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.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta)

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) 1986

The first official Ghibli film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a steampunk adventure that will feel similar in some ways to Miyazaki’s previous epic, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, though Castle in the Sky is overall, a lighter story due to the inclusion of more comedy.

It’s one of the first things I noticed when I originally saw the film actually – the slapstick and wacky characterisation even feels cartoonish this time, as if those aspects were pitched at a younger audience perhaps, but the themes and trials the characters go through are just as serious as in Miyazaki’s other works. There’s more than a few echoes of Future Boy Conan too (which shouldn’t be a surprise of course) but the steampunk elements are more grounded, if you can permit me a pun, featuring one key setting of a mining town and the underground.

Of course, the classic Miyazaki delight with the power and nature of flight still features heavily in Castle in the Sky too and the ‘older civilisation with greater tech’ trope is in full force, one I suspect I will never tire of! There’s plenty of action like chases and fights, along with top notch animation as to be expected, and I still get a bit of a chill when the Robot first comes to life and goes on its rampage.

In fact, I think the most memorable aspect might just be the Robots and the ruins of the flying city – I reckon I was almost transformed into a kid when I first saw those scenes; the sense of wonder is so strong and I suspect, even if people don’t know the film they know what the robots look like. It was also pretty cool to see what I still think of as the clear inspiration for both Pikachu and Eevee, in the form of the Fox Squirrels from Nausicaa making a cameo in the garden scene.

Actually, I shouldn’t forget Dola and her pirate gang, she’s one of the best Miyazaki characters around – she tends to steal pretty much all the scenes she’s in 🙂

Anyway, on the off chance that you’ve never seen this adventure there’s lots of other aspects to enjoy – for instance, if you’re watching the dub, Mark Hammil is a great villain and whichever audio track you choose you can enjoy more stirring music from Joe Hisaishi – my favourite is the theme:

(It’s actually the second song here – sorry :D)

5 Stars

Hollow Knight (Nintendo Switch)

Hollow Knight (Nintendo Switch) 2017

This is the first game I’ve reviewed for the blog and I’m not sure how to make the review anything but an endless list of ‘things I love about Hollow Knight’ actually – so I’ll just jump in and see what happens I reckon 😀

As someone who grew up with the Sega Master System and then Sega Megadrive (and then grabbed a Dreamcast just as Sega to really started recede into the background) I remember largely snubbing my nose at Sony and Microsoft when they were arriving. Instead, I switched to Nintendo for the Nintendo64 and then, once it became ‘old’ I drifted away from gaming for a fair few years.

Thankfully, the release of the Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild caught my eye and I found myself once more immersed in that exciting mix of narrative and participation that you tend to only get from gaming.

Okay, so let’s get to Hollow Knight already!

Well, I stumbled across the game on Kickstarter some time after the campaign ended, and immediately downloaded a copy for my Switch. Since then, I’ve played it through a few times over the last couple of years because I feel like it really does have excellent replay value.

I’ve also been purposefully keeping my games library incredibly small re: physical copies, but I definitely intend to add Hollow Knight to my collection, now that the game is no longer digital-only… and… yeah… so, how riveting is this Purchasing Habits section, right? But I mention it as one marker of how much I love the game; I’m happy to buy two copies!

And I think if you enjoy beautiful 2D games in the modern platformer/metroidvania style then you’ll like Hollow Knight a lot. There’s lots of action and upgrades to abilities and functions, tonnes of secrets hidden throughout a really expansive world, a clear art style, haunting music and smooth controls, it’s a joy to play.

But part of what kept me enthralled was the vastness of the world you inhabit when playing the game – it’s a crumbling kingdom filled with a range of odd, cute and oft-times creepy insect-like creatures. And the sense of history and ‘ancient’ atmosphere is so well-captured by non-verbal cues, it’s all really stunning. So much so that I have (to quote Cosmo Kramer) “memory burn” of when I first reached a section of the game called ‘Greenpath’ and saw the plant life there that had reclaimed the ancient city. And coupled with the sombre yearning of the OST (by Christopher Larkin) I realised I’d found a game that I would be utterly enchanted by.

There is a (at first very) subtle mystery being told as you explore the game. Finding these hints and clues was just as fun to me as any other aspect, though the game’s Charm system provides more than enough variety on the ‘fight/upgrade/unlock abilities to progress’ cycle common to most action/adventure games. But again, Hollow Knight feels like exploring a living place, like your character is rediscovering a piece of forgotten art (maybe kinda like Gris in a way) and so it’s easy to forget those classic game mechanics and lose yourself in the world.

There’s many, many more wonderful touches and attention to detail (and humour!) that I appreciated but I’ve blathered on quite long enough, so I will just sneak in the mention of one – I understand that some backers on the Kickstarter were able to provide voices for some of the creatures, which is pretty ace, but more than that, I think the fact that Team Cherry decided to create a language to be used for the occasional pieces of spoken dialogue really added to the deep immersion I felt when playing.

Now, I do have one obvious bias here – Team Cherry are an Australian developer and so I feel some patriotic stirrings when I talk about the game, and there’s some sort of odd nostalgia/rediscovery/warm feelings thing happening too (as I alluded to in my rambling introduction).

So when I say I feel like this game has virtually no flaws, keep that in mind. But it has no flaws, let me just add that here too 😀

And finally, unlike some gaming companies Hollow Knight comes with a lot of DLC content for free, so if you purchase a copy now you get all the expansions bundled in already, which was tops. (As an aside, I can’t remember if the White Palace was DLC or just hidden in the original main game, but it was a tough nut to crack and really upped the ante on the platforming.)

And so for me, Hollow Knight deserves every accolade it’s received since its release.

5 Stars