A town surrounded by a high impenetrable wall. All sorts of people live in this town. On one side is an abandoned school and on the other an abandoned factory. These are where the Haibane live. Haibane are like everyone else, they have jobs, they grow up, have vices like smoking, they are happy, sad, worried. They get sick and experience joy. The only difference is that the Haibane have small wings and halos. This is the story of Rakka. She appears as all other Haibane do, in a large cocoon without warning and with no memory of where she came from. When they hatch they try to remember the dream they had in the cocoon. Once they grow enough in the town inside the walls they leave in a flash of light, to where nobody seems to know. Haibane Renmei is full of religious meaning and references. Even ignoring the obvious wings and halos, philosophical references abound. I found myself caring for the characters and the story even as I was trying not to get distracted by the talk of Sin and such. A very allegorical story. Is the town actually Purgatory?
Hakaba Kitarou (2008)
(aka Graveyard Kitarou) A strange little boy, the last of the ‘ghost tribe’ tries to make his way in modern Japan while encountering stupid people and other yokau trying to fit in. The setup is not that important (do you really care about the back story to The Addams Family?) He makes his way and has various adventures. Overall it is a fun if very macabre comedy/horror story. The music especially the opening theme (Mononoke Dance” by Denki Groove) is quite catchy. The animation is very proud of its manga/comic-book heritage. This seems to have put some off on this version (there have been a good number of screen adaptations of Hakaba Kitarou, often using the name GeGeGe no Kitaro). I liked the style though. Overall this is an above average bit of work.
Hakumei and Mikochi
(Tiny Little Life in the Woods)
A wonderful series about tiny people, that live in the forest near a town. They have adventures, and go shopping, and do things, and have parties. Unbelievably cute and wholesome. The animation, music, and voiceover work is top notch. There is no magic, or even serious drama. It’s just a bunch of wonderful heartwarming stories. A couple of times more serious themes are alluded to, but the darkness passes and soon they are enjoying good food with friends again. I can’t say what age group this is for. It has a little kid feel initially but it’s not cutesy in the way a show for really little kids would be, and there is drinking, and smoking, and other adult things. That aside I think kids down to five or six would like it though. I can’t tell you how much I loved this story.
An idealistic young demon decides to open a hotel for demons that want to be redeemed to heaven, rather than exterminated because Hell is overcrowded. Nobody takes her seriously, but she gamely and cheerily presses on. The language is beyond obscene, the characters are who you’d expect to find in hell, mobsters, psychopaths, a main character is a porn star. This is DEFINITELY an adult cartoon. But to my surprise I liked it. It’s so over the top that the comedy works quite well. I only saw the pilot, as of this writing it hasn’t been picked up by anyone, (don’t bet on Disney, just saying). And I’m not sure if there’s enough meat on the bone for much of a series, it might have been better as a movie, but the pilot was quite good. Full of enough digs at modern society, and absurdist/surrealist situations to keep it fresh.
A group of very inept demons in hell run an assassination company. Very dirty, very adult, very inappropriate, and very very funny.
A secret organization of humans and vampires hunts evil vampires and investigates a conspiracy to make artificial vampires. A young policewoman is brought into the organization and a major theme is her coming to terms with becoming a vampire. Many of the characters appearance is lifted from other anime such as Trinity Blood, Victoria would not be to out of place in Pokimon. The episode’s plots are predictable and average. Overall the whole thing seems to have been recycled out of pieces from other shows. This is too bad as the premise of Victoria coming to terms with being a vampire could have been interesting.
The adventures of a teenager and his friends, a dwarfish toady, a goth girl (Herman’s dream girl) and several others in the school. There’s a lot of these kind of shows and they are fairly predictable. Herman’s Head has unusually good writing. The stories are amusing and rather fun.
High School of the Dead
A group high school kids try to survive when their school and the city around them is overrun with zombies. Not great, the animation is fairly good but the writing is terrible. The characters are all what you’d expect from a teen zombie slasher film: the rebel, the girl that loves him, the brain, the geek, the sexpot, the ice queen and so on. It could have been OK but they include way too many ‘ecce’ shots. Zombies grab a girl and her dress flies up for no particular reason. Zombies burst in the door and they cut to a shot of bouncing boobs for no particular reason. It detracts from the core of the story. There’s also too many ‘coincidences’. The shy nerdy geek turns out to be a crack shot who knows all about guns because he was trained by Blackwater the previous summer vacation. Oh, come on.
Interesting for a while. A kid and his friends make films in his basement. His divorced mom is struggling to keep things together. His soccer coach is a loser who talks to the kids to figure out his own problems. The original concept was fun but after a while it became a bit of a soap opera.
There’s been so many disappointing CGI animated films recently (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for example) that I had low expectations for this one. I didn’t catch it for several years after it had been released and then only because it was on TV and I didn’t feel like doing anything else. I was very pleasantly surprised. It is a totally different take on the Red Riding Hood story. The previews didn’t do the film justice. It is full of references but not topical ones that will be hackneyed in a few years. There are all sorts of subtle jokes and inside gags. The characters are well developed and the plot is both complex and laugh out loud funny. The story combines Red Riding Hood, and Rashomon with enough Car 54 to make for a very entertaining evening.
Howells Moving Castle (Movie)
(Miyazaki) Sophie, a 19 year old girl working in a hat shop is cursed by the Wicked Witch of the Waste and becomes a 90 year old woman. She runs away and finds herself in the home of Howel, a wizard who`s castle walks around the landscape. What is interesting is that Sophies appearance mirrors her feelings. She is not actually a 90 year old woman, she looks old when she feels old, and looks young when she feels young. When Sophie is consumed by duty and responsibility she looks old, and she regains her youth when she loves and feels joy. Howell on the other hand is immature and refuses to grow up. He transforms into a winged monster when fighting and when depressed oozes slime. He grows up when he takes on responsibility and duty. This brings the two of them together, Sophie reaching for her inner child and Howell discovering his adulthood. This film also has the strongest anti-war theme I have seen in any of Miyazakis films. Everyone thinks the war is stupid. The wizards that agree to fight for the king are changed into monsters and will not be able to turn back after the war. The bombing scene is horrifying because it is not from the soldiers point of view, it is from the point of view of the civilians getting bombed.