Just about as soon as possible we sat down for the 14th Detective Conan movie, The Lost Ship in the Sky featuring a myriad of familiar faces and also the charming Kaito Kid. Things are pretty complicated this time around as bioterrorism rears its ugly head, a secret crime group reappears, a plot to catch Kaito Kid is hatched, and an airship is hijacked. As often occurs, Conan and Kaito team up for a good portion of the film to take out the real baddies. The airship is pretty impressive, and there are some thrilling scenes throughout, but the final confrontation seemed less flashy than usual. The mystery had a lot going on, and figuring out the motive was near impossible, in fact I’m still not quite clear on it, so it came off as more thriller than mystery as Conan worked to find the bombs and disarm the hijackers before it was too late. Of course the cast was stupendous, pretty much throwing in a cameo of everyone including most of the police officers we’ve seen, though truly this is a Conan and Kaito show. After all was said and done, the last scene of the film tricked me into thinking something extremely plot relevant had occurred but the extra after the credits clears it up and things go back to normal. While not the best of the films, still a good ride and it has Kaito Kid!
I like to call this Detective Conan Movie 14: Die Hard on a Blimp. Conan and Kaito cross paths with their usual delightful mixture of rivalry and comradery. We also get some cute interplay between Kaito and Ran as well. I agree with Narutaki that while there was a good deal of action overall there was not that same huge action sequence at the end of the movie that pushes the budget to the limit. It was a bit odd that Heiji was toting around a self insertion kid for this movie when they already have the Detective Boys for that purpose. Also they did not do much of an introduction to the story, characters, and gadgets as they have done with past movies. This was especially noticeable since we watched this movie with someone who had never watched Conan before. They followed along fine but I wonder if they cut the normal extended intro for time reasons or because they no longer feel they are as necessary. It was a fun movie that was a bit of a change of pace from the normal murder mystery while still having a Conan feel. Although with no murder I am sure that S. S. Van Dine and Narutaki were both slightly disappointed. It is worth checking out and hopefully FUNimation will get around to putting it out in the US. On a side note, I think I have leveled up again as an anime fan by the fact that I noticed that they changed voice actors on Kogoro.
I got around to reading the one of the seminal Batman stories, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I was struck immediately by its stark style and it certainly paints itself as different from others from the get go. Batman now pretty much an old man decides to come out of retirement when it seems that Two-Face has taken to crime again. The world of Gotham is much darker, with no trust for superheroes in a long time, and Batman’s methods are of course heatedly debated. This story has so many perfect moments that display many of the great themes of Batman, maybe even superheroes in general. Most notable for me was the way Miller depicted civilians taking slow steps to help each other again, without thinking about what’s in it for them, because Batman has come back; Batman says don’t be afraid. Batman is also on the more violent end in this story so it really brings that grayness into his character quite readily. And there is plenty of social commentary, despite being written in the 80s that can easily apply to today. I was really wowed by the comic, even in its crazier moments nearing the end.
During my little vacation I decided to finally sit down and watch Gunbuster as I have been meaning to do since I bought the Honneamise release. Gunbuster is a classic of the mecha genre and as we mentioned in our Gainax podcast it is considered one of the best of studio’s productions. On one hand I do believe that the series deserves its reputation. The story is well executed mecha epic in a mere 6 episodes. Everything moves a brisk pace letting you see a fully realized story in 1 sitting. The animation is amazing and at times shows the real power of the 80s OVA. Capping it all off was an amazingly powerful and unforgettable ending. But I think its die-hard fans tend to gloss over the series flaws and oddities. The series starts as a goofy parody of both mecha and sports series and radially shifts to a life or death struggle for the fate of humanity by the end. Also all the characters are pretty much archetypes. While they are effectively used to make memorable characters they are clearly and unashamedly archetypes. Also there is a reason that Gainax Bounce came into the American lexicon from Gunbuster. The fan service is pretty constant with some scenes being dedicated to the female anatomy. Also while I found her very attractive Jung Freud could have been removed from the story with absolutely no detriment to the plot. Also I have to agree with OGT’s assessment that Noriko is an early example of a moe character and can easily get on some people nerves in her growing pains. While she grows though the series her influence on moe is unmistakable. But even with all that said Gunbuster is a classic and worth watching by anyone who has an interest in the mecha genre.
I picked up a few animated films during a Black Friday Sale including Kung Fu Panda. I had always heard this was one of the high points in the Dreamworks catalog and I wasn’t disappointed in it. Noodle chef and fanboy of Kung Fu, Poe, is unexpectedly chosen as the next Kung Fu master to inherit the scroll of the Golden Dragon. Despite being a panda, having no training, and being rather awkward Poe jumps at his new life though everyone around him isn’t so happy about it. But most importantly, Poe is a goodhearted soul who finds courage and confidence in order to save the valley. I think what I liked best was the acknowledgment that individuals learn in different ways and one need not change but rather embrace your strengths. I was surprised by Poe’s fanboy status and also came to feel for him early on. The animation quality is quite nice, I especially enjoyed the opening dream sequence style, and the fights throughout are exciting. While it does have some of the signature humor of Dreamworks it actually gets more dramatic than I expected. I was impressed by this film and am curious about the planned sequels.
After watching Gunbuster I spent the next day watching Diebuster. I was interested to see how I felt about Diebuster because it seems like a show that tells what type of fan you are. I remember when the show first came out reactions were extremely divided on the show. Old school fans who loved Gunbuster tended to hate the show while new fans tended to love the show. In my opinion they are very similar shows that were made with the current zeitgeist being a key to the feeling of the show. They are both mecha shows about clumsy underdog girls who must grow up in order save humanity. Both protagonists have more experienced cool female partners who they share a love/hate relationship with. They both start of silly and progressively become more serious with a huge emotional climax. Even most of the flaws are the same. The fan service is equally omnipresent, the characters are lovable archetypes but archetypes none the less, Tycho was still the somewhat superfluous Jung Freud, and Nono can be grating in the same ways Noriko was. I think the major problem Gunbuster fans wanted Gunbuster 2004 but they got Diebuster. If you understand that this is the modern companion piece to the original series you can enjoy this for the excellent series it is. It ties in nicely with the original series and has a good heart. Just remember that nostalgia is fine as long as you look back with eyes wide open.
More Conan? Sure, no problem!