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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
*Took me a moment to recognise her as the voice of Edward Elric, actually.
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.
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.
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.
Even as I type this, I’m sick of my own go-to thought being something like ‘compare this one to Ghibli’, because that’s lazy of me.
Moreover, Studio Ghibli hasn’t released a non-CGI feature for six years or so. And nor do they own ‘awe and whimsy’. No studio does, of course! (Having said that, I know Wonderland has been compared to Ghibli and Miyazaki films in particular.)
But it is different in terms of tone and execution.
The Wonderland is an old-school portal fantasy (or ‘Isakei’ to use the anime lingo) where characters are led into a fairy-tale world (rather than a game), which makes sense considering that it’s based on a children’s story from 1988*.
And the world that Akane and her aunt must save is a real draw for me since it’s got plenty of surprises and fun, whimsical settings, characters and moments. There’s also a classic ‘reluctant hero’ plot and it’s nice to see Akane quickly become less selfish as the story progresses.
(Of course, there’s an understandable reluctance – being asked to save a magical world you never knew existed would be worrisome to say the least).
As much as I enjoyed most of the film, there was something missing from the narrative. Perhaps strong ties to the central problem Akane is being asked to solve? Or maybe I wanted more from the villain too?
Still, the art and animation was beautiful and Chii was an interesting addition to the leads, and so I didn’t mind. And there were funny moments to balance the menacing ones too (without spoilers) like with Akane and the cats or Hippocrates’ transformation.
The Wonderland is aimed at younger audiences but it’s not G-rated either, so there’s violence but I don’t actually remember blood. Having noted the target audience, I found it interesting that an adult from the real world was allowed to come along for the adventure, which is kinda rare in YA fiction.
Directed by Keiichi Hara, (Miss Hokusai), this adaption was only released a few years ago now but I don’t remember hearing about it, not back then and not very often now either. I’m curious if anyone else had a chance to see it?
Maybe 4 Stars is a little generous in terms of a rating but for me, in a visual medium the visuals sometimes make up for other issues 😀
*Chikashitsu Kara no Fushigi na Tabi (Strange Journey from the Basement) by Sachiko Kashiwaba
Ah, superheroes who have problems beyond saving the world.
This is an ‘old’ series now, (first airing back in 2011) featuring a lot of comedy and action, typical of the genre, and both things that are definitely pluses for me. Having said that, my knowledge of superhero texts is very much limited, and to decades past, so I won’t be trying to contextualise things here.
I ended up binge-watching large chunks of the show because the story beats were spot on, and I was quickly invested in the world and the human struggles of the leads.
Kotetsu is my fav, not just because I like Hiroaki Hirata’s work or the buddy-cop arc with Barnaby, but because Kotetsu pushes back the hardest against the corporations and their vacuum of values.
And while half the time you watch the anime you’re shouting at Kotetsu to do the right thing by his daughter, he’s definitely the kind of guy who will live up to his own convictions.
If you haven’t seen Tiger & Bunny but are planning to, I think that if you’re like me, before you get invested with the characters you’ll be hooked on the world itself.
The superheroes are basically competing with each other to maintain their corporate sponsorship, and so there are constraints placed upon them beyond the scope of their powers.
Commercial pressures and obligations to their ‘owners’ weigh heavy and so you have the heroes doing product placement and side projects to generate revenue for the corporations. It’s a bit like Idol + Superhero, something I personally hadn’t seen a whole lot of before.
A few quick dot points before I wrap up the review:
I hope Lunatic gets some more time in the new season as he is an interesting antagonist
Transforming the word ‘Barnaby’ into ‘Bunny’ is pretty good 😀
The slow thaw between Kotetsu and Barnaby is another high-point in the storytelling
Great opening theme song
The CGI hasn’t aged too much
I really liked the sleek mech-costumes for our leads too
Tiger & Bunny isn’t flawless of course (very few things are, right?) and there are a few cheap shots at the expense of Fire Emblem’s homosexuality, even sort of painting him as a harasser, which sucked.
You’ve also got the typical anime/superhero costuming which is both a plus and a minus – thinking about Blue Rose or Barnaby here I guess, but neither are one-note characters and there is a kind of ‘equal opportunity’ approach to fan service at times, lol.
Overall, plenty to enjoy if you like the genre and I’m definitely seeking the films next.
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, havingTime to Knowlinked 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.