Garfield & Friends
A bit of whimsy from the ’80s. Garfield the cat, Odie, and John their human run into adventures, pratfalls, and such in the suburbs. Overall it’s rather amusing if forgettable. Unfortunately in the middle is a USA Acres cartoon where a group of farm animals cavort interrupted by a saccharine song about friendship, or sharing, or some such ‘lessen’. I usually catch the first Garfield cartoon and then tune out the rest.
A surprisingly good series. Gargoyles are actual creatures that turn to stone in the daylight, when we see them, and back to flesh at night. A group of them are in a modern city where they fight evil supernatural beings. The writing is good, with a solid backstory on the characters, you learn their history, and how they ended up where they are. Moody and dark it’s like a supernatural Batman.
I started this series because the artwork reminded me of Ghost in the Shell. The description described a small team of special forces that take on paranormal threats. Turned out that it was a very different story. It was actually the story about two sisters. They support each other through all the trials, political manoeuvring, betrayals, and battles. This is their story, beautifully done, very well written and performed with excellent animation, good music, and voice talent. Interestingly the story starts at the end, then flashes back to fill out the back story. A very nice job.
George of the Jungle (2007 Version)
A retooling of the original series from the late 1960s. Same characters, same setting, same premise, same silliness, even the same theme song. Amazingly enough it is a lot of fun. Produced by the same animation team that did Atomic Betty and they took that creativity and produced quite a good show. I barely remember the original George of the Jungle, so I do not know how this one compares. On its own, however the new version is a lot of fun.
A bit of a disappointment. Decent animation, voicing and music. Mai is a schoolgirl that ends up working for Shabuya Psychic Research. They investigate hauntings, curses, and other supernatural cases. the stories tend to have interesting premises. The trouble is that the writing is not very clever. They all come across as fairly two dimensional characters that bicker a lot. The stories mostly follow a similar line; A problem, they investigate, the various monks and priests try to exorcize the demon and fail, things get dangerous, then Naru solves the problem. Worse yet the revelation Naru announces at the end is not that big of a surprise. In the one four part episode I had come to the same conclusion they did but two episodes earlier. Sometimes they try to throw us off with false leads, but they are fairly obvious. Lastly how is it that this middle school girl can stay out all night with a group of strange people and nobody questions it? How does she get her schoolwork done at least? They add a fairly weak rational for this late in the series but it feels contrived.
Ghost in the Shell (Movie)
High tech cyborg cops are looking for a cyber-criminal that turns out to be a rogue program that has become self aware and is trying to survive. Gritty police drama set in the future but not so far away that it is completely alien. Amazingly violent battle scenes and then discussions of the meaning of existence. Is a person still human if only 10% of them is natural and the other 90% is android? Very deep and thought provoking. A really great film but not for little kids. Not gory so much as really rough.
Ghost in the Shell
High tech cops fighting high tech criminals and strange antisocial AIs. It is set in the future but not so far away that it is totally alien. It feels like this could happen. The program is beautiful, thought provoking and quite deep. Some of the stories are just mind blowing. The music by Yoko Kanno is fantastic, I even bought two of the albums. Note though that the program has some parts that are very violent and some of the criminals are vicious and sadistic beyond belief. This is not done for shock value but is integral to and forwards the story. The story does close eventually. On the web I have seen lots of comments about how the series got lost after a few episodes. Stick it out to the end. The threads are all wrapped up by the 26th episode. Not integral to the story is the appearance of the Major, the central character. She is a cyborg that is mostly machine. OK I can accept the idea that part of her wanted to keep a female appearance even as everything but her brain was replaced with mechanical parts, but was it really necessary for her to spend most of the show in a Victoria’s Secret outfit? With the rest of the show being so well thought out it just seems an anachronism.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture.
This is a prequel to the rest of the series, it even predates the original film. There are several stories, each sorted out over several episodes. In the process all the characters of section 9 join the organization. Some have quibbled with the different appearance of the characters. I chalk it up to them being much younger in this series. Even if you have full prosthetic body, you will want to look different at 35 than you did at 25. Superb, on a par with the others in the series.
Ghost in the Shell; Stand Alone Complex; 2nd Gig.
A more coherent ongoing plot line than the first series. It fills out the characters a lot by going into their history. We find out how the Major got to be full cyborg. (It happened while she was very little). The plot involves refugees from the last war trying to declare independence from Japan. There is a lot of political intrigue with a member of the government trying to foment the revolution from behind the scenes for his own reasons. The Tachikomas are back and better than before. Now they spend a lot of time in cyberspace and can just crawl onto someone’s computer screen. Unlike some sequels, this is just as good as the original.
Ghost in the Shell: Innocence (Movie)
Bato and Togosa are trying to solve a series of android murder/suicides. Good animation and deep deeeep writing. Very philosophical with lots of quotes from the Buddha, to Marx, to Descartes, to Milton and on and on. The theme seems to be where do you draw the line between humans and dolls as people get more mechanized and androids get more advanced. In places I wanted to stop the film write down all the quotes. Watch this one several times. if you do not speak Japanese get the English version. I missed most of the subtleties in the film when I watched the captioned version.
Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (Movie)
Section 9 has evolved. The Major went out on her own two years before. Most of the usual characters are back. Section 9 is investigating a series of suicides, this leads to a bunch of kidnapped children and eventually to corruption at high levels of government. Tight story with plenty of action. Something is missing though. There is little philosophical discussion like in the earlier movies and the series. The Uchikoma think tanks are not developed as characters at all. Lastly there is a degree of moral ambiguity in the Major that badly weakens her character. While away from section 9 she has taken contracts to kill people, something I could not have imagined the Major doing in earlier GitS productions. What is more, when she tells members of Section 9 about this they do not seem to care.
The artwork closely follows the Manga style. The production is very cinematic, much more than most Anime. Two orphans are on the run in a ruined world for a debt their mother ran up before she died. They are ‘rescued’ by the Duchess who pays their debt and takes them to live at The Hotel Providence. There they discover that Tatsuya, the youngest is able to use Dynamis a powerful telekinetic energy. There are others living at The Hotel that can use Dynamis as well. Together they all form a ‘family’. Opposing them are others that can use Dynamis as well. They work for The Professor. Each side has a different view of how to save the world from the horror it finds itself in. There are hunts for ‘terrorists’. A quasi-military force of faceless monsters acts to ‘protect’ humanity while killing the civilians it claims to protect. Flashbacks to what happened before, and how the characters knew each other then. The story is very much based on what happened to the US following 9/11. The horror started with an event that happened on 10/10 (not 9/11). The event is called Twin X (drawn to remind you of the Twin Towers). A powerful allegory with a very important message. The end is horrific and ultimately apocalyptic.
The Good Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are still around. Arno hatches into a family of Apatosaurs that have a farmstead in the wilderness. He is the runt, scared of everything. His luck goes from bad to worse and finally he falls in the river and is swept many miles downstream. This is the story of his journey home, coming to love a small human he encounters, meeting other dinosaurs and assorted creatures, and growing up emotionally. There has been some unfair criticism of this as just being retreaded situations from other films. Some are similar but they handle them with their own twist. I really loved the animation which is a mix of cartoon animals, set into actual western landscapes, albeit with a bit of seamless CGI touch up. Very nice.
A backwoods tourist trap. Odd characters and weird events. It has style and a lot of weird humour. I like how it’s set in backwoods Oregon, where I lived and things really are nearly this weird. I liked it a lot at first but somehow though the series got tired after a few episodes.
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
When a maniacal little girl and a moron of a little boy trap Grimm, Death complete with scythe and black robe, they get involved with occult and weird situations. The first season was by far the best. I especially loved Billys Shop of Horrors in which a green glowing alien comes to Endsville and, with Billy’s help eats everyone’s brain. It is a musical and I end up humming the amazingly catchy, if utterly sick, song for a week after I see it. I also love the way Death has a Jamaican accent. Later seasons rely more on Billy’s bodily functions and stupidity and less on good stories.
Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
After the emperors second son is possession by a ‘water fiend’ an evil spirit, the Emperor feels he has no choice but to kill the boy. The Empress entrusts a female warrior as a bodyguard for her son. This is the story of their flight and living undercover. The Warrior has her own baggage, She is working as a bodyguard to atone for her past. Eight lives preserved for the eight lives taken. The story follows them as they form a bond, she softens, he grows up. Fantastic artwork. Very good writing. This is near the top of Anime I’ve seen. Only a couple of things keep this from being on the best list. The series is a bit long. 26 episodes for a story that could have been done in 13 to 18. No wasted episodes, it’s just draggy in spots. It could have been a much tighter story. The other reason it has possibly the most annoying opening theme songs ever recorded. Cloying and smarmy, it just grates on your nerves. Overall though, the series is quite good.
A girl goes off to a special academy and ends up fighting to save Earth. Made in 1988 so the graphics are mediocre by modern standards. The writing is also a bit on the melodramatic side. There is also a good deal of gratuitous T&A that is really not necessary for the story. I will give them credit for having a good understanding of relativistic time dilation. It also uses time dilation to show how people change as they age as the characters fall out of synch with each other. Some have turned into old women with children while others are still 16. However they missed an opportunity when they did not show humanity many years later when the principals return to Earth. Gunbuster was done by the same people that did Evangelion a few years later. The core of the story is also the same as Stellvia from nearly two decades later. Both series are head and shoulders better then GunBuster. But they clearly owe a debt to the earlier work.