Escaflowne Review

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It’s always a sad day when a franchise is brought back from the grave just to shatter our memories. I’ve always been of the opinion that more content for a franchise is always a good thing even if it’s bad. I’m glad Dragon Ball Super exists even if it mocks most of the principles from DBZ. I’m glad Naruto Shippuden exists even if it’s painfully low budget and has some of the worst directing of all time. I’m even glad that we have Teen Titans Go because it has brought some nice episodes and scenes once in a while. These additions to the franchise may not have been amazing, but they did have their share of great moments which is why I love to see them. However, a film like this one or the latest season of Samurai Jack does sometimes make me question this. Ultimately, my stance hasn’t changed, but it’s always sad when we get a modern gritty remake/reboot/sequel that really just takes away everything that made the original good. Escaflowne is a terrible movie and it will make you feel bad for the TV show. It has animal violence and gratuitous violence at the ready so with that in order, lets tackle this film.

Hitomi was a normal suicidal teenager when the film picks up. Her friend makes a joke about wanting to be there when Hitomi jumps, but little does she know that Hitomi is serious, she just feels like she isn’t brave enough to do it yet. Hitomi decides to vent on her friend since it seems like this is what all terrible main characters do. Already we can see that the film is being randomly edgy for no reason. Why is Hitomi suicidal? This isn’t a good plot point nor is it a necessary one. It’s just a jarring change to her character which was unneeded. Well, one thing leads to another and she is warped to Gaea. There she meets up with Van.

Van is the last survivor of his clan and now he just wants bloody vengeance on everyone in his vicinity. He naturally tries to destroy Hitomi as soon as he sees her, but she is saved by the resistance. No worries, she falls for him anyway right away because this is the perfect start to a romance. Van decides to use the mighty Escaflowne robot to save the day, but it’s a little more twisted in this version. Escaflowne is a robotic vampire which feeds on its hosts so in order to use it, you have to let it stab you and suck your blood. Again, this is a random change that has nothing to do with anything, but it’s an excuse for the film to be more violent and dark once again.

As such, we get to see Van stabbed repeatedly every time he enters the machine and just moving causes him to be stabbed as well. How was this film not R? The whole time I was watching the film, I was super perplexed at that. This film is certainly violent enough to justify the rating if you ask me. Anyway, with these weapons at his disposal, Van is ready for revenge and so the big battles start.

The film made some good changes so we’ll start with those. Allen doesn’t have a very rushed romance with Hitomi here. There is little in the way of romantic tension here at all so that’s a good thing. The Mole Man also gets a much smaller role which I was glad to see since he was an annoying character in the first film. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all that I can think of for the film’s positives, at least when it comes to changes. The film cut out the main villain of the show which was a pretty big mistake. Folken was never a very interesting character after all and I wouldn’t say that he’s great here either.

Wait, there is one good change to the film. I just barely remember that the concept was good because it was mostly just used for more bad scenes. The characters with dragon DNA can use The Force to blast people with telekinetic energy. It’s a pretty exclusive list though since only Folken, Van, and Dilandau have dragon DNA. It’s a cool concept and certainly makes these characters way more difficult to defeat. Of course, the film can’t control itself and one character uses it to blow a Horse apart. Noooooo! That was the worst scene in the film and I knew it was only a matter of time before the film pulled something like that. It was such a cool concept, but the film couldn’t let it rest. Folken also blasts Dilandau so hard with it that the guy’s head comes close to exploding, but that was way more mild in comparison.

You can already tell that I didn’t like Hitomi in this film, but at least Allen was decently good. He’s as overconfident as ever and easily defeats Van when they fight. He doesn’t get a robot in this film though so he’s completely useless whenever the villains show up. It feels like an even more lopsided war than in the show since the villains have all of the advantages. All the heroes have at the ready are allies who keep backstabbing each other. Van’s even more blood thirsty than usual in the film. It’s hard to find him likable since he’s willing to destroy a defenseless lady (Hitomi) for basically no reason and never really apologizes for it. He’s certainly a very skilled warrior here, but not an ally that you can trust.

The film also added a new character for the lolz. She can see the future, teleport people, and do all kinds of crazy stuff. She wants to see Folken burn so she follows him around and makes fun of him from time to time. In the end, she decides that dying will be fun as long as it’s with Folken and her whole character arc was rather odd. Folken wasn’t a bad villain I suppose. He didn’t really stand out, but he made all of the threats and did a lot of posturing so at least he performed his roll. Dilandau somehow got a happy ending out of this and developed a loyal cadre of minions. I guess he wasn’t a mean leader or something? I didn’t get that impression from him to be honest, but that’s the way the ball bounces I guess. A wise leader doesn’t slice and dice his own men so I’ll take that a complement to him from the film.

The animation is pretty good. I’m not a fan of the character designs, but if you’re able to see past them, then you can see that the rest of the animation is on point. While violent, the action scenes are very fluid with the hand to hand action being quite good. The mind blasts between the characters are nice and Escaflowne’s berserker mode is also really good. The soundtrack is a little less inspiring. I’d say that it was decent. It wasn’t bad or underwhelming, but it wasn’t really anything to write home about.

It’s another case of a film succeeding on the technical levels while not being able to uphold its integrity for the main course. The excessive violence the whole time was just very forced. I always consider it to be forced because there are many examples of shows and movies that have great fight scenes without being violent. Many of them can be completely bloodless or adding in a smidge at times. Dragon Ball Z, Toriko, Sengoku Basara, Samurai Jack, (Original show) Justice League, Digimon Savers, etc. So when a fight scene is really violent, I can only really say that it is forced. It’s just the only explanation in my eyes. At least the movie didn’t add a bunch of language, that tactic is even more desperate. If it is true that Shin Godzilla is rated TV-MA because of that…that will just be sad. The animal violence and suicidal themes in Escaflowne were just icing on the cake by the end. The film was already not in a good spot in those issues just didn’t help it.

Overall, Escaflowne was a TV show that absolutely did not need a film remake. While it is preferable to a recap film, it should have been more faithful to the TV show. Diverging to such a large extent is a high risk/high reward option, but it typically ends up failing miserably. The movie still has some interesting storylines going on and the action/animation are good, but they don’t succeed in covering up the film’s failings. This almost goes without saying, but I’d highly recommend just going back and watching the original show if you want to delve into the franchise. There’s no reason to check this film out. Lets just let it fade away into our memories.

Overall 3/10

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Kino’s Journey: Country of Illness -For You Review

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It’s time for another Kino special. I’ve never been much of a Kino fan but the concept isn’t bad. Because the whole series is about watching her go to various lands and experiencing their traditions and customs, it means that there is always the chance you will enjoy the adventure or also dislike it by the same token. Effectively the franchise gets a blank slate each time. I’d say this one was the best yet mainly thanks to the Moped not getting to do much and Kino being a little less deadpan this time around. It’s short so the special doesn’t drag on or anything either.

In this adventure, Kino heads to a futuristic city. The inhabitants are worried about germs because they may prove to be fatal. Their way of society seems rather flipped from the usual norm. The wealthy and influential people live outside in the rugged desert as they make a home and defeat the outside elements. The poor and middle class live in the city where they can do whatever they want thanks to the tech. It seems like a paradise for them and an endurance test for the wealthy, but why is this? Kino becomes friends with a girl who is sick at the hospital and agrees to deliver her letter to a boy who lives on the outside. Is Kino ready for what she may discover there?

It’s not a Kino adventure without a few twists and the adventure should keep you guessing for a little while. You can probably imagine that things didn’t go very well for the boy when the girl explains that she hasn’t seen him in over a year. That’s always a bad sign and when Kino sees how desolate the outside world looks, it brings a few questions to mind as well. People rarely tell the actual truth to outsiders in these things so at least Kino is ready. It’s also fortunate that she always has her gun at the ready as well. You really can’t trust these guys.

While it’s a pretty somber special, it doesn’t go overboard. It’s sad, but not over the top with big time human experimentation or anything. People were effectively sacrificed though and the government looks shady as always. We don’t really get any fights in this special although Kino does get to fire a shot. Her recommendation to the girl to go check the outside world out when she is better is probably not the greatest advice though. The girl is certainly going to be in for a very rude awakening.

As far as Kino herself goes, the character wasn’t all that bad this time. She’s still not very interesting, but at least she tried to keep the girl’s spirits up and didn’t stand by as a bunch of people were murdered for a change. Her “no interference” policy still ensures that she’ll never be a hero though. At best she will always be a person who looks out for herself first and foremost. The Moped still tries to be funny in all of his scenes, but they never really work. I’ll give him some credit for the constant attempts though. He certainly never gives up.

The other characters in the special were okay although none of them got a particularly large role. They’re meant to be background elements as you focus on just taking in the land and how it works. The sick girl was reasonable although it’s unfortunate that she has to go along with all of the tests. I opt out of just about every shot at the doctor because most of them just seem so pointless. That’s definitely what she should have done here. The boy from the flashbacks was all right I guess, but he was a little generic and nothing really happened with his plot. The night guard may have tried to justify his actions with every other line, but they weren’t very convincing. He makes for a decent antagonist though.

One thing Kino’s Journey always does well is keeping everything very quiet. The towns always seem desolate as Kino walks around even when people are there. There’s something about the series that always makes everything seem hollow and fake even if the people are being jolly. It’s that elusive Twilight Zone effect and it certainly gives the series an air of mystery.

The soundtrack is really nothing special as it’s the same tunes that we have been hearing over and over again. I can’t even say that it’s all that memorable. I suppose the laid back feel of the music is supposed to go hand in hand with how mellow the special is in general, but I wouldn’t mind some fast tunes once in a while. The animation isn’t bad either. It’s below average as it definitely hasn’t aged well and much older shows look more impressive. There is no way that you’d guess this film came out in 2007 as it looks like something closer to the 90’s or very late 80’s. However, if you look at it in a vacuum without comparing it to anything else, then Kino’s Journey still looks fine.

Overall, This was the most enjoyable Kino’s Journey feature. It’s still held back by a number of issues like the underwhelming technical aspects and the lackluster main characters. The plot is still interesting though and it doesn’t drag on. At it’s core, Kino’s Journey is like a nice breeze that is fun while it lasts and is then forgotten. There’s nothing there to call it a bad film, but there isn’t much to make it memorable either. It’s a good film because it doesn’t make any mistakes is the best way to think about it. Hopefully the series can get a reboot/sequel nostalgia film which will energize the franchise. I think that’s what it needs the most, some energy. It’ll be difficult balancing that and the eerily quiet scenes, but I’m sure it can manage. I think this is it for the franchise at the moment though so it feels pretty good to be caught up. At least as far as the animated content goes.

Overall 6/10

Mob Psycho 100 Review

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This show is a nice contrast to Attack on Titan. That show had amazing animation, soundtrack, and writing which helped to counter the terrible source material. It managed to bring up the manga which is like a 1 all the way to a 5. Granted, it hasn’t had to adapt the really sketchy stuff yet so we’ll see if that can last. Mob Psycho is the opposite as the animation is terrible and the soundtrack is only average at best while the plot isn’t bad. It’s funny how two shows can be so different and so similar at the same time. It’s no One Punch Man, but the series manages to pick up its game just enough in the end to save itself.

The series is about a kid named Shigeo. He was born as the strongest being in the universe and he could end all life on the planet if he wanted too. Shigeo was unable to deal with this so he locked away his true powers with his emotions and decided to train under a con artist named Reigen. As a result of losing his emotions, Shigeo is now super timid and unsure of himself. He basically says whatever he is thinking and is typically a very oblivious person who is also not fit physically. He is forced to come to terms with his powers more when an evil organization known as Claw kidnaps his brother. Can Shigeo defeat them without losing his cool or is it curtains for him?

Right from the start you’ll notice a lot of similarities to One Punch Man. I like to think of it as the poor man’s version of OPM as it does everything on a lower level, but at least it still tries to be like that show. If you’re gonna copy something, you should copy from the best. It’s from the same guy so at least he’s just copying himself, I imagine there would have been a lot of waves online if this had really been a ripoff from another person.

Lets start with the negatives and then go into the positives. Mob Psycho is hurt by a very slow start. The show is only 12 episodes and the plot doesn’t really begin until around episode 8-9. The first chunk is just for filler and character development. Most of the development isn’t any good though which doesn’t help its case. The show isn’t so much boring as it’s just very underwhelming because of the animation. You won’t really begin to like any of the characters aside from Reigen and most of the supporting cast is pretty bland and lackluster.

The beginning of the plot didn’t help matters either as it covered Shigeo’s brother Ritsu on his descent into darkness. He turned completely evil and wrecked some lives before being beat up a few times and realizing that being a hero is less paiful. He was definitely one of the worst characters in the series so getting multiple episodes to himself wasn’t a really good idea on the show’s part. Next up is the biggest negative of the series though…the animation.

You can call the animation indie or experimental, but it leads to the same result. It’s just really bad. The average episode will look like hastily drawn title by the Dragon Ball Super B team. (Not even the starters) The character designs are only good when the episodes get serious or during a battle so otherwise they don’t look very good at all. It’s like we’ve time traveled decades into the past for this show. Moreover, the show looks ugly on purpose at times. The show has a really awful way of drawing characters sweating and we get some dicey facial expressions the whole time as well. The animation focuses on elements that don’t help the show’s case and parts of it will even seem like FLCL. It can be subtly gross if anything.

Now, the animation isn’t terrible 24/7. It magically transforms into a solid spectacle once the action gets underway. Suddenly the show remembers that this is 2016 and it looks top of the line. For the final 3 episodes, this is mostly the case for the entire adventure which also proves that this “experimental” style as intentional. It’s a little insulting that the show looked so bad on purpose. It would be like if the One Punch Man anime had decided to look like the web comic sketches. It would make no sense and would have severely hurt the show. Unlike Mob Psycho, the OPM series is just a lot better in general so it’d probably still get a 7, but it would be a massive two point drop.

As for the soundtrack, it’s not bad. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a little standard, but I’ll take it. It has 1-2 really good themes with the rest not being very notable. I wasn’t a big fan of the theme song and I still don’t care for the visuals, but the actual music grew on me by the end of the show. It’s definitely pretty catchy and the serious Mob themes are good. I’ll give this area of the show a thumbs up. All right, lets talk about the characters.

I definitely don’t like Shigeo. He’s not very smart and is way too timid. While the first trait can work to a character’s favor if handled well, the latter pretty much never works. Shigeo gets serious when he reaches 100% rage of course and he quickly jumps into the other extreme since there’s no middle ground for him. I wish he’d stay like that though. Not only does his design get a lot cooler, but he actually has a personality. Normal Shigeo has no character and just lets everyone walk right over him. He stays in normal mode for so long that a member of Claw even defeats him and then he loses another round later on for losing control again. Shigeo’s just not a good character and he is extremely annoying whenever he is on screen. For being the world’s strongest fighter, he’s got a ways to go.

Luckily, Reigen is the best character in the series and he gets a lot of screen time as well. Since he is a professional con artist, he doesn’t fall for any of the tricks that Shigeo steps into. Reigen knows how to steal money from people and trick them into enjoying the process. While he doesn’t have any powers, Reigen does know basic hand to hand skills and has most of the best moments in the series. He takes on the final bosses and it’s just great. While his advice at the end was completely terrible, it was the only out of character moment for him. The rest of it was all pretty legit and he just steals the show plain and simple. He’s the kind of character who should definitely stay powerless as it’s part of his charm, but I’d still love to see him beat up more villains at some point.

Next up is Dimple. He was a big villain who got turned into a powerless spirit and now Shigeo allows him to hang around. It may just be to fuel his ego though as Shigeo will threaten him now and again. He is definitely a villain even if it’s not played too seriously so the other characters need to watch out. He’s not a great character, but he can definitely be amusing. Ritsu on the other hand never gets amusing or likable. He’s the classic “jealous brother” trope along with characters like Yukio from Blue Exorcist. He doesn’t have any powers so that makes him feel bad. Ritsu does whatever he can to gain powers, but nothing works so one day he decides to take a shortcut. After he gains his powers, Ritsu immediately uses them to bully people because of his inferiority complex. This is the part where Ritsu makes sure to never redeem himself. He really only turns into a good guy because he was completely humiliated by the villains and spends the last episodes just getting beat up over and over again. He got to keep his powers so now he can fight to a degree, but he’s nowhere near Mob. Like One Punch Man, if you’re a supporting character then you’re doomed.
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Ritsu does officially turn good so he’ll probably be a solid character in season 2, but it was too late for him here. He already ruined the lives of a lot of classmates by framing them and he just really crossed the line into full villain territory. It’s hard to reverse that in a handful of episodes as opposed to Naruto where Sasuke had hundreds of episodes to show you why he was a villain before turning good. Granted, it wasn’t handled any better than this show though, but that’s another story. Ritsu actually does bring down the show.

The last member of the heroes is Hanazawa. He has a similar plot to Ritsu as he starts off as a bully and then becomes a good guy after Shigeo shaves his hair off and beats him into the ground. There’s a trend here if you’ve noticed, the only way to turn a villain into a good guy is to beat him up. The series goes even further with this by the end of the series. I actually liked the ending of the show quite a lot. Just about everyone turned good, apologies were made, etc. It was a nice uplifting ending to the series and while Shigeo looks bad as usual in his epilogue, it hit all of the right notes. Since this is supposed to be a light hearted parody anyway, it should have an ending like this to match that beat. It’s why I have much higher hopes for the 2nd season. If it plays its cards right, I could definitely see that one getting a 7. Hopefully they don’t get the same animation studio though.

Time for the villains. Shou is the hype antagonist who they are saving for season 2. His abilities are certainly extraordinary as he was able to take down one of the strongest villains in the blink of an eye. He’s pretty charismatic and I think that I actually will end up liking this villain. He’s the best villain in the series at the moment. Another big villain was Sakurai. He’s a swordsman who uses psychic energy to amp up his equipment so he can take the fight to the heroes. He’s very strong and is certainly the most no nonsense of all the fighters. His role may not have been huge, but he was one of the big villains and I’d say that he was the best member. (Shou doesn’t count as a member of course)

Koyama was another one of the big members. He has super strength and it was quite formidable since he was actually able to punch a hole through Shigeo’s defenses. He wasn’t at 100% yet, but that was still really impressive. Furthermore, he was able to survive a long combo from Shigeo’s true power and had enough strength left to counter-attack and take him down. This guy was definitely no joke even if he was treated like one during round 2. He was another really good villain. There were other members of the group who shows up like one guy with fire powers and another who used a whip. The organization definitely had some really talented fighters under their belt.

Ishiguro was the leader of the group and “her” design while in villain mode was pretty cool. The gravity balls were also a nice touch. Gravity powers are some of the most underrated abilities in all of media if you ask me. They can definitely be very lethal and she was holding her own even after Mob stepped in. The ultimate reveal for Ishiguro may have been underwhelming for some and funny to others. It was mildly expected that something like this would happen, but at the same time it’s still a little surprising. It definitely destroyed Ishiguro’s character so hopefully it was worth the laugh.

One element of Mob Psycho 100 that can be a mixed bag is the fact that it’s a parody. Shigeo is meant to be virtually invincible which means that he can beat people whenever he wants. The reason why it doesn’t work as well as One Punch Man is because he’s just not likable. Also, Shigeo does lose 2-3 times in the series unlike Saitama who has yet to even come close to losing. It hurts the whole concept a little. Also, this means that there is never any real danger in the show. The show did randomly get dark at a few points in the series like with Ritsu’s plot and when the organization showed up for the first time. It’s a little all over the place with the tone and especially when the show would just go full parody mode and have some big comedic reveal to disrupt a tense moment. It just didn’t always work well. Some episodes had a perfect blend like with the last episodes as Reigen wrecked everybody, but others like the super strength guy getting one shotted by Shigeo didn’t work. I do think that it’s a formula which could work like OPM proved, but this show just isn’t as good at it. As a result, many of the fights in this series are completely one sided which is never a lot of fun for the viewer. Whether it’s the hero outmatching the villain or vice versa if you make it too lopsided then it’s not going to be any fun. It has to at least be at the level where the other side has a slim chance like with Aizen wrecking the Bleach cast or Broly dishing out the pain. Those were lopsided battles, but they still felt like battles, not just one guy murdering everyone else or knocking them out with a thought.

Also, the supporting characters just need to be written out. The Alien, Psychics club is really just a waste of time. None of their scenes are funny and the characters aren’t likable. At least the body improvement club members help out Shigeo when he needs them. Those guys are honorable and you can count of them. Unfortunately, they are still side characters so they get beat up quite a lot. I definitely felt bad for them at any rate since they didn’t really deserve it. It was also one of the moments that hurt Shigeo a lot as he just watched all of his friends get beaten up in front of him and didn’t move a muscle to help. Considering that these guys only got into this mess to protect Shigeo from the bullies and it’s pretty messed up. The bullies sure get away with quite a lot in this show.

On a final note, making Reigen the main character would really help the show. As I mentioned, he has most of the best scenes in the show. He takes out the villains while staying classy and not breaking a sweat. One problem with the show is that all of the fights revolve around someone beating Shigeo black and blue until he turns into rage mode and then crushes the opponent while insulting him the whole time. There’s no middle ground so the supporting characters are your only chance at a good fight. It’s just Shigeo turning into rage mode constantly, but not even a really cool version like Kirito. (Best kind of rage mode) Reigen wouldn’t have that problem since he never even gets upset. The show could just tap into its comedy/parody nature and think of cool ways for Reigen to win through his scams. A show like that would definitely be a lot of fun and that’s the key thing. It would be fun as opposed to just being dark and brooding at times.

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Overall, I wasn’t really a fan of Mob Psycho. It had its hype moments and did get really good at the end, but the painful beginning really held it back. It could get a little mean spirited and the fact that Shigeo’s not a good lead doesn’t help either. That’s why I make the comparison to Attack on Titan, they’re both similar when you think about it. Mob Psycho has a whole lot more potential, but actually realizing it will be the struggle. Improving Mob as a character and getting the animation to a reasonable level should be the show’s two top priorities. Along the way it should also try to get the blend of genres balanced and write out some of the supporting characters as well. If it can do all of that, then Mob Psycho will be a success. Looking at One Punch Man and learning how to use humor as effectively would also be a valuable use of time. If you love One Punch man, then I guess you should check this out. I’d recommend just watching the first episode and then skipping the next 5-6 and starting with the plot if anything. That would probably help the experience quite a lot. Alternately, just check out One Punch Man instead.

Overall 5/10

Children Who Chase Lost Voices Review

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I definitely didn’t know what to expect when I started this film. I didn’t know anything about it, from the plot to the characters. Unfortunately, the film wasn’t a pleasant surprise and certainly fell way below what I would have expected from it. It’s a shame since the film could have been good if it just had a better all around staff. The end product is just rather boring and aimless. It drags on and on and on.

Asuna is an everyday kid who knows how to take care of herself. She performs all of the chores and keeps her house in order since her Mom is typically out. One day, she witnesses a battle between a mysterious kid and a giant monster. They quickly become friends, but the kid is murdered soon after. Asuna doesn’t know what’s going on, but then the kid’s younger brother Shin shows up. He wants her crystal so one thing leads to another and she jumps through a portal with him to another world. Her substitute teacher, Ryuji, decides to come as well while he lets his comrades murder a poor monster that chose the wrong place to hang out. Despite realizing that Ryuji is a murderer who sold out his comrades and is keeping her prisoner, Asuna doesn’t take it personally. She hopes they can still be friends, but what is she even doing here anymore?

The film’s pretty aimless as I mentioned. Ryuji’s here to bring his wife back to life. If he can murder enough people, maybe he can get into the under world and find her. Of course, it won’t be so easy, but he is ready and willing to sacrifice Asuna to do this. Shin wants to help his corrupt village get their pendent back and is ready to murder everyone to do this as well. Asuna is really just here for the thrills and maybe she can see the dead kid again this way. There are no likable characters here and once again it is a story where you just feel bad for the animals. They didn’t ask for this, but the humans are always picking on them anyway.

What makes Asuna unlikable is the fact that she hangs out with Ryuji after everything he did. She seems completely oblivious to life in general and makes all of the wrong decisions. She is supremely annoying and grating to watch and if she even had a sliver of personality then she would have been a far better character. Even if the personality made her a jerk, at least it’s be something. She’s like a blank slip of paper in this one. Ryuji is evil even if the film doesn’t always try to portray it that way. I couldn’t sympathize with him one bit even if his goal is one that I typically don’t mind for villains. If he wants to do this, then he should go all the way and accept his role as a villain. The fact that the movie portrays him to still be a decent guy otherwise is just annoying and I didn’t buy it.

Shin’s also pretty generic. At least he helped out when it counted, but he’s just soooo weak. How could he let himself get one shotted so many times in one film? It was particularly embarrassing when he tried to stop Ryuji, but couldn’t. The film went out of its way to mock the concept of a child hero as he thought he was a great warrior, but ended up just being a kid in the end. It was easy for Ryuji to take him down. There weren’t any other real characters here aside from random villagers and Asuna’s human friend. They didn’t get to really do anything.

I’d say that the film was just too long. You’ll get bored after a little while and the fantasy elements take too long to really turn into anything tangible. The nightcrawler things were interesting as they suddenly showed up and kidnapped Asuna. More creatures like that could have been fun, but the sad fact is that the majority of them were animals that couldn’t fight and just existed to get slaughtered by the humans. The animal violence is naturally a huge reason why the film was really bad. They gunned down an animal for no good reason and this was the government. It’s all rather vague which is supposed to be interesting, but I wasn’t invested enough to care. Why does the government want this mystical land and how do people know about it? Why have they not sealed off the exits so the fantasy people don’t just come to the human world whenever they want? You can wait for the answers, but they’ll never come. It was always surprising when someone would get slashed and blood would appear. It always felt a little out of place, but it’s not excessive or anything. I wouldn’t really count it as a negative, but the animal part makes that irrelevant anyway.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the animation isn’t all that good. It’s not bad, but it has that soulless look that you may have come to expect from Westernized anime or as I like to call them “General audience” anime. It’s something that can be hard to describe, but it’s just a style. Look at Spirited Away or this film and then look at the latest DBZ or Naruto film. The latter you can instantly tell is an awesome anime film while the former titles look more see through and American. However you describe the difference, I always prefer the latter. It just looks a whole lot better. This film still looks decent by American standards though. We do get some action scenes here and I suppose the animation tries its best, but it certainly doesn’t do much to help the film. Likewise with the soundtrack as there aren’t any interesting themes here. I can’t say that I’m very surprised though. Not too much of a knock on the film, but you wouldn’t expect it to have any cool tunes. That’s just the kind of film it is.

Overall, Children Who Chase Lost Voices was absolutely a flop. Animal Violence + Annoying characters is always going to equal a loss in the end. The film was way too long and just got to be boring by the end. You’d definitely be changing the channel if this ever comes on TV again. None of the monsters were all that impressive when it comes to their power and the ending is like another laugh to the viewers. It seems to be a running gag that the heroine loves to go back to Earth and act like the whole thing never happened in the end. It was fitting for this film though since we’ll all just try to move on from this title. It’s definitely not one that I’d recommend. You should go watch a Dragon Ball Z film instead.

Overall 3/10

Attack on Titan Ilse’s Notebook Review

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It’s time for an Attack on Titan prequel OVA. This one adapts a side story from the manga so it’s fairly short. The OVA does manage to pad itself out a little with a brief recap on the state of things though so it’s not extremely short. It’s around the length of the average episode which is a pretty decent length for an OVA. It’s fairly interesting, but I can’t say that it’s actually good as it suffers from the usual Attack on Titan issues.

The main character of this story is Hange (Or Hanji depending on which name you’re more used too) and she really wants to experiment on a Titan. As she has no conscience to weigh her down, she has always been the perfect person to lead the scientist division. She may creep the rest of her comrades out, but that’s just a side effect of being insane. You’re basically rooting for the Titans here since you don’t want them to be enslaved so Hange can stab them forever. Things aren’t moving quickly enough for Hange so she decides to go rogue and head after a Titan. Along the way she learns that there was once a Titan who could talk. What does this mean?

The Notebook/Journal that the heroes find is the main item of importance in this story. It’s another tragic tale, but that’s to be expected here. Ilse was running through the woods when a Titan spotted her. The rest of her comrades had already been taken down for the count so she had no backup. Surprisingly, the Titan didn’t destroy her right away as it prolonged the experience by stretching its face and trying to let her know about the war going on and how the series was all a lie. Ilse didn’t handle this too well and panicked so she was quickly eaten. It’s meant to be pretty important since it shows that Titans have some level of intelligence even if it’s been buried pretty deep. At the same time her death in the end made the whole thing suspect anyway. Maybe she was just delusional. The heroes don’t seem to think much of it either as they just use this as an excuse to go on the hunt once more.

Humor has never been a strong point of the series and that continues here. A running gag is that Hange is super unhinged so she chokes one of her comrades and nearly murders him. She loses her cool constantly and I don’t know how she still has her job. Well, the government is corrupt so I guess that fits. It doesn’t make me like any of her comrades though since they don’t speak up about this and just keep on enduring it. Levi and the others seem to turn a blind eye as well. At least he’s one of the few people along with Erwin who doesn’t fear Hange, but if he’s not going to do anything about it, then it doesn’t really matter all that much.

Attack on Titan never fails to deliver on the technical side though. The soundtrack is pretty good as we got an awesome techno theme at the beginning of the OVA. It played when the series was giving a recap of the situation and it made for some fun visuals as well. If the whole OVA was like that, then I wouldn’t have had any problems. The strategic part of the series is when its typically at its best. The graphics are also pretty sharp as it looks and feels very modern. The character designs are on point and the OVA had fun using Sunset effects for when it was getting late, but not quite night time yet. It all looked good and at least that helps the OVA speed along even if it can’t totally nullify the negatives.

In the end, the OVA was still a little too violent and dark by the end. The novels pointed out that Titans don’t bleed so we technically shouldn’t be getting any blood when they’re slashed. The anime has always chosen to ignore that though and either way we have the Titans eating humans as well so that doesn’t help. The scene of the Titan trying to rearrange his face came across as completely unnecessary and eating Ilse at the end wasn’t a great ending either. Following the novels more closely would absolutely help Titan in all of its future products.

Overall, Ilse’s Notebook is fairly standard Attack on Titan fare. If you like the show then odds are that you’ll like the OVA. Eren and the other main characters may not be in it, but the rest of the OVA feels like it could easily be a normal episode. I still say that the show is too violent and melodramatic the whole time and Hange is a pretty terrible main character so she holds it down. To make it more interesting, I wouldn’t have minded some time travel thrown in so Eren could be around to yell a bit. It’s not exactly the feel good film of the year, but if you really want to make sure that you’re an expert on Attack on Titan lore, then you’ll want to check it out. For the rest of you, just go prepare yourself for Season 2 instead. It is certainly drawing closer and closer with every passing day.

Overall 4/10

Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale Review

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March has been off to a pretty intense start. Between my birthday and the release of Legend of Zelda Breath and the Wild, things were already going well. This got even better when I won free tickets to the big U.S. premiere of Ordinal Scale. Special Shoutout to Anime Girls NYC for letting me know about the contest in the first place. Winning it was pretty hype although it was still a tough call because it was on at the same time as a class I was supposed to be at. I thought long and hard about it, but missing out on this big event with free tickets would have been a shame so I played hooky and just skipped it. Characters do that on TV all the time right so missing one day shouldn’t be bad…hopefully! Well enough of that, time to talk about the film. It was great as expected and I dare say that it did a better job of getting the concept of virtual gaming better than the show did. Arc 1 of the first season is still the absolute greatest, but this movie has no second half to weigh it down.

This movie takes place after the first two seasons of the show. A new augmented reality game has launched called Ordinal Scale. After the tragic events of Sword Art Online and Gun Gale Online, people are fed up with virtual reality games. This new company took the opportunity to launch their augmented reality game since it is very different. I won’t go into how these genres are different since you can just Google that, but think Pokemon Go, but the more intricate version. You use the new system in every day life to get free coupons and to increase your score. The major boosts are obtained through boss fights and taking down minions. Kirito is sore that nobody is playing his favorite games anymore though so he pouts about it for the first chunk of the movie.

Kirito is so sore about this that he even takes the time to tell his friends that they’re playing games too much nowadays. After all, if you’re not playing his favorite games then you shouldn’t be playing at all. Kirito was such a jerk during the first part of the movie that it was actually pretty funny. He comes across as hypocritical and lying to his future wife’s face for super minor stuff also makes you shake your head. Now you may think that I’m not a Kirito fan based on this, but he’s actually my favorite character and I’m a big fan. His attitude and negative demeanor is part of what makes him endearing. Anyway, Kirito is forced to get on board when the game begins to get dangerous. Asuna is attacked and her memories of Sword Art Online are stolen. On a more minor note, the villain also broke Klein’s arm and injured a group of people, but Kirito’s more concerned about the Asuna situation. He must now get stronger in this game so he can beat up the villains and force them to return her memories. He may be a legend in the video game world, but can he do so well in the human realm? Time to find out!

Part of what makes this a little more challenging is the fact that Ordinal Scale is still in the real world. The illusions don’t change the fact that you have to physically move around and Kirito is supposedly out of shape. The film keeps on saying that, but he always looks like he’s in shape so Kirito’s just that good. He has a quick training montage and reminds us why he is the hero. It was great to see hardcore Kirito return for a little bit as he finally decided to go all out on the villains. It’s something that you don’t see from him quite as much now that he’s gotten a bit more mellow, but in his defense, the stakes have never been as high as they were in SAO. I’m sure the third season should change that once we finally adapt the next big arc.

The soundtrack in the film is easily 5 stars. There are a ton of great themes and I’ve already listened to the soundtrack on Youtube quite a few times. As I always say in my reviews, a good soundtrack can take a film to the next level. It’s safe to say that the film wouldn’t have been quite as exciting with a more laid back set of tunes. We get remixes from the show and even some tunes that seem to be grabbed directly from it. Coupled with the new tunes, it makes for a pretty unforgettable experience.

As always, the graphics are also excellent. The fight scenes really stand out and the choreography for the hand to hand fights are excellent. The best fight is naturally Kirito vs Eiji, but there were great moments all around. All of the fights were a blast with the colorful visuals and great sound effects. You could really hear every slice and clang and that’s part of what will always make going to the theater such fun. It’ll still be around at home of course, but your neighbors never let you turn the volume up quite as much as you would like. The solution is to live in a house of course, but I don’t think I’ll be moving anytime soon. Besides which, I’m just a city kid at heart anyway.

There are some plot elements I have to mention because they don’t make much sense. I’m not gonna go into too much detail on this, but Ordinal Scale just doesn’t work in practice. At least not the way that the film presented it. As one person pointed out on Youtube, one scene has a car turn into a bunch of barrels and later on we see the barrels get thrown around. That means that a car just got totaled and the poor owner is going to sue the game or a player bumped into the car and probably broke his back if we assume that it wasn’t enough to throw the car. There are many scenes like this throughout the film where you try and remember what the real world looked like the whole time. In a sense it almost feels like Boss Baby where the characters feel like they’re doing something intense, but it’s actually a lot less wide scale and epic than you are led to believe.

This may be true to an extent, but the line is heavily blurred. The characters are also immersed to the point where the whole landscape changes and they no longer know where they’re going. Also, their fake weapons seem to have an impact when they have their glasses on, but then it fades once they take it off. I guess you can just attribute this to the AR being that realistic, but it was also a little hard to swallow. Likewise, Eiji’s abilities were also a little intriguing. By the end we can basically just assume that the tech gave him super speed in real life which is pretty neat, but it should be extremely obvious to everyone in real time. At first it was treated like getting level ups in the game just gave you special abilities, but that wouldn’t make sense in context. What I’m trying to say in all of this is to not look at the context too hard as it falls apart under scrutiny.

The film’s around 2 hours, but definitely doesn’t feel like it. The adventure zips by in a snap which is obviously a good thing. It never drags on and it just a fun adventure from start to finish. I don’t have any real negatives here. I was worried that the film would have some fanservice since the show had a big problem with that, but it actually strayed away from that for the most part. There was definitely quite a bit of romance, but that usually goes hand in hand with the series. At least everyone wasn’t trying to get Kirito’s attention for once since he’s made it clear so many times that he’s taken.

I already talked about Kirito. He may not have sounded great, but he really is an excellent character. He’s a little petty at first, but every character has an off day. This was one of Asuna’s better depictions as she got really good at the game and it’s easy to see how she’s more comfortable in this real world setting than Kirito. He was never much of a people person after all. I would have been disappointed if Asuna had decided not to jump into the fray by the end and luckily the film didn’t go that route. She’s a fighter at heart so not including her in the climax would have been a mistake.

The rest of the group members are also around like Lisbeth, Klein, Leafa, and the others. They get decent roles and are around to try and get Kirito to enjoy the game more. They all pitch in and help when necessary. Sinon probably did the most noticeable damage to the boss which was nice since she is more powerful than the others. The fact that she is a long range fighter does make her a little vulnerable to the tougher bosses though. I still think it was a little odd how nobody really cared about what happened to Klein and why he didn’t tell them that Eiji could not be trusted. He didn’t lose his memory of being attacked after all so that was a little fishy. Ah well, that’s why he’s not the main character. As for the new characters in the film, they were all fairly decent. I can’t say that I cared much for the scientist, but I typically don’t care much for scientist characters anyway. At the very least, I could sympathize with his goal. He wanted to bring his daughter back even if it meant destroying the memories of many players and ultimately destroying them as well if necessary. Clearly he’s evil no matter what the justification is, but it’s certainly a better motive than just being psychotic. I’m always more on board with a plan to bring someone back to life because someone who’s special to you should mean more than the rest of the world. If you have to put the world in danger to save someone, then so be it.

The players also made it rather easy. The theater was laughing quite a lot when one of Klein’s friends noticed arrows that led to a dark alley. It’s basically the scenario that you hear about all the time on Reddit, but this guy walked in anyway because he saw a rare item. Lets just say that it did not end well for him. When are these guys going to learn that you shouldn’t go into a dark alley no matter what the reason? I can’t say that I liked Klein’s group at all though as they came off as desperate the whole time. I was rooting for the Sword Art Online monsters to take them down.

The pop idol Yuna is another one of the new characters. Her arc never really went anywhere though. She showed some interest in things beyond her programming which could have been interesting, but I guess the film didn’t have time to delve into it. She seemed like a nice enough person although I wonder if she knew that people were getting injured to deliver the crystals to her. She may not have been as innocent as she looked, but she can definitely sing. Finally, we have the main villain, Eiji. Eiji’s a classic arrogant villain who’s really confident in his abilities and loves picking on the weak. At first it seemed like he was just beating everyone up so he could get the crystals and it wasn’t anything personal, but this facade broke down a few times. Eiji definitely loves being the villain and his design was solid. The scenes with him and Kirito were definitely handled well and I’m glad that Kirito didn’t back down even when he was outmatched. That’s just not how Kirito rolls. I feel like Eiji should have put up more of a fight in his final scene, but I guess he was just too broken by then.

The surprise final boss was also great. I would have liked for that fight to be extended if anything, but they definitely fit in a bunch of action. Every character got to have a big moment in the end and there were a bunch of homages to the TV show. It was great to briefly see everyone and the movie really did do a good job of wrapping up everything from the shows. It was a good way to bridge the gap between this part and the next saga. This review was a little all over the place, but for a movie this hype it’s hard not to just start rambling as I move from section to section. It had a lot of powerful moments full of intensity and then also emotional moments as well. Kirito’s montage was excellent as I mentioned earlier and since it was personal now, I’m glad he threw everything at the mission. He even called in his favors with the government to get to the bottom of this.
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Overall, Ordinal Scale is definitely an excellent film. There was never a question about its greatness, only whether it gets an 8 or a 9. As I mentioned there aren’t any real negatives so that makes an 8 the minimum. At the same time, there are some stretches of time with no real action scenes so I’m trying to consider how a re watch of the film would go down. Honestly it is good enough for me to re watch it already so it definitely has a lot of replay value. The theater audience was also very lively which was a blast. The animation and soundtrack are top notch and the plot is good. The dialogue scenes were also solid since I do like the characters. I don’t want to take shots at Naruto too often, but it’s amazing just how much more enjoyable the cast of Sword Art Online is. Seeing them hang out at the mall is more interesting than seeing the Naruto characters fight at times which should be impossible. Of course, good directing does go a long way. Well, in the end I think the film is good enough to pull it off. It’ll join the great crowd of Resurrection F, Yugioh Dark Side of Dimensions, and more. After all, the film’s going to be even more awesome when I get to see the dubbed version of it! I look forward to seeing the series return someday and until then I may get around to reading the light novels. I highly recommend the film and keep your eye out for the Pac-Man scene. It was definitely a highlight moment as Sword Art Online acknowledges that people will still be playing the game no matter how high tech the industry gets. Pac-Man is timeless.

Overall 9/10

Kino’s Journey: Life Goes On Review

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It looks like Kino is back on the job with this prequel OVA. We’re back in the days of her youth before she became devoid of personality but still after the tragedy of the original Kino. At less than 30 minutes long, this OVA is fairly short, but it’s not bad. We get to see more crazy customs and a lot of pondering by the cast. In a way, you could say that Kino’s Journey is like a grim Charlie Brown…just think about it.

So, Kino wants to find the village where the original Kino used to live. After all, she may have taken his name, but she feels like she can’t properly use it until she wraps up these loose ends. Her master allows her to go, but gives Kino a gun just in case. Kino may run into all kinds of dangers and having some form of self defense has never hurt before. What could have happened to change Kino from the happy girl that she used to be into the emotionless person that she would transform into? It is all explained in this special.

We may as well get down to business right off the bat. The series likes to show a lot of odd superstitions and customs from the various places that Kino visits and this one is no exception. The villagers have decided that anyone beyond their village is someone who cannot be bound by their laws. As such, they decide not to do anything while an old lady murders all travelers who come by so that she can avenge her son. Many travelers meet an ill timed fate at her hands until Kino shows up one day and puts an end to it. Kino ultimately puts her gun skills to use and the taking of a life took its toll as she immediately became a different person. I suppose it’s hard not to get jaded after that, but Kino should have suspected something.

I figured that the old lady was approaching nut bar factor 6 once the animation gave her a red tint and she started glaring at Kino. Kino didn’t quite realize this even after she started to tell the lady about how her son was murdered by Kino’s parents. Probably not the best way to go about this although the lady was going to take her down anyway. Remember, never accept a tea from a stranger or it’s probably going to be spiked. I suppose the old lady was almost a decent antagonist, but I’d like to see another gun pro as the main villain at some point. It would give Kino more of a challenge.

I can’t say that I’m crazy about Kino’s animation. It’s not really my style as it goes for a more retro, grainy look. I suppose making it look older can help make the atmosphere a little more mysterious, but I’m sure you could do this with modern animation as well. There’s not much of a soundtrack since this is a rather quiet show, but it was neat to hear the classic sound effects from the show.

While this special was good, there is one area where the franchise could improve a lot and it would help future titles. The main cast needs a serious revamp. As it stands, there aren’t really any likable characters at all. I liked Kino until she reverted to her TV show form in the end, but nobody else stands out. The Motorcycle is a pretty bland character and the master didn’t seem to have a personality. The main villain probably stood out the most and she’s totally insane. Adding in good characters can definitely make a difference and it’s probably what separates this from Twilight Zone as the two have a very similar concept. This show just doesn’t have the cool alien episodes or supernatural adventures and prefers to stay old school. Not a bad decision per say, but it does limit its opportunities.

Overall, Life Goes On is a good way to continue Kino’s Journey. I clearly did enjoy it more than the show as this kind of series is definitely a case by case basis. If the story is good then we’ll have a winner, but if the traditions are too dicey then it won’t have the same effect. This special was interesting enough and the time went by at a good speed. If you enjoy adventures where you get to see different lands and situations then this should be up your ally. It’s a special that easily stands on its own so you don’t need to have seen the show to get what’s happening. It’s not the most exciting thing out there, but it’s good enough to warrant a watch.

Overall 6/10

Little Battlers eXperience Wars: All Star Battle Review

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It’s time to look at a little special that LBX Wars got after the series finishes. It gives us the crossover that we had long been waiting for; the big battle between Ban and Sena. It’s a little under 10 minutes so the special really has to hurry to the fight, but we got two quality fight scenes so I’d say that it did a good job of getting right to what I wanted to see in a crossover.

The premise is a little sad for Sena though as it turns out that he never got the proper approval to leave the island at the end of the series. Luckily, this is how he meets Ban, who has stopped at the island to teach the kids. Sena challenges Ban, but the old hero quickly brings along Jin for support. Sena gets a teammate as well, but ends up getting back stabbed (accidentally) and loses. Sena isn’t totally satisfied so he gets another rematch against Ban and this time it’s one on one. Can Sena squeeze out a win?

Don’t expect anything decisive as the special decides to play it very safe at the end. I’ll still give it credit for having a real victor in the first set though. At the very least, we know which tag team is better. While it was written to show that the loss was really Sena’s fault for rushing in, I don’t blame him. His robot’s specs should be vastly superior to Odin’s by this point so rushing in is a good strategy. Not to mention that being aggressive in combat is usually the best approach as opposed to the “wait and see” tactic that was suggested. I’d also say that Sena did a good job of holding his own for the most part.

It’s still a little hard to get used to Ban’s new design. (Yes, the glasses count as a whole new design) At the very least, he does seem to still have his old personality in tact. He was already drifting from the LBX game in the second series and it seems to be complete here as he mentions that he hasn’t played in a long time. It’s regrettable, but sometimes you live long enough to see yourself turn into the old man of the series. I can’t say that I’d like Ban much based on this, but he was great in the first two series so he still has that going for him. The supporting cast members like Jin and friends all seemed in character, but naturally there wasn’t enough time for them to do all that much here.

One thing that’s noticeable is how the special decided to save as much budget as it could. As such, we get several scenes where it’s just a giant head floating around or a sky view of the island. It’s not bad, but you can definitely see what the special is doing. I’m guessing this was made really quickly with a limited budget so they wanted to save it for the fight. I’d say that was a smart decision and it paid off since both action scenes were quite good. The animation has aged really well as with the rest of the series. We also got to see a lot of the classic tunes return for this special which was nice and nostalgic.

Overall, This was a pretty good special. It’s a shame that it was so short, but finally getting to see the main characters fight each other was fun. If anything, it probably hints that Sena would be able to beat Ban since he didn’t even use his full synchro mode in their fight. That makes sense since Sena was never a fan of it and the world isn’t in danger this time, but it’s something to think about. LBX did about all that it could in the 10 minutes and the one thing that I would have changed was to have a decisive victor in the last fight. That would have definitely been nice to see. I’d definitely recommend this special. You’ll probably enjoy it more if you’ve seen the show, but it could also be a nice way to get into the franchise as a whole. After all, it has the main strengths of why I like the series so much. The high quality action scenes and the solid soundtrack make for a good combo. Hopefully we get a Hollywood LBX movie or a nostalgic anime movie sequel at some point. We just need LBX to live on!

Overall 7/10

Yugioh: The Dark Side of Dimensions Review

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It feels good to finally have another Yugioh movie out in the world. The 3D crossover still ranks as the greatest film of all time so I had really high hopes for this one. Spoiler Alert- it doesn’t manage to topple the 3D film, but nothing really can. This film was handled perfectly and I can safely say that it is in my top 5 movies of all time. At the moment I’d put it in 4th. 1st being Bonds Beyond Time 2nd being Broly The Legendary Super Saiyan 3rd being DBZ Resurrection F and Bleach: Hell Verse being right under the Dark Side of Dimensions. It gets a little tricky after that with Boruto, Final Fantasy VII, Madoka Rebellion, and others films fighting it out. Whether you’re a Kaiba fan or not, you should definitely be able to enjoy this adventure.

The film pretty much starts with Kaiba reminding the world why he is the greatest. He manages to finally defeat Yami Yugi. Granted, it was an A.I. version of him, but with Kaiba’s top of the line tech it may as well have been the legendary duelist. Kaiba wants to bring the real deal back though after Yugi and friends sealed the Pharaoh away in the past for all of eternity. To that end he has uncovered the Millenium Puzzle and must put the pieces back together. Things don’t go as planned when an avatar of the Plana shows up. His name is Deva and he can’t allow Yami to come back or else he will lose his special powers. This would ruin his plans for revenge so he attempts to get in Kaiba’s way.

The heroes are thrown into the mix because they are Deva’s targets. Joey is still really into dueling, but Yugi has mostly moved on from such things. He is forced into action once more though when Deva kidnaps Bakura and Joey. It’s personal this time and Yugi is determined to end things once and for all. Can he really hope to win without the help and guidance of Yami though? It may be time for Kaiba to step up as the new hero.

One thing you’ll notice from the start is that Kaiba’s practically the main character of this adventure. He gets the most interesting plot, the best lines, and the best duels. He completely steals the show here and his genius goes to brand new heights. He is able to make just about anything from power inhibitors to space ships. Kaiba even comes up with a solid light duel disc which can repel reality warping. If that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is! Almost every single line from Kaiba is an insult or a way to brag about himself. It wouldn’t work so well if he was always full of hot air, but Kaiba can back up all of his tough talk. He basically doesn’t get to lose in the entire film. He is a master class duelist and as far as I’m concerned, he’s the best. Kaiba has completely surpassed everyone to the point where they can only hope to deal some damage with gimmicks and cheap tricks. Kaiba’s basically a perfect rival and the film reminds me of why he is so awesome. Aside from Jaden, he is definitely the best character in the franchise and one of my all time favorites in media. He even subverts the trope of the rival getting wrecked by the villain in the opening scene. Kaiba really stops every trope that opposes him as seen in his duel with Yugi and the ending as well. Kaiba really wasn’t playing around in this film and shows that you can be obsessed with getting payback while still serving the community and the world in the process. He’s just an upstanding guy.

Deva is the main villain of the film and he is definitely solid. I’d have to say that he is a far superior villain to Paradox. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Pyramid of Light, but I’m inclined to say that he is better than that guy as well. Deva is not quite ready to surpass the big shots like True Bakura and Marik, but I’ll also give him the edge over Pegasus. Deva may have gone off from the heroic path, but I have to give him credit for his determination. He never forgot the identity of the person he had to get revenge against even after many years and he did manipulate his powers well. If he was facing anyone other than Kaiba, he could have really done a lot of damage in the opening acts.

This film really did manage to bring back as many big plots as possible along the way. As I mentioned earlier, the film was basically perfect. To be perfect, it had to bring back a certain character from the manga that I had been hoping would return. Well, it happened and I suppose I won’t say who exactly, but this villain’s a fan favorite. He does quite a lot of damage even if the film didn’t allow him to re obtain his true form. That would have been even more fun and I was actually expecting it to happen for a while there. The film gave him many opportunities, but I suppose it simply wasn’t to be.

Yugi gets a big role as expected. He nearly dies in traffic which would have been a very sad way to go, but he managed to get out in the nick of time. It was a nice contrast to when Kaiba was around. I’m not crazy about Yugi deciding to step away from dueling, but I suppose that was always more Yami’s thing than Yugi’s. Yugi just likes games in general so I guess it was about time for him to move on. He’s a nice enough character as always. While not as tough as Joey, Yugi’s always ready to do the right thing and he is a determined guy. He does his best to search for Bakura and comes through when the stakes are high. He does give up a little too easily on Yami though, but luckily Kaiba called him out on it. It’s interesting to see Yugi in a semi retired state being forced back into action by Kaiba. Especially since he’s barely the main character this time around. It’s a different perspective and one that I definitely enjoyed.

One part of the film that was puzzling was the fact that Joey didn’t get to duel. He talked about dueling quite a lot in the film and it felt like the film was trying to build that up as an actual plot. I was fully expecting him to duel Deva at one point, but I guess maybe it was going to take too long. That, or it was planned for an extra long uncut version which will debut any day now. That would definitely be fun right? Tea and Tristan are also around although they don’t do all that much. Tristan spends most of the film getting choked and messed with while Tea supports the duelists from the stands. She ends up being the first person to ditch the group for good so the status quo is certainly changing. Bakura is fairly important to the film, but I do definitely miss his true self. Normal Bakura just doesn’t work as a character quite as well as when he had that extra edge. Either way, it is fun to see the whole gang back again.

A cool tribute to the classic game of Yugioh is that the film had each duel start at 8000 life points. The manga and anime titles never got to do this all that much because each duel would take too long. Technically, Yugioh should always be played with 8000 life points though as that is the standard. Since this was the big movie and time wasn’t really an issue, Dark Dimensions got to pull it off. I can safely say that I do prefer the 8000 life points set up. It allows each duelist to unveil longer combos without instantly winning through them. Yugioh 5Ds showed us the cons of a 4000 life point duel since you can feasibly beat someone in a single turn so they wouldn’t have a chance to counter. With 8000 life points, that isn’t really an issue.

The theater where I saw this film had a lot of lively Yugioh fans in attendance so that was cool. This also meant that they were paying a lot of attention to the cards and naturally all of them had to subtly call out a moment where Kaiba had a special ability that let him instantly summon a Blue Eyes. Based on the reaction, I’m guessing that the effect was a little sketchy (Does it work like that?) or the card was a super obscure one that nobody has. It was a very cool ability though and Kaiba always makes sure to have the best cards. His preparation is second to none. Considering what a big film this is though, I’m fairly sure that the film played by the rules. Unlike the show where it can get away with breaking the rules sometimes, I doubt the writers would dare here.

For kicks, there is one gimmick style of dueling in this film, Dimension Dueling. Under this style, you can summon whatever cards you want by infusing your cards with your limitless mental energy. Ultimately, there is absolutely no point to this technique and the only reason they probably added it was so you could see Yugi and Kaiba striking DBZ poses as they powered up. As such, it was less annoying than some other gimmicks like Action Cards from Arc V and it was passable. Of course, I was still thrilled that most of the duels in the film where of the standard kind. Why mess with something that’s not broken?

If you’re waiting for Yami, then I’ll just say not to expect too much> This film’s really meant to be more of a Kaiba searching movie similar to Homura’s search for Madoka in Rebellion. Both climaxes are just as satisfying though so while Yami and Madoka didn’t get to appear all that much, the brief moment is hyped to the max. In this case, the rules probably were destroyed since the summon came out of nowhere, but I’m cool with that since the villain basically broke the rules by using a power up in the first place. His unlimited attacks with the cubes were also a little over powered and hard to stop. Anything goes at that point right?

As expected, the animation is absolutely top notch here. The energy effects are great and all of the characters designs are completely on point. You won’t have seen so much blue in just about any other film. Kaiba has made the place so futuristic that you’d think you were in 5Ds or Zexal world at this point. It’s kind of cool that the classic series may finally be more advanced than the sequels. Whether it’s box monsters or a bunch of cool dragons, you’ll feel each and every blow from the monsters. A punch will send debris everywhere and the animation will crisply move on to the next scene. This film even made it easy for TV channels to air it as some scenes will go with a fade out before entering the next moment. Not to be outdone, the soundtrack is also excellent here. I would have liked a good GX tune or two of course, but this is a classic Yugioh movie so it makes sense to stick to its roots. We get a really nifty remix of Kaiba’s Batman theme from the TV show and also a pretty good remix of “Your Move” for the end credits. With the writing also at 5 star quality the whole time, the movie really has everything going for it.

Also to bring it up one more time, the film handled Kaiba’s counter to reality warping perfectly. It really sets the standard for how other characters can handle it. Just activate your high tech gadgets and the villains are forced to respect it. Kaiba’s tech really knows no bounds and coming up for counters to abilities that have never been seen before was another epic moment. It’s easy to see why the crowd cheered for every single Kaiba scene. It was insane. The other characters were lucky to get cheering for half of their scenes.

It was a really good decision to make this movie 2 hours for a change. It allowed the film to fit in a bunch of duels and also made the film more satisfying. It is hard to do quite as much when you only have 30-40 minutes as the duel has to be very short and that leaves no time for hype. Half of this film is really devoted to Kaiba’s hype and it paid off very well. The film never even comes close to dragging on as it’s almost nonstop action from the start. I’ve got to give the film a lot of credit for being this amazing. It really didn’t make any mistakes which is why it’s the optimal classic Yugioh film. I can’t see it being surpassed by another. In fact, even the bullies were defeated by the guy who was being bullied for a change. That was nice to see.
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Overall, Yugioh The Dark Side of Dimensions is a film that I highly recommend. Whether you’re a Yugioh fan or not, you can appreciate the intensity and amazement that each scene brings to the table. There are a bunch of homages for old time fans, but enough flashbacks to help newcomers along as well. It’s hard to see anyone walk out of the theater and not pick Kaiba as the stand out character, but I suppose I can also see how his overwhelming presence and confidence can be a little intimidating for a lead. He’s certainly not here to make friends and accomplishing his objective is all that matters. At the same time, Kaiba never fell off the wagon so to speak. He never went crazy or power mad as he tried extreme things to bring Yami back. He didn’t even physically threaten anyone this time as he calmly just made sure to get what he wanted. Kaiba manipulates people, but he does so in a professional way that will keep his PR agency happy. As such, the ending of the film is perfect. Naturally, it would have been awesome if the film could have been extended another 20 minutes since Kaiba deserves the win. It would have been highly controversial though so the film may have been wise in playing it safe. It’ll be very hard to top this film to be honest, but if they do another crossover with Yugioh GX, anything is possible. It’s a really good time to be a card game fan with so many titles going on right now. It feels good!

Overall 9/10

Digimon Tamers: Battle of Adventurers Review

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Picture’s a little fuzzy, but bear with me here folks, the soundtrack image didn’t work for some reason. Well it finally happened, we’re at the first and possibly only bad Digimon film. It all comes down to the main plot with an unfortunate moment of animal violence and a Sleepless in Seattle message about how you should be ready to let go. That’s a knockout punch and one that’s hard to get past unless you’re a super long running show or manga where you can have enough high moments to overcome the lows. In a 30-40 minute movie, there’s not enough time to get past this rather large issue.

Takato decides to head over to his Cousin’s place for summer vacation. It’s time to relax and unwind from the challenging adventures of the TV show. Unfortunately, that’s not part of the game plan here. Omnimon was unable to stop a mysterious new threat and because of that, evil Digimon are showing up all over the place. Takato’s cousin means well, but he is a little outmatched since he doesn’t have a Digimon and his Grandpa pretends to be oblivious to the whole thing. Takato will have to try and win this fight or stall until Henry and Rika show up, but it’s going to be tricky.

Lets get the obvious dragon in the road out of the way first. The part of the film that destroyed it was the sob story that was attached to the original character made up for the film. When she was little, her dog drowned while she was surfing. Boom. The film hits you with this hay maker and there’s no real way to recover from this right? The only way is to bring the dog back and the film couldn’t do that…could it? Well, the film brings the Dog back all right as a Digital Monster. He shows up to be her pal, but she doesn’t like him anymore because he’s not “real.” During the course of the film, she realizes that he is in fact her dog from a while ago. Then the film kills him off.

Wait a minute….why’d the film bring him back then? See, this is possibly even worse than just not bringing him back at all. You’re essentially destroying the dog twice. The film gives you some hope for a second there that everything can be okay and then snatches it back. It was very poorly handled and I was pretty dismayed at the whole thing. See, it ties into the film’s message about moving on. The girl needed to move past her dog’s death so the film got to have her say a final goodbye to the dog again and then watch it get destroyed in front of her eyes. It’s supposed to be calming as she can now be at peace, but it’s just distasteful. That’s why I’m typically not a fan of the whole “moving on” message. You do have to move on in life with a great many things, but not with some and not like this.

Anyway, past the animal violence, this film functions like your average Digimon film. We have some pretty good fights and solid animation for them as well. The opening scene with Omnimon scaring away the villain was pretty cool although I’m calling plot hax on how it just casually outran Omnimon to a portal and that Omnimon could not follow him. If it’s so easy to just make a portal and escape, then I don’t see how any of the villains are ever captured. It’s such an overpowered escape option. I wasn’t expecting to see Omnimon show up though so even if he didn’t look great, it was a nice homage to the rest of the continuity.

The soundtrack isn’t so good, but that’s just the price of subbed Digimon vs dubbed most of the time. Tri did have a pretty good battle theme at the end though so there is always a chance that more Digimon films will follow its venture into greatness. I’ll never get used to the really soft Digievolution theme though, it just doesn’t fit with the action that’s happening on screen. I need hype and intensity!

As always, Rika had a pretty good subplot here. Hers started out with a good amount of action and Renamon continues to prove that she is a very reliable partner to have. Rika’s easily the most likable out of the three main characters of Tamers so I was glad that the film was able to get her into the main plot by the end. Henry’s just around and at least he gets to help I suppose. It was awfully convenient of him to also be in the general area, but that’s Henry for you. He’s always around when needed and will give you some support….you do need someone stronger if you want to win though.

I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of the side plots and less of the main one. Takato’s cousin just isn’t a very interesting character and there’s not much that he or his grandpa can contribute to the story. They’re really just here for pep talks and to remind Takato that he’s a pretty tough guy. It’d be more moving if they were big characters from the show or actually had a Digimon.

I wasn’t crazy about the island as a setting, but the film was still pretty interesting. I wouldn’t say that the pacing ever completely died. It may not have been as eventful as the previous films and had a more laid back approach, but that was probably intentional with the island backdrop. The stakes never got as intense as the Diaboromon films, but then again…how do you top those? It just operates as a fun little side adventure where the heroes had to combine their might with a cool super attack. Nothing fancy, but a chance to see some good fights and reconnect with the characters. If not for the dog scenes, I’m sure this would have gotten a casual 7 or maybe a high end 6. So that means if you can get past the dog moments, then you can enjoy this film.

Overall, I cannot get past them so the film was doomed. I like to think that a plot like this won’t surface again though because seriously, what are the odds right? At most we’ll have a plot about a Digimon dying and everything which Tri is possibly looking to do, but that’s a lot more acceptable. It’s like how Goku dies or if you want a more serious example, Mami from Madoka. It’s pretty emotional, but in a more legitimate way and I can work with that. A tragic death with no other purpose to be tragic like Eren’s Mom from Attack on Titan is another story, but that’s a topic for an editorial someday. I’m one step closer to watching all of the Digimon films with this and with Tri Part 2 coming relatively soon, the Digimon experience continues on.

Overall 4/10