Tag Archives: Adventure

Let’s go on a quest! Characters usually embark on a grand journey, encountering various obstacles along the way.

Moonlight Mile – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Moonlight Mile: Lift Off

 

Similar: Space Brothers

Planetes

Armageddon (Hollywood movie)

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Adventure Drama

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Science and engineering detail.
  • Some tense dilemmas.

Negatives:

  • Disjointed storytelling.
  • Characters don’t have time to develop amidst the dilemmas.
  • Junk animation and CG.

(Request an anime for review here.)

What made me curious to watch this anime? Was it a) space, b) the engineering, c) premise, or d) sex? The answer is a), of course – I love space! Alright, I admit, it was the sex, okay. Happy? But no, in all seriousness, when I was at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, they had an exhibition spotlighting civil engineering in manga – infrastructure, architecture, development, etc. – as the Japanese take great pride in their civil engineers (when you watch them build a house in a day, you can see why [turn on captions for subtitles]). I picked up Moonlight Mile because it had an astronaut on the cover (I am serious about the loving space part), but was struck by how sexually graphic the opening scene was. If I hadn’t seen the cover first, I would have assumed this belonged in the section you wouldn’t mention to your parents. This scene is so graphic that I was curious if they got away with it in the anime adaptation. Spoiler: they don’t.

But first, the story. Two climbing buddies, Gorou from Japan and Jack “Lostman” Woodbridge from the US, make a pact atop Mount Everest to see each other in space as they look to the sky above. They soon part and set about achieving this goal in their own manner. Gorou takes the path of an engineer, while Lostman goes the air force route (two-thirds of US astronauts come from the military). Becoming an astronaut is no easy journey and each will face trials and setbacks, even more so than real astronauts, for Moonlight Mile loves to throw one disaster after another at the protagonists.

Now, you know me, I love conflict – it’s the engine of fiction – but there comes a point where you need to allow characters to grow. In fiction, scenes follow the rough pattern of action and reaction. Something happens in a scene (action) and the characters react/reflect on this action in the next scene (reaction). Moonlight Mile rarely stops for the reaction. All space movies have those disasters – oxygen leak, broken thruster, power failure, etc. – for the astronauts to solve. These moments are exciting edge-of-your-seat tense, yet if you have nothing but this, as Moonlight Mile does, the tension wanes. The characters, while decent, feel like mere nuts and bolts to this story, rather than driving agents.

The first episode is nothing but a disastrous climb up Everest to establish the characters. This should have taken a few minutes. Well, there is Gorou’s butt as well.

As for my initial curiosity, while most episodes have a sex scene, it isn’t graphic. Still certainly not for kids, though is a far cry from the manga. It also doesn’t add to character, for Gorou falls in love with a new girl faster than a shooting star. This wouldn’t be an issue if he grew from each relationship. Alas, a new girl means a clean slate of development, so what’s the point?

In regards to the engineering, Moonlight Mile succeeds in taking care to do the math and science in a disaster. I’m not a rocket scientist, so someone more qualified may find great flaws here, but Moonlight Mile doesn’t try to convince us that training oil drillers to become astronauts is easier than training astronauts to operate a drill.

Art – Low

The 2D animation is junk, whereas the 3D sees overuse for vehicles and sweeping shots. Even the ground is CG in these scenes – so distracting.

Sound – Medium

The Japanese script is a bit dry, so go with the English, which added more banter and a natural flow to the dialogue.

Story – Medium

Two friends and rivals vow to meet each other as astronauts in space. This is their journeys to meet that goal. Moonlight Mile suffocates its characters in disaster after disaster for them to resolve, giving little room to develop. At least the disasters are tense.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For space fans. Did you like Armageddon? If yes, then Moonlight Mile is the anime version. If you thought that movie needed better science, Moonlight Mile will also satisfy in that regard.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design

Whisper of the Heart – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mimi wo Sumaseba

 

Related: The Cat Returns (spin-off)

Similar: From Up on Poppy Hill

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Garden of Words

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Slice of Life Romance Adventure

Length: 1 hr. 51 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful small character details.
  • Full of heart.

Negatives:

  • Empty first act.
  • Ends just as it gets going.
  • Doesn’t give characters the whole stage to perform.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Shizuku loves books more than anything else in the world. Peculiarly however, in the borrowing card for each book she reads, someone else had borrowed them from the library before her. Who is this Seiji Amasawa? He must be a wonderful guy.

One day while going about her easy life of books and snacks, she follows a cat on the train, who leads her to a workshop of antique wonders and classical instruments run by an old man. He turns out to be the grandfather of the boy who makes fun of her at school. Worse yet, this boy is her perfect match in literature!

Whisper of the Heart is another lite-n’-easy film from Studio Ghibli, similar to the likes of Only Yesterday and From Up on Poppy Hill. But where I found those two rather dull with little to recommend themselves in terms of engagement, I enjoyed my time with Whisper of the Heart because of its characters. And just as it was drawing me in close, it ends. The first act being so empty made this more frustrating. What amounts to the equivalent of Chihiro and her family driving to the fairground in Spirited Away (several minutes) requires half an hour in Whisper. It takes too long to get to the point.

I like the scenes with the grandfather in the workshop, but these are rare. Most scenes involve Shizuku doing ordinary every-day activities like household chores or attending school. The first act has enough of these ‘nothing’ scenes to fill an entire film, so having even more than that makes the film feel like half filler to reach feature length. If Makoto Shinkai had directed this film, which is in his wheelhouse, he could have conveyed the same story in half the time with more said by the end.

Outside the filler, we spend most time with Shizuku and Seiji growing closer. Conflict arises from his goal to become a violin craftsman, which will likely send him overseas, whereas she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She finally finds her match and now he’ll probably be gone forever. However, these plot beats pop up and dissipate without much impact.

This story gets everything right, except for the plot. Whisper of the Heart’s events aren’t as strong as they could be, don’t challenge the characters as they should, and don’t give these brilliantly written children the whole stage to work with. Their small details are beautiful, such as how a girl reacts to seeing her crush or in the way a boy goes crazy at the roundabout way girls drop hints (pro tip: hints don’t work on guys). The Miyazaki touch is clear.

The poster for Whisper of the Heart shows Shizuku flying through the air alongside a gentleman cat, giving the impression of a strong fantasy element. This is deceiving. We only get one such scene inside her imagination, which is a shame, for it is a beautiful scene. We should have returned to her imagination several times as a metaphor for her inner growth, later reflected in her outer growth. These could have added depth instead of the filler scenes that serve little purpose to character or story.

I love much about this film, characters in particular, yet I want so much more.

Art – Very High

Studio Ghibli.

Sound – High

Good acting and solid music – it is interesting to hear an American classic in Japanese (Take Me Home, Country Roads).

Story – Medium

A fateful encounter with a cat leads Shizuku to solve the mystery of who had borrowed all her favourite books from the library before her, and she may even find inspiration for a purpose in life. Whisper of the Heart’s charming character barely get going when the story ends, making one wonder why so much empty space remained unfilled.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of other light Studio Ghibli movies. If you enjoy the more slice of life-type anime movies, Whisper of the Heart is another to add to your folio.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Stunning Art Quality

Negative: None

Samurai Champloo – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Samurai Champloo

 

Similar: Afro Samurai

Michiko and Hatchin

Rurouni Kenshin

Katanagatari

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Historical Action Adventure Comedy

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Stylised art and animation.
  • Great dub.

Negatives:

  • Bit boring.
  • No reason to care for main goal.
  • Plateaus early.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I have overheard this exchange many times: “I haven’t seen much anime. Mainly just what everyone has watched – Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, you know.” “Oh man, you should totally watch Samurai Champloo! It’s like Bebop. You’ll love it.” I thought it finally time to test this oft-mentioned recommendation.

Well, it’s little like Cowboy Bebop. For one, Bebop is excellent; Samurai Champloo is not. The two series share a director and similar music…and that’s about it. Bebop too didn’t have a stellar overarching story, but its self-contained arcs each episode had depth to engage the viewer. Champloo’s episode arcs are half trying to move the feeble plot while not giving enough in its mini stories.

The adventure kicks off when ditzy waitress Fuu saves Mugen, a wild warrior, and Jin, the well-mannered ronin, from execution. In exchange, the two samurai agree to help her find a samurai “who smells of sunflowers.”

Things seem fine at first. The setup is solid, the character quirks play well off each other, and they had direction. Several episodes later though, with no progression in sight, my engagement swan dived off a cliff into the blistering barnacles below. If this were like Cowboy Bebop, where the creators could rest everything on each individual episode’s story, it would work. I would conclude with “The overall story is average, but the smaller stories are worth your time.” Unfortunately, Champloo’s smaller stories are mediocre alternations between dealing with someone trying to kill the heroes or them helping a local in exchange for food. A few episodes are better, even pretty good, but none even comes close to the Bebop’s weakest episode.

As for the overarching story, it’s Champloo’s weakest element. The story never gives a reason to care for finding the sunflower samurai and it turns out weak at the resolution – a goal for the sake of having a goal. It lacks the gravitas to drive a story.

This weakness similarly bleeds into the characters. Each of the trio has a secret, as most characters do in fiction, but since the writers didn’t weave these secrets throughout the story, they have no impact when illuminated at the end. If Edward Elric’s big secret were that he wanted to be a flamenco dancer all along, the audience wouldn’t see this as some amazing twist. Was Ed liking flamenco a recurring element in the story? No. So why the big reveal? Champloo’s secrets aren’t as bad as a Flamenco Ed, by any means. They do leave a lot to be desired though. It goes get a bit better in the second half – certainly funnier.

What I wish for most here is an increased intensity, both in comedy and drama. What you see in the opening episodes is what you get throughout, save for a few good fights in the finale. It frustrates me to see a project with potential that needed one person to say, “Make it more intense.” Samurai Champloo doesn’t have bad ideas, just weak execution.

Art – High

Samurai Champloo’s stylised art reminiscent of Afro Samurai and The World Ends With You DS game has good animation. I like the ‘knobbly’ character design. Mugen looks an inch from starvation, which is fitting.

Sound – High

Modern DJ scratches and jazz replace the traditional music for a medieval setting. This works with the story style. Great dub.

Story – Medium

Two polarising samurai help a ditzy waitress find a mysterious samurai “who smells of sunflowers.” Reaching its peak within a few episodes, Samurai Champloo doesn’t escalate the comedy or action enough to overcome the weak motivations.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Perhaps you may find Samurai Champloo more interesting than I did – the three-episode rule is all you need to know if it is so. The modern art/music meets samurai dichotomy may be off putting, whereas its very unusualness will be its appeal to others.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Eureka Seven – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Eureka Seven

 

Related: Eureka Seven AO (sequel)

Eureka Seven – Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers (alternative version)

Similar: Gundam SEED

Xam’d: Lost Memories

Gurren Lagann

Guilty Crown

Neon Genesis Evangelion

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Romance Action Adventure Drama

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Art is quite nice.
  • Some cool mechs.

Negatives:

  • Keeps changing its identity.
  • A chore to finish.
  • “Eh-oo-wreck-ah”
  • Romance lacks believability.
  • Crying!

(Request an anime for review here.)

Eureka Seven, what a ch— Sorry, Ehoowrecka Seven, what a chore to sit through. How can an anime about air surfing mechs be this tedious?

Our arduous journey starts when a mech known as Nirvash typeZERO crashes in 14-year-old Renton’s small town of Bellforest. A girl called Ehoowrecka Eureka pilots Nirvash, a unique mech capable of controlling Trapar waves like no other machine, and being the first girl he has probably ever seen, Renton falls in love with her. Infatuated and desperate to escape his small town life, he joins her in Gekkostate against the military.

Gekkostate? Trapar? Nirvash typeZERO? Ehoowrecka? Lore is the first of Eureka Seven’s problems. As is evident, it bombards the viewer with specialist terms (nouns often made up for lore) within the first episode, never giving a chance to let them sink in. All these terms featured in the official blurb – a bad sign (Tip: the best blurbs mention no names). On top of half the characters having made up names, every sci-fi object has an unintuitive sci-fi name that if looked at on paper, you wouldn’t guess its purpose. This world didn’t have questions I wanted to explore further – I just wanted to get out.

Sci-fi/fantasy often invents specialist terms, but it is crucial to introduce these elements with memorable impact. If you call a fire spell ‘Schinezarcher’ and don’t introduce (and repeat) it in the right way, the viewer will simply say, ‘what’s it called? You know, that big fire spell.’

Think of Star Wars and how not confused you are in that film. It doesn’t throw Jedi, Midi-chlorians (shudder), Ewoks, Endor, Lando, and the like at you within five minutes. Star Wars uses a mix of intuitive terms (Lightsaber, Death Star) and unintuitive terms with proper introduction. When they threaten to destroy Alderaan, we see the planet Alderaan on the screen. You don’t want Alderaan confused for a battleship. They don’t have to point and say, “That’s Alderaan!” We get it through context. Eureka Seven will have two characters talking as a new term enters the lexicon – no visual aids, no context assist. Not all words need immediate explanation, of course, but there should be a point soon after that cements the meaning. The more unintuitive a term the more emphasis required. Gekkostate is the name of the mercenary/terrorist group they are a part of, by the way. At least the anime ingrains Eureka’s name by kicking you out of the experience each time someone uses it. Elements that are supposed to be cool or significant leave no impact because we don’t have groundwork to stand on first.

Why is this hater rambling on and on about bloody lore, you ask? Well, dear reader, this problem with the lore applies to everything in Eureka Seven. The sudden romance between…Renton (took a moment to remember his name) and Eureka has no establishment. Sudden infatuation from a teen boy towards a teen girl? Happens more than you know. A lasting romance we are told is profound? That requires foundations and work to build up. Why are these two kids so into each other? They have nothing to love about each other. If he wanted to bang that receding hairline, biology suffices as explanation, but life changing love? Sure thing, mate.

Renton spends most of the series crying while Eureka looks after a batch of kids. These kids! Bloody hell, I have never hoped more for child characters to die off each episode (not even Carl from The Walking Dead demands such loathing). And it almost happened too. Eureka’s backstory is that she was a mindless soldier and killed the parents of these kids before she snapped out of it, which raises yet another poorly established point. These kids love the woman that killed their parents without any story selling us on the idea. Maybe it’s just me, but loving my parents’ murderer would take more than ‘just because’. Show us this backstory instead of a recap in episode fourteen (!).

Eureka Seven just throws stuff into the story and hopes you care on instinct rather than merit. Dislike an element anyway? Don’t worry, the show veers off in a random direction every dozen episodes to haphazardly grab your interest again. The final villain’s plan when the whole shebang comes out is a good idea, but that don’t matta’ cause Renton gotta get his bone on.

Eureka Seven does not respect your time as a viewer. It’s like that person we all know who asks for a lift, is late to the pickup, and then expects you to have known they would be late. Screw that guy.

Art – High

Good art and animation – I like the mechs. Why does every character have a receding hairline?

Sound – Medium

The acting is good, but the music is forgettable and the script leaves a lot to be desired. Renton’s every line seems to be in question form. Also, the naming scheme is arse.

Story – Low

The sudden appearance of a girl and her mech sweeps a boy on board a mercenary group’s adventure. With an empty romance, a whiny protagonist, annoying kids, and an identity that changes every arc, Eureka Seven takes iron concentration to finish.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Fifty episodes is a lot to ask of your time for such an unremarkable series. The likes of Gundam SEED and Gurren Lagann use your time better than Eureka Seven does.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: 

DissapointingUseless Side Cast

Children Who Chase Lost Voices – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

 

Similar: Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Princess Mononoke

Spirited Away

The Place Promised in Our Early Days

Brave Story

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Adventure Fantasy Romance

Length: 1 hr. 56 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Gorgeous art.
  • Creative environments and creatures.

Negatives:

  • No foundations.
  • Never gets going.
  • Flimsy ideological conflicts.

(Request an anime for review here.)

After watching Your Name in the cinema recently, I went back to Makoto Shinkai’s previous feature-length film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, to complete the collection. With his ability to distil human emotion into the magic of animation, it comes as a surprise to receive such a dull story and ultimately disappointing film from him.

Asuna hears strange sounds and unearthly music on her crystal radio. In her eagerness to decipher these phenomena, she stumbles into an adventure of monsters, a handsome stranger, and a lost civilisation. A school professor shows her how to reach the magical land underground.

This premise sounds very Indiana Jones, yes? Well, to best summarise Lost Voices, imagine Indiana Jones without any of the charm, wit, and action that made those films great – more importantly, fun. For a story with so many magical elements, Lost Voices has no magic to it.

I want to step back to the start for a moment. We open on Asuna in her ordinary life – as is expected for the genre – doing ordinary activities like eating food and cleaning the house, but we don’t see much of a hint at the magic in her future. In these ‘ordinary person thrust into supernatural world’ stories, great writers will include out-of-place details to draw the eye and foreshadow what’s to come, even if the character doesn’t notice. The best example of this is in Harry Potter’s first chapter.

Harry’s uncle Vernon Dursley is off to work for another ordinary day – Rowling even emphasises how ordinary the day should be in the opening line: ‘Mr and Mrs Dursley were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.’ However, after only a paragraph cementing their normality, the hints of extraordinary begin to drop – the never-mentioned Potter relatives, an owl in broad daylight, odd people in robes, more owls, a stranger mentioning a Potter boy, yet more owls, etc. We, the audience, stand in the realm of ordinary with Vernon yet catch glimpses of the extraordinary realm to come. This technique prevents boring the audience in the first chapter.

Shinkai did not employ this technique well.

The only real oddities in Lost Voices’ opening are the noises on the crystal radio, though since they have no meaning for some time and are distant to the protagonist, they aren’t enough to grip you. My attention faded before even reaching the Inciting Incident.

Most shocking of faults is with the…romance, if you could call it that, between Asuna and the mysterious stranger that saves her from a monster attack (not as exciting as it sounds). If there’s one aspect Shinkai knows how to do it is emotion. And yet, here we have a girl fall instantly in love – not a crush or fling – with this stranger and would do anything for him with nary a conversation between them. Did I miss a scene that established the relationship? The setup is so weak that I spent thirty minutes trying to figure out if a romance was the intention. Even with later developments, it has zero impact.

So the first act is boring, the romance is as empty as the Bebop’s bank account, which leaves us with the adventure of no charm or fun. Children Who Chase Lost Voices settles itself comfortably in the worst category of all: boring. We need characters and story to engage us below the pretty surface. This anime is better left unplundered.

 

Art – Very High

Gorgeous art and animation from Makoto Shinkai, as usual – those colours!

Sound – High

The acting is good, but better in Japanese for some characters. Pleasant music.

Story – Medium

A girl hears the sounds of a strange creature from below and investigates the legend of a lost civilisation. Lacking foundation, Children Who Chase Lost Voices gives little reason for engagement in its rather standard adventure narrative.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is gorgeous to look at, certainly, but the story is too uninteresting to be worth seeing over other anime of similar premise. I would recommend worse yet more engaging anime before this.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid AnimationStunning Art Quality

Negative: None