Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mononoke Hime

I have been blogging about anime series, but haven’t really blogged about anime movies, other than to comment on how wonderful Miyazaki Hayao’s movies are, especially coupled with Joe Hisaishi’s music.  I think it may be time to post about one of my favorite Miyazaki films, Mononoke Hime or Princess Mononoke if you prefer.

This film follows the actions of a young man named Ashitaka, who is a prince of his own small clan.  He is injured and cursed by a dying Boar-god when he prevents it from ravaging his village.  Because of the curse he must leave his clan, and he must also attempt to find a cure for the curse before it kills him.

Ashitaka follows the back trail of the Boar-god to a town on the edge of a lake, where the townspeople mine iron ore and smelt it into usable metal.  The town forge is “manned” by women that have been rescued from less savory occupations by the town leader, Lady Eboshi.  The town leader is beloved by the townspeople, for keeping them employed, housed and fed and protected from other warriors who wish to take them over.  She also keeps a colony of lepers employed in developing new weapons.  She is a mixture of good and bad, keeping her people safe, but at the same time working to destroy the forest and the old gods in the name of progress and her town.  
Fighting against the townspeople are a wolf-god, Moro, her two wolf-children and her adopted human child, San.   These four are trying to stop the townspeople from destroying the forest and the old gods by making random strikes against them and against their supply chains.

Ashitaka enters this set-up and discovers that the iron ball which killed the Boar-god and indirectly cursed him was made by the townspeople and fired by their rifles.  Ashitaka is caught in the middle of the battle between the townspeople and the forest.  He prevents the townspeople from killing San and is injured himself while rescuing her.  She in turn takes him to be healed by the Forest Spirit.  The two of them then try to prevent the destruction of the Forest Spirit by the humans and the rampage of the  boar-clan against the humans in retribution for the death of the Boar-god.    

In the end Ashitaka manages to save the townspeople and he and San return the Forest Spirit’s head to him after it is stolen by the people trying to kill him.   Although a lot of forest destruction is accomplished by the bad guys, the forest is coming back in the end, and Ashitaka and San and most of the townspeople are alive and well. 

This movie is a clear struggle between old ways and forests and progress and towns.  Although some coexistence can occur between these two sides, parts of both are lost in the process and compromise is essential.  

Besides the clear moral to the story, the story itself is wonderful.  The character and design style is awesome, the music is awesome.  If you haven’t seen this one yet, you should.   It’s arguably one of the best anime movies ever done.   

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Season 2012

I am happy to say that the new anime season has some pretty fun new series that look like they will be worth watching.    This post will be a sampling of a few I’ve tried so far, and my impressions after just the first two or three episodes.

My favorite of the season so far is probably Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun.  This series is a slice of high school life series which follows a mismatched couple, the studious, impervious, girl honor student Mizutani Shizuku and the misunderstood, difficult boy who never comes to school, Yoshida Haru.   They meet when the teacher asks Shizuku to take printouts to Haru.  The rest, as they say, is history.  But this is a fun history.  All the characters so far are unique and interesting and their interactions keep you smiling and asking for more.  There are also hints of a darker back story to come.  Even though I rarely enjoy high school slice a life a lot, this one shows considerable promise.

Zetsuan no Tempest is another one I’m continuing to watch after two episodes.   This series appears to be a battle between two magicians.  The bad guy magician, Kusaribe Samon, starts the battle (and the series) by marooning the good girl magician, Kusaribe Hakaze, alone on a shielded island, and proceeding with his plans to bring major badness to the world.  Even though she’s a powerful magician, Hakaze’s capabilities are limited by the shielded island, but via a message bottle she hooks up with a teenager looking for revenge and reasons for his sister Aika’s death.    The teenager, Fuwa Mahiro, and his best friend, Takigawa Yoshino, are swept up into the magical battles.  I’m watching this one because it’s pretty and interesting so far.  I hope it fulfills its promise.

Kamisama Hajimemashita is also one I’m watching.  This one looks like it will end up being a reverse harem anime, but the first couple of episodes had me either smiling or laughing pretty much all the way through, so I’ll continue to watch it as long as I’m enjoying it.  This series is about a poor girl, Momozono Nanami, whose father skips out on his gambling debts and house is repossessed.  She has nowhere to go so when she helps a stranger he offers her his house to stay at.  His “house” is an old temple, and he has just turned her into the new god of that temple.  She has no powers, even as a god, so she traps a strong fox-youkai named Tomoe to be her servant and help her.  The interactions between them are simply priceless, so I have great hopes for this series too.  

Another one I almost dropped after the first episode is K.  Lots of violence in the first episode, but I decided to watch episode 2 and now I think I’ll keep watching.  Episode 2 was funny!  I have no clear idea what is going on in K.  Right now all I know is that several different groups are all looking for a particular kid named Isana Yashiro, with the intention of killing him.  The kid seems innocent and pure but they’re after him for killing one of their own people.   The series is full of people who can wield magic to some extent, and one of the main characters is a cat who becomes a naked woman.   So basically I don’t know what’s going on or what the basic plot line will be, but if you read this blog much at all, you know I like a mystery.  I’ll watch this one a bit farther.

The last one for today’s post is Shinsekai Yori.  The premise for this one seems to be a future world where humans have evolved to have extrasensory powers.  It’s not completely clear yet, but it seems that people with those powers have run rampant in the past and caused much evil, so in the current world, kids with powers are raised carefully and strictly.  Any signs of deviation cause those kids to disappear.   The series is following the current class of kids through their training and lives, with occasional flashbacks to the bloody history that led to the current state of affairs.   It’s interesting enough to keep me watching for now.

So those are the series from the new season that I’m currently watching.  And of course I’ve picked up the second season of Jormungand.  I’m enjoying them all quite a bit so far.  It’s great to have new series to watch and I hope at least some of them turn out to be outstanding series.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Speed Grapher

I’m starting to watch some new series which are beginning this month so hopefully soon I’ll have some newer series to blog about.  In the mean time I thought I’d post about Speed Grapher.

Speed Grapher is another one of those series with a unique plot that I just couldn’t resist following, mainly I think because I have a hard time quitting a series that I don’t know what’s going on.  The story follows two main characters, an ex-war-photographer named Saiga Tatsumi and a poor little rich girl named Tennouzu Kagura.  Kagura is abused both mentally and physically by her mother, who is the head of the very rich and powerful Tennozu Group.  Kagura's Mom cannot stand that her daughter is more beautiful than she is, so Mom starves Kagura and basically makes her life as miserable as possible.  On top of that Kagura is plagued by weird nightmares.
Saiga enters the story following a trail of money and corruption to a secret pleasure club where the rich and famous play both erotic and brutal games and where lives and careers are made and broken.   In this club, Kagura is a demi-god-like figure, and the night Saiga infiltrates it, she is there.  Saiga is caught and they try to kill him, but not before Kagura has kissed him which not only allows him to heal almost instantaneously but also gives him a power that makes things explode when he takes a picture of them.  He grabs Kagura and runs.

Kagura has no conscious memory of the time she spends at the secret club (thus the nightmares) and when she regains consciousness she asks Saiga to take her away from everything so she can be free.  Saiga agrees, and the two spend most of the rest of the series avoiding the Tennouzu minions and searching for the answer to their weird physical capabilities.  Leading the Tennouzu minions is a bad man named Suitengu Choji, who has been manipulating Kagura’s life and who has one ultimate goal, to own the world and then use money to destroy it.  He runs near the top of my ‘evil guys’ list, but when you find out his back story, you’re more sympathetic towards him.

Plot bottom line:  Kagura is the product of advanced genetic manipulation and her body produces a substance that reacts with a genetically created virus in other people and causes their DNA to mutate in any way they want it to.  A person has to be infected with the virus to begin with, but then if they come into contact with the substance from Kagura, they heal almost instantly, and they can mutate their bodies into essentially whatever form they wish.  Suitengu has been hypnotizing Kagura and using her kiss in the secret club as a way of bestowing favors on people who then owe him allegiance and use their powers for him.   Unfortunately, Kagura is dying from her genetic manipulation, and that will accelerate if she goes through puberty.  Suitengu-tachi have been suppressing her hormones, a fact which is unknown to Kagura and Saiga.  Also, once activated the mutational ability of the virus is finite.  Saiga will eventually go blind if he keeps using his ability.  

The story line is interesting enough that it kept me watching.  It’s not until late in the series that you find out Suitengu’s background, and also figure out why and how Saiga was infected with the virus to begin with.  There turn out to be a number of twists to the story line, which is one of the resons I enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed it because Kagura and Saiga end up surviving, with a happily ever after ending – or as happily ever after as can be expected.   I also liked the OP very well which was Duran Duran’s Girls on Film.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason the American release of the series does not use that OP.  They make up some instrumental version of some of the background music.  I’m assuming they couldn’t get permission to use Girls on Film or weren’t willing to pay the royalties.  Too bad really.   Other than that it’s a good series and I recommend it, especially if you like plot twists.   

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Another series I watched early on in my anime viewing is Noir.    Noir is a story about two women, Mireille Bouquet and Yuumura Kirika, who are raised separately but both raised as assassins.  At the story beginning Mireille is contacted cryptically by Kirika, who has lost her memory.  They meet and realize that they seem to be tied together in some manner by a mysterious pocket watch and a melody.  They decide to work together as an assassin duo until they unravel the mystery of their ties and discover Kirika’s past, at which point Mireille promises to kill Kirika. 

Thus the two operate as an assassin duo which goes by the name of Noir.  The bad news is that “Noir” turns out to be the name of an assassin duo that’s been in existence since the dawn of time and is controlled by a shadowy group called the Soldats.  Kirika and Mireille spend the series alternately running from the Soldats attempts to kill them and meeting with Soldat members to try to figure out the mystery of the Soldats and how it effects them personally.  Spoiler coming.

In the end it turns out that three girl children were born with the genetics and capabilities to become Noir assassins, Mireille, Kirika and a third girl named Chloe.  Kirika and Chloe were raised and trained to be assassins by Altena, a Soldat bigwig, at a secret vineyard Abbey hideaway.  Mireille on the other hand was born to parents who were high up in the Soldat hierarchy, but they loved Mireille and refused to give her up to the Soldats.  In return, the Soldats had them executed, leaving Mirielle to be raised by her uncle.  Mireille grows up to be a good assassin in her own right. 

What is also revealed as the story progresses is that the pocket watch belonged to Mirielle’s father.  Kirika has it because Kirika is the assassin the Soldat’s sent to kill Mireille’s parents.  It was probably her first assassination.  When Mirielle and Kirika realize this, Kirika begs Mirielle to be true to her word and kill Kirika.  Mirielle walks away, and Kirika returns to the Abbey with Chloe.  Kirika and Chloe begin preparations to become the “true” Noir.

Mireille decides she can’t leave it at that and goes to the Abbey to finish things.  In the end, she and Kirika save each other’s lives, and end up killing Altena, Chloe and a variety of minor players.  They both survive the series!

This series will always be one of my favorites, and part of that is because Mireille and Kirika end up alive and teamed up again.  Beyond that though, the music is beyond outstanding, the plot is fast-paced and twisty and the style is wonderful.  Overall, this is one you shouldn‘t skip if you haven’t seen it.