Ongoing Investigations: Case #227September 13, 2013
Since Kate is currently on vacation I decided to have a Sunday anime movie marathon in place of our regularly scheduled anime watching. So I went through three very different anime movies. They were mostly titles I had been interested in seeing but sadly did not play at any of the conventions I attended this year. They certainly ran the gambit in terms of quality I will say that for sure. I wanted to love all three of them but some turned out better than others. I will try to avoid spoilers as none of these has officially come out in English therefore I don’t want to blow the lid off nay surprises.
Lets us start firmly in the middle with A Certain Magical Index Movie: Miracle of Endymion. This is one of those shonen series movies that is not One Piece: Strong World. It is not utterly awful like Clockwork Island Adventure either. It just feels a bit workman like. It is a hard movie to hate but it is also not going to be most people’s favorite story arc as well. Something about this film just keeps falling short of being great.
The story starts a few years before the main storyline when an orbital shuttle hits a bit of space debris (clearly they needed to get the DS-12 “Toy Box” in that area of space) and is forced to make a crash landing. It seems like despite all odds (with a bit of mysterious magical intervention) everyone survives the crash. But is that what really happens? That crash leads to the construction of a space elevator called Endymion. When Index and Touma meet a rising star named Meigo Arisa they are attracted by her alluring voice and peppy attitude. They soon find that she is both wanted by powerful factions in the worlds of science and magic. They must find out how she is related to the so-called Miracle of Endymion and the tragedy that is about to unfold in its wake.
I think the thing that makes it feel most like one of those yearly massed produced Shonen Jump movies is the “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” feeling on the movie. There is a tendency (especially with the first movie of a long running series) to try to cram in cameo appearances of all the popular characters from a series while introducing a new character who only appears in the movie. It seems like until the last act that Railgun was only in the story to put her in a cute outfit (and possibly because people would storm the Dengeki Bunko and J.C.Staff offices if she were not in the movie.) But her appearance still seems more organic than Accelerator’s almost totally wedged in appearance.
On the other hand Stiyl Magnus on the other hand has gained a bit of an elemental entourage with three disciples named Marie, Mallybath, and Jane. If any characters get brought over from the movie it will probably be these three. Although that might require an odd bit of retconning as they have never appeared in later Index novels. But the Index anime has never been slavishly devoted to making itself a one to one reproduction of the original novels. So these three new witches might appear in upcoming New Testament novels with a bit of a hand wave of where they have been. They are more likely to be inserted in things like the World War III arc if that ever gets animated.
The other introduced characters have a feeling like their appearances might be more limited to this movie alone. Meigo Arisa, Shutaura, and the main villain theoretically could still be around after the movie but I have to wonder if they will ever use them again. Then again I assumed that Erii and Banri would disappear off the face of the earth but they have continued to appear. Only time will tell.
I think by biggest complaint is that Shutaura’s motivations seem a bit … odd when the movie is at its climax. The main villain is your standard evil selfish mastermind as you expect from certain Index villains. If you want something else you in the wrong series. The Index and Railgun worlds are just made of horrible people on both the science and magic sides. Any member of the Kihara family show that in spades. But we are not supposed to be super sympathetic to them. You are supposed to like Shutaura but she seems dedicated to doing to wrong thing until pretty much near the end of the movie. I just wish I had a little more insight into her because she seems to doing things more for plot convenience than legitimate reasons.
That said if nothing else I enjoyed a plot that had a slightly more integrated combination of the magical and technological parts of the universe. It still stays in the realm of the McDLT with the magic side mostly dealing with the magic parts and the technological doing the same. But Touma tends deal with one or the other in most stories despite the fact that the show’s tagline is about the worlds of science and magic colliding.
The again Aleister Crowley always comes off as a magical character to me despite having his feet firmly in both worlds.
I had a good time watching the movie but I have to admit it has a lot of rough edges that could have been better. It is certainly not a movie for people who are not fan of the main series. It is also not a great entry point for anyone into the series as well. If you skip it I don’t you will live with any serious regrets even if your watching the TV series but it won’t hurt to watch the movie either.
The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. – 501 A.G.E. complied by Hunson Abadeer, Lord of Evil. Seriously, Marceline’s dad knows how to name a book. His pen is defete at communicating his knowledge, research, and disdain about all manner of things in the Adventure Time universe. His voice is superb and hilarious.
Later portions of the book include a fan-zine made by Ice King drawing on anime roots, the instruction manual for BMO, and a travel guide for the many kingdoms by Bubblegum Princess.
The book is also chock-full of choice quotes. Here are a few of my favorites regarding Finn:
“Who’d abandon something as cute and adorable as a human baby in the woods, instead of selling or eating it?”
“His stupidity is matched only by his arrogance in thinking he is a Gift to the Ladies, the most obnoxious human trait in existence.”
“Thus human boys have one and only one good quality–retching at the abomination of love.”
This is an incredibly well put together book merely from both a text and a visual standpoint. Beyond the base text, there are also notes and doodles by Finn, Jake, and Marceline scribbled in the margins, and occasionally over text, throughout the book. There are pages that have been “taped” into the book to add more information and likewise there are “torn” pages from various other sources in other portions of the book. There are tons of tiny details and design elements, it is a book you read once but then continually go back to look at. Major props to the team of Martin Olson, Mahendra Singh, Tony Millionaire, Celeste Moreno, Renee French, Aisleen Romano, Pendleton Ward, and Sean Tejaratchi.
The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.
On the other hand if you want to know how to do a shonen series styled movie than you should look to the One Piece Film: Z. After the really well made Strong World film showed everyone that these yearly Shonen Jump movies don’t have to be horrible it seemed like they took those lesson to heart and pulled off another entertaining original story with this movie.
When the Straw Hat Crew saves a drifting sailor at sea they learn that he is a former marine turned vigilante named Z. After learning he was saved on pirates Z fends off the crew with a giant mechanical arm made of seastone. After Luffy and his crew barely escape his Neo Marine fleet they must stop his insane plans to destroy the New World and end the age of pirates no matter what the cost. But the marines with to stop Z and the Straw Hats at the same time.
Like Strong World the Z movie really feels like a short storyline in the main series as opposed to some mediocre time-wasting filler. Z really feels like legitimate threat and they take the time to flesh him out. Like with Strong World his subordinates don’t feel as strong but they don’t feel utterly insubstantial either. But it is only a single movie so it’s probably better that the spent time working on the key antagonist. It better to have one well crafted antagonist rather than 3 mediocre enemies.
Also Kuzan appearing in the movie feels substantial. It really makes the story feel like a proper part of the timeline as opposed to some one-off story that could never be mentioned again and never effect anything. Luffy even grows a little in the movie which is nice to see. I don’t think you can or have to do that with every One Piece movie but it is nice to see none the less.
The only weakness of the plot is it introduces one or two mechanics to the world which seem odd than no one every mentioned to anyone before this point. They seem like something one or two of the more villainous characters would have been interested in. But that is quibbling over nothing. If nothing else you can hand wave it away with the fact that there are enough crazy things in the One Piece world that the occasional fantastic element might not be common knowledge.
My roommate noticed that the fan service is the movie mainly seems at the beginning of the movie and the end. It was like they went, “Lets get this out of our system so we can move on.” For reasons I don’t want to spoil they don’t have much Nami fan service in the middle of the movie. But I’m also glad they did not fall back on the standard Nami gets kidnapped plot. It really undercuts her as a member of the crew so the less they do it the better.
Oh. The ending song is Avril Lavigne doing a Nickelback cover. Yup. That was a thing. But seriously I would have assumed that a phrase the Internet would use to some how give the ridiculous impression of what the worst ending song could be. It is the ending song so it has absolutely no impact on the movie itself. I just felt I had to mention it.
So far Funimation has not licensed this one up but they just picked up Strong World so I can’t see why they would not do the same with this. If you’re any type of One Piece fan this is just something that you should pick up on reflex. A strong plot, a memorable conflict, and a great ending don’t really give you much of a choice.
I finished up the 4-issue comic prequel to The Last of Us by Neil Druckmann, Faith Erin Hicks, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Julian Totino Tedesco. The best thing about this little story is Faith Erin Hicks’s artwork and it pretty much the reason I picked it up since tie-in comics can be rather iffy.
The writing is fine, just not particularly note worthy, as it adds some flavor text to what Ellie was up to prior to the beginning of the game. But it doesn’t really grip you the way the game does pretty much instantly. I kept waiting for something really big to happen but it ends with a more of a sigh that a great hook.
I really wanted to like 009 RE:CYBORG. I really did. Kenji Kamiyama is a good director. His work on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex alone makes him a favorite of the blog. Cyborg 009 is a classic manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. It seems like a perfect pairing. Sadly this was the most disappointing of the three movies. A real mess.
The first thing everyone was worried about was the CG. And the CG is pretty bad. Japan still needs to learn that they can’t skip animating frames like they do with traditional animation. Sometimes things would movie nicely and other times it was Attack of the Reboot CG. You can tell that Kenji Kamiyama knows how to direct. Many of the scenes feel like they have the hand of Mamoru Oshii behind them. (If Mamoru Oshii knew how to be anything but terminally boring.)
But I’m totally not against CG. It is clearly a medium that still needs work. But as I mentioned with Beware the Batman last week it does not prevent you from telling a good story. I can enjoy a good story no matter what the technique used to tell it. Plus the only way CG is going to get better is with people exploring it as a tool. The problem is the base story is garbage. I want to believe if I saw this same story with beautiful cell animation is would still be horrible.
I will say there are some BLATANT critiques of US foreign policy in this movie. Comments on 9-11, the war on terror, drone strikes, and our role as World Policemen. This would be a movie that got a lot of intellectual and politically minded fans, critics, and academics talking. If it were good. Sadly the plot is an utter mess.
I would almost go as far as to say it feels like someone’s far too ambitious Cyborg 009 fan fiction. That might be a LITTLE harsh but hear me out. It feels like someone who was a fan of the original manga but wanted to write a story years after the original that continued the adventure in the modern age. But they then had to throw in sex , theology, and politics because that is grown up. And that does not have to be laughably bad. I know that GoShogun: The Time Étranger does many of those things and it is well-regarded. It is all about the execution. This comes of as a sloppy job of advancing and updating a story.
And it is not like Kenji Kamiyama can’t update a series properly. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is all about taking the orignal work and tweaking it make it even better and more up to date.
Oh and that villain. If I had not said I was going to avoid spoilers I would go on a rant about the antagonist in this film. It is sloppy, clumsy, slightly incomprehensible, and just plain unsatisfying. There are other things about characters being slightly wonky and stiff but all of that pales in comparison to the fact the antagonist of this film totally torpedoes any good will you might have built up for the movie. Just awful.
Also it is one of those movies that just assumes you know everyone involved. I’m not pulling for lost of expository dialog explaining who everyone is but a little help would have been nice. I do have a feeling some people are going to be wondering who half the cast is the whole movie.
I have hardly given up my faith in Kenji Kamiyama. I still think we have yet to see many great works from him. This is just not one of them. If you want Cyborg 009 your better off tracking down the 2001 TV series or reading the original manga on Comixology. There is nothing worth your time here.
The Avatar comics did a pretty good job in The Promise series so I continued on with Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Parts 1-2 by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Gurihiru. This is the story a lot of people have been waiting for: the answers to what happened to Zuko’s mom.
Her past and Zuko’s heritage is a lot more complicated that I had expected and within these first two installments brings up a lot of questions. Zuko has been struggling with his own identity since the beginning of the TV series, so following that up here is a welcome. Though more than Zuko, his sister Azula has taken center stage in this leg of the journey overshadowing his struggle. Which I guess is in line with exactly who Azula is, always one upping her brother, but it is rather disappointing from an audience perspective. It is as if the writers are also saying Azula is more important than Zuko even when we are dealing with his identity.