Amon Saga

Amon Saga (1986)

Amon Saga is classic sword and sorcery in anime form that is definitely up front about its influences – obviously via tropes common to the genre, but this revenge story might also bring to mind Schwarzenegger-era Conan too.

Elsewhere, there’s an interesting mix between what I think of as hints of Elric of Melniboné and ‘D’ from Vampire Hunter D.

And maybe that’s partly due to the character designs by Yoshitaka Amano?

The OVA also has a few exciting sequences and some memorable moments and characters (for me, it’s Alcan who almost steals the show) yet what I think what I enjoyed most was the visuals – especially the use of colour and shadow. Some older films, especially those that pre-date modern CGI techniques, spend a lot more time on composition, on shadow or colour, and while my screencaps probably don’t back up my claim, it’s definitely there.

I really enjoyed Amon Saga but it’s probably not one I’ll watch annually, despite the visuals.

There’s a lot to like there but the story didn’t match it, I think, whether because of what I thought was a bit of missing world-building or the sense that Amon rode off into the sunset simply ‘because’, or the fact that I didn’t really get to know him enough.

However, if you like retro anime, fantasy and adventure, then this is still going to satisfy on some levels at least, even if it probably won’t end up your new favourite.

3 Stars

Thanks to Josh for bringing this to my attention too 🙂

Not my best screencap effort here 😀
The transfer for my DVD seems a bit darker than it probably looked upon release.

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Four)

December is here (somehow)! Hope you’re all safe – I’m back with an update to my Top Ten… which is to say, I’m updating some things that are lurking just beyond and I also have one ‘shuffle’ change 😀

As usual with these posts you can click here for a preamble along with the parameters (no films etc etc) and also some reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose back in quarter one.


The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Three

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Four

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
Trigun (1998)
The Big O (1999)

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


Just some shuffling up there, reflecting no doubt, my semi-recent re-watch of Trigun.

But in the beyond, where other shows are jostling for position in my mind, there’s also something I missed in the past, which is Land of the Lustrous which is not just visually amazing but features a really fun mythology and plenty of memorable characters too.


(Still!) Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that I reckon are pretty close/could well sneak into the top ten one day. Again, the longer I do this, the more I’m finding a lot of this process relates to mood as much as anything else. I still suspect that this is where most of the changes will occur over the years.

Land of the Lustrous (2017)
Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)
The Great Passage (2016)
Dororo (2019)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


As before, I’m always looking for classics to add to the list if anything you think I’d like is missing, just lemme know 😀

Thanks for reading!

A-Z Challenge “D” is for Dallos (Darosu)

Dallos (Darosu) 1983

The first OVA produced!

Dallos feels extremely topical now when wealth inequality is so vicious, and you could certainly also read the OVA as a critique of colonialism – though I’m not sure Hisayuki Toriumi, Mamoru Oshii and Studio Pierrot were making a ‘message’ story? I should do more reading there.

Still, the themes are definitely present and expanded via inter-generational conflict as much as being driven by events around the Lunarian rebellion.

Science-fiction and action tropes do fill a lot of the short series, and although there’s time for politics too, what caught my eye (aside from the world-building) were the now ‘old-school’ visuals from both character and mechanical design – it does feel like the 1970s are very close.

But when I learnt that there were essentially two directors on Dallos, I think it became easier to see the action scenes when Oshii was clearly in charge.

Dallos is told from a few POVs. It mostly follows our hero Shun, rebel leader Dog and antagonist Alex as they struggle for control of the colony, and it doesn’t rush the story either, which is great. I guess if you’re mostly into modern animation, however, you’ll really see the age of the art.

In a way, two stories from 1966 came to mind when I finally saw Dallos – one was We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (filmed as Total Recall in 1990) and the other The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. For the latter, the production team mention it as an influence but my association with the Philip K Dick story is a little more nebulous to me – not sure I can put my finger on why.

I still really enjoyed the OVA series and my only qualm I guess, was that I think I expected a little more mysticism from the film for some reason – maybe since the ‘god’ of Dallos itself seemed to be set up that way? Still, that feel was not absent at all, but I guess I just wanted something extra.

Obviously if you’re a science-fiction fan, or curious about this pretty cool piece of anime history, or Oshii’s early work too, then you’ll probably enjoy Dallos but visually it’s not at the level of Ghost in the Shell, for instance, and I wonder if tonally, this is more the work of writer and co-director Hisayuki Toriumi?

4 Stars*

I love how huge the theme can be 🙂

*To borrow from Iridium Eye Reviews a moment – maybe remove a star if you’re not so interested in the history of anime.

And this is my third review for my A-Z Challenge 🙂

Toward the Terra (1980)

Toward the Terra (1980)

I tend to really enjoy stories that feature big concepts – especially imaginings of the future, and Toward the Terra features both of those things.

While it’s a generational story that skips a few years here and there, the beginning especially gives us a look at an unsettling ‘utopia’, a place boasting order and health but a place where a character might say something like “I’m sick of boys, let’s get a girl next time” and this statement would be perfectly normal.

The repressive society featured in Toward the Terra isn’t the main focus precisely, but it is the structure that our Chosen One (Jomy) must rebel against.

Ultimately, the story is a far-future struggle between humans and Mu (Mu are humans who can use psychic powers) and while the film does feature space battles and struggles, it’s not so much a war between equal and opposing sides, it’s more like a brainwashed humanity seeking to commit genocide upon the Mu.

It can be pretty grim – and while the ‘80s designs and animation might not make some of those things seem as visceral as modern shows could, it’s still compelling.

For me, the time skips I mentioned before suggest that this adaption would have worked really well as a series (and twenty-seven years later maybe it does :D), allowing the story to further explore things like Jomy and Physis for one, but beside that and similar issues related to the huge story and limited running time, I enjoyed Toward the Terra plenty.

4 Stars

Cyber City Oedo 808

Cyber City Oedo 808 (1990)

This is a classic (and fairly violent) OVA series and one which I suspect most cyberpunk fans are at least aware of, but is definitely worth watching if you like the genre but have never had the chance; it’s probably online somewhere by now but I’m not sure who streams it.

For me, so much of Cyber City Oedo 808 feels wonderfully connected to the 1980s (no surprise considering the release dates) whether it’s the assumption that floppy disks will be part of the future or the big hair and heavy metal theme song, or the old school blue palette used for night, it has so many things that I tend to be fond of.

At the same time, in terms of plotlines, the anime is a little more fantastical, even mystical – considering the way machines and computers infiltrate humanity, but especially when I think about episode 3 (Crimson Media) which features the ‘vampire’ storyline.

But in all the big ways it’s definitely science-fiction.

For one, there’s a crime-ridden, megacity-setting where the power of technology is used to both monitor and maim. Cyber City Oedo 808 also makes extensive use of futuristic weapons, equipment and vehicles, and conventional ideals of what it is to be human are abandoned. It’s not a long exploration of those issues though, since the focus is firmly on action, technology and sometimes the gore (directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri)… so the anime is not setting out to be philosophical perhaps, but I felt like there was plenty of room to consider those aspects if I wanted to.

Cyber City Oedo 808 follows three convicted criminals who have been offered the chance to commute their sentences by hunting down and executing other criminals. Each lead basically gets their own episode, though they do operate (somewhat grudgingly) as a team at times.

I quickly alluded to this before, but as a Yoshiaki Kawajiri film, there is a bit of fan-service when it comes to the detail on the violence, but in a way, it seemed like both less and more than what you’d see in things like Wicked City or Ninja Scroll.

With each episode, the storytelling is really focused; I felt like I was in good hands when it came to info around setting and character motivation too, and I hadn’t realised that Akinori Endo also did screenplays for Armitage III and Battle Angel, which was cool.

I love each storyline and so it’s hard to choose a stand out without going into spoiler territory, but since Benten is my favourite character, I reckon I have to go with the menace of Crimson Media, complete with its quieter moments. (You can also see a real echo of Benten’s own temperament in ‘villain’ Media, but again, I don’t want to drift into spoilers here!).

5 Stars

Tension stays pretty high in part due to these ‘kill switch’ collars that ex-convicts must wear.
This guy always makes me think of Vic Rattlehead.

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Three)

As I mentioned before, I’m a bit behind in terms of posting a list in each quarter, so I’ll probably push the final entry back to December, perhaps.

And also just like before, you can click here to check a preamble and reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose for quarter one, and there’s also a note about the single change from quarter two here.

So, again – let’s see if anything has changed! (If so, it’s generally because I’ve changed my mind about something older or finally watched something I hadn’t seen before).

I will probably re-post this bit each time though:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this one

The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Three

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


No change!

Where I have made changes is in this larger ‘just outside’ section – a few additions, one of which I want to highlight being ‘The Great Passage’ which I loved, and surely, it has to be one of the few shows out there about making a dictionary?


Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that I reckon are pretty close/could well sneak into the top ten one day. Again, the longer I do this, the more I’m finding a lot of this process relates to mood as much as anything else. I still suspect that this is where most of the changes will occur over the years.

Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)
The Great Passage (2016)
Dororo (2019)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


I fear that I must now resort to creating a Top 50 far sooner than I’d hoped – I also fear the mere thought of a Top 50 😀

Again, I’ve love to know if you think I’ve missed a great show! (Doubtless I have) and so maybe I’ll be able to include it in my list for future viewing… especially if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally. (I’m curious to see whether some of my A-Z Challenge titles might eventually get into this list too).

Thanks for reading!

A-Z Challenge: “L” is for Lily C.A.T

Lily C.A.T (1987)

I definitely enjoyed Lily C.A.T but I think if you want terror in space, then you will invariably be more satisfied by the film it owes the most to, which is of course Alien.

However, that doesn’t mean this longish OVA is not worth checking out if you’re interested in the genre. Or that it doesn’t have moments of tension. And for me, there were also parts that definitely ‘explored the human condition’, to borrow a phrase from literary fiction circles.

And as a bonus, I actually wanted some of the characters to survive!

As an aside that is actually a couple of paragraphs long, when I use the ‘Toys in the Attic’ episode of Cowboy Bebop in my classes, we talk a lot about the influence of Alien on the ep (and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others) but I think Lily C.A.T should get a mention too.

It feels like part of that famous homage episode (especially the blob itself and the blowtorch) are close enough to what you’ll see here, to warrant a mention at least. Certainly, my obsession with connecting texts to one another is something I might one day cut back on, but it’s out of my system for the rest of this review at least!

There’s plenty about the film that uses the typical ‘crew dies one by one’ structure, but the menace itself is something a little different. And when you do catch glimpses of a certain thing, you might recognise creature design by Yoshitaka Amano, with a Vampire Hunter D style, if a little more muted perhaps.

Actually… it turns out that I lied about the intertexual references, as I do have one more that I’ll get to in a moment:

So, there’s a nice layering of mystery in Lily C.A.T that I also enjoyed.

Generally, the crew is trying to figure out what went wrong to interrupt their ‘hypersleep’ flight. However, at the same time they learn of imposters aboard, and so while folks are trying to determine who they can trust amongst the humans, they’re also having to deal with increasing threats from the non-human.

It does add an extra dimension to the suspense, which I really enjoyed but if you’re looking for a really slick, vividly animated film then you might find Lily C.A.T a bit dated. However, that’s not to say it’s bad – for instance, the hanger door sequence was ace.

But back to the reference I mentioned – parts of that sub-plot seemed to echo They Were Eleven (an earlier space flight themed manga/anime) though obviously the idea of false identity is not new.

Worth it if you’re interested in ‘retro’ anime, I reckon.

3 Stars

[This is the first entry in a challenge (that I hope to one day finish), where I have set myself the goal of watching something for each letter of the alphabet – you can see the list over here if curious].

Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie (Supēsu Adobenchā Kobura)

Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie (Supēsu Adobenchā Kobura) (1982)

Space Adventure Cobra was another gap in my anime viewing history and I’m glad that I’ve now seen the film, as it was fascinating to experience so much psychedelia within a post-Star Wars, action-adventure Space Opera.

There’s also a bit of the horniness common to Bond films present, and what I considered a dash of Lupin, yet if I go too far with the comparisons I’ll probably do the characters a bit of a disservice.

But!

If any of that sounds like your thing, then let me add that you’ll also encounter aliens, laser-arms, spaceships, mystical powers, fun cheesy names like ‘Crystal Boy’ and even snow-boarding rebels facing off against a powerful Pirate Guild 🙂

In a way, it comes across as a wild grab-bag of stuff… or even a somewhat stoned version of the Pulp genres, but I certainly didn’t find that any reason to stop watching. It was heaps of fun, something that maybe I forget to gravitate toward sometimes. Or perhaps I’m just easy to please when it comes to my fiction?

But while I do think I’m fairly forgiving, for me it all works, at least in part due to the pacing.

Space Adventure Cobra is not a short movie, and it covers a lot of ground (or space, I guess I should say) but does so at a fair clip, which keeps you watching. Due to that pacing I didn’t always get enough time to really interrogate some of the things I saw, I just accepted that everything fit together in the universe and found myself instead wondering, just how far could bravado take Cobra on his quest to save the beautiful Royal Sisters and escape the Pirate Guild?

This isn’t all to claim that the adaptation lacks flaws for me… but I haven’t read Buichi Terasawa’s manga, so I can’t focus on differences/omissions there. Instead, I’ll note that the animation can swing from lovely to quite uneven and I don’t know if the psychedelic-naked-chick-montages do much beyond establish a tone (or that retro aesthetic) but otherwise, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that characterisation takes a back seat to action in terms of balance.

Should you check out this classic?

If like me, you’ve always been curious, then yeah. Because while there are parts of Space Adventure Cobra that will feel quite derivative, to contrast that, I think the inventive side of the film compliments the action-adventure feel and so maybe you’ll find plenty to enjoy after all, especially if you can watch it as a product of its time.*

4 Stars

*Part of me really dislikes that term, but it’s fairly apt here I guess.

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Two)

So, I’m a little late on the ‘second’ quarter here, but it’s still the second entry in this little ‘series’ of posts, at least 🙂

If you click here you can see a preamble and some reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose for quarter one… but let’s see if anything has changed! (If it has changed, it’s generally because I’ve changed my mind about something older or finally watched something I hadn’t seen before).

I will re-post this bit though:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this one

The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


So, there was a change 🙂

I’ve replaced just one title, but there are a few extras further below as well. But first:

9. Kids on the Slope (2012)

Kids on the Slope is a superb drama with an excellent romantic subplot and a soundtrack that should satisfy most jazz fans, especially if you like the Cool and Bob sub-genres. I loved it and look forward to watching the show again – especially for all the little references here and there, from character design to album covers etc

It’s also basically historical fiction I guess, or at least a period piece (in that it focuses on the 1960s in Japan) so that’s always a plus for me. Like most folks who’ve seen anime, I also really enjoyed the fluidity to the musical performances, achieved via rotoscoping.


Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that are pretty close/could well sneak in. As I go through the months, I’m finding a lot of this process is based on mood as much as anything else, AND, wondering if this is where most of the action will be over the years? (I’ve certainly added more here than into the Quarter Two Top Ten.)

Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)


Based on my missed ‘deadline’ of May for this post, I’ll try to get the third quarter post done sooner, and once more see if anything has changed but if I don’t get a chance to see a lot of new things by September, it might not look very different.

As before, let me know if you think I’ve missed a great show! (Doubtless I have) and so maybe I’ll be able to include it in my upcoming watching if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally. (I’m curious to see whether some of my A-Z Challenge titles might eventually get into this list too).

Thanks for reading!

Demon City Shinjuku (Makai Toshi: Shinjuku)

Demon City Shinjuku (Makai Toshi: Shinjuku) 1988

I swing back and forth on how much I enjoy the works of Yoshiaki Kawajiri (and Hideyuki Kikuchi) due to their tendency to drift into territory I’ll describe as crass at best.

Other times, the team-up creates things which are sinister and stylish from start to finish – with plenty of action to go along with the horror elements. Demon City Shinjuku mostly fits under this description for me.

And if you like the supernatural genre or films with great action sequences or with low-level lighting, stylised reds, pinks and blues for the palette of a city in endless night, and a city filled with mysterious characters and seemingly insurmountable odds for the hero(es) to tackle, then you’re in luck with Demon City Shinjuku.

To contrast, I’m certainly aware that some of the criticisms aimed at this film (and which can also be applied to many films and genres, especially fighting shonen) are certainly valid. Character development is not missing precisely, but the storyline is mostly built around getting the hero from one battle to another. And those battles tend to be exciting or surprising and are clearly so well directed, and thus the trade-off is definitely worthwhile for me.

On the other hand, Sayaka Rama doesn’t have much of a role beyond damsel (but she’s pretty brave, forging ahead in her high-vis pink dress) and so that issue with the characterisation being a little thin plays out elsewhere too. Again, I think there is a trade-off – which is the mystery behind a lot of figures (and the setting itself) especially for someone like Mephisto.

I also found it interesting to see the shinai from Kendo being the hero’s weapon of choice, which is something I think modern martial arts anime has maybe moved away from a little. As tends to be the case with me, I really enjoy Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s character designs – and even though his role is mostly confined to the prologue, the character of Genichirou strikes me as a cool mix between Clint Eastwood and Jet Black, or maybe he just has a 1970s vibe in general.

In terms of audience, I’ll mention that Demon City Shinjuku has far less sexualised violence compared to say, Wicked City or even Ninja Scroll, and the violence is somewhat more restrained too. I wonder if at this point in his career (right after Wicked City) there was an urge to make something (potentially) more commercial and suitable for distribution in the US, as Bloodlust perhaps was.

4 Stars