Anime Blitz

Blue Sonnet – Took significant effort to see this, first phoning up Manga to get a copy, then returning it after the Post Office trashed it. And it wasn’t worth the effort, for a tired cross between The Guyver and Project A-ko. The latter is especially drawn on: artificially enhanced, blue-haired schoolgirl, takes on red-haired schoolgirl with more natural superpowers (well, her hair turns red when she uses her abilities). Pity that this clone lacks any of the original’s wit, style or quality of animation. B-ko, sorry, Blue Sonnet, is a cyborg secret-weapon of some multinational or other, suffering the usual guilt pangs, notably about offing the school nurse who discovered her secret, in the only effective sequence. Lettuce-like limpness. E+

Detonator Orgun – Certainly impressive, in terms of volume – 150 mins for £13.99 – and actually not bad, given my dislike of the giant robot field. Self-aware enough to defuse the portentousness with humour, it skates close to moralising cant, yet never quite goes over the top. The “alien invasion” plot, #3 in the anime canon, is twisted in novel ways (are the invaders actually our future selves?) and the animation is full-scale. The origin as 50-minute episodes is too clear (half an hour of plot, then 20 minutes of action, with the predictability of the tides), yet it’s nicely self-contained in a sweeping, epic kind of way. C+

Elicia – Forgettable piracy romp with fantasy elements. Reminded me of Sol Bianca, except that one managed to have memorable characters and a plot that stuck in your head for longer than thirty minutes. This one is bright, shiny, nicely animated and possesses very little to recommend it above and beyond the hundred other titles on the shelf. The sort of thing for which the phrase ‘Mostly Harmless’ was coined, do yourself a favour and go watch Cut-throat Island instead. D-

Grappler Baki – Martial arts mayhem, albeit with a smidgeon more flair than, say, Shadow Skill. At moments, so excessive it may be a parody; though the fact that it’s not funny suggests otherwise. The storyline is irrelevant, so let’s move on to the lengthy, graphic battles: the final one alone lasts 15 minutes and features a guy who tears out his opponent’s nerves. If that’s the coolest thing you’ve ever heard, this is right up your street; otherwise, it could be of limited interest. I dozed off a bit in the middle, between fights, but suspect this did not impact my enjoyment of the show in the slightest. D+

Gunsmith Cats 3 – The final part of Kenichi Sonoda’s paean to fast cars, babes and guns ties up loose ends left after previous episodes, when the heroines took out a gun-running operation. Said ends are very loose indeed, including a Russian hit-woman and a lot of political sleaze. This is 30 minutes of cheerful shallowness, with hardly a thought in its pretty little head. Like all bimbos, it’s expensive for what you get; value for money isn’t the strong point of this series, so wait for the compilation edition instead. However, bonus points to AD Vision for putting both dubbed and subbed versions on the same tape, giving the viewer maximum flexibility. C+

The Hakkenden – An animated version of The Water Margin is a good way to sum up this sprawling series. It details the adventures of eight characters whose fates are bound together by a series of pearls, engraved with the necessary attributes of a samurai, and tied to a princess who married her dog(!). Throw in the usual venomous power struggles, and you have something where you have to admire the width at the very least. However, this isn’t enough to make it actually interesting, it was too hard to empathise with characters who never quite lift themselves out of the box marked ‘cyphers’. It also seems often to forget that it’s animation, and could easily be live-action for long periods. If you like samurai stuff, fine, otherwise this won’t convert you. D

Hanappe Bazooka – Go Nagai is famous for mixing sex, violence and humour (Kekko Kamen is also his), and this bats down a similar line. It’s like a parody of Overfiend – guy summons demons, mayhem follows – with the creatures in question more naughty than unpleasant, though just as sex-crazed. However, it’s not actually very amusing, despite obviously trying very hard. Some decent in-jokes, and a healthy sense of political incorrectness, which the BBFC will no doubt trim, can’t salvage it. In the end (and every other orifice, too), what you get is less parody than tame imitation. D

Macross Plus – Reviewing part four of this was a bit tricky, since they never sent parts 1-3. Thank heavens for the Macross Plus movie, which combines them all (with an extra twenty minutes of footage), and alleviated the vague sense of loss, since Part 4 wasn’t totally without merit, despite being full of giant robots. It’s epic, trans-galactic stuff, though the ending has dialogue so cheesy you could put it on toast and call it Welsh Rarebit. Just the sort of po-faced nonsense one expects from mecha-anime. Up until then though, it’s very impressive: the animation is top of the range, fluid and fast, and music is used to great effect too. Overall, a very pleasant surprise. B+

Makyu Senjou – My, just what the world has been crying out for: a Guyver wannabe. Bloke turns into secret weapon of mega-corporation, and has to fight all the other secret weapons in bloody battles. Yawn. A marginally better storyline than The Guyver (not hard — the appearance of a telepathic kid tips the balance there) and with a decent minimalist soundtrack, yet it has even worse animation, and dialogue that might be funny if it wasn’t serious. Deeply tedious. E

Neon Genesis Evangelion – I’m going to go against the grain here; despite uniformly good reviews elsewhere, this again is little more than The Guyver, albeit with extra teen-angst. Every twenty minutes or so, a new alien threat attacks and has its arse kicked by Earth’s giant robot corps, between which the young pilots agonise about…stuff. Not so much a story arc as a story flat-line, despite the high-quality animation you’d expect from Gainax (responsible for Wings of Honneamise). There’s no sense of forward momentum, and having sat through twenty episodes without anything significant happening, it’s not a series I ever want to see again. D-

Phantom Quest Corp – That’s “Corp” as in “Corporation”, for this refreshing take on Ghostbusters, in which an army of freelance exorcists, led by our spendthrift heroine, take on the usual supernatural suspects. It’s frothy, feisty fun, with a dub that’s a pretty good attempt at capturing the spirit of the Japanese original. With hardly any plot or character development (admittedly, the characters don’t need much development being quite fully formed as is, and they are all the more entertaining for it), this is shallow entertainment, no more and no less. Perky and frolicsome candy-floss. B

Power Dolls – ‘The Knight Sabres Go to War’ might be an appropriate title for this one. An all-girl brigade in power suits (“dolls” is actually a heavily contrived acronym for something), fighting against the invaders from Earth. Yes, “from” rather than “of”, an interesting twist, albeit one previously used in KO Century Beast Warriors. This is more tech-inclined, and needs better characterisation on the voice front, where they all sound too alike. The action is dully predictable, and by now the words “AD Vision” should also automatically trigger “value for money” warning bells; in this case, however, the brevity is almost welcome. D-

Shadow Skill – Don’t bother. This one has all the charm of a video game turned into a cartoon, even though it isn’t, being based on a comic (however, I suspect it probably has become a video game since). A thin excuse for a plot is clearly designed to do no more than link fight scenes. After 20 minutes, I had a strong urge to play Tekken 2 — I didn’t resist, and not only is the animation there superior, it’s far more entertaining. I may have blisters on my thumb as a result, but would probably have got one watching this anyway, through savage usage of the fast-forward. Also available in a “movie” which is three episodes on one tape, and is thus marginally better. E-

Tokyo Revelation – For the first ten minutes, this looks like it might do interesting things with the traditional demonic high-school setting: we get two investigators going undercover at said educational establishment, in a cross between The X-Files and cult Japanese horror film Wizard of Darkness. However, neither of these angles are explored significantly, and it descends, perhaps inevitably, into another ‘put-upon bloke summoning icky things’ show. You’ve seen it all before, and it’s neither extreme enough nor well-animated enough to be other than instantly forgettable. E

Zeoraima – While some anime has certainly been BAD, this may be the first to reach “so bad it’s good” status. It’s dreadful, kid-piloting-mecha nonsense, with a portentous, monotone voiceover and every cliché of the genre you could wish. The dubbing is so dreadful, the characters rarely pronounce the title the same way twice in a row (Zeo-RYE-mah? Zeo-RAY-mah? Zeo-RAH-mah?), and the plot is a tedious succession of battles between ever more giant robots. Even if the second episode adds nothing save another pronunciation (Zeo-REE-mah), this is certainly entertaining, albeit for all the wrong reasons — I haven’t laughed so much in ages. On that basis, and for that alone, C+.

Stop Press…

[Those titles which didn’t quite turn up in time for the above section]

Hyper Dolls – It’s nice, once in a while, to see something that doesn’t take itself in the slightest bit seriously. And these two tapes certainly fall into this category. Heroines Mica and Mew are the protectors of Earth — it’s kinda like Men in Black with skimpier costumes. They get their orders through the medium of pizza (look, I call ’em as I see ’em) and fortunately, their opponents are just as dumb as they are: for example, a yokel giant worm with a penchant for imitating a tube train… Though hardly taxing the attention span over its thirty-minute duration, bonus points are due to Pioneer for the live-action shorts which follow each episode: part 1 is especially silly, with a ‘giant’ rubber-suited monster, straight out of some early Godzilla flick — part 2’s is disturbingly…well, competent, and thus much less fun. It’s all unremittingly silly, and deliciously frothy. B

Landlock – I tried. Not once, but twice. And singularly failed to get through more than 20 minutes of this dreck. It’s supposed to have something to do with Shirow, who did Ghost in the Shell, and it does have the same twisted technology, mystical babble, and unfeasibly large-breasted women, though I suspect that his contribution was a few drawings scrawled on a fag packet one Friday lunchtime down the pub. The translation provokes more unintended sniggers than anything else (po-faced pronouncements about being “master of the wind”, for example), and the voice acting is dreadful. Totally irredeemable, this is Manga’s worst since Odin — it may be slightly worse, but I’m damned if I’m going to make a third attempt at it to find out. E-

Psychic Wars – “Mum, my head hurts”, begins the press release, and yes, a migraine would be preferable. The odd thing is, it feels like a part 3, the first chunk smells suspiciously of story-so-far. At least that bit kept me awake: even though it was just 7pm, sleep overcame me after 26 minutes – between this and Landlock, maybe I could start rating tapes by how long I stay conscious. A swift rewind revealed I’d missed nothing; bloke with special powers/save Earth/demonic forces. Fill in the blanks yourself, you’ve seen it all a million times before, and done a thousand times better. Two words to Manga: quality control. Keep this up, and even the undemanding teenage boys market will desert you. E+

Sword for Truth – “NINJAS FACE SAMURAIS IN BLOODY SEVERED LIMB DECAPITATION SHOCKER…” shrieks the promotional blurb, in typically understated Manga Video style – there are times when reading them is more entertaining than watching the tapes. Though for once, this is only mild hyperbole — the gore, while copious, is drawn in a style bordering on the Impressionistic and, most unlike Manga, they even forgot to mention the sex, both straight and lesbian. It plays like a video game, with strong, silent hero Shuranosuke slashing his way past henchmen, then taking on their boss, before moving on to the next level, er, adventure. Despite a familiar plot and some clumsy anachronisms (why is the River Styx mentioned in a supposedly medieval Japanese setting?), Shuranosuke is an interesting, well-rounded character, and the film benefits from its solid visual sense. C+

Once again, that handy cut-out-and-keep TC anime guide!

Macross PlusMangaB+
Hyper DollsPioneerB
Phantom Quest CorpPioneerB
Gunsmith Cats 3AD VisionC+
Sword For TruthMangaC+
Detanator OrgunMangaC+
Grappler BakiMangaD+
The HakkendenPioneerD
Neon Genesis EvangelionAD VisionD-
EliciaAD VisionD-
Power DollsAD VisionD-
Blue SonnetMangaE+
Shuten DojiAD VisionE+
Psychic WarsMangaE+
Tokyo RevelationMangaE
Makyu SenjouMangaE
Shadow SkillMangaE-