Mardock Scramble the Second Compression: Eggs Sunny Side Up and Poker Chips Down

Old hippies may ask, “Where have all the flowers gone?” but old anime fans ask, “Where have all the cyber punk anime gone?” It seems like one of those genres that occasionally still appears in anime but overall has faded away from the general milieu. Some elements of the genre have permeated their way into the rest of the medium and that is all that is left of it. But on a rare occasion you do get a full case of the real deal. For the longest time the only stand out examples were any entries in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series but recently the Mardock Scramble movies have come along to round out the roster a bit.

We did not talk about the first movie as a unified effort. Narutaki saw it way back in 2010 when she caught a premiere at the NYAF but I did not see the movie until I watched it on Hulu in December of last year. So if your intimately curious you can go back and read our brief reviews there. Sufficed to say we both enjoyed the movie as a return to the combination of sex and violence with brooding philosophy that was the hallmark of so much 80’s OVA anime. We included it on our “New Anime for Older Fans” panel for a reason. But is this the Empires Strikes Back or The Matrix Reloaded for the series?

I’ve had to wait quite a while to see the conclusion to one heck of cliffhanger in Mardock Scramble the First Compression. Seriously guys, it was just plain mean. So understandably there was quite a bit of anticipation for this next part in the series.

Mardock Scramble the Second Compression gives us that closure as well as opening up a slightly wider look at its world.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #149

I had been waiting to watch Hayate the Combat Butler! Heaven is a Place on Earth since it was announced last year. So when it finally come with the latest volume of the manga I was thrilled to watch it. The movie much like the rest of Hayate is a pleasant and warm helping of comfort food. Heaven is a Place on Earth is a nice little story set right after Natsu-comi and the arrival of Kayura Tsurugino but before the beginning of the next semester. It perfectly captures the feeling of being out in the country during summer vacation. The story focuses on the Hayate/Nagi relationship so I am of course totally behind it. But there is a Hinagiku bath scene so all the fans of the pink student council president will be satisfied. The best part of the movie is it feels like a nice minor arc in the manga. While it is a bit surreal at points it feels like it was taken from the source. Too often these little spin-off movies miss any of that spark that make you love the manga but this one captures that je ne sais quoi perfectly. The oddest thing about the movie is it came out BEFORE Kayura was introduced in the manga but the movie makes no real attempt to introduce her. It goes along like she has always been a part of the cast. At this point it is clear who she is but I am sure there were many a Hayate fan trying to figure out who this strange new girl was. Kayura cosplays as Saber in the movie so she is 1000% OK with me though. I will also say that I cannot deny the appeal of Maria with twin tails in a summer dress. This movie is probably not going to win over anyone who is not already a Hayate fan. They don’t make an effort to introduce you to the plot other than showing some newly animated clips from the first episode during the opening song. Oh Ruka does not take part in the main plot but she sings a song and says a few lines of dialog during the movie’s opening. So if she appears in the 3rd season she now officially has a voice actress. I am now just waiting to watch it again when they release the extended cut on the Blu-Ray.

I went to see Arthur Christmas mostly thanks to an article about its production which also alerted me to the fact that Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) made the film with Sony. It really was everything it should have been: a delightful Christmas adventure with plenty of humor and holiday magic plus top-notch animation. It is the story of the one present Santa forgets to deliver on Christmas Eve which causes endless trouble for everyone. Arthur, youngest son of Santa, along with Grand-Santa take up the mission. Arthur isn’t the successor to the Santa mantle. Oh, he has plenty of enthusiasm but he is also absent-minded, clumsy, and afraid of just about everything; still he has a true heart that inspires everyone in true movie fashion. It even gets a little meta at points as Arthur realizes that Santa isn’t a person, it doesn’t matter who delivers the present, Santa is an idea and a feeling. One of the highlights to the animation production is just how Santa does deliveries which is very high-tech nowadays as they attempt to explain the ways in which it is all accomplished using military precision, thousands of highly trained elves, GPS, and a “sleigh” that functions much more as a space ship with the ability to camouflage itself in many ways. But the olden ways must be dusted off and put to use to fix the gift mistake. It has that classic bridging of multiple generations as a key element along with the realization that we each have a place in the world. While the story has some bumps, I didn’t understand how worrying helped Arthur get to the sleigh or why wrapping the burglar alarm did anything at all, it was a holiday film that left me in good spirits!

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NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Premieres

I was blown away by the amount of premieres and showings announced for NYAF. This was the first convention I have been to in a long time where I spent a good deal of my days actually watching anime. And it was not from a lack of having other things to do. There were things here that literally couldn’t be seen anywhere else not even in Japan yet, like Mardock Scramble, or things that only recently hit Japanese theaters, like Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer, plus all manner of things in between. These were the biggest draws for me this year, and from the crowds that packed in for most of these showings it seems I wasn’t the only one.

hisuiconNYAF was the Cannes Film Festival for anime films this year. I saw part of three anime films you cannot see in English even with less that legitimate means. I have been to some awesome premieres but there were three major coups this year. The Gundam 00 movie and the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya were being shown before they made it to DVD in Japan and we got to see Mardock Scramble before audiences in Japan. Any one of the three would have been amazing but all three in one place was simply breathtaking. Being able to see the first episode of Star Driver and talk to the producer was merely icing on the cake.

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