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The Mike Toole Show - Kawajiri Cavalcade


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Chrno2



Joined: 28 May 2004
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:10 pm Reply with quote
The one thing I could say about Kawajir's work it's that it's very flashy. His style is very distinct when compared to others. Even his older work still holds. His visuals where you always see a flash of light that is almost blinding. Like the moonlight hitting at the right moment. Or the fact that everything has a sort of "midnight" hue to it. Lots of darks, whites and blue hues and deep reds. It's like looking at animated wall scroll drawing. Even his older stuff when restored looks like a brand new piece all over again.

My first exposure to Kawajiri's work would have to fall in the camp of 'Wicked City'. I remember hearing about it in HS. Every guy that had at least seen a "bootleg" of that film always mentioned one specific part of that film. You could only imagine how wild and in your face the adult aspect of anime was during that time. It was something not many had encountered. Lets keep in mind that 'Legend of the Overfiend' supposedly came a think a year or so before or after 'Wicked City'. I wouldn't see that until the mid 90's and again in the 2000. But I had been curious to see 'Wicked City'. On just about every traded copy of 'Iczer-1' copies, where the company 'Emotion' could be seen promos for 'Wicked City' could be seen. This was the movie the boys when apesh*t over. Now looking back on it 20+ years later it feels like any other creepy live action adult horror. The whole "shock" factor over one scene isn't so much a big deal anymore because as you get older you understand the construction of visuals in Asian horror films. But I have to admit I was pretty amazed at film as a whole. I didn't see 'Ninja Scroll' until they aired it on the Sci-Fi Channel years ago as part of their weekend "anime" special hours. Eventually I recommended that my job replace their VHS copy and I rented it out. This would be the first time I'm watched the film in it's original format. One thing Kawajiri is good at is "visuals". He knows how to grab the attention of his audience. Even when the film slows down you can't help but look stay immersed in the world he creates. Even with his share of "somewhat graphic sex", it's all part of the package and doesn't seem too overblown. Of course his level of action is filled with it's share of violence. It's never a dull day in any 'Kawajiri' film. But you can also get good storytelling as well. I often wonder what Kawajiri's inspiratons were for his distinctive artstyle. His men are drawn bold and dark and his women like painted porcelain with bright ruby lips while definitely displaying a look that is remotely Asian.

I just recently purchased 'Ninja Scroll' because I wanted to complete my collection of his works. Wicked City is a favorite of mine so I wanted to add a few other works by him, like a
Wind Named Amnesia, Birdy and Demon City Shinjuku.

I wonder when he's ever going to get that other Ninja Scroll sequel out. Folks have been waiting a long time now.
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penguintruth



Joined: 08 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:24 pm Reply with quote
It's weird that Kawajiri didn't want his name on Gotham Knight, since his short was the best part.

I own Cyber City Oedo for its pure cheese factor. It's such an awful work, a real stinker, but hilariously so. It's right up there with Angel Cop and The Humanoid.

Kawajiri contributed to Legend of the Galactic Heroes, so I guess he can be forgiven for Demon City Shinjuku.
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Shenl742
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:31 pm Reply with quote
I appreciate Kawajiri as a filmmaker, and I even genuinly like a few of his efforts, but even back in the day I felt a lot of his stuff wasn't for me.

I still wonder how people could find a lot of the characters in his stuff attractive, especially the female ones. With their heavily pointed chins and perpetually half-closed eyes they just remind me of praying mantis or something!
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danilo07



Joined: 25 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:35 pm Reply with quote
When I first saw some his work for the first time I pretty much hated the hell out of it.It was really something that I didn't want anime to be associated with (flashy action stuff along with meaningless exploitative violent scenes and no real substance).But now I find it to be decently entertaining,I will most likely check his other stuff out I am having my eyes on Cyber City Oedo 808(I like weird animes).
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bj_waters



Joined: 18 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:48 pm Reply with quote
I admit that I am a Toonami kid, so Kawajiri was a bit before my time in anime fandom. I had heard of Ninja Scroll, but still haven't seen it yet. However, reading through this article makes me think I would like quite a bit of his work.

Also, I would second the demand for a Blu-Ray version of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (the only Kawajiri work I've seen). That would be so pretty.
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Keichitsu0305



Joined: 24 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:50 pm Reply with quote
I've only seen Demon City Shinjuku, Wicked City, and Birdy the Mighty OVAs so far and while I did enjoy both versions of Birdy, I'm on the fence when it comes to the other two. There are moments where the protagonist could easily be killed by whatever is attacking them but, rather than go for the kill, the villains will spend so much time just slashing away. Probably just a stylish factor but I found it annoying at times.

I will admit that there was one scene in Shinjuku that I found to be so somber in tone and truly sad that it took me by surprise. I like the "look" and animation quality of Kawajiri (that's mainly because of his affiliation with Madhouse) but I'm not a complete fan of his work. I do respect his contributions to anime though.
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enurtsol



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:07 pm Reply with quote
Shenl742 wrote:

I still wonder how people could find a lot of the characters in his stuff attractive, especially the female ones. With their heavily pointed chins and perpetually half-closed eyes they just remind me of praying mantis or something!


Maybe he wants them to look more like Japanese faces? Confused
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Shenl742
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:28 pm Reply with quote
enurtsol wrote:
Shenl742 wrote:

I still wonder how people could find a lot of the characters in his stuff attractive, especially the female ones. With their heavily pointed chins and perpetually half-closed eyes they just remind me of praying mantis or something!


Maybe he wants them to look more like Japanese faces? Confused


Whoa, hmm. Honestly never thought about that connection. Definatley no offense meant!

It's just that it's mostly only the women (or higlhly feminine men) in his films who have that look, and I always took the eyes as being "trying way too hard to look seductive"
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Zump



Joined: 30 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:17 pm Reply with quote
Great article! I look forward to reading your articles about directors because they often delve deep into the director's work ethic and approach to direction, information that is seldom mentioned elsewhere.

I've been a big fan of Kawajiri since I frist saw Wicked City. I was quite taken with the OAV's visual aesthetic (extreme uses of red and blue colors) and the premise of hideous monsters that disguise themselves as humans, and I would like to see more horror stories take a similar approach. I haven't seen too many horror stories as stylized as Wicked City and Demon City Shinjuku. Kemonozume certainly came close in terms of overall premise, only with a drastically different visual aesthetic.

Demon City, despite its by-the-numbers plot, is a fun romp. Cyber City is awesome, and the dub actually adds some flavor to the experience by making the three criminals seem even more hardened. Goku was good, but I really wish it had been longer. I would have liked to have seen at least one more episode.

I'm probably one of the few people who doesn't hate Lensman. I'm sure it's a travesty for fans of the novels, but I find it to be persistently watchable on a visual level. It has some great set pieces and excellent animation by a number of top tier animators, including future directors Koji Morimoto and Yasuomi Umetsu.
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walw6pK4Alo



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:50 pm Reply with quote
bj_waters wrote:
I admit that I am a Toonami kid, so Kawajiri was a bit before my time in anime fandom. I had heard of Ninja Scroll, but still haven't seen it yet. However, reading through this article makes me think I would like quite a bit of his work.

Also, I would second the demand for a Blu-Ray version of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (the only Kawajiri work I've seen). That would be so pretty.


I suppose ignorance of a titles existence is the best reason for not seeking it out should the premise, description, or synopsis intrigue you. That's the only way "before my time" can work, otherwise nearly everything is available in some form.

I want BDs of all Kawajiri materials, they're all beautiful, especially episode three of OEDO. I love the way the space station and vampire aesthetic meld so seamlessly, obviously affecting how the art would work in Bloodlust. It might not be the smartest, most refined, or deepest OVA of the day, but it is beautiful and earnest. The protagonist from episode 1 always reminded me of Bean Bandit for some reason, and that OVA can much be described in the same way. (BD for one that is stunning).

I notice Mike didn't make any mention of Kawajiri's adaptations of Tezuka's Phoenix manga. They're not as strong as Rintaro's short film or the feature length one from 1980, but they're worth checking out if you're interesting in either man's breadth of work. I haven't been in anime since 1990 like most of you guys writing these articles, but were those ever available in North America? I know there's tons of anime that had been available on VHS but then slipped into absolute obscurity with no DVD re-release like Genmu Senki Leda. But if something was only ever available once on VHS, its ability to reach far have been limited until now, with digital distro.

Slipstream, along with Area 88, are some of the best dogfighting anime in existence. Macross always has plane action, but often too muddled with explosions and too many combatants on screen. You rarely get that one-on-one scene, and even more rare is to have the appropriate direction. Also, Sky Captain Harlock can't be beat.
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ActionJacksin



Joined: 16 Dec 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:55 pm Reply with quote
Wonderful article Mike.

I was always intrigued to see Kawajiri's work, but it wasn't until about a year that I finally watched Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. For what they are, they're decent, hyper-kinetic, borderline erotic action flicks but what really sold me on Kawajiri was Cyber City Oedo

I don't know why but I guess it's because it was action packed but not filled with fetishistic violence, making it one of Kawajiri's most accessible works. In fact, first time I sat through it I couldn't help but feel that if this OAV were a 13 or 26 episode TV series, it could've perhaps had the longevity and staying power of something like Trigun or Outlaw Star. Alas, it doesn't, but hey maybe at some point this could see a Discotek release (hopefully with remastered video from the R2 DVDs and not CPM's crummy looking yet extras filled composite mastered discs).

Oh and you mentioned the Manga UK dub, which is so corny and hard-edged it fits the show like a glove. But did you know about the redone score Manga did for their original PAL VHS tapes (circa 1995)? Apparently it was done by a guy named Rory MacFarlane, and honestly I think it surpasses the Kazz Toyama's overly Casio synth sounding score. Here are a few clips:

http://www.youtube.com/​watch?​v=​BlZakDfseyo

http://www.youtube.com/​watch?​v=​F62Auose4BA&​t=​4m30s

http://www.youtube.com/​watch?​v=​whMpCEo4iH4

Sadly, these were only released in the UK on Manga's original VHS release, and CPM of course got the same dub but with the original Japanese music instead. Unfortunate, since it's a great score and some scenes really benefit from it, especially the third clip with Sengoku fighting Amachi, the ZOMBIE ROBOT SCIENTIST OUT FOR REVENGE BY KNOCKING DOWN A BUILDING!
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Ian K



Joined: 18 Dec 2008
Posts: 237

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:02 am Reply with quote
I've been working my through some of the largely forgotten classics, including a number of Kawajiri's works. I enjoyed most of them to varying degrees, but Biohunter kind of broke me - I can see how that Kawajiri-scripted piece didn't get a mention in the article!

Quote:
Kawajiri's Birdy is recognizably the same characters and story, but remarkably different, with scarier monsters, more kinetic action scenes, and a more focused, taciturn version of the heroine.


Mike, I think you're doing the TV series a disservice. The OVA has great, traditional animation - but the TV series features many high-quality, animator-driven fight scenes in the looser, more fluid style. Picking one over the other is a matter of taste, but if this isn't kinetic enough for you (SPOILERS FOR THE LAST EPISODE), then I just don't know anymore.

Lastly, Lensman: Apparently it was dubbed twice, with significant differences. Any advice on which (or both, or neither) are worth watching?
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vanfanel



Joined: 26 Dec 2008
Posts: 573

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:50 am Reply with quote
Great article! My first exposure to VHD: Bloodlust was in a theater on Halloween with one of my best friends -- truly a geeking-out night to remember. I'd love to see Kawajiri do another VHD someday.

Eventually, I read the VHD novel that that movie was based on, and as the story went along it became clear that Kawajiri had made a ton of changes to the original story -- but here's the thing: each and every one of them was a change for the better.
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Kidnicky



Joined: 15 Jan 2010
Posts: 78

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:04 pm Reply with quote
Agree with Penguin, the Deadshot anime was awesome, if it were me I'd want the credit.

Surprised to see a mention of Lensman without Green Lantern. For those who don't know, the GL concept is basically a ripoff of Lensman ( supposedly, I've never read Lensman myself).
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ryanvamp



Joined: 08 May 2007
Posts: 100

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:57 pm Reply with quote
This was a FANTASTIC article. This section, the X-Button and House of 1000s Mangas are the main reasons I regularly check ANN. Of course, sometimes it's fun to check out the latest review of a current popular anime and see the wild reactions when something gets a bad score, but that's just a guilty pleasure.

Back to Kawajiri himself; I saw Ninja Scroll back in the day and loved it, but I gotta admit it was mainly for the visuals. But considering this is a visual medium and the story was ok, that's more than enough.

A lot of years passed since then and it was only recently that I stumbled upon Cyber City Oedo. (I didn't know they were done by the same guy). Those ovas...I loved them in every possible way. My main gripe is how there are a couple of loose-ends that never get resolved. Like a previous poster said, I would have loved for a 13 episodes sequel to expand upon them but it wasn't meant to be. One thing that bothers me though is how it's mainly remembered for the over the top vulgar dub, cause honestly I think the three episodes had so much more than that going for them: interesting premises, a good glimpse -cause of the standalone nature of it all- of the character's personalities and above all an exquisite taste regarding how it visually presented the enviroment that it's clearly absent in most of today's works (and I don't say that out of nostalgia, since I pretty much watch anything that interests me. Right now I'm going from stuff like Versailles no Bara to Btooom! & Humanity has declined, enjoyin them all to varying degrees).


Anyway I apologize for the wall of text, I just got inspired by such an informative article. I mainly wanted to thank Mike since I will check on Wicked City, Goku Midnight Eye & The Running Man.

Also, and even if it's not by Kawajiri, perhaps I will find some info about Outlaw Star since it was mentioned in a previous comment.
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