Saturday, January 26, 2013

Anime Review No. 48-El Hazard the Magnificent World 2

"Lost Potential", El Hazard: The Magnificent World 2

1997 OVA, 4 episodes

Studio: AIC

Genres: Adventure, comedy, fantasy

This time around, I figure I do the same thing I did for the Nadesico movie review. I'll tell you about most of it. Trust me, you are not missing much. El Hazard: The Magnificent World is quite possibly one of the best OVAs that AIC ever put out (Tenchi Muyo and Oh My Goddess are a bit better). However, the sequel is well, an entirely different beast altogether. It is a disappointing and inconsistent mess. Let's get started!

Episode 1 The Bride of Roshtaria

We start with an exposition dump by Princess Rune, you know, the character who did next to bum kiss in the original OVA. Great way to start, I must say. Then the opening, which is just that not good and tries so hard to be epic like the original OVA's opening song. This is evident by the fact that strands of that theme music do come through is some desperate attempt to say 'Oh don't worry, this is good I swear'. There is a rather noticeable shift in the art design where it is a bit sloppy and inconsistent. But that's the least of this OVA's problems.

The crew from the original OVA are dealing with the wedding of Miz and Mr. Fujisawa. Miz is naturally excited about it, with her innate desire of being a housewife and stable income, even having a humorous flashback to the drunken proposal. Mr. Fujisawa, on the other hand, isn't really ready and for really petty and vague reasons. So much so, that he doesn't even show up to the ceremony. When confronted of it by Makoto, he says he needs to "find the man within" or he's useless. Miz, to say the least, takes it real well by nearly flooding the capital.

Also, there's a subplot involving Princess Fatora and Aielle and their funny antics. Fatora, being a rather frisky lesbian (as you do), tries to seduce Nanami by disguising herself as Makoto. However, this is a total failure. So far, they are the most enjoyable part so far in this OVA.

Once she is calmed down, the crew gets ready and mobilized on a journey to find Fujisawa-sensei. They figure that he went to Mountain Lilly-Coco, which is a place of mediation, and bring him back to his senses. They stop off for the night at a desert hamlet, where not much happens aside from more antics by Fatora, this time targeting Shayla-Shayla. Again, it goes hilariously terrible.

Then, we cut to Queen Diva and Jinnai, he still being his crazy usual self. They, along with a small group of Bugroms, are searching for resources for the Bugrom Army. But, they stumble onto a cave and Jinnai find a key-staff, similar to Ifurita's. After a few obstacles, they reach the core of the cave: another like Ifurita ('demon doll' as Jinnai puts it).

Well, this is an interesting setup for the story. Though, the ending song sounds like a rejected disco track. Moving on...

Episode 2 Awakening of Kalia

This opens with a recap of the end of Episode 1. Jinnai awakens the new weapon, named Kalia. She is a bit of a foil to Ifurita. She's a bit brash, impulsive, out-going and rebellious, much to Jinnai's chagrin. She also has never heard of Ifurita, which is a bit baffling, but I will let slide for now.

Our crew is still on their way to the Mountain Lilly-Coco. An accident by Shayla-Shayla crashes their hovercarft and they end up land in some sort of 'micro-dimension' or a hidden place masked by an illusory spell. It has flora and fauna that El Hazard had in ages past, looking much like a paradise rather then the desert wasteland that much of the land is. This is where the OVA turns into a completely different story, and its a bit jarring.

Ifurita appears, but there's a catch: She doesn't know Makoto or his friends. Her appearance here is another baffling thing that just raises too many fecking questions, so I won't bother now. To put it simply, this is 'another' Ifurita who has lived with an old scientist, Yuba Yurius. The place is a 'living time capsule'. It turns out Yuba is another traveler from another dimension, much like Makoto. He reveals the heart of the shrine houses a machine now activated ('The Trigger of Destruction'). This is particularly interesting, as lost ancient technology was explored in the original OVA (The Eye of God).

Jinnai and Kalia are heading over to the same place They bump into Mr. Fujisawa who has gotten lost in the desert near the hidden place, which he stumbles into by shear accident. The gang is all back together, at long last. Jinnai hatches a plan of deception to get in by pretending to be nice and kind. This leads into really awkward and cliched scenes with Jinnai playing up being nice, which you think wouldn't work, but it does. However, Jinnai's plot does downhill in part due to Kalia, who its turns out that she is also an evil and heartless villain.

Episode 3 Ifurita Farewell to Destiny

The battle against Kalia begins. Jinnai gets relegated to side character, not even a joke villain (he's still enjoyable in the scenes he's in). The Plan: Jinnai will activate the 'Trigger of Destruction' with Kalia's assistance.

This ensues lots of fighting between the three priestesses and Kalia who like Ifurita can mirror and project back the priestesses' power. This is interluded with various other scenes. There's a quiet Moment between Yuba and Ifurita; a very touching but too short for worth. Fujisawa has a "Manning Up" moment which is pretty good. Unfortunately, there is also a few scenes so trite or cliched I won't even happen.

Now the problems of this story come into place: a bit too much going on all at once which makes the episode drag more then the previous two episodes. The story has lost all sense of coherence and focus that even the first episode had in spades.

In addition, the story lacks any sort of urgency and concern that came with the original OVA; at times I kept asking myself: what's the point of all this? So what if Kalia activates the superweapon? Unsure of what will happen, but it has to taken care of since Kalia's evil.

An there's another problem: Kalia is just plain evil for no good or explained reason. The Shadow Clan and Ifurita from the 1st OVA had nuance, maybe not a lot but enough to empathize with them. Not the case with Kalia, as she turns on Jinnai and activates the 'Trigger of Destruction'. Oh noes!!!

Episode 4 Promise of Reunion

The 'Trigger of Destruction' turns out to be a giant war-ship with tremendous power. Ah so that wheres all the budget went to, I see. It does look quite impressive and menacing, as any doomsday weapon should be.

Meanwhile, Makoto and friends regroup. Ifurita is non-functioning so Yuba and Makoto set to revive her, but Yuba dies at the cost of reviving her. What a shame. Now there's impetus to get rid of the superweapon but too little too late. The ending is a lot like the final episode of the 1st OVA. Heck, the final confrontation between Makoto and Kalia is both too short and too late to add nuance to Kalia. Once again too little, too late. The warship melts away into a gooey mess. Wow, what an anticlimax.

Fujisawa rescues Miz, resolving their plot thread (that I didn't care for) and a tad pointless at this final point in the story. Yes, the plot thread that propels this OVA that then gets thrown aside like a used towel halfway through episode 2 and not resolve towards the end.

Finally, the Epilogue:

Jinnai and his bugs pick up some of the remnants, proclaiming he will be back, the crazy nutter.
There's another farewell to another Ifurita, placing a plot thread that goes nowhere. The Wedding between Miz and Fujisawa takes place, which I don't care for so moving on. The last note of the OVA is Fujisawa and Makoto getting chased by Nanami, Shayla-Shayla and Miz. Yeah, brilliant /sarc.

Good Haruhi this sucked. The story has little to no focus or coherence, the characters haven't really developed much since the first OVA, Kalia just doesn't work as a villain, etc. That's not to mention the art/character design which is also lacking. The only great thing I can say is that the dub actually makes this bearable. The entire cast from the first one return, and give it their all despite the poor material given to them. But the worse thing about this OVA is how potential is lost. This could have been great, like the first OVA. Instead, it just recycles concepts and ideas from the first one with a slight redressing. I can't in good faith recommend this, just watch the original OVA and stick to that.

See you laterz

The Eclectic Dude

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Anime Review No. 47-Martian Successor Nadesico Movie

"See what you can do to explain this shit to me"
Martian Successor Nadesico The Motion Picture (The Prince of Darkness)
Written and directed by Tatsuo Sato
Studio(s): Xebec and Production IG
Genre: mecha, scifi, space opera, satire

So, it has been a while. Between dealing with a dead laptop and getting ready for the last term of tech school, I've been quite busy. Then again, I still intend on sticking to my review blog schedule as much as possible. So, onto the subject of this review.

Martian Successor Nadesico (or Nadesico for short) is space opera TV series from 1996-97. If Evangelion is considered the turning point for mecha anime, then Nadesico can be considered the turning point for space opera anime. Previous entries in this genre were shows like Macross or Gundam, rich in action and high flung drama. While Nadesico does have these elements at first, it swiftly becomes a tale of intrigue, political/social satire, among other things. In fact, Nadesico is a far better show then Evangelion, including relatable/likable characters, coherent plot and motivation, etc., which are woefully absent in Eva I dare say.

Unfortunately, this series fell pretty quickly from the awareness of most anime fans, except for 90s anime geeks like yours truly. This is partly due to the fact that it is a unfinished series. The first and only season ends on an episode where most but not all of the plot points are resolved, leaving one hanging. It felt like a season finale, but not a series finale is what I'm getting. Instead, we get this movie. Oh yeah, spoilers ahoy.

The opening credits with company logos are similar to those from End of Eva, a film that came out a year previous. This is not a good sign, as most anime fans worth their salt will tell you. First thing in the movie I notice is that wow, this is like the TV series if it had a fecking budget (for 1998 though). It has some quite impressive visuals, even some very nice CGI for the time. What follows is a series of scenes that don't make a lot of sense unless you have watched the TV series so I won't bother mentioning.

First part of the movie feels like the TV series, well the later episodes when it got dark and serious. Some rebellion is going on at a space colony out in space , and the Nadesico is sent out to deal with it, with Ruri Hoshino as commander with two new guys under her command, Saruboto and Hari (who like Ruri is an re-engineered person able to communicate with spaceships). Now, I'll admit like Ruri from the TV series. She's one of the more interesting secondary characters, with episode 18 involving her backstory being one of my favorites. Anyway, Ruri Hoshino is now 15, so this movie takes place 3 years after the events of the TV series. Though, something seems off with her. She comes across, in terms of actions and dialogue, as more cold and distant than she was in the TV series, much less in the later part.

There is some exposition on boson jumping which is only for people who haven't the TV series. To be fair that might be part of the point, to grab the attention of audience members who hadn't yet seen the TV series. Anyway, this becomes important as it is revealed that secret boson jumping experiments are taking place within the space colony. Of course, just as that happens, a mysterious message (OTIKA) starts popping up everywhere in message screens throughout the colony.
Of course this mysterious element is quickly and predictably revealed as AKITO backwards. Akito is the main character, a young reluctant man who rather cook than fight in a giant robot, however cool that may be. He's generally nice and calm guy, but when he gets angry or outraged (as he did often in the TV series), watch out.
But a battle develops at the space colony. Ryoko (one of the female mecha pilot for the Nadesico) makes her return (with her natural dark hair inside of green dye job she had in the series) kicks some ass which is really neat. In the middle of this, a mysterious figure in a dark bulky mecha with an equally mysterious girl ('Lapis') appears. But in a twist, it turns out the second in command for the space colony conducts a double-cross. He is revealed as the Leader of the 'Martian Successor' rebel group.

In another interesting plot development, the mysterious figure (revealed as Akito) wanted to open up a secret gate on the space colony, which reveals... The Martian Ruins aka The Black Box of Boson Jumping, something that came into play in the last few episodes of the TV series. The Black Box then unveils, in a rather visual scene rather like a blooming flower, Yurika trapped in some crystalline shell. I like this, as finally there's a point to this movie

Then it comes to a different sort of movie: a nostalgic road trip. They are going to the new Nadesico C and need some of the old crew. Characters like the Prospector, Hikaru (a struggling mangaka), Izumi (bar hostess), Ms. Amano, Ms. Howmei (restaurant owner/chef), etc. This is interspersed with flashbacks to the TV series, which are nice but a bit pointless. Now, while it is nice to see these characters, I have to ask: What's the point? Hell when one of your characters (Hari) points how ridiculous this is, then you got an issue. So enough on that, because half of the characters don't really benefit or deter the plot. Moving on....
We cut back to the main action, as it seems Yurika is still sending out 'AKITO' messages and the MS rebels can't really figure out what. In order for boson jumping to occur, Yurika needs to be 'emotionally stable'. The scientists looking into this issue are getting inspiration... from shoujo magazines?! This is the breaking point in the movie for me. Oh my god that is so stupid and makes little to no feckin' sense!!!

Cut back to the nostalgic snooze fest, which is pointless anyway so moving on again....

The scientists are reading the shoujo mags. OMG it is still stupid!!! They think this will work? What you read in manga clearly and obviously does not reflect reality at all. Granted, Nadesico TV did have some silly moments, at least they made sense. And you know what, it fecking work, damn it!! ARGH!!!!!

Hari participates in a boson jumping experiment coordinated with the Nergal and Inez Fressange (whose not revealed unless you've the series) to the moon. I'm sure this will in no way lead to conclusion of the space colony battle. Wink, wink.

At last, we come to the graveyard scene where Ruri and Ms Amano see Akito, in full black garb, there praying at the supposed grave of him and Yurika. It is a very tense and dramatic scene, which is something this movie needed to have more of. However, before much happens, some assassins for the rebel group come by to capture both Akito and Ruri, for some vaguely explained reasons. But, Tsukomi (character from the series not explained) shows up to fight and after a brief struggle the assassins tap out and leave. There is a brief cut back to the crew going off via shuttle to the new Nadesico. There is also a flashback to the graveyard where there was an exchange between Ruri and Akito which is chilling to say the least, so I won't spoil it.

However, some rebel fighters attack the escort group with the shuttle that has the crew inside. Oh noes, dramatic third act tension! Meanwhile the multiple boson jumping experiment continues, with Inez Fressange (introduced after the fact) as convenient exposition dumper, telling the audience stuff already known before this point, though it is a nice little throwback to the TV series.

The MS stage an ambush on the UEF HQ and run into a concert by Akatsuki, Megumi, the Howmei girls, and the Prospector. This is an very odd but somewhat clever turn as stuff like this would happen in the series: Doing something light hearted in face of great danger, with lots of energy and enthusiam. But the UEF with assistance by Ruri and the Nadesico C completely turns the tables on the MS group and their plans. Using what, you ask? Why, with multiple boson jumping of course! Oh how lovely /sarc. The MS group rebels just surrender like that, well there goes the tension.

However, before we reach the end, there is one last battle between Akito/Lapis and the MS assassins. Akito beats the crap out of all of them, that's all.

The final scene is upon us: Yurika awakens, for who knows what reason. Honestly, I can't care enough. Akito departs, with word or anything, which is just great. Ruri makes some vague statements about pursuing him to the end of space, but since this was the last thing with Nadesico involved, that's a plot point left forever unresolved.

And that's the Nadesico Movie, how is it? Not bad but not good. I am still on the fence on this movie. On one hand, it has some very nice visuals which give it some epic feel to the proceedings. On the other hand, it is uneven in all other categories: characters, plot, comedy, etc. It feels like a mish-mash of good scripts thrown into a blender and then taped back together. Which is a shame as
there is a 'good story' here, but it is waded down by a lack of focus on it.

I would really only recommend this movie to people only if you watch the TV series at least once, that way you gain a proper understanding of what goes on with the movie.

Next review is over El Hazard The Magnificent World OVA 2 on January 26th.

See you then

The Eclectic Dude

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Update: January/February 2013 Reviews

Yay! Finally got a new laptop-Windows 7 (3 years later then most but whatever)

As such, here's a revised schedule for the next two months:

Saturday January 12th: Nadesico Movie

Saturday January 26th: El Hazard TMW 2

Sunday February 3rd: Sakura Wars Ecole de Paris

Saturday February 16th: His and Her Circumstances (Valentines Day Special)

Sunday  February 24th: Spice and Wolf

See you next weekend for the Nadesico Movie review

The Eclectic Dude