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Cencoroll – Review February 17, 2010

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.
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Cencoroll tells the story of a town under attack by a mysterious monster, and a young girl named Yuki and a boy named Tetsu, who hold the secret to fighting back: a strange and even-more-mysterious pet called Cenco. When another Cenco user discovers Tetsu, the two will ultimately duel for control and dominance, involving the entire city as their battleground. What is a Cencoroll? Well, the only description given is large, mostly white amorphus creatures. Cenco here is special in a sense that he really adept at shapeshifting into many kinds of different yet useful things to blend into the surroundings. The fluidity of such scenes really shows the technical prowess that Uki has for understanding the amorphousness nature of his creature designs. It is an outstanding anime to behold. However, scene selection is incredibly unconventional, most likely due to it being an amateur work.

At a little under twenty seven minutes, barely a fraction of its theme is explored. Overall, Cencoroll could best be described as a winning idea burdened by a lack of design sense and questionable editing. There is not much to work with but it makes for a quick escape for the casual film watchers and just the right fix for the hardcore fans of the genre. I also don’t know whether the Yuki and Tetsu pairing should really be treated as a pairing since their relationship was just flimsy. Maybe, if they were given a little more time in order to develop the character of this short film, then maybe their paring would have been more convincing for the viewers.

Cencoroll is a quirky little anime that gives you a snapshot of what the genre is still capable of, given the appropriate resources and a little imagination. No doubt a weird story, but I really enjoyed it and while I was watching this I could not help but think that this would work really well as an actual series or at least a long film. Alas, I had to take the film at face value and it’s structured in a very straightforward manner, with the events following a tried and true formula. The way the film uses its assets is worth reproducing in future works, but Cencoroll lacks a life of its own.

Even more, it intentionally does not put forth a great effort to be overly dramatic and thematic. The combination of straightforward cinematography, a blunt protagonist, and weird mecha battles sounds right up my alley. I can’t find any faults in what it sets out to do although from a critics perspective I can rip this anime apart. It puts me at a bit of a crossroads because one of my major criticisms of this movie is that it leaves you wanting more since there are quite a few questions that went unanswered to make for a complete entity as a whole. That can either be a bad thing or a good thing. Yet there is so much wrapped up in this half hour; so much room for imagination and potential for future possibilities. I loved the two simultaneous extremes. Split decision down the middle stamped with an average final score, but it is only 27 minutes of your time…you could do worse.

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The Cat Returns – Review February 12, 2010

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.
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The Cat Returns is by director Hiroyuki Morita, his first head directing credit. What a debut it is. A crow statue named Toto comes to life and main character Haru finds out that Baron and Toto were both given souls because their creators loved them so much, and started the Buearu with refugee Muta. With that, The Baron agrees to help Haru and visit the Cat Kingdom to talk sense into them. Just in time, because the cat vanguard arrives to take her away. The Bureau pursues, and Muta and Haru are whisked away, with The Baron and Toto in hot pursuit. I could go on and on about this wonderous story but I am pretty sure I already left you scratch your head. It only sounds complex, because what is underneath the layers is a truely classic tale.

The Cat Returns has all of the charm, incredible animation, and intensity of a Hayao Miyazaki film. If Morita represents the next generation of Ghibli directors, the studio should prepare itself for years upon years of further successful releases. However, the character development is rather narrow and limited. Almost all of the films on this site aren’t suitable for kids but this is one exception. This movie is suitable for all ages and I highly recommend it for younger viewers who are questioning themselves and do not have trust in their own judgement.

The Cat Returns is wildly hilarious, with excellent one-liners and brutal slapstick. It is hard to keep a straight face during the brilliant and hysterical execution scene. Combine that with a 75 minute run-time, and The Cat Returns is a perfect cinematic pick-me-up. The extent of the story is dotted with comedy and lightheartedness. Haru grows up tremendously over the course of time, and in the end we see a girl who’s much happier with her life. The art is crisp, plenty of memorable characters light up the screen, and the music and ending theme made me track down the soundtrack. All signs that the film moved me, obviously. This is an amazing, classic tale which, just like some of Disney’s classics, just pulls you into the story and doesn’t let go.

I also thoroughly enjoyed The Cat Returns’ perfectly paced and straightforward plot, even if I could already more or less guess how things were going to turn out. It’s like a modern day fairy tale, and once again Studio Ghibli’s impeccable knack for merging reality and fantasy takes over. If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli’s films, then you should see The Cat Returns. This movie is not a deep meaningful story that will make you cry your eyes out. In fact it is a pure, simple and hysterical story. The Disney version brings some of the greatest talent to the table and the end result is one of the best movies I have had the pleasure of reviewing in the last few months.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – Review February 8, 2010

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.
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If I had made an honorable mention section in my Top Ten List of anime films of the past decade, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence would have topped the list. I can think of no anime film I’ve seen since Ghost in the Shell that has anything like the impact of Innoncence. This is certainly one of the best of its kind. Unfortunately, lacking the sexiness and high energy of the original, it has gone largely unnoticed. Off the bat, you’ll notice the production values are excellent and the blu-ray treatment of this is superb. Even a simple, seemingly underthought image like the final two shots of the movie will stick with you long after the closing credits roll. People accuse the movie of not having a brain of its own, but I think any movie that engages the brain of its audience needn’t make apologies.

In the first film, a team of futuristic detectives found themselves unraveling a high-tech conspiracy until one of them, Major Motoko, gives up her or body while her or soul disappears into the electronic realm. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is set years later, in 2032. Working with Togusa who is a mostly human officer recruited to the team by the former Major – Batou is put on the case of several murders, committed by prototype female sex droids that afterward commit suicide. Their investigation leads them from violent yakuza thugs to mind-altering criminal hackers and corporate masterminds. I think that Oshii did a great job in showcasing that sense of sadness with Batou not having his partner but then knowing that no matter what, she will still be there for him in some sort of way.

Clearly, Oshii has envisioned a future and treated it as a reality. The problem for me however was that the dialogue that is present is much was too abstract for a cyber-crime film. This is a complex film, and rewards the viewer with multiple showings, if you have the patience. The story is great and the philosophical/moral questions arising from the premise of machines becoming too human always makes for an interesting topic.

If you are a self proclaimed intellectual, this movie may be right up your alley. The plot is sadly lost in incessant spewing of western and biblical quotes. Whole conversations consist of characters rambling off quotes to each other. Then you are assaulted by scenes of character’s e-brains getting hacked that are meant to make you question “what is real?” So in conclusion, this is not a hands-down great film. It has great execution, but the ideas ultimately come off half-baked and unresolved. The end twist is actually a knockout and makes it worth seeing. But I must stress that although I am giving this a fairly high grade, I want to note that animation is about storytelling with moving pictures. Story pacing and timing is very important. While I don’t mind movies that run at a slower pace, it also shouldn’t lag. Ultimately, this film finds a good enough balance to work.

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works – Review February 2, 2010

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.
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Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works covers a different story branch of the original game. For those keeping track at home, production is the same as the series which not consistent in art direction. Just like with the Evangelion series, it seems as if the whole 24 episodes of the series have been melted down into one large scaled film. The same cast and crew return to deliver the big screen debut that didn’t leave me dissappointed n the least. Yes, there is a loose central theme that drives the film but its so loosely scripted that I found myself to be puzzled throughout the film. There is a war going on between masters and servants in order to attain the Holy Grail. Each master can call up one servant each, and their task is to eradicate the other servants, either by defeating them or killing their master. Also the summoned spirit is also granted their wish if they and their master win the tournament thus causing the servant to do their best to obtain victory. Thus, Shirou, a high school student with some unlearned magical abilities unwittingly becomes one of the combatants in the tournament.

I won’t say anything more about who or what or why because its a fun series that mixes very well action and plot. Those who are already familiar with the world of Fate/Stay Night will be delighted to know that Unlimited Blade Works has crafted this film for the sake of the fans of the game. I am not claiming to be an expert, which is why I became lost watching this.  To no fault of its own however, it’s a bit difficult to follow at times, but if you are attentive, you will understand and enjoy this story, more particularly on second viewing.

The action sequences are some of the best I’ve seen in a long while. For those wodnering, yes, Lancer has a pretty meaty role in this. It’s one of those movies where you can actually feel sorry for the bad guys. Battles do take on different flairs from time to time, but as you can tell from the attached images and youtube clip, the production values help boost this film out of mediocrity.  Seeing this film, supplied to me by a buddy of mine who is stationed overseas, has told me out the gate that this film will never see stateside release, so those who are committed to seeing this better know your way around the web.

What’s great about Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works is that its more relatable to our society than most animes because the characters are based off of many cultural and historical figures, not simply those pertaining to Japan. The story for me also seemed to have a more adult version of Pokemon. Nothing too excessive but there is blood and lots of violence. If you are interested in this I would pick up the series, which has a way better story arc given the duration of the animation. Nonetheless, this is a great watch and one I will be adding to my prized collection. If this film is any indication, 2010 is looking like a good year for new anime releases.

Naruto The Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel – Review January 25, 2010

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.
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Naruto The Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel is a pretty decent addition to the Naruto movies. I realize I review them out of order but I gravitate towards films that leave an impression on me firstly. This movie was very reminiscent of the very first ten to fifteen episodes of the Naruto series. Obviously, if you are not a fan of the series or follow the Naruto universe, this review will be useless to you. For those looking to see an evolution of said characters. you will most likely be dissappointed. Of all the characters Gaara seemed to be the only one that had continued to develop in the movie. This is essentially a movie about survival.

Sent on a seemingly run-of-the-mill mission to return a lost ferret to its owner along with his teacher Shikamaru and female classmate Sakura, Naruto becomes entangled in a ruthless invading force. Though the attackers claim to be founding a utopia that will spread peace to the world, their merciless quest for the stone of Gelel has already brought them into fierce conflict with Sand Ninja Kankuro and Gaara. It has everything you would expect of a Naruto story, lots of adrenaline filled fight scenes, a big dramatic threat and a megamalomaniac villain. The writers also throw in a rather hackneyed message about the importance of friendship and stuff.

Squad Seven faces their most dangerous mission yet: protect the stone from those who would misuse its power. If you were looking at this release as a way to springboard into the franchise you’re going to be left wanting. 3D CG is effortlessly blended with 2D animation to offer something that truly fills its scope, and odd touches like the mediaeval armour of Temujin and his allies, added to the Mayan feel of the Gelel legend all work to make this much bigger than the television series that spawned it. In the end Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel is basically just an extended episode from the show but without the sense of drama.

Though prior knowledge of the franchise isn’t necessary to understand the film, Viz still provides an option for pop-up notes that explain the history of each special move and give pointers on relationships and other television-specific information. I can’t really blame the staff for the thinness of the film. But, the fights are really cool and if you are a fan of Naruto its something that you need to have added in your collection. Slowly but surely, I will get to reviewing the other films in the series, but until then, Naruto offers much viewing material to keep you occupied in the meantime. Naruto The Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel isn’t a bad place to start.