Friday, July 30, 2010

Boiling With Action! (Steamboy)

Hailed as the most expensive Japanese full-length animated movie to date, Steamboy is a sci-fi action-thriller animation film directed and written by critically-acclaimed director and mangaka, Katsuhiro Otomo (mostly known for his previuos masterpiece, Akira) Steamboy is set in a 19th century era of steam engines and horse-driven carriages, a perfect setting for a great Steampunk genre style of movie.

 Steamboy's international theatrical realease poster. Although what I've watched is the Japanese version. And in 1080p HD too. Really awesome.

In the early 19th century, where steam and animals and manual labor were mostly the source of power for mechanical engines, Dr. Lloyd Steam and his son Dr. Edward Steam, renowned inventors and machinists discovered a well of the purest mineral water. Water which is capable of being harnessed to provide the most concentrated and strongest pressurized form of steam. In pursuit of this innovation, they have found a way to trap the steam by concentrating it into a small ball. In the process though, Dr. Edward Steam nearly lost his life but in return was the creation of the Steam Ball.

 From out of the explosion which almost took Dr. Edward Steam's life came the completed Steam Ball.

A few years later, Ray Steam the son of Dr. Edward Steam, received a strange package containing a weird-looking steel ball. Right after receiving the package, two men came who claimed they were from the O'Hara Foundation who has rightful claims to the ball. Immediately, Ray's grandfather, Lloyd came and told him to run away with the ball and never give it to anyone. Turns out it was the Steam Ball, coveted by countries who have known its existence for the unfathomable pressurized energy stored within. It is then up to Ray to prevent the ball from getting into the wrong hands. The O'Hara foundation intends to use the ball to create despicable war machines and sell them for profit to warring countries. Like what Dr Lloyd Steam who had claimed his son to be dead said to Ray: "He who has crossed to evil is as good as dead", believing that Edward has been working for the O'Hara foundation. He also told Ray that "an invention without philosophy is a curse" knowing that Edward has his own selfish reasons for creating the Steam Ball and intends to give the ball to the foundation.

Ray Steam, the brave mechanical genius (as expected of the Steam family name) hero of Steamboy.

Ray builds his first invention, the steam-powered monowheel. Looks more like a weird clockwork thingy to me. Like his father and grandpa, Ray inherited the family's genius when it comes to building machines.

Thugs from O'Hara foundation are after the Steam Ball in Ray's possession. Ray rides his monowheel to escape from being crushed under that humongous steam-tractor - one of O'Hara's grotesque war machines.

Dr. Edward Steam's dream of an advanced future with the power of steam materialized into this gigantic floating "Steam Tower" crossing the heart of London. The perfect war machine. The pure steam it emits absorbs heat from the environment thereby freezing everything in its path. Although originally, it wasn't meant to become a war machine before the building was taken over by the O'Hara foundation and a crazed Edward Steam.

To save London from the menacing Steam Tower, Ray builds his very own flying machine. Using the Steam Ball's power, he attaches it to a destroyed O'Hara flying contraption's engine and builds his own design.

Ray saves Scarlett O'Hara (the obnoxious, princessy, O'Hara foundation's young heiress) from the Steam Tower's explosions. Scarlett has a sort of romantic connection with Ray in the movie.

Although I find the movie quite lacking in some parts - some characters and scenes seem to act a little less realistic, perhaps the effect of lessening violence for the younger audience made it so, and the reactions of Scarlett and Dr. Edward were, in my opinion, a little awkward and off at times - the action-packed and thrilling scenes and awesome animation, I believe, is enough overcompensation, to say the least. All in all, a great action movie for all audiences. 
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Peace to the books of the world, an iron hammer to those who would abuse them!" (Read Or Die OVA)

Read or Die is one of those anime which i could say, any action anime fanatic shouldn't dare miss. Just by watching the anime's cool opening theme and listening to its soundtrack's "secret agent" kind of vibe really gives you the feeling you're in for some real good action.

Read Or Die's DVD cover. Unbelievably cool. Absolutely brilliant.

The story revolves around Yomiko Readman, an agent of the British Library - a seemingly perfect front - in which Britain's top secret Special Operations Division, yep, you guessed it right, a spy/secret agent network that works on classified cases of terrorism and the unnatural (e.g. books that yield the power to world domination. what?!?) lies hidden. Yomiko is not your regular "James Bond" kind of secret agent though. She is practically the opposite. A childish, rather clumsy, stroller-toting, four-eyes bibliomaniac who works as a substitute teacher by day. But just like a secret agent, they all have that everyday "regular person" facade.  Yomiko is a half-English, half- Japanese paper master and is one of the Empire's best agents. Being a paper master she has the power to control and influence paper and use it as weapons and tools of sorts. With that power she was given the codename "The Paper". 

The mighty yet cute and clumsy heroine of Read Or Die, Yomiko Readman.

In this particular OVA (Original Video Animation) Yomiko and other British Library agents were tasked to protect a certain book and destroy a bunch of insurgents who call themselves, I-Jin and are after the book which apparently holds the power to mankind's destruction. The I-jin are technically clones of certain historical figures who have acquired super powers and technology based on their occupations in history.

Nancy Makuhari aka "Miss Deep" (her codename which she says she doesn't like. Says it makes her "sound like a porn star". LOL) pinches Yomiko's cheek believing she isn't cut out for spy jobs. Although she almost "gets it" from "The Paper" after trying to touch her glasses. Nancy is also one of the finest agents of the British Library and has the power to pass through and penetrate solid obstacles and objects, hence, her codename - "Miss Deep".
Yomiko conjures a gigantic paper plane which they will ride to catch Otto Lilienthal, the Glider King, one of the cloned historical figures they'll be up against.
 Otto Lilienthal, the Glider King, zooms through an office buliding with an entire squad of helicopters in pursuit which he eventually wipes out entirely with ease.

My personal favorite among the I-jin clones, Gennai Hiraga, the electric samurai who wields funky "lightsabers" of pure electrical energy. Earlier in the OVA, he decimated the entire White House with a blast of pure electricity. Sheer power. The Paper beat him in the end though with just a sword made of dollar bills. Gosh, money does pwn everything. LOL

The I-jin's unbelievably humongous and advanced fortress which rose up from the ocean. The rocket in the middle carries a cloned Ludwig van Beethoven who will be playing a worldwide broadcast of the "Death Symphony" which supposedly makes a person commit suicide upon hearing it.
The OVA contains bits of comic relief as well. The President of the United States, apparently is having problems with his bladder and always pees in his pants whenever tragedy strikes.

Although story-wise the OVA might leave you hanging on some details especially if you haven't read its manga yet. Its because the stories on each media (OVA, manga and TV series) the Read or Die series is published upon are loosely based on each other. That is, the characters and their connections on each other and the original plot of the British Library as a world superpower hiring super-spies against book-related terrorism are mostly the constant stuff in the entire series. But all-in-all, this is one really action-packed, three-episode OVA you wouldn't want to miss.
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Farthest at the Back: Demon King! (Ichiban Ushiro No Daimaou)

I won't deny the fact that I enjoy the comedy genre a lot especially when mixed in with dirty humor. It really kicks my funny bones when something serious turns crazy, awkward and smutty at the same time. Ichiban Ushiro No Daimaou provides my favorite mix of rib-tickling anime genres: Ecchi, Harem, Comedy. Much like my first favorite of its kind - Love Hina - but in a different setting this time and more mature content. The exact english translation for its title is Farthest at the Back: Demon King though I've seen in wikipedia it reads just Demon King Daimaou.

"Farthest at the Back" since the main character of the story Akuto Sai, whose future occupation has been predicted to be "Demon King" was assigned to be seated at the very back of the classroom. Akuto though, determined to prove the divination on his future occupation is inaccurate, tries his best to do good deeds and give good ideas but to no avail since he always gets misunderstood. Even his very first friend (and love interest later on) Junko Hattori, whom he had made a pact never to break each others' ideals, feels betrayed and her feelings being played on, although later in the run, she develops strong feelings for Akuto.

Akuto Sai. He may look dandy but life ain't easy for this dude since he is future Demon King.
 Junko and Akuto make a pact to make the world a better place without breaking their ideals. Under the Suharist oath which Junko makes with Akuto by striking her sword on its scabbard, they are bound to their ideals. Lest they break it, they will have to kill each other.
More action and crazy things happen as Akuto tries to prove the divination wrong and prevent himself from becoming the feared legendary Demon King. Despite having resented by his lady love, guarded 24/7 by a promiscuous android, manipulated by a no good but voluptuous dark magician and being desired and constantly followed by a mysterious floating naked woman, he is determined to beat all odds and prove that he is a good person.

Hiroshi Miwa, one of Akuto's classmates, was moved by his strong character when he spoke in front of the class despite the rest of the class feeling, it was more Demon King-like and daunting. Hiroshi looks up to Akuto as his "Aniki" or big brother much to Akuto's dismay because it seems more like a "delinquent-underling" sort of thing.

Korone is one of my favorite characters. She is stolid and impassive and shows very little emotion. Korone is a Liladan - an android - ordered by the government to observe and monitor the future Demon King's activities 24/7. She always carries a small bag in which she pulls out various guns, tools and weapons, sometimes stuff even bigger than her.

What made me like this character is the 'green' air of comedy surrounding her. She enjoys teasing and doing ecchi stuff in front of Akuto in order to test his responses.

Despite being unexpressive most of the time, Korone occasionally shows interest, curiosity and delight on certain things. This is one of the rare occasions Korone showed emotions all throughout the series. Look at how cute ... ... her smile is. :)

The cutscenes in each episode also provide viewers with a bit of comic relief. It usually shows Akuto watching television and when something crazy, usually smutty happens, he turns it off. Just look at how delighted Korone is while threatening little Hiroshi with a ruler. :)

Other supporting characters in the anime include the school's student council (left to right) the cat girl Kanna, the bat girl, Michie, the weird one who only speaks "Guga", Arnoul and the cute student council prez who also has the hots for Akuto, Lily.

 This was one of my favorite scenes where I literally ROFLOL'd. Don't worry about Mr. Sai. He just happened to see something "spectacular" *chuckles*.

The whole cast of main characters (left to right): Junko Hattori, the mysterious yet gluttonous Keena Soga, Akuto Sai (he did become Demon King but don't worry, that's just half the story), the wannabe Demon Queen, Fujiko Etou, Korone and Hiroshi Miwa. On the background, though quite indistinct, is Peterhausen, the Demon King's mighty black dragon minion.

Being a self-proclaimed otaku, :) I also found it fascinating that the Seiyu (voice talents) of K-ON! (one of my favorite anime)'s main characters, also provided the voice talent for this series only with the exception of Ritsu's Seiyu,  Satou Satomi. Hikasa Yoko for Junko (man, I love her voice), Toyosaki Aki for Keena, Kotobuki Minako for Arnoul (though mostly she only spoke "Guga") and Taketatsu Ayana for Michie the batgirl.
Storyline-wise this may not appeal to many anime connoisseurs since in my opinion, the story itself and the character backgrounds are quite inconsistent and I feel the story is quite rushed and the general idea cramped over a too few 12 episodes. But if you're a big fan of the ecchi and comedy genre (not to mention harem), or just want to have a good laugh, this anime would probably suit your tastes, like mine.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Love Claire Danes! (Stardust 2007)

Aside from being a huge fan of the fantasy genre, what really piqued my interest in watching this movie is the lead character actress Claire Danes. Though I have heard her name many times before and maybe have seen her in TV, I remember her from the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet with actor Leonardo DiCaprio though at that time it didn't appeal much to me (I was still in elementary and the dialogues in that movie was spoken in ye olde english).

  The stunning and 'radiant' Claire Danes playing the role of Yvaine, a "fallen star".

In this movie she looked a lot more stunning and mature (not to mention radiant, since she plays the role of a "fallen star" which employs a sort of "radiance" visual effect on her character which I think fits her perfectly), in my opinion, pretty much made it to my list of most beautiful Hollywood actresses.

Stardust's theatrical poster. As the tag line says it, it really is a romance and action-packed chase.

Stardust is a fantasy movie based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name. Based on that I really did expect to see a really great movie and it surely was. The movie is about the legend of a different realm beyond a certain wall found in England near the town of Wall (so appropriately named).The story begins with a young lad, Dunstan Thorne (played by Ben Barnes as the young Dunstan and Nathaniel Parker as the older Dunstan) who wanted to prove the other realm existed. He crossed the wall and eventually came to the magical kingdom of Stormhold. There he met the kingdom's only Princess, Una (Kate Magowan), who was bound in servitude to a witch. They both fell in love in an instant and bore themselves a son, Tristan Thorne (played by Charlie Cox), our story's hero.

Years later, Tristan Thorne now a grown man, as was his father, fell in love with a rich girl, Victoria (Sienna Miller). Unfortunately, Tristan is just a lowly shopboy and cannot compete with Victoria's wealthy and dashing yet arrogant favorite suitor, Humphrey (Henry Cavill). In determination to prove his love for Victoria, he promised to bring her back a falling star they saw that crashed on a place beyond the wall. Tristan tried to cross the wall in vain for the wall's guard had learned martial arts (after Dunstan tricked and got past him). Meanwhile, in Stormhold, the king had died and the bequeathal of the throne depended on a quest given by the king: to capture the fallen star and retrieve from it the gem that he threw into the sky before he died. Also he who takes the gem should also be the last surviving male heir of the Stormhold bloodline.

The three of the seven remaining Princes (left to right) Tertius, Primus and Septimus vying for the throne. The most dumb-looking one is the first to die. :)
 "Prince A: Ironic isn't it?
Prince B: *chuckles* Yeah, uh... what is?"
The group of dead princes of Stormhold sitting outside the appropriately named inn: The Slaughtered Prince. The princes are to remain ghosts on watch until the next king is crowned. They look weird with all the effects of their deaths remains preserved on them. The one with the axe on the head looks a lot like Mick Foley from WWE.

Another party who took interest in the fallen star was a group of old hag witches led by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and wanted to take the star's heart that would grant them everlasting beauty, youth and magic.

 The three nasty witches. (left to right) Empusa, Lamia and Mormo. Lamia, in the middle, regains her youth after eating a piece of a star's heart and turns into a more Michelle Pfeiffer-looking character.

Back, in Wall, Dunstan, tells Tristan that his mother is on the other side of the wall, and gives him a Babylon Candle which his mother left him with and when lit would take one instantly to a desired location. Tristan lit the candle but instead of thinking of his mother, he thought of the star he promised to Victoria. He crashed instead on the location of the falling star. He did find the star but he never expected it to be a beautiful woman - Yvaine. Nevertheless he chains it to bring home to Victoria.

 Tristan and Yvaine's first meeting. Tristan crashed onto Yvaine as a result of him thinking about the falling star instead of his mother.
"Tristan:  Oh mother, I'm so sorry. Are you alright?
Yvaine: No, I'm not. And I'm not your mother so get off me!"

More interesting stuff happen as everyone goes on a wild chase to capture the star - the Princes of Stormhold for dominion, the group of witches for self-gain and Tristan to bring Yvaine to Wall (or perhaps to win each other's hearts. :p).

Famous actor Robert DeNiro also appears on the film as Captain Shakespeare, a fearsome pirate captain but also a kind-hearted man and hides a fancy "fruity" side which he keeps from his crew to avoid ruining his reputation.

Captain Shakespeare's revered sky-ship, The Caspartine. Aside from being a transport and war vessel for swashbucklers, The Caspartine is also in the captain's merchant business of catching and gathering lightning. Sky pirates chasing lightning. Cool. Reminds me of Vaan and Penelo in the old game of Final Fantasy XII.

Tristan was given by the captain a vessel that contains lightning to aid him in his quest. In this one, he tries to fry Lamia with a jolt of electricity after capturing and trying to kill Yvaine.

All in all, Stardust one awesome romance fantasy, movie fanatics (particularly fantasy genre) like me shouldn't miss. Combining a mix of thrilling action, witty comedy and mushy romance - this one especially, I believe the movie gave a bunch of great lessons about love - Stardust truly is a masterpiece and is worth the chase watching. Kudos to Neil Gaiman (my favorite novelist) for writing a great fantasy novel.
Saturday, July 17, 2010

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem

Totally unique and one-of-a-kind is how I would describe Interstella 5555. Though I might say I haven't seen other movies like this - animated musical movie or anime set to an entire album record - the idea of the movie itself is really creative and innovative.

 The Animated House Musical. Interstella 5555's theatrical poster.

The movie is a successful collaboration between the electronic music duo Daft Punk (the entire film plays and is set to their 2001 album "Discovery") and Toei Animation with renowned illustrator Leiji Matsumoto (famous for his work "Space Pirate Captain Harlock", "Galaxy 999", "Space Battleship Yamato" and other 70's and 80's classic anime). Having no dialogues and few cuts on the music, this could even pass as the longest music video ever at 68 minutes running time.

The story revolves around a famous (unnamed yet), blue skinned band quartet from another galaxy where similar blue skinned people also live. The four were abducted and taken to Earth to become famous musicians and for a certain villain's evil ambitions.

The guitarist tries to escape from their captors giving one of them a taste of his knuckle sandwich. Even without dialogues and sound effects, the movie is still action-packed and retains a great consistent storyline.

Shep, the hero of the movie. After the band has been taken captive, Shep follows in pursuit to rescue his idols and his damsel-in-distress.

Shep's rockin' awesome ride. A starship shaped like a Flying-V electric guitar. Cool.

The movie has bits of mushy romance as well. Shep, aside from being a fan of is also in love with the band's bassist Stella. Though this one is just a bit of his fantasies, he never really got this close to Stella, not until the time he is about to bite the dust. Poor guy.

Transformation complete. Presenting: The Crescendolls (clockwise) Octave on keys, Baryl on drums and percussion, Arpegius on the guitar and the lovely Stella on bass. Upon their debut on planet Earth's music scene, they were given names and presented as the Crescendolls. Their goal: be awarded a Gold Record (why not multiplatinum or anything better?) as a key to world domination. Wow.

Earl de Darkwood, the main villain of the movie. Old geezer! Nobody touches Stella like that and gets away with it. Shep's spirit destroys his corrupted soul near the end. Ack! spoiler.

Daft Punk duo's cameo appearance on the movie. Still wearing their robotronic getup though.

Listening to my electronic idols' music while watching Interstella 5555 is truly sublime. If you are an electronic music enthusiast or anime lover or both, or you just want to see something unique, this movie is definitely worth the watch.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Slapstick at its Best (Azumanga Daioh)

Among all the comedy-slapstick themed anime I've watched so far, this one made it to my number one best comedy anime show of all time. (beating Doraemon for the title) Azumanga Daioh is an anime that portrays the everyday lives of certain high school girls and their teachers filled with hilarity and weird antics. The combination and clashing of each character's individuality (which I like the most of course), running gags, puns and weird and funny situations definitely completes the comedic experience of this anime series.

The crazy bunch of main characters in Azumanga Daioh.

The anime's story revolves around three years of high school and the events in between. From days of classes in school to vacations in Chiyo-chan's seaside rest house to trips around Japan to leisurely walks on weekends and even in the thoughts and New Year's dreams of each character. Each episode never failed to make me chuckle at the very least, but mostly, laugh my lungs out.

 The series sometimes contains a bit of dirty humor, which in my opinion makes it more laughable. Tomo-chan apart from other girls, shows a lot of interest in and is really good with dirty jokes.

Now, on with the characters!

Mihama Chiyo, the cutest of the bunch is really popular in their campus for her size and intellectual prowess, being able to skip five grades to 10th grade. (first year high school). She really can't compare with other other girls when it comes to athletics though, and is very envious of Sakaki's height and skill in sports.

 Osaka and Chiyo inside the infamous "Yukari-mobile" Seems they had fun having tasted Yukari-sensei's notorious driving skills, Chiyo especially, being scarred for life after this.

Tomo-chan is one of my favorite characters in this series.  Being the resident 'wildcat' of their class, she loves action and challenges whether it be challenging Sakaki in sports or Chiyo in academics in which both cases she never wins. She also loves to make fun of others, particularly Yomi, whom she has been troubling since elementary and Chiyo whom she loves picking on.

Having a "green mind", Tomo annoys Yomi by repeating out loud the name of a biscuit that sounds like penis in Japanese.

Among the other girls, Tomo has the most interest in sexuality. This time she succeeds in getting her much desired "information" from a drunk Nyamo.

Yomi is Tomo's classmate since elementary. She has weight troubles which amuses Tomo and most of the time, is the point of her jokes thereby putting Tomo on the receiving end of her punches.

Sakaki is the tallest and most reticent of the group. Her being silent is usually misunderstood by her classmates as being cool or mysterious. Despite her height and busty physique (which is the cause of her shyness), she loves cute things and animals, cats in particular. She is also naturally athletic and is frequently challenged by Tomo and Kagura.

Despite of her love for cats, she always gets bitten whenever she tries to touch one. Kagura says, the cats seem to think she approaches them with murderous intent or maybe her hand just smells like fish.

Kaorin is a girl who has developed a strange infatuation with Sakaki. Sakaki though doesn't seem to mind or realize this but Kaorin always gets anxious and extremely jealous whenever the other girls get closer to the former.

Ayumu or Osaka (the name given to her by Tomo because she is from Osaka which has been her name for the rest of the series) is one of my favorite anime characters of all time. She has an extremely weird personality, slow, spacey and always gets lost in her intense imagination. Despite this she is amazed by the bizarre and has a morbid sense of humor.

Having a weird yet vivid imagination, she imagines Chiyo being able to detach her pigtails and replace them with new ones. She even dreamt of Chiyo being able to fly with flapping pigtails and her pigtails controlling her mind.

Osaka, groups the girls according to their bust sizes, categorizing them as different nationalities. Sakaki having the biggest, she called an american, Kaorin and Yomi as hawaiians and in this one, Tomo and herself as Japanese, being the smallest. Yomi though grouped them both as Chiyo's equals.

This part of the series really had me going. Osaka plans on waking Yukari up by banging a frying pan. Still drowsy, she went to the kitchen and took a butcher knife instead.

Kagura is a member of the swim team and has declared a one-sided athletic rivalry with Sakaki. She only became their classmate during the second year where she and Sakaki became friends but still sports rivals though the latter is only on her part. She always gets tricked by Osaka to showing her tan lines in class.

 Though she excels in athletics, Kagura sucks at academics. Together with Osaka and and the dumb ass Tomo being the leader, they formed their study group "Bonklers" (as Yomi calls the three of them after failing an exam) in which they are proud of being one.

Kurosawa-sensei or "Nyamo", as Yukari calls her, is the girls' PE teacher. Both Nyamo and Yukari are alumnae of the same school they are teaching in and are very old friends. Whenever they fight it usually gets to the point of digging up old secretswhich they try to conceal from their students. Despite her modesty though, Nyamo can get wild and sleazy when drunk.

 Yukari-sensei, the girls' homeroom teacher is very similar to Tomo being a crazy woman herself. She is very skilled and appears to be fluent in speaking English which she uses to show her superiority over Nyamo.

Yukari is also very notorious for her driving and her derelict car has earned the ill-fated nickname "Yukari-mobile". Though, the other girls who had ridden the Yukari-mobile experienced extreme shock and trauma Tomo seems to enjoy riding with her. No wonder they are very much alike.

Kimura-sensei is the perverted creep who teaches classical Japanese literature. He loves peeping around the pool when the girls are in swimming class. Despite his perverted personality and weird looks (he always walks around with a gaping mouth), he has a very lovely wife and a cute daughter.

Though most reviews say the manga of this anime series is way funnier and more in-depth, which I haven't read yet and would wish to read, Watching this hilarious TV series is more than enough to make me literally ROFLOL with much gusto.

From The Idiot Box

From the screen to your lenses to your brain to your nerves to your heart, lungs and muscles and out. Its a compilation of my take, thoughts and impressions on straight up, good stuff (mostly japanese, anime, music and geek-related) from the idiot box that I like and you might like.

... and idiocy. :)

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