No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 5)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Not the forward momentum that I was craving, but maybe this is a pause before a push toward the bigger things that must be coming.

The hyper-focus on the old pervert trope seemed to be the No Guns Life fan-service episode – or perhaps a critique of it – but I think it’s also clear that ‘x-ray eyes’ will be back, once he hooks up with Vincent and spills some secrets.

It was good to see Mary get fired up, but the highlight for me was another clue about Juzo’s past. I’m also pleased that the story is now bringing back a few characters that I’ve been curious about too.

Even if this isn’t my fav moment this season, at least the bloody nose exaggeration was funny. (There was also a refreshing change in the colour palette, as the greys and blues dominated the last few eps.)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 4)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Again, I’m doing only a couple of notes for this episode, as I’m juggling a few things at the moment.

First off – I’m pleased to see Juzo has recovered, but it was a fun surprise as to how, and so I feel like there’s a chance our heroes can move forward a bit now. For most of the season so far, the team has been locked into a reactive pattern, as they deal with and learn about important stuff, and stuff I wanted to know too.

But it’s nice to see that other key characters are being drawn back into the picture again, and I wonder how that will play out now that Tetsuro is being (sorta) blackmailed.

Here and there I’m noticing the occasional moment where the CGI jumps out a bit – usually when there’s less shadow to do the work of blending, I guess. And since this is a show I believe I’ll grab on disc one day, I’m curious to compare a few scenes.

Anyway, that’s a bit of an aside – once more, I must ‘suffer’ through an entire week before another episode 😀

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!

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 3)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

More answers revealed this time around, and of course, more questions raised. While we didn’t check-in with Tetsuro at all, there was plenty going on with Juzo and Mary.

And seeing them face off against ‘Victor’ was quite satisfying, plus there’s a little comedic moment that I won’t spoil in there too. At this point, after getting that tiny morsel about Juzo’s past, I’m realising that I probably know more about the back-story of everyone else, so I’m ready for extra details in that department from the next few episodes 😀

What I continue to find (and not enjoy so much) is that even though I think I can comment, in the form of prediction/gut reaction, upon big picture things like ‘pacing’, is that it’s very hard. Ideally, before I attempt a series review of No Guns Life, I’d like to watch the whole thing in a few sittings first.

Glad that it seems Victor will take the role of significant villain (and ally, as it turns out) but when we no doubt visit Tetsuro’s storyline with the next episode, I’m hoping things start to surge forward.

It feels like the audience now has plenty of background, context and understanding around what’s happening and who is responsible for what – and once Mary (or someone else?) fixes up Juzo, I’m hoping it’ll be time to start drawing the main protagonists together!

So, how’s everyone finding the second season so far? (For me, each week certainly gets harder to wait for the next episode :D).

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 2)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Now that the recapping/tiny wrap-up bits from episode 1 are dealt with, it feels like it’s time to move the story along again! (Though right at the beginning, I like that little nod to possible audience impatience with Juzo’s voice-over interruption :D).

A bit more action this time around, and more Juzo – so I’m happy there of course, as he’s still a force no matter his injuries. In fact, I’m hoping he and Mary take a moment for repairs soon.

But since they haven’t, I believe that adds a touch more tension to the upcoming fight between he and Victor. And, like episode one, we’re given a few more answers that lead to more questions. Big questions, especially around Tetsuro, so I’m growing increasingly keen for No Guns Life. In fact, it’s getting harder to wait – part of me wants to ‘save up’ a few episodes so I can watch back-to-back.

One thing I mentioned in the first half of the season, I’m still wanting to get a feel for a ‘main antagonist’. And it’s interesting to speculate upon whether Victor will take that role, since he has a connection to our heroes.

So far, outside of flashback, he’s been shown as ‘unhinged with some cunning’ rather than just being ‘broken + destructive’, so I’m kinda hoping he’ll end up in the ‘main villain’ category or at least in the ‘untrustworthy ally’ basket. I also hope that the plot doesn’t essentially discard him too soon, as there have been a lot of players entering and exiting the stage too quickly… so far.

Further to this, I still don’t quite ‘feel’ Berühren as the villain of the series, even if the corporation clearly must be, based at least on their activities and general stranglehold on the city.

Still, plenty of episodes left to find out!

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 1)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Okay! Into the second half of the series now at last. It’s always tough to wait, but I’d obviously rather have the creators be safe, so in the end it doesn’t matter that the show was delayed, because it’s here now 🙂

This was a great ‘return’ with a focus on intrigue rather than action, and I got an actual answer on a few characters and their threads, one of which had been simply left dangling for a fair few episodes.

Several smaller hints have also been solidified here, and Vincent makes an actual (satisfyingly dramatic) appearance, so that was great. There are also two other characters introduced, and I’m keen for things to tie together to others who haven’t really returned (like Cronen) or other villains.

Still, watching + writing up weekly is fraught with issues for me – in the moment, what I think might be an issue with storytelling or pacing for example, turns out not to be, when things happen in a subsequent (or even the very next) episode.

So I’ll wrap this quickly and say I certainly enjoy the episode, but in the next one I’m looking for a bit more Juzo screentime 🙂

(and very quickly, I think I slightly prefer the older opening/ending songs and sequences).

Black Lagoon (Burakku Ragūn)

Black Lagoon (Burakku Ragūn) 2006

So! I was pretty certain I’d enjoy this going in, and I certainly did, and so thanks to everyone who voted back in April!

I could probably centre most of this review on the OVA in a way (and most of my criticism) but I actually want to stay with the series proper for the most part. All I really knew about Black Lagoon prior to going in was that the setting was non-typical for anime, it was violent and that Revy looked good in shorts. 

Somewhere around here at the Heap I’m sure I’ve already mentioned that I’m a fan of the ‘girls with guns’ genre, and I like action films and crime shows too, and so Black Lagoon had three ticks right off the bat. The fourth tick was the fact that it featured (on the surface at least) a ‘mismatched crew’ as main characters.

And the series does delve into the related idea of ‘found family’, something I also enjoyed – but the main focus is probably on shooting things. Bars and people mostly – sometimes vehicles too, but if you’ve researched the manga say, then that won’t be a surprise, as you’ll know that Rei Hiroe mentions being influenced by directors like Woo or Tarantino.

Here’s a quick summary from Wikipedia on the premise:

The story follows a team of pirate mercenaries known as the Lagoon Company, that smuggles goods in and around the seas of Southeast Asia in the early to mid 1990s. Their base of operations is located in the fictional harbor city of Roanapur in east Thailand near the border of Cambodia.

And that’s where I think I’ll move to first in this review – the setting.

Seeing Southeast Asia in anime is pretty rare, and obviously I was thrilled watching a show set somewhere other than a school, but also the clear blues and warm colours were so good too. You can almost feel the sun in so many episodes. There’s plenty of green, blue, and other bright colours too, and even night goes for yellows and purples a lot of the time. The city itself becomes an important character, and Rock critiques it in short monologues, while being aware that it affords him a certain amount of freedom too.

On the other hand, the series isn’t a nuanced exploration of another culture; it’s a story about various criminal factions and their competing interests in a fictional city, and one unlucky guy who has to navigate it all.

Black Lagoon is probably closer to a long action movie in some ways – so what you explore instead of another culture, is the lives of criminals and their shoot-outs. I think the rising tension in the pacing (and a focus on increasingly over-the-top action sequences) feeds my impression there, but the characters aren’t just shapes that happen to hold guns either. You will get to know the crew if you watch this, chiefly Rock and Rebecca, and even antagonist Balalaika.

However, I do wish I’d been given the chance to learn more about Dutch and Benny, who eventually became a little side-lined. And okay, I know that we all know that bare skin sells all kinds of media, not just anime, and Rebecca is an interesting character – no arguments there, but just a few more scenes on the background of Dutch and Benny would have been superb. (The manga doubtless does that, but I’ve not read it so I don’t know for sure).

Now, as I sometimes do here, I’m going to switch to dot points in an effort to curtail the length of this review – some of these are probably spoiler-y too:

  • You might like this show if you gravitate toward underdog stories, especially with Rock being sold out hard by his bosses.
  • To stick with Rock a moment, I found it interesting that he’s depicted as kinda disinterred in sex. Clearly, he’s surrounded by women he seems to find attractive but I wonder if his desire to stay in the ‘twilight’ helps keep himself at armslength from the interest he receives. Obvious counters to this could be Yukio or the possible implications in the OVA about him and a certain someone else… but I’m not sure.
  • The piece of music for the ending (and the footsteps) is really sinister.
  • Shenhua stood out because again, South East Asia in anime feels rare to me, and to see a Taiwanese character was great. She’s incredibly shrill, but setting that choice by the director or voice actress aside, I thought it was interesting that identity issues weren’t glossed over – you can see it play out a little between her and Revy in their back-and-forth.
  • Ginji needs a prequel series!
  • Seriously.
  • He does.
  • It was excellent to remember a time (via the U-boat arc) where neo-nazis were seen as actual villains, rather than described in some mealy-mouthed euphemism like ‘alt-right’.
  • The evil kids cliche + incest storyline felt a little off here, mostly because it occurs within the confines of a ‘shoot ‘em up’ basically, with no real time spent dealing with the horror the characters must have been put through prior to their appearance in the episodes.
  • Being an action/crime series, there are plenty of great action sequences, and even a few moments of humour here and there, but one of my favs actually comes from the OVA, where the intercutting POV shots and wider ones feel really fluid (during a scene in the The Yellow Flag with Fabiola).
  • Having talked a lot about the action, I want to quickly mention that the best moment for me is when Rock finally stands up to Revy and all her grandstanding bullshit. Close seconds probably occur more than once in the Yakuza arc.
  • And finally, Megumi Toyoguchi (who plays Revy) does an ace job with the whole ‘dead inside’ vocal performance, a sharp contrast from say, her work as Winry in FMA.

Onward quickly now to Roberta’s Bloodtrail, the OVA series that aired a few years after the second season of Black Lagoon.

So, the main series definitely has an ending, and plenty of chances to imagine ‘what happens next’, but ‘…Bloodtrail’ carries things on nicely. However, it once again sidelines Dutch and Benny for the most part.

The OVA is just as fast-paced and action-heavy as the main seasons too, but things are dialled up – from both violence to fan service and sexual violence too, so maybe take note if you were already on the fence about this show.

Roberta doesn’t get to be much of a character here, which is a bit of a shame, she’s mostly a Terminator instead. On the other hand, she actually takes some damage. I found that interesting, as if the nod to realism was almost ‘pushing back’ against a precedent Black Lagoon had set, where a character slices bullets in half with a katana for instance, and the focus is on stylish cinematic violence.

Reading around other reviews and comments, I see some folks didn’t like Rock’s development in the OVA and I am 50/50 on that myself. I think it’s more than reasonable that he’d be influenced by the villainy around him, but I wonder if the transition was handled a little bluntly onscreen?

I also wonder whether Balalaika almost became a little cartoonish for a moment (in episode 4 I think it was), but all in all I think the OVA is definitely worth watching if you enjoyed the regular seasons. It was interesting to see whether Rock’s gamble would pay off, and by the ending you’re left thinking he only got half a victory in some ways, perhaps a little more realism creeping in?

4 Stars

Demon City Shinjuku (Makai Toshi: Shinjuku)

Demon City Shinjuku (Makai Toshi: Shinjuku) 1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Stars

Tokyo Godfathers Review [Collaboration with Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews]

Greetings! Today I wanted to share my first collaboration post – Curtis and I have teamed up to review and discuss Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers 🙂

It was heaps of fun to work together on this and I hope you’ve got a few mins to take a look – and if you’ve never seen the film, I do recommend hunting it down, something that should be easy enough with a new dub on the way I hope.

To read the review jump over to Iridium Eye Reviews 🙂

Redline

Redline (2009)

Redline is intense – scorching racing with scorching pacing to go with it, and a bold art style that is fascinatingly ‘not-anime’ yet also completely so.

I don’t have a lot of knowledge when it comes to the racing genre so I can’t offer much in the way of context, but I suspect that (especially around the time of release) few other racing anime look like Redline.

Now, before I get into the visuals (keen as I am to do so) I wanted to quickly talk about structure. Redline is interesting to me because it’s basically built around two races. There’s a bit of character development here and there (I’d love more) and a bit of world-building and intrigue, but mostly it’s preparing to race, hype or the actual racing.

Perhaps due to this in part, it does feel as though the large cast of drivers aren’t explored much – in terms of back-story we really only learn a little about lead ‘Sweet’ JP and fellow racer Sonoshee McLaren. On the other hand, I feel like Madhouse wanted a full-throttle action film firstly, so the focus goes on some pretty wild action sequences.

There’s a lot of exaggeration as the stakes are raised throughout the film too – and the inventiveness of the designs for people, cars and weapons means you’ll probably find yourself tempted to pause every now and then just to get a good look at everything going on inside certain frames. (And watch out for Funky Boy!).

Finally now to the visual elements – wow, the seven years and 100,000 drawings were obviously worth the wait; there’s detail and fluidity, and whiplash pacing contrasting with a really dark colour scheme. So much of the visuals feel stunning, especially when completed without any CGI, but what I most notice about Redline is the very much Dick Tracy comic style with so much shadow. It’s not just a character or object casting shadows, or buildings being dark; everything on screen seems to be as much bold black lines or shadows as much as colour.

Okay, I’ve exaggerated there, but the snaps I’ve posted throughout probably make my case far more convincingly.

Now, after all that let’s talk stars, right? Redline is more of a visual feast than a minute-to-minute gripping story, but I still think it’s one of the more impressive and interesting anime films out there.

4 Stars

There’s a bit of nudity and a fair amount of violence, but nothing off the charts. I was actually checking ratings and found something interesting – Canada:14A (Manitoba/Nova Scotia) Canada:PG (Ontario) Canada:13+ (Quebec) and I hadn’t realised regional rating differences were/are in effect there. To compare, Australia rates it as M (usually 15) and in the US it’s ‘TV-14’.

Lots of moving parts in this scene, it’s impressive indeed I reckon