bruises are still there days later! The show's interpretation of the Russian and Islamic cultures were also a surprise. It was more balanced than you'd ever see in a movie made in the US.

The unfortunate thing is that, since this show doesn't seem to fall into any one category, I don't think it has much of a shot of doing well in the US. The reason being that if a show doesn't fall into a certain category then people won't know if it's their "kind of show" or not. Of course there's also the fact that it's not it's not the action-oriented storyline that makes a lot of anime popular here in the US. The only thing I can say is that if you like smart anime, then this one is for you.

Satoshi Kon more popular than Ben Afflek at Venice

From Anime News Service:

Goo Movie pointed out something interesting regarding the attendance numbers of Paprika at Venice. American actor Ben Afflek's latest film Hollywood Land screened in the same theater on August 31st. Despite the star himself being in attendance, tickets were sold only filling 700 seats. Satoshi Kon's screening on the 2nd drew 1060 people filling it to overcapacity. Tickets sold in out in less than an hour.

As an aside Hochi Shimbun has more on the director's 5 minute standing ovation. Ringing applause, bravos and shouts of joy filled the theater for 5 minutes or more. During this time Satoshi Kon says he recalled faces of his staff, many sitting in front of a computer in a dark room for 2 years during the production. He said he was there as his staff's representative. Feeling excited and rattled he said he also wish his staff could hear the applause for 2 years time.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Viewing Journal: IGPX - season 2

Series Overview
TV Broadcast Info
DVD Info

Overall= C
Story = C
Video = B+
Audio = C+


The second season of IGPX has wrapped up on cartoon network, and while there are some improvements over the fist season, it's really just more of the same.

I did like the addition of team "White Snow" to the IGPX roster. I loved the character designs of the team members and their giddy-but-cold personalities really stuck out from the rest of the teams.

The story delved into the history of some of the characters as well. You learn a little more about Andrei the coach and the relationship between Takeshi and Liz finally starts to develop. And Luka, probably the best character in the cast, finally gets a chance to really shine.

But despite these improvements, there really isn't a lot that makes this second season a lot better than the first. The races still look the same and Satomi still seems to lack any stratagy short of "do your best" or "work as a team" which may work nice as general themes, but don't do much to make the races/battles any more exciting.

The animation was good, but -- again -- there really wasn't much of anything that we hadn't seen numerous times before in the first season. The acception to this was at the end of the show when team Satomi races team White Snow. The animation studio Production IG finally shows what they can do in those last two episodes and I was plenty happy to see it.

At the start of the first season I thought this show had a lot of potential. There was an original concept with cool mechs and was supported by a great animaiton studio. But the show didn't really add anything else new through it's 26-episode run. And the lack any real racing strategy or character depth only added to the disappointment. And although the ending seemed to make up for much of this, overall it just ended up seeming ... average.

Viewing Journal: Fafner (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= C+
Story = C+
Video = C
Audio = B+


Fafner was a giant robot show, and just like many shows in that genre it had giant robots (called Fafners) with teenage pilots fighting alien invaders (called Festum) with mysterious origins.

The problem that I had with the show was that a lot of the time I just wasn't sure what was going on. I couldn't distinguish between the elements of the plot that were being kept intentionally ambiguous/mysterious and the elements that I didn't understand simply because I was being dense.

The thing that made it more frustrating was that I was paying so much attention to trying to figure out what was supposed to be going on that it took my attention off of the real focus of the show: the drama. It's like I knew that characters were getting all emotional, but I didn't understand why they were getting emotional. In other words, I couldn't empathize because I didn't understand the source of their suffering (or whatever).

Maybe if I would have just kind of laid back and not worried about things like where the Fafners came from or what Soshi's roll in piloting the Fafners was or what this "Mir" thing was supposed to be or what exactly a "core" was supposed to be or what the message that the Festum kept repeating was supposed to mean, and instead of thinking about all of that just concentrated on the character interaction and general melodrama then maybe I would have enjoyed it a little better. But who knows? Eh. :shrug:

Regardless, by the end of the show, many of those confusing plot points were cleared up so I was finally able to enjoy it a little more. I do think the ending was a good dramatic climax, but still wasn't totally satisfying since there were still a lot of pieces that I didn't understand. I know that there is a prequel OVA out in Japan, so maybe that would help explain some plot points, but I'll just have to wait and see if that's ever released in the US.

The animation in the show was okay, but I can't really can't say that I was impressed with the job that Xebec did on either the character, mech, or alien designs nor the general action scenes. There just wasn't much of anything that stuck out. Again, perhaps the animation in the OVA will be an improvement especially since I just noticed that Production IG is involved with the production. (Maybe I won't wait until it's licensed... ...)

The only thing that I can say that I really did enjoy unconditionally was the music, which seemed almost too good for the show. Sometimes it even seemed like it was even was carrying the drama. Then there were the great music for the opening and ending credits which was performed by Angela, who is one of my favorite J-pop groups at the moment.

So in summary, I'd say if you are expecting mystery or action on the level of Evangelion or RahXephon, you will be disappointed to the point of confusion. But if you are looking for plenty of melodrama and are able to ignore the ambiguous plot elements, then go ahead and give it a try.