Saturday, March 22, 2014

Anime Review No. 77-Mardock Scramble The First Compression

Mardock Scramble The First Compression 2010 Movie

Studio-GoHands, Director-Susumu Kudo, Writer: Tow Ubukata

Well, yeah it is very violent as I said weeks ago. This time, well its Mardock Scramble. Based on the novel by Tow Ubukata, who also wrote the screenplay, Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is the first in a trilogy of 3 short films, as this installment clocks in about 60 minutes.

Now, here’s the summary, so spoilers behold below. In the far off future, a young prostitute named Rune Balot is introduced and then ends dying after a run-in with a particularly nasty customer, in a rather nasty way to go, I must say. But she is rescued by a scientist Dr. Easter and reborn as a cyborg, preserve through the Mardock Scramble 09 system (heh title drop).She is asked to assist in the investigations behind Shell Septinos, who is involved in illegal activities and the guy responsible for her untimely death. She is teamed up with Oeufcoque, a biomechanical entity.They try to go to court so they can get Shell in jail, but unfortunately they hit a snag when her tragic past is brought up and the justice system isn’t too kind towards lowly Rune Balot, even if she was killed unneeded. Of course, the battle is far from won as it will be fought against some hired hands that Shell Septinos, all whom are in some way rather nasty and disturbing psychotics.

After some training with Dr. Easter, Rune is ready for a fight. Last 10 minutes or so involves Rune Balot with Oeufcoque fighting off the mooks piecemeal. Highlight of the movie itself-nice, slick and to the point. Though, She nearly loses it towards the end. Final showdown is against Shell Septinos' main henchman but ends on a cliffhanger and cuts to credits while....Amazing Grace is playing?! What?! Yeah, somehow I imagine a trilogy was expected as Movie 1 is more like a prologue.

Rune Balot is an interesting enigma. She is very detached from the world, yet builds a nice rapport with Oeufcoque. In addition, she led a truly sad, twisted and tragic life. Yet, when she is with Oeufcoque she is a witty and smart-alecky, and the banter between the two are a treat in this movie. Apart from those two, the other characters in this movie are stock at best,with barely any characterization past the surface. Then again, this serves as the introductory piece to this story.

To be frank, this is a bloody and dark, mature affair. In many ways, it seems to be a throwback to the bloody, grimdark late 80s/90s OVA era from which anime more or less sprung from in the states (CyberCity Oedo 808, Ghost in the Shell, Armitage III etc) in a sense. It is a bit vague on the sci-fi details but adequate enough for the proceedings. I’m sure that more details will come in the other 2 movies and the novel. This feels like something from 20 years prior but with better production values.

Now, while the movie might be short on plot or characters, it sure looks and sounds pretty. It is a lavish production and has high quality values. GoHands is an offshoot of former employees from Satelight and known for anime such as Princess Lover, K and most recently last fall’s Coppelion. There are nice use of colors and shadows to enforce a grimdark atmosphere. Music is an eclectic mix of rapid fire punchy music and slow, plodding music.

The dub: oh boy, here we go: Steven Foster, who directed and wrote the dub script for this movie. This is the first time I am talking about a Steven Foster dub and certainly not the last (though THAT series is for a review down the road to be sure). Not saying he's a bad ADR Director/Scriptwriter but he is rather inconsistent with his dub work, especially in comparison to the other directors/writers in the Sentai stable, what few they are. For every good/entertaining dub (Ghost Stories, Cromartie High, Pani Poni Dash, Horizon series, etc) he goes a hack job (HOTD, Medaka Box, Kill Me Baby, etc). Granted, this was dubbed back in 2011 when Steve Foster was very much the go-to guy for Sentai Filmworks dub work as opposed to now when it’s not clear whether or not he doing that stuff anymore.

Thankfully, this is definitely in the good category at the very least. Aside from a higher level of profanity that wasn't in the original Japanese, the writing is rather tact and the performances are very good as well. In particular, Hilary Haag as Rune Balot and Andy McAvin as Oeufcoque give noteworthy performances. The rest of the cast seems appropriate for the roles and do a serviceable job. If you have seen enough ADV dubs, there are some recognizable voices but that’s about it. In fact, it’s hard to really call this a ‘Sentai Filmworks’ dub (more nebulous if you press me) as most of the cast is made up of ADV veterans, but since it came out in 2011 that’s most likely a trend of early Sentai Filmworks dub work.

So, in all fairness I can’t really recommend this by itself. Granted its good as a prologue with decent action and atmosphere but thats about it. It is also very dark and violent so if you are squirmy against that, you're best off staying away then. I suppose if you are curious, either get the other two movies (final one is out in the States next week) or perhaps check out the novel, which I plan on doing so. I do own the second movie as well and plan on doing a review for that, slated for later in the year and a possible review for the third movie once I get it and sit down to watch it.

So, next? Well, I figure its time for a primer….a harem primer. But don’t worry, I am not covering some trashy/crap show in that genre. Nah, quite frankly a recent entry in the genre that is quite overlooked, at least by me.
Dude gets all the ladies xDD
‘Til next time, dear readers….

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anime Review No. 76-Baccano


Summer/Fall 2007 TV Series, 16 episodes

Studio-Brains Base, Director-Takahiro Omori, Writer: Noboru Takagi

Well, well time to put out a review on another of my Top 10 Favorites. It was FLCL in January, now for this month, its you guess it, Baccano. Its a story of love, violence, thrills and chills indeed!

Note: I am basing my review off of the US DVD Viridian Collection from late 2010 the Funimation released. The license for this show is now in Aniplex's hands so good luck getting it on BD as they charge by an arm and a leg here.

So, what's Baccano about? Well, it concerns the adventures and events surrounding a large group of various characters-some are gangsters engaged in a turf war, others are trapped on the famous train The Flying Pussyfoot with the mysterious killer The Rail Tracer, and a few observing from the sidelines while some plot concerning immortals brews about. It is a fun and wild ride to be sure, especially since Baccano is Italian for 'ruckus, quite apt for this series.

That is about all I am talking about the plot/story, because its a tad complicated and I don't wish to spoil the show for anyone. You see, Baccano relies greatly on multi threaded story lines and a large ensemble cast. Now, in the hands of a lesser production, this could easily falter into chaos. Thankfully, this is not the case. The direction is kinetic and fast-paced, not taking too many breaths in between the quick-paced action. The many story lines, though staggering at first, by the end makes sense as it reveals how intricately connected together they all are. Scenes are often played several times, but from different perspectives. In addition, the story moves almost effortlessly between past and present without causing confusion. The large ensemble cast complements the multiple story lines in that it allows most of the characters time for development.

Episode 13 is certainly a good ending point for most of the plot and character points as Episodes 14-16 are OVA episodes released after the initial TV broadcast. The remaining 3 episodes mostly tie up some of the other plot and character elements. Thankfully, its not superficial fluff and just as entertaining. Final scene ends the show as it begins-the VP and Carol talk about the appeal of storytelling and how the story never really ends. Honestly, this I quite like as it seems to me that the story may end now, but that doesn't mean its over and one should move on.

Of course, I do have some favorites in the cast. For one thing, Ladd Russo-the mad man with a plan I suppose. I absolutely love this character, as I find him to be the pure embodiment of the show: reveling in its own madness and insanity without apology or restraint. It does help that Ladd is charismatic enough for me to root, even if he is a violent bastard. Heck, he has a girlfriend that shares a relationship that is both sweet and terrifying. The guy revels in insanity, and yet seemingly aware he is mad.

Of course, he narrowly beats out the main couple of the show: Isaac and Miria, a thief duo modeled off of Bonnie and Clyde. While they serve mainly as comic relief and a respite from all the violence, they aren't too annoying. In fact, they are somewhat charming and you actually believe that they are a couple with some brilliant and heartwarming chemistry.

Granted, the story is helped by great music and animation. The Opening song is swinging and full of energy, nice and jazzy, certainly a favorite of mine right behind the ROD TV theme. The animation is fairly realistic and brutal-plenty of gory violence and grim color palette (browns, grays. Etc). Even the low budget tricks (like the repetition of scenes in episode 2 is quite clever) are impressive. Overall, its very consistent in the animation department.

The 1987 film Untouchables is cited as an influence, and especially in the NYC gang wars plot line that's certainly true. Inf fact, much like what the Gunsmith Cats staff went to Chicago, some of the Japanese staff went to New York to see the locations that show up in the series, notably Chinatown and Little Italy among others, and it certainly shows in the backgrounds and details, especially in the parts that take place in NYC.

Finally the english dub is probably the other reason to watch Baccano. In fact, you are best off watching it in english, as it is awesome. If you want proof the Funimation is the top dog when it comes to anime dub productions, look no farther then this show. Its well casted in just about every role, even the bit parts. Granted a lot of Funimation regulars appear in this dub, though you might not recognise many as they use period accents quite effectively. ADR Director Tyler Walker watched lots of gangster films in order to prep for the dub production on Baccano and he went out of his way to bring in new talent for the dub. Some standout performances include Bryan Massey as the manic Ladd Russo along with J. Michael Tatum and Caitlin Glass as the gleefully mad thief duo of Isaac and Miria. If the Ef series can be considered a definitive Sentai Filmworks dub, then Baccano is in the running for the definitive Funimation dub certainly. If you must ask, the other shows in that running include: FMA '03, Desert Punk, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt and some others I can't name off the top of my head at the moment.

Overall Baccano is a great show and I heartily recommend this to anyone asking about anime recommendations. Be sure to check this show out, if you haven't seen it. At first I felt this was too over-hyped, then after watching it, I can say that hype is well deserved.

Well next's up you ask? Well..... its certainly violent for one thing....
Surprise trailer ^_^

'Til next time, dear readers.....