Film Review: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Also known as: Makaitoshi Shinjuku (original title), Monster City (UK), Hell City Shinjuku (alternative title)
Release Date: October 25th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Written by: Kaori Okamura
Based on: Makaitoshi Shinjuku by Hideyuki Kikuchi

Japan Home Video (JHV), Video Art Co., Madhouse, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Men anger the gods with their pride, and in order to punish them, the gods looked on as Pandora opened her box letting chaos loose. And now here in Monster City, mythology will become reality. ” – Mephisto

I never knew that this was done by the same director that did Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. I guess I should have figured that out due to a similar visual style, especially in regards to the visual effects and flair.

The first time that I saw this was on the Sci-Fi Channel, late at night, in the late ’90s. Seeing it for the first time, I was immediately sucked in by the opening scene, which still, all these years later, looks so absolutely fucking pristine and perfect that it still gives me chills.

Sadly, the movie itself is far from perfect as a total body of work but the strengths far outweigh the negatives and its those strengths that bring me back to this movie every couple of years.

The story isn’t great and the character development is weak but this is such a cool looking anime that it’s hard to turn away.

love the art, the tone, the style and how it all creates a dreary and mystical atmosphere.

I guess my biggest gripe about the film is that the English voice acting isn’t good. While it’s not terrible, it lacks emotion and the characters’ accents are strange. I guess the girl is British aristocracy and the little roller skate dude is Mexican? I would assume that all the characters are Japanese but the voice acting really throws you off.

The real highpoint outside of style, is the action sequences. They are all well done, fluid and exciting. But with that, everything else that happens is sort of boring. There’s a lot of walking and talking and most of it seems like a waste of time, as you’re just waiting for more action or some other creepy demonic encounter.

Demon City Shinjuku has a lot going right for it though. It certainly needed to be fine tuned more and I guess I can blame the poor voice acting on the fact that English audiences hadn’t fully embraced anime when this came out. But, as I said, the positives keep this above water and it’s just a cool flick.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll.

TV Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978-1979)

Original Run: March 14th, 1978 – February 13th, 1979
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Rintaro
Written by: Haruya Yamazaki, Shozo Uehara
Based on: Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Seiji Yokoyama

Toei Animation, 42 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is probably where I should have started with Space Pirate Captain Harlock but I actually started with the prequel film Arcadia of My Youth. So I guess it’s okay that I watched them in chronological order instead of release order but I do often times find it is best to experience things in the order that they came out in like the Star Wars films or The Chronicles of Narnia books.

Regardless, I loved Arcadia of My Youth and it made me want to delve right into the Harlock show, which I was able to, as it is available to stream for free on Tubi.

Now the animation in the show isn’t as fantastic as the prequel film but it is still fantastic for the late ’70s and it reminds me a lot of another Leiji Matsumoto creation, Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

However, unlike Yamato, this takes the space opera genre and adds in a little swashbuckling. In a lot of ways it is similar to Star Wars or at least the early films. It has space exploration, interesting worlds, an epic quest and the type of action you can only associate with proper sword fighting duels.

What I love most about the Harlock stuff I’ve now seen is the tone of it. It’s often times dark and bleak, giving the universe these characters live in the proper setting: the coldness and emptiness of space. Still, it is lighthearted and hopeful and it doesn’t dwell in darkness, in fact, it brings light to it.

In the end, this is just a damn cool anime television show with cool characters, a sweet spaceship and great character and vehicle design. I love Matsumoto’s ability to world build, especially in a visual and tonal sense.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

Film Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death (True)² (1998)

Release Date: 1998 (Japan premiere)
Directed by: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Movic, Production I.G/ING, Toei, 67 Minutes

Review:

“Shinji, this is your home now.” – Misato Katsuragi

This, the last of the three Evangelion offerings on Netflix, is a bit confusing.

This is the second re-edit of part of the Death & Rebirth animated film. And if Evangelion isn’t confusing enough, this is sort of just a few of the episodes mashed together.

I don’t know, this whole franchise is a real clusterfuck. I guess just watch the show and be annoyed by its Patrick Duffy in the shower ending. And if you want a better ending, they made one but I wouldn’t say it’s better unless you like Shinji screaming like a bitch for an hour and a half straight.

But I’ve said all this in previous Evangelion reviews.

So back to this.

In a nutshell, this was a complete waste of time.

That is all.

Just stick to the show and dip out before the last two episodes. Then just make up whatever ending you want in your head because it will probably be better.

But seriously, the show was pretty great until they totally shit the bed.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: all things Evangelion, as well as all things Robotech or Macross and Knights of Sidonia.

Film Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

Also known as: The End of Evangelion (shortened title)
Release Date: July 19th, 1997 (Japan premiere)
Directed by: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Movic, Production I.G/ING, Toei, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I’m so fucked up.” – Shinji Ikari

Yes, Shinji… you are fucked up.

In fact, Shinji makes this thing damn near unwatchable. If you thought he freaked out and had emo storms in the television series, it’s like he rolls all of them up, wedges them into just 90 minutes and then turns the volume way up.

I absolutely hate Shinji. I don’t care that he’s young and has had a troubled childhood. So did I at one point, I didn’t act anything like this.

It also doesn’t help that Asuka is having freak outs the whole damn time either.

So what this film is, is it is an alternate ending to the shitty ending that the television series gave us. This makes things real and not just some Patrick Duffy shower dream. And I wanted the events of the show to be real within the show. But this was not really an improvement when all is said and done.

This was damn hard to get through with all the emotional meltdowns and screaming.

The only saving grace was that the animation was a step up from the series but then it should be, as this was a film released theatrically.

But whatever.

Honestly, this film made me actually like the show less, as it exposed some of its flaws and made me never want to see Shinji’s bitch tantrums ever again.

While fans will debate for eons which ending was the true ending, I’ll debate with myself whether this was more shrill or less shrill than a cat orgy.

But I guess I’ll watch the movie after this one too, as it’s on Netflix and I might as well complete all that’s offered there.

Let me order some new earplugs off of Amazon first.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: all things Evangelion, as well as all things Robotech or Macross and Knights of Sidonia.

Film Review: Akira (1988)

Release Date: July 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Based on: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Music by: Shoji Yamashiro

Akira Committee Company Ltd., Akira Studio, TMS Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., 124 Minutes

Review:

“Look at what they abandoned in their panic, they were afraid! They were too scared, so they hid it away from the public. They forgot all shame and honor, cast off the civilization and science we had created, and shut the lid of the Pandora’s Box they themselves had opened.” – Colonel Shikishima

This wasn’t the first Japanese animated film that I saw but it was the first one to have a lasting impact on me. In fact, this is the one anime film that I have seen more than any of the others, as it is damn near perfect and the older it gets, the better it ages. Plus, it really got me into what was then called “Japanimation” before Americans started properly calling it anime.

Akira really opened the floodgates for me. Even though I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron and Star Blazers, I didn’t really know that they were Japanese properties retrofitted for American kids. But after seeing Akira, I started renting or buying almost every anime I could find. Many were bad but many were also good. It was a rabbit hole I really enjoyed going down, especially from the early to mid-’90s.

But what makes this film the best of the lot, at least from its era, is that it has a solid story, truly embraces the cyberpunk aesthetic and was just too damn cool to turn away from.

Now I might not of understood the film as a kid but I didn’t care. In my mind, this was the best animation I had ever seen and it made the American cartoons I enjoyed look drab by comparison. Also, being that it was animated, I could watch it without my parents suspecting that it might not just be some regular Saturday morning action cartoon. And that was cool because this was so adult and I hadn’t experienced that in anything animated up until this point.

Through adult eyes, I still can’t turn away. This picture is absolutely beautiful and Katsuhiro Otomo did a stupendous job in adapting his stellar manga into an animated movie. Granted, I wish that he would’ve gone on to continue to adapt the manga series, as this film doesn’t give you the rest of the lengthy story.

But as a standalone film and a self contained story, this works well, even if it opens a Pandora’s box by the end and leaves you with a lot of questions as to what the future holds for those living in this world.

It’s also a film that is good in both the subtitled and dubbed versions. While I typically prefer subs, the English language dub is better than most.

But the sound and the music really take this picture to another level. Sound was used to great effect through simple effects and audio cues that still sound cool and otherworldly regardless of how many times I’ve watched this film.

If someone where to ask which single anime is the best to show people to see if they’re into the style, Akira would be my answer. But I’m also a fan of cyberpunk sci-fi, neo-noir and youth gang movies.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the Akira manga series, as well as Katsuhiro Otomo’s other manga series. Additionally, Ghost In the Shell.

Film Review: Arcadia of My Youth (1982)

Also known as: Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Arcadia of My Youth (English title), Vengeance of the Space Pirate (US dubbed version)
Release Date: 1982 (Japan)
Directed by: Tomoharu Katsumata
Written by: Leiji Matsumoto, Yoichi Onaka
Based on: Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Toshiyuki Kimori

Toei Animation, 130 Minutes, 101 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“At the end of their lives, all men look back and think that their youth was Arcadia.” – title card

I never really knew who Leiji Matsumoto was. As a kid, I loved Star Blazers though and I had heard of Captain Harlock but I never knew that they were associated. Had I known that, I probably would’ve watched this film when it came Stateside.

Now, I’m trying to rectify the injustice of not watching Matsumoto’s other work. So I started here, as this was free for Prime members and because I’ve always been intrigued by Captain Harlock, even though I’ve never seen any of his shows or films.

Maybe I should have watched the earlier anime series first but this does serve as a prequel to it, as well as a prequel to one of Matsumoto’s other creations, Galaxy Express 999.

This is a space opera at its core but that was Matsumoto’s modus operandi and he was able to craft fantastic tales within the genre. Arcadia is no different and ultimately, this made me want to watch the earlier Harlock series.

The thing that really works and makes this so compelling is the tone and the atmosphere. Visually, it’s both dark and fantastical.

The opening scene with Harlock in his biplane being confronted by the spirit of a witch that haunts the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea is pretty breathtaking and lures you in like you’re being pulled by a powerful phantom’s grip. And maybe that’s the witch coming through and having an effect on the audience. Point being, the opening is so well crafted that it made me a fan of this picture from the get-go.

Everything that follows is also pretty fascinating. This is a story with a lot of drama but most importantly, high adventure.

The hero is cool, most of the other characters are great but most importantly, the design of the ships, vehicles and the universe they inhabit is imaginative and stunning.

The audio is presented in mono and I’m not sure if a remastered stereo version exists but the mono sound kind of adds to the atmosphere. Granted, that could also be nostalgia triggering in my brain, as it gave me the same experience I had watching old VHS tapes of Star Blazers and Voltron.

If anything, this feature film sold me on the franchise and further strengthened my appreciation for Matsumoto.

I’m not sure where my odyssey through Matsumoto’s oeuvre will take me next but watching the original Captain Harlock series, as well as the Galaxy Express 999 stuff is a must.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.