Reviews written by registered user

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70 reviews in total 
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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
So after three years they're not sleeping together?, 14 January 2007

After three years from when the story starts Keiichi seems to have gained some self-confidence. He no longer acts like the fully put-upon good-natured doofus who first dialed a wrong number while ordering a pizza and ended up with the "goddess help line." He seems to have found his place at school and at the Auto Club where he is a featured driver and respected member, but his progress with Belldandy has gotten to a remarkable partnership but no more. Megumi, Keiichi's sister, remarks that "when those two are clicking they are unbeatable." No matter. Even Skuld, Belldandy's kid sister who was passionately jealous whenever the idea that Keiichi might actually consummate the relationship and take her big sister away, is reconciled to them being together. Urd, the next sister who also lives with them, has put in abeyance her schemes to get Keiichi to make moves on Belldandy. Everyone seems to feel that it is just a matter of time.

The movie wisely picks up where the series left off. Instead of focusing its energy on silly romance issues, it introduces a rebellious god assisted by an disillusioned fairy princess to set up a literal apocalypse which Keiichi and the three goddesses he lives with must battle not only to save the world, but each other and their relationship. For what started out as a silly story gets pretty serious.

There is almost nothing not to like about Ah My Goddess but what deserves special mention is the artwork and the soundtrack. The pictures are just beautiful to look at, and the characters so faithful to their personalities it almost seems like the DVD would be watchable without a story in it at all. At one point the goddesses sing an aria (with the help of their angels) that really sounds like it could have come from angels, and works in the story.

A must-see for any age.

14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
The Care and Operation of the Lethal 10-year-old, 6 January 2007

This outstandingly well drawn and beautifully set anime is centered on very peculiar fetish (or fantasy if you prefer) in the spirit of La Femme Nikita only ten years younger. In this variation, martially dominant men literally own very attractive young girls who have been altered with cyborg technology to be selfless, efficient fighting machines. They undergo "conditioning" that makes them totally dedicated and obedient to their handler, willing to defend them at any cost, and they will never grow old because their life spans are shortened to a few years. But they're working on that.

Although the title style has the phrase "… still an adolescent child" in fact it seems none of the girl-cyborgs except Triela has reached puberty. The rest of them seem to be 10 or less, and when Henrietta first sees that Triela is suffering from menstrual cramps, she un-resentfully explains that her own uterus had been removed during conditioning. Oy.

Disregarding any cases out there of full-blown misogyny, I suppose any male who has ever been even slightly frustrated by the female of the species should find something to like here in an ambivalent way.

Anyway, the point of all this is to create an urban combat force (you didn't think there was a peaceful reason did you) comprised of "fratellos" (or handler/girl-cyborg pair) to fight terrorism. To further shore up the shaky moral basis, supposedly all the altered girls were otherwise terminal patients if not fully willing participants in the process. It seems many of the missions they go on could have been carried out by the handlers themselves, and it would not be hard to argue that the "good guys" are a bigger societal problem than the bad guys are, but that doesn't matter because the fighting scenes are not the story.

What are interesting to watch is the differences between the handlers, the cyborg-girls, and the effect on their fratello relationships. In spite of the official line that the girls are now altered to the point where they are no longer human, and need no more human consideration than any other piece of combat equipment (well cared for, valuable, but expendable), some handlers subscribe to this and some do not. There is Jose, who dotes on his Henrietta and rewards her when she is not on mission, and at the other end there is Helsa's handler who is all business and is brutally dismissive of his charge. And there are steps in between.

Even more beguiling is how the girls act when they are together, which is usually hanging out around their dorm room. Aside from the weapons-maintenance tasks they do, they do normal things like laundry and hobbies and chat. Although they are supposed to be conditioned against having any emotions, they clearly do. Further, they discuss themselves and their conditioning in dispassionate but fully self-aware terms. They may suffer, but they do not resent. They may disagree, but they don't disobey. It is hard to describe.

One of the reasons to watch anime is that it can illustrate certain points of drama in ways that no other form of performance can. Gunslinger Girl manages to do this, and that makes it worth adding to any collection, and I hope there is interest in continuing the series.

"Noir" (2001)
7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Very good, the biggest flaw is its length, 24 December 2006

Although the artwork in Noir is not a style I prefer with its triangle chin and noses, and over-sized eyes, the strengths of this anime are its story and its ability to leverage emotional impact. Without difficulty this could have been fit into less than half the number of episodes that are on the seven DVD volume set since each episode reveals only a small part of the mystery, with frequent near-term and long-term flashbacks.

Mireille Bouquet is an assassin for hire that works alone, at least until a mysterious Japanese girl who has lost her memory shows up. She knows herself only as Kirika Yuumura, which she assumes to be a fake name. However it is obvious from the start that she is even more lethal than Mireille, who reluctantly takes her as a roommate because an artifact that Kirika possesses, a music-box watch with an iconic emblem on its cover that looks like a state seal more than anything else. The watch once belonged to Mirelle's father, who was killed with the rest of Mireille's family for reasons she has never learned.

To make her position clear, Mireille promises Kirika, "when all of this is made clear, I will kill you." Kirika accepts this without protest and even something akin to what appears to be relief. "I'll be ready," she says.

So the girls are in the business together, with the leggy, blonde Mireille in the lead and Kirika doing most of what she is told. Although I am no expert, but it would seem to me that if you are an assassin and you continually get into pitched gun battles with dozens of better-armed foes it might be a sign to question whether you are doing it right. Even if you always win. Mireille's favorite working outfit is a scarlet blouse and black miniskirt with a slit up to the waist, which looks good but is hardly practical. Kirika dresses less flamboyantly but you have to wonder just where do those girls carry all those extra ammo clips? Further, if your life depends on your anonymity why would you go about your work dressed so conspicuously? The music track is slick and sophisticated, but it gets ruined by repetition. The first few times you see action scenes with the themed aria, a Latin verse or two that feels like it has religious overtones to it, it works. After the 20th action scene with the same track playing you want to shut it off. The bad guys are almost always virtually lining up to get shot, being such bad shots themselves I suppose they want to get it over with. For all of that the fight choreography well done and fun to watch.

None of this ruins what is the real point of Noir, and that is the relationship between Mireille and Kirika and their mystery, with the introduction of several other strong women characters along the way. There is no sex or even simple nudity anywhere in the plot, which is a shame because although the writers obviously thought it would either cheapen the production or perhaps distract the story, it would have given more opportunities to break up the repetition that drags on too long.

Steamboy (2004)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Steam Boy? Steam Hammer is more like it., 16 December 2006

Who knew you could do all that stuff with steam? Watching this movie is an intense celebration of exuberant mechanical invention backed by obscure if not forgotten and perhaps irrelevant physics. So much so that the story about Dr. Lloyd Steam, his son Eddie Steam, and grandson Ray gets almost lost.

The drawings for the sets and the mechanical devices are so detailed that it would be easy to mistake some of them for photographs. It seems likely that many of them are tracings of actual photographs; if they are all actual organic drawings I would have a hard time deciding whether to laud the artists' dedication or to question their sanity. Apparently this animation took the better part of ten years to produce and it is easy to see why. Much of the ingenious machinery is shown in actual operation and a lot of it looks like it could actually work, assuming that steam carried as much energy as the imagination says it does. The main invention in the movie gives up all pretense of a connection with reality, which may mar the movie for some, but it does provide the central metaphor which is the only real engine of meaning in the story.

The setting of a pseudo-Victorian England is no accident. Steamboy makes much of the historical conflict between the industrialists/capitalists versus the traditionalists/royalists that happened about that time. The capitalists pretty much won then as they do here, and much of the story is the grappling between the Grandfather, Father, and Son. Grandfather and Father have staked out their positions pretty clearly, and it is up to Ray Steam, the grandson, to arbitrate the conflict and carry the resolution. Where Steamboy succeeds is that Ray comes up with no clear and simple answer, but still manages to go forward in his own unique way.

Maybe the most interesting character that didn't develop as much as she should have is the Scarlett girl, scion of the O'Hara (wink) foundation. She is introduced as a little brat-bitch, and the way she treats her dog doesn't help. She does go through something of a growth and awakening as the story goes on, but in the middle of all the action/danger/rescue there just isn't much time to see if she becomes something much more than what she was. She is of course used for some comic relief which is badly needed.

Professional reviewers have pretty much given Steamboy low marks, but I don't think that is deserved. Yes there is perhaps too much action in it, but then again it is following the formula of a summer blockbuster. It does what it intends to, and does it as well as if not better than most live-action and animated movies that have been considered a success. A must for any animation collection.

6 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
So is there a point?, 13 December 2006

The story: The "Diclonius" – a mutated form of human with extra powers, is dangerous to humans but growing in number. Can they, should they, be contained and eradicated? Elfen Lied flinches at absolutely nothing. Some have written on IMDb that it is entirely predictable, but I disagree. One thing that cannot be predicted is what character lives and which dies. In most movies in general (not just anime) you can tell right from the start who will finish the movie.

For example, right in the opening minutes the play develops typical clumsy and cute secretary, who always spills the tea and takes pratfalls. Most often in anime a character that has that much attention paid to her would bumble her way through the whole story, often in danger but never getting hurt. Not so here. She has her head torn off right after a typical pratfall as quickly as you got to know her.

This happens often. To innocents, good guys and bad guys. One young girl – a central character no less -- has all four arms and legs torn off.

So what else gets served up? It just gets started with the decapitation and dismemberment of anonymous soldiers and office workers. Once the storyline gets going you get to watch child torture, child rape, child murder, an innocent puppy bludgeoned to death, and many additional casual abuses of both humans and non-humans. One of the more disturbing scenes is a young nude Diclonius (to appearances a 9 year old girl) is chained to a wall where shells are fired at her head. It is up to her to deflect them with her powers, but she is scared and pleads for them to stop. They don't, and instead increase the power until one gets through and kills her. "270 joules," says one of the scientists. "I guess that's the limit." So back to the original question, is there a point to all this? The answer is a tentative yes, although the point could have and perhaps should have been made less forcefully and you really have to question whether it was worth it.

All the gore, violence, and cruelty is jarringly contrasted against all the elements of a typical anime romance/comedy. Yuka, a pretty and inoffensive cousin of Khota, has a thing for him and inclined to jealousy and hurt from the fact that he can't remember a childhood promise he had made to her. She doesn't know the whole backstory, and her romance with Khota is sidetracked with his penchant for taking in young stray girls in need of refuge.

The first such is Lucy, who unbeknownst to Khota and Yuki is a dangerous (but not the most dangerous) Diclonius creature who had escaped from the shop of horrors described above. She has reverted to an intermittently infantile state, and they take her in and care for her. However the shop of horrors wants her back and shows no restraint in what they will do in pursuit of that, including using other Diclonius as weapons. Much mayhem abounds.

The messages are all pretty blunt if not clear: There are no good guys, or they are worse than the bad guys. Innocence is surrounded by evil. Evil is often beautiful (this last point is most vividly seen in the truly interesting artwork in the opening credits and the music score) but is still evil. It will be up to the viewer to say whether it is all worth it.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A Gothic keeper, 23 November 2006

It would be easy to overlook this because the characters are based on a video game, yet here is a remarkably good Gothic novel successfully set in an urban Japanese backdrop. Shiki is a member of the Tohno family, which has more than one dark secret to conceal on the grounds of the imposing family mansion. Shiki and his younger sister are the only family members left, and at the beginning of the story he is moving back into the mansion after being gone for years (a classic Gothic plot device that serves well here).

In spite of being younger, the sister Akiha is a severe authority figure, having been named the heir due to Shiki's infirmity. Although she lays down draconian house rules and coldly upbraids Shiki when he doesn't exactly toe the line, she is also remarkably and obviously caring, and warms considerably as the story goes on. Of course, she has her own secret to keep, and she is made even more interesting in that she still puts on a schoolgirl uniform (ubiquitous in anime) and shepherds herself off to school.

Shiki gets off to a slow start, confused and passive, but as with the best anime characters he gets more self assured as the story unfolds. The events at the start of the story seem clumsy and confusing rather than mysterious, but eventually enough is explained, and enough is left unexplained to sustain the mystery. He meets a mysterious and beautiful woman named Arcueid Brunestud (great name), who really is an 800-year-old vampire on a quest. She draws him into the danger, and although he is reluctant he ultimately finds a plausible moral justification for continuing as an active player.

The other major player is Ciel – more secrets there as well, who was at one point a mortal enemy of Arcueid but now has a wary coincidence of interests with her former foe. The interaction between these two is worth watching.

What makes a good Gothic work so well are the secondary characters offered as part of the story. There are the two servant girls, twins that are eerily loyal and discreet and who, of course, know far more about what is going on than anyone else. Then there is Shiki's classmate and only male friend, Inui, who is both self-assured surprisingly insightful when needed. There is also Satsuki, another classmate who wants to be Shiki's girlfriend.

So Shiki finds himself at the center of attention of four women who each have a different interest in him. It could be a setup for a comedy, but Shiki is not a comical character and treats each with consideration and seriousness.

Although a somber story from start to finish, TLL does provide some humorous moments, mostly around the ill-fated day at the amusement park where all of Shiki's women are gathered in one place for the first time and all their conflicts come to the surface. For me this is where the story starts to turn really interesting, where we see Achimed and Ciel talking over their situation rather than threatening each other.

The artwork in this anime may lack some detail, but it is pleasingly well crafted. Arcueid is presented as a head-turning femme fatale and her general features are consistent with that, she looks almost dowdy with her short haircut, mid-calf skirt and loose turtleneck blouse. Thankfully, there are no cartoonish distortions to depict sudden emotions. Much of the story's violence happens in shadow or off camera, making the most of the power of suggestion. The production doesn't need or indulge in fan service; none of the women are exposed immodestly even during the gratuitous bath scene. There is sexual tension, but it is handled adeptly. This could have been shot as a live-action movie with relatively few special effects, but it is quite effective as it is.

There are a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the last episode, which I believe to be by design rather than by neglect. The fact that the viewer cares to even ponder the questions is a sign that the storytelling has done its work. This is an excellent example of how anime is being used to create interesting drama.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Exciting, slick, complex and go see it already!, 12 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We all like action-adventure with a strong-minded, quirky heroine at the center of it. R.O.D. the TV serves up three. Make that four, maybe six. Start with the three who are the "Paper Sisters," (Michelle, Maggie, and Anita) who make their living taking odd jobs that sometimes utilize their odd powers as "Paper Masters." They have the ability to use ordinary paper to do extra-ordinary things, apparently defying physics and bad guys with the same sweep of the hand.

The story goes on for 7 DVDs and I would be perfectly happy for 7 more. It gets started with the Paper Sisters being hired to be first a tour guide and then a body-guard for Nenene, an acclaimed author who has not published anything for four years. The ditzy girls start out making a complete hash of everything, infuriating Nenene and being more of a burden than a help. It turns out that this was part of the plan of Nenene's long-suffering editor, who thought that the activity might yank his barren author out of her funk. It works, but not in a way anyone could have predicted. Saying any more of the story would just be a spoiler.

Michelle and Maggie worship Nenene. Not so Anita, who doesn't like books or authors, and Nenene refers to Anita most of the time as "brat." The sisters follow Nenene back to Japan and end up imposing themselves on her, living with her in spite of the fact that she doesn't want a bodyguard. Nenene is fairly ungracious given the fact that the sisters save her life on more than one occasion.

Some have mentioned that the pacing of the plot has been a problem. I could not disagree more. If the expectation was nonstop explosions and martial arts, then look elsewhere. If you want balanced action and realistically developed characters, this is where you should be. Every episode is entertaining, but not just the same thing over and over again. The story arc works, even if it seems to take obscure turns now and then.

It is worth remarking on that the characters and story is strong enough that none of the women in it seem to have any need for male love interests. Instead, they form intense bonds with each other. Only the youngest, Anita, cultivates a boyfriend (to the premature delight of Michelle) and she considers herself too young for anything serious. Still, it isn't too hard to imagine any of them to ultimately be romantically involved. The story just simply doesn't need it and the message is that the women simply don't need men to complete them. That's something young girls who might watch this need to see more of.

The result generates memorable characters that work together. Anita is the spirit, Nenene is the intellect, Maggie is the backbone, Yokimo is the conscience, and Michelle is the heart (in the Western sense). All need each other, and lend each other what they have.

This aspect is so pronounced that someone must have noticed; at one point the story takes time out to let Nenene explain that no, she is not a lesbian. Still, it is curious as to why she seems to have emotionally collapsed with the disappearance of Yokimo Readman, the character from the OAV ROD, an event that happens four years before this story starts.

The animation is first rate, clean edged and smooth. Viewers of action have long been used to choppy action scenes which are a series of stills that are panned across with a rushing background. There is none of that in ROD. The Paper Sisters don't leap into action so much as flow into it. The marquee action shot where Michelle, skirts and hair waving in the sudden storm kicked up by her sisters, draws her bow and makes her shot with a serene look on her face is a scene you can rewind and play over again just because it is so fun to watch. That is only one of many scenes like that.

Also on the subject of artwork is the very astute use of color, which takes a while to recognize. The very complex colors used never seem to be picked by accident, for both the characters and the background. Anita is gem-colored (her hair is nominally "pink" but appears ruddy orange when the lighting is suited to it), Maggie is solid earth-toned, and Michelle is usually an ethereal blond and white. Nenene and Yokimo look like the books they represent. Much of the high-tech or low-tech backgrounds (office buildings, secret laboratories, school) also get tone treatments that deserves credit. As with most high quality anime these days, they get a lot of mileage with shadows and indirect light, setting the mood and leveraging suggestion rather than forcing depiction.

This is the first 10-star anime I have seen from somewhere other than Studio Ghibli. I hope there will be many more. Buy it, rent it, borrow it. Just don't cheat yourself out of seeing it.

Read or Die (2001) (V)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Breaking the Formula, 24 July 2006

Yokimo Readman just loves her books, and she has thousands. She coos over them, cuddles them, and absorbs herself so fully in in reading them she can literally let a five car pileup crash by her without noticing.

And she has a curious superpower. She's a "paper master" that can make paper do all sorts of incredible things, like form barriers or bind things or cut through steel. So it is fitting that her spy code name is "paper." So she is a secret agent. Unlike the usual anime super-heroine, Ms. Readman doesn't ever shed her long skirt, vest, and glasses when doing battle with the bad guys. She stays her same cute-but-dorky self throughout, saying things like "give me back my book, please" from the super-villain that stole it from her even while he is trying to kill her. She leaves it to her colleague to wear the form-fitting spandex costume (which is, after all, obligatory).

The storytellers in this movie have an excellent sense of subtlety, even while they indulge in the usual action-adventure excesses. There are a few worthwhile reflections on the nature of the historical figures that are cloned and brought back to life as part of the Evil Plot, but most of what is worth watching is Yokimo herself. Her first use of her power is so casually done that you would miss it if you blinked, but that fits with the character. Perhaps her most endearing moment is when she admits that as much as she treasures her books, she knows that real life is more important.

You have to see for yourself how believable it is when she takes on a homicidal samurai with a light saber on his side with nothing but a morphed dollar-bill for herself. For me, it worked.

I am amazed I can give this DVD 9 stars while still finding what should be a fatal flaw. The passion of the character is for books, but never once does the story depend on something that she read in all the thousands of books she is supposed to have read. Leaving this out reduces Yokimo's driving characteristic from a powerful plot device to a simply amusing fetish, which is a shame. And there is something to be said for being a role model for the kids that can and should watch this. However, the story is fun enough that this can be overlooked and 9 stars is appropriate.

The artwork is slick, smooth, and convincing. The voice acting in both English and Japanese is superior. Sometimes the background details get washed over, usually in the machines of battle hardware, which is actually not unwelcome.

A note about the series: I found this DVD because I rented the first volume of "R.O.D. the TV" from Netflix, and liked it so much that I found this story was the prequel. So I canceled the entire series at Netflix and bought this DVD and the whole series of "R.O.D. the TV" just from that one sample. They are that good.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Lost its way early on and never found its way back, 24 July 2006

Probably the most interesting thing about this hard-to-recommend DVD is speculating about how it came about. I think the project started out more ambitious, albeit on a formula, but the creative impetus just wasn't there, or someone changed their mind halfway through.

There are two episodes, both featuring the same central character Chizuru Yoshida but other than that having nothing to do with each other. In the first story, she is a cold, hard manipulator of a teacher who unwisely lusts after her. In the second, she is inexplicably altered, diffident in outlook and somehow becoming totally confused by her own passing attraction to a new female classmate. The climax to the story (not the other climaxes which she has) is when she strives to rescue her newfound love interest from her jealous boyfriend bent on seduction.

So there's not much there there; it never develops and the character never convincingly develops. The artwork is so-so and the style caters to the type of male audience that equates boobs that are 1/3 the body mass of the owner with sexiness. (Bouncy bouncy.) I didn't bother to watch it in the Japanese version so I can't say if any of it was better there. Watch something else.

8MM 2 (2005) (V)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Really weak ending, 16 May 2006

This thriller's formula has been done so many times that you really have to be asleep to not see how it will turn out very soon in the movie. The story is so weak that the script resorts to having the manipulator in the story act "in character" even in scenes with no other characters in them. In other words, when there is nobody to manipulate except the audience. You can't write any more about it without writing a spoiler.

The visuals are pretty and sexy, and one would like to know more about Lori Heuring's character Tish. She does a good job balancing her conflicting emotions the story puts her through -- fear and curiosity and unwanted desires. Hers is the only thing that makes the movie interesting.

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