Tag Archives: Manga

Akira, Japanese (Animated) movie (1988)

It has been called one of the most influential films of all time. A movie that many feel is responsible for causing Anime to become popular in the Western world. Based on the Manga of the same name that consisted of more than 2000 pages, a lot of people still find this one of the finest anime movies ever created. I am ofcourse talking about the masterpiece called Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, the man that also created and wrote the manga. So why is this movie so incredible, and still after all these years a classic that has withstood the test of time very, very well? I will get to that question shortly, but let me first start with describing what this movie is about, for those that are not yet familiar with it.

image

In the year 1988 a strange psychic event occurs that completely obliterates the city of Tokyo. Soon after, World War Three starts, and Tokyo is rebuild into a new city called Neo Tokyo. The movie itself picks up the story right after these events. It is now the year 2019, and Neo-Tokyo has become a city with wide scale riots and motorcycle gangs that rule the streets. One of these gangs led by the young Kaneda, one night gets into a fight with another gang called the Clowns. During the fight one of Kaneda’s best friends, Tetsuo Shima, nearly runs over a strange boy who is right in the midde of the street. Crashing his motorcycle, Tetsuo is seriously injured and is taken to the hospital. Once there it soon becomes clear that the boy he nearly ran over, was no ordinary boy but someone who possessed strange psychic powers. And it appears that Tetsuo has now somehow also received these powers. Meanwhile Kaneda desperately searches for his friend, while being pursued by secret government forces. However Tetsuo’s powers soon begin to grow out of control, and the event that destroyed Tokyo so many years ago might repeat itself…..

image

It had been a very long time since I had last seen this movie, but seeing it appear on Netflix was enough to make me rewatch this film. And it is still every bit as powerful as when I first saw it. The animation for this movie is simply amazing. In every scene there are so many things that are going on in the backgrounds, that you will probably see new ones every time you watch this movie. With so many details presented in each frame, the city of Neo-Tokyo truly feels like it is a character itself.

image

And speaking of characters, that is one of the other highlights of this film. The young and somewhat cocky Kaneda, the hero of the movie, is someone that is incredibly hard not to like. He provides most of the comic relief in this film, something that is very much needed as this movie can at times be seriously depressing because of it’s dark themes. Kaneda’s quest to find his friend is at times heartbreaking, especially during the final parts of the movie where he is forced to make some really tough decisions. Tetsuo is a character a lot of people might relate to. A person who has always stood in the shadow of someone else, and now comes into possession of something truly incredible. The powers change him entirely and it comes down to that age old saying: “power corrupts”.

image

The story of Akira is very dark, and it certainly is not a movie for everyone. There are some very brutal and graphic scenes throughout the film, and it definitely established at the time that animation certainly was not only for kids anymore. It is amazing that a film that was made almost thirty years ago now is still such an incredibly powerful movie. It’s fantastic animation, thought provoking storyline and dark and tense atmosphere make this an absolute must see for every anime fan out there. Akira is a timeless classic and will still be worth seeing even after another thirty years from now.

I give Akira a 10 out of 10 score.

 

Ghost in the Shell, American movie (2017)

So, it has finally arrived. A movie that has been covered in controversy ever since it was announced that the lead for it would be played by Scarlett Johansson. Accused of whitewashing, this movie was doomed right from the start. Most diehard fans  announced they would be avoiding it like the plague, and it has already received quite a few negative reviews. But the question one really needs to ask oneself is can you keep an open mind after a movie has received such a bad reputation before it even appears in theatres? Everybody is saying it, so it must be the truth right? Well….wrong. I think a movie of any kind is a personal experience. I always judge a movie for myself, no matter how many reviews say it is good…or bad. And so it was for this live action version for the anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

image

The future. A young woman almost gets killed in a terrorist attack. Her original body is all but destroyed, but her brain survives and is transferred into a new high tech prostethic body. Henceforth she is known as the Major. Seeing the value of her and her new capabilities, the Major is transferred to the mysterious organisation called section Nine, by the people who rebuild her. Section Nine takes on a variety of missions to protect the society from dangerous individuals. It is not long before a new and mysterious cybercriminal appears known only as Kuze. It is up to the Major and the rest of section Nine to stop him. But just what does Kuze want? When a number of people get killed by him, Kuze soon begins to focus his attention on the Major. But she has her own struggles and is constantly questioning her humanity. When the truth comes out about Kuze’s real motivations, her whole world is turned upside down. A truth that is so horrible, that it might destroy her very soul….

image

Now let me just state for the record that I am a massive Ghost in the Shell fan. The Major has been and always shall be my favorite alltime animecharacter. As such I was very anxious about this film. Did the movie succeed in capturing the ghost of the original? Or would it just be another empty shell? Well I can say that it definitely succeeded in the first. The first thing that I really enjoyed about this film were the visual aspects of it. Director Rupert Sanders has created a hightech world that in many ways borrows and improves upon the world created in the scifi classic Bladerunner. It all is a true visual feast for your eyes, and it is one of those films in which you will discover new aspects of the fantastic CGI world they made, every time you watch it.

image

The original Ghost in the Shell anime had a multilayered storyline, with heavy underlying themes contained within it. This version has been stripped down and as such is easier to follow. It still has a few of the themes remaining, such as what really makes us human, but the best way to describe it is Ghost in the Shell light. Hardcore fans of the classic anime might be put off by this. I was not bothered by it in the least. I think it still manages to recreate the atmosphere of the original anime, while also putting a twist of it’s own in it. Many keyscenes of the animated version were recreated, and that was another thing that I really enjoyed.

image

And now ofcourse to adress the issue that has made the film so controversial. Has the casting of Scarlett in the role of the Major damaged the film? First off I have to say that she did a fine job of recreating this beloved character. She manages to recapture a lot of the aspects of the Major that make it such a great character in the first place. I do think that if the part had been played by an Asian actress, it would have captured the essence of the character better. Even though the film tries it’s best to feel Asian, it’s American roots do shine through in the movie. But to simply call it a failure because of that is just too harsh. As for the rest of the cast I felt they were a bit underdeveloped. Most of the rest of section Nine had minor roles, except for Batou played by actor Pilou Asbæk. This was pretty much the Major’s movie, and I was fine with that.

image

Needless to say I highly enjoyed this live action version of Ghost in the Shell. Was it perfect? No, there were definitely aspects to the film that might have been done better. But all in all this was a highly entertaining science fiction movie, that fans of the original anime will enjoy, except for maybe the real hardcore fans. The gorgeous visuals, a couple of truly spectacular action sequences, paired with a pretty good storyline make this a great movie for every science fiction lover out there.

I give Ghost in the Shell a 9 out of 10 score.

 

 

Attack on Titan Deckbuilding Game, A cardgame for 1-5 players, by Cryptozoic Entertainment (2016)

Most of you probably know by now that I really enjoy watching anime. Another thing that I like doing just as much is playing sci-fi and fantasy boardgames. I have been looking for a decent anime boardgame for quite a while now. There are a few of them out there, but most of these either aren’t any good, or are not based on an existing anime series. However things have finally changed with the arrival of a new cardgame, by publisher Cryptozoic Entertainment. What is even more awesome, is that it is based on one of my alltime favorite anime series: Attack on Titan. Now all we have left to do, is to find out if it is actually any fun to play, and if it manages to capture the atmosphere of the series.

Components

image

Now, this being a cardgame it will probably be not much of a surprise that the key components for this game are cards. Included within the box are 188 normal size gamecards, depicting various characters, Titans, locations and equipment from the show. Each player takes on the role of one of the main characters from the anime, and these are represented by 7 oversized cards (and if you are lucky enough to get the first printing of the game you get Hange as an extra bonus card). Also included are five cardboard tiles representing the walls, 7 (or 8) Hero standees, and a bunch of small tokens representing lifepoints for the Titans. Now these lastnamed tokens are very small, and I dare say a bit too small. As such you have to be careful not to misplace them, as they are definitely very easy to lose. This is a minor gripe though as the rest of the components really look very cool. The cards contain very clear imagery straight from the anime. Rounding out the set is a rulebook, that teaches the game in a very straightforward, but easy to understand way.

Game overview

image

The object of this game is to destroy four Arch-Titans that are picked randomly at the start of the game. The playing field is made up out of five walls that represent five different districts. Each player starts with a set of basic cards that allow you to buy new (and more powerful) cards to strengthen your deck, and cards that allow you to move through the different districts. And here is where things get interesting. Each district has an inside portion of the wall, where cards are placed that you can buy for your deck. These can be new weapons, powerful allies, or even new locations that allow you to do a lot of cool stuff. With each round and new card you buy, you will get a more powerful deck of cards, hence the name deckbuilding game.

And you are definitely going to be needing these cards, as there is also an outside portion of each wall. Three guesses as to which friendly beings might appear down there? Yes, ofcourse the Titans. Every time a new card gets drawn from the main deck of cards, this might be one of those monstrosities. A Titan has only one objective, to destroy the wall of a district, and make things even more difficult for you. Every time a  wall gets destroyed you lose a district, and all the cards that were still there for you to purchase. And trust me, these walls can come down pretty fast. The really big Titans can, if you are particularly unlucky, destroy a wall in one round. When all five walls are destroyed, you lose the game. (And one could argue humanity as well).

Gameplay can become very tense like this. You will continually have to make very difficult decisions. Do you take a risk and buy a new and powerful card that might come in handy, but by doing so leave a wall defenseless? Or do you play it safe, and patrol the outside portion of the wall, and defend against a new Titan that might appear. The normal Titans can go down fairly easy. But the four big Arch-Titans are an entirely different story, and require a lot of good cards to take them down and win the game.

Difficulty

image

This game is not very difficult to learn. Players who are already familiar with these sort of games, will find a lot of the mechanics similar to other deckbuilding games. That said, there also a lot of things that set this game apart from all those other deckbuilders out there. The travelling between districts for instance, is something that I found to be very unique, and really captured the spirit of the Anime show. When a new Titan appears, and your character races to the outside portion of the district to defend the wall, I could almost see the anime series in my mind. Great stuff! Even players who are not familiar with these type of games, will find no real difficulty in learning this game. Winning however, is an entirely different matter. So far I have only played this one solo, but this game can go downhill pretty fast. Especially when the first Arch-Titan makes an appearance, you will have to think quick and act fast in order to save the walls. Honestly though, I like a challenge, and I really enjoy games  that make it tough to win.

The Verdict

image

If you are a fan of Attack on Titan, you are going to love this game. One of the things this game does right, is capture the atmosphere of the anime series. The travelling between districts and defending the walls, is a very clever mechanic, and really captures the feel of this great show. I already love deckbuilding games, owning quite a lot of them, and this one really tries to set itself apart. In my opinion it succeeds in this mission. There are just enough different cards contained within this baseset to keep things interesting for now. In the future though, this game will definitely need some expansions, to add more variety to the game. Still for now, this game contains enough value for your money, and I highly recommend this one to Attack on Titan and deckbuilding fans alike.

I give the Attack on Titan deckbuilding game a 9 out of 10 score.

 

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Anime tv series (2016)

Everyone who is a fan of Attack on Titan is probably highly anticipating the release of the second season next year. (I know that I am one of them). Already pushed back once, it only increases the tension and hype for it. So, what usually happens when something is as succesful as Attack on Titan? You get people who want to hitch a ride on the succes train. In the case of Kabeneri of the Iron Fortress, the word train is taken a bit literally.

This Anime series takes place in a post apocalyptic world where a mysterious virus has transformed most of the human population into monsters. These creatures are called Kabane and can best be described as a kind of zombie, only much stronger. They are almost unstoppable, unless you manage to destroy their glowing hearts, that are protected by a layer of iron. What is left of humanity now lives in giant fortress stations, and are in constant fear of attack from the Kabane. To get around to other stations a number of steam powered trains have been created. In the series we follow the crew of one of these trains as they try to survive in this grim world. But then one day someone appears that might change everything….but is he is a saviour, or the one that finally rings the bell for the end of humankind….

This series has been criticized for being a clone of Attack on Titan. To be fair, yes there are definitely a lot of similarities between the two shows. Both series feature flesh eating creatures, a male and female hero, are set in post apocalyptic worlds, and even the soundtracks are pretty much the same. So yeah, I can relate to that. But to dismiss it just because of that, is in my opinion totally unfair. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress has a lot of good things going for it. The trains for instance, (see the example below) are just simply awesome. At times it reminded me a bit of the terrific movie Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans, that was released in 2013.

image

I also liked a lot of the characters, especially the young female hero Mumei, who although appearing pretty innocent, turns out to be a force of nature. This being a horror show, there is a lot of blood in it, pretty much the same amount as shown in Attack on Titan. Action lovers will definitely have a field day with this show, as nearly every episode has tons of well executed action sequences. As such there is, at times, little room for character development and that is one of the things that you might not like about this show. Honestly though, I can only say that I have enjoyed this series immensely. I loved the setting, action and briljant animation of this series. Sure, it might be a clone of Titan, but it is a very good one. If you want to watch something to help make the wait for season 2 of Attack on Titan a little bit more bearable, try this one out.

I give Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress a 9 out of 10 score.

Attack on Titan the Movie: Part 2, Japanese movie (2015)

One has to wonder why live action movies are made based on popular animation franchises. The obvious answer is ofcourse to make money (duh). But let’s really think about this for a bit. The fans of an animated show, be it an Anime or normal cartoon, watch it because they like animation. When I was a kid I grew up on shows like Transformers, Heman, Gi-Joe and all those other great cartoons from the 80’s. All of the aforementioned cartoons have had live action adaptations. Did I enjoy them as much as the original cartoon? The answer to that is a resounding no. Yes, I did enjoy the Transformers movies, but the 80’s cartoon is still better. And now that I am into Anime, we ofcourse have had a great number of live action movies based on those series. All of these, though at times enjoyable in their own right, still do not bring the same level of excitement as the originals. So I guess my first answer to the question I asked is still true: to make money.

With the second part of the live-action adaptation of Attack on Titan, my view definitely has not changed for this. This second part continues, after a short recap of part 1, pretty much where the first movie ended. Eren and his group are still trying to complete their desperate mission to plug the hole of the great Outer Wall. They are joined in their efforts by the mysterious captain Shikishima. But it soon becomes clear that Shikishima might have completely different motives than Eren. With the Titans closing in, and the danger becoming ever greater, Eren will have to dig deep into himself to find the courage to save humanity. But first he will have to deal with his own inner turmoil…..

Where the first movie at least had some things in common with the original Manga/Anime, this second part just about rewrites every single storyline. We get an origin story of the Titans that I found pretty hard to swallow. I don’t mind trying something new, but this is taking things just a bit too far. Still, there are some bright points to be found. There are a couple of pretty cool fight scenes between the Titans, and the action displayed is just about enough to save the movie from being a total waste. This part is very short, and basically has no real storyline to speak off. And I guess that is the biggest shortcoming of these two movies. The original Manga/Anime had such an incredibly cool and moving storyline, and characters that you really cared about. In these adaptations we get characters that carry the same names, but have little to no substance to them. Obviously this could have been so much better, but this truly felt like hitching a ride on the succes of a fantastic franchise. Luckily season 2 of the Anime is on the horizon, and that will hopefully wash away the bitter aftertaste of these two movies.

I give Attack on Titan the Movie:part 2, a 6 out of 10 score.

Attack on Titan the Movie: Part 1, Japanese movie (2015)

With a succesful franchise you usually get a bunch of very loyal fans. That means that no matter what is brought out, the fans will go out to see it, buy it, read it, etc. That must have been what was going through the minds of the creators of the live action adaptation of Attack on Titan. For those of you who have never heard of it, (seriously where have you been hiding all this time), Attack on Titan is a hugely succesful Manga series. It has spawned an equally popular Anime series, that has a very loyal following,  and where everyone is eagerly awaiting the release of the second season. Last year, the next (logical) step was introduced: two live action movies based on this incredible franchise. And ofcourse, the fans flocked to the cinema, to see how their beloved series was brought to the big screen.

It has been 100 years since humanity was forced in exile because of the huge Titans, that almost wiped out the human race. Now living behind massive walls that have been build as a defence against these monstrosities, the last remnants of mankind live out their days in peace. A peace that is shattered when the Titans finally reappear and breach the walls. A young man called Eren is caught up in the chaos that ensues, and tries to escape together with his friend Mikasa. The two become seperated however, when the Titans attack and begin to devour the terrified population. Two years later, Eren is now part of the team that has been tasked with a dangerous mission: to plug the hole that was made in the Outer Wall. A mission that seems almost impossible to complete. Will Eren and his team succeed, or will this be the twilight of humankind?

This movie has received some very bad reviews and I can see where they are coming from. The biggest complaint is that this adaptation pretty much changes all the existing relationships between the characters. Everything is turned totally upside down and taken in a completely different direction. Now if you are a hardcore fan, I can understand how this would upset you. I love the Attack on Titan animeseries, and it is definitely in my personal top five of all time greats. As I was already prepared that this film would take things in a different direction, I think this did help me with watching this and getting a bit of enjoyment out of it. Because honestly I kind of did. Now, ofcourse this movie is leagues apart from the animeseries, in fact it doesn’t even come close. But still I did not find it as bad as I was thought to believe. There are some very cool, and scary scenes involving the Titans. Also it had a pretty interesting post apocalyptic feel to it, and the setpieces and vehicles certainly helped with portraying that atmosphere. Now whether or not you will enjoy this film, kind of depends what kind of fan you are. If you can appreciate the fact that they made an effort to take things in a different direction, and don’t expect too much from it, you might want to check it out. If you are a hardcore devotee of all things Titan, than you had better avoid this one.

I give Attack on Titan the Movie: part 1, a 7 out of 10 score.

I Am A Hero Omnibus 1, a Japanese Manga book (2016)

The Walking Dead is returning to your television screens in October with it’s seventh season to date. One would almost forget that this fantastic television series all started with a comic book created by Robert Kirkman. Even more impressive is that it has just reached issue number 158, and there is no end in sight yet. Not bad, considering that this a series that tells a story about a Zombie Apocalypse. Not that stories like that are bad, mind you, but to keep it interesting for 158 issues is nothing short of amazing. Ofcourse as is always the case with things that are a succes, we get copycats. Most of these are just poor substitutes for the real thing, but occasionally something arrives that truly impresses. And that, in a roundabout way, brings me to the I am a hero manga. This also tells a story of a Zombie Apocalypse, but that is where the similarities with the Walking Dead end.

I am a hero, tells the story of the aspiring Manga artist Hideo Suzuki. Now Hideo is not your typical guy. For one thing he is plagued by hallucinations of varying degrees. He also likes to talk to himself: a lot. The only person who seems to accept him is his girlfriend Tekko. Hideo has been struggling for years to break through in the Manga world and not for lack of trying. Unfortunately he is just not very good, even though he thinks so himself. But then things in the real world begin to change. At first it is hardly noticeable, but when there are increasingly more people acting strangely, Hideo is beginning to realise that this is not another hallucination. People are actually starting to change into zombies. With the world heading slowly to an Apocalypse, Hideo has to find a way to make himself survive, and care for the girl he loves.

I am a hero, is being released by Dark Horse Comics into omnibus editions, which contain two volumes of the original manga. This is definitely a story for a mature audience. There are some seriously bizarre and adult situations that pop up from time to time, and this can sometimes for a casual reader be distracting. However once you get past these, this makes for a very entertaining read. This Manga starts very, very slowly. It takes it’s time (one could argue for too long) to set up the characters and the storylines. However the art of this Manga is so incredibly beautiful that I did not mind this at all. Every frame is almost like a painting, and that alone makes it worth the purchase. I do think that this Manga won’t be for everyone. Even if you like zombiestories, this is not your usual Zombie Apocalypse epic. However, if you want to read something other than the Walking Dead, and are willing to take a chance, you might definitely be surprised. I for one loved it, and am looking forward to the release of the 2nd omnibus in October.

I give this Manga a 9 out of 10 score.