Ghost in the Shell: Arise

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

GITS Arise 1: Ghost Pain

GITS-Arise-1“World War IV is over, but a bomb has gone off in Newport City, killing a major arms dealer who may have ties with the mysterious 501 Organization.” [Text from Netflix, see also the Japanese trailer]

In the first episode (June 2013, 58 min.), we discover the Major when she is still in the military. As she comes back to Japan, she must do an investigation on the possible corruption of her deceased superior officer as well as on his murder. She discover that she is much more involved that she would have thought. In the course of her investi­­gation, she encounters Aramaki, who offers her a job as consultant. This episode, as well as the whole series, offer us the origin story of the Major and the Section 9. It is quite an interesting story and the animation is pretty good (not as much as the movies, of course).

GITS Arise 2: Ghost Whisperers

GITS-Arise-2“Freed of her responsibilities for the 501 Organization, Motoko must now learn how to take orders from Aramaki.” [Text from Netflix, see also the Japanese trailer]

In the second episode (November 2013, 56 min.), we find again a story where the military are being scapegoated and seek revenge for it — but they are actually being manipulated. The Major is told to assemble a team but it might be hard to chose the members… As always, it is a nice cyberpunk story with great animation.

GITS Arise 3: Ghost Tears

GITS-Arise-3“As Motoko and Batou attempt to thwart a mysterious terrorist group, Togusa tracks the killer of a man with a prosthetic leg made by Mermaid’s Leg.” [Text from Netflix, see also the Japanese trailer]

In the third episode (June 2014, 58 min.), the Major has assembled a team composed of her recent “adversaries”, but they are still just a bunch of mercenaries working for Section 9. And she is still missing a member to fit with Aramaki’s requirement. This a story of foreign terrorists using technology to move their ideology forward. The Logicoma (a bigger and less advanced version of the Tachicoma) are interacting more with the team. The theme of artificial intelligence is, as always, omnipresent.

This series (and this episode in particular) shows us a more personal side of the Major as she has a boyfriend. She is shown as being more vulnerable as she is getting often infected by viruses. Both in episodes one and three, she gets personally involved with the subject of her investigation. Also, having a personal relationship is a weakness that enemies can exploit. I guess, with time, she will learn from her mistake and become the more hardened, distant and cold Motoko that we know in the rest of the franchise. Your real enemy is often closer than you might think… This is a really interesting story with good animation. It is certainly a must-see for all Ghost in the Shell fans.

Strangely, this OVA series has five episodes but Netflix has been  streaming only three of them — go figure why. The two other episodes are “Ghost Stands Alone” (September 2014, see Japanese trailer) and “Pyrophoric Cult” (August 2015, see Japanese trailer). The series was also adapted into a TV series (titled GITS: Arise – Alternative Architecture) and completed by a movie (GITS: Arise – The New Movie, which concludes the plot of episode 5) and a manga (GITS: Arise ~Sleepless Eye~ which was published in Monthly Young Magazine between April 2013 and June 2016, was compiled in seven volumes and tells how Batou and the Major met during the civil war).

I suspect the series was titled “Arise” because it is about the origin story of both the Major and Section 9. All in all, it is a good cyberpunk story, compelling storytelling, full of socio-political background typical of the rest of the franchise. It is well worth watching if you are either an anime fan or a cyberpunk aficionado.

Data File

Ghost in the Shell: Arise (攻殻機動隊 ARISE / Kōkaku Kidōtai Araizu / Mobile Armored Riot Police: Arise): Japan, 2013-2015, OVA anime, 5 x 50 min.; Dir. / Char. Des.: Kazuchika Kise; Scr.: Tow Ubukata; Music: Cornelius; Studio: Production I.G. Cast: Maaya Sakamoto / Elizabeth Maxwell (Major Motoko Kusanagi), Ikyuu Jyuku / John Swasey (Aramaki), Kenichiro Matsuda / Christopher Sabat (Batou), Yoji Ueda / Jason Douglas (Paz), Tarusuke Shingaki / Alex Organ (Togusa), Takuro Nakakuni / Marcus Stimac (Saito), Mayumi Asano / Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Kurutsu), Atsushi Miyauchi / Brian Mathis (Mamuro), Masahiro Mamiya / Chris Rager (Ibachi), Kenji Nojima / Eric Vale (Tsumugi), Takanori Hoshino / David Wald (Raizo), Miyuki Sawashiro / Jad Saxton (Logicoma).stars-3-0

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNGoogleIMDbNetflixOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

© 士郎正宗・Production I.G / 講談社・「攻殻機動隊ARISE」製作委員会

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Capsules

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost-in-the-Shell_SAC-2045_Main-PosterWhen sustainable war spawns a “post-human” threat, Major Kusanagi and her Section 9 team are called back into action.

In the year 2045, after an economic disaster known as the Synchronized Global Default, rapid developments in AI propelled the world to enter a state of “Sustainable War”. However, the public is not aware of the threat that AI has towards the human race.

Full-body cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi and her second-in-command Batou are former members of Public Security Section 9, who are now hired mercenaries traveling hot devastated American west coast. This land is full of opportunity for the major and her team, they utilize their enhanced cyberbrains and combat skills from their time working in Section 9. However, things get complicated with the emergence of “post humans,” who have extreme intelligence and physical powers. The members of Section 9 comeback together again in order to face this new threat.

[Text from the official website]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

Anime Story

At the end of the Stand Alone Complex TV series, Section 9 is disbanded. In this series, the team has become a mercenary unit named GHOST that operated outside Japan (mostly in the United States) for the last six years. The only former member that didn’t joined GHOST was Togusa. He hesitated because of his family and later regretted the decision. He eventually divorced and found a job at a private security company. The Prime Minister asks Aramaki to reform Section 9 and Togusa is put in charge of locating his former colleagues.

After a failed mission where they were defending a one-percenter against the attack of a group of outlaws, the GHOST team is kidnapped by the NSA who want to use them in a mission to capture Patrick Huge, the rich owner of a tech company. The target reveals itself as a formidable opponent that can anticipate their move and even hack their cyberbrains. As the Major is about to be taken over, Saito terminate Huge. Smith is furious because he wanted him taken alive in order to study him. He explains that Huge was what the NSA calls a “Post-Human.” So far, humans have improved themselves with cyberbrains and cyber-implants. However, the post-humans are the opposite: A.I. which somehow have succeeded in taking over the brain of humans and therefore represent an unprecedented threat to humanity. Unfortunately, Smith consider the GHOST team as a liability and want to eliminate them. He is stopped by Aramaki who arrives in extremis with new orders from the American President. The new Section 9 mission will be to hunt post-humans.

It’s episode 8 and the real story finally begins. The team is back in Japan after six years (Batou came back a few days earlier but got entangled in a bank robbery). There are three post-humans that have been identified in Japan. One is an ex-boxer who seems to have a grudge against corrupt politicians. He kills the Prime Minister’s father-in-law and then goes after Teito himself but stops short of killing him (maybe he felt that he was a good man?). The next post-humans to be identified is a teenager that wrote a program creating mob justice. As they are investigating his story, Togusa get infected by some of his code and disappears! Will he becomes a post-human too? To be continued… in the second season (another twelve episodes, directed this time by Shinji Aramaki, but no release date has been announced yet).

>> End of Warning <<

I’ve mentioned this series recently and was eager to have a look — although I was sure that I would totally dislike its 3D animation. Yes, a few aspects of the CGI are quite awkward — the movements of the characters seem sometimes odd despite that fact that it’s motion capture animation and some character’s hair, mostly Aramaki’s and Tokusa’s — but the 3D quickly grow on you and you eventually even forget that it’s there as you focus on the action and the story. The character designs (by a Russian artist) are faithful and pleasant (the Major sure looks like a doll!) and the storytelling is excellent: well paced and captivating. My favourite part is that, as usual with Ghost in the Shell, the cyberpunk background world (socio-political setting, technology, etc.) is quite superb. 

Interestingly, the story seems inspired by the work of transhumanist Ray Kurzweils, who predicted that the A.I. singularity would occur in 2045. One element of the story that differ from the previous series, which are generally nippo-centric, is that the first half is set in the United States (which has experience some sort of civil war again). Also, when I watched the series on Netflix, no dubbed version was available yet because the coronavirus lock-down has delayed production (I am more of a subtitles guy anyway). 

So far, this new Stand Alone Complex series seems not much appreciated by the critics, considering the very average ratings that it is receiving (6.0 on IMDb, 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, and C+ on ANN). Anime fans are probably irked by the 3D animation. Too bad for them. It is an excellent anime, well worth watching. It is entertaining, an appropriate continuation of the franchise and, despite my initial misgivings, quite beautiful. A must see for any anime, cyberpunk or Ghost in the Shell fans. stars-4-0

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GITS: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

Anime Story

2004 was a great year for theatrical anime releases in Japan. It brought us Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy and, of course, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. However, most of the Japanese anime industry’s production, and what really sustains it, remains the television series, like Gundam Seed, Fullmetal Alchemist, and yes, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 

SAC-2gig-logoGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a big hit in 2003 and Japanese DVD sales did great, so the creative team at Production I.G. decided to bring out a second season (titled “2nd Gig”). Now fans can look forward to another 26 episodes of cyber-political intrigue and action. 

Sac-2gig-illo11I can easily imagine that director Kenji Kamiyama was under a great deal of stress, with his work being compared with Mamoru Oshii’s Innocence, and to meet the fans’ expectations after the first season! Despite the high stakes, the young director was up to the task and I think he did a marvellous job. The “2nd Gig” is even better and more intriguing than the first season. He succeeded totally in creating his own world, telling the story in his own personal style, and we don’t even feel the need to compare his series with Oshii’s movie. Each has its own merit. 

Kamiyama not only respected Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but he gave it life by detailing, even more so than Oshii’s movies did, its near-futuristic setting defined by the interaction of humanity and technology in a complex Asian geo-political environment. His strong, captivating storytelling is very well supported by the superb animation, the beautiful and elaborate artwork and an enchanting soundtrack. It is so great to see that there is such a great new talent in Japan, able to create a serious and intelligent story that can both entertain our senses and stimulate our mind. It is not surprising that both seasons of the TV series have received a great deal of acclaim, not only from anime fans, but also from those who seek serious science fiction shows. 

SAC16-illoASAs the “2nd Gig” starts, Section 9, which had been dissolved at the end of the 1st season, is resuming its job as an anti-cyberterrorist mobile unit. Although the team has returned, their work isn’t easy, and many difficulties lie ahead of them. The Japanese political landscape is changing and the government is keeping a close eye on their special police. The “Laughing Man” case might be solved, but it doesn’t take long for another terrorist organization, “The Individual Eleven,” to show up. Who are they? Are they the result of another “Stand Alone Complex”? They seem to be stirring up an uprising against the Asian immigrants and refugees. Could it be that simple? But some other politically-motivated forces seem to be at work. Can Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team unravel the complex overlapping political plots before they affect the nature of the government? 

Technology might be omnipresent in Stand Alone Complex, but it is not overwhelming. In the “2nd Gig,” Director Kamiyama and Production I.G. keep an even greater focus on the human side of the story by exploring the characters’ hearts and emotions — even in the case of some of the terrorists. Each key member of Section 9 has a dedicated episode where we learn more about their past and personality. It is not done simply to paint a richer background; every single bit of information has its meaning. They also give a more humane face to the government (more likeable than the usual fat, corrupt, old minister) with the new Japanese prime minister, a young, good-looking lady who embodies the beauties (and sometime ineptitudes) of democracy. In contrast, there is the ugly face of Gohda, a shady character who embodies the threat of militarism. Also, the intelligent Tachikoma robots (their name means “standing, spinning top”) are back with a new, expanded sidekick role (definitely inspired by Motoko’s cute “helper” programs in the Man-Machine Interface manga). With their cute voices and comical comments, they give a human feel to the technology. 

SAC14-illoASThe terrorism and the Asian refugees’ problems seem to be an allusion to the Palestinian question and to some conspiracy theories that surfaced after 9/11 in Europe and in Japan (such as, American right wing groups being behind 9/11 in order to justify military action abroad and domestically limit civil liberties). But it is only used to emphasize the fact that, even in the future, terrorism — the favorite style of warfare of the 21st Century — is still omnipresent and we still haven’t found a way to deal with it. Despite all the advanced technology, humanity is still facing tremendous problems (war, pollution, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, crime). Nothing changes, and even the future’s future is still uncertain. Is there a solution to the crisis? Is there a possibility for us humans to be saved? The answer in “2nd Gig” might be in the origami cranes that appear in some episodes and that symbolize the prayers for peace and salvation. All we can do is, like Section 9, act with courage and determination (even if it means going against the rules sometimes), pray and hope for the best! 

In conclusion, “2nd GIG” is even better than the first season. While still very political, dealing with terrorism and immigration problems, it also elaborates on more of the personal history of each of the main characters, including Major Kusanagi. The cyberpunk political intrigue is at moments a little complex, but it is the most intelligent anime series I have ever seen and it is superbly animated. It’s not all action, there’s also drama — and I did cry a few times. A real masterpiece! Of course, such an exceptionally excellent anime series cannot be seen only on TV. SAC-2gig-ratingsYou have to purchase the DVD to watch it over and over again, to enjoy all the minute details of this superb animation and share the experience with your friends! And if after that you want more, the series was followed by a movie: Solid State Society. 

> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime)

Overview

GITS-SAC-logoWith the TV version of Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai) director Kenji Kamiyama (and his production team — including the full support of original creator Shirow Masamune) is bringing a new dimension to the standard police detective drama adding a techno-cyberpunk flavour. Not only is this a very high quality show visually (HD full-digital screen to satisfy even the most hard-core fan!), but it is also full of exciting, intelligent storytelling. You can see that the writers really put forward their best efforts to attract viewers. 

SAC-KusunagiCCThe story is set in a future Tokyo populated with high-tech doohickeys, and lots of cyborgs and androids. Fans of Ghost in the Shell find out immediately that this story is quite different from the manga or games. It’s a kind of alternate world created for the TV series, closer to what was already developed for the movie. The manga is funny and set in a fictitious future (lots of made-up names) where Section 9 is an international anti-terrorist unit. The TV series’ setting feels less like a militaristic anti-terrorist outfit and more like a special police force dealing with cyber crimes. It is more serious and more realistic. Nevertheless, like the movie, which was based mostly on the manga, the TV series is using bits and pieces of the manga’s story. We could consider the TV series as a prequel to the movie, whereas the new manga, Man-Machine Interface, is the direct sequel of the original manga. 

GHSill02RSo what do they mean by “Stand Alone Complex”? It could mean that the series is mostly made of stand alone episodes (self contained stories), with a few more complex episodes (the “Laughing Man” story arc). However, episode 6 also provides another explanation: it refers to the fact that Laughing Man’s imitators are independent copycats, created without an original. To me it seems that Production I.G.’s writers want to make the point that “It’s extremely difficult and almost impossible today to stand alone in this complex society of computers and networks.” Each episode throws enormous amounts of technical information and detail about computers, science and politics for the viewer to digest. At first, for an average nincompoop like myself, the contents of this show can be too much, but with a bit of patience it’s certainly educational. I think, in a way, it’s charming to see so much information on technology. Compared to ordinary anime shows, the amount of dialogue and information is quite huge. 

You really have to sit down and watch this TV show over and over again to catch the small details and to understand better. In this respect it shares much in common with its source, the manga. On the other hand, despite all this, the show can also be watched as an intelligent police/detective drama. The viewers can try to solve crimes with Section 9 members and get great satisfaction to see the conclusion of each cyber-crimes case. But don’t think that the show is as slow paced as the film — there is still a lot of action! 

SAC-illo02The characters seem to be like normal humans, but in fact most of them are cyborgs (or with some sort of cybernetic enhancement). I wonder if, in the near future, when humans begin to replace body-parts to improve their lives and live more comfortably, we’ll have different kinds of crimes? It’s the same type of premise as in Patlabor : if technology takes us there, the nature of crime will change. Of course we’re all human, but how in the world can we live and “stand” with our own personalities in this extremely complex society of the future? In this show, all criminals are making statements of a kind (politically, individually or otherwise). 

SAC01-03This is certainly a strong series evolved from speculative fiction, with excellent (and exotic Russian sounding) music by Yoko Kannno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne and Macross Plus) and viewers will enjoy this full-action crime fighting anime! In our opinion, this series clearly shows one thing: good writing and storytelling make a great difference! There are many shows with high quality visuals, but with weak stories. Ghost in the Shell is one of the best shows to come down the road in the last few years and hearkens back to a period where stories and strong characters were the main focus. I’d like to send out enthusiastic applause to the creators of this show! 

Despite its high quality animation and intelligent story, the show has a few annoying details: the original opening is much better than the 3D one which starts with episode 3 and there are some technical impossibilities (like the cloaking devices which are not consistent with those in the movie). 

SAC08-02This anime won’t disappoint you — in fact, you’ll be totally hooked! A must see show that I’d recommend to anyone. In order to understand the TV series a bit better it is recommended to have seen the movie or read the manga (you would already know the characters and technological background), but you will probably manage anyway if you just dive straight in (you’ll find some helpful information, right after the jump). The series was very well received with critics’ rating of 8.5 on IMDb and of 67% / 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Enjoy !

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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Life at the time of the Corona

Or what to do when you’re stuck at home because of the COVID-19 social distancing mesures. 

There is not much we can do besides sleeping, taking walks in the park (while keeping our distance from other people), reading books, watching TV series or movies, or using the internet to virtually travel elsewhere. We took a little time to gather for you a few suggestions of places where you can find pleasurable distractions. Enjoy !

Reading

All libraries are closed but — if you don’t already have a good book collection at home or a nearby book store — you can always rely on digital books. Beside the obvious commercial options (Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Kobo), here are a few suggestions to find free digital books:

More precisely, if you want to read free manga online (see also a list on epubor), here a few suggestions:

Movies & music

There are plenty of free music streaming sites on the internet (Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, iHeartRadio, etc.) but personally I use mainly Internet Radio, Stingray, and TuneIn. 

However, beyond the commercial streaming sites (Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), the free movies streaming sites are less well-known. Here are a few suggestions:

Also, if you are interesting in Japan and Japanese culture, I suggest you stream shows from NHK World.

Virtual visits

You can find a lot of places to visit virtually on Google: Art & Culture, but here are a few suggestions:

Museums

Music

Nature

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TV updates (Fall / Winter) Part 1

At last, another TV season is in view…

First some news…

  • The Crown S03 is now available to stream on Netflix (trailer)
  • Vikings S06 started on December 4th on History (trailer)
  • The Expense S04 started streaming (this time on Prime Video) on December 13th (trailer) !
  • Lost in Space S02 will be back on Netflix on December 24th (trailer) !
  • There will be another Call the Midwife Holiday Special on December 25th (trailer)
  • Doctor Who S12 will start January 1st (trailer)
  • The first half of Father Brown S08 will air between January 6th and January 10th
  • Grantchester will come back for another six episodes (S05) on January 10th
  • In the same genre, I can say that Endeavour will soon come back for S07 (February or March?), set in 1970. A S08 is also already planned.
  • The young Pope will have a sequel titled The New Pope and should start airing January 13th on HBO (trailer)
  • Avenue 5, a sci-fi comedy with Hugh Laurie will premiere on January 19th on HBO (trailer)
  • Star Trek: Picard will premier on January 23rd (trailer)
  • Homeland S08, the final season, will premiere on February 9 (trailer)
  • Outlander S05 will start on February 16th 2020 (trailer)
  • Westworld will be back for a third season in 2020 on HBO. Sorry no more details… (trailer)
  • The Boys S02 should be back on Amazon Prime around mid-2020 (trailer)

And then a few shows worth talking about…

Watchmen S01

Watchmen-poster-600x750I was disappointed by the trailer because the series looked cheaply made as I thought that Rorschach’s mask was not animated but only drawn but, actually, it’s not a Rorschach’s mask at all but an imitation worn by the 7th Cavalry, a group of white supremacist terrorists. The series is actually quite excellent. It is officially a sequel that tells us what happened after the comic book, ties some lose ends and builds a new level of complexity on the original story, but there is so many flashbacks that it could also be considered a prequel as it tells the origin stories of several characters. The story revolves around three generations of mask vigilantes, mostly the Minutemen’s Hooded Justice / Will Reeves (played by Louis Gossett Jr.),  the Crimebusters’ Ozymandias / Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) and Doctor Manhattan / Jon Osterman (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) — we could probably also add Laurie Blake (Jean Smart), formerly Silk Spectre, who is now an agent for an Anti-Vigilante division of the FBI — and, the newest generation, police detective Sister Night / Angela Abar (Regina King) who is the main protagonist. 

In an alternate history where the vigilantes (masked heroes who won the Vietnam war and saved the world from nuclear holocaust through an elaborate hoax) are now outlawed, the social policies of the Redford government are stirring racial unrest and, as the police has become the official masked heroes, the old vigilantes seeks to ties some lose ends in order to save the world again.

The story, about racism and justice, is well written and riveting, the visuals (without any big special effects) are stunning and respects the look and spirit of the original comic book. Despite very mixed ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (critics’s rating of 96% versus an audience score of 49%), I personally think that Watchmen is a superb production and a must see TV series. stars-4-0

[ GoogleHBOIMDb • WikipediaYoutube ]

Capsules

The Expanse S04

the-expanse-season-4-posterThe creation of the Ring by the Protomolecule has opened the way to thousands of new worlds. However, Avasarala, the U.N. secretary-general, had ordered a blockade until it is sure that those worlds are safe for colonisation. Unfortunately, some ships were able to pass through the blockade. When crews of both Belters and an Earth Corporation landed on Ilus to claim its natural resources, Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are sent by the U.N. the assess the situation — which quickly degenerate into conflict. On top of that, the protomolecule entity known as “Miller”, with which Holden is in contact, is wreaking havoc with the planetary systems in order to investigate why its civilisation has been obliterated and by whom. Despite the truce, all factions from Earth, Mars and the Belt are on edge…

This series is an example of incredibly well written hard science-fiction, where the complexities of science and politics make for a rich and intriguing plot. It offers breathtaking visuals that make you feel like you are there with the characters. I bingewatched the entire 10-episode season in only a couple of days. It is definitely the best sci-fi TV series of the moment and my favourite show. And I’m not the only one to think that because it received excellent ratings (an overall rating of 8.5 on IMDb although the lowest episode rating for season 4 is 9.1 and on Rotten Tomatoes we find a critics’ rating of 100% and an audience score of 98% !!!). I can’t wait for season five (which has reportedly already began shooting)! It is really a must see. stars-4-5

[ Amazon PrimeGoogleIMDbWikipediaYoutube ]

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Capsules

Ken Burns’ Country Music

KenBurnsCountryMusic-DvdLast night I watched on PBS the first episode of Ken BurnsCountry Music documentary and I was mesmerized! I don’t really like country music (or at least I thought I didn’t) but I was fascinated by this documentary about the history of country music in the USA. In fact, it is much more than that: it is the history of America and its culture — mostly of the deep America. It is very interesting and educating. Like all documentaries by Ken Burns it is very well researched. It is very interesting to see all those old pictures and footage, as well as to ear such music from another era (the documentary covers until 1996)… Certainly a must see.

Country music is certainly a pretty large musical genre that has evolved a lot and encompass many sub-genres (hillbilly, bluegrass, western, etc.) and cross-over styles. It is difficult to define and I am looking forward to learn more about it. For instance, Bob Dylan sang many songs from the country music pioneers (and adopted their style) but he is considered a folk singer. What’s the difference between country and folk? Is folk a sub-genre of country music? I am just wondering…

Country Music is an eight-part mini-series (120 mins each) that premiered September 15, 2019 and airs on PBS every week day until September 25. It is also available for streaming on PBS website (U.S. only). stars-3-0

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

[ AmazonGoogleIMDbOfficialPBSWikipediaYoutube ]

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Capsules

Carnival Row

5860359.jpg-r_1280_720-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxWith a serial killer loose on Carnival Row, and a government that turns a blind eye to the deaths of its lower class citizens, Rycroft Philostrate, a war-hardened investigator, is the only person willing to stop the murders and maintain the fragile peace. But when Vignette Stonemoss, a faerie refugee, turns up in the Burgue, she forces Philo to reckon with a past he’s tried to forget.

I was quite intrigued as soon as I watched the teaser for this superb dark fantasy (“neo-noir”) TV series on Amazon’s Prime Video. The world it offers is really interesting. It doesn’t feel entirely original since it is constituted by a blend of mythos that oozed from our collective psyche (legendary creatures mostly from celtic or classical lores) and it seems inspired by various literary classics (you’ll find little hints of Shakespeare, of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, of Alexandre DumasCount of Monte Cristo, of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, or a little Jack The Ripper and even a bit of Lovecraft), but it is all put together in a very clever and inspiring manner.

In an alternate Victorian world, a British-like country (a city-state named The Burgue) is fighting a German-like folk (The Pact, which remains quite mysterious throughout the series) over new territory to increase their colonial empire. It seems set in a period similar to the Boer War mixed with some aspects of WWI. Strangely, this society looks almost like the Victorian or Edwardian era from our world, but with slight differences in technologies and with everything having akin but different names. For example, the religion they practice is very similar to Christianity (with the typically puritan attitude of the Victorian England) but the Christ is called the Martyr and is represented as a hangman on the gallows instead of a cross! 

As The Burgue is losing the war, refugees from their invaded colonies are starting to flow into the London-like city-state creating social problems and racial frictions. It would be a normal historical drama if those population were not made of mythical creatures like faeries (fae), goblins, pucks, kobolds, werewolves, centaurs, etc. In the middle of all this, Rycroft Philostrate — a police inspector with a mysterious past and an identity crisis — is investigating a series of gruesome murders and is somewhat reunited with his long lost lover, Vignette Stonemoss.

CarnivalRow

Carnival Row is an excellent steampunk story (they still use coal but also telegraph, electricity, airships, gatling guns and small rockets). It is full of mystery, moral (battle of good vs evil, high society vs the slums), politics, forbidden love (inter-racial and LGBTQ+) and even sex (faeries are apparently quite sexual creatures). It tackles very contemporary themes, like social inequity, immigration, feminism or racism. This series is a real advocacy for tolerance and diversity, a call to rediscover and preserve the magic that is in our hearts. It makes me realize that steampunk (and Neo-victorian), as a genre, is really getting popular — we start noticing it more and more in novels, in anime and manga, and now even in TV series.

This series is quite captivating (I binged the first season in a couple of days) and incredibly well-made (superb special effects and costumes), with a great cast (Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Indira Varma, Jared Harris) and an excellent storytelling. It will surely be the event of the season. I found it both fascinating and entertaining, and cannot understand the poor reception it got from the critics (54% on Rotten Tomatoes !) although it was better appreciated by the public (87% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.1 on IMDb). I admit that the ending of the first season was a little predictable and disappointing (aren’t they all — but this one does solve the identity crisis of the main character and the murder mystery). Some people complained that the folks of the Pact were never properly introduced or developed, but I am sure that more will be explained in the second season (I can’t wait to see where the plot will take us). No, this series is definitely a must-see (be sure to check also the behind the scene videos) and I highly recommend it. stars-4-5

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

[ GoogleIMDbPrime Video  Wikipedia ]

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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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Capsules

TV Rant

What is it with this new trend? Many paying TV services like AMC Premiere, HBO Now (U.S. only), PBS Passport (U.S. only), etc., start appearing. Look, I am already paying for the damn channel and now you tell me I have to pay some more to get access to your back-catalog streaming, bonuses, extra, previews or advance screening ? Man, that’s harsh. That’s being greedy. That’s exploitation of the masses. I really effing hate you, TV.

And now a special word for PBS: I am already paying for your damn stations (three, in fact) with Bell Fibe TV. How come when I go to your website I cannot watch ANYTHING because “this video is not available in your region due to rights restrictions” ? And it’s the same damn thing for Passport ! Isn’t your call sign saying “Mountain Lake PBS : Plattsburg, Burlington, Montreal” ? I can even donate some money to your station. And yet I cannot use your website or the iPad app ? That’s nonsense! Just go to hell. I’ll donate money when I’ll be treated as a real customer and be able to use your online service!

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