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TurnerJ's Anime

Seen some Rating Comment
Bastard!! (OAV) Weak Only saw one episode, but it looked to be really depressing and quite ugly to look at.
Berserk (TV 1997) Not really good Hmm... I'm ambivalent about this one, but I'll probably give it another try.
Chrono Crusade (TV) Good
Cowboy Bebop (TV) So-so Never really understood why this is so popular; I found it underwhelming and overrated.
Crying Freeman (OAV) Bad Very dreary, depressing violence/sex fest fare, choppily animated and flatly dubbed.
DEVILMAN crybaby (ONA) Not really good Despite some effectively moving moments and strong production values throughout, this revamp of Go Nagai's tale is as dark, nasty, nihilistic, ultra-violent, raunchy, and over-the-top as you would expect. It's depressing as well; the body count is very high in this show and there are some very gruesome deaths throughout. I personally don't like sitting through such stuff.
Excel Saga (TV) Very good Outrageously wacky and over-the-top.
GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka (TV) Good (sub), Very good (dub) I've only seen a few episodes, and I liked what I saw so far. Onizuka is a very funny hero and his "lessons" about dealing with life are a knockout.
Hellsing (TV) Good (sub), Very good (dub) Dark yet ornate horror series. Crispin Freeman is amazing as Arucard.
Inuyasha (TV) Good
(The) Irresponsible Captain Tylor (OAV)
Knight Hunters Eternity (TV) So-so (sub), Decent (dub)
Locke the Superman (movie) So-so
Magic User's Club! (OAV)
Mega Man (U.S. TV) Not really good Less said about this repetitive, formulaic, mechanical series, the better.
Pokémon (TV) Decent Not a huge fan of this show, but this is the favorite of another of my favorite actresses, Veronica Taylor.
RG Veda (OAV) Weak Very disappointing and short "fantasy" series. For a show of this kind, it drones on and on with cheaply animated, uninteresting action sequences. Give me RECORD OF LODOSS WAR any day.
Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (OAV) Bad AIEEE!!!! Even the TV series was better than this!
Ys (OAV) Weak Competent adaptation of popular Japanese videogame series, but still lacking. Plus, the dubbing isn't all that great, despite the prescence of talented actors and actresses.

Seen all Rating Comment
Ajin (TV) Good
Akira (movie) Worst ever (edit.dub), Masterpiece (dub & sub) Often hailed by many as the "Citizen Kane" of all Anime, AKIRA, based on director Katsuhiro Otomo's graphic novel series, still looks spectacular for a film made in 1988; its backgrounds are intricately detailed and the animation flows as smoothly as any Disney animated feature. That said, AKIRA is ABSOLUTELY NOT A CHILDREN'S FILM. As a matter of fact, it's one of the most violent, complicated, and nearly gruesome animated features I've ever sat through. The plot, which is basically compressed from 2,000 pages of story, takes a lot of scrutinizing to comprehend, with a rather twisted depiction of society. (It was even more confusing in the Streamline English dub; thank goodness Pioneer's superior translation helps clear the murkiness from the original, and is better acted overall.) It sets in a gritty, post-apocalyptic Tokyo in which its "heroes" are juvenile deliquent biker gangs and the "villains" are corrupt government politicians. The main plot point involves the "runt" of a biker gang, Tetsuo, who is horrifyingly transformed from a meek, insecure introvert into a dangerously violent psychopath with powers beyond his belief - all on account of an accident with a mysterious escapee from a lab. Basically, the whole story builds up to a cautionary message about the misuse of power and corruption, and it gets even more grisly in the last thirty minutes, but there are lots of subplots that seem random and/or unexplained - in particular, a nasty politician using a gang to take over the executive council, or a cult who pronounces "Akira" as their savior. All it boils down to is Tetsuo and his struggles with his "best friend", Kaneda, and his obsession to claim the power that is contributing to his madness. All this will be very hard for squeamish viewers to handle; nonetheless, AKIRA does earn five stars for its in-depth plot and technical brilliance, but only slightly. It's essential viewing for animation buffs, but a rather mean-spirited and gruesome one at that.
Animal Treasure Island (movie) Worst ever (dub), Good (sub) A primitive Toei production which also happens to be one of Hayao Miyazaki's earliest works, this is a comical take on the famous Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Lots of sword-swinging action and fast-paced sequences, and an interesting animation style that recalls Hanna-Barbera and UPA cartoons. Similar in tone to a later Toei film, PUSS IN BOOTS. WARNING: The dub on this is absolutely DREADFUL, which some of the most horrible voice work I've ever heard in a while. The main character especially--he sounds like a woman pretending to be a boy, unconvincingly so. Watch this one subbed.
Animation Runner Kuromi (OAV) Decent (sub), Very good (dub) Hilariously wacky, laugh-out-loud fun, but too short. We want MORE!!!! Lisa Ortiz is zany as the title character, and the rest of the cast add to the fun.
Animation Runner Kuromi 2 (OAV) Excellent More zany fun from Kuromi and company; best of all the voice casts return on both language tracks.
Appleseed (OAV) Not really good Dull, uninteresting, badly animated OVA with a dub that doesn't do much to enhance anything.
Armitage III: Poly-Matrix (movie) Decent Odd compilation of four-part OVA series, but buoyed by better-than-average performances by Elizabeth Berkley as the lead. Keifer Sutherland is overly deadpan with his role, but not enough to detract.
Birth (OAV) Bad (edit.dub), Decent (dub) Produced by the same creators who did the memorably tragic WINDARIA, this 80 minute OVA is a bizarre oddity indeed. Setting itself up as a somewhat cheaply animated, but fast-paced generic sci-fi action adventure, it derails spectacularly at the finale with an ending which not only uses cheap stills to wrap things up, but is particularly baffling. It's enough to make you wonder what the heck you just watched. It may have some points of interest, though, as the film is directed by Yoshinori Kanada, a Ghibli veteran. Like WINDARIA, Harmony Gold picked up BIRTH, omitted footage, renamed characters, and rewrote the script into an edit called "The Legend of the Talisman". ADV's now gone Monster Island Studios redubbed the whole OVA uncut many years later. I have only seen a little bit of the Harmony Gold edit, but it sounded pretty dull to me, and it gets points off for cutting footage. I will say that the Monster Island dub is pretty good, though. Not as amazing or memorable as their dubs for NADIA, YUCIE, DEVIL LADY, or other great works, but still superior to SAMURAI X, LOST UNIVERSE. James Phillip's Bao steals the show with a great character voice for his role, and Alexis Chamov's Rasa does loosen up after her initial stiff appearance in the beginning. The same is true for Bradley Carlin's Kim. Brent Werzner's Nam is great when in action, but a bit stiff at times. Still solid overall. And frankly, I'd rather watch this ADV dub compared to Harmony Gold's edit.
(The) Brave Frog (TV) Worst ever Keep in mind that the only version I saw of this was a badly compilated, 90-minute video. Either the cuts were so jarring or the dubbing was shrilly and obnoxious, but either way, this is a stinker.
Castle in the Sky (movie) Masterpiece (dub & sub) This terrific animated feature from Hayao Miyazaki follows two orphans who race a comical band of sky pirates and a villainous agent to find a fabled island in the clouds. One could say that the story and the characters are more archetypal than most other Miyazaki films, but that's such a petty complaint for such a delightful endeavor. Expertly staged, beautifully animated, the film is a fast-paced, funny, exciting, and ultimately magical action-adventure that holds up well after repeated viewings. Joe Hisaishi's musical score is fantastic, especially in the Disney-produced dub, where it is performed by a full orchestra. As far as the dub cast goes, James van der Beek and Anna Paquin both turn in decent if unspectacular performances as the leads (even though both sound more mature than their onscreen characters), but it's really Mark Hamill and Cloris Leachman that steal the show: both are impeccably cast as the film's very best characters--the evil agent Muska (one of the few characters in a Miyazaki movie to be irredeemably evil) and the cantankerous, feisty pirate captain Dola. The Japanese version is more silent, although not necessarily a better or worse experience, only different. Regardless of which version you see, CASTLE IN THE SKY remains both a classic and an important milestone in the history of Japanese animation: Studio Ghibli was founded with this film. And what a fantastic start to their legacy it was. Trivia: the film was once issued on DVD with additional dialogue in addition to the new score for the dub -- the 2010 DVD release dials back the extra dialogue and uses the original Japanese score for the dub. GKids' recent rerelease offers viewers the choice of viewing the Disney dub with the original score or the reorchestrated one, albeit without the extra dialogue. And correct subtitles, as well -- the Disney 2010 DVD had dubtitles. It's the best of both worlds for everyone.
(The) Cat Returns (movie) Good So far, the black sheep of the Ghibli canon. The problem with THE CAT RETURNS isn't that it's not cute or likeable, but it's too simplistic and shallow. Even Miyazaki's more lighthearted stories, like TOTORO and KIKI, had a depth of emotional complexity and special magic which is sadly lacking from this movie. The whole thing plays out like a second-rate direct to video Disney sequel (even though it's better than most of those). Considering that it's from the studio who made more ambitious and thought-provoking Anime, this is disappointing. Kids will enjoy it, but other fans of Studio Ghibli are advised to do something else. That said, I have no qualms with Disney's dubbing of this film--or any of the Ghibli productions they've acquired. When it comes to vocal selection and smooth writing for mouth movements, the Mouse House excels on this. Cary Elwes, in particular, is a splendid choice for a charming aristo"cat".
Comic Party (TV) Very good Uneven comedy series, but strong vocal performances by Liam O'Brian, Billy Regan, Lisa Ortiz, and Rachel Lillis make it a treat.
Demon City Shinjuku (OAV) Bad (dub), Decent (sub) DEMON CITY SHINJUKU is considerably less gory than the likes of WICKED CITY and NINJA SCROLL (the movie in question is helmed by the same director of those two slashers, Yoshiaki Kawajiri) and at the very least, a bit more watchable. Unfortunately, it's also a fairly mediocre, run-of-the-mill action adventure story with the usual cliches. Hotheaded and perverted hero with a sword, check. Indistinct heroine who serves as a love interest, check. A punk kid as a sidekick, check. An evil sorcerer, check. Demons, demons, and more demons. Triple check. There are moments of imaginative imagery on the part of Madhouse Studios, particularly the designs of the demons themselves, including one particularly nasty behemoth with spider's legs, but the movie never manages to amount to anything more than predictable. It's modestly entertaining, but little else. Further contributing to the mediocre aspect of the movie is an outrageously embarrassing dub from Manga UK which slaps inexplicable accents on the characters for no discernible reason (the film hardly calls for it), performances that are at best mediocre, and swearing every two minutes. It's one of those dubs which is so bad that it's funny for all the wrong reasons. The Japanese version is more serious, but not anything remotely special either. Aurally, it's a lose-lose situation either way.
Devilman Lady (TV) Decent Dark and surprisingly gothic tale of a woman who discovers she can change into a demonic creature. With its consistently gloomy nature and shocking bits of graphic violence, this is best appreciated by horror buffs.
Dragon Half (OAV) Good Not for my tastes, but lively dubbing from Industrial Smoke & Mirrors does help.
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (movie) Decent An alternatingly fascinating and frustrating sci-fi series, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION has nonetheless gone on to be one of the most highly acclaimed Anime series of all time. However, the 26-episode tale of three psychologically messed up teenagers who must pilot supercharged robots to protect their town from attacking "angels" failed to provide anything in the way of a satisfying conclusion. In response, Hideaki Anno remade the final two episodes by providing director's cut versions and even two theatrical features. Nonetheless, it seems as though the public couldn't get enough of EVANGELION, so Anno decided to remake the series as a series of theatrical features in an effort to make the somewhat complicated story more "accessible". I have yet to see, however, the benefits of this decision, because this first feature, entitled YOU ARE NOT ALONE, is basically a retelling of the first eight episodes of the show. And its major attractions, so far, seem to be just more elaborate production values and only a scanty few new scenes. Also noticeable is the removing and/or shortening of select scenes from the episodes, providing for a somewhat faster pace. Even so, angst, gloom, and ambiguity dominate all 98 minutes of what is otherwise just a recap show with flashier animation. That said, EVANGELION fans will undoubtedly enjoy it.
Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (movie) Decent The most intriguing aspect about the second entry in Hideaki Anno's ambitious remake of his controversial EVANGELION is in how it handles its mostly messed up cast. Unlike the TV series, in which EVERYBODY comes across as mostly unsympathetic caricatures, the characters are more fleshed out and come across as more relatable. While Shinji Ikari still has his bits of shyness, for instance, he has a bit more backbone in this second chapter, and, perhaps best of all, Asuka's insufferable bitchiness is toned down; for the first time we see a softer side to her abrasive personality, especially in her last scene. Even the emotionlessly robotic Rei isn't as distant as her TV counterpart; it's refreshing to have a reverse of the Asuka-Rei elevator scene with Rei standing up for herself. And while Gendo Ikari is still very much the ruthless commander of a fight that is seemingly hopeless, at least here he makes a bit more of an effort to connect with his son, even though it eventually goes sour. Perhaps for those reasons, EVA 2.22 might be, at least for me, my favorite of the EVANGELION franchise thus far. The production values are spectacular and richer than even the TV series. There's even a new character added into the mix, although it's not clear about how she will fit into the picture. That said, EVA 2.22 still has problems. The storyline remains as messy and confusing as ever, especially where the angels' origins are concerned. That and it's much too excessively gory -- I think Anno could have afforded to tone down the violence and not make it so ridiculously over-the-top. The decision to underscore two particularly gruesome fight scenes with peppy pop songs is also bizarre. If not for these faults, it would arguably be the best of the EVA series, but as it is, it's still an uneven result. I did like the film for the most part, I can't recommend it as highly as I would like to.
Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (movie) Weak I'm really not clear about what Hideaki Anno is going for with this remake of his ever-popular but controversial series EVANGELION, but I will admit that in spite of my reservations I did enjoy EVA 2.22 for the most part, if mostly for the improved relations and developments of its mostly unlikeable cast. As such, I had hopes that the next chapter would be a continuation of that. Unfortunately, EVANGELION 3.33 feels like a huge step backward on that front. Here, everyone is reverted back to their old miserable selves, and the tone of the movie is even bleaker. Anno did promise that he would take the series in a new direction by this movie, but is this more mean-spirited, gloomy, constantly incomprehensible new entry really the right track? I hope not; technically impeccable though the film is with strikingly choreographed fight scenes, the movie is also heavy on violence, technobabble, and questions that frustratingly go unanswered. If that's what you're looking for, EVANGELION 3.33 might be ideal, but I no longer feel as confident about this revamp. The final movie had better be something special, because this movie, so far, takes an already muddled series to a new low. The best scenes in the movie are those involving Shinji and Kaworu, which prevents this movie from getting an even lower rating, but only just.
Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals (OAV) Decent Very cheaply animated and bizarre (not to mention too simplistic from the series), but at least it's more in spirit to the games than the CG movie is. Lots of overacting on the dub (and the male lead character's voice is VERY GRATING AND ANNOYING), but it's nonetheless a good English track for a laugh. (I mean that in a nice way of course)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (US CG movie) Not really good As a tradition, movies based on videogames have often turned out to be complete disasters. FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN should have reversed the trend, as it had a lot of things going for it. For one, the games themselves are often richly textured, complex stories involving well defined characters and haunting music. This film offered truly stunning, state-of-the-art computer animation, and it was directed by the game's creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi. It even offered a respectable voice cast (including Ming-Na Wen and James Woods). And yet, it still failed, financially and critically, and rather ironically, it ended Sakaguchi's tenure at SquareSoft. As spectacular as it looks, FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN is just not a great film. Despite the presence of the original creators, the movie is nothing at all like the game series its based on. There are no chocobos, moogles, or, frankly, even compelling characters worth caring about, herein lies the first problem. It is dark, cybertech, and mostly sci-fi. But the second and most major failing is that the plot very convoluted and difficult to follow, with none of the interesting, complex turns or amusing character development we get from the games. Musically, too, this film falls very short: Elliot Goldenthal's dissonant, obnoxiously loud score fails to do any justice to the source material and the pop song over the credits is mostly dull. All of this makes for a very disappointing adaptation and a wasted opportunity on both Sakaguchi's part and for the game series. The voice actors do a solid job, and, if only for the visuals alone, this may have some merit, but even those qualities cannot save this joyless, bleak and depressing film.
Fire Emblem (OAV) Weak Will there EVER be an adaptation that does justice to a videogame series? Sadly, this is not one of them.
Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? (movie) Decent Pleasant but unfortunately underdeveloped animated film in which a love struck teenager turns back time by throwing a mysterious globe in order to have an evening with the girl he has eyes for. FIREWORKS is visually stunning, but the film stops before resolving its issues. Furthermore, a subplot in which characters argue over whether fireworks are round or flat doesn’t go anywhere. Still, it’s likable for the most part. The dub is well done, though, with Brooklyn Nelson’s turn as the mysterious Nazuna a real standout.
Fist of the North Star (movie) Worst ever FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: THE MOVIE is simply awful. The storyline is lacking in any coherency or nuance, the characters are all mono dimensional and uninteresting, and the presentation is turgid. Taking a 100-episode series and trying to squash it all into a two-hour movie (never a wise decision when adapting any such lengthy source material) may be part of the problem. But the major issue with FIST OF THE NORTH STAR is that it is, simply put, not at all interesting. It's basically scene after scene of blood-splattering violence, with few breaks in the action, and a virtually nonexistent plot. Characters come in and out at various times, over cluttering an already busy movie. We are never given a specific reason to care about anybody in one way or another because of that. The end result is a boring, and frankly, not very compelling train wreck that doesn't make any sense. Apparently there are two different endings to this movie, but because the movie provides very little reason to care one way or another, it's hard to know WHAT could have made it any better. The English dub, provided by Streamline Pictures, is even worse; a dreadfully wooden, robotic, stiff, and all around boring train wreck with disappointingly underwhelming turns from everyone involved, despite the presence of names like Michael McConnohie and Greg Snegoff. In fact, it gets my vote for being one of the worst dubs of all time. Carl Macek and company have done so much better. I've ripped into this movie long enough for you to get the idea. There are far superior animated movies to invest in than this joyless, unpleasant film.
From Up On Poppy Hill (movie) Good Stung by the critical drubbing of his directorial debut TALES FROM EARTHSEA, Goro Miyazaki sought his father, the legendary Hayao Miyazaki's assistance for his second film. The end result, FROM UP ON POPPY HILL, isn't quite the classic that many of Studio Ghibli's peers are, but at the very least it's a less confusing and pleasant enough diversion. As always, the animation is beautifully rendered and rich with colors and detail, and the toe-tapping musical score is a plus. And the dubbing is, as per the tradition of a Ghibli movie, extremely well done, with solid performances by everyone involved. It even translates the vocal songs. The storyline, however, may turn off viewers expecting another lively fantasy or something fast-paced. FROM UP ON POPPY HILL skews more toward the contemporary, slow-paced "slice of life" kind of style from WHISPER OF THE HEART. This tale about high school kids who try to save their clubhouse from demolition by politicians mixed with a love story between a shy girl and one of the clubhouse members who may or may not be related to her is not particularly heavy on action and can often move slowly. But at the very least it's a very heartwarming and sweet-natured tale that's well worth a look.
Fullmetal Alchemist (TV) Masterpiece This emotionally charged, compelling epic of two brothers struggling to undo a terrible mistake they committed is splendidly animated, imaginative, and consistently engrossing, never once dipping into any stupid, out-of-character filler episodes that I've seen some shows suffer from (e.g. NADIA, SLAYERS TRY, and THE WORLD OF NARUE). And that's saying quite a lot for a show that spans a whoppingly huge 51 episodes! This is one epic roller-coaster, but it's a major winner. Kudos to FuniMation for producing an equally fabulous dub--Vic Mignogna and Aaron Dismuke are perfectly cast as the brothers and crackle chemistry throughout.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie - Conqueror of Shamballa Good Taking place two years after the events of the TV series, this motion picture sequel involves Edward and Alphonse Elric trying to find each other while foiling the invasion of a dastardly underground movement. Confusing and tailored mostly for fans of the TV show, the movie is nonetheless an interesting, fun ride while it lasts.
Future Boy Conan (TV)
Genshiken (TV) Very good Oh, man I LOVE this! About a group of otaku and a girl violently opposing her boyfriend's involvement with them, this 12-episode series is humorous, deadpan, and crammed with plenty of references for Anime fans to pick up on. The dub, produced by Headline Studios, is just as good, with Billy Regan (Parn from LODOSS WAR) putting on a tour-de-force performance as a smarmy, nerdy Anime fan named Madarame. This is one of my favorite roles from him, alongside Parn and Hajime Murata from SHINGU.
Ghost in the Shell (movie) Good Very slowgoing and lots of flat acting, but visually impressive and interesting watch.
Golden Boy (OAV) Good Series about perverted idiots as heroes are not my cup of tea, but this one made me laugh. The dub is equally funny.
Grave of the Fireflies (movie) Very good (dub), Masterpiece (sub) Truly one of Studio Ghibli's greatest crowning achievements, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES is a brilliant masterpiece fully deserving of a place in any of the best movies ever made. Directed by Isao Takahata, the film follows two Japanese children struggling to survive in the aftermath of World War II. Having lost their home and mother, they at first stay with a bitter, self-serving relative, but ultimately decide to run away to a cave. Both try by all means to live off of vegetables or whatever food they can afford to trade and/or steal, to no avail. Normally one would think of this subject as more appropriate for live-action, but GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES proves that it can be told through the art of animation as well. This is no mindless showcase of gorgeous visuals--although the artistic merits of the movie are, as with Ghibli productions, sumptuous and at times breathtaking--but a display of real characters struggling with very tangible emotions. And the most amazing accomplishment about this movie is how much we grow to care for the children--their inseparable bond of love and companionship is the heart and soul behind the movie. (It makes the final scenes, too, all the more saddening.) There are long stretches of silence on the soundtrack, with music used very sparingly, yet the movie is all the more powerful for it. The most effective moment is where we hear a scratchy rendition of "Home, Sweet Home" over a montage of Setsuko playing by the shelter. It's a simplistic, sweet, yet very saddening moment that not only works in the context of the movie, but on its own as well. Even in a genre as multi-faceted as Japanese Anime, there are few films that literally everyone really MUST see. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES is one such movie. Two dubs exist for this movie. One by Central Park Media, which is mostly mediocre (Setsuko being the weak link) and some decent turns by Veronica Taylor, Crispin Freeman, and Dan Green. The second, and better version, by Stephen Foster of others, features Adam Gibbs as Seita and Marcy Brannor as the Aunt, both turning in great performances. Emily Neves unfortunately still sounds a bit more like a woman trying to be a child, but she still does a much better job than Corrine Orr in the CPM dub.
His and Her Circumstances (TV) Very good GAINAX's series are often frustrating in that they start off with promise but then fall off track toward the end. In the case of this high-school drama/comedy series about two competing perfectionists who find the perfect friend--and love interest--in each other; it is a shame that it ends so abruptly and unsatisfyingly... especially when the episodes before it are absolutely delightful and enjoyable. Speaking for the dub, this is my favorite performance from Veronica Taylor--her Yukino Miyazawa is dead-on throughout. She is amply supported by Liam O'Brian, Lisa Ortiz (in one of her most powerful performances yet), Angora Deb, and many other good folks from New York dubs.
Horus - Prince of the Sun (movie)
Howl's Moving Castle (movie) Masterpiece Based on Diana Wynne Jones' best-selling story, this isn't Miyazaki's finest, but it's still better than a majority of the worst animated films around, with beautiful imagery, music, and delightful characters. As usual, Disney does a stunning job dubbing this film into English--Billy Crystal scorches every scene he's in as the fiery demon Calcifer (hey, he's hot).
Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade (movie) Good
Jungle Emperor Leo (movie 1997) Very good Scattered plot, but beautifully animated and emotionally charged...especially the dramatic scenes toward the end. The music by Isao Tomita is lush and orchestral, and the voice acting (on the English version at least) is very well done. My special congrats go to Mike Sinterniklaas for translating this movie into English.
Kiki's Delivery Service (movie) Excellent (sub), Masterpiece (dub) Miyazaki scored his first major box office hit for Studio Ghibli with this utterly charming story of a young witch-wannabe aspiring to find her place in a far-off town. What's particularly amazing about this movie isn't just the flight sequences, which sparkle with imagination and wonder, but how we grow attached to the characters and find ourselves cheering them on. Not just another syrupy kids' movie, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE is also the sort of movie that even grown-ups will find themselves captivated by. This was the first movie to be released under the Disney-Ghibli deal, with an excellent cast of voice actors which include Kirsten Dunst, who provides liveliness and believability as Kiki, Matthew Lawrence as the geeky Tombo, Debbie Reynolds as elderly Madame, and Janeane Garofolo as the kindly painter Ursula. However, Phil Hartman's smarmy, hilarious take on Jiji is the highlight of the dub--and his last voiceover role ever.
Koihime (OAV) Good I don't often watch HENTAI, but this one is actually quite charming (and graphically sexual), too.
Lady Death (U.S. movie) Worst ever Grisly, gruesome, and painfully cheesy, this nasty 90-minute stinker about a woman in Hell is a must-avoid.
Legend of Crystania - The Motion Picture Decent
A Letter to Momo (movie) Excellent Whoever would have thought that the director behind the gloomy and dark JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE could turn out such a lovely, heartwarming, and sometimes funny animated delight? As it turned out, though, this was a movie that director Hiroyuki Okiura had always wanted to make. More than seven years in development, A LETTER TO MOMO is gorgeous to look at -- richly painted backdrops providing a peaceful Japanese island inhabited by friendly folks, youths who dive off bridges, and festivals involving straw boats. Better still is the storyline, which, although familiar at times, is told with an honesty and sincerity which makes one wonder if Okiura had been taking lessons from Hayao Miyazaki's MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. As with that movie, this story deals with a girl who encounters unusual creatures and takes a surprisingly melancholy turn in its second half. The stakes are darker here, though; introverted teenager Momo has recently lost her father after a falling out, with only an incomplete letter left from him. When Momo moves with her sickly mom to Shio Island, she is mortified to discover three gluttonous (and goofy) goblins haunting her attic. These ghosts cannot be seen by grown-ups and harbor magic powers. Some may be put off by the slow pace of the story, but anyone else should enjoy this one. I highly recommend it, both for animation buffs and watchers of sincere family drama. The dubbing by NYAV Post is outstanding, as well, with young Amanda Pace turning in a fantastic performance as Momo in her acting debut and great support from veterans such as Stephanie Sheh and Bob Bergen.
Little Nemo - Adventures in Slumberland (movie) Good One of the few films to be simultaneously produced in America AND Japan, LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND, based on a comic strip by Windsor McCay, carried an impressive perigree of artistic talent (Chris Columbus, Ray Bradbury, Ollie Johnston, etc.)... and yet in spite of all this it was a stunning box office disaster. No one went to see it. The film was quickly forgotten after its release, and over the years it has had few, if any fans. Part of the problem is that the storyline verges too much into saccharine and predictable territory, rendering the overall film to little more than kiddie fare. Not that LITTLE NEMO doesn't have anything to recommend, though. The movie is dazzling and imaginative to look at (especially the opening dream sequence and the climactic showdown at Nightmare Castle), and the voice acting is well done, particularly Mickey Rooney, who steals the whole show as the movie's most interesting character, a mischevious trouble-making clown named Flip. The musical numbers by the Sherman Brothers border on forgettable, but they are brief and quite catchy. Not a fine example of first-class Anime, but fine fare for youngsters. Interestingly, this DVD edition is longer by approximately 15 minutes. Some of the deleted scenes are interesting, but others are too superfluous. Still, it's interesting to see the differences.
Love Hina (TV) Awful Ouch, LOVE HINA hurts indeed! Hapless, accident-prone Keitaro becomes janitor of a dorm populated by a quintet of stunningly beautiful, but dangerously abusive women -- one of which may turn out to be his secret sweetheart who he apparently promised would attend Tokyo U fifteen years ago. The only thing this series succeeds in is putting a whole new meaning in the phrase "love hurts." Most of it involves Keitaro getting into embarrassing incidents with these women and getting the crap kicked out him. This happens in just about EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN' EPISODE. It gets old in no time and is just discouraging to me as a viewer. Worse still, there's nary a sympathetic character, much less one the audience REALLY cares about. I practically detested the female characters, especially Keitaro's intended sweetheart, the nasty, overly violent Naru, who comes across as one of the most intolerable, bitchiest, bad-tempered heroines ever committed to Anime. (Yes, she's as bad as the title character from NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER in the infamous island/Africa arc and Asuka in EVANGELION.) There are occasional bits of cleverness (like a parody of the popular JRPG DRAGON QUEST), but LOVE HINA's overall nature is too mean-spirited for its own entertainment value. Even if the idea was to make this a comedy, it still falls flat. You'd have to be a masochist in order to sit through this joyless show. Matters are not helped by the dubbing, with performances that range from shrill to just plain awful, a disappointing misfire from the usually capable Bang Zoom studios. All in all, I absolutely detested LOVE HINA and I cannot recommend it. There are far better Anime shows to invest in.
Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (movie) Excellent Delightfully entertaining debut feature from Hayao Miyazaki about a dashing thief attempting to rescue a princess. Action, suspense, comedy, romance... what more can you ask for? Wait until you see the tools that the hero possesses! The AniMaze dub is a lot of fun, although it does suffer from an overdose of gratuitious swearing.
Lupin III: Voyage to Danger (special) Decent Not as good as CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, but still enjoyable--and it's a lot of fun to see Lupin in action.
M.D. Geist (OAV) Worst ever More like the Most Dangerous Movie. Depressing, despicable, and sourly short anti-hero saga. The dub only has one line worth laughing at, and that is "you bastard!" Otherwise, terrible, terrible, terrible!
Macross Plus (OAV) Awful Yoko Kanno's outstanding music and stunning production values isn't enough to make this banal 4-part sci-fi video series worthwhile, which contains unlikeable characters and a very bizarre (and unexplained) climax.
Madara (OAV) So-so (sub), Very good (dub) Mostly mediocre two-hour saga about a swordsman with cyber arm attachments, with some explicit violence and occasional perverted humor. The first half is less than promising, but the latter half develops something in the way of an interesting story, preventing the overall production from being a complete waste of time. Surprisingly, though, the Headline produced dub is very good, and actually buoys the film as a whole.
Magic User's Club! (TV) Decent Not as good as the OVA series, this follow-up drags in spots and consequently isn't as interesting. Still, there are lots of delightful moments to make it worthwhile. The actors from the dub reprise their roles, too, and that's a nice touch.
Mai Mai Miracle (movie) Excellent
Mary and The Witch's Flower (movie) Very good Studio Ghibli had long established itself as the pinnacle of Japanese animation starting in the 1980's, but recently the studio went into hiatus, leaving most of its younger employees at a dead-end. Not to be discouraged, some of these employees decided to start a new facility of their own. Now christened as "Studio Ponoc", this team of former Ghibli animators, led by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY and WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE) begin their career with MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER, based on a children's book by the late Mary Stewart. The end result could very well be described as basically a "Ghibli Greatest Hits" sort of film rather than establishing its own identity, but all things considered, that's no insult. Especially when the end result is a fun, lively treat. Sort of a KIKI meets HARRY POTTER with dashes of SPIRITED AWAY, HOWL, and even LAPUTA for good measure, MARY may not reach the standards of the films it is inspired by, but it is charming and fun, with cute appealing characters, suspenseful action, and a thrilling edge of your seat finale. GKids also continues the standards of Disney's fantastic Ghibli dubs by applying familiar names such as Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet, but this dub is, surprisingly, recorded in England, which is a nice change of pace. Ruby Barnhill is a bit tentative at first, but she gradually gets into character, and otherwise the rest of the cast excels. Good family entertainment.
Metropolis (movie) Decent (sub), Good (dub) The real attraction to this futuristic sci-fi drama Anime is the animation. A blending of modern computer techniques and traditional cel, METROPOLIS offers breathtaking backgrounds and displays an imaginative view of a dystopian future in which robots and humans are at conflict. The character designs seem somewhat cartoonish in comparison to the settings, but this is in keeping with the artistic style of Osamu Tezuka, who penned this tale of a confused superhuman robot with an unescapable destiny. However, while METROPOLIS (directed by Rintaro and scripted by Katsuhiro Otomo of AKIRA fame) succeeds as a technical triumph, its complex, slowgoing storyline may be another matter. It touches on a series of cautionary issues but somehow doesn't manage to pull them all together. The final scene, in particular, is more confusing than satisfying. For animation buffs, though, METROPOLIS is certainly worth a look. Also noteworthy is the soundtrack: the jazzy, toe-tapping score sets the tone perfectly, and the inclusion of "I Can't Stop Loving You" over the apocalyptic finale is an odd but intriguing touch. The English version is competently done, with solid performances from everyone involved. Of particular note is Scott Weinger, best known as Disney's Aladdin, who has a brief cameo as a young revolutionist
My Neighbor Totoro (movie) Masterpiece *Sigh* This is a movie that reminds me so much of my pet guinea pig (who I owned from 1996-2003), and I miss him dearly. The movie is as colorful and bright as KIKI, only it packs a more traumatically emotional punch--especially the relationship between the two sisters. Originally dubbed (surprisingly well) by the infamous Carl Macek and his company Streamline Pictures, this movie was recently retranslated with a brand new voice cast featuring Dakota and Elle Fanning as the two sisters. Both do delightful jobs, although Elle does get an edge over Dakota--due to being blessed with a juicy character in the first place. The translation sounds cleaner, too.
My Neighbors the Yamadas (movie) Excellent Delightfully funny and creative series of sketches about the ups and downs of a family life--animated in the style of a serial comic strip. Don't let the lack of a cohesive plot discourage you from checking out this Isao Takahata movie; it is a treat. The English version is, so far, the weakest of the Disney dubs (due mainly that it makes little effort to reach a wide audience), but it's still worth watching for the vocal performances by James Belushi, Molly Shannon, Daryl Sabara, Lilliana Mumy, and especially Tress MacNeille--all are perfectly cast as the Yamada family.
Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water (TV) Good (dub & sub) An early breakthrough into television for Gainax, this sci-fi/steampunk series has been a longtime fan favorite, and in many ways it is deserving of its reputation. The show, loosely based on Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and at times, eerily reminiscent of Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky" (the scenario for the show, incidentally, was written by him), follows an ever-loveable young inventor striving to help an enigmatic circus acrobat with a mysterious diamond find her past. "Nadia" features an engrossing plot rich with actual history and amazing wonders, interesting and appealing characters, and a solid mixture of comedy, young love, adventure, mystery, and imagination. Unfortunately, it falls short of classic status due to a disappointingly terrible second half (with ten of the worst filler episodes ever made) and a sometimes unlikeable heroine (although mostly due to character derailment in the aforementioned filler). It's too long, as well; 26 episodes would have been a far better fit for this show than the 39 half hours it ended up becoming. Such are the woes of executive meddling. Best appreciated if you watch episodes 1-22, 30, 31, and 35-39. Despite my mixed feelings about the show, however, ADV deserves a shout out for their dub: the children are impeccably cast and turn in very fine performances, and the adults are just as good. Ditto for the use of accents--although the male lead character's sometimes shaky French dialect takes some getting used to. Still, a very underrated dub.
Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water: The Motion Picture Bad (sub), Not really good (dub) NADIA was never meant to have a theatrical sequel, and that's one of the biggest problems with this movie. There's virtually no reason for it to exist. Regrettably, the movie itself is not even remotely good. It wastes a good third of its 90 minute running time recycling footage from the show. (Ironically, it's the best part of the movie, except it's all out of order that it will come across as confusing.) The remaining hour is little more than a rushed, nonsensical, laughable story that dials back the characters' developments, adds in new, unnecessary characters, and ultimately doesn't even do anything remotely compelling with its elements. The craptastic animation doesn't help either. It's very much in the vein of the infamously horrible island/Africa episodes. There's even a pointless love triangle involving a new character Fuzzy(!). It didn't work in the Africa episodes, and it doesn't work here (although Jean, to his credit, doesn't totally break character and remains loyal to Nadia). You can pretty much skip this movie and miss nothing at all. The dub by Monster Island Studios is probably the sole saving grace -- NADIA has always been one of my favorite dubs from the Austin-based studio, and it's at least gratifying to hear Meg Bauman, Nathan Parsons, Martin Blacker, Sarah Richardson, and Corey Gagne reprise their roles as Nadia and Jean as well as the Grandis gang. The chemistry between all five is still as great as in the show's dub, and even the new characters, forgettable though they are, are competently voiced. There's even a hilarious joke about Jean's admittingly shaky French accent. Too bad they were wasted in such a fourth-rate project.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (movie) Masterpiece (dub & sub) Following his success with CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, Miyazaki produced this amazing epic about a brave young princess struggling to save her kingdom from opposing forces. It was so popular, in fact, that it put the name Miyazaki on the map. For an older film (1984) it holds up remarkably well; the animation, while slightly lacking the lush polish from Miyazaki's later works, remains fairly impressive to this day and its ecological message rings true (Miyazaki would later on revisit the same ideas in another project of his, PRINCESS MONONOKE). And it's great to have this legendary classic available in a first-rate treatment from Disney; years ago the only way for Americans to experience this movie was through a grossly altered, 85-minute edit called "Warriors of the Wind". This new version, from Disney, presents the film uncut and unaltered, with an excellent cast of actors headed by Patrick Stewart as the charismatic swordsman, Lord Yupa. Alison Lohman also does a credible job as the title character.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (TV) Decent (dub & sub) It's impossible to overestimate the number of loyal, unbending followers that idolize this 26-episode series from animation studio Gainax. I can even imagine that there are those who will threaten to have me crucified for awarding it anything less than five stars. However, I must state clearly that I am not one of this series' biggest fans. The problem with NEON GENESIS EVANGELION isn't that it's bad -- it's just not a particularly engaging show. The technical aspects are admittingly impressive and there is a sense of mystery exuding from its complex storyline. There are also some very effective and horrifying sequences that remain in one's mind long after they're over. On the flip side of the coin, with the possible exception of Misato, none of the other characters emerge as particularly likeable or easy to root for or against. (Granted, they're not supposed to always be sympathetic, but it gets to be too much, especially toward the end.) Although the plot gets points for attempting to be multi-faceted and not delve into any silly, mindnumbingly senseless filler episodes as Gainax's previous TV show, NADIA, suffered from, EVANGELION has more flaws than its predecessor. Midway through, the series devolves from a dreary yet compelling sci-fi drama into an angst-ridden, utterly incomprehensible mess--instead of answering the many questions its viewers are likely to have, EVANGELION only succeeds in baffling its audience with bizarre, surrealistic dream sequences and especially its disappointingly inept ending. Not that the show is a complete waste of time; as mentioned, there are impressively directed action sequences, intriguing mysteries, and in-depth character studies to behold. But whether these positives warrant taking a plunge into a murky story that barely turns coherent in its final third is up to the viewer.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth (movie) Weak (dub & sub) This is two movies in one: the first, "Death", recaps the first 24 episodes of EVANGELION--briefly and out of order--and the second, "Rebirth", is the part of the "real" finale. Interesting compilation, but useless addition; besides, the footage in "Rebirth" can be seen in "End of Evangelion"!
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (movie) Bad (dub & sub) Fans were dissatisfied with the concluding two episodes of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, so Hideaki Anno and Gainax crafted this feature as a replacement for them. Advertised as the "true" finale to the EVANGELION series, it only marginally lives up to its hype. This is a nasty, mean-spirited, narcissistic, gloomy, and downright depressing film, with characters dying left and right and an even more unstable focus than even the original final two episodes. The film turns even more incoherent in its last half hour, which devolves into looped live-action footage, flickering screencaps from episodes, monologues, hateful verbal attacks, and flash-cuts of graphic images. While this latter half makes for an interesting artistic style, it gets in the way of both the storytelling and even fails to provide a satisfying conclusion. But the biggest problem of the film is that the lead character, Shinji, doesn't do ANYTHING. He simply sits around, wallowing in self-pity, whining and angsting while his friends disappear right before his eyes. I don't know if this film is a case of director Hideaki Anno exorcising his personal demons or making a vicious attack against the world (or his fans). Either way, THE END OF EVANGELION is very unpleasant, chaotic and confusing throughout, and I cannot recommend it. I can only wonder how the ending for REBUILD OF EVANGELION will turn out compared to this.
Night on the Galactic Railroad (movie) Decent Surrealistic animated journey into the stars with a tragic outcome. It's slow-paced and overlong, but for animation buffs, it's worth a look. Veronica Taylor puts in a surprisingly convincing boy's voice with the main character.
Ninja Scroll (movie) Weak Yoshiaki Kawajiri's action-packed, but bloody and over-violent feudal saga is fine for adult animation fans, but questionable content for others. Too much bloodletting and one very disturbing rape sequence brought this down for me.
Ocean Waves (movie) Weak A Japanese high school student named Taku inadvertently gets mixed up with Rikako, an aloof transfer student from Tokyo. The resulting relationship causes rifts between him and his best friend Yutaka. Only at a reunion years after graduating from college are the two boys able to put aside their differences (especially when both are ditched). Aesthetically, there's nothing remotely wrong with OCEAN WAVES. Like any Studio Ghibli movie, it's as beautifully animated as any of the company's movies (if somewhat lacking in detail). In context, however, OCEAN WAVES isn't among the studio's classics. It's a decent but nothing special feature which ranks along the lower end of Ghibli's spectrum. Part of the problem may have to do with the structure of the production. This movie was made primarily as a television special, hence its 74 minute running time. As such, the story feels very rushed in places, resulting in lacking character development. Rikako, for instance, could have been interesting, but because we are only permitted to see her as a manipulative, self-centered rich girl and only provided hints about her troubled past, it's difficult for the viewer to understand just what Taku sees in her. Consequently, the resolution feels like a cop-out (especially since we never get any scenes implying that Rikako has matured). That it's not anywhere nearly as engaging or memorable as the studio's output is also a problem. It's not a bad movie by any means, but OCEAN WAVES isn't the sort of film that will have one eager for repeat viewings. At worst it's at least inoffensive (although some might take issue with a scene in which a boy slaps a girl on the cheek in retaliation for a similar physical assault from the latter). This is the only Ghibli movie not to feature a dub, which is further disappointing considering the consistent excellence in quality the studio's films have turned out. A rental, at best.
Once Upon a Time (movie) Bad (edit.dub), Excellent (sub) My first ever exposure to Anime, this lovely, underrated tragedy about a farmer who gets mixed up in a devastating war between two kingdoms was unfortunately edited for its U.S. release, and so far, there is still no sign of an uncut version. Hopefully one day, this title will get the respect it deserves.
Only Yesterday (movie) Excellent For many longtime Ghibil fans, ONLY YESTERDAY was considered a missing piece in the puzzle of the Japanese studio's library, especially where its stateside release was concerned. Although it was a smash hit in its native country in 1991, ONLY YESTERDAY took a shocking 25 years to hit the United States. No doubt on account of certain sequences involving fifth-graders talking about their "periods", and at least one shocking scene where a girl is slapped by her father. Truth be told, however, such scenes shouldn't have impacted the film's rocky journey to its domestic release; if anything, they provide an angle of understandable realism; anyone who has been through such episodes in their life will surely identify with the conflicts. It should be noted, though, that ONLY YESTERDAY is very much in the vein of Ghibli's latter day slower-moving entries, such as THE WIND RISES, FROM UP ON POPPY HILL, and the recent WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE. But unlike those movies, ONLY YESTERDAY is never really boring. It's a thoughtful, meaningful, slice-of-life tale with a romantic undertow and is meant more for grown-ups than children. Some people may take issue with the intentional slow pace, but the lead character, Taeko, who spends the movie flashing back and forth between the tumultuous years of her childhood to her 27-year-old counterpart during a visit to her countryside natives, is appealing and easy to like, especially her younger version, which offers some of the more compelling material. As usual, the animation is richly detailed and gorgeous, and the soundtrack is lovely. And, even though many thought it would be impossible, the dub is very well done, with Daisy Ridley and especially Alison Fernandez both turning in outstanding performances as the the lead character. I highly recommend this movie.
Outlaw Star (TV) Very good "You'd better get ready" for lots of spaceblasting action in this fast-paced, engaging outer space series. Ian Hawk rules as Jim Hawkin.
Panda! Go, Panda! (movie) Decent Interesting look at Miyazaki and Takahata in their younger days, but lacking the artistic polish that makes their works so memorable. Mainly for toddlers and young kids.
Panda! Go, Panda!: Rainy Day Circus (movie) Decent More of the same from its predecessor.
Paprika (movie) Masterpiece
Perfect Blue (movie) Excellent (sub), Masterpiece (dub) Having signed up to act in a sexually-charged mystery video series, a young ex-pop idol finds herself stalked and threatened in this extremely dark and occasionally brutal, yet captivating animated psychological thriller. An outstanding directorial debut for Satoshi Kon, PERFECT BLUE effectively blends nightmarish surrealism and frightening situations without being predictable. The technical aspects of this film are somewhat lacking, but its top-notch execution keeps one engrossed from its opening frame to the last. Excellently dubbed, too, by the folks at AniMaze (COWBOY BEBOP, OUTLAW STAR, and AKIRA 2001), with Ruby Marlowe and Wendee Lee turning in solid, believable performances. WARNING: Do NOT show this movie to young children or the faint at heart. It contains a (simulated) rape sequence (another attempt occurs later on for real), and two very disturbing bloody murders. PERFECT BLUE is clearly a film for adults.
Pet Shop of Horrors (TV)
Petite Princess Yucie (TV)
Pokémon 2000 - The Movie (movie 2) Decent One of the few shows based on a videogame series to get lucky as a film adaptation, this sequel is about par on level with the first. Satisfactory for fans, but not so much for others.
Pokémon: The First Movie (movie 1) Decent More of the same.
Pom Poko (movie) So-so Lavishly animated but draggy and mostly dull tale about raccoons fighting for their forest. There are bits of tour-de-force sequences, such as the "Operation Specter" scene, but the film is too long and has trouble maintaining its momentum more often than not. One of my least favorite Ghibli films. The Disney dub's pretty good, though. Aside from Jonathan Taylor Thomas, it casts performers known for their typical cartoon acting; including the great Tress MacNeille, all who give their characters a lively, yet natural spirit. The difficult translation by writers Cindy and Donald H. Hewitt (which includes making the Japanese folk songs in the movie work for English speaking audiences) is outstanding to behold.
Porco Rosso (movie) Masterpiece (dub & sub) In what is probably Miyazaki's most unusual film to date, PORCO ROSSO tells the story of a disillusioned pilot who is cursed to live his life as a pig unless he can conquer his self-loathing. Much more slowgoing than Miyazaki's other films, this movie is geared more for grown-ups rather than children. But even having said that, PORCO ROSSO has a lot to make it worth "classic" status. The animation, as always, is top-notch, with breathtaking flight sequences and a believeable cast of characters, my favorite of which is Fio, a bright young engineer whose love for Porco plays a crucial part in their relationship. In addition to which, the English voice dubbing, as with Disney's other releases for Miyazaki's films, is fantastic, with Michael Keaton turning in a surprisingly good performance as the weary, yet stalwart hero of the piece. Kimberly Williams-Paisley, however, takes the prize for "best acting" in the dub as Fio, the engineer; she brings a lot of energy and heart to the role and the chemistry between her and Keaton is a delight.
Princess Mononoke (movie) Masterpiece (dub & sub) With PRINCESS MONONOKE, Miyazaki churned out a highly acclaimed masterpiece that became the highest grossing movie of Japan, until his later SPIRITED AWAY dethroned it. Darker and more violent than any of Miyazaki's other films, PRINCESS MONONOKE is a dramatic multi-layered story about an Emishi prince who tries to settle the brutal conflict between a clan of human outcasts and the vicious gods of the forest. Most animated movies tend to portray characters as either "heroes" or "villains", but MONONOKE eschews these kinds of stock roles in favor of telling a story in which practically all the characters are flawed figures trying to find their way in the world. I think this makes MONONOKE all the more mesmerizing as a film, combined with the spectacular animation (check out the Forest Spirit and Nightwalker sequences) and stirring music. Disney/Miramax may have made their share of marketing mistakes with this movie, but their translation job was not among them. Neil Gaiman's English script achieves the difficult task of remaining faithful to Miyazaki's screenplay while maintaining a natural, poetic flow in his dialogue. I've read all kinds of complaints about using big-name stars in animated feature films, but in the case of any of the Disney-Ghibli dubs I have to say that this approach has paid off rather well, and PRINCESS MONONOKE's voice cast is no exception. The actors assembled for the dub--including Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson and especially Keith David--all provide good, solid vocal performances. Some folks have issues with Billy Bob Thornton and Claire Danes's voice acting here, but in my opinion, they both did great jobs too. It remains one of the best Anime dubs ever produced.
Puss 'n Boots (movie) Good That old Charles Perrault fairy tale, given a twist in a cross between Disney and Hanna-Barbera. Very fast-paced, pungent, and funny, highlighted by a twenty-minute long climax which serves as an interesting prototype for Miyazaki's CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO. Purr-fect entertainment for children and great piece of nostalgia for animation buffs.
Record of Lodoss War (OAV) Excellent (dub & sub) While some folks fault this 13-part OVA series for its cheap production values and sometimes jumpy plot, it is nonetheless great fun for fantasy buffs and RPG fans alike. This is one of my favorite titles, mainly due to the creative cast of likeable characters and despicable villains (although two of these villains actually contain their redeeming values). Packed with action, romance, magic, and entertaining chemistry from everyone involved; it's also highlighted by unforgettable sequences, especially the emotionally charged, hang-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seat finale. While the English dub is obviously a product of the late 1990's, it manages to hold surprisingly well after repeated viewings; Billy Regan, John Knox, Alexander Rose, Al Muscari, Jayce Reeves, Simone Grant, and especially Lisa Ortiz as Deedlit are all good, solid voiceovers.
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (TV) Good (dub & sub) Not a sequel, but a remake of the final five episodes of the original LODOSS WAR (which were streamlined from the -then- uncompleted novels). Although it lacks the artistic polish and is less memorable than the OVA, it has its merits as a good fantasy TV show. The first eight episodes are a reworking of the showdown at Fire Dragon Mountain--and jarring if you're so used to how this scene was laid out in the original OVA. However, things get pick up gradually with the remaining nineteen episodes. The English dub sadly isn't as good as the original LODOSS WAR dub (mainly due to inconsistencies in the cast at various points and some truly awful voices--Reona, Ashram's minions, and Hobb, in particular), but it benefits by most of the returning voices and Crispin Freeman's outstanding turn as the spunky new hero, Spark. He shares great chemistry with Roxanne Beck (Little Neese) and his ragtag team of misfits, the most memorable of which is a sassy and mischevious half-elf Leaf who is delightfully voiced by Angora Deb.
Roujin Z (movie) Awful (dub), Very good (sub)
Royal Space Force - The Wings of Honnêamise (movie) Good The most expensive animated film of its time (1986), this GAINAX debut displays outstanding animation and is an interesting exercise of ambition and a sound concept--but it's too long, and the rape attempt sequence that occurs about halfway through is both shocking and out of place. Still, for animation buffs, it's a must see.
Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OAV) Good Powerfully told adult drama about a samurai assassin whose murderous ways are transformed through his dealings with a beautiful woman. Exquisitely animated, with production values that rival Studio Ghibli's best works, and emotionally strong pacing and music. Sadly, the dub by Monster Island (who turned out such delightful work with NADIA) is too emotionless for its own good.
Serial Experiments Lain (TV) So-so
(The) Slayers (TV) Very good Extremely silly but undeniably funny comedy-fantasy adventure series about a travelling sorceress and her three companions. The show is divided into three seasons; this one is greatly benefitted from surprisingly entertaining (and hilarious) filler episodes which, unlike the ones in NADIA, are very fun to watch and are fitting in tone with the original pace. I understand that some prefer watching this series subbed, but I've found the dub to be a delight--Lisa Ortiz, Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart, and Crispin Freeman are a terrific quartet, and the chemistry between them is very amusing.
(The) Slayers Next (TV) Excellent The second, and arguably best of the SLAYERS seasons, introduces two new characters to the cast--the haughty, bratty (and scantily clad) princess, Martina and the deceptive, opportunistic monk Xellos. The filler episodes are once again fun and entertaining, but the clever, fascinating plotting this season takes make it a winner. The final episodes tie with RECORD OF LODOSS WAR and NADIA for the best finale in an Anime series ever. The dub is once again entertaining; Rachel Lillis is side-splittingly hilarious as Martina, and David Moo as Xellos, although more nasal and smarmy than the original Japanese, works in its own right.
(The) Slayers Try (TV) Decent Third, and weakest of the SLAYERS series. The filler episodes; which are normally the most entertaining part of any season of this silly comedy farce, run out of steam fast, and the whole show seems to move at a more languid pace (and needlessly complex; just WHO is the bad guy around here?!). Still, there are some episodes which continue to provide great entertainment, and the new character in the story--the fussy, over-emotional priestess Filia credits the chemistry between the cast--especially when she is dealing with Lina or Xellos.
Spirited Away (movie) Masterpiece Animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki pulls out all the stops in this well-deserved Academy Award winner. I wouldn't say that this is the best of his movies (or the best of the ones that have been dubbed), but it's first rate material all around. Suzanne Pleshette is dead-on as the greedy, nasty enchantress Yubaba and her kinder, gentler sister, Zeniba.
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: The Movie (OAV) Weak Uninspiring.
(The) Tale of the Princess Kaguya (movie) Good Isao Takahata ends his career on a graceful note. That's more than can be said for Hayao Miyazaki's technically beautiful but often meandering swan song THE WIND RISES. Gorgeously rendered in a rich watercolor pastel style out of an old picture book, this melancholy animated feature, based on a Japanese folklore tale, centers on a bamboo cutter who adopts a girl who turns out to be anything but ordinary. The girl grows quite rapidly from a precociously adorable child to a young lady, but her simple world is turned upside down when her misguided "father" decides that royalty is the life she's destined for. As is usual per a Ghibli movie, the animation is top-notch and rich with detail, even in its stylized mode, and if the film seems long, the dynamics between the title character and her parents -- arguably the real anchor of the film, even more so than a tragic love subplot of sorts involving a poor farm boy -- are presented in a sincere, emotional way that transcends this film from being just another animation showcase. Joe Hisaishi's music is also a plus, particularly the koto-flavored folksongs that occasionally pepper the film. It should be warned, though, that this movie does have a few moments that stretch into "adult" territory, but it is inoffensively presented and frankly, hardly a detriment. The bittersweet final fifteen minutes will also encourage the viewer to have tissues in store. The dub is, for the most part, very well done, with James Caan and Mary Steenburgen turning in solid performances. Chloë Grace Moretz has a fitting voice for the title character and is mostly good, but sometimes she falls a bit flat during the more emotional moments. The rest of the cast is fine, especially the children in the opening scenes. Still, if you can't stand the dub, there's always the original Japanese track. Either way, a lovely film.
(The) Transformers: The Movie (U.S. movie) Good Action-packed, TV-series based animated feature with some great animation effects for its time and a kick-ass soundtrack. In addition to the catchy songs and jamming score, there is an impressive cast of actors, including Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles (in his last role).
(The) Twelve Kingdoms (TV) A girl finds herself whisked away from modern day Tokyo into an Asian-style fantasy realm in this 39-episode fantasy series. Compelling, engrossing, and never dull, this ranks up there with my top favorite series. One catch: a somewhat weak finale and some recaps.
Vampire Hunter D (OAV) Decent (sub), Good (dub) Simplistically plotted and animated, but a solid "adult" B-horror flick. The title character is a very imaginative hero, and is amply supported by a talking left hand(!). Streamline once dubbed the film with some choppy-sounding delivery, laughable accents, and miscast actors. Sentai thankfully did a much better job, with David Wald stealing the show as the evil Count Lee, and John Gremilion, Luci Christian, and Andy McAvin all turning in fine performances.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (movie) Excellent Semi-sequel, semi-remake action-packed adventure from Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who also addresses ambiguous questions to the plot: are all vampires evil or misunderstood? Thunderously grand orchestral soundtrack by Marco D'Ambrosio, and solid voice acting--with the standout performances belonging to John Rafter Lee as a suave, mysterious vampire and Mike McShane as D's wisecracking left hand.
Venus Wars (movie) Decent This sci-fi animated feature does display some interesting animation effects and a noteworthy score by longtime Miyazaki composer Joe Hisaishi, but the plot is not very inspiring, and it's not likely to be remembered as a classic. The dubbing is pretty weak, too.
(The) Vision of Escaflowne (TV) Masterpiece (dub & sub) Magnificently animated, imaginative fantasy-sci-fi series which is accented by striking visuals and an outstanding soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. The characters present in the story are an interesting, multi-faceted batch who showcase their redeeming values and inner demons. The dub, by Ocean Studios, is deeply flawed in places, but nonetheless benefits from its share of good voices. Kirby Morrow and Brian Drummond are excellently matched as the two leading men, and Paul Dobson is an effectively brooding three-dimensional "villain". But my favorite performance in the dub is Jocelyn Loewynn as Merle the cat-girl, whose flamboyant sassiness makes the show a delight. Funimation recently redubbed the show with a considerably better choice of actors and smoother writing thankfully devoid of any the occasional embarrassing lines in the Ocean dub ("Give me back my Escaflowne and give me back my Guymelef.") Caitlin Glass is far and away better than Kelly Sheridan as Hitomi, while Aaron Dismuke does a fine job as Van, as does Alexis Tipton as Merle. Sonny Strait is noticeably lower-key than you might expect for Allen, but I came to appreciate his performance. Vic Mignogna is unrecognizable as Folken, but does a fine job of living up to the character. (Plus it's refreshing to hear him play a "villain" for a change.) I liked everyone in the new dub except for Prince Chid -- probably the only voice I prefer from the Ocean dub, which cast an actual child in the role as opposed to his replacement. Still, a grand improvement over the first dub.
Whisper of the Heart (movie) Masterpiece Yet another delightful charmer from Studio Ghibli, this story about a girl pursuing her talents as an artist was the first and only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, who died shortly after the film was completed. Slower-paced than most Ghibli films, the movie carries a consistently gentle tone without delving into frustrating angst-ridden territory. In short, this movie has a lot of "heart." And, as is always the case in a Disney-Ghibli collaboration, the dub is superbly produced, with excellent performances from Brittany Snow, David Gallagher, Cary Elwes, and especially Harold Gould, who is perfect as a kind-hearted antique shop owner.
Wicked City (movie) Awful Disgustingly vulgar, reprehensibly distasteful, and needlessly gory animated mess with little in the way of genuine appeal. Despite a promising start and a potentially interesting plot, WICKED CITY goes all out on shock value at its most repulsive level -- to the point that whatever virtues it may have are all but forgotten. It's misogynistic as well, with extensive scenes involving a female character being raped (three times!), and other two femme fatales who use their sexuality as a weapon to deceive and/or kill unsuspecting prey. As mentioned, it's also quite violent, with plenty of moments involving blood splattering, again for no specific reason other than violence for the hell of it. Shock value for shock value's sake does not a good film make, animated or otherwise. Too bad, because WICKED CITY does have a few moments of redeeming qualities, although as mentioned, they aren't enough to elevate my star rating. Of the two English dubs, Streamline's version, although not great, is the better of the two. Manga UK's dub is absolutely AWFUL and is riddled by laughable delivery and accents.
(The) Wind Rises (movie) So-so Hayao Miyazaki's eleventh feature is as colorful and beautifully animated as any Ghibli movie, and of course Joe Hisaishi's music is sublime. And there are moments in the film that truly do recall Miyazaki at his most imaginative -- particularly the use of dream sequences to illustrate the plight of protagonist Jiro Horikoshi, the man who created some of Japan's deadliest bomber airplanes. Incidentally, the film is loosely based on Horikoshi's account; Miyazaki presents the man as a gentle, ambitious soul who only dreams about creating aircrafts (out of inspiration from having dreams in which he is talking to the charismatic Italian air designer Caproni). It is also Miyazaki's most "adult" movie to date, which means it is not as accessible as his other films. Unfortunately it also bears the ultimate curse of being Miyazaki's least compelling film to date because of that. In spite of a terrific opening and a tour-de-force earthquake scene, THE WIND RISES has none of the action or wonders as you would expect from him. It's a very long film, clocking at over two hours and moves along at a draggingly slow pace. Aside from Jiro's ambitions as an aircraft builder, the film also works in a tragic love story involving a gentle painter woman whose internal clock is ticking. Although intended to bring an emotional heart to the story, this subplot drags the film down, particularly due to the disappointingly flat acting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiro, which sadly nullifies co-star Emily Blunt's solid effort. As far as the rest of Disney's dub goes, Stanley Tucci, Martin Short, and Mae Whitman fare best, but the rest don't really stand out one way or another. Aesthetically, Miyazaki never ceases to amaze, but this is still something of a letdown considering what this genius can do. Here's hoping his next and final film will be more engaging.
(The) World of Narue (TV) Good This sci-fi love comedy series is fun for the most part, but it runs out of steam toward the end and is, at times, too sugary for its own good. However, there are some very fun episodes and, in the dub, very entertaining vocal performances from the likes of Veronica Taylor, Jamie McGonnigal, Jimmy Zoppi, Lisa Ortiz (in two hilariously evil roles!), Rachel Lillis, and Angora Deb. But the real show-stealer is newcomer Michelle Knotz as a U.F.O. nerd.
your name. (movie) Excellent