Alright. Let's talk about the Code Geass movie. Mild spoilers.
I... did not hate it. In fact... I kinda liked it! How about that? The first sequel project to not completely disgust me! And why is that? Well, for one, it didn't feel contrived. While the enemies were kinda just okay (while still making sense), all the characters felt true to their roots. Their motivations were all consistent and their roles and actions felt like natural extensions of who they were in the original series. Seeing old characters again did not feel like deliberate nostalgia fanwanks. Instead, it was great to see what all of them
were up to after all this time and most of them had rather significant roles to play. C.C. was definitely the star of the movie with Kallen still being my personal favorite. I also absolutely loved the fact that the movie built upon the themes, ideas and mythos of the original, proving and disproving fan theories along the way. It actually added to the original, instead of being just a shameless retread.
The story, just like the enemies, was really nothing special, but it got the job done. It was rather barebones, but it did what it did to get all the pieces moving and in place. There were quite a number of pivotal moments that really harkened back to the feeling of the original with clever tactics, use of powers and twists.
If there is one criticism that I have about the movie, it's that they didn't have enough time to properly showcase all the characters and the new Knightmares. As mentioned, while most of them had great standout moments, a couple of them only had minor cutaways and that's it. I was really looking forward to the new Lancelot and Guren, but the fights were really short and somewhat anticlimactic. In addition, while most of the scenes were beautiful 2D mecha action, there were some really bad 3DCG scenes interspersed throughout... sigh... this is the first time I wished we could have had more of a sequel project.
Last but not least, for the uninitiated, this movie is not canon to the original series. The compilation movies that came before this changed some key events (nothing TOO major) and, in doing so, created a new timeline. This movie is a sequel to those compilation movies. So, in essence, this movie a sequel that's both canon and not canon at the same time, essentially letting you have your cake and eat it. Brilliant.
In conclusion, this movie did something that Digimon, Cardcaptor and Yu-Gi-Oh! did not. This movie was not made for the fans, but for the characters. And that is why it succeeded. You could tell that the creators not only understood the characters, but loved them as well. While the original series had a perfect ending story-wise, this movie was a love letter to the characters, giving them a chance to experience a cathartic resolution to their emotional arcs, allowing them to have a happily ever after that they deserve after all they have been through. And that, I think, is something that most fans would agree with as well.
Aug 20, 2018
Diebuster (Gunbuster/Aim for the Top 2) is the perfect sequel anime. In this age of unnecessary sequels that capitalize on the original for the sake of nostalgia-baiting its fanbase, Diebuster 2 is both an oasis in the desert and a masterclass in how to do a sequel right.
So many people say that Diebuster can't beat the original and I agree. It doesn't beat it. It embraces it. It elevates it. It champions it. And that's why I personally think Diebuster is one of the best anime sequels out there. It succeeds precisely because the original was already so amazing. To say that one is better ... than the other is simply doing both a disservice.
To elaborate, Diebuster expertly expands on the mythos of the original series while being 100% respectful to the original material. The older characters don't need any more development because their stories are already finished! So many sequel projects fail to realize this simple fact. No, we don't need Noriko to suddenly become all angsty. Why risk altering fans' perceptions of a character that is already well-loved and well-established? Instead, Diebuster is able to please fans by keeping the same tone and feel while remaining fresh by embracing new characters and ideas.
Speaking of ideas, Diebuster does take its time with the reveals. However, once the pieces start falling into place, no Gunbuster fan will be able to resist grinning from ear to ear. Diebuster is not only logically consistent with the original series, everything makes perfect sense once everything is revealed.
Now, let's talk about that ending. That ending is one of the most brilliant endings in anime sequel history. Suffice to say that it encapsulates everything good about this series I've mentioned thus far in one simple scene.
All in all, Diebuster is a phenomenal sequel anime. While I'd say that your ability to enjoy it fully is predicated on having seen and enjoyed the original series, it doesn't contain blatant yet esoteric fanservice for the express purpose of preying on fans' collective nostalgia. Neither does the series retread the original nor does it disrespect it. Both series complement each other perfectly, with Gunbuster being Diebuster's loving onee-sama.
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Jan 3, 2018
I am by no means what you would call a big fan of the franchise. I have never read the original Light Novels nor have I ever played any of the games. I haven’t even bought any merchandise (…aside from a couple of figures). I have only watched the original two anime seasons. They were entertaining, serviceable shows with fun characters, sweet moments, cool concepts, interesting worlds and great action. I had no big issues with it. At least, not any that would warrant me trying to crucify the series and burn it at the stake. As much as I liked it, I never really ... did get into it and I never latched on to any of the characters except for maybe Sinon and Yuuki. (I’m sorry, but Sinon’s waist is a thing of beauty. Yes, I have a thing for shapely waists, but I digress.)
So, being neither a big fan nor a hater, I went into this movie with zero expectations, like I try to do for all movies. And as it turned out, even for a person like me with hardly any attachment to the series… I had an absolute blast! (^o^) After a dearth of anime movie sequels that actually succeeded in being little more than hollow, nostalgia-bait projects, it was refreshing to see that this movie does pretty much everything right… in my opinion, of course. Let me substantiate that.
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Just like Yu-Gi-Oh!, this movie was an original story and a direct sequel to the previous installment. However, unlike Yu-Gi-Oh!, this movie was able to cleverly incorporate fanservice elements (the non-erotic kind) without making them feel unnatural or contrived. Not only that, it was able to have a surprisingly tight plot that was self-contained. But it also drew enough references to the original to make it a proper continuation. Everything was cohesive and everything fit together well.
Starting off with the themes of the story, the main premise in this movie is the advent of AR technology and its increase in popularity over the “traditional” VR technology (as ironic as that might sound). In addition to the relevance of the discourse, the ideas and discussions it generated in the movie were thought-provoking, to say the least. While nothing revolutionary if you’ve seen Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell or Serial Experiments Lain, it was enjoyable to see the characters grapple with existential issues that ranged from how the self is defined, how memories relate to reality and how one handles trauma and loss. The dangers of AR were also critiqued with regard to the blending of the virtual and the real and it was nice to see that they acknowledged that both types of technology came with their own pros and cons.
Kirito’s hesitation to embrace the AR technology felt really on point and it was great to see him take time to adjust to the very physical nature of the new AR game. On a side note, I really loved how they portrayed the AR interface. I particularly loved the little notifications that popped up that were used to comic effect.
Regarding the plot, very basically, Kayaba Akihiko’s professor, Dr. Shigemura, the developer for the new AR headset and Ordinal Scale AR game in the movie, gave his daughter, Yuna, a NerveGear headset. She died in the game and he holds himself responsible for his daughter’s death. Through the AR headset and game, he plans to trigger traumatic memories in the surviving SAO players to “steal” them (more accurately, the memory scanning process makes it impossible for them to recover naturally). From the memories that players have of his daughter in the game, he hopes to reconstruct Yuna as an AI. Eiji, former Knights of the Blood guild member, Dr. Shigemura’s accomplice and Yuna’s friend during their time in SAO, also feels regret for not being able to overcome his own fear of death and his failure to save Yuna in the game because of it. He carries around a book memorializing the SAO incident that fails to mention him due to his cowardice.
The reasons this story works is because of how well everything fits together thematically. First and foremost, Dr. Shigemura and Eiji’s motivation is personal, believable and compelling. In addition, Dr. Shigemura’s plan is tragically ironic as it parallels Kayaba Akihiko’s own, the very plan that stole his daughter away from him. Another parallel can be drawn between his predicament and the predicament of our main characters, bringing us back to the themes of the self, memories, reality and trauma. Dr. Shigemura and Eiji are trying to deal with the trauma of losing Yuna to SAO while the other characters are dealing with the trauma of their past experiences in SAO. How should one deal with trauma? Do memories make the person? Some of the SAO survivors think it is better to forget the past, while Dr. Shigemura is unable to let go of his.
It hits close to home and there is a sense of urgency and desperation when Asuna’s memories are stolen away from her, driving up the personal stakes quite nicely. While not everyone might have had the best of experiences in SAO, Asuna was able to forge precious ones during her time there, one of them being a promise to go stargazing together with Kirito. Here, I would like to add that the plot did lend itself to some very genuine and tasteful emotional moments between Asuna and Kirito. In the end, the answer is to embrace the past, both the good and the bad, and to move on by focusing on the present and the future.
The movie ends on a perfect note, showing the passage from the SAO book that mentions Yuna in passing. While she is gone, she will live on in everyone’s memories because of her benevolent actions, showing that one’s actions are also important in determining and influencing how the self is constructed and remembered. This idea of agency is also brought to the forefront when we realize that Dr. Shigemura was selfishly trying to recreate Yuna against her wishes.
In terms of more general plot elements, I had absolutely zero issues with the pacing. Seriously, it was neither too fast nor too slow for me. The slower moments were inter-spaced between the adrenaline-pumping action scenes to allow for a breather and the action scenes recaptured my attention. I have to mention that many of the plot elements at the end were also set up right from the beginning (like the concert trap) and it added to the tightly-knit nature of the narrative. The solution to the problem did feel a little bit sudden, but it was explained and set up just enough for me to give it a free pass.
Moving on to fanservice, this was the part that impressed me the most. If you are an SAO fan (or at least have seen the first two seasons like I have), you will be floored by how many references they were able to seamlessly incorporate into the story while still making it feel completely natural. Here are some examples:
- Eiji was a previous Knights of the Blood guild member.
- As the AR headset required users to relive their traumas from their experiences in SAO in order for it to detect the appropriate memories to scan, they were made to fight familiar foes and monsters from SAO.
- The MMO Stream program interviewed numerous familiar players from ALO and GGO to get their opinions on the declining playership of VR games.
- The Medicuboid was used to scan Asuna’s brain for any damage, post-memory loss.
- In order to get a weapon powerful enough to defeat their foes, Kirito and the gang had to defeat the planned Floor 100 SAO boss (a treat to see in and of itself).
- To defeat the boss, we got to see all of them in their old outfits as they were restored along with their old levels and abilities (Sinon got her GGO outfit). Kirito’s Dual Wield? Yup. It’s in here.
- The players that we saw interviewed were summoned by Yui to help out in the final battle. Because we saw them at the beginning of the film, their presence was not jarring in the least.
- The BEST throwback, in my opinion, was Asuna using Yuuki’s Sword Skill in her SAO costume with Yuuki’s shadow appearing beside her. It was poignant and beautiful to see and it was used in the most perfect way – to show that Yuuki was there fighting alongside all of them during the big character reunion scene. I literally applauded right there and then.
This is how fanservice should be done. The fanservice was written for the story, not the other way around. Honestly, this movie felt like the culmination and progression of everything that came before it and I was flabbergasted by how cohesive everything was. Absolutely nothing went to waste.
Also, almost all of the characters were given their own time to shine on-screen in their new Ordinal Scale outfits with numerous, gorgeously animated action sequences… except for Suguha, bizarrely enough. She was away on a Kendo training camp or something, which was unfortunate. (Did we even see her Ordinal Scale outfit in the film?)
With regard to actual fanservice, there were two scenes of Kirito and Asuna kissing, two scenes of Kirito and Asuna on the bed (one of him pressing his face into her chest in a very non-sexual way) and one of Asuna bathing.
In conclusion, the movie was very clever in incorporating fanservice into the rather tight plot and nothing felt forced or contrived. Also, the themes were thought-provoking and pertinent, the emotions were genuine and the stakes were high. I also felt that the pacing was excellent, not too rushed and not too slow. In short, this movie was everything the Yu-Gi-Oh! Movie wasn’t. (Yes, I’m still bitter about that…) (>.<)
While this is a sequel movie, I think newcomers will be able to enjoy it due to how self-contained the story is, but I sincerely think that it’s best to have first watched the original two seasons to be able to fully appreciate the characters and get the full emotional weight of the references. Even if you aren’t a fan of the original (I know you probably aren’t), I highly recommend you give the movie a chance.
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Dec 14, 2017
To preface this "review" some pointers:
- There will be SPOILERS. If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read this review if you don't want to be spoiled. Definitely do come back after to share your opinions. I would love to hear what you guys thought of the movie. Am I in the minority?
- I am perfectly fine with nostalgia bait. The problem is when producers think that a show can succeed based on nostalgia alone.
- I am aware that this is a sequel to the manga and not the anime, accounting for some of the discrepancies. Yet, some of the characters actions ... were just bizarre, in my opinion.
- Finally, please do not let my opinion of the film ruin your experience with it. This is my personal opinion and my opinion alone.
Alright... Here we go. I do apologize for the stream-of-consciousness ranting. It's like my mind is actively trying to erase the movie from my memories.
First off, it started off well enough, with the reintroduction of the characters and what they were up to after all the time. I particularly liked how they framed the story with Anzu's dream of going to New York. However, that's when things started to go South.
Essentially, to sum all of the problems up into one word, it was contrived... and rushed. Sorry, that was two words. In my opinion, everything that happened in this movie happened because they needed it to happen. They needed new monsters - insert a hundred different variations of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon that had no build-up, reason for existing or proper differentiation (more on this later). They needed a new enemy that had to be related to the cast somehow to make him relevant - shoehorn in some subplot was never hinted at or talked about in the original series so it felt like it came out of nowhere. They needed Atem to appear again and appear he did EVEN THOUGH IT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE ANY SENSE!
Urgh... the plot. Don't even get me started. I've already talked about the shoehorned-in villain, but boy does it get better. The plot was unnecessarily convoluted and yet still managed to be contrived and seem like it came out of nowhere. What in the world was with this collective consciousness nonsense? Why is it important and how does it relate to anything? Why was Kaiba's Duel Disk perfectly equipped to combat his powers? Seriously, it could have been anything else and have been much better explained and understandable. How could Kaiba pull out a God Card from the ground and play it with his virtual system?
Speaking of Kaiba, that subplot with his obsession was really at odds with Aigami's plot. There was hardly any correlation. Not to mention, sure he was obsessed with Yugi, but they really pushed his obsession a little too far in this one. Though, I have to admit, that would have been a compelling enough story in and of itself if they had taken their time to expand on it. At the end of the movie, people were actually LAUGHING at his hyperbolic obsession with Atem. Going back in time to duel Atem? Yeah, that's not obsessive at all. Seriously, Javert he is not. Also, Kaiba removing the Millennium Puzzle from the crypt and actually solving it with technology was kinda cool, but it completely ruined the mystique of the items. Wouldn't it have been even cooler if his high-tech machines failed to solve the puzzle?
That climax... Oh God. Remember how I was talking about them introducing new monsters for the sake of it? Well, screw duel tactics and anything of the sort, the ending was just a monster spam that got boring after the 100th "HERE'S A MORE POWERFUL MONSTER THAN YOURS". Seriously, if I have to sit though another Cubic monster and Blue-Eyes iteration that has zero differentiation from one another... This was obviously because they were rushed for time. They had a quota of monsters to push and there was no way they could dedicate 30 minutes to build up a single monster.
Also, the GOD DAMN CG. Why are some monsters like the Black Magician and the Black Magician Girl in normal 2D, simulated-cel animation while many of the other monsters were rendered in 3DCG? Seriously, STICK TO ONE. It's horrendous enough that they used CG, but if they had made ALL the monsters CG, there would have been at least a point! You know, creating a disconnect between the real and the virtual? But no, we can't have our Black Magician Girl be polygons, can we?
This is a perfect example of an unnecessary sequel that was made for the sake of being made. Regardless of what the creator said, I felt zero passion from this project and everything was paint-by-numbers and forced. For a fan, I really don't think I would have missed out if I hadn't seen it. Personally speaking, the ONLY good thing that came out of this was seeing Anzu actually fulfilling her dream. Anzu is adorable. Oh, and the bonus card and goodybag as well. That was pretty good.
Maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe I just need to calm down and watch it again. And watch it again I will, because as a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, I'm willing to give it another chance. But at this moment, while I'm a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, I am not a fan of this movie.
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Sep 14, 2017
Regarding the new Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card Arc Prologue OVA... I honestly didn't enjoy it. From what I gather, it animates the ending of the manga and retells the scene of Sakura coming to terms with the fact that Li loves her and that he's leaving for Hong Kong. I didn't know this going in (and I think many others don't either) and boy was I in for a surprise (not in a good sense). To preface this review, I am first and foremost a fan of the original anime. I grew up with it, it was a major part of my childhood, blah, blah, ... blah... and I am going to give you guys my opinion of it as a fan of the original anime.
Firstly, I could not understand what was up with the art, the animation and the character designs. The blank chibi characters, the overuse of cut-away flowery overlays/backgrounds and random inserts like faces and text were so jarring. I think this is one of the cases where they were trying to be WAY too accurate with the adaptation for it to flow well in animated format because the pacing felt off for me as well. I don't remember any of these techniques being used in the anime version at all (at least not to this extent). It was more cognizant of the medium it was in and adjusted its storytelling to fit. What with the greater emphasis on melancholy, silence and overall uneasiness while ending on an uplifting note with Sakura realizing and accepting her feelings, symbolized by the creation of her first original Sakura Card. But I digress. Essentially, I felt that the entire OVA lacked subtlety. It felt like they needed to make crystal clear what the emotions of all the characters were with in-your-face visual metaphors.
Also, I really did not see a point to this OVA. Like, at all. If you are a fan of the manga, I guess it'll be a really great experience? I guess they were they trying to get anime-only fans acquainted with the manga canon? For me, it was just a rehash with less emotional weight. Does this mean that the Clear Card Arc will invalidate everything about the second movie? The one where everything concluded perfectly with Sakura confessing her love to Li? I really don't know how to feel about that.
This goes beyond a simple unnecessary continuation of an old franchise. What does this mean for the Clear Card Arc anime? If they're going to disregard the anime canon and the second movie and continue with the manga canon, I don't think I'll be able to get invested in it at all. Only 19 Cards? No Meiling? Oh dear... In fact, they might as well have gone the whole Sailor Moon Crystal route and completely rebooted it as this is pretty much tantamount to that. Maybe worse, as anime-only fans like myself will feel this disconnect as elements don't add up. If you ask me, if they had wanted to make it a continuation, they should have adapted it to fit with the anime canon. As-is, it's like they didn't even attempt to make it similar in feel to the original anime.
Honestly, as a fan of the anime, I feel betrayed. They took part of what I loved and said... NOPE. It didn't happen. But I guess this must how manga fans must have felt when the original anime came out. What comes around goes around, huh? (^.^') At least I can just renounce this like I did with Digimon tri. and save all that cash on merchandise. (Or maybe I'll fall in love with it regardless. We'll see.)
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