Puppet Princess (Karakuri no Kimi)

This is a typical OVA in some ways – violence and nudity (or the threat of rape being passed off as ‘comedic’), all predictable things about certain anime genres, some of which have certainly come to tire me after a couple decades.

Puppet Princess (Karakuri no Kimi) 2000

That isn’t to claim Puppet Princess is terrible, or that I think it’s impossible to take on serious themes in anime either, but Puppet Princess feels too casual with its application of that content for me.

I should talk about the story sooner or later – but first, Puppet Princess almost seems bit of a warm up for Karakuri Circus, especially when it comes to the puppetry (which was probably the best aspect of the anime).

An adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita’s one-shot manga, it’s a straightforward but still at times exciting story of vengeance. Rangiku (the Puppet Princess) recruits warrior Manajiri and together they seek and eventually take on Lord Karimata, who murdered her family.

There are a few fun surprises, especially toward the end, and the art and animation works for me, though this 2000 OVA won’t deliver things you might be used to if you favour modern action sequences and techniques.

Is it worth chasing down?

Maybe if you’re a fan of Kazuhiro Fujita or the era of production perhaps, or just if you really love swords and shinobi.

3 Stars

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song

Vivy made me wonder whether great art, exhilarating fight sequences, catchy songs and fun costume changes with engaging characters were enough for me to say yep, 5 stars – even in spite of some disappointment with the plot.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song (2021)

(In the end, it doesn’t matter whether I finish the review with a 4 or 5 star rating, or any other number, but apparently I enjoy overthinking and so I’m still not sure about a score :D)

Anyway, getting back to Vivy itself– if you’ve been craving time-travel science fiction and action that looks great (with an interesting compression of a 100-year timeline) then there should be more than enough to keep you watching.

And there was for me – I looked forward to each new episode and in addition, it was really fun to see the show via Karandi’s posts too.

Ah, the wrist-grab trope

Occasionally, I felt some of the jumps in time were a bit sharp and Matsumoto can be hard work to listen to, though those were minor issues for me. Again, I personally find it easy enough to overlook aspects I didn’t enjoy when the visuals are great and WIT studio lives up to their reputation here, I reckon.

While there are a few threads / mini arcs that I preferred over others, I think I’ll quickly mention some fav scenes or smaller aspects instead:

  • The robot welcome in the factory stood out, nice way to humanise them and also kinda manipulate the audience
  • The ‘falling’ fight scene in episode 9 is pretty ace
  • Gradual thawing of Vivy’s personality works really well
  • OP is a cool song
  • I also enjoyed the little bit of exploration around possible rights/privileges of non-humans (robot marriage etc)

Without spoilers, there was a particular point toward the end where the choices of characters (and connected time-travel difficulties) gave me fair pause, and some disappointment there did impact the finale for me.

However, I wouldn’t say I felt the same level of disappointment as with say, The Promised Neverland or Wonder Egg Priority.

And in spite of the issues I had with the last few episodes I liked that time-travel wasn’t something that solved everything neatly, often when Vivy and Matsumoto took action, they found changes harder to make than planned.

In the end, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is definitely a show I’d like to add to my collection one day, no doubt about it.

4 Stars

Ni no Kuni Review [Collaboration with Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews]

Greetings! It’s collaboration time again, in this one Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews and I are going to chat about 2019 portal fantasy Ni no Kuni – a film we both enjoyed without being blown away, perhaps.

(You can see one of our previous reviews in Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers right here) Before we start, I have to say thanks to Curtis for some pretty impressive patience on this one, as it took me a bit longer than I’d hoped to get everything together 😀

Ashley: To kick things off I wanted to ask if you came to the film sort of ‘cold’ or whether you’d had a chance to play any games from the Ni No Kuni franchise? 

For me, I played Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2011) and was excited that Studio Ghibli did the cut scenes in that game, and so I went into the film expecting a certain aesthetic (which I definitely got, and really enjoyed). Having that little bit of background also took care of some world-building for me as a viewer too. I wondered if your first impressions of the film were influenced by the franchise or whether you had a more ‘clean slate’ viewing experience?

Ospreyshire/Curtis : I came into this movie cold. I have never played any of the games. All I knew was that Ghibli helped out in animating the game series, but that was pretty much it.

That’s cool with you having experience in playing this game. Studio Ghibli helping with a video game series is really cool as their skills could help a video game with the aesthetics as well as that animation company expanding their horizons in using their skills. This was purely a clean slate experience in going into this movie blind. As someone who has never played a game nor knowing anything about the world-building or exposition, I did feel like I was learning about the world much like the main characters.

I thought Ghibli was involved in the Ni no Kuni movie perhaps in a co-production or consulting role, but I was shocked to find out that OLM of all companies animated this film adaptation. Could’ve fooled me because it could pass as a Ghibli work (especially with the art, character designs, and Joe Hisaishi handling the music) instead of the same studio responsible for Gunsmith Cats, Yo-Kai Watch, and several installments of Pokemon of all things.

A: Wow, Gunsmith Cats and Ni no Kuni is a contrast 🙂

I feel the same, especially with Joe Hisaishi involved, yeah – it definitely feels like a Ghibli production in many ways, perhaps an industry they could have expanded even further into?

Here’s one of my fav questions – what jumped out for you in Ni no Kuni?

O: I know, right? I would’ve never guessed in a million years that they would’ve animated both.

I thought it was a Ghibli project going in with Joe Hisaishi and the character designs. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling watching some anime projects this year. Maybe they could’ve expanded especially since they haven’t done that much in the late 2010s.

The animation and having a more mature story compared to most Ghibli works were interesting. Okay, I know this would still count as an isekai work, but it wasn’t a boring example of that genre. I legitimately wanted to know more about the world and the connections between there and earth. The alliances shifting in the second half did feel a bit intriguing.

A: I felt the same re: the changing alliances and the far less typical approach to the isekai formula.

I was interested in the way that the characters were tied to their world of origin, that vital storytelling notion of ‘cost’. An action taken by the characters has a consequence and I liked how the film resolved those issues.


O: Of course. I didn’t feel like I was watching some by-the-numbers Isekai work and there were some twists that I didn’t expect with the world building or how the characters were able to travel between worlds. It did keep me interested with the entire movie and as someone who didn’t play the games, I didn’t feel lost in any way. I thought the damsel in distress aspect did get avoided with the whole story not being about healing the princess. Even though that plot point did get awkward watching it in current times for obvious reasons, I didn’t think it was hampered by the modern world as much as let’s say (got to be brutally honest even though you know my thoughts on this) Weathering With You for example.

From an animation standpoint, this was one of the better OLM works especially if I legitimately thought it was a Ghibli movie. The animation flowed very well and the fight scenes had the right amount of fluidity to them. It felt like a movie and never felt like they were cutting corners here like they’ve done in previous works even on their best days.

A: Me too – I hadn’t put it together with all their Pokemon work say, but like you mention, the battles looked great and the buildings and cityscapes caught my eye, the sense of movement within or things like the horse charge Haru leads too.

I was a little surprised that it didn’t seem too well-received, many of the criticisms landing on it not delivering anything new. I don’t feel that originality is the most important metric out there.

For me, the film worked in part because it was familiar in terms of settings and tropes, and whatever elements were predictable in the plot didn’t bother me. I wanted to be satisfied more than surprised and while the visuals were beautiful and I was engaged with the characters (especially Yu) I was happy to go along with events.

Maybe there were exposition-heavy moments to drag things down a little but in the end I was probably most forgiving because I was keen to see how Yu and Haru’s friendship would withstand the tests it faces. It felt classic to me 🙂


O: There was certainly a ton of effort with the animation even with the little things shown in this movie.

Really? I’ve been doing my best to not look at other reviews for most of the things I watch unless it’s something I’ve previously seen before, but I wasn’t aware of the overall consensus. Ni no Kuni isn’t the most original anime which I do agree with, but it wasn’t a horrible watch nor did I feel like it was trying to copy others or coast on the Ghibli-affiliation with the video games even if I was mistaken thinking the studio animated the movie.

I certainly do my best to give my flowers when movies and series do something innovative, but there are times where the familiar can work. This wasn’t some avant-garde work, but it certainly wasn’t some genre-by-numbers dreck. I wanted to know who this was going to play out and how they’re able to go to different worlds or how Yu is able to use his abilities.

I agree the exposition got a bit much at times and the friendship between the characters had fascinating contrasts and good development as they’re both conflicted during the final act.

A: Sometimes after I’ve seen something I’ll try to seek (as best I can) a general consensus about how a film or show has been received and I very much find doing so to be a a double-edged sword 🙂

When I’m lucky I get some new insights or I pick up something I missed, but that doesn’t always happen. This time I was curious to see if people were writing about the movie in regard to disability representation. I don’t know how often Ni no Kuni got it ‘right’ when it came to portraying someone in a wheelchair, but I definitely had the sense that Yu was given proper thought and attention, especially in the earth-based scenes.

When I think about something the film didn’t deliver so well perhaps, one thing that comes to mind is maybe the Black Hooded Man, who seems a little inconsistent – or perhaps even constrained by the plot too easily (trying not to spoil certain plot points :D).

Did anything in particular strike you as a weak point? 

O: I’ve done that sometimes and it occasionally factors into my reviews. There were a few times (can’t remember which posts at the moment) where I mention the consensus and I compare/contrast with my thoughts against the masses…or at the very least Rotten Tomatoes and/or Metacritic.

You bring up an excellent point. You don’t see that many physically disabled characters in animated works. The only ones I can think of in the context of being wheelchair-bound are Pelswick, Prof. Xavier from the X-Men, and Garrett from Extreme Ghostbusters. I don’t know if I’m the most qualified person to talk about this issue, but from what I saw, Yu was a character who happens to be in a wheelchair instead of a wheelchair-using character. That makes a huge difference in the presentation. Sure, he’s clearly seen using it in the earth scenes, but his personality goes beyond that in both realms, so I do applaud that. I do wonder if Ni No Kuni would get attention from disability activists in portraying a character in that light.

Yeah, the Black Hooded Man came out of nowhere and didn’t have as much development. As I’m also trying to avoid spoilers, I did figure out his true identity by looking at the right signs. They did throw a decoy with that mystery, but I still figured it out even if it wasn’t exactly how I planned it. I could also mention how the revelation does play up a certain cliche with specific occupations, but I don’t want to give away the twist.

Outside of that issue, I did think some of the background characters didn’t get much development. It’s even more glaring in the fantasy world with so many characters of different colors, shapes, sizes, forms, and species around. Even if some had personalities, they were mainly there to show how different it is compared to earth.

One scene that I thought was very awkward was early on where those healers were trying to cure that disease by dancing or singing. Not only did it feel a bit random even if it made sense with the plot at that time, but am I the only person who thought the attire and presentation was a bit racially coded? If they were analogs of those in the East Indian or Middle Eastern communities (granted, the “earth” parallels aren’t bound by this [spoilers minimized]), then the creators should have re-thought things. I’m not saying it’s as bad as the crows in Dumbo or Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball Z for example, but that did make me raise an eyebrow there. Despite some of my issues with the more mainstream Ghibli movies where Hayao Miyazaki would be in the director’s chair, at least he would’ve really gone in detail with the world-building and have a sense of wonder. Ni no Kuni doesn’t feel like a typical Isekai work despite the obvious tropes, but they could’ve done better to stand out more. Those were a few flaws that came to mind. How about you?

A: I know what you mean about the twist and reveal there, I felt the same re: being confident that I knew who but not why precisely.

Those are good points that I’d missed, yeah. Nothing new comes to mind now that I think about it… maybe a touch more on the old man, who is probably meant to be Oliver from the game. On the other hand, maybe it’s more fun to leave open a hint of doubt!

O: Glad I’m not alone in noticing that. Sure, how it played out was a good twist, but the result was quite obvious for me.

Thanks. As someone who wasn’t familiar with the original video games, I will say that it was a decent entry into that series and I’ve certainly seen far worse examples of video game adaptations in film or TV series, so Ni no Kuni has that going for it. This not-Ghibli movie was fine, but certainly not a masterpiece in my opinion. Thanks for collaborating with me again! It’s always a pleasure having someone to team up with to review some anime.

A: My pleasure! (Am already thinking about another collab for the future :D)

Adjustable points:

Pros/add

-Add 1 point if you like classic hero stories
-Add 1-2 points if you’re a fan of fantasy anime.

Cons/subtract

-Subtract 1 point if you need a truly memorable villain
-Subtract 1-2 points if you’re not into isekai plots.

Score:
3.5 out of 5 (Ashley/The Review Heap)
3.5 out of 5 (Ospreyshire/Curtis)

Wonder Egg Priority + Special (Wandā Eggu Puraioriti)

Wonder Egg Priority (Wandā Eggu Puraioriti) 2021

I wrote some of this review not long after the end of episode 12 and it really feels like so much depends on the OVA…

Wonder Egg Priority should feel familiar but also new and exciting at the same time. Everything is intense too, whether it’s the colours, action sequences or storylines, all with that familiar CloverWorks feel.

And while there are a certain amount of ‘power of friendship’ moments the themes are overall dark and at times, maybe handled bluntly – but I wonder how I’d feel, if I were young right now and struggling with tough issues, to see an anime like this that showed kids fighting back, how cathartic and hopeful it might be.

If you decide to watch Wonder Egg here’s a bit of what to expect as per the plot adapted from Wikipedia:

Ai Ohto, a junior high school student, is temporarily not attending school following the suicide of her close friend Koito Nagase. During a late-night walk, Ai finds a gachapon machine that dispenses a “Wonder Egg”. That night, Ai gets drawn into a dream world where the Wonder Egg cracks open to reveal a girl, whom Ai must protect from a horde of monsters called ‘Seeno Evils’.

Ai is an engaging lead and the bonds she forms with her friends are the highlights, even over some fantastic fight sequences and unanswered questions that pull you along. I wanted things to work out for her and the team by the end of the series, a sure sign that things were working as far as I was concerned.

But certainly the show hasn’t satisfied everyone.

A few months ago (at the time of writing this review) there was a bit of online dribble re: ‘casuals’ and the magical girl genre. For me, if you use the word ‘casual’ to disparage someone, I know I never have to take your opinion seriously, because who cares how someone is introduced to an anime or a genre?

Or a game, or an album, or whatever.

… and so I’ll just move right along.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about Wonder Egg Priority was the roster of villains. [Spoilers below]

For me, there are three to choose from in Wonder Egg Priority; a pair and two individuals.

I’ve probably quoted the adage that ‘a hero is only as good as the villain’ in a review before, and Acca and Ura-Acca are indeed bad news; a pair of sock-puppets skillfully manipulating vulnerable kids who enter their desperate circle of selfish madness.

But you are given a chance to understand why they are villains at least, just like the glimpse we get of the ‘role models’ for poor Rika – someone who demonstrates the sad truth that people who are abused can become abusers themselves.

Frill is the villain with the least amount of screen time, and while her role in the present of the anime remains unclear, her flashback episode is certainly memorable. In fact, that single episode is as confronting as any other in the series can be, and remains one of my favourites, both visually and in terms of having a self-contained storyline.

I believe I might purchase Wonder Egg one day, because I liked enough of it to do so, and I don’t want to reduce this show to its flaws because, it’s a lot more than that.

However, I can’t finish the review without mentioning the special.

… and I don’t want to pile on here, but boy, after a 25+ minute recap at the beginning, my expectations did plummet pretty swiftly.

The final episode (delayed during the original run of the show) definitely achieves a label of ‘unforgettable’ for me.

It disappointed a lot of folks of course, and I found it hard to separate my negative feelings in general, from what the story was actually showing me in episode thirteen.

The special does offer an ending and follows through on some of the earlier foreshadowing, but also raises new plot points perhaps a little too late. I will address one criticism I’ve read about the special, which is that Rika abandons Neiru too quickly, when she learns that her friend is AI.

To me, that behaviour is 100% consistent with a character that called an overweight fan a ‘wallet’.

Thinking back, I don’t think I actually enjoyed the episode very much but I’m glad there is an ending.

Because like so many viewers, I grew to wonder just how much abuse were staff members being put through by the industry (and us as fans?), both via criminal working conditions and unrealistic expectations?

And now I think to myself, should I even keep consuming media that is so obviously burning out artists left, right and centre? I have no answer and being powerless to change things is not an enjoyable feeling. And it’s in so many industries too, certainly not just anime.

Until things change, I should do more to support artists directly – just have to figure out how.

Wonder Egg Priority might end up being remembered more for its heroines, or for the special, or maybe as a show that highlights awful, awful working conditions in the animation industry and for me, I definitely end up associating it with all three when I think of it now.

It feels like over the next few decades (and now of course), it could be regarded as more than the sum of its flaws.

Akudama Drive (Akudama Doraibu)

Akudama Drive (Akudama Doraibu) 2020

I’ve been thinking about Akudama Drive on and off since finishing it and I’m wondering if it’s actually Cyberpunk in name and aesthetic only.

And if so, does that even matter?

This was one of my fav shows from the last few seasons and I enjoyed it plenty, no matter the labels that have (or have not) been attached to it by other folks, or by me for that matter 😀

A bit more on genre further below, but for now I’ll do a sort of short, general overview.

For fans of action, science fiction and also amps that go up to 11, I reckon Akudama Drive will have exactly what you’re looking for – flashy action, boldly drawn characters that sometimes push beyond their archetypes and a neon cityscape full of corruption.

There’s even a slight Suicide Squad feel to the premise.

Now that I’ve opened by saying I enjoyed the anime, I will say that I might not have finished the series without Swindler (or the kids, I guess) as there were very few characters I wanted to see succeed.

But by the end I definitely wanted to see some vengeance.

And a real plus for me was the fact that the anime actually has a resolution and an ending, and one that feels both inevitable and satisfying. So fear not if you’re the kind of viewer who is endlessly frustrated by anime without endings.

Getting back to my opening paragraph, typically I harp on a lot about genre so I’ll try to keep it brief here for a change.

Basically, I think Akudama Drive is most concerned with the action conventions of spectacle, both visuals and violence, and less about exploring technology’s impact on humanity, and thus it might not be a Cyberpunk text in every sense of the word.

On the other hand, when you consider that the anime is so clearly fulfilling that ‘punk’ side of resistance – fighting an oppressive state/government that needs to be defeated, then Akudama Drive in that respect is indeed cyberpunk through and through.

If I were to pick at a minor issue, for me the kids’ story could have been introduced earlier but I still enjoyed it.

Cutthroat is merely “psycho for the sake of psycho”, which feeds quite neatly into the action movie conventions and while one highlight is probably the sequence with Swindler in the abandoned factory, once again the threat of sexual violence seems like a predictable go-to. (Also, a trope that feeds directly into the action-genre.)

Akudama Drive has quite a big finish too – and despite my quibbling over genre above, the anime does address the role of technology in our lives but it’s just not the main focus.

In the end, I still think of this show as an action series before anything else, but I’m not claiming that as a problem, just my reaction 😀

(It’s also a series I might collect in the physical edition one day too.)

4 Stars

BEM (2019)

Remakes of classic shows feel risky, since time can divest modern audiences of context, and of course tastes around art styles and technological advancements change the visual landscape so quickly.

And here we have BEM, a remake created as part of a 50 year anniversary, and so the characters have been around a little while 🙂

Doubly so, that risk I’ve been thinking about seems to stand true for an international audience unfamiliar with the original (which was definitely me) but I took a chance on BEM because I like the supernatural and science-fiction genres.

And while I haven’t seen the 1968 nor the 2006 versions of BEM, I’m quite curious to do so now.

At the core of the series is a struggle for identity and belonging, combined with the Pinocchio quest – a favourite plot in anime for decades.

Here’s a quote adapted from wiki on the premise:

Even though Bem, Bela and Belo (three yokai) are often abused and discriminated against by other human beings due to their appearance, they still strive to protect the human populace of their city from other monsters, one day hoping to become human beings in return for their good actions.

On that note, the theme of ‘becoming human’ is one I craved a little more of in the anime* but it’s definitely present, as the three leads each face doubts about their desire to change.

While they explore the dream, there is a ‘monster of the week’ episodic feel to the early half of the anime, giving us time to get to know the yokai, and I probably enjoyed these episodes better in part because when the ‘big bad’ was at last revealed and brought in to the narrative, it was maybe a little late. She had less impact for me.

On the other hand, the designs were memorable and the action was fun and the themes of discrimination were welcome (depressing as they could be) as it added another aspect to the anime. In this, I imagine there’s a clear link back to the original, surely.

But getting back to the idea of risk, another thing I noticed were the 1960s kinda character designs that remained.

I reckon the artists would have wanted to update things without destroying the original designs.

To me it worked overall for sure, but two things struck me – the most obvious being Bela’s change from adult to teen, and the second being the occasional character like the bowling ball bad guy, who felt kinda goofy.


Those issues aside, I finished the short anime interested in more and enjoyed it enough to seek out the film BEM: Become Human, which luckily enough at the time, AnimeLab had on hand.

3 Stars

*The movie definitely does explore this theme in more depth and the animation budget seemed a bigger too.

(Also, I enjoyed the OST from Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, the themes most of all I think).

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.

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

Trese

Netflix feels reasonably hit and miss when it comes to anime and related forms but I’m glad someone at the corporation is putting money into projects I might never have had the chance to see otherwise.

Trese (2021)

Terese is one of those shows, and one I enjoyed a lot, finishing it keen to see more of her story.

Here’s a hint of the plot from Netflix: In Manila, where dark supernatural forces pervade the criminal underworld, it’s up to Alexandra Trese to keep the peace — but there’s a storm brewing.

Now, going in, I was curious about the ‘horror’ label too, because some animated horror doesn’t hit as hard as live-action, but there’s blood and gore (rather than a lot of suspense or jump scares etc), and plenty of creatures and dark magic.

Having said that ‘supernatural’ is probably more useful in terms of genre if you’re after a single word for the show’s focus, which meant I was on board pretty much right away. I guess you could argue that there’s a slight Buffy feel to Terese, but there are very clear differences – for one, there’s no teen drama.

Another difference was my favourite element of Trese: which was experiencing aspects of Filipino culture, folkore and mythology. To me, Terese feels like a series made by a Filipino team for Filipino audiences, as they rarely broke the narrative or pacing to stop for exposition, which was great.

If you are on the fence about the show I think you’ll know if you’re going to like it after viewing episode one. For me, Terese’s role as peacekeeper between humanity and various creatures made sure there was variety but if you hesitate re: ‘monster of the week’ hints there are interconnected narratives where events from the past slowly bleed into the present.

As a stand out for me, I’ll mention (but not spoil) episode 3 – creepy indeed. (I should also note how much I enjoyed the settings, some of those establishing shots especially).

While not every action sequence dazzled in the way that some legacy studios might have produced, I was never pulled out of the moment. Some extra focus on Trese as a character beyond her role as protector might have been nice but aside from those two aspects I didn’t have much in the way of complaints.

I saw a fair few big names in the English cast, which seems like one measure of international support it had during production, and I so hope that there was enough interest in the show that more episodes are produced one day! 

4 Stars

Goku Midnight Eye

As I’ve mentioned here ad nauseam by now, science-fiction, futuristic, cyberpunk stories tend to be among my favs and so I expected to enjoy Goku Midnight Eye. In the end, it’s not my fav cyberpunk release but it still has plenty of the things you’d want from the genre.

Goku Midnight Eye (1989)

So too, if what you want is that the cross-pollination between US cinema and anime, with an undertone of ‘action-movie-from-the-1980s’ clear in both episodes.

Episode one was probably my fav of the pair, probably due to it being an origin story where we see how Goku gets his magical eye, an eye that can hack into any computer in the world.

Almost a year later comes episode two, which features a somewhat overpowered Goku. He still faces threats, and while his super-extending staff is almost comical, there’s maybe a tongue-in-cheek feel to everything that keeps this and the previous episode entertaining.

If I did read the tone of the OVA correctly, I do wonder how much of that is due to Buichi Terasawa’s manga – who is also responsible for Space Adventure Cobra, where the film adaptation is somewhat similar in tone but in a less grimy way, I guess.

And despite great direction from Yoshiaki Kawajiri there are a few tired clichés, especially when it comes to women characters, who seem to have only two options: femme fatale or eye candy (so very much noir-influenced). One character especially is noteworthy for her role as world-building element.   

Ultimately, I would have watched more Goku (if any had been made) because I do like lone detective stories but I don’t know how to rate this.

(It’s a product of its time for sure, maybe of the OVA-era too… and something about that stripper-motorbike hybrid struck me as the kind of element that you could write an entire post on, but I’ll save it for now).

I can say that Goku is not aimed at kids, at least.

But if you want that mix of action, violence, nudity, oddity and futuristic tech from a bygone era of anime, then Goku’s your man.