Battle Angel (OVA)

BattleAngelOVABattle Angel (銃夢 / Ganmu [Gunnm] / lit. “Weapon dream”) compiles two OVAs released in Japan in June and August 1993. An English subtitled version was released by A.D. Vision on VHS in September 1993 and on DVD (with both dubbed and subtitled versions) in December 1999. The first OVA, “Rusty Angel”, introduces us to Gally and Scrapcity, and tells of the combat against Grewcica. The second OVA, “Tears Sign”, focuses on her friendship with Yugo and his dream to get to Zalem. [It was reviewed in PA #27: 37]

For the early 90s the quality of the animation was excellent, but unfortunately it looks disappointing by today’s standards. It still looks good though and offers excellent production value (nice storytelling and music soundtrack). However, one point that really bothers me is the editing which annoyingly and constantly cut the action to switch to scenes with other characters and then to cut back into the action.

The storytelling succeeds to condense the first part of the manga into two 25-minute OVAs and still manage to smooth the story so it is easier to understand. The manga had the advantage to have several graphic novels to tell the story (the first OVA covers the first volume and half, while the second tell the story up to the end of the third volume). The numerous battles  — which felt a little sketchy and tedious on paper — look much more realistic and entertaining in the animation (although the Alita live-action movies does an even better job at rendering the battle sequences). Lastly, the anime has a better success in giving life and expressing the emotions of the characters. It makes the drama much more tangible.

It is a nice anime that deserves to be seen. Unfortunately, it seems to be difficult to find now-a-day. Hopefully, with the success of the movie, it will be released again on DVD.

Battle Angel : Japan, 1993, 2 x 25 mins.; Dir.: Hiroshi Fukutomi; Scr.: Akinori Endō (based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga); Art Dir.: Hidematsu Kaneko; Char. Des.: Nobuteru Yuki; Anim. Dir.: Nobuteru Yuki & Futoshi Fujikawa; Phot.: Hitoshi Yamaguchi; Ed.: Yukiko Ito & Satoshi Terauchi; Music: Kaoru Wada; Studio: Madhouse; Jap. Cast: Kappei Yamaguchi (Yugo), Miki Itō (Gally), Shunsuke Kariya (Dr. Daisuke Ido). stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ ANNAmazonGoogleIMDbWikipedia ]

I have recently also commented on the Gunnm / Alita manga and the live-action movie.

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Alita : Battle Angel

AlitaBattleAngel-dvdWhen Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love. — (Promotional text)

This movie is based on the manga series Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro (which I recently commented). James Cameron had been interested in the story for a long time (he optioned the titled in 2000 and used it as inspiration for his TV series Dark Angel) but, being too busy with Avatar and its sequels, he passed the directorial torch to Robert Rodriguez. It is a good thing that Cameron and Jon Landau waited to produced Alita because it gave them the time to perfect the motion-capture CGI technology with Avatar. The type of fast action combat scenes needed to adapt the manga would not have been possible otherwise. It also gave them time to work on the script to make it shorter.

It’s an excellent movie, with superb special effects and great storytelling. It is both entertaining and compelling. They succeeded to tell the story within two hours while keeping enough elements of the manga to be faithful. I was afraid at first that they would not be able to adapt the story properly, but all the essential themes are there: the identity quest, the love story, the desire to protect the weak against evil, the dark post-cataclysmic world, the hopeful cyberpunk technology, the fabulous combat scenes, even the social comment about the stupidity of war and social inequity. 

The only major changes are that they explain early in the story the cause of the Earth’s destruction (the war between Earth and Mars — in the manga they just mentioned that Earth was hit by a meteorite without saying, at first, that it was intentional) and the nature of Alita (a martian soldier/berserker). Hugo (Yugo in the manga) also appears in the beginning of the movie (while he only appears in chapter eight in the manga). Most of the changes are minor and without consequence: Ido names Alita (Gally) from his dead daughter (instead of from his dead cat), his ex-wife Chiren doesn’t appears in the manga (that character was created for the anime), his assistant is different (she looks more like Myra, the doctor who replaces Yugo’s hand in chap. 10 of the manga), the Berserker replacement body is not found by Alita but by Ido, the speech in the “Kansas” bar to try to get the Hunter-Warriors’ help against Grewishka (Makaku) is made not by Alita but by Ido (who still has his Zalem symbol on the forehead in the manga), etc. The movie also adds the fact that Nova can see and speak through Vector. Despite those few differences, the movie seems quite similar (even more if we compare to the anime version, Battle Angel).

Annoyingly, the movie ends on a sort of cliff-hanger: will Alita succeed to reach Zalem and get her revenge from Nova? That’s what we will know in the sequels — if they are ever produced. It all depends on the success of the first movie. Despite mixed reviews, it seems that it was well received (the sales more than doubled the budget and ratings were good enough on IMDb [7.4] and Rotten Tomatoes [60% for the critics but 93% for the audience]). For my part (but I was already an Alita fan), I think it was an excellent adaptation and I enjoyed it greatly. I warmly recommend it. stars-4-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

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Arzak Rhapsody

ArzakRhapsody-DVDPerché sur son fidèle Ptéroïde anti-gravité (où rien de grave ne peut l’atteindre), Arzak explore le Désert ‘B’, un monde parallèle peuplé de créatures étranges, situé aux frontières du rêve et d’une réalité au-delà du réel. Mais Arzak ne rêve-t-il pas d’un univers qui est en lui…ou en chacun de nous ?

(Texte promotionnel — voir aussi la couverture arrière de la jaquette)

Ce dessin animé est une série de quatorze capsules de 3:30 min. chacunes qui offrent un dessin minimaliste qui est terriblement animé. On y retrouve différentes aventures (et mésaventures) du célèbre guerrier solitaire et (généralement) silencieux alors qu’il parcours le désert B, affrontant l’herbe-serpent ou diverses autres créatures. C’est un peu sans queue ni tête mais les récits sont étoffés par une narration et Moebius donne, pour la première fois, la parole à Arzak. Tout comme les planches de Moebius, ces capsules sont un peu inégales en qualité (et en intérêt). L’univers d’Arzak est un peu tourné en ridicule avec des personnages clownesques (où l’on pourrait peut-être discerner une influence de Winsor McCay?). 

C’est mauvais mais tout de même amusant et intriguant. À la défense de cette curiosité décevante, il faut admettre qu’elle est définitivement produite pour un public jeune alors que la série originale s’adressait aux adultes. On s’attendrait néanmoins à mieux de la part d’un créateur comme Moebius. C’est trop court et plein de potentiel inexploité (quoique le graphisme s’améliore avec les derniers épisodes). Cela aurait pu être tellement mieux…

Il est intéressant de constater que l’on voit déjà le début de la convergence des différents univers (et styles) de Giraud / Moebius avec des éléments qui rappellent Le Garage Hermétique, d’autres qui font définitivement partie du monde SF déjanté et imaginatif de Moebius — parfois hilarant et absurde, parfois mystique et obscure (avec des allusions au Arzach original ou à Edena) — et même des relents d’atmosphère western à la Blueberry. Cette série d’histoires nous laisse donc présager la suite — L’Arpenteur

À voir par amusement ou par curiosité.

Arzak Rhapsody: France, 2002, 51 min., série télévisée d’animation (14 episodes); Dir., Scr., Des.: Moebius; Dir. Art.: Alexandre Brillant; Ass. Réal.: Francois Narboux; Mus.: Zanpano; Studio: Millimages Online; Prod.: Wolfland Pictures, Carrere Group, France 2. stars-2-5

Pour en savoir plus vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

[ AmazonGoogleIMDbWikipedia ]

 

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The Predator

Predator-dvdIs this a comedy or an action flick? A little of both, I guess… It has great action scenes, although not always believable. In a nutshell, it tells the story of a group of misfit soldiers fighting against an alien monster in pursuit of another alien monster. They get help from an unsuspected genius and one of the bad guys is not what it seems. The story is not really original but it is entertaining enough. In fact, the whole movie is just setting up the ground for the next one (or two — but no release date has been announced yet). It might push the Predator franchise into superheroes territory ! Powersuit, yeah! I can’t wait to see that! 

The movie did relatively well at the box office (returning nearly twice its investment) but disappointed the fans of the franchise and the critics (getting only a 5.4 on IMDb and a 32% / 35% on Rotten Tomatoes ). It’s an average sci-fi action movie which remains nevertheless fun to watch. stars-2-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

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Bohemian Rhapsody

BohemianRhapsody-covI never considered myself a fan of Queen (but my wife was one), however, as I was watching this movie, I realized that I knew (or had heard) all the songs featured in the movie. Bohemian Rhapsody is, of course, a biopic about the music band Queen — telling us how would-be graphic designer (lead vocalist & songwriter Freddy Mercury), electronician (bass guitarist John Deacon), dentist (drummer Roger Taylor) and astrophysician (guitarist & songwriter Brian May) got together to make musical history. It seems a relatively faithful depiction of their collective life — or at least its highlights in fast-forward — focusing on the dynamic of the group interaction, the fact that they created music that allowed the audience to participate in their live performances, and giving some interesting insight on the genesis of some of the most iconic songs. As it is to be expected, the movie is centred mostly around Freddy Mercury and his bisexuality.

The choice of actors is excellent as they really look like the part. The acting is also good and their stage and musical performances are particularly remarquable. This movie will certainly get an entirely new generation to discover Queen’s music. It is rather uneven, far from being perfect, but it is well-made and the musical number makes it quite entertaining. It was well received (with a 8.1 rating on IMDb — although there is an interesting discrepancy on Rotten Tomatoes between the critics’ rating, 61%, and the audience’s rating, 86%). In any case, it certainly deserves to be seen, wether you like Queen or not. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

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Mirai

Mirai-jpFrom acclaimed director Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children) comes a daringly original story of love passed down through generations. When four-year-old Kun meets his new baby sister, his world is turned upside down. Named Mirai (meaning “future”), the baby quickly wins the hearts of Kun’s entire family. Kun becomes increasingly jealous of her, until one day he storms off into the garden, where he encounters strange guests from the past and future – including his sister Mirai, as a teenager. Together, Kun and Mirai go on a journey through time and space, uncovering their family’s incredible story, in this magical and emotionally soaring adventure about the ties that bring families together and make us who we are.” (From Universal website)

Mirai (未来のミライ / Mirai no Mirai / lit. “Mirai of the Future”) is a beautiful story about good parenting and loving our siblings or family. Kun is a young boy who is jealous of his newborn sister Mirai. However, the genealogical tree that sits in the courtyard of their small house in Yokohama shows him scene of past and future life of his family members (his teenage sister, his mother, his great-grand-father, even the family dog!) so he can relate to them and learn to appreciate them better. Or this is a boy with an extraordinary imagination!

The animation is excellent and offers very realistic background illustrations that you would think it’s CGI but they are actually hand-drawn (although there is CGI in the movie). In fact, it is so crisp that it feels a little cold. For such a story about family I would have preferred a style that evoke more warmth. I particularly like the design of the modern house, conceived by the father (who’s an architect), that takes advantage of the narrow space and the hill to build in several level, with lots of steps.

Animated by Studio Chizu and distributed by Toho (GKids in North America), Mirai was created, written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and The Boy and the Beast), with character designs by Hiroyuki Aoyama, animation direction by Ayako Hata & Hiroyuki Aoyama, art direction by Takashi Omori & Yohei Takamatsu and music by Masakatsu Takagi. The voice cast includes  Haru Kuroki / Victoria Grace as Mirai, Moka Kamishiraishi / Jaden Waldman as Kun, Gen Hoshino / John Cho as Father, Kōji Yakusho / Victor Brandt as Grandfather, Kumiko Asou / Rebecca Hall as Mother, Masaharu Fukuyama / Daniel Dae Kim as great-grandfather, and Mitsuo Yoshihara / Crispin Freeman as Yukko the dog. 98 min., rated PG (for thematic elements including some scary images). It was favourably received by the audience (rating of 7.1 on IMDb and of 92% / 83% on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s a fine exemple of Japanese animation that everyone should see. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers_InfinityWarThis is a very depressing movie mostly about sacrifice and loss. The sophisticated and over-the-top special effects are not enough to make you really appreciate this over compartmented story which is a literal who’s who of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they pit almost EVERY Marvel superheroes against Thanos in order to try saving the universe. It is just too much (too much non-stop action, too many character killed). And it is also “To be continued” ! ;(

Of course, it was greatly appreciate by the Marvel Universe fans (score of 8.5 on IMDb and critic/viewer ratings of 85% / 91% on Rotten Tomatoes), but for me it wasn’t enough to prevent me from feeling bored (beside the occasional “what? Those characters are part of the same universe” or “oh no, they didn’t dare going there” or “you means, he’s dead, dead?”)—although I almost sympathized with the supervilains who has a very gordian way of solving the universe’s problem (who knew? Earth is not the only place with an overpopulation of idiots!). It might have helped to have watched some of the one shot movies (like Spider-Man: Homecoming,  Ant-Man or Doctor Strange) as well as some of the TV series. Now, they will really need new characters (oh, yeah, that’s probably why they dug out Ant-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel !). However, I am curious to see how the heroes will manage to find their way out of this dire situation… Which we will know, of course, with Avengers: Endgame coming out next month !

It is an entertaining movie, the kind you watch with friends, beer and chips, or that you distractingly watch while fiddling with your phone. stars-2-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

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