Ongoing Investigations: Case #193

There are a few movies I was really looking forward to this year. With a limited budget I have to be a bit more conservative to what I am willing to see in theaters but Wreck-It-Ralph was a movie I definitely need to see on the big screen. I enjoyed the movie a great deal. I think I liked it more than Narutaki. But everyone we went with agreed one thing majorly brought the movie down as a whole. The major question was how much did it hurt the movie.

Wreck-It-Ralph is a villain who after years of being the bad guy wants a little recognition so he decides to try being a hero. But in the process of trying to prove that he has what it takes to be more than an engine of destruction causes him to unwittingly unleash a terror that could destroy the arcade. Oh. And he has to help a bratty little girl win a Go Cart race.

There were quite a few good things to love about the movie. It has an amazing sense of style and place. The feel of the world inside the arcade machines is just so wonderfully realized. It is sort of the Toy Story for video games. Retro games feel retro and modern games feel slick with a wonderfully congruent style that still lets everything feel very unique. Fix-it Felix Jr. and Sergeant Calhoun are extremely different in their design but still have a sense of consistency to them. The humor can be quite good when it is working well. There was one line about Sergeant Calhoun that cannot be beat. I won’t spoil it but you will know it when you hear it. The cameos of real game characters are amazing. You have everyone from Zangief and Sonic to Tapper, Q*bert, and Beard Papa. Certain scenes beg to be watched on home video just so you can pause and take them all in. The licensed characters give the sense of authenticity while making sure never to steal the spotlight from the main cast. And most importantly the story is just fun homage to the arcade. And that is always just a warm feeling.

The major problems are two-fold. The first is in Japan the movie is entitled Sugar Rush. And for all intents and purposes that might be a bit more accurate title. Because while the story centers on Wreck-It-Ralph the majority of the movie is spent inside the Sugar Rush game. So you better like that candy coated Mario Cart world because it is the primary place you will see. The trailers make it seem like their will be much more world hopping than there actually is in the end. The other is just the fact that Sarah Silverman is an annoying human being who is about as funny as a root canal. She did not ruin the movie for me but she does drag it down especially considering she is deuteragonist in the film and does not really ever leave the spotlight after she is introduced. In a way she makes the Sugar Rush part of the film feel ever longer.

Still despite that I had a great time. I even enjoyed the AKB48 Sugar Rush theme song. As I understand they are already planning a sequel that deals with console games and/or MMORPGs. I look forward to seeing that. But until that I will enjoy this movie again on Blu-Ray when it comes out.

I had been looking forward to Wreck-It-Ralph for a long time, ever since the concept was announced. It was a movie that I wasn’t sure was really Disney but I hoped they could pull it off and breath new life into the repertoire. In fact, I felt like who else could afford to have all of these cameos besides Disney?

Ralph is a hapless lug stuck in a situation not of his choosing and who just wants to prove he can be a different guy, Ralph is endearing from the get-go. I really enjoyed him learning what it means to be a hero, it is great to want to be a hero but it can’t be about you. And the movie becomes less about Ralph the more he becomes a hero, kind of interesting.

Or at least it was somewhat interesting, but diminishing the character we’ve come to care for in the middle of the movie to instead focus on Vanellope? I know I’m just a bit biased because of her voice and humor that comes along with it. I did think their friendship was genuinely sweet at points and my heart broke when Ralph had to be the “bad guy” once again.

The tons of cameos were fun, though I almost shed tears at poor Q*bert without a home, living in Game Central Station. The animation and integration of the videogames in the film were brilliant, there were lots of quirks depending on the characters and what games they came from. This was most evident with the older games like Fix-It-Felix for example where characters would hop and make a jump noise when surprised.

I was pleased at the setup for the story, weaving in little details from the beginning that later were significant, it was plotted well. The ending was really well concocted.

I thought the music was mostly terrible, my only real complaint. So I walked away from the movie feeling pleased, but I felt like I should have loved it to bits instead of just liking it.

Maybe it was just overshadowed by the perfect, poignant Paperman short that played first.

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.

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Manga of the Month: Paradise Kiss

Paradise Kiss (パラダイス・キス) by Ai Yazawa

With the first volume of Vertical’s beautiful new edition having gone on sale in September, it was an easy choice on what to highlight this time around.

Paradise Kiss combines high fashion, mature romance, and a bittersweet coming-of-age tale. Central to this is a cast that has more flaws than perfections; people who readily get swept up in their ideas, their passions, and their emotions. Paradise Kiss is all about relationships. Friends. Co-workers. Families. Lovers. And even yourself. How those relationships start is also something that at times is quite out of control as are the long-term effects you might not even be aware of.

Yukari starts the story at a very different place than she ends it. She has great grades, looks, and a bright future ahead of her but she has no passion. When she literally runs into Arashi on the street, she has no idea she is about to meet a group of people who will profoundly change her path in life. She is swept away by these fashion students’ dreams so much so that she wants to make it her dream, too.

As Yukari begins this journey for what she wants in life, she also begins her first real romance with the mysterious leader of the group George. His much more worldly point of view is irresistible, but the complexities at his core are very hard for Yukari to truly know.

Ai Yazawa’s elongated stylization is never more relevant than in a world of models, runways, and clothing. The work put into the fashions that everyone wears in the day-to-day as well as those they are create for Yukari to model are full of details. As always, Ms. Yazawa is a master of faces and expression throughout the ups and downs, the laughs and the tears.

I love that Paradise Kiss highlights a piece of Yukari’s life with all the thoughtfulness of how we are both powerful and powerless when it comes to our future and the paths of others. Paradise Kiss is brilliant in how it it shows what it is to step out in the world on your own.

Paradise Kiss’s Hiroyuki: One Point on Two Triangles

Paradise Kiss is all about relationships. Friends. Co-workers. Family. Lovers. And Paradise Kiss goes a long way to showing that all of these relationships, minor or major, make a difference and effect your decision, consciously or not. Growing through experience plays a solid tune throughout the series. As each character goes down their paths, some having a better idea of where they are headed than others, no one is alone on their journey. Hiroyuki, the seemingly average man among men, plays pivotal roles in much of the story despite being not quite part of the group.

hisuiconI always took away the message of Paradise Kiss being that what we think we want, what we actually want, what we need, and what we get are all very separate things. No matter how much we may try to get them to be the same we discover life is about dealing with the fact that these four things may never meet up no matter how much we try to make them. All the member of Paradise Kiss kiss deal with these clashes of desires and realities both romantically and professionally throughout the series. But there is one character who on the surface seems out of place. Hiroyuki Tokumori seems to be a minor character who is both above this and apart from this. But on further analysis we see that he is not only a key player in all the lives of the main characters but also just as torn and effected by these conflicts as everyone else.

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