Monday, August 28, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Front gathering space where a lot of the cosplaying took place.
I said this is my first "big" convention, but I have been to the smaller Youmacon here in Detroit. The one thing I noticed in comparing the two is that Youmacon had a lot more unlicensed fansubbed titles showing while Otakon had titles that were either already released or licensed but not-yet released. I assume that's bcuase Youmacon is lower-profile so they can get away with more (not that I'm complaining).
But Otakon had a much bigger dealer room -- MUCH bigger. I ended up getting a Samurai Champloo t-shirt, a Shoji Kawamori mech design book, the Death Note art book, three CDs (the Innocence and Madlax soundtracks, and the new Pillows album), one DVD (the latest Tenjho Tenge), and two manga (Hellsing 4 and Trigun 9). There was also this Ghost in the Shell keychain that I wanted to get that had the Laughing Man symbol on it, but the shop that had it sold out (though I did end up ordering it online later -- I'm such a geek).
Sure it's not anime, but this Marv from Sin City cosplayer was just too cool to pass up.
So what anime did I actually see there, you might ask? Well, I saw the premiere of the Hellsing OVA (review), which kicked all kinds of ass. I also saw the premiere of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie (review), which kicked just as much ass. Then I saw the Densha Otoko movie (review) which was good but not quite the ass-kick level as the other two.
Cloud from Final Fantasy VII cosplayer.
Other than that, I saw a couple of episodes of Baki the Grappler, which was a strait-out nothing-but-fighting anime series. Not exactly high on story, but it had the analysis-of-fighting-strategy element that I always seem to like.
Fullmetal Alchemist cosplayers.
I also saw the first 4 episodes of Basilisk. Acutally I missed half of the first episode, but my brother -- who had gotten there early -- filled me in. I'm not sure what I was expecting with this series, but I was pleasantly surprised. It had good story, characters, and animation. So I'm definitely planning on collecting the DVDs when it's released August 8.
Resident Evil cosplayers.
Then there was A Tree of Palme, which was long and boring. The animation was good, and I'm sure there was a point somewhere in the story, but it really just made me sleepy.
Not sure who these guys are supposed to be, but their costumes are cool anyway.
I also saw the Dragonball Z 13 movie, for no other reason than the I wanted to be sure I had a seat for the FMA movie which was showing next in the same room. I'm not a DBZ fan at all, but I still got a kick out of the movie which was kind of goofy but fun.
No Face from Spirited Away cosplayer.
The only thing that I was disappointed at not having seen was the premiere of the Blood + TV series. But since Hellsing Ultimate was showing at the same time, I didn't get a chances to see it. Crap.
Mechazawa and Gorilla from Cromartie High School cosplayers. The poor kid wearing the Mechazawa costume had to peek over the top to be able to see anything. I think the Gorilla was the kid's dad.
As far as panels goes, I saw the one with Hellsing manga creator Kouta Hirano. It was really cool to see him and he seemed like a great guy, but the audience just kept asking all these really stupid, and sometimes even insulting questions. One girl basically asked "Do you realize how messed up you are?" I guess I could have asked a question myself, but I couldn't think of anything. Other than that there was a panel with the FMA english voice actors and ADR director after they showed the movie. The questions there weren't much more insightful than the ones at the Hirano panel. I also breifly saw the Ghibli panel (which was just fans discussing the show) but I left after they started talking about the number of panty-shots in My Neighbor Totoro. -_-;
Kouta Hirano, creator of the Hellsing manga.
Of course, over and above anything else there were the cosplayers. Miles and miles of cosplayers! Some were awesome, others were just disturbing (like a butt-naked guy with only cardboard blue dot covering his privates...?). There were of course a lot of Naruto characters with headbands every which way you looked. There were also a lot of people playing a character carrying a huge key that I didn't recognize but who my nephew said was supposed to be someone from Kingdom Hearts. I also heard that there was a Light and Ryuk from Death Note, but I didn't see them! :( But I did see a Motoko and Laughing Man while waiting for the Hellsing Ultimate screening. They were probably my favorite cosplayers there. Finally I saw a Doc Ido from Battle Angel Alita, and I had to have my wife pose with him for a picture because I always tell her that she looks like Alita. :)
Motoko and Laughing Man from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex cosplayers.
At the end of the day Sunday, we headed home. I was exhausted by the end of the convention, but it was totally worth every minute and am looking forward to going back next year!
Wow! What a great ending to the series. Honestly, I think that any fan of the Fullmetal Alchemist TV series will be overcome with histerical joy at seeing how things end up in this movie -- or maybe I shouldn't build it up so much (especially given my complaints in my previous review), but whatever. ^_^;
This movie is the conclusion to the 54-episode TV series that was aired on Adult Swim. It's a very satisfying and climactic ending too, and I luckily got a chance to see its premier at Otakon a week ago. I think maybe my reaction to the movie was somewhat affected by seeing it with a massive crowd of FMA fans because as each character made their appearance on screen, everyone in the theatre let out a huge cheer. It was really fun watching it that way.
The movie itself takes place two years after the last TV episode, so if you haven't watched the series, you'll probably be confused as to what is going on. But if you have seen the series, this is, I think, exactly how you wanted the series to end: greate story with intense drama and some fun comedy and where every major character gets at least some screen time. Scar fans might be disappointed since he only gets a brief cameo near the end, but everyone else should get a kick out of it. Armstrong fans will love it since he is in rare form ( :) ); and Gluttony comes back in an especially kick-ass scene. I know some people think the ending was predictable, but I liked it and personally didn't expect it to end exactly that way.
The animation was great -- smooth, fluid, and a lot of action. I saw Bones, Gainax, and Production IG in the end credits which are my three favorite animation studios. I don't know how much each studio participated or what role they played, but those names alone should give you a general idea of how high-quality the animation was.
The music was great and gave the drama and action an extra boost. There were also a couple of new songs for the opening and ending from L'Arc-en-Ciel.
So what else can I say? If you are an FMA fan then watch it when it's released on DVD. And if you get a chance to see it in a theatre, take advantage of it because with the awesome animation and sound, getting the full cinematic experience is priceless. If you haven't seen the series yet, then go watch it on Adult Swim (if it's still showing) or buy the DVDs. It's definitely worth it.
Now this is what I was hoping for when I watched the original Hellsing TV series: lots of action, cool characters with intense personalities, high quality animation, and just an all out fun and exciting and dark storyline. The TV series disappointed about half-way through, but this new re-telling of the story stayed truer to the original manga and so it had a more consistent feel and was much much better than its anime predissesor.
I got a chance to catch the premiere of this new OVA at Otakon this year. The showing ended up being so packed that they had to have a second screening. I got into the second showing and it was well worth the wait, especially since it was not as packed as the first so there was much more breathing room. They showed the first DVD which is a 50 minute OVA that introduces Alucard nad the Hellsing organization as well as the super-cool and super-psycho Catholic priest Alexander (who didn't get anywhere close to enough air time in the TV series).
I heard a fan complain at the Otakon Hellsing panel that the soundtrack to the OVA didn't have the rock guitar sound that the TV series had. The director said that he wanted this new anime to focus more on the drama; plus he didn't want to just re-do exactly what he did for the TV series. And I am thankful for that because the music was more of the classic chants and dark themes and it was definitely more effective and dramatic and I think made for better action scenes too.
All said, this is a great start and please God please let the rest of the releases keep up this pace because if they do I will just eat it up.
At this year's Otakon I got a cance to see the live action Densha Otoko movie. It was really good, actually much better than the TV series. I think that this movie was aimed at general audiences while the TV series was more for anime fans; the main reason being that there were a lot less anime and general pop culture references. Also the acting in the movie was a lot better. It was more realistic; while the TV series was more of an over the top comedy, the movie was more of a realistic drama. Another difference was the number of chat members. While there were like 15 or more in the series, there were only about 5 in the movie.
I don't want to just compare this movie to the TV series though because the movie really stands alone. The acting was believable, the characters were likeable, and the general story was effectively dramatic and heart-rending because it was something where you can really cheer for the main character. I really think that if this movie made it ot the US theatres (and was sufficiently marketed) that it would do pretty well. Anybody could see this movie and relate to the characters and enjoy the story (though maybe there would have to be a short intro describing exactly what an otaku is).
So overall I definitely recommend this to all audiences. I really hope it does get a chance to see some play in theatres prior to Viz releasing it on DVD in January because it's worthy of general audience attention.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
If you've seen the Rurouni Kenshin anime (at lest up through the Kyoto story arc) then you know that it's an all around good story with likable and intriguing characters set in historical Japan. The original manga version, which I just wrapped up a little while ago with volume 28, is just as great as the anime with all the elements that made the story great; and though the story is much the same, it's different enough and just damn good enough to be worth a look for any true Kenshin fan.
The Rouroni Kenshin's story has, I think, three things has going of it: a historical setting, likable characters, and great fighting strategy.
The setting of the story is Japan's Meiji era -- a time that has no use for samurai and where swords ahve been banned. The entire series revolves around each characters' reaction to this new time and to the sacrifices that had been made in order to reach it. Some want revenge for some past aggression, some want to regain lost honor, some are trying to take advantage of the of the new era in order go gain money and/or power. And then there's the hero of the story Kenshin, who is just trying to make peace with it all and make reparations for his violent past. By placing the story in a real historical era with real historical figures, it gives the story some credibility and makes you wonder just how possible it all is ... no matter how fantastic some scenes or characters might be.
The second thing the story has goingn for it is the characters. Each character's personality and style is unique and interesting. This is the kind of story that you read because you want to know what happens to the characters next, not necessarily because you want to know how the plot gets resolved. And I think that kind of driving force lends itself most to creating loyal readers.
The third thing that the story had going for it was the great fighting strategy and analysis. Sure, this wasn't the most realistic fighting in the world, but that's not what mattered to me. What I loved was how Kenshin beat his enemy by analyzing his enemy's fighting style and then taking advantage of the holes in the technique, which was complicated even further by his vow not to kill. I love that kind of analysis because it really lets you get in the character's head and makes the fighting more satisfying since you understand more of what is going on. Plus it makes every fight scene interesting and original because it's not just "this guy beat that guy because he's stronger". Since each fighter has a different technique, Kenshin has to come up with a new strategy each time.
The story was complimented perfectly by the clean and polished art. It made the fight scenes more intense because you could always follow exactly what the fighters were doing, but it still kept a fast pace. That's something that not a lot of manga artists can pull off.
The series ending was satisfying. The final battle helped Kenshin to resolve his past, and the follow up gives you a glimps into how each character ends up. It's been a long journey throughout this series, but this ending was a good send off.
So needless to say, this was a good, entertaining, and fun manga series and I definitely recomment it to anyone.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Although I didn't really like the original SaiKano series much, I decided to try out this OVA series anyway just to see if it added anything new or interesting. But as it turned out, I wasn't much crazy about this one either.
The show did have a few good points. For one thing, you got to see some things that were only hinted at in the TV series. For instance, you get some brief information about how Chise was created, and you also got to see more of her fighting in the war. Also, the OVA series thankfully cuts back on the number of blushing characters, which was a chronic issue for most everyone in the TV series.
But although the OVA seemed to improve on the TV series in some aspects, overall it didn't added anything to either the story or the characters' development. Instead, it focused mostly around Chise's obsolete predecessor -- Mizuki who was the prototype "ultimate weapon" and had outlived her military usefulness.
The story drew a parallel between the Chise and Mizuki who were both trying to overcome their instinct for destruction in order to find true love. But I had the same problem with both series: that being the discrepancy between Chise and Mizuki's super destructive capabilities versus their weak personalities. To me that discrepancy seemed to be more annoying than dramatic. Although, I'm sure there are shows out there that have made this kind of conflict work before, but SaiKano doesn't just didn't do it for me.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I have been interested in seeing Whisper of the Heart every since I saw it's sequel -- The Cat Returns -- a few months ago. I'm not sure why Disney decided to release the "sequel" on DVD prior the "original" but it's just as well since you don't have to see one in order to understand what is going on in the other.
In Whisper, an imaginitive girl named Shizuku Tsukishima is trying to find her place in life. In the process she ends up writing a book about a magical cat called The Baron -- a character that she based on a statuette she saw in an antique shop. The Cat Returns movie takes the character of the Baron and develops him into his own story. So while Whisper is about real people doing relatively plausible things, Cat Returns is more of a fantasy tale.
Of the two movies, I liked Whisper better because even though it was set in the "real world" it always felt as thought at it would transition into the realm of fantasy at any moment. There were subtle hints throughout the movie that suggest a magical element, like the fact that the cat named "Moon" (a real one this time) was riding on the train and seemed to be leading Tsukishima somewhere; or the subtle shift in lighting of the Baron statue's eyes which gave the impression that it was alive. Maintaining that balance of imagination and reality was what really makes this movie stand out.
The animation in Whisper was on par with Ghibli's typical high-quality work. It was simple, subtle and enjoyable to watch. The one thing that seperates Ghibli animation from other studios is Ghibli's attention to detail in their portrayal of the character's actions. There are little habits that a character will do that most anyone can recognize and relate to. Like when Tsukishima is stressed out over writing her story, you see her knee bopping up in down in a kind of nervous habit. It's subtle but unexpected, and it's the kind of thing that creates an instant connection between the viewer and the movie.
The music compliments the movie well. Part of Tsukishima's story involves her attempt to translate the song "Take Me Home, Courntry Roads" into Japanese, so that song gets plenty of playtime. It's a good song and was an effective way to interconnect different scenes.
Overall, I thought the movie was great. The conclusion of the story was not especially climactic but was definitely satisfying as the characters acknowledge their feelings for one another.
I would suggest this for kids and adults alike -- and I don't mean that in the Disney-sense where it just means that safe for both kids and adults. This is a movie that is mature enough for adults to genuinely relate to and empathise with, while still displaying a sense of wonder that kids can relate to and enjoy as well.