Tag Archives: Asian

Merantau, Indonesian movie (2009)

I was introduced to the martial arts movie genre, by watching old Jackie Chan movies. Really, the guy is amazing, and whether or not you like his movies, I don’t think anyone can dispute his skills. Pretty much every martial arts movie I watched in those early days, had it’s origins in Hong Kong. However as my interest in those movies grew, I slowly began to discover that there were other countries that also made some very high quality martial arts films. Indonesia is one of those countries, and it turned the genre upside down with the phenomenal movies The Raid, and The Raid 2. The star from those two films is a man named Iko Uwais. One of the things I tend to do when I really like something is to find out as much as I can about it, or in this case the actor. To my surprise Netflix had one of Iko’s earlier movies on offer, and it turned out to be a hidden gem.

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Take it to the bridge….

In Merantau, Iko plays the role of the young man Yuda who is an expert in Silat, a form of martial arts. Yuda lives with his mother and his older brother in the peaceful  countryside. One day however Yuda leaves his home to go on his Merantau, which can best be described as a kind of journey to seek out experience and succes. His plan is to teach Silat to the children of Jakarta, and become a better man by doing so. When he arrives in the city, he soon discovers that things are very different from the countryside. What’s more while enjoying a relatively peaceful meal, his wallet gets stolen by a young boy. Yuda gives chase, and manages to catch the would be thief. Not long after the boy’s sister, Astri, appears who is found arguing with her boss Johnny. When Astri is struck in the face by Johnny, Yuda comes to her aid. From this point on things are beginning to go very wrong. A ruthless human trafficker called Ratger, will stop at nothing to get Astri back, and the only one standing in his way is Yuda. But Yuda finds himself outnumbered as Ratger has an enormous amount of henchmen at his disposal, that soon give chase. Will Yuda be able to save Astri, or will his efforts be in vain?

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Don’t look into his eyes unless you want to be brainwashed. 

This movie is a fine example of a film that I expected absolutely nothing from, but which turned out to be an enormous surprise. I thought this would be a fairly standard action flick, with maybe one or two good fight scenes, but not much more on offer. I was completely wrong. The biggest surprise to me in this film, was the amount of touching moments it contained. Yes, this is an actionmovie, but the story itself, while nothing really unique, contains some genuine heart. This is in part because of the amazing chemistry between the two lead actors. Iko really shows that besides martial arts he can also act and his scenes with Sisca Jessica who plays Astri, are some of the best parts of this film. The villain of this movie is played by Danish actor Mads Koudal, and he does a great job in portraying a pretty psychotic human trafficker.

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She does have a second eye beneath her hair, no worries. 

But ofcourse a martial arts movie stands or falls with it’s fight sequences, and it is also in this department that it truly shines. We have some seriously amazing fight choreagraphy on display here, and it is hard to pick a favorite scene. Iko sometimes seems to be made of rubber the way he manages to twist his body in almost impossible positions. With all the positive things on offer the movie does lose a bit of credibility near the end. There is one scene in an elevator that really goes way over the top, and is completely unbelievable. But that one scene wasn’t enough to spoil the film though. For everyone who is a fan of martial arts movies, and wants to experience something slightly different from what this genre usually has to offer, I recommend seeing this one. It is a high speed train ride that never lets up, but also doesn’t forget to put some heart into the storyline.

I give Merantau a 8 out of 10 score.

 

The Precipice game, Chinese movie (2016)

I think everyone has a bucketlist. Or to rephrase, a list of things that you want to do before you die. One of the things on my list is to make a cruise. I don’t even care about the destination, but just to be on board a big ship and enjoy the voyage itself, is just something I would love to do some day. As with most things, it is all a question of finding the correct time for it, but it is not something that’s totally impossible. If I do get to go aboard one day, I hope it will not be the same experience that the people in this movie had. Or honestly the experience that I had while watching this one. But let’s not go full steam ahead yet, but start with the story of the movie first.

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Did you just steal my phone? 

Liu Chenchen is a woman who works in a hospital as a surgeon. Her mother always seems to interfere with her life, especially when it comes to her choice of boyfriends. As is usually the case with things like this, she doesn’t really care about the opinion of her mother. Especially not now, since she is very happy with her current boyfriend Yu Bingchuan. When she meets up with him, after brushing off her mother, he has a big surprise for her. He has won two tickets for a Sky Line Adventure Cruise, and they can even win a big sum of money. Liu doesn’t have to think twice about this, and soon the couple board the enormous ship on which the contest is about to take place. Strangely enough there seem to be only four other passengers besides themselves. Not long after their departure, the game begins. But it is a very different game than what they expected. Soon people begin to die, and Liu has to find a way to stay alive aboard a ship that is filled with deadly traps, and a very sadistic host….

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It’s best not to shed to much light on this movie. 

A movie such as this could really have been pretty interesting. Even though the story isn’t incredible original, if done well it could have provided some mindless horror fun. Observant readers might already have noticed the choice of words I have used and fear the worst. And you would be right. This really wasn’t a very good movie. First off we have the acting. Most of the actors in this film just weren’t very good, but that might also have to do with the incredibly cheesy lines of the script. The only two actors that at least did a passable job were Lin Xinru as Liu Chenchen, and He Rundong as Ye Qing. This last character was the best one from the movie in my opinion. Ye Qing starts off as a bit of a gruff person, but eventually turns into a hero with the heart of gold. The rest of the cast was just truly forgettable, and the way some of them screamed in fear, sounded like a teakettle blowing of some steam. Truly cringeworthy.

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And, action! Now,all of you look in fear…..erm….never mind….

The sets were okay, and some of the traps that were on board the ship reminded me a bit of the ones found in the infamous Saw horror franchise. Despite a few rare occasions, the movie just wasn’t really terrifying at all, something I do expect to find in a horror/thriller movie. However just when I was about to write off the movie as a total loss, a rather interesting twist occurred at the end. It wasn’t enough to save the movie, but it was something I did not expect and as such it at least gave it some points back. All in all though, this film was just not very entertaining. With bad acting, and a pretty lackluster script, this movie had best sink to the bottom of the ocean. A real shame as the movie did have some potential. There are worse movies out there for sure, so it’s not a complete loss, but I can’t really recommend this film though.

I give The Precipice Game a 5 out of 10 score.

Kids on the slope, Anime tv series (2012)

One of the more fun things that I have experienced lately is doing watch-a-longs for animeseries that are featured on other blogs. It all started with the incredible Your lie in April, that I watched because of the rewatch feature over on Weekend Otaku’s blog. Not only was the series itself worth it, what made it an even better experience was sharing thoughts on each episode with Weekend Otaku and other bloggers. And so it was that I was delighted that another blog that I have always had a high respect for, started a watch-a-long as well. I’m talking about Hazelyn who has an absolutely wonderful blog called Archi Anime. If you are not yet following her, please stop reading, subscribe, and then come back here. Just kidding ofcourse, but trust me when I say that her blog is amazing, has seriously cool features on anime, and some truly unique things you don’t find on other blogs. All very good reasons to subscribe I would say. The watch-a-long she organised was for the delightful animeseries Kids on the slope.

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That is one way of getting someone to shut up. 

Kids on the slope tells the story of Kaoru Nishimi, a student and classical pianist that has never been fully confident in his own abilities. He has moved around quite a lot in his young life and as such has never really fitted in. Having just arrived at a new highschool, he fully expects to have yet another year in which he will experience lonelyness and being bullied. But then he meets the bad boy of the school Sentaro Kawabuchi. The two of them could not be more different, but still an unlikely friendship between the two of them begins to take shape. Even though Kaoru is mainly a classical musician, Sentaro introduces him to the world of jazz music. From this point forward things begin to change in Kaoru’s life. But when he falls in love with the beautiful class president Ritsuko Mukae, who is also a good friend of Sentaro, tensions begin to mount. Will his newly found first real friendship end in disaster?

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Stay way from me or these sticks will hurt you, I’m not kidding around. 

Kids on the slope is a beautiful and heartwarming anime, that I highly enjoyed. It is the story that really drives this series, and themes like friendship, love and music all blend together in a terrific cocktail. I’m not even a big fan of jazz music, but you can’t help but get excited when Kaoru and Sentaro play together. It has resulted in a few great scenes that for these alone make the series well worth the watch. But it are themes like friendship and lonelyness that are really handled incredibly well in this show. Even though there are some pretty dark moments in this anime, these are always alternated with some great feel good scenes. The animation style and setting for the series was quite unique. It was almost dreamlike, and at times even felt a bit like watching a very old but also highly modern animeseries. One only has to look at some of the screenshots that I have provided to see what I mean.

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I love watermelon as well, but this seems like overkill.

The characters of this series are kind of a mixed bunch. Kaoru, the main character, is someone you will have a love/hate relationship with. There are certain actions that he takes that will have you fuming with rage, and at other times you can’t help but feel sympathy for him. The kindhearted Ritsuko is definitely not without her flaws, but she is very important to the story. Sentaro however is the one that I liked the most. Pretty much every scene he appears in was fantastic. His at times very angry attitude, hides a truly kindhearted soul, that cares deeply for his friends. All in all it was wonderful to see the relationship develop between these three characters.

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Piano vs drums, not sure if that is such a good idea. 

This anime certainly won’t be for everyone. For one thing certain episodes did feel kind of slow, and there are a few moments in this series that were a bit confusing. But these events were definitely not enough to spoil the overall appeal of this one. The way the story is eventually wrapped up, is one of the best endings for an animeseries that I have seen to date. I really had a great time watching this rather unique anime and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a great feelgood story. Last but not least I want to thank Hazelyn for bringing Kids on the slope to everyone’s attention and organising this great watch-a-long.

I give Kids on the slope a 8 out of 10 score.

 

Train to Busan, Korean movie (2016)

I guess pretty much everyone that loves movies knows that there are certain genres that have so many films in them, that it is hard to find something that stands out or is original. Take superheroes for instance. While the Marvel movies are still highly entertaining, I have to admit that the formula for these films is starting to get a little bit predictable. Supposedly the new Wonderwoman movie is a fresh wind (Yes I know this is a DC movie) and tries to do things in a different way. I will see that for myself in the coming weekend, when I will finally be able to see it in the theatre. Another moviegenre that has become highly saturated is the zombiefilm. But just when you think that you have seen everything, there comes a film that is so incredibly good, that you start to believe that luckily there is still originality left. And I am not talking about a Hollywood movie either. No, I am talking about a zombiemovie made in Korea, a country nor really known for making these kind of films. So all aboard? Then lets get started with the review shall we?

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Has nobody ever told these people that walking on the train tracks is dangerous? 

Seok-woo is a fund manager that takes his work very seriously. He is divorced and is taking care of his young daughter Soo-an. Because of his work though, he at times neglects his daughter, and for instance forgot about her singing recital. Soo-an’s birthday is coming up soon, and she wants him to take her to Busan to see her mother. At first Seok-woo declines, but feeling guilty about missing her recital, he eventually changes his mind and decides to take her anyway. Soon they board the train that is going to take the two of them to Busan. But when a strange woman enters the train at the last possible second, things take a horrible turn for the worse. The woman is infected with something that has turned her into a bloodthirsty zombie. Soon other people on the train become infected, and not before long everything slow starts to go straight to hell. For Seok-woo and his daughter Soo-an, the ride becomes a struggle for survival. Together with a few other passengers they are in for the fight of their lives…..

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Baseball practice these days is serious business. 

To say that this is just another horrormovie would be a grave injustice. Because this movie is so much more. One of the best things in this movie are it’s characters. Seok-woo played by Gong Yoo is a character who is not without it’s flaws, but that is what is making him so human. The role of his daughter, played by child actress Kim Su-an is the one that impressed me the most. For a child so young to be able to conjure up this much emotion and act so believable is a feat that few actors are able to achieve. She pulls it off though and then some. But the rest of the cast is equally good, most notably Jung Yu-mi who plays a pregnant wife, and Ma Dong-seok who plays her husband. Each and every character in this film has his or her own story, and that is why you really care about what happens to them, something that is very crucial in a movie such as this.

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I think there might be a sales event at the shopping mall, probably the reason why everybody is in a rush. 

This movie doesn’t waste any time in cranking up the tension. Right from the start the film is a rollercoaster ride, that doesn’t let up for one second. Action and horror lovers alike will get their fill, as there are plenty of scenes that will satisfy fans of both these genres. This being a zombie movie there is ofcourse some blood, but it doesn’t get incredibly gory like for instance in The Walking Dead. This movie is more about creating a tense and creepy atmosphere than spilling buckets of blood. But the main reason this movie works so well is the underlying story. It really shows what some people become if something like this were to happen for real. Some of them become brave, others cowards and still others just plain and simple very evil. And that’s what made this movie such a fascinating watch.

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Yep….getting out of there seems like a very good idea. 

As most of you that have been following my blog for a while now know, I am an enormous lover of Asian cinema, especially Korean films. Having seen quite a few of them I can honestly say that this movie is the best Korean movie that I have seen to date. With terrific and at times heartbreaking acting, a great story and equally fantastic action scenes and special effects, this movie is one you can’t afford to miss. If you love The Walking Dead, horror and action movies I highly recommend checking this movie out. Especially if you want to see a different kind of zombiefilm. It may not be the best zombiemovie ever made, but it comes pretty darn close.

I give Train to Busan a 10 out of 10 score.

 

Special Features Presents: Animecon 2017, part 2

Hello everyone, welcome to the second part of my report from Animecon 2017, which I attended this weekend. You can find the first part right Here. Without further ado let’s gets on with the second part.

The food

Ofcourse it would not be a good thing to go without food for three days, and luckily the con as well as the hotel had plenty of great things on offer. I especially enjoyed the tasty udon flavoured cup noodles. They were absolutely delicious, and I helped myself to these twice. There was a lot of variety to choose from, ranging from homemade ramen to hamburgers and vegan food. There was something tasty for everyone.

Too much stuff to buy

I knew going into this con that this would definitely not be good for my wallet. And it really wasn’t, lol. I bought way too much stuff, but it was all definitely worth it. Besides the entire manga series of Battle Angel Alita, I got a lot of Animeseries on dvd, some new, some old, but all of them pretty cool. Yes I know, as if I did not have too much stuff to watch already. I also got a great modelkit for a Mobile Suit Gundam Wing classic guntank, which will be great to put together. All in all I have really gotten soms terrific new stuff, and I could not be happier with it.

What I saw: movies

Besides anime there were also a lot of Asian movies to watch. Just as with the anime on offer I had to make a choice as to what to watch, and these three films were the ones I eventually ended up seeing.

imageTrain to Busan

This was the movie that I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint. I had to stay up till three o’clock at night in order to see it, but wow was it worth it. This Korean zombie movie was a blockbuster back in it’s homeland, and it also became a huge succes worldwide. Suffice it say that for me it has been the best Korean movie that I have seen, and you can expect a review for this movie on my blog very soon.

 

 

 

imageGood Stripes!

The description for this movie said this was supposed to be a heartwarming  movie, that would leave no heart untouched. Well, I don’t know if whoever gave that description saw the same film that I did, but it was one of the most depressing movies that I have seen in quite a while. It tells the story of a couple that were about to break up, but end up staying together because the woman got pregnant. This film was really boring, and a great disappointment. Definitely wished I had avoided this one.

 

imageKen and Kazu!

The last movie I saw was Ken and Kazu! , which I highly enjoyed. This was a seriously brutal crime movie, but one that had a great storyline and some terrific acting. Ken and Kazu are lifelong friends, that make their living by drug smuggling for their boss. One day Kazu decides to start making money for himself, without their boss knowing this. This is the beginning of a violent spiral, that can only end in bloodshed. The two leadactors did a great job, and this film definitely stood out in the oversaturated Yakuza movie genre.

 

Final notes

To say that I had a great time this weekend is pretty much an understatement. I ended up seeing a lot of great films and anime, highly enjoyed all the things on offer, and the atmosphere was just terrific. My only regret was not attending any of the workshops that were organised. I decided to go for the movies and anime this year, but next year I’m probably going to turn this around and go to some of the workshops as well. My hats off to all the organisers of this con for making this such an entertaining weekend. I will leave you with a couple of pictures I took to give you an impression of this great weekend. As always thank you for reading and see you at the next post !

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Special Features Presents: Animecon 2017 Part 1

Hello everyone. As most of you that have been following my blog know, I have attended Animecon 2017 this weekend. To say that Animecon only focusses itself on anime would be selling it short. If I were to give a description for it, I would say it is more a celebration of all things Asian. Besides being able to watch a lot of anime, there are also all kinds of Asian movies to see, workshops to participate in, games to play, and a whole lot of other stuff. I have made this post to give you an impression of my weekend, and I hope you will enjoy reading it.

The Hotel

Animecon took place in The Hague, which is about a two hour drive from where I live. So in order to not travel back and forth the entire weekend, I decided to stay at a hotel. Normally this would be pretty expensive, but because of the con taking place, a special discount was granted. It was one of the most luxurious hotels that I have ever stayed at, and as you can see from the pictures above, the room itself as well as the view was pretty amazing.

Busy, busy, busy….

It was a very busy weekend with a lot of people attending. Checking in at the hotel took me almost 40 minutes, and getting in to the con itself also took me just about the same time. At least everyone was in very good spirits, and I got to admire a lot of cosplayers. The weather outside was luckily very good, so I honestly did not mind the wait.

What I saw: Anime

Ofcourse with a title like Animecon one should not be surprised that there was a lot of anime on offer. With four different movie theatres playing all kinds of different shows and movies at the same time, you had to make a selection. Down below is an overview of the anime that I chose to see.

imageMagic-Kyun Renaissance Episodes 1-4

This was a pretty fun series to start off with. For some reason it reminded me a bit of Harry Potter. It tells the story of a girl called Kohana who attends The Magical Arts High School. Upon her arrival she meets a number of people there, that throughout a variety of different arts can produce sparkles, a kind of magical effect. I don’t exactly know why, but I found this series to be quite enjoyable. It was beautifully animated, the characters looked great, and the story was pretty unique.

imageChaos;Child Episodes 1-5

This series seriously creeped me out. It was too bad they only showed the first 5 episodes because I could have continued watching this the entire evening. A massive earth quake destroys the city of Shibuya. Six years later the city has been rebuilt, and the survivors continue with their lives. But then a series of mysterious deaths begin to occur that happen to coincide with a string of murders that also happened six years ago. With genuinely disturbing imagery, and a very scary atmosphere, I absolutely loved this one.

imageThe Piano Forest

The Piano Forest was a very beautiful movie, that focussed on a young boy called Shuhei who moves from Tokyo to a smaller city. Shuhei’s dream is to become the best piano player in the world, but because of that he at first doesn’t fit in with his classmates at the local school. But then he comes in contact with the young boy Kai, who lives in the Red Light District. Kai also plays the piano, but in a nearby forest on a mysterious piano that only he seems to be able to get to work. A friendship is soon formed between the unlikely pair, but one that does not come easy. Although this movie was pretty slow, the story was very engaging, and just a great watch from beginning to end.

imageBubblegum Crisis OVA 1-3

This was old school anime at it’s best. A series that was made back in the 80’s, it has influences from classic movies like Blade Runner. It tells the story of four girls who make up the Knight Sabers, who fight crime in a future city in high powered exo suits. With blasting 80’s rockmusic, a great atmosphere, and a classic animation style, this was great to see back again after all these years.

 

 

And that’s it for the first part of this report. Join me again on the second part, where I will talk about the Asian films that I have seen this weekend. Also I will be showing you some of the great food on offer as well as the new things that I bought (and trust me when I say that my wallet was pretty empty after this weekend lol). As always thank you for reading, and I hope to see you back for part 2, that will be published later today.

 

Hundred, Anime tv series (2016)

I guess everyone can relate to the fact that for every good anime series that is out there, there is always a crappy counterpart as well. A series that you want to stop watching altogether, but still continue with anyway because you at least want to see how it ends. I usually watch Animeseries two at a time (though recently that has expanded to at least five or six simultaneously). At the same time that I was watching the beautiful series Yuri on Ice, I was watching this one as well. To say these series could not be more different from each other, is probably an understatement. But not only in terms of story, but also in terms of quality. Because wow, this series was seriously bad, even though it also had it’s moments. But let’s first see what is going on in this anime, before I start tearing it down.

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I guess I could make some kind of comment about this picture, but I am choosing not to.

In Hundred it’s that time again where the Earth is besieged by giant monsters, and a handful of brave souls have to counter the beasts in order to save the world. The monsters in this anime are called Savages. Nobody quite knows where they came from, but it is enough to know that they appeared out of nowhere and started laying waste to the Earth. But, oh joy of joys, there is a weapon that can counter these mysterious beings known as Hundred. This weapon is wielded by the so called Slayers, specialised men and women who are able to use the Hundred in a variety of ways. Hayato Kisaragi is one of the newest recruits that has enrolled in the marine academy ship Little Garden. But as everyone will soon find out, he is no ordinary recruit. And just who is his strange roommate Emile Crossford that seems to know him from somewhere? All these mysteries and more will be solved, well at least if Hayato can survive a duel that he has just been challenged to by the most powerful Slayer onboard: Claire Harvey. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the lives of these three entirely different characters will soon be threatened like never before….

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There he is, the innocent pervert Hayato Kisaragi.

Ooohhhh…..this sounds exciting doesn’t it? Mysterious weapons, cool monsters, interesting characters…..erm, wait that last one isn’t correct, and I will soon get to that. In case you haven’t yet noticed this has got to be one of the most sarcastic reviews that I have written since starting this blog. Because quite honestly I can’t believe how the creators of this series have managed to turn this pretty cool concept into a such a total mess. Trust me on this, there are some things that I really did like. The weapon, Hundred, for instance is seriously awesome. Each Slayer wields the weapon in a different way, and as such it can turn into all kinds of different forms. Huge energy weapons, chains, even entire armours are all things Hundred is able to change into. Some of the fights between the Savages and Slayers are very cool to watch, and even the animationstyle is not bad either.

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Emile Crossford the only character that was somewhat fun, shows his anger at being cast in this anime.

Where this series fails however is in it’s characters and the very immature boobjokes, that seem to be a part of pretty much every single episode. Yes you read that correctly: boobjokes. Jokes about boobs, to turn it around. In almost every episode we see main character Hayato accidentally fall over a woman and grab her breasts. If this would happen a single time, I could overlook it. But as this became a trademark of the series it quickly became very annoying to say the least. In one of the later episodes, we even spent about 5 minutes of an episode where Hayato is being urged by other girls to touch someone’s boobs. Seriously….what the f….no let’s not use that language here. The characters themselves also are almost complete airheads, with maybe the exception of Emile Crossford the only character that at least had somewhat interesting traits.

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Yep, that is a Savage, though technically it isn’t. Nope, not going to tell you why not, no spoilers.

To say that this series was a major disappointment, is putting it mildly. And it really is a shame, because the final 2 episodes of the series showed a glimmer of what the series could have been. But that was simply too little, too late. With some cool concepts, and a story that even though not very original, wasn’t overly bad either, this animeseries definitely could have been very good. Because of the shallow characters, and very childish pranks this series apparently found more important to showcase, we are unfortunately left with a very bad animeseries. And one that I think is best avoided no matter how much you like giant aliens crushing puny humans. Well, luckily I am already investing my time in two new animeseries that so far are well worth it. Rest assured that reviews for these will follow, but the titles for these I will keep secret for now. Hey, there has to be a little mystery at some point right? Meanwhile, you can enjoy this gem of a series. (Ahem)

I give Hundred a 3 out of 10 score.

 

Yuri on Ice, Anime tv series (2016)

Don’t believe the hype is a popular saying that seems to be correct in quite a few cases. If I remember correctly this line dates back to a Public Enemy song from the 80’s. It pretty much means that sometimes a film or show gets so much attention, that it is almost impossible to ignore, much less dislike it. Last year the animeseries Yuri on Ice exploded all over the blogging community and beyond. Pretty much every animeblog that I followed featured a post about it, some even had multiple posts, saying how good it was. I usually get very cautious when I see something like that happening. For one thing, the theme for the series did not appeal to me. What could be so much fun about a series that dealt with figure skating? For another I have seen so many examples of movies or tv series that got hyped but ended up being a major disappointment, that I usually try to avoid those.

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There is such a thing as getting over excited….

 

But in the end, my curiosity got the better of me, and I finally decided to give it a go. And I was spellbound by it….pretty much right from the moment when the opening tune of the series started playing I was hooked on this. So I guess in some cases you simply do have to believe the hype. Now when a series is loved by this many people, there is a certain pressure to do justice by it. I know a few of you have been saying they were really looking forward to this review. So to keep it in competitive iceskating terms, let’s see if I can bring in the gold medal by writing a good post for this one. This series definitely deserves it…..and really….no pressure, at all.

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It can really be lonely on the ice, but this is taking things to a whole new level 

Yuri on Ice tells the story of the 23 year old Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki. Yuri has pretty much decided to put his entire career on hold after a defeat in the Grand Prix final. He is unsure of what to do next, but decides to head back to his hometown to figure out his next move. While visiting with one of his childhood friends called Yuko, Yuri performs for her at a local ice skating rink. The routine he shows her is a perfect copy of the one from his idol the Russian figure skating champion Victor Nikiforov. To Yuri’s surprise the footage from his performance was secretly filmed, and made it’s way over to the internet. And then the impossible really happens: Victor shows up with an offer to become his coach. Will Yuri be able to revive his career with Victor’s help? With a fierce competition ahead, and rivals that lurk around every corner, the answer to that is by no means certain. Especially when there is another figure skater that ironically is also called Yuri, who is hellbent on stopping him from reaching the gold…..

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Really….you should take a breathmint, I am not kidding here. 

Now those of you that are not familiar with this series (and I doubt that there are many amongst you that are not), I can probably already see frowning. After reading the premise for this, you might be asking the same question that I did: How on Earth can this be exciting? Let me try to explain to you what makes this series so special. At the heart of this there is the relationship that develops between Yuri and Victor. Yes, these guys are both male, and yes they develop a bond that is definitely more than a simple friendship. Even though I am straight myself, I have never had any problems watching a relationship develop between two males. Really, what would the problem be? Unfortunately we are currently living in a society that does seem at times to take offense at that. To them I say: your loss! The heartwarming scenes that occur between Victor and Yuri are the absolute highlights of this series. It is all done in a very subtle and tasteful manner, and it is completely impossible not to smile when these scenes occur.

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I used to do this as well when I was a kid and did not want to go to sleep. 

Speaking of highlights the figure skating animation sequences for this series are absolutely amazing. The animation is fluid, the accompanying music breathtaking, and it all deserves multiple rewatches to take it all in. It is also hard not to get caught up in all the excitement, especially during the later episodes, when the real competitions start. At times I felt like I was watching the Eurovision Song Festival, as the anime manages to create an atmosphere that just urges you to cheer for Yuri when he is about to perform. This series is all about creating a feel good atmosphere, and in that it succeeds very, very well. The characters are diverse, likeable, but also have their flaws just like real life human beings. And that for me is what makes this anime so amazing. At times I forgot that I was even watching an animated show.

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You half expect a bull to come skating up the ice, all that is missing is the matador red cape. 

Were there no negative things to this series? Well, one might argue about a few small fanservice moments that were not necessary in my opinion. Also at times we get a few pretty abrupt changes in tone, turning it into a slapstick comedy. But these scenes were also part of it’s charm, and at times reminded me of Your lie in April. These are very minor issues however for a series that has been an absolute joy to watch. If for some reason you are feeling down on a certain day, I recommend watching this show. I guarantee that it will help you lift your spirits. If after all this you are still not convinced that this show is worth the watch, just try out the first episode. If you are not hooked after watching that, you probably won’t be. But I honestly don’t see that happening. This series is definitely a gold medal winner.

I give Yuri on Ice a 9 out of 10 score.

Blame!, Japanese (animated) movie (2017)

The Netflix original animeseries Knights of Sidonia, I had kind of a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand it has some very cool concepts, and definitely quite a few interesting episodes. On the other hand it also featured some very bland characters with little to no development of those said characters whatsoever. It is hard to get attached to a series in that way. I have done reviews for both Season 1 and Season 2 which you might want to check out if you are interested. This week Netflix has released a new animated feature made by the same people responsible for Knights of Sidonia. It is based on a 10 volume cyberpunk manga that was released in 1998. Has this movie been able to avoid some of the mistakes that were made in Knights of Sidonia ? Let’s find out shall we?

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Hi, my name is Killy and this is my gun. 

Blame! takes place in a very dark future, but it never becomes quite clear exactly where this story is taking place. A gigantic city that continues to expand and self replicate has been infected by a virus in the distant past. Because of this, it has decided that people should be wiped out. Pockets of humanity that are still alive struggle daily, scrounging for food and trying to avoid Watchers that are hellbent on killing everything. A small enclave of humans known as the Electro-fishers, are close to extinction. One of them, a girl named Zuru is out on a patrol trying to find food, together with a few of her companions. Unfortunately they are soon discovered by a Watchtower of the gigantic city, that unleashes a stream of enemies to kill them all. But then a mysterious stranger appears that manages to save them. Introducing himself as Killy, he says that he is human and is looking for people that have the Net Terminal Genes. With these, he might be able to stop the expansion of the city, and rescue humanity. But the question is if Killy’s motives are entirely noble, or if there is some darker purpose that he is working for….

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It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. 

Blame! has quite a few things that it does right. For one thing I really like the premise for this one. The story of an ever expanding city, that is totally focussed on wiping out humans is pretty cool. It created a very dark atmosphere that at times reminded me of the sci-fi classic The Matrix. The background designs, and animation are also pretty good. Even though at times it looked a bit like I was watching Knights of Sidonia, I thought it looked better than that series. Action wise there is a lot to enjoy as well. Killy has some pretty cool fight scenes, especially towards the end of the film, and those were highly entertaining.

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These people sure like to take every opportunity to show off their guns. 

Sadly though Blame! features characters that I really could not relate to at all. The only one that was remotely interesting was the main hero Killy, who looked very cool, but also had a dark and mysterious vibe to him that somehow worked. The rest of the cast though I could not care less about. In a post apocalyptic future, with people struggling daily, I think it would be very important to create a background for  your characters. But pretty much everyone in this movie seemed to made out of cardboard, without any kind of depth to them. And that for me was a major flaw that  made the movie at the end a bit of a forgettable experience. It was not a total waste though. As mentioned the concept itself is very cool, and there are enough scenes that are definitely worth watching. I just felt that this movie could have been so much better, and as such it was a wasted opportunity. Still, if you like dark cyberpunk science fiction movies, you might want to give this one a try. Just keep your expectations for it low.

I give Blame! a 6 out of 10 score.

Goblin, Korean Drama series (2016)

Who wants to live forever? Ever since I first saw the movie Highlander, about the immortal Connor MacLeod, I have always been wondering about that question. Yes, there are certainly some cool things about never having to worry about dying. But on the other hand, it also brings with it a lot of pain. The one thing that would hurt me the most would be to see everyone I care about pass on, while I continue with living. So, to answer the first question I began with: not me. And with that out of the way, I will start with my review for the Korean drama series Goblin, that focuses a lot on immortality.

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You really want to mess with me? 

Goblin starts in the past where we first meet up with general Kim Shin, who continues to be succesful on the battlefield for his king. After returning from another battle where he emerged as the victor, he is betrayed by the king who is jealous of his succes. Kim Shin is killed by his own sword, on orders of the king. However, instead of dying he gets reborn as an immortal Goblin, a protector of souls. The sword he was killed with, pierces his chest, and can only be removed by the woman who will be his bride. Once that happens, he will finally be able to move on to the after life and find peace. After having lived for 939 years, he might finally have found that woman in the form of the lovely highschool student Ji Eun-tak. But Ji Eun-tak also has a very troubling past, and a secret of her own: she can see ghosts. Kim Shin, meanwhile has found a kindred spirit in an amnesiac Grim Reaper, who guides souls to the afterlife. This is the beginning of a great, tragic but also very funny adventure….

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Really, there is no need to point out something so obvious. Yes that is a sword: duh!

First off an apology is in order to the wonderful Kay from Kdramakisses. I have promised to write this review for so long that it almost seemed it would never be finished. I finally managed it, so Kay this one is for you. (And go ahead and visit Kay’s blog while you are at it, the number 1 source for Korean dramaseries). Goblin is an absolutely heartwarming series, that is almost impossible not to like. The best thing for this series are it’s characters. Ji Eun-tak, played by the wonderful Kim Go-eun, is a character that I guarantee you will fall in love with. The acting portrayed by Kim can’t even be called acting. It is so natural, that she simply convinces in every single scene. But the two male leads, Gong Yoo as Kim Shin and Lee Dong Wook as the Grim Reaper, are also one of the reasons you should watch this drama. Their comedic bickering, and warm friendship is an absolute delight to watch.

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You don’t know the joke about the Goblin and the Grim Reaper that hang out in a bar?

Goblin is a very unique series that mixes a lot of different genres together. When the series first begins, you would think this was going to be a big, bloody historical piece. But when the series moves towards the present it turns into kind of a comedic romantic drama with fantasy elements. Later on in the series, it shifts tones again, to include a few horror elements. This might put off some viewers, but I was not disturbed by it for a single moment. The humour for this show was absolutely terrific, and for someone like me, who usually doesn’t like comedy, that is telling a lot. There were a few scenes that literally gave me tears in my eyes from laughing. Don’t be fooled though this is definitely not a comedy. It is however a feel good show, even though there are also a lot of sad things that happen throughout the series.

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I forgot to mention this show includes a prequel to Titanic. 

The series runs for 16 episodes (18 if you include the two special episodes that focus on the making of the series), but not every episode was of the same quality. Especially during the middle of the series, I found the series to be a bit slow. Luckily the pace picked up again in the later episodes and it all ended in a pretty satisfactory way. Goblin became one of the most succesful Korean dramaseries ever made, passing even the recordbreaking Descendants Of The Sun, and it is hard not to see why. With a great and very unique storyline, fantastic characters, and a terrific atmosphere this series will leave you with a smile on your face once you finish it. And sometimes that is all you need.

I give Goblin a 8 out of 10 score.