Ongoing Investigations: Case #134

I started watching Ashita no Nadja on and off in between other shows, I’ve seen four so far. It is a shojo series with a small following. I’ve always been curious about it because it has a It also boasts a fabulous opening. Nadja is a young orphan girl who receives a mysterious package on her 13th birthday which contains a letter revealing her mother is still alive. This sets her off an adventure where she joins a traveling troupe and becomes a dancer, as she searches for her mother she meets various people along the way including many suitors, and she is pursued by villains trying to stop her progress. Nadja is a hard-working dear girl, the troupe is a colorful bunch, and there is a blond prince plus a phantom thief so far! This is such a children’s wish fulfillment show and it is utterly charming in its execution. It also has a bit of a Masterpiece Theater feel. I’m looking forward to watching more.

With a morbid curiosity I decide to brave the first 4 episodes of the 2011 reboot of Thundercats. The original Thundercats is distinctly one of those show that you might have liked as a kid but does not age well at all. The new series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation but the animation is done by Studio 4°C so I also watched for the tenuous anime connection. But make no mistake while some of the visual fair has an anime feel this is very much an American cartoon. It is closer to Avatar: The Last Airbender than Bleach. And that is not a bad thing. The story telling for children of all ages make entertainment that has the ability to stand up over time. Some of it dips into the just for kids cache at times but overall it is a fairly smart remake. The reboot wisely keeps many of the things that people remember fondly about the original and jettisons some of the more frankly stupid parts at the same time. I mean Snarf is now a clever pet as opposed to his old annoying nursemaid persona which I am sure earns the show a metric ton of goodwill. The first episode setup the main cast, had them soundly beaten, and gets them on the run. I will say that Mumm-Ra plan that involved assault mecha, a turncoat, AND a Trojan horse seemed a bit overkill but it does show you that he is a credible threat. The next two episode have been fairly entertaining with a Moby Dick story and the tale living for the day. I think I will keep watching to see where it goes. Be warned no matter how this series turns out it will  be a furry generation engine like the original. This is just an unavoidable fact.

Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #131

Buddha is one of Vertical’s most acclaimed and best-selling Tezuka manga. So the fact that Toei Animation produced Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure as part 1 of a trilogy of high budget movies adapting the legendary manga caused a good deal of anticipation in the anime community. While the movie is competent it sadly does not live up to its potential. Having to adapt eight pretty hefty volumes in three movies is quite a task. So they have to compress and rearrange some of the material. It can be a bit disconcerting to anyone who read the books but I did find it took me too far out of the story. The main problem is the movie is about as subtle as a neon pink elephant with a boom box playing a heavy metal cover of Pink Elephants on Parade. The original manga knows how to guide the pace of the story and your emotions so things come off as organic. The movie goes boom boom boom from one scene to another without any real elegance. A story like this needs time to breathe so the powerful scenes are more resonant. But with no tonal shifts everything becomes a monotone instead of a constant high. The soundtrack in pretty much over your shoulder the whole movie screaming in your ear the themes of each scene. Everything has a slightly cheesy feeling by the fact that the music is always in your face ham-fistedly trying to invoke an emotional reaction out of you. The animation is clearly high budget and theatrical but the direction robs any of the impact that would have had. It is not that this movie is bad. The problem is that it is so much lesser when compared the amazing source material it is based on.

Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure is the first of three planned films. I have never read the original manga so this was my introduction to the series as well as the figure of Buddha who I only know a minimal amount about. The film is well and truly a fable so with that comes some things you either accept or don’t. With a fable there is a lot of grand gesture and speech, everything that happens is there with utmost importance to teach us something or drive home a point. And to that end, cut out are the little pieces that make up a character; they are more an idea than anything else. However, even rolling with that there are certain aspects of this movie that don’t jive. It was clear the filmmakers had a ton of material to get through which created some incredibly abrupt scene changes so much so that emotional impact was lost. The film is split about 50/50 between Siddhartha (who becomes Buddha) and Capra (a boy who rises in the caste system) however by the end of the film I was unable to fully link these two. At least not enough to justify spending so much of their precious little time on Capra but perhaps that will be resolved in the subsequent installments. And finally, I kept thinking that movie was over time and again but then it would just keep going. Buddha: The Great Departure isn’t an overly long film but because of its execution it wore out its welcome.

Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #101

hisuiconThe problem with webcomics is that if they have been running for a few years reading the back archives to catch up to the present can be insanely daunting. But if you start reading a good webcomic you will quickly notice a week has disappeared and you now have something new to read every week. One web comic that several people repeatedly told me I NEEDED to read is Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio. The series is a steampunk (I’m sorry gaslamp fantasy) adventure set in a war-torn Europe in which superpower mad scientists battle amongst themselves. Agatha Clay starts out as an average student at Transylvania Polygnostic University but after an eventful morning soon finds her awaking as a spark (aka a mad scientist) and embroiled in a madcap adventure all across Europe involving airships, a mysterious traveling circus, amazons, abominations (both living and mechanical), and everything and anything that makes for good swashbuckling adventure. The art is incredibility dense. There is always something going on in the foreground and usually at least 2 things going on in the background while never being cluttered. This distinctly rewards you for going back and reading chapters again. The story start off strong and only proceeds to pick up steam as it goes on and thankfully has been plotted out in advance. It has a large and extremely colorful cast and someone for almost anyone to latch onto. It is basically good in all the way that a webcomic could be good. I would have broken this review into smaller chunks but I read 9 years worth of comics in 1 week because it was so addictive. There are now 9 books of the collected series if you want to catch up offline. I might go back and review the books individually as I pick them up but I mainly just suggest you go and read any way you can.

I eagerly checked out the new Cartoon Network show Sym-Bionic Titan (eps. 1-2). It warms my heart to see more giant robot goodness this side of the Pacific. The series follows 3 aliens, strong-willed Princess Ilana, her newly appointed guardian the brooding Lance, and the faithful robot Octus who come to Earth fleeing a rebellion on their home planet. Ilana and Lance have the ability to transform into armored robots and they quickly find out that they along with Octus can combine. Of course monsters coming looking for them as they try to hide out, blend into Earth culture, and figure out the next step. There is plenty of action in the first episode, a little less in the second, but each has a good pace. The show takes little jibes at American culture, high school is all you can imagine, and it is amusing to watch our heroes try to adapt. I do hope to see Ilana be less rescued as the series continues. There is already some great plots arising as we learn about their home planet as well as an organization on Earth that already seems to know about our heroes. Great potential, great design, and great to see!

Continue reading