Oz is a member of one of the four great houses in Europe. At his coming of age ceremony, there is a supernatural attack and he is thrown into The Abyss, a surrealist nightmare underworld. He escapes by making a deal with a demon named Alice. When he returns to the Earth he finds that ten years have passed. He, Alice, his childhood friend Gil, and several others try to figure out what is happening, what happened in the past, and to prevent a coming disaster. The show has lots of Alice in Wonderland names and references but is not really related. Overall it’s quite good, with an interesting storyline that keeps you guessing. Unfortunately, it falls down at the end. None of the major questions are answered, none of the conflicts resolved. I liked the first twenty three episodes. The last one however, let the whole story down.
As dark and cynical a view of life as I have ever seen. This show is so surreal and twisted I wonder if Salvador Dali could have been reincarnated as a Japanese Menga writer. A fragile designer of stuffed animals, that thinks they come to life is attacked by a small person with a bent baseball bat, and gold roller blades. Then a series of attacks on other people follow. Also involved are the slimiest lawyer/journalist/whatever, character ever created, cops who think she faked the attack, an old homeless woman, a 6th grader who is the best at everything until he is accused, a teacher who has a split personality and lives a double life as a prostitute, an old homeless man. It became apparent that everyone is insane at some level and is somehow related at some level. The tone is set by the opening credits that show each of the characters laughing hysterically in the foreground while scenes of horror and destruction pass by in the background. Deep, Deep social commentary in this one.
A weird kid is bullied at school and not understood by his family at home all because he says he can see ghosts. The thing is, he can. He finds out that he’s the only one who can save the town from a terrible curse, if someone would just believe him. An extremely well done film by the same team that did Coraline. A clear message about not fearing what you don’t understand, but they handled it in a subtle way, not pedantic or preachy at all. Exceedingly well done.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
A cartoon made from Pac-Man? Really? I guess the studio must have COMPLETELY run out ideas. I mean if they end up not just basing a series on a video game, ALWAYS a terrible idea, but on one with no plot whatsoever. The term nauseatingly awful does not do this monstrosity justice.
The Penguins of Madagascar
Take the B squad of characters from a mildly amusing if uninspired movie and give them their own show. What you get is a silly, mediocrity that is mostly uninteresting. Somehow though after catching a few episodes I found I liked it.
The Phantom Tollbooth (Movie)
A classic film based on the classic book. It was also produced by Chuck Jones and his style comes through very clearly. A lazy little boy is drawn into a world where he needs to save Rhyme and Reason from chaos. The story is a rather heavy handed allegory, nowhere nearly as subtle as the book. The beginning and end are shot in live action and frankly the 1960s too clean plastic looking little boy feels out of place along side the good quality animation that makes up the majority of the film. The film is also a musical which was unnecessary and the songs are uninspired. It’s probably the only film that I think should be redone because it could be done so much better now. Meyazaki could make something fantastic out of the material. Don’t get the impression I dislike the film. It’s fun but could be so much better.
The Pink Panther/New Pink Panther Show
Three shorts. The first and third of the Pink Panther the middle one of a french police Inspector or the Ant and the Anteater. The Inspector is silly and mildly amusing as is the Ant and the Anteater. The Pink Panthers are still quite funny. It is all done with sight gags and great writing. (Ignore the few awful episodes where they gave PP a voice.) The animation is typical clumsy late ’70s stuff. Try to avoid the original opening credits which are embarrassingly bad. The Pink Panther Show was good. The New Pink Panther Show where they replaced the intro and the Inspector with The Ant and the Aardvark was better.
The short that came out with Finding Dory. A baby sandpiper ventures out of the nest and discovers the ocean. Funny and very cute.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
A very silly story. Pirates, Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria, an intelligent chimp, and a dodo. Silly, ridiculous, and a lot of fun. It’s good to see that Aardman Studios can do just as good a job without relying on the Wallace and Grommet characters.
The Place Promised in our Early Days (Movie)
Children in an alternate post-war divided Japan. Two boys and a girl grow up against a backdrop of war and intrigue. In the north is an impossibly tall thin tower that seems to rise beyond the sky and the three of them dream of flying there. As they grow up the boys are drawn into plots and plans related to the tower and the girl falls into a coma and her dreams are somehow linked to the tower and the power it has. In the end after coming into conflict and danger they do come together again and succeed in flying to the tower in the airplane they started building as children. Beautifully animated and mostly well written, however the end is weak and incongruous. It just kind of ends. For that reason alone I can not rate it as highly as I had hoped.
Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet
After being away from Anime for a couple of years I started with this one. It reminded me of why I love Anime. A post apocalyptic world. All that’s left are a few survivors, and autonomous hunter/killer robots. I don’t think the robots were the enemy. People did this to themselves. There’s just nobody left to turn them off. The man is a Junker, he scuttles around trying to find working technology to sell, without getting killed by the robots. He explores an old department store and finds a Planetarium on the top floor. What’s more the Planetarium has an attendant robot that’s still functioning. The robot knows nothing about the war, just that she is supposed to do an 11:00 show every day, and nobody has shown up for 30 years to see it. He decides to repair the planetarium projector, and see the show. Animation is great. They know what a planetarium looks like inside and out, (I used to work in Planetariums so I know). The writing is wonderful. It brings out the wonder of both seeing and doing a Planetarium show. The story arc is satisfying, though five episodes is a bit short. It’s as much a post apocalyptic story as it is a story of longing for a time of peace and joy and wonder and hope. Achingly beautiful.
A quite well written show both from an understanding of Physics (there is no sound in space, the atmosphere is not ha hard wall etc.) and in developing realistic characters. Tanabe is assigned to “Half Section” the part of the company that collects debris from orbit to prevent collisions. She learns her job, deals with relationships and assorted characters. In addition to her co workers she runs into terrorists, space-porn producers, people on there way up, and down in the company, petty criminals, a bunch of ninja-wannabes, law enforcement people, and the spoiled son of the chairman. She meets Hachimachi, the EVA specialist in the Debris Section. The story is really of their developing relationship. She is light and convinced that love and kindness is the answer to everything. He is dark, aloof, cynical, arrogant, and tries to act like people are unimportant, only space matters. The story is well written and well animated. You come to understand the characters, even the minor ones, and their motivations. There were real surprises and episode cliff-hangers that leave you on the edge of your seat. The end is slightly hackneyed but it’s OK, I really was happy to see a happy ending for these characters.
I had low expectations on this one. Take Jimmy Neutron, a moderately amusing show, pull the most stupid and annoying character, Sheen, out and put him on a planet far away. Make him the star with a intelligent monkey and a slug that looks like Carl from the original series as sidekicks and a yodelling blue girl as a love interest. It could have been awful but much to my surprise it was as good as the first series. Oh sure Sheen is just as stupid and there are the occasional UltraLord references but somehow they make it work. Oh it is silly in a Spongebob kind of way but it’s not bad.
An odd name for an odd show. On the surface a very typical giant robot anime. Two sides fighting over Earth. Humans piloting robots are fighting the giant monsters the Nebula sends down. But it gets weird in that the alien creatures are in the form of human sized anthropomorphic cats and dogs. The monsters are weird surreal structures, giant babies, pyramids with snakes for feet, and such. Its all very strange. Overall not fantastic, and the last two episodes get oddly philosophical. Just a weird show all the way around.
Pom Poko (Movie)
Racoons (or an animal native to Japan that looks like a racoon) discover that their forest home is being destroyed by a housing development. They try to fight back, but at heart they are lazy, easily distracted, somewhat silly animals and so they fail. This is the weakness of the film. If you have a lovable loser as your hero, you ultimately have to have him win or he ends up just pathetic. By the end of Pom Poko the survivors lose everything and end up adapting to city life. There is not a happy ending. Also the writing is average at best so the surprises and plot twists aren`t. Pom Poko has a strong environmental message, to the point of being pedantic in places. The story is really an obvious allegory about Japan in WWII, not surprising from the director of Grave of the Fireflies. After an initial success, the racoons lose every battle. One group even tries a banzai/kamikaze sort of attack. They accomplish nothing and are wiped out. Others chose death over surrender. Though amusing in spots, overall the humans are bad, the racoons are inept, and the film is just kind of depressing.
A young boy finds what he thinks is a goldfish and adopts it, naming her Ponyo. It’s actually the daughter of a man who maintains the balance of the sea and A powerful sea goddess. The story revolves around her fathers attempts to recover his daughter and her desire to remain in the human world. The artwork and story are for a younger audience, more Totoro than Mononoke but it is very enjoyable for adults. The artwork is beautiful and the script is tight and very satisfying as is the voice work. A couple of things. The ‘Devonian’ fish and other ancient creatures that appear are real creatures from the Devonian. The Palaeontologist in me loved the attention to detail. Also, Lisa, Sosuke’s mother is the worst driver ever. We got a lot of amusement from watching her careening around the landscape. A very good film.
Porco Rosso (Movie)
(Miyazaki). A reclusive pig of a bounty hunter (not figuratively, the characters head was actually turned into that of a pig for some reason that was never made clear) flies around the Adriatic dodging the Italian Secret Police and Air Force and emotional entanglements while feeling the pull of duty. Interesting in that there is none of the Japanese mythology and culture apparent in Miyazakis other films and there are no children either. Enjoyable in a different way than his other films. One reviewer said that if they did a live action version someone like Humphrey Bogart would have played the title character. Quite possible but let us all prey to whatever god you may believe in that they never try to make a live action version of any of Miyazakis films. Ughhh, what a thought.
The Prince of Tennis
The life and times of a kid who plays tennis really well. Nicely animated. Decently written. Fairly well developed characters. I just found it uninteresting. Maybe if I had any interest in tennis whatsoever.
Princess Mononoke (Movie)
(Miyazaki) A young man, Ashitaka, is poisoned by a demon (and a truly terrifying one at that) and has to travel to the wilderness to find a cure before the creeping evil infection kills him. He stumbles into a battle between development, a town based on iron mining, and the denizens of the forest, both natural and supernatural. One of the forest dwellers is Mononoke, a human child raised by wolves and now battling to destroy the human invaders. High energy, quite violent and possibly too intense for very little kids. It is a vast story involving two sides but also sub conflicts between the townspeople and other people who want to invade and take over their town, as well as fights between the wolf clan, boars, apes, and such on the nature side. No one is completely right and no one is completely wrong. Interestingly, Ashitaka is not immediately drawn to the nature side, even though Mononoke saved his life after he was shot by the townspeople. He can see some good coming from the settlement (the women were all rescued from brothels and the machine shop is run by lepers). He can also see the side of preserving nature. He is struggling to keep both sides from destroying each other and so each side accuses him of being a spy for the other. Almost geopolitical in scope and there is no mistaking the environmental message.
The Promised Neverland
This is an unusual review for me. I watched just two episodes, but I could tell it was very well done. First SPOILER ALERT Kids in an orphanage find out they are actually being raised as meat for demons. This isn’t too much of a spoiler as you find this out in episode one. The rest of the series is them planning an escape. The series is very well done and written. It was just WAY too dark for my taste.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Girls with magic, a simple premise, but it was quite different from what I expected. I saw Kwai girls in school and thought pretty light fare. The story was much more complex and darker than I thought it would be. The end was a total surprise as well. Good writing. Good animation. The witches labyrinths remind me of the animated segments on Monty Python, but much scarier and surreal. From silly little girls the characters evolve into deep characters that had emotion and depth. Good ones turn out bad. Bad ons turn out to have loving motivations. Very nicely done.