Film Review: Ocean Waves (1993)

Also known as: Umi ga kikoeru (original Japanese title)
Release Date: May 5th, 1993 (Japan – television)
Directed by: Tomomi Mochizuki
Written by: Kaori Nakamura
Music by: Shigeru Nagata
Cast: Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Yoko Sakamoto

Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, 76 Minutes

Review:

This Studio Ghibli film reminded me a lot of Only Yesterday, which I stated in that review, was my least favorite Ghibli movie I had seen up to that point. I did like this one a hair bit better but it was also shorter and a bit better paced because of that.

This is a coming of age story about two male friends and how, as they get older, they find themselves in a love triangle.

Overall, it’s not really my cup of tea and even though I’m generally okay with slice of life stuff, this one doesn’t connect as well as Ghibli’s other pictures on an emotional level.

This is sort of dry but that doesn’t mean it’s bad and I can see the reasons why a lot of people actually like this one.

The characters are likable and their lives are fleshed out well, developing them into real characters with some depth.

I thought that the animation was good but it’s also less stylized than typical Ghibli pictures. That could also be because this was originally developed for television.

Overall, this was decent but it’s far from the Studio Ghibli movies that I hold in really high regard. Also, unlike those, I don’t know if I’d ever want to watch this one again.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Berserk – The Golden Age Arc Trilogy (2012-2013)

Release Date: Part I: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part II: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part III: ….ber ..th, 2013
Directed by: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Written by: Ichiro Okouchi
Based on: Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu, Susumu Hirasawa
Cast: Hiroaki Iwanaga, Takahiro Sakurai, Toa Yukinari, Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, Carrie Keranen

Studio 4°C, Madman Entertainment, Viz Media, Kazé UK, Lucent Pictures, 76 Minutes (Part I), 91 Minutes (Part II), 107 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“Heed my words, Struggler. Soon a rain of blood, the likes of which you cannot imagine, shall fall down upon you. It will be a storm of death. But take heed, Struggler. Struggle, endure, contend. For that alone is the sword of one who defies death. Do not forget these words.” – Skull Knight

Since I watched the anime television series that served as a sequel to this first, I had a very different perspective going into this trilogy of anime films.

Being that I knew where these characters would end up, actually made me a lot more interested in how they got there, which is a place very far from where they start at the beginning of the first movie in this trilogy.

I also now have all the context regarding the three main characters in these films and it’s made me want to go back and watch the anime series again, as I think it’ll have even more of an impact.

I guess whatever order you watch these in is up to you and you probably should watch the animated Berserk material in order. If you’d prefer to do it that way, you should start with the original animated series from the late ’90s, which I actually haven’t seen yet. But I’m going to watch it in the next week or two, coming off of the high of this.

As far as these three films go, they’re pretty fucking exceptional.

The story and the relationships of the three main characters is what made this so great. A lot happens in these three films and by the end of them, you’re left exhausted and emotionally overloaded. And to be honest, I didn’t expect this to end with such an emotional punch to the gut.

It’s fucked up, tragic and you find yourself pretty fucking angry over what a particular character ends up doing to those you assumed he loved. Especially, after everything they went through together over a pretty long passage of time.

The animation is also pretty damn stellar. Overall, this looks better than the show that followed it.

As these three films rolled on, I wasn’t sure how all of this would pan out and whether or not there’d be a grand, worthwhile payoff. This exceeded any expectations I could have had for it and from my perspective, I’d call the entire body of work a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Rescuers (1977)

Also known as: Bernard and Bianca (alternative title)
Release Date: June 19th, 1977 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Vance Gerry, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Burny Mattinson, Fred Lucky, Dick Sebast, David Michener, Ted Berman
Based on: The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
Music by: Artie Butler
Cast: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Joe Flynn, Geraldine Page

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Poor Evinrude. Your carburetor is all pooped out.” – Miss Bianca

The Rescuers was a movie I watched a hell of a lot as a kid. It came out before I was born but my uncle that had access to things gave me a copy, I think before it was even commercially available on VHS tape. I was young, details are murky.

Anyway, I guess this was immensely popular, even though I feel like it’s been forgotten today. In fact, Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers originally started out as a Rescuers show. It was changed once The Rescuers were given a theatrical sequel film, being the first and only Disney animated feature of the old hand-drawn style to receive a theatrical sequel. There would end up being many sequels for various Disney films after that, however, except those were always straight-to-video.

Staying focused on this film, however, it still plays well and I think it’s aged tremendously and represents an era of Disney that is too often overlooked and underappreciated.

The Rescuers is also kind of a dark film, even if it is kid friendly. It deals with dark subject matter and a fairly realistic, truly evil woman as its villain.

However, most of the characters are cute animals, so that helps keep the movie from going too deeply into darkness.

I love the characters in this, though, specifically the mice Bernard and Miss Bianca. I think it also helps that they were voiced by the great Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, who already had voicework experience from The Aristocats.

The story is about a kidnapped orphan, an evil woman obsessed with a mythical diamond and how these two mice are on the search for the little girl and ultimately, have to take down the villainess.

I really liked the setting of the film being the bayou. It gave it a very unique look and style and it also provided the right type of place for those two villainous alligators to thrive. I always loved the alligators as a kid but I also grew up on the edge of the Everglades, which isn’t too dissimilar from the bayou.

The Rescuers is still an entertaining movie and my second favorite of the ’70s Disney animated features after Robin Hood.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Mobile Suit Gundam – The Original Trilogy (1981-1982)

Release Date: Part I: March 14th, 1981; Part II: July 11th, 1981; Part III: March 13th, 1982
Directed by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Written by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Based on: Mobile Suit Gundam by Yoshiyuki Tomino
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Takeo Watanabe, Yushi Matsuyama
Cast: Toru Furuya, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Toshio Furukawa, Kiyonobu Suzuki

Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, Kodansha, Nagoya Broadcasting Network, 139 Minutes (Part I), 133 Minutes (Part II), 144 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“A mobile suit’s abilities don’t decide a battle’s outcome. I’ll teach you that!” – Char Aznable

Yes, I have watched anime my entire life. Yes, I have loved Robotech and other mecha-centric anime since I was about six years-old. No, I have never watched anything from the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise until now.

While I know that’s basically a crime in nerdom, it’s not that I didn’t want to watch Gundam, it’s just that there is so much of it that I found it overwhelming and didn’t know where to even start. But luckily, one of my hardcore Gundam homies said he’d walk me through it. Also, since a literal fuck ton of Gundam is now on Netflix, I figured there was no better time than the present to finally jump into this massive I.P.

So I started with the original theatrical trilogy of Gundam movies, which aren’t technically the first things released. Well, I guess they sort of are but let me explain.

The film trilogy was created using footage from the original anime series. Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino wanted to streamline it down, omit some of the stuff that didn’t matter as much and then re-edit everything into a three-part epic, telling the main story with the most important parts.

I think that Tomino succeeded, even though I can’t compare it to the original series, as I haven’t seen that yet. But I don’t know if I would consider the television series and all 43 episodes to be a masterpiece and pretty damn close to perfection. I consider this trilogy of films to be exactly that, though.

The lore to this series is so well defined and the introduction to the movies fill you in on it pretty quickly. Beyond the general framework and concept, though, the story and characters all evolve in really unique ways.

While war is the thing that hangs over everyone’s head, this greatly explores the characters’ places within that, as well as their relationships with one another. In many instances, this stuff gets pretty deep and it reminds me of the character development and exploration of relationships in Robotech but this surprisingly does it better and the pain of the characters cuts deeper. It’s a hard thing to quantify or explain, really, but you find yourself caring about these people, even the ones you wouldn’t expect at all, on a pretty profound level for an animated series/movie.

The relationships and the challenges that come with them is actually the main thing that makes me want to watch all of the 43 episodes that were whittled down into these three pictures.

As far as the fun stuff goes, which is the general action, the mecha suits and the big battles, this does all that exceptionally well. This has fast-paced, exciting action and it’s different than the other sci-fi anime properties before it. It just shifts into high gear in a way that anime hadn’t before this.

If you’re like I was, and love this sort of stuff but haven’t seen this yet, you really need to.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Porco Rosso (1992)

Also known as: Kurenai no buta (original Japanese title), The Crimson Pig (literal English title)
Release Date: July 18th, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on: Hikotei Jidai by Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Shuichiro Moriyama, Akio Otsuka, Akemi Okamura, Tokiko Kato, Sanshi Katsura; English Language: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, Bill Fagerbakke, Frank Welker

Japan Airlines, Nibariki, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, 94 Minutes

Review:

“I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.” – Porco Rosso

I’ve gotta say, I went into this with no real expectations but it kind of blew me away and impressed me a great deal.

The humor in this is fantastic and up to the point of this film’s release, this may be Studio Ghibli’s best use of comedy. It helped set the film’s playful tone from the get go.

The story is about an ace pilot during the World War I era. He’s Italian and work as a bounty hunter around the Adriatic Sea. He’s also been cursed with the head of a pig, even though he’s a pretty normal human being.

Over the course of the film, he develops a rivalry with an American ace and loses a contest against him. He then is convinced by a young girl that she can design and build a better plane for him, even though he doesn’t initially like the idea. Over the course of the story, they develop an incredible bond and Porco Rosso sets his sights on redeeming himself against the American ace.

While this is more of a comedy than a drama, it has very strong dramatic moments and I think it’s those parts that make this pretty great.

I watched the English dubbed version and I thoroughly enjoyed the voice acting. I especially liked Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes as the voices of the two rival aces, which made their banter pretty entertaining.

As far as the animation goes, this is exactly what you should expect from a Hayao Miyazaki picture. I also think this has a lot more energy than many of his films, as it features so much aerial action.

While I doubt that I’ll ever discover a bad Studio Ghibli film, this wasn’t one that I expected to be really impressed by. In the end, it did just that and I think this may be one of my favorites of the bunch. But I still have many to get through, that I haven’t seen.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Release Date: March 11th, 1977
Directed by: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Vance Gerry, Xavier Atencio, Ken Anderson, Julius Svendsen, Ted Berman, Eric Cleworth
Based on: Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
Music by: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman (songs), Buddy Baker (score)
Cast: Sterling Holloway, John Fiedler, Junius Matthews, Paul Winchell, Howard Morris, Bruce Reitherman, Jon Walmsley, Timothy Turner, Clint Howard, Sebastian Cabot (narrator)

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, Buena Vista Distribution, 74 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” – Eeyore

It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen this animated Disney classic but I loved it as a kid and I think it still plays exceptionally well.

The story is narrated by the great Sebastian Cabot and it features a bunch of small tales set in the world of Winnie the Pooh. So this is more of an anthology featuring the same core characters than it is a feature length story.

The animation is smooth and dreamlike and I still think that this is the best adaptation of the written material and the quintessential Winnie the Pooh film to introduce to kids that might like the character and his world.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh also features a pretty stellar voice cast that brings these characters to life in a remarkable and memorable way. Sterling Holloway, especially, achieved legendary status with his performance, here, as he gave the world the voice and personality that we would forever associate with Pooh.

I also didn’t know until now that Clint Howard provided his voice for Roo, the little kangaroo character. That, in its own way, adds another layer of coolness to the picture.

Rating: 7.75/10

TV Review: Berserk (2016-2017)

Original Run: July 1st, 2016 – June 23rd, 2017
Directed by: Shin Itagaki
Written by: Makoto Fukami
Based on: Berserk by Kintaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu

Liden Films, GEMBA, Millepensee, Universal, Sony, Wowow, MBS, TBS, CBC, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So I’ve heard people rave about the manga Berserk for years. I’ve wanted to read it for awhile now but there’s like 40 volumes and it’s going to be a real undertaking. However, I figured that I’d check out the anime, as it’s streaming on HBO Max.

I found out, after being a half dozen episodes deep, that this actually takes place after a trilogy of anime films and an earlier anime series from the ’90s. So I guess I started at the end but even then, I found this pretty easy to get into and never felt like there was a lot of context or knowledge missing.

For the most part, I dug the hell out of this, especially the first of the two seasons. I guess some people found the animation style to be off-putting but I actually liked it.

I’m also not a big fan of the mixture of CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation but for whatever reason, I liked how they blended together, here. I think that has to do with the style of shading in the art, which looks like thin-lined pencil shading.

I think most of all, I really liked the character designs. Everyone was distinct and pretty damn cool in their own unique way.

I also found the stories to be pretty solid and interesting. However, it really just left me wanting more, so I’ll probably try and check out the previous anime releases and then start reading the original manga, at some point.

All in all, this was dark, twisted, really fun and pretty damn entertaining.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Only Yesterday (1991)

Also known as: Omoide poro poro (original Japanese title), Memories of Teardrops, Memories of Yesterday (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 20th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata
Based on: Omoide Poro Poro by Hotaru Okamoto, Yuko Tone
Music by: Katz Hoshi
Cast: Japanese Language: Yoko Honna, Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba; English Language: Daisy Ridley, Alison Fernandez, Dev Patel, Grey DeLisle, Tara Strong

Nippon Television Network, Studiopolis, Studio Ghibli, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Rainy days, cloudy days, sunny days… which do you like?” – Hirota, “…cloudy days.” – Taeko, “Oh, then we’re alike.” – Hirota

I would have to consider this my least favorite Studio Ghibli film, up to this point in their history.

Honestly, it just didn’t connect with me in the ways that their other movies have. It’s just okay and pretty dry. It moves at a snail’s pace.

The story is about an unmarried woman being fixated on memories of her childhood. She does what we all do, looks back, overanalyzes the moments that shaped her, and questions where she is in life now.

I watched the English dubbed version, as the most modern English dubs of  Studio Ghibli films are typically top notch. However, I found Daisy Ridley’s performance to be really underwhelming, compared to the performances by voice leads in other films.

It sounded as if Ridley was just reading lines and putting just a bit of inflection in her voice. She felt like a teacher reading a book out loud to a classroom of elementary school kids.

I know that this movie has its audience and that many people love it. I’m just not one of them.

Still, it’s visually and technically sound as far as the animation and production goes.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)

Original Run: April 3rd, 1998 – April 24th, 1999
Created by: Hajime Yatate
Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe
Written by: Keiko Nobumoto
Music by: Yoko Kanno
Cast: Koichi Yamadera, Unsho Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara

Sunrise, TXN, Wowow, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Decades upon decades of hype and Cowboy Bebop just didn’t live up to it for me. But this is what happens when people, for years and years, claim that something is the “best ever”.

In those situations, I think that a lot of people who hear that, repeat it, as they don’t want to be the asshole that disagrees with everyone else. It’s just this effect that happens with things that are grossly overhyped by a passionate few who are able to push something beyond cult status.

Now that’s not to say that Cowboy Bebop isn’t enjoyable, it certainly is. I also wasn’t quite ready for it to be over when it was.

I like that it’s unique, features an incredibly jazzy score and finds itself wrapped up in several genres not really committing to any of them fully. It’s a mix of noir, western, cyberpunk and space opera. But it also features real human drama, comedy and often times plays like a crime thriller.

Essentially, I like it for all the reasons that other people do. I just don’t think it’s the greatest anime I’ve ever seen and just because it was unique and fresh when it came out in 1998, doesn’t mean that its some sort of masterpiece.

The show has some weak, forgettable episodes, some of the characters begin to grate on you like the shrill little kid with the barky dog.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not game to check out the animated film that came after or any potential sequel or animated reboot.

In the end, this is still high tier anime and much better than the norm. I’d even call it a classic. However, I can’t look at it as the greatest thing that ever existed in anime. It simply isn’t. But that’s also subjective and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Robin Hood (1973)

Release Date: November 8th, 1973
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Frank Thomas, Eric Cleworth, Julius Svendsen, David Michener
Based on: the legend of Robin Hood
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Peter Ustinov, Phil Harris, Brian Bedford, Terry-Thomas, Roger Miller, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, Andy Devine

Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Buena Vista Distribution, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, Robin, you’re so brave and impetuous!” – Marian

When I was a kid, this was, hands down, one of my favorite Disney animated films. It still is, actually, because upon viewing it this time, the first in years, I was pulled right into it and captivated by it from start-to-finish.

I think I just really love these interpretations of the legendary characters and I always loved that they used animals, as opposed to humans. In a way, it made it unique and helped it stand out amongst all the other Robin Hood pictures that were made before it… and after it, for that matter.

The opening song and credits really sets the mood and makes you feel pretty laid back. Ultimately, this is a laid back picture and even though it has some good action sequences, it’s still just kind of a chill movie.

It’s also playful and I think that it was a really good thing that they brought back Phil Harris, who played Baloo in The Jungle Book, to play a very similar looking bear in the role of Little John. Baloo’s look and voice are very distinctive and Little John just feels like that fun-loving character we all know and adore.

This also features a lot of characters but you’re not overwhelmed by them and most of them get their own moment to shine. It’s just a cool ensemble cast of various animals and personalities but it meshes together incredibly well.

I also like the art style of the film. It employs the same style as the films from One Hundred and One Dalmatians forward but also looks more crisp and refined. The motion of the characters is very fluid and it’s just impressive all around.

While everyone should already know the general story of Robin Hood, all the little unique flourishes in this one are really creative and well-executed. At the end of the day, this stays true to the legend but is also very specifically Disney.

Robin Hood is a pretty stupendous animated feature and in my opinion, still one of Disney’s top animated films.

Rating: 9/10