Pet Shop of Horrors

Pet Shop of Horrors (1999)

I definitely would have watched more of these.

Pet Shop of Horrors is a great example of ‘episodic’ storytelling, with its sombre tales contained neatly within each episode. There are two links between stories – Count D and his LA pet shop, and detective Leon, who is trying to uncover the truth about the place.

Aside from the cautious friendship between the two characters, the mysteries here focus on Count D’s customers and their folly.

Perhaps in time, maybe Madhouse could have built successive OVAs into a series – but that was probably never the plan. I guess also, this show isn’t ‘horror’ enough for folks who want gore and shock? And sometimes when a show doesn’t easily fit into one genre, it’s hard to sell. I dunno, I should research its reception!

But my point is (finally!) that this Pet Shop of Horrors is more like supernatural mystery more than full-on horror, and even at times, tragedy.

And while there’s a clear structure to the episodes – meet a customer to see what dangerous creature D sells them, then watch that customer struggle with their choices, there’s enough variety with mermaids, rats, serpents and kirin, and the characters, that I enjoyed each tale.

It was also fun to see what felt like a nod to Gremlins (but may not have been, of course) re: Count D’s rules about his caring for his pets.

Finally, the question of whether and/or how the customers invariably broke those rules was where most of the horror came into play, and depending on whether they were meant to be sympathetic characters, so too, the tragedy.

This feels like a somewhat forgotten OVA from the late 1990s now, but I liked it a lot.

4 Stars

The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) [Boxing Day Review]

The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) 1999

You can no doubt predict exactly what I’ll say about episodic storytelling by now, right?

This almost sums up the palette used throughout.

I’m definitely a fan of it – but The Big O ticks a lot of boxes for me outside its mostly episodic structure too.

First, there’s the slowly unfolding mystery in an unsettling but familiar city, then there’s androids, revolving villains, a dramatic multi-genre OST and finally; retro-looking mecha placed within a very 20th Century aesthetic – the mash-up is fantastic.

Having said that, if you don’t enjoy (almost) madcap mixes of conventions and genres, you probably won’t end up liking The Big O too much.

Despite the strong Batman/James Bond feel to the series, and despite the noir detective stuff happening on the surface, I still think that there’s enough dissonance and enough of the philosophical maybe, to deter folks who prefer a focus on a single genre or tone.

But again, that’s one of my favourite aspects of The Big O – that and the stylish character designs and art deco visuals.

I’ll take a shot at exploring the premise just quickly:

Roger Smith is a negotiator/investigator living in Paradigm City, known as the city of amnesia (for reasons which I won’t spoil). There, he is eventually pulled into the mystery of whatever event wiped everyone’s memory forty years ago, aided by former client, Dorothy – an advanced android.

To hopefully evoke a sense of tone here, I want to mention one person involved in the production – Chiaki J. Konaka. As with all collaborative arts, I think it’s cruel to point to only one person, especially in a review, but I think if I mention Chiaki then that might give a few clues as to the tone and direction of this series – especially the second season.

If I step away from my rhapsodising about the series for a moment, I’ll maybe get enough distance to point out some things that I didn’t love. Firstly, Roger is kind of a jerk and essentially mistreats Dorothy for nearly the whole series. And speaking of Dorothy, if you take a look at what she can do in the first two episodes for example, she is truly under-utilised by the story.

I believe more than a few people agree that Season 1 tends to be stronger than Season 2 (actually, I only took screencaps from S1 mainly due to time).

Three or four years later and the animation quality does get a boost for the sequel season, but for me, the powerful mysteries established in those first thirteen episodes aren’t all answered as satisfyingly as I’d hoped. (I also wished that Swchartzman got a little more screentime somehow, as I tended to really enjoy him and his monologues!)

In contrast to my comparative disappointment with the second season, there were still plenty of things that I continued to think about afterward. More, the audience does get a few answers in time, along with one reveal that had nearly as much impact as the stunning ending of episode 13, for me.

Okay, so now that I’ve finally reached this point in the review, I think it’s time to wrap things up – until my next post, where I want to try a bit of visual analysis on episode 3 of The Big O.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve made you at least a little curious about this ‘old’ anime! (It’s been in my top ten for a long time and I don’t see it leaving any time soon, but it did slip down a rung on the ladder at one point.)

5 Stars

(A few images to follow)

A merry time was had by all.

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!

Spriggan (Supurigan)

Spriggan (Supurigan) 1998

So! I was stunned to learn that Netflix is creating a series for Spriggan and that it’s due next year.

I think you could argue that it suits their action/sci-fi-heavy anime catalouge, but I guess I’m still surprised that Spriggan, which seems kinda ‘forgotten’ maybe, would be picked. In any event, I’m definitely looking forward to it because I think there’s room to expand the story, as compared to this 1998 film adaptation of Hiroshi Takashige’s manga.

And this is most certainly a film for action fans.

Spriggan is packed full of blistering, superhero-style battles and action sequences (even a touch of DBZ in there at times) and before you (maybe) groan at the idea of another schoolkid with unrealistic abilities, Spriggan does address that seeming oddity.

To very quickly talk premise: the story features two powerful groups vying for control over a world-altering artefact, with young hero Yu taking the lead as the top agent tasked with preventing misuse of said artefact.

For Studio 4°C this is quite opposite in tone etc to a latter film like Children of the Sea (which is the most recent comparative text I’ve seen) but the same level of care and attention to detail appears onscreen, with some cracking action sequences, as I mentioned above. Among the best I’ve seen in any anime.

Now, most folks seem to have problems with the story, and it does take a backseat to the action but it’s not like the plot is wildly swinging from one idea to another. Instead, maybe it’s just that a few important things (like Yu’s past, perhaps) don’t get a whole lot of screentime.

Katsuhiro Otomo was involved as a supervisor, and maybe you might then think of Akira in superficial ways (mind powers and sci-fi in general) but Spriggan is definitely closer to an American action film, fast-paced, violent and even far-fetched.

All the things that made it fun, perhaps.

4 Stars

You can’t quite tell here, but this guy is about to throw that helicopter.
Watch out, dude

150th Review: The Vision of Escaflowne (Tenkū no Esukafurōne)

The Vision of Escaflowne (Tenkū no Esukafurōne) 1996

I want to quickly preface my [spoilery] review today with a link to a post from ThatRandomEditor, Where are the Shoujo Anime? which I think is a great question, because for me, I don’t think I’ve really seen an action-kinda shoujo for one, in a fair while (or maybe I missed them?)

The Vision of Escaflowne is a classic and one of my favs, which ultimately suggests to me that I should probably spend a lot more time on the review, but I think I generally ramble on long enough as it is.

Firstly, I think portal fantasy is probably still holding onto a recent ‘boom’ right now, but if you’ve already seen all the new isekai out there and still want more, then look no further! Even more so if you’re also craving shoujo, because The Vision of Escaflowne will meet both of those needs nicely.

The same goes for the bishonen character design, and while I always appreciate the 1990s and characters with visible noses, the slight Pinocchio-feel took a bit of getting used to at first. Elsewhere, there’s a focus on graceful lines, and not just due to our winged heroes or the knight-like mech, and I’d argue that none of it comes at the cost of variety either.

That diversity is also featured in the range of new lands and peoples that Hitomi must navigate, aided often by Van or Allen (who tend to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to Dornkirk and his plans for world domination). But Hitomi is no flailing damsel either, and her visions and her speed as a member of the track team save the day more than once. I enjoyed the Tarot as well, which I hadn’t realised was quite popular with girls in Japan at the time, according to my Blu-Ray’s special features.  

And perhaps the audience is firmly meant to be shoujo, but I read that there were twin manga produced, one with more shounen conventions and the other more like the anime, which does have its share of a complex love triangles. In a way things seem ‘softer’ on the surface, with plenty of glistening eyes etc but The Vision of Escaflowne doesn’t shy away from heartbreak and repressed, unfulfilled desires either.

In addition to those romantic elements there are enough battles and duels to satisfy action fans too, I reckon. It’s an at times grim world with an interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction clear in the settings and characters. Having said that, the Dilandu encounters for one, became a bit repetitive for me. I found myself keen for Van to finish him off more than a few times, but having the invisibility aspect certainly kept suspense high, which I loved.

Okay, so I can’t wrap things up here without exploring some criticism, and while there were a few things that struck me, I’ll mention two below:

Sisters Eriya and Nariya – there’s a scene that I wasn’t sure how to read, especially in the way it was shot. Was it just meant to be run of the mill fan-service? Sapphic? Incestuous? I dunno, maybe I misread the scene but it never seemed to gel with their backstory or present storyline. Was it actually a missed opportunity to explore themes around sex and trauma?

And quickly now, by the end of the series I don’t know whether Folken actually earns his redemption arc for me, even if visually, one particular scene was fantastic.

Again, that could be a judgement call and I’m being a little hard on the guy but I dunno… He certainly helps our heroes out, but that whole mass-murderer thing keeps him firmly in the camp of villain, I reckon, even if he sees the light in time.

Nevertheless, The Vision of Escaflowne is an old favourite with a whole lot of stuff I loved, and one that I really enjoyed re-watching, but I can’t decide between 4 Stars and 5 Stars

… actually, it probably should be 5, especially with that killer Yoko Kanno OST.

(And I’ve also finally finished my second A-Z title now!).  

Poor hopelessly jealous Merle.

And there it is, the 150th review for the Review Heap!

(At least, I’m fairly sure it is – I counted, but may have missed a few, as it’s the 229th post but obviously not every post here is a review :D).

 

(I forgot to add – I usually take a lot of screenshots myself but this time my discs were playing up but I found a superb resource (qtpiecaps) which you can visit right here – it has a great list of shows available too.)

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!

Hercules

Hercules (1997)

Disney have obviously been at the forefront of adapting, sanitising and/or pillaging myth and fairytales* for many moons now. And it seems, especially commercially-speaking, that when they keep the stories happy, and ensure that it’s very easy to understand who is ‘good’ and who is ‘evil’, people are pleased.

However, I feel as though audiences aren’t too willing to let the company stray very far from that formula.

And part of me thinks Hercules might have been an early step toward less binary representations of good and evil, and maybe pointed toward an attempted change. It’s a change that I think comes to at least one end point with Atlantis. (Especially if I include Treasure Planet in that progression).

Hercules is probably closer to Aladdin in some ways, and watching it again much later, I can see why it did the usual big numbers. This time around, I probably focused on different things, especially the artwork and character design, though the story is a fun adventure and I think the liberties it takes with the family of Gods works quite well to make things a little more kid-friendly.

You also get plenty of exaggeration in character movement and faces, to keep that slapstick front and centre. As you might expect with Disney, there are also plenty of ‘modern’ pop culture references, with the Air Jordan stuff working best for me.

I want to come back to where I see a reasonably non-typical Disney character moving the needle toward morally grey, but for now I’m sticking with the visuals. I loved the sense of scale in the film – there’s a whole heap of extreme wide shots and towering structures, stunning locations and colours, typically beautiful Disney stuff.

But there’s definitely a Mediterranean look to the countryside and the character designs, which were based on work by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. I remember him most from Pink Floyd’s The Wall and you can definitely see his touch even in the finished, more rounded/tidier Disney designs. I’m pretty sure this is a sketch he did for Hades:

To switch to the cast for a moment, Danny Devito stood out and so did James Woods as Hades. Not sure what the actor was like back in the late 1990s but he seems to get attention for different things nowadays. Susan Egan (who I usually associate with Lin from Spirited Away), is also great as Meg; and that’s who I wanted to mention earlier.

Meg is a character with motivations that are not so clear cut at first. I’m not sure how younger viewers would have responded to her, but in a way she becomes the most interesting character in the film and it feels like she’s one example of cautious steps by Disney directors to shift away from the ‘kids’ category, for at least some of the time.

In any event, I enjoyed Hercules and one of my only concerns was the Muses… On one hand, the designs and animation upon the clay pots were great but the gospel didn’t work for me because it seemed somehow borderline tokenism? I dunno, can’t figure it out yet. Maybe I’m off-base, and I’d like to be wrong there.

4 Stars

* And other stories, of course.

Tokyo Babylon (1992-94) Collaboration Review

By Ashley Capes & Curtis Monroe

Tokyo Babylon (Tokyo Babylon: A Save Tokyo City Story) 1992-1994

Hello! Today I’m hosting a collaboration with Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews – our second, actually! We first reviewed Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers and today we’re going into the supernatural and the occult with CLAMP’s Tokyo Babylon, which can be seen as a bit of a prequel to X but still stands alone.

Thanks again to Curtis for watching this with me and also for jumping around from topic to topic in the write up, as I seem to do 😀


Ashley: Curtis, I wanted to start perhaps in an odd place, with genre or even tone – and see where you thought the OVA landed? I found this note on wiki (wish I could get to the source actually): 

Producer Yumiko Masujima remembers how difficult it was to recreate the manga’s atmosphere in the OVAs.

And I thought the episodes were highly atmospheric, strikingly so, but part of me feels that the comedic moments didn’t quite fit with the occult/supernatural, darker tone of the rest of each story. Of course, I’m not a fan of any single tone or mood being ‘unending’ in a work, I love variety, but I don’t know if the sillier moments brought levity or actually undercut the mood.

I should have used the other cat ears moment here 😀


Curtis: I would’ve never guessed that about the Tokyo Babylon OVA. While I haven’t read the manga, I do think the mysterious atmosphere does show up quite frequently. You even have the darker color palettes going on with the character outfits and the backgrounds. Certainly lots of black and red coloration on so many things. The mix of Gothic and occultic aspects did work more often than not in the visual presentation.

I thought the sillier moments in the first episode seemed out of place like the random jokes, brief comedic facial expressions, or the scene where Seishiro tells Hokuto to go on a diet just seemed off to me. That was a tonal clash with the murders here. They do dial it back in the second episode, but there were also some random moments like Hokuto dressing up in a pink cat girl outfit and briefly meowing. I don’t need to see some prototype Tokyo Mew Mew stuff in Tokyo Babylon, please.

A: Yep, I haven’t read the manga either but I’m certainly curious. Especially to try to learn more about that tonal imbalance. I thought that Hokuto was meant to be a fashion designer, and maybe that helps explain the distinctive outfits for her and her brother, and given the production period I can see a lot of Michael Jackson in Subaru’s first episode outfit. In fact, the costuming really stood out for me – that distinctive CLAMP look with the huge, square shoulders etc


C: Of course. Not to get too ahead of myself, I can see why this particular OVA would be an attempt to get some readership for that CLAMP work. I wonder if those same readers stuck around for X when it came out later.

Okay, I can see that making sense with Hokuto. I didn’t even think about Michael Jackson with Subaru’s outfit in the first episode. Wow, I can’t un-see that. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Thriller” popped on if he was walking around. How appropriate since he does deal with the supernatural. Haha!

Those are typical of some of CLAMP’s darker works from what I’ve noticed such as xxxHolic, the aforementioned X, or some of their manga series such as Legal Drug to name a few.

A: Me too! And I don’t really remember seeing Subaru in X but I’ll have to rewatch it now 🙂

What struck you as a highlight or a strength across the episodes?


C: The atmosphere was certainly a strength. The second episode felt more consistent with the more serious tone. Since it’s Madhouse, they certainly deliver in the animation department. Sure, it’s not as impressive as a lot of their later works and has aged some, but it holds up as far as some of their early 90s projects are concerned. There were some creative elements in the fight scenes such as those bird spells, the dog spirit in the first episode, or Hokuto creating a magic circle on the ground with only using lipstick.

I thought a lot of the voice acting was good in the Japanese version. I was surprised to find out that Subaru was voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi of all people whom I didn’t recognize. He’s known for playing far more energetic characters such as Usopp from One Piece, Inu-Yasha, or Monta from Eyeshield 21 to name a few. The delivery of him being timid and overly polite to a fault was certainly against type compared to Yamaguchi’s other characters. Okay, there is a bit of a hilarious in hindsight aspect when you consider Subaru isn’t the only detective to be voiced by him with Shinichi “Jimmy” Kudo from Cased Closed/Detective Conan as well as L from Death Note. Most of the other characters had voices that worked for them even though I found Hokuto to be a bit shrill for my liking even if it made sense for her having comic relief moments. One of my favorite voice actors Takehito Koyasu shows up as Seishiro. Granted, he talked in a bit of a higher register than most characters he typically plays, but he had the right mix of having a deadpan sense of humor, being very calm, but also a sense of creepiness about him (the flashback at the beginning of the 2nd episode being a major example).


The usage of magic seemed to be grounded. The mix of Japanese paranormal elements was certainly fascinating as it’s infused with more Western magic. There were creative usages with the spirits, scrying, and the concept of post-cognition was quite unique. I did like a bit of the symbolism with the Sumeragi twins. Both of them are named after stars with Subaru being a reference to the star cluster of Pleiades (Notice how the car company of the same name has stars in their logo?). The symbolism of that part of the universe comes from a dual meaning in Greek words for sailing as well as a flock of doves. That’s brilliant because he uses white birds in some of his attacks and one can argue that he tries to sail through paranormal seas to make sense of anything when not many can. Hokuto’s name is the Japanese term for the North Star. Despite how wacky she can be, she is able to help encourage her twin brother and navigate him towards the right direction if he feels down or too hard on himself. That was a brilliant correlation with the twin siblings’ interactions with one another.

A: Agree on all of this, yeah – I really liked that detail with the lipstick too, it gave her a bit of extra dimension too, beyond shrill comic relief.

There was also some really dramatic (and effective) direction during the confrontation at the end of the first episode – and this big kinda ‘hero shot’ of Seishirō that I loved. In fact, reading up a little about his role in the manga/having now seen a key scene in episode two as well, it seems a touch menacing just as much as it suggests ‘avenging’ too.

I guess it all feeds into that atmosphere we’ve talked about – all those reds and black, and those stills in the opening to episode two seemed to be composed so well. And I missed the naming and mythology, awesome – love the idea of ‘guiding’ and with the twins’ relationship it seems spot on.

Related perhaps, the Tokyo Tower/Babylon and folly of the villain in episode one made me wonder about the production time, right around an economy burst in Japan, and so it seems fitting then to have a developer as the bad guy. And maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when that sort of thing repeats in modern times, both in fiction and real life.

C: Nice! I was worried that she would be just some filler character that’s just there to take space, but it was great seeing her actually do something to aid others. Although to be fair, this is CLAMP being an all-female manga group, so I know they would never make Hokuto some useless character and they have a good track record with a lot of their heroines.

Definitely. Seishiro certainly had his big hero moments in both episodes. He certainly seems to be the most capable of the trio while also being the most dangerous which he lampshades when he fights against these criminals. I looked up a little bit about the character in the manga and in X, and it really gives another dynamic of why he does things as there are some ulterior motives.

No problem. It was something I wondered. I thought about the Subaru logo when seeing his name even though he’s not the only anime character with that name I’ve seen before (.Hack//Sign, anyone?). I heard of the name Hokuto because of Street Fighter EX, but I also realized afterwards that the anime Fist of the North Star’s Japanese name is “Hokuto no Ken”, so that made some sense with the star imagery with both twins.


That’s right. Several Asian countries did face a recession in the 90s, so that was fridge brilliance on the creators’ part. Given the current global economic situation, this makes the undertones even more resonating in hindsight especially since in America, the unemployment rate is equivalent to the Great Depression.

A: It’s like being hit from all sides right now, huh?

Anime can feel… maybe a touch frivolous at times, but on the other hand – I’ve really needed the distraction (maybe like most folks) over the last few months.

I’ll try to clumsily segue back toward where we’ve touched on the villain(s) of the OVA, which actually leads me to Seishiro again. I know we’ve already chatted about the flashback scene where he appears to be kinda grooming or at least starting off a pattern of manipulation with Subaru, but given the two episodes only reveal hints of this, I’m left feeling like I won’t get much of a resolution there. Obviously, I think you can still enjoy this OVA without taking the funnel into the manga, but that unfinished thread makes me wish more episodes were produced.

It’s a bit unfair of me perhaps to call that a ‘fault’, but I thought I’d ask what flaws or issues you found with Tokyo Babylon?


C: Yeah. History can really re-contextualize so many things in numerous arts. I’ve certainly noted how this happens in my other reviews with some things being better, different, or worse in hindsight.

I can definitely see that point. While I haven’t watched as much anime as I have recently, I did need to have some kind of escapism in between work and trying to stay informed of the current state of this world (COVID-19, the racial climate, US politics being an election year, etc.). Trust me, I really needed something like that lest I become irritable or paranoid. Okay, moving on…

That is certainly an issue with Seishiro since he has all of these subtle dynamics. Without getting any more context from the manga and/or X, I would have no idea why he has those kinds of interactions with Subaru. The unfinished aspect of the anime would be the biggest flaw and I’ve certainly noticed it with other OVAs of the 90s and 00s that felt like glorified trailers for the manga series they’re based on (Fight!! Spirit of the Sword, Angel Densetsu, and even the Battle Angel anime come to mind). Going back to Seishiro, I thought he had a habit of Tuxedo Masking the situation if that makes sense. Actually, it might be even more excessive than Mamoru’s/Darien’s alter-ego because he makes the final attack while Subaru is licking his wounds. This undercuts the main character and he should have at least made that coup de grace in at least one of the episodes. That was such bizarre characterization that did the medium no favors.


Besides the unfinished nature of the OVA or how Seishiro was portrayed, I had some issues with some of the audio and certain characters. I was not a fan of that insert song that was also the ending theme in episode one. It sounded like a really cheesy visual kei ballad that went nowhere and was chock-full of random English lyrics even by anime standards. I couldn’t take the schmaltzy nature of that song. While the main trio certainly have their own clearly-defined personalities, I had some trouble getting into some of the supporting characters. The detective felt generic to me even if he did have purpose in the plot. The villain in the second episode was way too shallow. Murdering people over a seat on a subway? That is one of the most petty things I’ve ever seen a villain do and it just made him way more cartoonish even if he was threatening.

There was also an unintentionally funny scene where he tells Mirei to run as he gives her a ten count before he chases her. Really? You’re going to rip off Shere Khan from The Jungle Book (yes, the Disney version)? The only thing that would’ve made this even more egregious would be if he told her that she’s “trying his patience” in the middle of said countdown. In addition to those things, this OVA felt like a case-of-the-week format, but never follows through because of the two episodes. Looks like I’ll have to watch the live-action sequel, read the manga, and watch X TV to find out everything that happens in that part of CLAMP’s universe.

A: Yes, great point about the villain from episode two – it felt incredibly flat, or at least a lapse in the characterization maybe, because the seat motivation spoke of zero rationality, like they were going for supremely ‘out of control’, but otherwise, there was time taken to show that he was quite functional.

To pivot back to something I really liked – Satoru Miyatake, who collected and catalogued stone and the attached memories, from building sites was fascinating. I really liked that idea and wished it could have been expanded somehow. It really fired my imagination though he was really just kinda plonked down into the storyline there in a way!


C: Thanks, Ashley. That episode’s villain felt like some generic and shallow “evil for evil’s sake” caricature. Killing people over a seat has to be one of the most superficial villain motivations I’ve ever seen. As much as the Joker can be chaotic (the severity of such depending on which iteration being shown), even some of his reasons go beyond “because he’s evil and/or insane”. Come to think of it, he did seem functional albeit extremely violent which hurts the narrative even more.

That was a great idea and I definitely agree with Satoru Miyatake. It gave a new dynamic that I’ve never seen before with the concept of scrying which really works in an occult detective context. That’s a superpower you don’t see too often even in a psychic or supernatural context. This could’ve been explored much more like finding out a character’s personality or past by what they own or that power being used to solve more crimes. 

A: I love to see more of that too – actually, I’m re-watching The Vision of Escaflowne at the moment and the Tarot stuff gives me a slightly similar vibe. I miss that sort of thing in supernatural storytelling too!

So, I feel like I’m going to end up ‘shooting for the middle’ here with my rating – and say that I think 3 out of 5 stars suits how I feel about it. Worth a look but not essential for me, despite how much I enjoyed it for the most part.

C: Nice. It’s such a unique power and it would’ve been so perfect for Tokyo Babylon. Escaflowne is definitely one series I would like to see again. I still think it’s crazy how this got played on Fox Kids briefly alongside Digimon, Power Rangers, and X-Men reruns back in the day.

Using your rating system, I would give Tokyo Babylon a 2.5 stars. There were some good things in that anime which I don’t deny, but I thought it was average as a whole. I could see CLAMP fans digging this more than me especially if they know things about the manga, X, and/or Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. Thank you so much for collaborating with me on another anime review!

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!

The Weathering Continent (Kaze no Tairiku)

The Weathering Continent (Kaze no Tairiku) (1992)

Lots of pastel-ish tones in this film, which really adds to the bleakness.

I missed The Weathering Continent back in the 1990s but I know it would have caught my eye if the film had actually had any chance of being screened in Australia – but then, at the time of the movie’s release I was probably watching Astro Boy re-runs (along with He-Man, She-Ra and Voltron).

And then, a few years later, by the mid-90s, it was all about Neon Genesis!

Still, I’m glad I’ve now seen The Weathering Continent because I know I’ll watch it again one day, since I enjoyed it so much.

It really walks the line between creepy and haunting so well, aided by a barren but not empty setting. The story follows three wanderers as they traverse a wasteland-like Atlantis, but it’s not a quest to discover ancient wonders – it’s more like a struggle to survive an ancient, cursed place.

I’m not sure I should try to categorise The Weathering Continent as ‘cult’ or ‘overlooked’ and I’m not coming up with a lot of info re: how it was received upon release, but I know it did have a theatrical run, though it’s not ‘feature length’ at 50-odd minutes. This anime is not something I suspect you’ll be able to stream easily, but I found a DVD via good old ebay, and it has a great, landscape sleeve:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51AGu829N7L._SX425_.jpg

Anyway, it was of course easy for me to learn that the film is an adaptation of a light novel series by Sei Takekawa (illustrations by Mutsumi Inomata) and that it was directed by Kōichi Mashimo. Mashimo’s name caught my eye because of Eat-Man and Noir, so it was interesting to see that same moodiness from the first Eat-Man here. However, unlike Noir the action is sparse in The Weathering Continent.

But when it occurs it certainly looks good – this is from Production IG before they changed their name, and character design stands out to me as well, obviously very 1990s. But above all, it is the city where the bulk of the story takes place that enthralled me, and yes the architecture and use of mostly sombre colours and detail is great, but the inhabitants themselves were what had me hooked, those masks and costumes!

Again, I wanted to share a lot more shots of the masks and the city but I restrained myself

I’ve had to fight the urge not to screen-cap the hell out of this one, because on the off-chance that you might want to see this film, I don’t want to spoil too much, yet I want to evoke enough to get you curious at least 😀

That’s probably enough rhapsodising from me, I think – basically, if you’re in the mood for a sword and sorcery anime that is also heavy on atmosphere (but a fairly light on plot), then this lesser-known film from Mashimo should satisfy.

4 Stars