Category Archives: Movie

Little Witch Academia

Type: Second Verse, good as the first…wait, what?

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Synopsis: A little girl goes to a magic show and got her parents to sign her up for lessons. But like Karate and Ballet, she’ll probably give up when it gets too hard.

Pros: The Little Witch Academia franchise is an interesting little bit of anime trivia. Backed by Trigger as part of a young creators thingy, the series has gained a dedicated fan base. Why? Because it’s really charming. Being Trigger, the animation is amazing. It has a great all-ages vibe without sacrificing any of the story sophistication. But I’ve said all this before. Watching this part really cleared up some of the things in the sequel. Specifically Akko’s origin. This being a more Akko centric episode, I got a better sense of the character’s standing in the Magical School, while the second gave a better sense of the flaws.

Cons: I still don’t get the deal with the supporting characters. They aren’t especially fleshed out or explored. The problem is that the story starts with Akko already in school with her friend group fully established. Had this been a story of how they met, then great, and I hope the creators get the chance to show that eventually. Don’t get me wrong, this is great, and I want more, but as the “first” part of the franchise, I was expecting a little more.

Watch it: Its 30 minutes of quality programming

MVP: Akko

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Theirs magic in all of us

Best Moment: Akko getting poisoned by her friends (witches, am I right?)

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First of the North Star (1986)

Type: You’re already dead

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Synopsis: You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you straight to hel…wait a minute, did that man just blow up another mans head? Huh, did that other man just cut those people in half with his fingers? Wha-is that man’s horse eminating some sort of terrible yet noble aura? Maybe this apocalypse won’t be so bad…

Pros: The First of the North Star movie is based on the Fist of the North Star manga, a very seminal and very bloody manga from the 80’s that influenced a bunch of stuff, most notably Berserk. The story is basically a Martial Arts drama set in a Mad Max world. In fact, if Mad Mas is what’s happening is Australia, then Fist of the North Star is probably happening in Japan. The star of our tale is Kenshiro, the current master of Hokuto Shinken, a pressure point fighting style. Kenshiro’s fiance is kidnapped and Ken is left for dead, only to wake up a few years later to look for her. What follows is Ken going from town to town, helping the survivors of humanity along the way. And by helping, I mean using Hokuto Shinken to make bandit heads blow up real nice. This is a very bloody movie, so much so that the animators actually had a few joke decapitations here and there. The film does capture the spirit of the source material, even if it takes some liberties with story points like Roah showing up way too early). Overall, pretty good.

Cons: It’s not that the animation is old, it’s that some of the special effects used in the movie did not age well. The English Dub could be hit of miss for some people. I found it charming, but purist may not be able to deal with it. And his is very gory. If your not a fan of that, then you won’t be a fan of this.

Watch it?: If you’ve never been exposed to Fist of the North Star, this is a good first look

MVP: Kenshiro’s Beard

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It kills you with its manliness

Best Moment: Kenshiro’s revival (what is he, a monster!?)

 

 

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Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Type: Should I count a 3d movie?

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Synopsis: So a bunch of jerks fly around in space being jerks while a bunch of losers rule humanity by being losers. In this movie, the losers send a baby loser to infiltrate the jerks, then the jerks go back home and start fighting with the losers, then the baby loser gives everyone a flower so they’ll stop fighting.

Pros: The 3d animation is gorgeous. I can’t say that modern gaming consoles aren’t catching up, or already there, but the movie is still very pretty. The backgrounds and space ships are the real winners here. The faces, well, let’s keep this positive. Speaking of needing to keep things positive, here’s the thing about the plot: it’s told backwards. By that I mean that the key motivations for the characters are reveled around the middle of the film in flashback. This kind of narrative structure usually works really well in tv and comics, but its a bit trickier in film. Due to the time limitations, keeping information like this hidden seems more forced than in other mediums. In the film, you meet Harlock and Yama before you know their backstories. As such, Harlock comes off as a brooding-egotist, and Yama comes off as whiny. Then you learn their about their past and you like them more because their motivations make sense. But until this information is reveled, it’s hard to like the characters in this film. For example, this review is based on my second attempt at viewing this movie. A few years ago iIn my first attempt, I quit halfway, right before backstory dump, because I could not stand any of the characters. But those backstories are worth it, and I kinda wish they had been the focus of the film. They’re that interesting, particularly Harlock’s. The whole political story involving Earth, Harlock, and the powers that be would have made an awesome origin film.

Cons: I’ve mentioned my problems with the structure of the film. Animations wise, the only real issue is with the faces. One of the reasons why a lot of movies with 3D animations tend to lean more towards the cartoony side is because they can play around with the faces more. But in cases such as Harlock, movies try to mimic humans expressions more realistically, and fail. The faces here are stiff. Not bad, but stiff. I should so mention that for die hard Harlock fans, this is a whole new backstory and set up. Now plot wise, theirs only one big thing I have a problem with. Spoliers ahead. In the film, the big turning point is when Yama discovers a flower on a barren Earth, which cases Harlock to change his plans and fight again. But how did Yama get to Earth? He was on a ship with his brother on board, so he couldn’t have just walked off. He may have stolen a ship, but why go to Earth? What possible motivation did he have? To die? Maybe. But we get no indication. No inner thoughts. In the end, the big deus ex machina revolves around the seemingly random actions of some kid. Like a lot of things with the story, this was really sloopy. (P.s. Does the ending imply that Yama is the Harlock of the old anime? Does that even make sense?)

Watch it?: Pfff….nah.

MVP: Isola

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His motivations were clear from beginning to end.

Best Moment: The final scene between Nami and Isola. (the most emotional moment)

 

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Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (OVA)

Type: A sequel, apparently

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Synopsis: So funny story. I thought this was Little Witch Academia 1. Well, that’s not so funny.

Pros: Once again, I continue my real life tradition of entering a franchise at a sequel by mistake. In this case, Little Witch Academia, released by Trigger. Trigger, of course, known for Kill La Kill. The animation is stellar, the characters are likable, and I am genuinely surprise this entire franchise isn’t the biggest thing in anime, because every0ne can watch this. It’s all age friendly, and easily appeals to westerners. And yes, there are a ton of references to Kill La Kill, other Trigger shows, Disney, Harry Potter, and Attack on Titan if you want to stretch it. I really liked Little Witch Academia. It’s basically about a school of witches. In this installment, the characters are forced to organize the school’s entry into the annual town parade. Akko, the protagonist, gets a little gun ho about portraying a more positive image for witches, which leds to some friction between for BFFs. Though, this does allow for the introduction of 3 new witches, Amanda, Constaze, and Jasminka.

Cons: I’m not ganna lie, it felt more like a TV show than a movie. For more than a moment, I though I was watching the back-door pilot for a series. I think Trigger thought so as well. Story wise, I think that Akko’s conflict with her friends was simply put there to thin the herd a little, so that the 3 new witches could be used instead. Weirdly, the 3 girls warm up to Akko right away, dispute not knowing her a few days before. They get so close, in fact, that I found it odd that they didn’t contribute to the friendship is magic blast at the end.

Watch it?: I hope this franchise blows up!

MVP: Akko

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Keep reaching for the stars kid.

Best Moment: Passing around the wand at the end (beautiful)

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Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie (1978)

Type: Bird Power Rangers

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Synopsis: Gatchaman, the Science Ninja Team (no, really) are the world’s best defense against Galactor, a terrorist organization with an absolutely fabulous commander. Bonus points for groovy 70’s attire.

Pros: I caught this movie at an anime con while trying to kill some time. I’ve been aware of Gatchaman, or as I always referred to them as, those weird bird themed people. Now I know what they are: there the power rangers! Well, not really. Well, kinda really. They’re a Japanese superhero group. They’re composed of a leader, a girl, a kid, a big guy, and a rebel. They have bird themed weapons and fly in planes that combine into a bigger plane. Classic superhero group. The thing looks pretty old school, which was fun for someone who likes noticing cost cutting animation tricks. I also really loved the era appropriate clothing. Long hair, bell bottoms, numbers on t-shirts. It had pretty good action, though the Science Ninja Team sure did kill a lot of people. But hey, it was the 70s. And, I can’t lie, I loved the old school story telling and overly dramatic dialogue.

Cons: If you can’t get past the dated animation, then your obviously not going to watch this. The “film” is split into two stories: one involves Ken’s dad and the other involved Joe. If you where watching the show from the beginning, then I can imagine the two stories told being a big deal. But the don’t really connect in the movie itself. One story ends, and the other begins. It really two OVA’s edited together. And, I can’t lie, years of watching Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim make fun of this style of animation prevented me from taking the plots too seriously.

Watch it?: It’s a good way to see what this whole “Gatchaman” thing is about

MVP: Jun the Swan

Jun_Civvie

Science Ninja, Business Owner, and Guitarist. Woman of the 70’s.

Best Moment: The Doctor holding the UN hostage (all to let his Teenage heroes attempt to save the day)

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Boruto: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Confusing Title

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Synopsis: Mission 11- Milk the Franchise for all it’s worth!

Pros: Boruto: Naruto the Movie is…wait, before we start, can we all agree that “Boruto: Naruto the Movie” is a very dumb title. “Boruto: The Movie,” “Naruto Legacy: Boruto,” or even “Naruto the Movie: Boruto,” all these would have made more sense. Also, “Boruto?” as in “Bore-uto?” did no one make the connection? Anyway, Boruto is a sequel series to the Naruto franchise, following the life of Naruto’s son Boruto. Specifically, right after Naruto has become Hokage, but before Boruto takes his Chunin Exams. The plot of the film revolves around Boruto feeling neglected by his father, who’s very busy with his duties as Hokage. His growing resentment leads him to attempt to surpass his father, either by tutelage under Sasuke, or via a cheater Ninja device. Then the bad guy shows up and almost kills Naruto, making Boruto realize what a shmuck he really is. The world that Boruto shows is pretty interesting, as it has modernized quiet rapidly since the end of Naruto. Seeing the character’s kids in action was neat (though their similar ages makes me think the cast of Naruto coordinated their pregnancies). It’s a fair start to a new chapter, and I look forward to seeing more of it, and I applaud the franchise for daring to follow a new protagonist (unlike other series cough Dragon Ball cough). (P.s. However, personally, I would have liked the story to focus on Sarada Uchiha, because I find the story of an Uchiha who wants to be Hokage much more interesting).

Cons: So I think the big question in everyone’s mind upon hearing this was: Is Boruto any good as a character? Because he look’s just like his Naruto, and acts just like Naruto, but we just went through 12 years of Naruto. Is he redundant? The answer is yes and no. Boruto’s situation and motivation are different from Naruto, and that will determine whether or not you like him. Unlike Naruto, his son is every talented and popular, with a family that loves him. In fact, the reason he lashes out in the movie is that his father works too much (which is implied to be a recent thing). Which is different from Naruto, who lashed out more as a way to validate his existence. Or to put it another way, Naruto needed to prove that he mattered, while Boruto his just a brat. But the whole movie is Boruto having to realize this, so narratively, his behavior is justified. Personally, however…yeah, he’s annoying. More annoying than Naruto was? No, but Naruto had the orphan excuse. But his whole analysis does bring up the glaring fact that you can’t talk about Boruto without bringing up Naruto. And to it’s credit, the movie’s writing owes up to this, very much stating that “Yes, this is a continuation of the Naruto story” while also stating “but, this is a new story.”

Best Boruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Momoshiki

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Forgettable Villain V.2, #1

Best Moment: The Last Fight (Hokage Level Combat!)

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The Last: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Years in the Making

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Synopsis: Mission 10- Save the World, Fall in Love, Live Happily Ever After

Pros: Hmm….ah, excuse me. I have to wipe away these tears of joy I have here. This movie is so…cathartic. It’s the perfect emotional endpoint for the Naruto franchise. The Last focuses on the relationship between Naruto and Hinata, finally affirming their status as a couple. You see, in the actual manga, Naruto and Hinata’s romance is not a main plot. It’s not even a subplot. It’s a sup plot twice removed. It’s such a slow burn that you almost can’t believe it finally paid off. But it’s also something you can only pull off if your series has lasted consistently for this long. In the film, Naruto FINALLY realizes that Hinata loves him, and he realizes that he loves her. Because Hinata was the first person to ever believe in Naruto. He inspired her, which eventually evolved into love. The film was actually a good showcase of Hinata’s overall character arc, from being riddled with self-doubt to standing tall in the face of overwhelming danger. That’s one of the reason’s why Hinata is my favorite Naruto character (sorry Lee!), because her personal anxieties weigh on her the most. She struggles, she falls, but she keeps on trying and becomes a lot stronger as a result. She also rips a man’s eyes out of their sockets, which was pretty bad ass. Now, if you’re not as invested in the Naruto/Hinata story as I am (you monsters), the movie was also a pretty cool way to see the progression of the main characters. Every character was aged up to about 19-20 years old, so they all got really neat redesigns. And taking place after the series ended, you get to see Naruto be really popular and  fight at his strongest, throwing wind-rasengans left and right. Plus, you get to see Kakashi as Hokage, which was cool, and all this growth was fun to observe because Naruto has been around for soo long. In some ways, it’s like we’ve seen actors grow up before our eyes.

Cons: While I stand by my assertion that this was the best story to end the Naruto story on, the plot if pretty cookie cutter. One person has a crush on the other, they bond, something dramatic happens, the other tries to reciprocate but is “rejected,” the girl is “kidnapped” or somehow removed, the boy wallows in self pity for a little but is roused by his friends to save the girl, rescue occurs and romantic kiss ends it. This has literally happened at the end of so many romantic anime that I’ve lost count (it even happend in Ouran Host Club). To top it off, the villain is even that douche anime character that thinks the girl likes him just because he says so.  Yuck. And it took Naruto a magic memory pool to realize Hinata likes him, the knucklehead! While the plot can make the film a little too romantically generic at times, the movie as a whole does tie up two crucial loose ends. First, the Hinata-Naruto story, and second, the Other Sage of the Six Paths. In the Naruto story, the creator of the Ninja arts had a brother, but the manga never really says what happened to him. Turn out, he went off to live on he moon! Who knew? It was also cool to state that Hinata’s Byakugan is tied to the Sages, just like the Sharingan. (P.s. In the movie, the moon is falling, which leads to everyone deciding to destroy the moon because some crazy guy is trying to kill all Ninja. Stop trying to destroy the moon anime characters! That’s an incredibly bad idea on several levels!!)

Best Naruto Movie: YES

Villain: Toneri

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Forgettable Villain #10

Best Moment: The Post Credit Scene (Naruto and his Family…ah, here come those tears again:))

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Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Naruto of Two Worlds

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Synopsis: Mission 9- Return to Reality

Pros: I loved this movie! Hands down the best Naruto movie I’ve seen thus far (I got 2 to go). The gimmick of the film is that Naruto and Sakura are transported into a parallel world. Everyone they know has opposite personalities or traits in some way. Hinata is brash, Choji is skinny, Tsunade is flat chested, etc. This aspect of the movie is rife with comedic moments and really makes up for the very serious Blood Prison. The other half of the movie, however, is a much more personal story. Because in the parallel world, both of Naruto’s parents are alive. Naruto’s emotional conflict over whether or not to embrace his alternate mother and father really reminds you that Naruto’s life is pretty tragic . He is, after all, a character that grew up an orphan and is only 16 at this point. The kid’s all by himself, which you sometimes forget given all the crazy ninja stuff that surrounds him (it also doesn’t help that the movie shows the death scene of Naruto’s parents, literally the saddest moment in the whole franchise and fiction in general). So it was nice to see how Naruto’s parents would treat him if they were still alive. The film’s a very intimate story, centering on the main cast dynamics and history, which are often the best Naruto stories. (On a side note, I also really loved the relationship shown between Naruto and Sakura. Not only because it’s a rare platonic male-female friendship in anime, but because, when you really think about it, Sakura is Naruto’s Best Friend. She’s stuck by him since the age of 12, and has literally saved his life on multiple occasions. Screw Sasuke, give Sakura a damn BFF bracelet!)

Cons: Not a lot of action. The film is surprisingly devoid of great fights scenes. I kept expecting for Naruto do preform some jutsu and everyone saying “hey wait a minute, Menma can’t do that!” Even the big battle between Naruto and the antagonist was resolved with one punch. In fact, the animation in this was unimpressive, and felt very much like it was made on a budget. The story was great, but this film was clearly made specifically for Naturo fans. The uninitiated may need to do some homework to enjoy it. And again, the antagonist was nothing special. If you don’t guess it early enough, he’s the “evil” version of Naruto. Why exactly he’s evil given the fact that his parents are alive, or why no one notices that he’s been missing, is never explained. And lastly, it does make me smirk that his all started because Naruto and Sakura were acting like sh#tty teens and complaining about parents and stuff. Again, it is sometimes easy to forget exactly how young they really are in the story.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Menma

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Forgettable Villain #9

Best Moment: The Hidden Leaf 11’s bath scene (I love it when all 11 get together. Plus, hijinks!)

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Naruto the Movie: Blood Prison [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Don’t Drop the Kunai!

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Synopsis: Mission 8- Destroy a Magic Box

Pros: Blood Prison is definitely the darkest Naruto movie. I feel that the writers took this opportunity to stick in a few Prison movie Easter Eggs (some uncomfortably so). The premise is that Naruto is accused of attempted assassination and is sent to a Ninja Prison. He spends most of the movie screaming that he’s innocent and trying to find a way to escape. He also has to stop the evil Grass Ninja from using the “Paradise Box” to take over the world. The idea of a Ninja Prison was interesting, and for once, the antagonist had an actual motivation for his actions. The final battle against the demon in the Paradise Box was pretty cool (we even get a Gamabunta appearance), though it does get very bloody. And the good guys don’t really “win,” more as got lucky. Again, the darkest Naruto movie by far.

Cons: There’s a lot of small movie conceits that annoyed me. In the beginning, we see the “Naruto” attack the Cloud Village. That’s why he’s sent to prison. But if any of the characters thought about it, they’d know it wasn’t Naruto. The attacker used a chain (not Naruto’s style) and he paused a minute to show his face (why would a secret assassin do?). Now I’m going to spoil something, because it’s really dumb: at the final battle it’s revealed that no one though Naruto was guilty, they actually sent him to Prison to find and destroy the Paradise Box. A box he was never told about. Why didn’t they just tell him!? Why have him believe that everyone abandoned him? Because it seems to me that a very powerful Ninja with no living family and a large history of neglect probably shouldn’t be given a chance to develop trust issues. I did like the villain in this, mostly because he was the first Naruto film bad guy who didn’t want to use the movie Mcguffin to take over the world. Also: this was my first exposure to the English dubbed Killer Bee. Man, that was….all I’ll say is that the rhyming speech sounded less lame in the manga.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Satori

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Forgettable Villain #8

Best Moment: When Naruto’s friends talk about Tricking Naruto at the End (they partially did it for the LoL’s)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Back to the Future

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Synopsis: Mission 7- Capture Rouge Puppet Ninja

Pros: The Lost Tower does a very good job at two key elements for an shoen-anime movie-it focuses on action and could be considered cannon-adjacent. In the Lost Tower, Naruto and pals are trying to catch a runaway Ninja when Naruto gets sent back in time. The run away Ninja is a puppet master, and this was a very cool Ninja style to focus on. It also works thematically, if predictably (he ends up controlling someone emotionally). The other gimmick of the film is the inclusion of Naruto’s father, the 4th Hokage. I’d say spoilers, but the two characters look so alike that assuming you didn’t make the connection would be insulting. While the Fourth and Naruto only spend superficial time together, the film does paint a very good picture of the Fourth’s personality. For instance, the Fourth easily discerns that Naruto is from the future, and he easily figures out that Naruto is probably his son. In only a few minutes, you understand why he would made the Hokage. The film only character, Queen Sara, is alright. Her arc from naive royal to leader is well done, and is central to the story.

Cons: Once again, we get the standard Naruto movie story: An authority figure betrays the film only protagonist, has a crazy plan that boils down to world domination, and Naruto has to do some special Rasengan variant to beat them up. As stated above, this is really Queen Sara’s story. Naruto is there to act more like emotional support than anything else. He keeps telling her “you gatta do what you gatta do,” and “you’re not a puppet.” Naruto’s basically a cheerleader in this (though he is a very good cheerleader). Also as stated above, the inclusion of the Fourth Hokage is more superficial than anything. And because this is a time travel story, the film as the audacity to use the “mind wipe” troupe to make sure that no one remembers anything that happened, and that nothing is affected in the real series plot. (There’s this one weird scene where the Queen’s festival turns out to be filled with a crowd of puppets to trick her into thinking there’s peace in her city, but then a puppet queen shows up to greet the people, which are also puppets, which begs the question as to why Mukade is trying to keep up the rouse at that point!?)

Best Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Mukade

Anrokuzan

Forgettable Villain #7

Best Moment: The ending (time traveling thank yous)

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