City Hunter – episodes 8 to 26

August 31, 2004 on 9:12 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter – episodes 8 to 26

One, two, mokkori. One, two, mokkori …

City Hunter somewhere down the track seems to have lost a lot of its serious treatment. The blame can rest almost squarely on Kaori’s 10, 100 and 1000 ton hammers. With a woman beating Ryo up at every move he makes, the poor City Hunter’s chances for mokkori with any of the beautiful women in his clientele drastically fall.
The series also takes more turns into the surreal with a psychic gambler, a shrine maiden, a transvestite gangland boss and far, far too many instances of Ryo shooting right into the barrels of his opponent’s guns … from a block away … than is strictly believable.
The most gritty realism comes from … well, there is no gritty realism any more. While Ryo may be a good guy beneath all the lechery, he’s not given much of a chance to show his caring side. He meets a kid from a war torn land and is charged with corrupting him, but the kid is really just a pervert at heart anyway. Of course, he’s not entirely without his sensitive side; the movie episode and the romance course episode showcased some of his more tactful ways of dealing with women. It can only be hoped that the fact neither episode contains any real danger is simple coincidence.
There are instances when the episodes don’t make much sense: episodes where the bad guys were actually good, despite having earlier piloted an attack helicopter and made Ryo’s car explode.

The episodes offer some pretty good situations among the bizarre, such as the tried and true “Police and stalker pop idol” routine. This is mainly handled with the seriousness that it deserves, but also with the intensely odd notion of confusing a gift of brass knuckles with an engagement ring. There’s not really that much more that can be said.

There’s a disappointing dearth of Umibozu scenes – so few as to the point of none – but there’s another recurring character who has been introduced. Nogami Saeko is a police officer and, to Ryo, is poison. No other woman knows how to manipulate Ryo in such a fashion as she. Saeko’s chief tactic is to offer sweet mokkori compensation for whatever task she wants the City Hunter to do. She’s just smart enough, however, to never give him anything. The cases that Saeko takes on are among the more interesting, particularly as she’s the dame for these episodes and no new character with some sort of hidden beauty has to be introduced.
Between Saeko and Kaori, however, it’s unclear if Ryo will ever get any mokkori ever again. Ryo’s failure to be totally emasculated by this pair probably says something about his strength of character. He’ll go on chasing the mokkori no matter how many hammers are thrown his way (and Kaori’s a pretty good shot). Also of note are the “Kaori is a man” jokes, which are becoming increasingly elaborate, hilarious and ludicrous. She was thrown out of a change room as a peeping tom!

Kamiya Akira has, in the time between seriousness, become a master of the pratfall. The sounds that he makes when he gets thrown out of windows or what have you are priceless and not so much accurate as appropriate.

City Hunter is very much a “just one more” series. It’s easy to consume it in vast quantities because it calls to you. Each episode is surprisingly different, despite the constancy of Ryo’s mokkori hunts and Kaori’s hammerings. There’s not a heck of a lot of growth, though, and so comedy continues to be the hardest genre to write for.

Project A-Ko 3

August 30, 2004 on 10:23 pm | In Plastic Little | Comments Off on Project A-Ko 3

This is better. It’s not hilarious, but it’s kind of nice to watch.
Project A-ko 3 is about A-ko taking a job in order to pay off C-ko’s debts over the holidays, or something like that, and falling in love with a biker who actually loves C-ko. Of course, because A-ko loves this guy, Kei, B-ko has to have a piece of him, too. That’s all this is about, but the key is that it doesn’t aim too high.

Firstly, there’s some stunning originality here: for the first time in what seems like forever, the burger place does not in any way look like McDonald’s. The intro is a totally unexpected sepia toned pool tournament which turns out to be both quite stylish and also C-ko’s ultimate fantasy. I suppose there’s got to be something to the girl. There’s also a funny but ultimately pointless mobilisation sequence. It’s more than forgiveable by virtue of its coolness and the sapphic nudity encountered along the way (at this point, you may curse this DVD’s uncappable nature). B-ko’s mission makes some sense, and the treatment of her gang was actually pretty cool this time around. Hayashibara Megumi even gets a couple of grunts out of her role as fat girl Ume.
The true highlight is A-ko’s fashion show, which shows some rare visual creativity.

The production values are significantly better than its predecessor, employing actual colours, and containing an insert song performed by the A-ko, B-ko and C-ko trio. The ED song (which might not be an ED at all, as it was set to footage of from Project A-ko 2) fares less well as it’s an English language song by Bébe. Hot Hot Hurricane and so on. It doesn’t make much sense and isn’t very eighties. The rest of the music was mercifully recycled from Project A-ko or was simply not bad at all.
The translation isn’t perfect, in one major regard that I could see. Firstly it translated “cola” as “coke”. The important part was that it made a joke less funny, translating B-ko’s “My first man” into “My first love“. B-ko is at her most “sexual” in this OVA, which admittedly isn’t very sexual but the strongest admission of her leanings you’re ever likely to find.

After Project A-ko 3 came, unsurprisingly, Project A-ko 4 – but thereafter came Project A-ko the Versus: an alternate reality series about bounty hunters. Yes, this series quite clearly lasted forever. This effort may be light, but at least it’s there.

Millennium Actress

August 28, 2004 on 10:27 pm | In Millennium Actress | 2 Comments

Millennium Actress is a film that proves that a story is sometimes not as important as the way it is told. This is a great story as it is, but Kon Satoshi’s unique directing style raises it to a true work of genius.
Continue reading Millennium Actress…

Arjuna – episodes 6 to 13

August 28, 2004 on 6:39 pm | In Arjuna | Comments Off on Arjuna – episodes 6 to 13

Arjuna cleans up its act for the second part of the series, with only one horrid episode. And it’s a really big one, with an issue that really shouldn’t be dealt with in anime – it’s episodes like this one that make Arjuna so damned unpopular, a real pity considering what it actually has going for it.

Episodes six and nine are the preachy episodes that were so prevalent in the first five. The isolation of these to two specific episodes softens the blow, as does the lack of multiple cases of Cindy and Chris harrassing Juna. The first preaching episode is actually fine, and could be considered “Juna versus the education system”. Juna protests the manufactured state of modern education, and argues that teachers should give their own voice to their lessons and students should learn at their own pace, and all sorts of other impractical ideas.
Two very good points are raised by the episode, however: firstly “The easy thing and happiness aren’t necessarily the same thing” and secondly “Once someone changes, then everyone will change – but what if you’re the first to change?”. Kawamori answers this question both in the script, and with the whole series: you become a social outcast.
The other episode fares less well. I’m fairly mild mannered, and even I found it offensive. It comes off very much as a “pro-life” episode, which we here in anime town have no place for. I think anime is an effective way to tackle social change both in Japan and the world at large, but I found this theme entirely inappropriate. A lot of the episode feels made up, and it also gives Juna the advice “if you’re worried about the state of your relationship, consummate it!” which hardly seems progressive. The one thing that it has going for it is that it makes Cindy just the slightest bit sympathetic. Just the slightest.

Quite a few of these episodes are quiet, thoughtful pieces about communication and connection, and the action is pared down to a more emotional level. These are quite good. The highlight of the entire series comes with the production of one of the best apocalypses ever. The power of these scenes is unquestionable, and because this is largely conjecture there’s very little to take issue with. The only problem is that Sayuri should have been more sympathetic given all of the horrible things that she had to endure. As it was, however, it was more realistic and probably the “gritty world view” that Kawamori was probably going for – which jarred with his fantasy ideals.
The final arc is all quite heavy, but it’s also quiet. The dark oranges and browns suit the feel of a place that has exhausted its sunshine, and there’s very little action because almost all that could have happened already has. This sort of low key ending is charged with emotion and is rather like the “anti-climactic” post war scenarios.
Strong themes of nationalism arise, but not from the country itself. Onizuka argues that even if the people of Japan cease to exist, the country will live on through its strong sense of national identity grown into the land. Juna argues that such patriotic thought means nothing to the people of now, and by this point she has thoroughly learned to challenge authority and standard thinking patterns. It has been argued that the view of Japan offered is “anti-American”. That kind of sentiment is usually very obvious in anime, and this is not the case here. The situation is a case of humanity versus practicality, and is in no way a divide of the ideals of any countries.
Some ideas have finally got through to Juna, and the ending is one of the kind of hope that can spring only from world’s end.

Kawamori Shoji hit a few bumps in making Earth Maiden Arjuna; sometimes it felt too “educational”, others it felt annoying, and on one occasion it was mildly offensive. There’s some great stuff in here that’s harder to express beyond the merely cosmetic decoration of anime. It’s just a shame that you have to dig so deep to get past the make-up and the made up.

Miyazaki Showcase: Princess Mononoke

August 27, 2004 on 10:03 pm | In Princess Mononoke | 2 Comments

Princess Mononoke is Miyazaki’s second most financially successful film and also, in some ways, his most flawed work. Miyazaki’s immediate style does not quite suit the epic nature of this film. Miyazaki directs free flow stories, and there is so much to this film that it is hard to see it happening in such a small period of time.

Ashitaka is one of the noblemen of a village that has been driven away from the main, politically charged Japan several hundred years ago. An enraged boar god, driven to the point of demonisation by his pain, attacks this village. Ashitaka kills the boar, but in the process is infected by the curse; a curse of anger that feeds on the hate that dwells within him.
Sent from the village to find his cure, never to return, Ashitaka finds himself in a multifaceted spiritual and political war. Various leaders are fighting amongst themselves for the favour of the Mikado, and their ultimate way of claiming that favour is to kill the Deer God and, in fact, all of the gods that threaten the progress of technology.

Princess Mononoke is, in my eyes, a film about genocide. The people of Japan, having come to a point where they can create things for themselves, taking from the environment, say that they no longer have any use for their gods of old. As a result, they indiscriminately kill them. It reaches the point where they actively
This film documents the end of an era, the transition from the days of the gods to the days of the man made. Can man live a life created by themselves, without reliance on their traditional spirits? It’s something that they will have to find out. Did actions similar to those of this film – perhaps not quite so literally god hunting – lead to the state that Japan is in today? Miyazaki doesn’t really have a cynical message about modern society in this film, because the characters are at some of his greyest. No one is beyond redemption, and the final moments are truly full of hope. Despite the lack of their physical presence, spirits will always linger in some form or other.

There are some particularly good scenes, the stand out among the whole film being Ashitaka’s “this is the shape of my hatred!” speech. The way that Hisaishi Joe’s music swells, the look of horror on San’s face – it’s the film’s true highlight. Hisaishi offers some of his most atmospheric and emotive work for Princess Mononoke. You can hear the trees, you can hear the creatures living in the forest, you can hear the march of industrialisation.

There is no denying that Princess Mononoke is a fine film; it’s just heavily congested in places – a lot of traffic for what seems to amount to a few days in real time. There’s a lot to say about this film, but my thoughts will be jumbled, so I’ll leave it here.

City Hunter – episodes 1 to 7

August 21, 2004 on 2:07 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter – episodes 1 to 7

City Hunter is the kind of anime that, if you’re truly “into” anime, you’re not supposed to like. Of course, the people who say that have a tendency to fall into ditches and get struck by lightning – so, in short, I like it.

From 1987, City Hunter is the story of sweeper Saeba Ryo – a professional killer/bodyguard who also doubles at the world’s greatest sexual harasser. Along with his agent, Makimura (later Makimura’s sister, Kaori), Ryo takes on the requests of almost exclusively beautiful women. Ryo is notable because he likes to get a “feel” for his clients before taking their jobs, and his clients like to throw tables at him before they realise that he’s the man that they hired.
As it stands this is a series that provides a nice balance of drama and comedy.

While each episode may seem the same, and adhere to a formula, Ryo’s clientele come from a variety of backgrounds and not all of them want exactly the same thing. In fact, not all of them fall for Ryo, so there aren’t as many teary pillows as there are clients. Kaori in particular is immune to Ryo’s charm, to the point that he questions her gender. Ryo’s missions vary from revenge to protecting the secrets of a sterility virus to guarding an actress from the hitman she hired to kill herself.
The order of Ryo’s emotions shift; sometimes he’ll do the really cool thing first, like shooting through his hand to impress a girl and prevent street fatalities, and follow it up with his comedy act, such as screaming in pain as soon as the girl leaves him. Other times, he switches from comedy to drama. Admittedly it’s not something that can provide that much variety, but it should not go unappreciated. Ryo clearly can see the finer things in life, but he understands the grit that goes with it.

The growing and contracting cast offers a good selection. Besides Ryo there’s his original partner who acts as an “agent”, Makimura. Makimura was protective of his sister Kaori and seemed to tolerate Ryo’s antics. When he’s replaced by Kaori, for reasons that I won’t go into, there’s a different dynamic. Kaori is the sort who looks like she’ll grow to be quite violent towards Ryo to put him in his place. One of the most encouraging scenes from these episodes is when Kaori decides to join Ryo. He doesn’t try to talk her out of it, he simply makes sure that she understands the risks associated. Sometimes the man has a feeling of social responsibility, even if he does have a tendency to go on panty raids. The only other recurring character so far is Umibozu, another hitman who looks like he could become Ryo’s rival, friend and comic foil.

Perhaps the most impressive facet is the pacing. Each episode tells a different story, and is tightly paced out of necessity. It’s not a format that one might expect from a crime/underworld series, but it works. The villains are very rarely all of the suited variety, and everyone wants something different. Even when it seems the story won’t be resolved in the set time, it somehow is without feeling rushed at all. This makes City Hunter a very suitable series for taking bites out of.

Kamiya Akira’s acting as Ryo is first rate: when he’s serious he’s dashing, and when he’s comedic he sounds somewhat akin to a frog. Ryo’s favourite word is ‘mokkori’, which the subtitles don’t translate. It’s a cute word which should be vaguely construed as ‘sekushi’ – the reason that it seems to have gone untranslated is because it’s a character in itself, and no one other than Ryo would ever use it ever. The remaining cast is made up of eighties stalwarts, many of whom survived well into the nineties. The whole production smacks of Sunrise’s high values and is a great example of the era. Characters are mostly attractive with the exception of a few shots and the drug abusers. The OP, “Don’t Disappear My Love”, is great, with wonderful animation that includes Ryo and Kaori dancing with hat and cane – something one simply can’t afford to miss to be happy in this life. It will be sad to see it go. The ED is slightly too long for the animation allotted, so it actually starts at the end of each episode, making them feel “dynamic” or perhaps “empowering”. The good thing is that this works for both happy and not so happy endings. This song also boasts some good rhyming English hooks, such as “Get Wild and Tough!” followed by “Get Chance and Luck!”. There are even insert songs, which is one of the best ways to add colour to scenes.

So far, City Hunter is highly enjoyable. Maybe it will wear thin over 143 or so episodes, but I don’t plan to watch them all at once.

Project A-Ko 2

August 19, 2004 on 6:29 pm | In Project A-Ko | Comments Off on Project A-Ko 2

Let us, for one moment, attempt a metaphor: Consider an orange. Run this orange through a juicer – what you get is the nourishing juice, and the empty, soulless remains of the orange. Project A-Ko 2 is that orange. After the slightly tart fun of the first film, comes the first of three yearly OVA sequels. It’s not bad, it’s just not anything.

Three weeks or so after the events of the first OVA, the aliens have turned their crashed ship into a luxury spot to pay for repairs to return to their home planet. Meanwhile, B-ko’s father is hired by the government to destroy the ship, while he wants to claim the technology for himself. Incidentally, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko are there. Then it ends in exactly the same way as the original, despite not having had any of the character experience to bring it there.

Project A-ko feels like a blank fifty minutes. There are a few surprise cameos by characters from Wings of Honneamise and a few other projects, but there are no real visual gags, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko don’t actually get to do anything. Mari sadly gets no dialogue, which was what made her a complete character originally, and D and the Captain wear dresses, which just isn’t funny.
Also, there’s no American eighties pop soundtrack. On the plus side, the ED song is pretty good and has some creditable English rhymes (“Baby, feel my inspiration/and baby, take my invitation”)

It’s hard to criticise something that’s neither fun or painful. Project A-ko 2 is an unworthy successor to the measured insanity of the original. Director Moriyama took the interestingly crumpled shirt of Project A-ko and ironed it.
Final analogy: It’s like someone took the Shroud of Turin and decided to clean it up. Project A-ko 2 isn’t bland simply by comparison to its predecessor; it’s just bland in general.

I Dream of Mimi (Buttobi CPU)

August 18, 2004 on 10:56 pm | In Buttobi CPU | Comments Off on I Dream of Mimi (Buttobi CPU)

I Dream of Mimi, originally known as Buttobi CPU, is ecchi comedy. But it’s not hentai! You can tell because it has a name cast and an OP. Although it was animated by Pink Pineapple, which is some sort of hentai studio. It’s like a ninety minute exercise in ambiguousity.

Basically, this anime is about a student who buys a computer – but instead of a hard drive and monitor he gets a naked woman! Naturally, he curses his bad luck. When the computer starts to fellate him in order to register itself, he starts crying. When he discovers that to keep it at optimum performance, the computer must be “serviced” every three days, he’s more than a little concerned. So this guy, Akira, is the classic anime character who fears women and has a girl who has secretly loved him for as long as she can remember. It’s unclear how he comes to know the computer as “Mimi”, but that becomes her name. Go with it.

What would otherwise be fairly standard romance comedy fare is kicked up by the erotically charged nerd atmosphere. Creatively (and perversely) placed expansion slots? Virii that make girls giggly and uninhibited? American computers that store 1000 terabytes of memory in their enormous breasts? It’s all here. Each episode is slightly different. The first is the one in which Akira meets Mimi and recoils in horror when he realises that he has to have sex with his computer. The second is the one in which Mimi must register her details as a Columbian exchange student online, dealing with the government protection agencies and fighting off the evil American Nacintosh sisters. The third is about the truly evil of the sisters, the ultra evil Nacintosh Performa who can’t even see the use of old computers.
There’s apparently some morals in here somewhere. Just because you have to have sex with your computer to keep her working doesn’t mean you can abuse her – because after all, computers are people too! Or something. I don’t know. The reason that all of the computer women like Akira is because he’s not a bastard like so many of their “masters”. He’s actually fairly well adjusted, because he thinks that sharing bodily fluids with computers is a bit icky, and he doesn’t believe in master/slave relationships.

There’s not really a lot to be said about this: the character designs are cute most of the time, if a little misshapen, the OP song is by turns catchy and annoying as all get out and the vocal cast is actually quite high profile. Konishi Hiroko turns in another of her tragically cute performances as Shimada and Mitsuishi Kotono speaks hilariously bad Japanese as the Quadra Nacintosh sister. The themes of “ownership” and “individuality” lurk in the background, but this isn’t serious enough to really cover the abused computer situation in any depth. Although it’s anime about intercourse with computer women, it’s not in anyway graphic. Nothing beyond nipples are shown, and overall it’s less than you’re likely to see from titles such as Aika or Golden Boy.

I Dream of Mimi is light and funny anime about computers built by the crude (as opposed to crudely built). It’s fun, but there’s always going to be something creepy about pro(gram)creating with computers. This could be conveyed as an alternate lifestyle, and ends with one of the most literal examples of “harem” anime ever produced. Recommended for folks who have great interest in their own CPUs – even boasting laughs for Mac lovers and haters alike.

Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy – episodes 11 and 12

August 12, 2004 on 10:28 pm | In Don't Leave Me Alone, Daisy | Comments Off on Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy – episodes 11 and 12

Amazingly, by the end of this 12 episode run, literally everyone in the world except Techno learned a valuable lesson. Marvellous! Social reform for everyone but the one who needs it the most! One of the hardest things to understand about Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy was that it was actually created by a woman.

The eleventh episode somehow managed to pass without any offensive scenes, a small miracle. This episode centred on Anii, the blue-lipped cyborg designed to keep Techno in check who I hadn’t mentioned before because her role had previously been inconsequential, and stupid. This time, with the introduction of war and the feelings of Techno’s well meaning but poorly executed Grandfather, some good scenes are allowed to happen. Post war paranoia definitely fuelled the actions of Techno’s Grandfather, and the wartime scenes were very well done. The effects of war also led to the creation of the Yamakawa family: the ultra-nationalists and the alienated “rebel” X are very much the products of an outdated system. The mentality of the forties definitely damaged everyone here, and this allows Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy to have a sideline in “anti-war sentiment” that ultimately leads to the nuclear disarmament of the planet.

The problem is not that Hitomi started to feel for Techno – in her dreams he was always a well adjusted young man, so she only committed the “sin” of hope – but that Techno couldn’t see the error of his ways ever. Even when he changes direction, he still believes that Hitomi is an alien, that her name should be Daisy … the fact that she starts to go along with him just means he doesn’t have to be as forceful. In effect, Hitomi ends up encouraging his character defects. These are not simply eccentricities, and should never be considered as such.
The part of the series that should be most powerful seems to mean nothing to the stupid boy, despite revolutionising the rest of the world. His backwards thinking is very, very dangerous. Turning destructive power into creative means nothing if your mentality remains the same, so it feels like Techno has achieved nothing as a character. This is a major source of frustration.

Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy was an occasionally sickening account of the complexities of society. It can not really be considered “entertainment”. The best that can be said for it is that it’s not a von Trier film: there is humanity here, and that is when it shines. Techno is putting his skills to better use by the end, but he still doesn’t understand the fundamentals and it doesn’t seem that he will; such an unshakeable character is what made this series hard to watch.

Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy – episodes 5 to 10

August 11, 2004 on 6:37 pm | In Don't Leave Me Alone, Daisy | Comments Off on Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy – episodes 5 to 10

There is no way that one can take Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy on face value and escape with their sanity intact. Digging beneath the surface for societal woes makes the whole tawdry exercise a much easier experience because it’s hard to laugh at so many of these situations.
For each step that Hitomi and Techno take in the right direction, they follow them by falling down holes and becoming mired once more in the pits of unacceptable behaviour.

Domination is something that is received differently by different people, but most will think that forcing someone to do something against their will is not cool. So Techno putting bubbles on Hitomi’s arms and legs and then getting her to dance in the streets, drink a tropical juice with him, and then preventing her from telling the police about her predicament – a clear sign that he now knows what he’s doing is wrong – is simply not fun to watch at all, no matter what anyone tells you. Mainstream (that is, non-hentai) anime is at its worst when it’s being fetishistic and this situation, and the time when Techno actually leashed Hitomi, does not belong on television, no matter how late at night it was.

Hitomi had mostly been a character not willing to put up with Techno’s rubbish, but amazingly she starts to develop feelings for him. It’s what’s known in James Bond films as “Stockholm Syndrome”, and to some poor misguided souls as “Romantic Inevitability”. The good thing that can be said for Hitomi here is that she doesn’t like Techno for what he is. She likes him for what he could be … which leads into one of the series’ few thematic strengths.
In Siberia, Techno’s idea of a skiing date spot, the characters meet a scientist who has lived by himself in a facility for fifty years. He speaks Japanese, inexplicably (he actually does explain it, but it makes no sense – hence the comedy). He doesn’t realise that he’s fifty five years old, and still thinks of himself as having that five year old body. Here Hitomi can see the long term effects of isolation, and Techno is infuriated and can’t quite place his finger on why.
The exact lesson learned is that it would not benefit Techno to be sent back to his shelter, because otherwise he’ll stay seriously messed up and get even worse. To become worse than Techno already is doesn’t bear imagining – he’s really a moron.

The only time Techno seems sympathetic at all is when he travels back to 1985 and meets his five year old self. For once he acknowledges the sadness of his existence, even yelling truths at his childish apparition. It’s really sad that Techno’s grandfather wants so much for Techno to be a good part of society, but did so poorly at it. Locking a child away doesn’t let them learn and grow socially, and therefore solves nothing.

Basically, Don’t Leave Me Alone, Daisy survives on its merits as a look at the sort of society that can produce freakish offshoots like Techno and meek, half submissive women like Hitomi and her unsupportive friends. It turns out to be a great examination of loneliness, but for once it could be a bit more preachy – because Techno can’t see the consequences of his actions. He’s going to end up with Hitomi, that’s probably for sure: but without being able to see his mistakes, will he really have learned? Will he not repeat the past, will he change at all, if he can’t accept the truth of life?
In the last two episodes, Techno had better at least begin to become human, or this series will really have been quite infuriating. Although, of course, Yamakawa X is still gold.

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