Tag Archives: anime

My Thoughts on: Casshern (2004)

Note: This review is in fulfillment of a Patreon pledge

My apologies for being late with this review, but last night I was finally able to sit down and watch Casshern (2004), a Japanese film based on the 1973 anime of the same name. I’d never heard of this film specifically before being asked to watch it, though I had heard of Casshern Sins, a reboot of the anime that aired in 2008.

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Set in the far future, Casshern begins at the end of a fifty-year war between Europa (which uses robot armies) and the Eastern Federation. The Federation emerges victorious, but is soon fighting again when an uprising begins in Zone 7. Tetsuya Azuma (Yusuke Iseya), the son of a brilliant scientist, enlists in the army and ends up killed in action, only to be resurrected with the help of strange “Neo Cells” and gains incredible abilities as a result. The Neo Cells themselves are allegedly capable of forming new body parts, but it turns out they’re actually something else entirely.

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Having never seen Casshern before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I do my best to give every film I watch a fair chance, but while Casshern does have its moments (more on those in a moment), by and large the film did not impress me. The biggest failing of the film is its special effects. It’s painfully obvious when CGI is being used, so much so that in several scenes it took me right out of the action because of how fake it looked. The plot is also really confusing, though I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the film itself or the subtitles (which I’ve heard aren’t the best in the world). There are multiple scenes that seem like they’re supposed to be big moments, but instead come across as head-scratchers. A good case in point: in one early scene, it seems like we’re building up to an explosion in a secret laboratory, when suddenly a stone thunderbolt crashes through the ceiling and lodges itself into the lab. Said thunderbolt is the most blatant example of a deus ex machina that I’ve seen in years because the main plot doesn’t really get going until it inexplicably arrives.

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That’s not to say that the film is all bad, there is at least one moment that I thought was very well done. In a really creepy moment, the stone thunderbolt seemingly turned the Neo-Cell body parts into whole people. The military inexplicably shows up to slaughter them but a handful escape into the mountains. The bulk of this scene is done with no dialogue (aside from some crying and screaming), only music to give a sense of what is happening. It’s the one moment in the entire film where I was completely engrossed in the story.

I will also say that, having looked at images of the original anime, there are some Easter eggs paying homage to the 1973 series. For one, you can see the helmet that Casshern wears in the anime and Tetsuya later meats a dog named ‘Friender’ which references the cyborg’s canine sidekick in the anime.

Would I recommend Casshern? I’ll put it like this: if you’re a die-hard fan of all things Casshern, then I say go for it, you’ll likely find something to love about this film. But if you’re only a casual viewer then I would recommend avoiding this one, the visual flaws and confusing plot don’t add up to anything meaningful (though you can tell they’re trying).

What did you think of Casshern (if you’ve seen it)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day! If you sub to my Patreon for $5 or above, you can also request a film review of your choice 🙂

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie (1995)

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This weekend I got to see the third and final Sailor Moon movie, Sailor Moon Super S along with the animated short “Ami’s First Love.” This…slightly strange short follows Ami/Sailor Mercury as she studies for her high school entrance examinations. Ami becomes obsessed when another student (known only as “Mercurius”) consistently earns the same score as her. It’s mostly cute, but it turns weird when a spirit decides to possess Ami and she thinks the spirit is Mercurius. Still, it’s cool to see a new Sailor Moon short.

Sailor Moon Super S focuses slightly more on Chibi-usa than the other two films. The relationship between Chibi-usa and Usage has always intrigued me; Chibi-usa is Usagi’s daughter from the distant future yet they behave more like siblings when they’re together (I know Usagi is only a teenager right now, but if I knew I was with my future daughter I’m pretty sure it would affect my behavior). At any rate…the plot of Super S reveals that children all over the world are disappearing. In fact they’re being lured away by flute-playing fairies onto large airships that bear them away to parts unknown. Meanwhile, Chibi-usa meets a strange boy named Pearl (who is also a fairy) and the two bond.

When the mysterious fairies come to Tokyo, Chibi-usa is one of the children lured away, drawing the attention of Usagi and the other sailor guardians. A fight ensues, but Chibi-usa is forcibly taken away and the rest of the story is devoted to rescuing her from Marzipan Castle (where the other children have been taken).

I enjoyed this film, but not quite as much as the first two. I’m not sure if it was because of the candy-themed villains or something else, but I couldn’t get into the story as much (though it’s always fun to watch the guardians transform and do their attacks). There’s still plenty of humor to be found, including a moment where Sailor Moon and Sailor Chibi Moon both awkwardly fall to Earth after the magic of the Legendary Silver Crystal wears off. I’d also like to think that Pearl and Chibi-usa meet again in the future (they’re clearly quite taken with each other).

And those are my thoughts on Sailor Moon Super S. What did you think of this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great evening!

See also:

Thoughts on Sailor Moon R: The Movie

My thoughts on: Sailor Moon S

Animated Film Reviews

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My thoughts on: Sailor Moon S: The Movie (1994)

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Last weekend was a lot of fun because I got to spend part of Saturday afternoon watching a Sailor Moon double feature (something I never thought I’d get to say if I’m honest). The theater was showing Sailor Moon R and Sailor Moon S back to back (with Sailor Moon Super S coming this weekend). While I got to see Sailor Moon R for the first time last winter, this was my first time watching Sailor Moon S and I really enjoyed it.

Sailor Moon S is set during the winter break when Usagi and all of her friends are on vacation from school. But…as normally happens with Sailor Moon stories, something evil is approaching from outer space. Princess Snow Kaguya, an ice creature, is determined to freeze the Earth solid and rule as its queen. However first she has to find a special crystal that broke off and fell to Earth ahead of her.

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If you love Sailor Moon you will easily love this film, it features plenty of action from all of the sailor guardians including Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. It also features Sailor Moon transforming into Super Sailor Moon with the power of the Holy Grail. That being said, there’s one moment in the film that I thought was absolutely corny. Just as Sailor Moon and Chibiusa engage Kaguya’s snow henchman for the first time, Santa Claus appears to come out of nowhere. It’s actually Tuxedo Mask in disguise, but the way he comes out with the line “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year” just had me shaking my head. I get that Tuxedo Mask can literally appear from anywhere but…seriously?

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The sub-plot of Luna falling in love with a human scientist honestly made me cry. Having experienced heartache multiple times, I can identify all too well with how Luna feels, knowing that she can never truly be with Kakeru. And when Usagi grants Luna’s wish to be human for one night so she can spend time with the scientist, it made me cry even more!

I really enjoyed Sailor Moon S because it helped me feel like a kid again (when life was a lot simpler) and it helped me forget how messed up the world is right now. I highly recommend going to see it if you get the chance.

If you’ve seen Sailor Moon S, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Thoughts on Sailor Moon R: The Movie

Animated Film Reviews

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Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (2017)

*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.

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*warning: a variety of spoilers follow*

I have been waiting months for this film to arrive and once it did, oh my gosh, it was absolutely worth the wait!!

Ordinal Scale is the first full length film set in the world of Sword Art Online, an anime that begins with the tale of 10,000 gamers trapped in a virtual reality “death game” called Sword Art Online (SAO). Of the original 10,000, only 4,000 made it out alive, among them Kirito, his girlfriend Asuna, Klein, Silica, Liz and Agil. Four years after the original death game concluded, in the year 2026, Japan is entranced with a new Augmented Reality (AR) device called the Augma that lets you fight epic battles (among many other functions, think of it has a futuristic version of Google Glass) in the real world. But curiously, monsters from the old SAO game are showing up, which shouldn’t be possible because the server for SAO was shut down when the game ended. Or WAS it??

There are many things I loved about this film, the mystery behind the Augma was intriguing, as was the revelation of who Yuna, the beautiful AI  girl who serves as a “host” for Ordinal Scale really is (she has connections to the original SAO game).

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Yuna is a mysterious figure

And then there’s the ongoing relationship between Kirito and Asuna. To my surprise, Kirito is initially reluctant to engage in Ordinal Scale, which is unusual for him, he’s usually jumping in headfirst to a new game. According to Kirito, he doesn’t like Ordinal Scale because it doesn’t feel the same as a VR (Virtual Reality) game. Unlike VR, in AR your actual physical body is moving, meaning you have to be in great shape to move and engage quickly enough to win (there’s an embarrassing moment when Kirito runs to attack and ends up falling flat on his face after tripping on a curb). But soon Kirito has no choice but to engage in the game when something weird begins happening to the players who survived SAO…

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Kirito’s new look for Ordinal Scale

It starts with Kirito’s friend Klein: during one AR battle, the #2 Ordinal Scale player, Eiji, attacks Klein and his friends. At a certain point in the battle, a node on their Augma devices glows and pops out , being sucked up into nearby drones used to project the game all over the city. Not only is Klein’s arm broken, but his memories of SAO (two year’s worth) are missing. And then the same thing happens to Asuna: while protecting Silica from an attack, Asuna’s Augma node is taken and HER memories of SAO (as well as two years worth of memories of her boyfriend) are taken away, devastating her and briefly casting doubt on her relationship with Kirito.

To get Asuna’s memories back, Kirito must become the top player in Ordinal Scale and along the way discover the truth behind this latest game (I won’t spoil it, but it’s really good).

My favorite part of the film comes at the height of the final battle when we’re finally shown something I thought we’d never see: Floor 100 of Sword Art Online (the original game was based on a castle made of 100 floors. The original game ended early on the 75th floor when Kirito realized that the leader of a powerful guild was actually the creator of the SAO game.) For this final battle, Kirito and company are transported to the Ruby Palace on Floor 100 and, even more, are changed back into the forms they possessed in the original game (which brought shouts of joy from the audience).The Ruby Palace is simply beautiful (and huge!!) with wonderful gardens around the entire structure. Inside the castle resembles a giant cathedral as it seems to be one very large room. The boss they have to fight on Floor 100 is insanely powerful and it ultimately takes every ally Kirito and Asuna have ever made to defeat it.

The story ends with something that’s been a long time coming: after getting “married” in the original SAO game, Kirito finally keeps a promise he made in-game and gets engaged to Asuna in the real world (they were 15 going on 16 in the original game, so they’re at least 19 going on 20 now).

But that wasn’t all….after the credits finished, we got a short peek at the upcoming Season 3 of Sword Art Online!!! It’s maybe 90 seconds long, but at the end, we get a glimpse of the latest VR world: Rath, the setting of the recently concluded Alicization Arc. No date was given but it is confirmed now that SAO WILL return!!!

While the movie last night was a one night only event, I hope that eventually the film will be released on one of the streaming services so everyone can see it (I know the English dub is in progress). I’m not sure if the movie will be released on DVD here in the US, but if it is I will let you know.

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale was an awesome experience, worth the wait and I sincerely hope there are more films to come!

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Thoughts on Sailor Moon R: The Movie

*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.

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On Saturday night I got to do something I never thought I’d get to do: see a Sailor Moon film in the theater!!!! Just last month, a brand new English dub of Sailor Moon R: The Movie was released for the very first time in North America. It was a LONG time coming (considering the film premiered in Japan in 1993) but for me, it was worth the wait.

The film is set after the initial adventures of Usagi and her friends (after we meet Chibiusa, but as far as I can tell, BEFORE we meet Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. At the very least, they don’t show up in the story). Usagi, Mamoru (her boyfriend), and the other Sailor Senshi are spending the day at the botanical garden when a strange man named Fiore arrives. He appears to know Mamoru, and says that he has come to fulfill a promise he made to bring him flowers.

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Fiore has a pretty intense entrance at the garden

It takes some time, but Mamoru eventually remembers that Fiore was a strange boy who showed up at the hospital shortly after his parents were killed in a car accident. They became friends very quickly, but Fiore was actually an alien being who couldn’t survive in Earth’s atmosphere for very long, so he had to leave. But before he left, he promised Mamoru that he would return with flowers for him (as Mamoru gave him a rose just before he left).

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Fiore

But (naturally) something is wrong: the flower Fiore has found is a Xenian flower, one of the most dangerous plants in the universe!! The bottom looks like a normal plant, but the middle of the bloom has the upper body of a woman!! The flower is dangerous because it latches onto weak-minded hosts (preferably humans) and feed off their energy, turning any fears into implacable paranoia and hatred. Wherever a Xenian flower goes, civilization inevitably collapses, with the destruction of the planet following shortly thereafter. Fiore is now firmly controlled by the Xenian, and is bringing an enormous asteroid containing THOUSANDS of Xenians towards Earth: if they successfully arrive, the human race will be annihilated, no matter what Sailor Moon or her allies tried.

To complicate matters, in an early battle, Mamoru (fighting as Tuxedo Mask) is critically wounded when he dives in front of Sailor Moon to save her from a killing blow launched by Fiore. The alien takes Mamoru back to the asteroid to heal him, and after deducing its location, the Sailor Senshi teleport there in pursuit.

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Fiore under control of the Xenian

Fiore, under the Xenian’s influence, cannot see why the Sailor Senshi are fighting so hard, as he believes (falsely) that they do not care about Mamoru, or anyone else for that matter. He spent so much of his life alone, that he believes no one can understand his loneliness, or why he needs a friend so badly. But a series of flashbacks reveal that the Sailor Senshi know exactly how Fiore feels, because they’ve all gone through it themselves. And the reason they fight so hard now is because Sailor Moon is the glue that holds them all together.

But despite this outpouring of love, Fiore won’t give up. Goaded on by the Xenian, he alters the asteroid’s course so that it will hit the Earth!! Assuming the planet isn’t completely destroyed in the process, the Xenian will take over whatever is left. Sailor Moon cannot allow this to happen, and she only has one course of action left: she activates the full power of the Silver Crystal (despite her friends begging her not to).

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Serenity using the Silver Crystal

Sailor Moon transforms into Princess Serenity and unleashes the Silver Crystal, which begins to break down the asteroid as it enters the atmosphere. Mamoru and the others lend their support, and it works….but the Crystal shatters as a result, and Sailor Moon is dead…or IS she? Just before he leaves, now free of the Xenian’s control (the Silver Crystal annihilated it), Fiore gives Mamoru the flower he promised: it holds the power of life inside it. This is used to revive Sailor Moon as Fiore flies back into space.

For the whole movie, I was sitting in my seat wide-eyed like a little kid. Sailor Moon is the very first anime I was ever exposed to, and so it has always held a special place in my heart. Sailor Moon R: The Movie is a great story, there are so many flashback clips that, even if you haven’t seen any of the regular episodes, I don’t think you would be lost if you just jumped into this film. The only part that bugs me is the ending: where is Fiore going? Will we ever see him again? It just feels so abrupt, that I wish the ending played out a little differently.

I can’t praise the new English dub enough, everyone captured their characters perfectly. And I totally geeked out for the transformation sequences (those were my favorite parts when I was a kid).

If this film is playing near you, I highly recommend going to see it. It’s playing for a very limited engagement (it only played two nights where I live) and I’m not sure how long it will last. Hopefully this means we’ll see the other Sailor Moon films (S and Super S) in theaters too someday 🙂

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

*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.

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This post is part of the One of My All Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlog

My Neighbor Totoro is set in post-World War II Japan (presumably in the 1950s based on the types of cars and technology visible in the story) and follows the Kusakabe family as they move to a new house in the countryside because the mother is in a nearby hospital. Mr. Kusakabe is a professor at a university in Tokyo; eldest daughter Satsuki is in grade school, while youngest daughter Mei is only four.The girls encounter a variety of spirits, starting with dust sprites (black puff balls with eyes), and forest spirits collectively known as “totoro”. Mei sees them first, in a hilarious sequence that has me giggling every time. The two smaller totoro she meets end up leading her to the magical home of Totoro, THE forest spirit of the local area. Totoro is a huge grey spirit, with a big fluffy belly, long rabbit ears and the biggest smile you ever saw (and he also loves to sleep a lot).Satsuki is initially skeptical, but once she meets Totoro at a bus stop one night, both of them become good friends with the forest spirit.

I love the bus stop scene; the smile that grows on Totoro’s face is just infectious. He doesn’t have an umbrella of his own at first, so Satsuki offers him the umbrella she brought for her father. When Totoro hears the sounds the rain makes on the umbrella, it makes him really happy, like, super happy! And the Catbus….well, I love it, but you can’t really describe it. The Catbus must be experienced 🙂

Their mom has been in the hospital for what is implied to be a long time. Her illness is never disclosed, but it is believed to be tuberculosis (as Miyazaki’s own mother spent a long time in the hospital for that reason). Towards the end of the film, the girls receive news that their mother will be allowed home for a short visit, but shortly before the visit, Satsuki receives word that her mother actually can’t come home after all due to a small relapse of her illness. The older Satsuki does her best to take this news in stride, but little Mei won’t have it. Frustrated with having to hold in her feelings for so long, Satsuki finally snaps and yells at Mei, asking if she wants their mother to die. A horribly upset Mei ends up running away to bring some fresh corn to her mother (she gets the idea after hearing a neighbor tell her and her sister earlier that if their mom ate some fresh vegetables she would get better right away). The little girl soon becomes lost and the whole village turns out to look for her. Satsuki is guilt-ridden, but she knows what to go to for help: Totoro!! She finds Totoro in his tree and begs for help, and Totoro is more than happy to oblige! He summons the Catbus who takes an astounded Satsuki to where Mei is sitting lost. And once the sisters are reunited, Catbus offers to take them both to see their mother (and of course they agree!)

The story ends shortly thereafterward, with the girls being brought back home. A series of still images during the end credits reveals that their mother finally does come home for a visit (or possibly for good) and alls well that ends well.

My Neighbor Totoro is one of the greatest animated films I’ve ever seen. For me, it embodies what childhood should be, and I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet!

I also love all the spirits: the dust sprites, the mini Totoros, and of course Totoro himself, they’re all so beautifully animated, I find myself wishing things like them existed in real life.

Thanks to MovieMovieBlogBlog for hosting this great blogathon! -Becky

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