Abandoned #11 (Sonny Boy, The Case Study of Vanitas, The Detective Is Already Dead & TEXHNOLYZE)

Okay, I admit that this is one of my most click bait-style headings so far, since the word ‘Abandoned’ is probably a little too strong for some of these entries.

And so here’s the usual disclaimer – I’m not ruling out one day returning to any of these shows… one of which at least I am 99.9% certain I will finish.


Sonny Boy

Ideally I want to come back to this when (now that?) it’s finished, so I can watch more episodes back-to-back, since having a break between each episode at the beginning wasn’t working for me.

I think I’ve seen the first three, and despite being hooked on the premise and the unanswered questions, and enjoying the visual aspects, I don’t think I’m actually interested in any of the characters.

The Case Study of Vanitas

Might return to this one day as I was enjoying the world, but I found Vanitas too annoying for a lead character.

Once he upgraded from being just annoying to ‘dude that commits sexual assault at the first opportunity’ I groaned and not only because it didn’t play like a flawed character who will one day change, and seemed more designed to fall rather neatly within the ‘cheap thrills’ category.

The Detective Is Already Dead

Nearly finished the first episode.

Might try to take a second look one day, as the premise caught my attention to begin with.

TEXHNOLYZE

99.9% sure I will finish this sometime during 2021.

I’m six or so episodes in and I was enjoying SO much about the anime. It is also just a tiny bit familiar too, as though I’d seen some of it a long time ago.

But whether my memory is any good or not is an issue I’ll put to one side for now, however, because I’ve been able to pinpoint what made me pause my viewing: for whatever reason, I’m just not in the mood for dystopian/bleak stuff at the moment.

I will be sooner or later, but it’s been over a month since I started and I haven’t returned just yet.


How about you? Seen/planning to see/abandoned any of these?

Blade of the Last Phantom Master (Shin Angyō Onshi)

Blade of the Last Phantom Master (Shin Angyō Onshi) 2007

Here is another anime that has me quite curious about the manga.

Set in lands reminiscent of ancient Korea, Blade of the Last Phantom Master follows anti-hero Munsu as he roams around fighting tyranny. And while he is utterly committed to that, his methods often grant him that label of ‘anti-hero’, perhaps along with his curt manner which is tempered by compassion.

The film does pander a little to the fantasy/supernatural genre’s expectation for violence and I guess you could made a case for Chun Hyang’s costume being an expression of the same expectation, but it’s hardly constant. (As I’ve probably said before, endless fan-service tends to bug me but Blade of the Last Phantom Master doesn’t feel like that kinda movie).    

I don’t really have much to mention in terms of aspects I didn’t enjoy – but I could see the structure of the film being an issue for some viewers perhaps, as Blade of the Last Phantom Master is one part the story of how the two leads meet (Munsu and Chun Hyang) and one part their next adventure, combined into one film. In that sense, it’s an effective bit of marketing for the manga for sure but might not be to everyone’s taste.

Elsewhere I loved the painterly, at times softer backgrounds, especially in the travel montage and throughout, I was surprised at a few of the turns the story took. And more, having so little knowledge about Korean myths and stories, I loved seeing some interesting magical elements – especially the way paper was used.

On that note, I believe not everyone was happy with the Youn In-wan’s tonal shift in this adaptation of the beloved The Legend of Chun Hyang and so I’m keen to read more about it one day.

Blade of the Last Phantom Master makes good use of its two villains too, along with the supporting cast. I should add, that even though master swordswoman Chun Hyang is a co-lead, she doesn’t really get many lines and so again, the sense that this is an opener to a much longer story is clear there too.

I can’t finish the review without mentioning the CGI, which is pretty well integrated to my eye, it definitely feels like both the Japanese and Korean studios (Oriental Light and Magic and Character Plan) put in a lot of care an attention there.

And finally, as a quick observation, I found it fascinating that Munsu seems to carry and use an inhaler – something I haven’t seen in a whole lot of anime.

5 Stars

What Else Did They Write? (Sadayuki Murai)

Not sure exactly how this series of posts will work, maybe it’ll evolve over time into a different structure or focus?

But for now, I’m planning to just highlight a few shows or episodes I’ve enjoyed + include extra titles that I didn’t realise the writer was involved with.

Further to the above, I’ll note right away that my research is rarely going to be exhaustive 😀


And further further related to the above, while any given writer might be credited with ‘series composition’, ‘screenplay’ or ‘script’, the terms aren’t always interchangeable. That also means that I can’t always directly credit the writer I’ve chosen with a tone, character, sequence or line of dialogue with 100% accuracy.

Nevertheless, here we go with Sadayuki Murai!

Perfect Blue comes to mind first.

I think the main idea for this series of posts came from noticing that Sadayuki Murai adapted Perfect Blue for the big screen and also worked on another Kon film, the amazing Millennium Actress.

When I later realised that he was also credited with one of the standout Cowboy Bebop episodes: ‘Pierrot le Fou’ I was surprised (in a good way). And if you’ve seen either the Bebop episode or Perfect Blue I think tonal similarities are clear.

There’s a relentless kind of menace to both and perhaps something similar can keen seen in Boogiepop Phantom, which credits Murai with series composition. (There’s also Bebop’s ‘Gateway Shuffle’ too, which always struck me as another comparatively dark episode).

You can also see Murai’s work in screenplays for Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, Devil Lady and Knights of Sidonia along with all of Kino’s Journey and the script for Steamboy too – among plenty of others.

Ideally, I’d like to include a quote or two or mention a few moments in the various scripts to highlight things I’ve enjoyed.

I think I ought to do more than that actually, but while I’m still figuring out how I want these posts to work, I’ll just note three things today:

• Spike’s sleight of hand in ‘Gateway Shufflealways pleases me
In Millenium Actress while Chiyoko takes medicine she says “never listen to doctors, they always think that old people are sick”
I’ve said this before but the inter-generational conflict in Steamboy is one of the real highlights for me, I always thought it was written really well

And done!

For the next one of these posts I’m planning on writing about Chiaki J. Konaka.

Murder Princess (Mādā Purinsesu)

Get ready for fantasy, sci-fi, political intrigue, romance, action, comedy and prominent use of the body swap trope, if you decide to take a look at Murder Princess.

Maybe that seems like bit much for one text – but I definitely liked the mix and thought this was a fun OVA. It’s not the shortest one out there, and it does tell a complete story across only 6 episodes too.

The series was released in 2007 and animated by Bee Train during their heyday and I don’t remember having many complaints re: the visuals or direction, though you won’t see the super-dynamic camera-work common to modern action anime.

As per the title, you can expect regular violence over the course of the betrayal of Princess Alita’s kingdom and her subsequent struggle for vengeance.

She manages to recruit some interesting folks and while there are a lot of familiar story-beats along the way, I was hooked by the body swap aspect which brought in a few fun ‘fish out of water’ moments.

However, one thing I did wish had been given some extra screen time was both Falis and Alita coming to terms with the switch, as it does play second fiddle to the action.

As an example, I imagine it would be pretty disconcerting to look at someone else and see your own face, see ‘you’ doing things from the outside, yet both leads adjust a bit too quickly perhaps.

Obviously it wasn’t a huge problem for me, but I do wonder whether the manga does more with that aspect?

Even though the star rating will probably seem a bit low, I still enjoyed Murder Princess – in particular Romi Park* as Falis, and remember the ED as standing out.

As I said before, this anime did leave me curious about the manga – and so maybe one day I’ll seek it out.

3.5 Stars

*Took me a moment to recognise her as the voice of Edward Elric, actually.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu)

I end up spoiling the ending to this OVA just below these first pics, and so if Nasu is on your list then maybe read no further! Otherwise, I’m going to mention probably my fav part about this cycling drama, which is something that happens at the end.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu) 2003

Nasu follows pro cyclist Pepe over the course of a single race on the day his older brother marries his ex.

The narrative describes this as Angel having ‘stolen’ Carmen, though she seems perfectly happy – but what I enjoyed was the fact that at the end of the anime Pepe obviously hasn’t forgiven either of them.

Is it petty of him? Warranted maybe?

I can’t decide, because in the OVA I suspect we don’t get the full context (compared to the source material perhaps) but I was sort of pleasantly surprised that there was no use of the ‘forgiveness no matter what’ theme in Nasu.

(And apparently I was so surprised that I’ve got another paragraph about it below, lol.)

It’s possible I expected that trope to appear due to the unwavering support Pepe receives from everyone while he races through the hills outside, and eventually through his hometown, in a compelling race featuring multiple threads. But the theme didn’t show up and I thought that was an interesting move, story-wise.

But getting back to the race itself, it’s not just Pepe vs the other riders, it’s Pepe vs the oppressive heat, vs his own limitations, vs his dream of escape, vs his lingering resentment and even the threat of being fired by his sponsor.

At only 45 minutes long I never felt a lag and throughout the OVA, the art and animation both felt top notch with a nice blend of 2D and subtle CGI to keep things dynamic perhaps – especially once the race hits town.

You’ve probably noticed from the screen caps that there’s a fair Studio Ghibli feel to the colours and character designs, and that might be because Kitarō Kōsaka* directs, and aside from that, his experience really shows in every aspect of the anime.

As a bonus, while knowing nothing about pro cycling prior to watching, I learnt a little during the course of the anime, perhaps enough to better understand a real life race were I to watch one.

Having said that, I don’t think you need to be a cycling fan to enjoy this – it’s a great, short drama with a vibrant setting and tension-filled race…

… and yet, is the cat really called Negro?

4 Stars

Highlander: The Search For Vengeance

Highlander: The Search For Vengeance lands somewhere between spin-off and remake of the very famous 1986 Christopher Lambert film Highlander, a movie Queen fans may also remember due to its OST.

Highlander: The Search For Vengeance (2007)

I’m not really planning to do a comparative review so I’ll just say that I agree with what seems to be the general consensus out there, that among all the Highlander texts following the original, this is among the better ones.

In terms of genre, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is a post-apocalyptic, science-fantasy action film from top to bottom, with top notch animation (Madhouse and Imagi Animation) that follows Colin MacLeod through the centuries on his quest for revenge.

And it is a classic (or ‘basic’ if you’re not a fan) revenge story with Colin hacking his way through various obstacles on a path toward his ages-old enemy Marcus Octavius, at times taking a break for war or love or perhaps just gratification – and as this is an anime take on the franchise, get ready for plenty of fan-service.

The non-linear structure to Colin’s search adds an extra layer to the narrative, weaving in and out of the past and future as we see him fight and struggle and even repeat some costly mistakes in different historical eras.

I’d have loved to see a little more from Colin’s memories of the 20th Century for one, but what existed served the overall picture of a battle throughout history.

It seems that when Yoshiaki Kawajiri is working with US production companies there’s a toning down of onscreen sex and violence compared to his other work, yet not a removal.

So you’ll still get explosions, decapitations, nudity and even (in this film) a presumably romantic sex scene, much like what could be seen in an 1980s/1990s action or thriller film. (Thus, in terms of audience it’s obviously not aimed at kids).

A few quick dot points before I finish:

  • I’m a fan of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s character designs and this anime is no exception
  • I do love imaginings of the future and cities in various states of decay (in fiction, at least) and so the New York setting was a highlight for me
  • Colin probably isn’t perhaps as multi-faceted as some other leads in the film, so you might find a fav side-character instead
  • If you’re exhausted from and furious about COVID and can’t stomach another virus subplot, then I’ll note this does feature one

Overall, I enjoyed the structure, the action and the scaling up of problems for our hero to face, all of it interwoven with backstory and some memorable leads too (not only Moya, who probably doesn’t have enough screen time to be called ‘lead’, I guess).

If you like the genre in general, or you’re a fan of the original movie, you’ll find this both a little different and very familiar, which could be a mark for or against, I suppose.

4 Stars

Not a lot of green at all in the film and so the small amount combined with the pink in Dahlia’s apartment really stands out

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume)

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume) 2008

This (loose?) adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s ‘Kogoro Akechi’ detective stories really becomes two different shows for me, with the first third being far superior. Not that the last half or ending is poor, but the focus becomes a bit muddled I reckon.

But is any of it outright ‘bad’? Not at all.

And I think if you like adventure stories and heists, then The Daughter of Twenty Faces should do the trick. (It also has plenty of daring escapes and fun action sequences from late 2000s-era Bones too.)

Thinking back, I remember that the first episode almost had me give up on the show – I won’t spoil why, but pay-off is worthwhile, I reckon.

In fact, the anime throws out a few twists and turns as you follow the clever Chizuko through the post-war Shōwa era on her quest to find the truth about the mysterious benefactor who operates as something of a surrogate father.

Twenty Faces and his crew, especially Ken, stand out as co-leads/supporting characters (and so does Tome, perfectly demonstrating heroism without brawn) and as much as I enjoyed the surprises and larger scope of the story, I’ll probably watch this again one day for the characters themselves.

[Spoilers below]

When it comes to a few things that stand out as disappointing, I will say that the decision to simply do away with almost the entire cast after about episode 6… well, I’m still of two minds about it.

Clearly, it works wonderfully to force Chiko to become more independent but it seemed also a way to place her into a generic school setting, to make sure certain manga arcs could be animated?

It really slashed into the tension and introduced tangents that weren’t as interesting to me as the main storyline.

My subtitles were a little hit-and-miss too, so I didn’t quite pick up on the full dialogue toward the final few episodes, but one day a re-issue might sort that out 😀

Despite my grumbling about those issues, I liked The Daughter of Twenty Faces due to the characters and the storytelling, and still find myself wondering how it was received ‘all the way’ back in 2008.

4 Stars

Sin: The Movie

Sin: The Movie is a cyberpunk OVA with a few big action sequences but a fairly brisk plot in some sections – maybe too brisk. It’s only 50 or so minutes long, but it feels like it’s telling more of a feature-length story.

A connected issue was the character work – the variety in design isn’t matched by the depth of charactarisation, which is a shame, as a bit of extra screentime would have been great – especially for Elyse who too often feels like a plot device.

It is an action-focused cyberpunk anime and so that’s where the focus is (and sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for) but maybe Sin didn’t have the kind-of breathtaking action that often makes up for other possible deficiencies.

On the upside, if you’re a fan of the era, the style or genre in general then there’s probably going to be just enough to satisfy.

But before I finish, I want to quickly jump over to video games for a moment.

Back in 1996 there was a game called Quake, which was pretty big deal in the gaming world, and its engine and variants thereof would soon feature in more than a few games that followed, one of which was Sin.

And I mention this of course because Sin: The Movie is loosely based on the game and I was interested to learn that the game team seemed at least somewhat involved in the movie. (It was also produced by ADV Films from top to bottom too, which I hadn’t realised).

3 Stars if I’m feeling generous.

I forgot to mention, the music is performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which does give the movie an extra dimension.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira)

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira) 2001

Another powerhouse film from the dawn of Bones as a studio.

Back when I was reviewing the Escaflowne movie I was reading about Bones using certain scenes to showcase the animators and I wonder if that holds true with the Cowboy Bebop film?

The opening credits come to mind or the smash-up in the convenience store (“You take too long in the toilet!”) where things are very self-contained, serving as both a reintroduction to some of the cast, and as its own little mini story.

In any event, it all looks pretty ace and not just the fight scenes – but plenty of the scenery and montage moments too. The team themselves also look great with all that extra detail and narrower aspect ratio, which did take me a bit of time to adjust to, actually.

A note, this won’t be a detailed analysis, it’s just going to be me skipping through a few things I liked 😀

So, if you loved the series but for some reason have never seen the film, will you like it? Surely yes.

This time, the gang have to deal with a terrorist with the skills to actually bring about some serious destruction, choosing the chemical warfare path. Vincent is a pretty good villain, menacing and understandable if not someone I’d actually empathise with perhaps.

Of the new characters showcased in the film, Eletcra is easily my fav – fitting nicely into the ‘girls with guns’ mold, but great hand-to-hand skills are also on display with the that fantastic ‘Clutch’ fight against Spike.

The OST is another triumph of versatility from Yoko Kanno (even with the uncredited Sugababes cover), with What Planet is This?! and Time to Know being my favs, and of course, having Time to Know linked to Ed and Ein’s search is obviously perfect.

There are too many great scenes to highlight of course – and so beyond the two I’ve already mentioned above, I will also say the super-dramatic introduction to Vincent is great, especially with the depth of field tweaks.  

Speaking of Vincent, I’ve always wondered about his almost half-hearted attempted rape of Faye. Is it meant to illustrate his disconnect with reality or was it ‘just’ fan-service?

If it is supposed to show Vincent as dehumanised (which fits) I find it hard to believe he’d bother, he’s so apathetic – yet at the same time, desperately focused on a singular goal to the exclusion of everything else.

(Sometimes the film is described as a long episode of the show, and that feels right but not in a disparaging way, I hope. Cowboy Bebop’s episodic storytelling often had more content and stronger resolutions in 20-odd minutes that plenty of feature films).

But to return to the film now and also wrap things up – for me Cowboy Bebop The Movie lives up to the series, and exceeds it visually, and even though Jet is a little side-lined throughout, it’s still one of my fav anime films.

5 Stars

Yugo: The Negotiator (Yuugo: Kōshōnin)

Yugo: The Negotiator (Yuugo: Kōshōnin) 2004

I think all lists that include ‘smartest anime character’ should probably have Yugo in them. And maybe lists ranking ‘most resilient’ ones too for that matter.

Because boy, Yugo really does get put through some tough times here – especially in the first negotiation (episodes 1-6).

But before I continue I’ll include a quick premise from Wikipedia:

The series follows Yugo Beppu, a hostage negotiator, in various cases around the world. Having both a very tough body and determination, and his keen insight, Yugo often goes to great lengths to rescue those he was asked to help.

Yugo doesn’t feel like a typical anime to me. Perhaps it’s due to the settings and its lead character, Yugo, or the overall tone.

I think there’s a carefulness to the show, or a sense of deliberation; the action is often (but not always) more a battle of wills and mental resilience, which sometimes translates to a more static camera but that’s not a drawback for me at all. It allows for extra focus on character, on motivation and even ideology.

All of which I really enjoyed!

Another thing I loved about Yugo: The Negotiator was the fact that the anime gave me a glimpse into other places and times – Pakistan and Russia in the 1990s, though due to the subject matter, it certainly won’t come across like a travel show.

Based on the manga from the 1990s by Shinji Makari and Shuu Akana, Yugo: The Negotiator is basically historical fiction now, so it addresses specific conflicts and events from the past.

It seems very well-researched too, although I didn’t search long and hard on that note – but I did find this great post which talks about representation in the Pakistan arc, which left me curious about thoughts on how the anime depicted Russia too*.

To switch to things that stood out in a less positive way, I did find the OP and ED perhaps a bit too upbeat but maybe that’s a purposeful contrast?

If you get a chance to watch Yugo, you’ll note that each arc is handled by a different studio – G&G Direction and Artland, resulting in a fair contrast in art styles between negotiations.

On one hand, with G&G Direction in Pakistan there’s a real sense of intense, oppressive heat with a lot of overexposed-looking shots and more washed out colours, whereas the episodes by Artland in Russia are more vivid. There are subtle differences in design too.

Those things weren’t enough to hamper my enjoyment but they’re definitely noticeable.

I finished Yugo very keen to see more negotiations too but that’s probably impossible, whether in anime or manga form… unless I learn to read Japanese. Maybe one day!

Big thanks to Curtis at Iridium Eye Reviews for reviewing this here because without it, I doubt I’d ever have come across this seemingly little-known anime.

5 Stars

*Curtis’ review has a lot of great insights and also some interesting analysis of differences in the details of the script/dub too.