Animation M

Macross Frontier
Singing is the core of this anime but it can’t decide if it wants to be a giant robot story, love triangle story, political story, space story, or a music story. Yoko Kanno is the primary composer so as you might expect the music is wonderful, the best part of the series. The space battles are spectacular. The political intrigue is not bad. The trouble is the parts that don’t fit together very well. Also music is played up for being too important. Ranka Lee starts singing and it hypnotizes the bug-like Vjara. Ranka Lee starts singing and an insurrection stops because all they really wanted was a j-pop performance. The overriding point seems to be that j-pop music will change the universe, which is ludicrous. The plot simply doesn’t hold together as well as it should. Many parts don’t make sense. The finale feels incomplete and confusing with untied threads all over the place. For much of the last episode I wasn’t sure what was going on. A big disappointment.

Madagascar (Movie)
A lion, hippo, zebra and giraffe who only have known life in the New York zoo get shipped “home” to Kenya. On the way they get washed overboard and end up in Madagascar. The trouble is they have no idea how to be animals, they are city creatures. A quite amusing film. It suffers from “topicality” disease, that is the writers get so busy making references, many quite amusing, that it starts to distract from the flow of the film and in a couple of years the references look dated.

Madlax
A girl who is a talented agent and assassin and another, a forgetful orphan with lots of money are connected by a country in the throws of a 12 year civil war that is being perpetuated by all sorts of outside groups, Anfan, a shadowy mafia/quasi religious underworld group, a corporation that puts profit above ethics or peoples lives, and the mysterious deaths of everyone that tries to solve the puzzle of an ancient book written in an indecipherable language belonging to the orphan, people who’s lives and memories vanish, and around it all the ghosts of the children killed in the war. In this universe women are the good guys and all the bad guys are men. Men keep the war going and it’s mostly men that die. Decent visuals. Nice music. Engrossing writing. A class act.

The Magic Projector (Movie)
In the early part of the last century a boy and his sister go to see the first movie show in Canada. A sweet short film of magic and love.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika
Young girls are recruited to fight against witches. Nice classic and mixed media animation with good music and voice-work. The writing is well done with many surprising twists. The story is an allegory of the cost of going to war. In the end those that fight for ‘good’ become indistinguishable from the ‘bad’ players. All are destroyed. All are damned. All are lost. The only cure is not to play. Reject those that spin tales of why it’s the right thing to do. They are looking to their own reasons and benefits, not yours. It’s not so naive as to suggest that there will never be bad things, but fighting against the real bad guys is different from fighting for someone that profits from the battle.

MAR; Marche Awakens Romance
A kid dreams of a magical sward and sorcery realm. One day he is drawn into the world, called MAR. He has to battle evil worriers, the `chess pieces` who are bent on destroying MAR. Along the way he meets up with others, battles the bad guys and they collect ARMs, magical talisman that increase their strength. The battles seem to be the focus of the show. At first I thought it was similar to One Piece, but there is an increasing focus on the battles over the story. Naruto Disease.

Megas XLR
A not too bright motor head and video game player in New Jersey named Coop finds and “fixes up” a huge battle robot. He is now the only one who can drive Megas so it is up to him, his moron friends, along with Keva, the agent sent from the future to retrieve Megas, to fight to save the world from the Glorft and deal with various other space baddies. Sounds dumb and it is but the humour is savagely cynical and ironic. Watch for tiny details like the names on the buttons and such that are some of the shows best jokes. Think of this as the Anti-Big O.

Metalcolypse
Comedy is a tricky thing. The show Metalocalypse is a good example. There are so many places Metalocolypse could have gone wrong. It is about the ultimate Death Metal band, Dethklok. Each of the members of the band is a stereotypical emaciated, moody, antisocial, metal rock musician type. They are big, really big, the 12th biggest economy on the planet. They are so big and influential that the powers that be (a creepy group of military, political, and religious types that meet in secret) plot to destroy Dethklok but never succeed. The members of Dethklok live the ultimate death metal life, killing, mayhem, gore, skulls, black and red decor. Even their cell phones have spikes on them. But they never answer for what happens. When I visited the Metalocolypse web site they had a body counter that was up over 72,000 fatalities. They have to deal with the both the results of their fame and power, as well as more mundane things like when their parents come to visit or when they have the annual Dethklok company staff meeting. The show is so far over the top that it revels in its total absurdity. If the writers ever were to back off from the ragged edge it would not be funny. The animation is rather stiff but the writing is great.

Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne No Musume-tachi
OK I made a mistake. I didn’t listen to the little voice. The one in my head that said ‘I don’t think so’ when I first thought it looked interesting. The one that started ringing alarm bells when I read the Wikipedia article. I went ahead and watched the first episode anyway. Rin is an investigator in modern/near future. She is also immortal. I was hoping it would be a female James Bond sort of story, but it isn’t. It’s a very sexual, very violent work full of gratuitous naked bodies and sadomasochistic torture. Blood spills everywhere. This isn’t a story where violence has no consequences. It’s one that revels in the consequences, it lingers on every drip and spatter of the consequences. The story started with her looking for a lost cat, progressed into her trying to figure out the identity of this kid is and why mobsters are trying to kidnap him. The next thing I know it turns into torture-porn with Rin tied naked to a frame getting knitting needles jammed into her. I bailed after the first episode. This isn’t what I signed on for AT ALL.

Mononoke
A mysterious medicine seller travels Japan eliminating Mononoke, evil spirits. The artwork is almost decadent, lush images, every inch filled with colour and movement. The paintings on the walls are reproductions of famous masterpieces, I even think I saw a Picasso. The visuals are also quite surreal, it reminded me of Yellow Submarine in spots. Fantastic creatures, fish with legs, a carp with spider eyes playing a Biwa. There’s one part where the principles in a crowd are people and everyone else are mannequins. Birds and insects will move in the pictures on the wall, forced and extended perspective adds to the nightmare quality. The writing is very black horror. Psychological mind game horror stories with surprise and often ambiguous endings. Most interestingly the artwork and story is performed like a play. Change scenes are marked with doors closing across the ‘stage’ and then opening to show the new act in a new scene. Actors change by donning and changing masks. The story that takes place onboard a ship especially looks like it was done with moving scenery pieces and painted backdrops. This only adds to the surreal ambiance. A masterpiece.

Monsters Incorporated (Movie)
(Pixar) Closet monsters scare children to harvest the power of screams which is used to run their world. A child accidentally comes through the closet into the Monster realm and the two monsters have to get it back home. Clever design, nice enough story if rather violent at times. An exciting chase scene. The emotional connection between the child and the monsters is actually quite touching.

Monsters vs Aliens (Movie)
On her wedding day a women is hit by a meteor. The strange energy turns her into a giant with super strength. She is picked up by the military and moved to a facility where other ‘monsters’ are kept. She is trying to adapt to this when all of them are called upon to save the earth from an alien invasion. A fun story. A little heavy on the message, but it is Disney after all. Not a great film but amusing.

Moretsu Uchuu Kaizoku
(aka Bodacious Space Pirates and Miniskirt Space Pirates) One thing Anime can do well is to take an absurd premise and make a good story out of it. That’s the case with Moretsu Uchuu Kaizoku. A High School girl discovers that her father was captain of the Bentenmaru a space pirate ship. He has passed away and as the captaincy is hereditary she is the new captain. From the concept of space pirates to the crew following this utterly inexperienced little girl’s orders to her being really good at it, the premise is just silly. That said the writing makes up for it. There’s intrigue, and humour, and strong characters, and plausible situations. The physics is reasonable and there are no obvious contradictions or anachronisms. The stories are a bit simplistic but the show just works and I enjoyed it a lot.

Mucha Lucha
Somewhere along the line one of the Suits discovered that the fastest growing part of America are people of Hispanic heritage. To make a show to answer this need for a more “cultural” program, they put every Mexican stereotype they could think of on top of this otherwise forgettable show about kids as heroes. The result is nauseatingly racist and offensive.

Mushi-shi
Mushi are not animals or plants or even bacteria. They are a more fundamental form of life that only some people can see. Ginko is a Mushi Master (Mushishi) who travels Japan helping people with Mushi related problems. This is a superb series that shows a very different side of Anime. The animation is lush and beautiful. The writing is deep, subtle, and exquisite. Mushishi is calm in pace but with subtle, beautiful underlying themes. No monsters, robots, ninja, criminals, or violence, Mushishi is a series of wonderful and thought provoking stories. It is deep and I found myself returning over and over to particular situations that raised fascinating ethical questions. I found myself mulling them over and discovering deeper meanings. I simply love this series.

My Life as a Teenage Robot
A robot tries to fit in in Junior High School with humans, and save the world when needed, and deal with her ‘mother’ who keeps treating her as a creation not a person. It’s Robot Jones 40 years later, but the show is significantly better. The writing is reasonably clever and the stories have the occasional interesting twist and amusing reference. Not high art but amusing.

My Life Me
A 13 year old manga artist survives school friends etc. Not really a subject I find interesting but not badly done. Drawn in anime style and they seem to they rely on standard anime visual cliches a bit too much. It’s not bad though.

My Neighbors the Yamadas (Movie)
I liked this film WAY more than I expected to. Unlike many of Studio Ghibli productions it has no deep plot, no serious undertones, no meanings or messages. The artwork is flat, just lines and washes in a very schematic, Sunday comics style. At first it seemed just low budget but after a few minutes I realized that it fits the rest of the film. My Neighbors the Yamada`s is just a character study of an odd Japanese family. Everyone in the family pulls together when needed despite their scraps and arguments. They will say little digs at each other, sometimes maliciously, sometimes without meaning to. They make mistakes, they run into stupid problems, they are caring at times, surprisingly indifferent at times, they screw up, sometimes they just don`t feel like working hard. The film is a series of short stories connected by a voiceover of the title of each section and a classic Haiku at the end. I do wonder about the Motorcycle section about 2/3 of the way through. The artistic and writing style changes. It just feels out of place with the rest of the film. Overall though, My Neighbors the Yamadas is a really nice film that leaves you feeling good.

My Neighbor Totoro (Movie)
(Miyazaki)Two girls and their father move to the country and discover the changes of the seasons and magical creatures. “You can only see them when they want you to”. Delightfully simple, it avoids the routine clichés. I found myself expecting a standard, painfully obvious twist and was always pleasantly surprised. For all its simplicity though it is very enjoyable and moving.

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