Category Archives: anime

My Thoughts on: Castle in the Sky (1986)

The 1986 film Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it the very first Studio Ghibli film, it is also, so far as I can remember, the very first film by Hayao Miyazaki that I ever saw. I saw it on TV in the early 2000s (2003 I think), and it was played up as a really big deal. I remember being spellbound then, and ever since I’ve been in love with this story.

Like all of Miyazaki’s films that I’ve seen, Castle in the Sky takes place in a world not unlike our own, but with one major difference. In this world, there’s a huge floating city named Laputa that lies hidden somewhere up in the sky. Long ago, Laputa was the center of an incredibly advanced civilization, but hundreds of years ago…it vanished. The story centers around several groups and individuals who are all searching for Laputa, each with their own motives for doing so.

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  • Pazu, a young orphan boy, is searching for Laputa to prove to his fellow townspeople that the floating city isn’t a myth.
  • Sheeta, a young orphan girl, ends up searching for the city because she wants to learn what happened to make everyone abandon it.
  • The Dola Gang, a roguish-yet-lovable band of pirates are looking to plunder Laputa’s worldly treasures and make themselves filthy rich.
  • And Muska (voiced in the English dub by Mark Hamill), seeks Laputa for the power he believes it can give him.

Castle in the Sky is an interesting study on the best and worst aspects of humanity. On the one hand, we have Pazu and Sheeta, who only want to explore Laputa, and don’t really want to “do” anything with it. The Dola Gang are something of a middle ground, in that robbing the city of its treasures isn’t really the right thing to do, but then again they’re just doing what pirates do (and it’s implied that they’ll retire from their thieving ways if they succeed).

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And then there’s Muska, who represents the very worst of humanity. Muska, who like Sheeta is descended from Laputa’s long-lost royal line, is obsessed with getting to the floating city and turning it into his own personal kingdom and weapon of war. He believes that since Laputa once dominated the world, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t do so again, with himself as its king. Of all the characters who make it to Laputa, I think Muska is the only one who bothers with its technological secrets, most of which have been nearly buried underneath a forest of roots and plant life in the centuries since the residents returned to Earth. In fact, Muska is so obsessed with wielding advanced technological power and being king that he completely misses the point of why the city was abandoned in the first place. Sheeta tries to explain it to him: the city was abandoned because its residents realized that humanity doesn’t belong in the sky. All the advanced power in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you aren’t connected to the world, to which all things belong.

Speaking of Laputa, the city is one of my favorite parts of the film. It’s so well drawn that, even though most of it has long since fallen into ruin, you can still conceive of how it must have looked in its prime. I also like the idea that the floating city is home to wildlife that you wouldn’t find on Earth (at least I think that’s what those creatures are meant to be). It’s literally like a whole different world up there.

If you haven’t seen Castle in the Sky yet, I highly recommend it, it’s a classic story that doesn’t show its age in the slightest.

Let me know what you think about Castle in the Sky in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988): One of My All Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Slayers Revolution (season 4) (2008)

*This is my 600th post!

My oh my, how the time can fly. Who’d have thought that after the conclusion of Slayers TRY, that over ten years would pass before the adventures of Lina Inverse would continue. That’s right, Slayers Revolution didn’t arrive until 2008, and by then the world of anime was very different from what it had been in 1997. The fourth season is now drawn using digital animation, but don’t worry, everyone is still recognizable, and thankfully most of the original voice actors have returned (Xellos, however, has been noticeably recast and I’m not a fan of that change).

Slayers Revolution starts with an absolutely hilarious story, so funny that I have to share it. The season starts with Lina finding herself under arrest for the crime…of being Lina Inverse! And what makes it even funnier? Every time Lina gets arrested for this “crime” she turns to find Gourry, Zelgadis, and Amelia huddled together secretly agreeing that there’s no arguing with this “evidence” much to Lina’s growing frustration.

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That humorous interlude aside, the real plot of season 4 finds Lina in conflict with a mysterious creature named Pokota (he reminds me of a Pokemon), who is far more than what he appears to be. However, the surprises of who and what Pokota really is don’t compare to the other bombshell this season drops. Out of nowhere, the story brings up none other than Rezo the Red Priest (you know, the villain of season 1?) Of all the characters to choose from, I never thought to hear Rezo’s name again.

I like Slayers Revolution for the most part, however something about it bothers me. Late in the season we’re introduced to something known as “Zanaffar Armor” something that hasn’t been referenced in the series before now, and yet I get the feeling that everyone acts like we (the audience) should know exactly what that armor is and what it does. Let’s just say I was confused for a couple of episodes before certain things were explained. I just feel like that plot detail could have been handled better. Otherwise, I really do like Slayers Revolution. It’s a shame there’s only one more season to talk about after this one.

What do you think about Slayers Revolution? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Slayers (season 1) (1995)

My Thoughts on: Slayers NEXT (Season 2) (1996)

My Thoughts on: Slayers TRY (season 3) (1997)

My Thoughts on: Slayers Return (1996)

My Thoughts on: Slayers Great (1997)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Slayers TRY (season 3) (1997)

After several false starts, I finally made my way through Slayers TRY, the third season of Slayers overall. As with the first two seasons, Slayers TRY follows the ongoing adventures of Lina Inverse and company, now making their way into the outside world in the wake of Lina’s defeat of Hellmaster Phibrizzo at the end of Slayers NEXT. But of course, this being Lina Inverse, adventure and intrigue is simply going to seek her out whether she wants it or not.

Our cast of heroes is joined this season by Filia, a priestess of the Fire Dragon King who also happens to be a dragon herself (she appears as a human for most of the season, but a running gag will have her tail showing at inopportune moments, she also favors a HUGE mace for a weapon). I found myself liking Filia, she’s clearly the audience surrogate in this story (if her reactions to Lina and company are anything to go by), and it’s interesting to watch how her character evolves from the beginning to end of the season.

I freely admit that Slayers TRY is not quite as good as Slayers NEXT, but it does tell a good story. One of the big things in this story, unless I completely missed the point, is that the question of who is good and who is evil is somewhat addressed (Gourry openly asks the question late in the story arc). When the story begins, you think you know who the good guys and bad guys are; but as the story progresses, it starts to emerge that maybe things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were.

One funny moment that I have to share comes early in the season. Filia gives Lina a letter from her older sister Luna Inverse (who was originally meant to be the main character of the story before Hajime Kanzaka realized Lina was far more interesting). We’ve never actually met Luna, but Lina’s reaction to the note (telling her sister to take the job “or else”) tells us everything we need to know. Lina’s over-the-top freakout includes assembling a pyramid, building a tomb and sarcophagus inside before sinking the pyramid into the earth and screaming hysterically that her sister is going to kill her! It’s a scene that makes me laugh every time I watch it.

If you’ve enjoyed the first two seasons of Slayers, then you will likely enjoy Slayers TRY as well. It keeps the adventure going, and it has a really sweet ending.

Let me know your thoughts on Slayers TRY in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Slayers (season 1) (1995)

My Thoughts on: Slayers NEXT (Season 2) (1996)

My Thoughts on: Slayers Return (1996)

My Thoughts on: Slayers Great (1997)

Animated Film Reviews

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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My Thoughts on: Hellsing Ultimate

*warning: Spoilers for Hellsing Ultimate discussed below

Some of my friends might be surprised to hear this, but one of my favorite anime series to watch is Hellsing Ultimate. Released from 2006 to 2014 in the United States, the series is a faithful adaptation of Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing manga that ran from 1997-2008. An earlier Hellsing series was produced while the manga was still being written, but it’s faithfulness to the series drops off after a few episodes (and many prefer to ignore it).

Hellsing is, simply put, Hirano’s take on the story of Dracula. Well, that’s not quite true. While the original Dracula story, as written by Bram Stoker, is hinted at throughout the story, Hellsing itself is more of a sequel. Basically, imagine that the events of Dracula really happened, only, instead of dying, the infamous vampire is turned into the loyal servant of an organization descended from Van Helsing (Helsing=Hellsing). Now flash forward to the present where vampires are very much real and you can start to imagine just how different the world would be.

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A major theme of Hellsing Ultimate is how old threats never completely die. Just as Dracula, now known as Alucard, never actually died, so too did other threats remain hidden in the darkness only to emerge later. In the case of Hellsing, the ultimate threat comes from a legion of Nazis that survived after the Second World War by being turned into vampires, plotting vengeance for over 50 years. They are led by a character known only as the Major and he is without a doubt one of the most loathsome characters I’ve ever seen. He’s written in such a way to make your skin crawl every time he speaks.

Yes, you read that right. The ultimate enemy in Hellsing Ultimate are Nazi vampires. And yes, the fight scenes are as awesome as you think they are. But they are also bloody, very bloody. In fact, Hellsing Ultimate is one of the bloodiest shows I’ve ever watched. This series is definitely not for the faint of heart, because there is a lot of blood and guts throughout, but the intensity gets turned up by 100 in the second half of the series.

Aside from hidden threats, the other overarching plot thread follows Seras Victoria, a former police officer who ends up turned into a fledgling vampire by Alucard at the start of the series. I feel like Seras is meant to represent us, the viewer, and how we might react if we found ourselves suddenly among the ranks of the undead. A major part of Seras’ plot arc is, will she fully accept what she has become, and IF she does, what will that make her in the end? I like following the story of Seras, because it is full of ups and downs and by the end you are fully rooting for her to go on a rampage and destroy all in her path.

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There are many amazing characters in this series, like Seras, and my favorites include Seras, Alucard (brought to chilling life by Crispin Freeman), Walter, and Sir Integra. And of those four, I really like Alucard and Walter the best. There’s a huge history between these two characters, and watching how the interplay between them changes over time is really fascinating to watch.

After watching Hellsing Ultimate, I don’t think you will ever be able to look at vampires the same way again. The way this series portrays vampires makes them feel so real. Watching this series, you could almost believe that vampires are real, that secret organizations like Hellsing or Iscariot might really exist, battling vampires so that regular people like us never find out about it.

If you like vampire stories, you need to watch Hellsing Ultimate at least once, because it is an incredible story. But one final warning: this series is EXTREMELY bloody and graphic, and features some disturbing material. If you’ve seen Hellsing Ultimate, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts On: Attack on Titan (season 2)

*note: fairly major spoilers follow for season 2 of Attack on Titan

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Considering how good the first season of Attack on Titan was, it blew my mind when I discovered that the second season was even better. While season 2 is only half the length with 12 episodes, it certainly doesn’t lack for drama.

Season two picks up where season one left off and focuses almost exclusively on a mysterious Titan incursion inside Wall Rose (the second of three walls keeping humanity safe). In the process of putting down this incursion, some mind-boggling truths are uncovered about the nature of Titans. Even more shockingly, multiple humans are revealed to be hiding Titan forms. The biggest shock of all is that the attack on Shiganshina, which set the entire plot of the series into motion, was orchestrated by two Scouts who have been friends with Eren for several years! This revelation comes out of nowhere and completely cemented my love for this series (like many, I enjoy an excellent plot twist).

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Additionally, the massive Beast Titan is introduced to the story and quite honestly he looks terrifying. Unlike the other Titans we’ve seen up until this point, the Beast Titan (befitting his name), has the appearance of an ape. What’s more, he can talk like a regular person and can command regular Titans (with terrifying effect). Speaking of Titans, there’s a bit of focus on Eren learning to control his own Titan abilities, including several false starts when his attempts to summon his Titan form don’t work. But above all else in season 2, I have to praise the final battle against the Armored Titan, the Colossal Titan and a third Titan whose introduction was so well done I don’t want to spoil it (but it completely shocked me). This fight sequence builds on all the Titan battles we’ve seen up until now and raises the intensity by 100. The action, combined with the music, makes the entire sequence riveting. You can feel the raw emotion as Mikasa engages the Titans, swearing to kill them for what they’ve done. You can also feel the pain as some characters are forced to make extremely difficult decisions. There’s also an epic Titan moment that calls back to the very first episode of the series.

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As I said at the beginning, season two of Attack on Titan is even better than the first. I highly recommend this series for anyone who enjoys anime. The first half of season 3 is currently streaming on Hulu (sub only), with the second half expected to arrive later this month. Let me know what you think of season two of Attack on Titan in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts On: Attack on Titan (season 1)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts On: Attack on Titan (season 1)

*note: some spoilers for Attack on Titan follow

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

I first tried to watch Attack on Titan several years ago and I admit I was initially not into the series at all. The unnatural appearance of the Titans freaked me out so much that after the third or fourth episode (I don’t remember which), I put the series away and proceeded to ignore it. The concept of humanity being hemmed in on all sides by bloodthirsty giants really scared me, it’s almost like a zombie apocalypse only the zombies are giants. Fast forward to this year and I decided to give the series another shot and I am so glad I did. Attack on Titan is an amazing series that is admittedly full of violence but also contains a lot of intrigue and plot twists that keep you guessing as to what is really going on.

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The initial premise of Attack on Titan is that over 100 years ago, humanity was overwhelmed by the sudden emergence of the Titans, a strange race of giants that love to eat humans. The surviving humans sequestered themselves behind a series of walls and maintained an uneasy status quo until a Colossal Titan breaks through the first wall at the beginning of the series, setting the story into motion. The story follows Eren Yeager as he sets out on his journey in life after the first Titan attack destroys life as he knows it. Apart from Eren, my favorite character is Mikasa Ackerman, I really love watching her fly around the battlefield, a graceful but deadly figure. Another important character (and one I somewhat identify with) is Armin, who initially seems like the last person who should be fighting Titans, but he cares for his friends so much that he does what he can do protect them.

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One of the strengths of the first season is its stunning animation. The fight sequences between the soldiers and the Titans are just beautiful. Even though characters are literally flying across the screen, there’s no issue in following the action. The Titans, particularly the Colossal Titan, the Armored Titan, and the Female Titan are animated in spectacular detail. Unlike the regular Titans, these special Titans are better proportioned and look more realistic (relatively speaking). One of the biggest twists in this season involves the nature of these special Titans. The revelation that some humans can transform into Titans, in my opinion, completely sets the story on its head. It was initially established that Titans were a completely separate race, but if some humans can become Titans…how do you know who the “enemy” is? It’s a complex question and it leads you to go back over the entire season and re-evaluate everything you think you know.

Another detail I ended up liking about this season is that nobody is safe. You can spend several episodes getting to know a character only to find out they were killed during a battle with a Titan or worse, eaten. Some series suffer because a certain set of characters are protected by “plot armor” meaning they’ll never be in real danger because the story can’t go on without them, but that is definitely not the case with this story. One detail that still bothers me is the graphic nature of some of these deaths. You see and hear a lot of grisly stuff, blood, screams of pain, it can be a little overwhelming at times.

By the end of season 1, I was completely hooked on the series. I’m glad I gave Attack on Titan another chance and I highly recommend it. Attack on Titan is currently available on Hulu and Netflix. Let me know what you think about the series in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts On: Attack on Titan (season 2)

Animated Film Reviews

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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