Category: film and animation

Me and that New Genesis Gospel

ryouga_(fm59)Seeing Evangelion 3.0 made me want to revisit the original Evangelion TV series. I haven’t watched it in full since I introduced it to my sister back in early 2010, so I was about due for a re-watch, and just finished it earlier today, so I figured I’d share a few thoughts on the show.

This viewing marks the first time I’ve seen it since becoming an Eva fan after seeing 2.0 in theatre a few years ago, and is the third time I’ve seen it all the way through. I first attempted to watch the series back in high school, in 2005 or so. I say “attempted” because Blockbuster only had the first two volumes and I couldn’t afford to buy the whole thing myself (such is the life of a high schooler), so for a while I knew the story more from Sadamoto Yoshiyuki’s comic version. Even now, it takes some effort for me to remember what happens in the comic versus the anime.…

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Evangelion 3.0 – Initial Impressions

I went to see Evangelion 3.0 at the Plano Angelika theatre yesterday, and though it was less fun than it could’ve been since the person I’d planned to see it with had to be out-of-state, I still enjoyed the experience and thought I’d share a few brief thoughts about it.

The highlights: driving down Dallas North Tollway with hardly any traffic was pretty fun; the one cosplayer did a fine job as Gendo; the Angelika is probably the nicest theatre I’ve been in.

You’ll notice that none of those highlights come from the actual movie. I guess I enjoyed it, but Evangelion 2.0 is a favourite film of mine so it had a lot of goodwill from me going in, and the mostly poor early reviews had my expectations a bit low. Most of my enjoyment just came from the still novel experience of seeing Eva, or really any anime, on the big screen, and the film did do a few things right. I liked the music, and the animation is still good, though they used too much CG. I hated the English dub, but that may be because I’m so used to the Japanese cast for Eva and because I’m hostile to English dubs in general. Ultimately, though, I’m afraid that Evangelion 3.0 just isn’t a very good movie.

One common reaction I’ve seen is that the plot’s too difficult to follow, and I suppose that’s true but that’s also par for the course for Evangelion. Another criticism is that action scenes aren’t as good as in the past, and that’s also true.

Evangelion‘s biggest strength in the past, the thing that made me care about the plot and action, was the characters, and Eva 3.0‘s biggest weakness is that the characters lack any depth. In most cases, there’s not much time for development – the newly introduced Wille crew isn’t much more than a collection of names and faces, for example – whereas Eva 2.0 had several scenes of relatively quiet moments that don’t advance the plot much but allow us to get to know these characters; Rei and Asuka learning to cook, for example, or Asuka and Misato’s conversation as Asuka prepares to test a new Evangelion unit. Here, most characters can be summed up in just a few words; Asuka is angry, Misato is bitter, Rei is emotionless, Gendo is cool and mysterious, Mari is Asuka but more annoying.

That’s bad enough, but the film also throws away some of 2.0‘s development. Rei is back to her old expressionless self, for example, and Shinji is back into full-on depression by the end. In both cases there is a good reason for this, but Shinji’s case is especially demoralising. I understand what director Anno Hideaki was trying to do with Shinji in the original series, but that’s part of why I appreciate the original more than I enjoy it. Seeing this character finally do something heroic at the end of 2.0, after a full two-season TV series and three feature-length movies, was one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen in a movie, and while I obviously didn’t expect Shinji to turn into John Rambo for Eva 3.0, I was hoping we could at least get to see a moderately self-confident incarnation of this character.

I suppose I have to give Anno credit for one thing: he’s not afraid not to give the fans what they want in his movies. I just wish he’d give us a break once in a while.…

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That other Lord of the Rings Movie

Some films are good and some films are bad, and some films are such a thorough mix of good and bad that one struggles to decide whether the work as a whole is good or not. The 1978 animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings, directed by Ralph Bakshi, is just such a movie. Parts of the film look excellent, and it takes a few chances that do pay off, but there are a few major faults that may ultimately sink it.

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An Uncle Walt-a-thon Round-Up

I’ve already covered each major Walt Disney film individually as part of my Uncle Walt-a-thon project (except The Jungle Book, but he died during the production of that one and Netflix doesn’t have it, so I’m skipping it), but it occurs to me that I haven’t yet shared any thoughts of the project as a whole. So, here are some general impressions and a highlight reel.

Overall, there weren’t any surprises. Based on my childhood memories of these films, I expected a bunch of well-animated children’s films, and that’s what I got. The stories are fairly standard fare for family films, so what interested me most going in was to see how animation improved or changed over time.

Well, the animation quality did improve somewhat from one film to another, but Alice in Wonderland was the last one that was especially striking, visually, though there was a change in style with 101 Dalmatians. There are just a few highlights for fans of animation as such: Snow White, the “Pink Elephants on Parade” in Dumbo, much of Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and perhaps 101 Dalmatians. If I were teaching a class on animation, I suppose those five films would be the ones I’d include.

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Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen

yukishiro_(hitsuji)A little over a year ago, I wrote about the first two seasons of the Rozen Maiden anime adaptation (leaving out the OVA, which I haven’t seen). Now, an adaptation of Peach-Pit’s sequel has recently concluded, RM: Zurückspulen. I wrote last year that RM: Träumend is probably the best expression of Rozen Maiden‘s concept, but in some ways Zurückspulen may be slightly better. At the very least, if you liked the previous Rozen Maidens, you need to see this new version, as well.

I should point out that this is a sequel and though a newcomer may be able to make sense of events, you’ll need to have either read the original comic, or seen the anime adaptations, for the new story to be especially meaningful. For the rest of this review, I’ll assume that you have some familiarity with the RM prequels.

The backstory is a little convoluted, because it combines the comic and its (significantly different) adaptation; the first episode, a recap, ends with Jun making his decision to enter the N-Field as in the comic, but adds the (previously anime-only) Kirakishou as the main antagonist. Most of the rest of the story centres on Jun in a parallel universe where he rejected the invitation to “wind” or “not wind” and thus never met the Rozen Maidens. He’s now in college, though he often skips class, living alone, and working a somewhat lousy part-time job.…

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Thoughts on Watamote

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I’ve been following Tanigawa Nico’s comedic manga Watamote (short for the succinct Japanese title, translated: No Matter How I Look at it It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m not Popular!) for about a year, and like it enough that I’ve imported the first three Japanese volumes and am reading them at that slow, agonising pace that characterises my attempt at that language. When the anime adaptation was announced, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, Watamote is often almost painful for me to read because of my low tolerance for second-hand embarrassment, which is a constant in this series, and animation would likely only make that worse. On the other, some things do benefit from the switch to animation, especially if the writers try to expand on the story a bit.

So, our protagonist is Kuroki Tomoko, just beginning her first year of high school and optimistic about her prospects for enjoying her school years. Unfortunately, she also has to deal with more than her fair share of social anxiety. For example, she struggles in things as simple as returning a “good-bye” to a teacher, and congratulates herself for navigating an interaction with a convenience store clerk when buying snacks. So, at first glance, she seems like a rather sympathetic character, especially for those of us who were rather shy and introverted in high school, ourselves, and she’s not totally friendless; she does occasionally meet with a middle school friend, Yuu, who went to a different high school. Watamote‘s catch, though, is that many of Tomoko’s problems are her own fault, and though I wouldn’t call her a bad person, the show is frank about her other problems – she’s judgmental, a bit lazy, jealous of others’ success, and occasionally dishonest.…

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The Aristotelian Argument for Animation

I’ve touched on why I like animation before, but I’ve been wanting to expand a little on why animation is particularly worth following, even if it’s less accomplished than other media (e.g., literature or painting). In particular, I find myself returning to near the end of the Poetics, where Aristotle considers whether tragedy is superior to epic poetry. He answers “yes,” in part because tragedy can use any of the same techniques as epic, right down to using the same poetic metre. This puts them on equal terms, but tragedy also has “a substantial role for music and spectacle, which engender the most vivid pleasure.” Aristotle stresses this vividness, and I’ll add that this vividness works to enhance whatever effect an artist wishes to impress on his audience, whether that be a feeling of horror, comedy, and so on.

This argument in favour of tragedy also applies to animation, which possesses most of the same tools available to other arts, e.g. live-action film, comics, and literature, but in addition is capable of a level of spectacle that no other form can match.…

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On the Hobby of Collecting Hobbies

One consistent problem I’ve had throughout most of my life is that my principal hobby is collecting hobbies. Almost everything is interesting to me, and my shelves are stuffed with books of literature, history, philosophy; DVDs and glorious blu-rays of film and animation; plenty of music and comics. If I had the time, I’d get into even more – theatre, fine arts, sports, cuisine, and who knows what else.

So much dabbling does have its advantages. There are few people with whom I can’t find some common interest, provided it’s not too obscure – and even then, there’s a decent chance I’ll at least be aware of what they’re talking about. Having a wide field of reference also helps when dealing with authors or directors who also have a wide field of reference, whether I’m reading through T.S. Eliot’s tangles of allusions or Tanigawa Nagaru’s off-hand references in the Haruhi novels.

It also allows me to be especially selective as far as what I read and watch. The majority of the books I read, the films I watch, the albums I listen to, and so on, are at least memorable. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t have as much appreciation for the excellent since I don’t have as much mediocre content to compare it to, but for now I’m content with the selective approach to media.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, so even though I have a working knowledge of so many topics, that knowledge tends to be fairly shallow. So, for example, I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica as it came out, and though I enjoyed it, much of the discussion of the show centred on how it relates to other magical girl shows. I had nothing to say on that, because I can count the number of magical girl anime and comics I’ve experienced on one hand. I did catch the Faust references, though.

I’ve occasionally considered focusing my attention almost entirely to just one, maybe two fields, but have never seriously attempted this. As much as I respect those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of a particular subject, I find the world too fascinating to devote myself to just one aspect of it. So, I continue to run about in circles, in a mental equivalent of getting a free sample of every item at the supermarket without actually buying enough of any one thing to make a full meal.…

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Short Thoughts on Fritz Lang

There are very few directors (and no actors) whose films I’ll watch simply because of their involvement. Fritz Lang, though, seems to have joined that list.

The first film of his that caught my interest was Metropolis, several years ago and, I’ll admit, primarily due to the anime connection. I enjoyed it and even wrote a paper on it for a film class in my freshman year at university, but for whatever reason didn’t follow-up with any of his other films until recently, when I watched M and then, just yesterday, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.…

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Impressions of Interstella 5555

Me being such a fan of animation as animation, Interstella 5555 is a film I should’ve watched a long time ago. It’s compelling and there’s little else quite like it, and even the background of its production is interesting. As Daft Punk were producing their second album, Discovery, they hit on the idea of setting a story to the album’s music, and wrote up a plot outline. Being fans of Leiji Matsumoto’s anime Albator, they got in touch with him and he agreed to take on the project of creating an animated film set entirely to Discovery‘s music.

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