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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
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Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:40 am Reply with quote
Legend of the Galactic Heroes season 3 (episodes 55-86)

Having now rounded the bend of the third season the home straight is now before me. Overall, while LotGH is never less than enjoyable I can't admit to it being the masterpiece so many have recorded on this site. It's a dry, unemotive series that lacks the intellectual or artistic capabilities to match its conceptual ambitions. Or, to put it another way, the political and military discourse is never sophisticated enough to raise LotGH above the level of space opera. Having said that, it is rivetting often enough to be well worth the time and effort.

Where the first season dealt with the growing rivalry between Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-li along with the dissolution of their respective political systems; and the second covered the Empire's invasion of the Free Planets Alliance and Reinhard's disappointment at his inability to defeat Yang in battle; the third explores Reinhard at the apogee of his career and his continued frustration at the elusiveness of his quarry, Yang, despite the latter's almost total marginalisation.

Paradoxes abound. Reinhard's success as a political leader grows and grows - despite the illegitimacy at its core - while his disatisfaction intensifies. Yang's influence on the affairs of the galaxy wane even though his political and strategic instincts are at their most acute. These oppositions are the most interesting things driving the first two thirds of the season. Another paradox is that the two main characters, while becoming richer in their metaphorical roles, have by now become less interesting on a personal level.

Reinhard's gnawing obsession with Yang not only interferes with his military judgements but his repressed fury makes him much less appealing, especially given that he is, even at his best, devoid of humour. Gone is his former soaring, optimistic hubris that made him such an exceptional villain. In the first two seasons he was less the villain and more an alternative point-of-view character. Indeed, I have long thought him to be the main character with Yang providing the alternative perspective.

Yang, for his part, spends much of the season retreating more and more into political irrelevance, seeking consolation in married life and fretting over the contradictions between military necessities and political niceties. What the two men share is impotence, remaining immobile while their subordinates ponder what they might do next. Perhaps the rivalry between the two men has finally reached a creative dead-end for the writers? That question will shortly become moot, in any case. Unfortunately, for the moment, their inactivity infects the series, despite the mildly interesting political ruminations that, in any case, tend to be on the naive side.

Happily, things turn around completely when Reinhard, with a sudden change of heart, announces he will personally lead a massive armada to hunt down and defeat Yang once and for all. The ensuing campaign provides some of the most thrilling battles so far, even if the outcome invariably turns on the Empire admirals' inability to curb their excitability or see some obvious critical tactical complication. Their obsession with Yang seems to have a continuing brain-numbing effect upon them. While Yang and his admirals are far more clear headed, the very existence of their enormous fleet, even if outnumbered, is never explained and, for me, remained beyond comprehension.

Wouldn't you know it, though? Reinhard has another out-of-the-blue change of heart when he orders a cessation of hostilities. Despite suffering a significant defeat on the battlefield his strategic advantage is still intact. Perhaps it is the beginnings of a mental instability that will be explored in the fourth season? I hope so.

It doesn't really matter. This unwanted development is soon forgotten thanks to the spoiler[assassination of Yang by religious fanatics unconnected to Reinhard]. I have to admit it's a courageous move by the writers of the show. The nearest I can think to it in anime is the spoiler[death of L] in Death Note spoiler[in a similar distance into that series, although the perpetrator in that instance is the actual rival]. At a stroke the single best thing about the series has been removed. At this point the prognosis for the coming season did not appear promising. I have to admit, though, that subsequent developments among the rebels alleviated my fears to some extent. While Julian Minci never provided a convincing case to deserve his new role, he may provide the locus for future rebellions. Frederica Greenhill, in contrast, seems destined to play the role she has now been thrust into. I have no idea how season 4 will develop but that is a good thing.

One of things I mused upon while watching the first two seasons was how apt it would be were it to add the music of Dmitri Shostakovich to its, until then, mostly Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven soundtrack. To my immense satisfaction the third season not only introduces Shostakovich's music but absolutely revels in it, with excerpts from almost all his fifteen symphonies. His music invariably accompanies scenes involving Yang and his rebels, while Reinhard and the Empire continue continue to march to a Germanic rhythm. I love the way the war between rebel and empire is enriched by a contrast between Leningrad and Vienna.

Rating: good

Mind Game

After enjoying Kaiba recently, I wandered into JB Hi Fi this last week to see if they had Masaaki Yuasa's Mind Game in stock. Too right they did - and at only AU$13 to boot. (I also picked up Kagemusha, which I hadn't seen anywhere for a couple of years, thus filling a gaping hole in my Akira Kurosawa collection.) We are very lucky in Oz to have had local releases of Mind Game, Kaiba and The Tatami Galaxy - all directed by Yuasa. Am I skiting? You bet.

Mind Game is an anarchic movie in a hotch potch of visual styles that work together surprisingly well. It's about a young man - Nishi, who is presumably the original writer of the manga on which the film is based - who is murdered by a yakuza (the bullet enters through his anus and exits from the top of his skull) and is granted a second chance at life by a god of bewildering, multiple personalities. A car chase that beggars description results in Nishi trapped inside a gigantic whale with the love of his life, her sister and an old man who is more closely related to them than any of them ever know. After several amusing episodes, Nishi finally gets the picture and the four escape into a world that is subtly different to the one from before their incarceration.

Synchronised swimming with Plesiosaur... inside a whale... to a vaudeville rhapsody played by Yoko Kanno. It makes sense in the movie. Sort of.
The visual style you see here isn't typical. In fact, there is no typical style.

One of the things I love about Yuasa is his wild sense of motion. At his crazy best, the camera point of view moves as radically as the camera's subject. During the aforementioned car chase the camera point of view rotates around the characters inside an open convertible as people and cars fly in all directions. Add to that the arresting and varying styles being deployed and the result is a film that, visually at least, is never less than fascinating. It reminded me a lot of Tekkonkinkreet. Using ANN's comparative search tool it came as no surprise that many key people worked on both productions.

What Yuasa's style also does is distance the viewer from the characters, thereby reducing any emotional impact the film may otherwise have. In Kaiba, by exploring the loss of memory at length, Yuasa successfully makes the connection with the viewer that is missing here. In Mind Game he makes up for this shortcoming with his deliciously wicked wit. The extended sequence within the whale could have dragged but for its cleverness. The car chase is not only exciting to watch, it's hilarious. Perhaps only Yuasa could get a laugh out of a yakuza remembering his childhood pet canary in the microseconds before slamming into the side of a truck at high speed.

In the end, though, Mind Game doesn't say much beyond "give life your best shot". (Perhaps I should follow that advice and get off this forum.) Clever visuals, maniacal pacing and a sharp wit carry this movie a long way and I'm very happy to add it to my collection. Here's an odd thing, though. It comes as a two disk set. The first disk contains the movie while the second supposedly contains a heap of extras. Problem is, there's nothing on the second disk. ANNau's review of the film from three years ago indicates hey didn't get any extras either. How odd. Still, the film on its own is worth every cent of $13 so I'm not going to bother hassling Madman Entertainment.

Rating: at the high end of good.

Last edited by Errinundra on Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 2:04 pm Reply with quote
errinundra wrote:
Legend of the Galactic Heroes season 3 (episodes 55-86)

Having now rounded the bend of the third season the home straight is now before me. Overall, while LotGH is never less than enjoyable I can't admit to it being the masterpiece so many have recorded on this site.

errinundra I don't know if you like history, but I noticed that people who are interested in history tend to enjoy this series the most. It was fun to pick up all the parallels between Reinhard and Alexander the Great or the allusions to Hegel in Yang Wen-li's conversation with Reinhard, etc.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 2:14 pm Reply with quote
^ I dunno, I don't care much for history, or real life politics, but fantasy politics and space operas? AWESOME!

Anyway, I've started to bite into my Otakon haul. Going with some of the shorter stuff first, and was in the mood for comedy so went with Project A-Ko first. It's supposed to be an anime classic, but I honestly don't think it's aged all that well. I mean, it's not bad by today's standards, but it's certainly not special. Or maybe everything from the show has been done to death and/or done better at this point. Maybe I would've enjoyed it earlier into my fandom but now I'm kinda left with an overall "meh". But there were some parts I enjoyed, like everyone inexplicably wanting the most annoying character in the show to the point where it was clearly a joke. Oh and the movie A-Ko and C-Ko were watching in the theater, I wouldn't dare spoil it, but damn did that make me laugh.
So yeah, it's not bad, but damn is it a dinosaur, so I have a tough time recommending it overall. If you have nostalgia for it, the DVD does have a lot of interviews and extras, so for those people, Discotek did make a nice release. If you're studying the history of anime fandom in the US, then it's a good watch too, but if you're going into it for the first time looking for an over the top comedy, I don't think you'll find it here. And I don't hate or dislike it, but it's just not something that aged well for fans watching it for the first time to really get much out of in 2012.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 8:22 pm Reply with quote
Aylinn wrote:
...errinundra I don't know if you like history, but I noticed that people who are interested in history tend to enjoy this series the most. It was fun to pick up all the parallels between Reinhard and Alexander the Great or the allusions to Hegel in Yang Wen-li's conversation with Reinhard, etc.

While I have read some history my interests tend to be in specific periods, particularly the first half of the twentieth century. I'm not getting the allusions you refer to, although I am noticing others such as the musical ones I mentioned in my previous post.

I'd love it if an anime space opera were produced now with all the technical advances since LotGH first came out.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:20 am Reply with quote
Next in my Otakon pile, watched Unico in the Island of Magic. I'm still trying to collect my thoughts on it, as a Japanese kids movie, pretty straightforward, but I'm still trying to comprehend some of the wtf all over it. Seriously, Japan, I sometimes don't quite understand you.
Anyway, this is actually the fourth Sanrio movie I have watched. I've seen Yousei Florence, Ringing Bell, and Sea Prince and the Fire Child (own the last one, because Eastern Star put it out on DVD too, and man, seeing that one in sub was the last straw I needed to just fall in love with it. Y'know, in addition to Koichi Sugiyama's incredibly sexy soundtrack that sounds one step removed from a Dragon Quest game). I would say Yousei Florence is my least favorite, I kinda only liked Unico a little bit more. But seeing how all four of these movies have some weirdness in them (especially Florence), I can't tell how much of this is Sanrio being weird vs Tezuka being weird. I mean Tezuka's not too weird but....no, I've read both Ayako and Book of Human Insects, but his kid stuff isn't usually as weird.
Ok, so...it was weird, but it was also really fun an imaginative. For most of the movie I was wondering why Unico needed to be there at all, but in the finale, he was very needed. I definitely do plan to show this to nieces and nephews (oh man, I'm going to be an aunt in like a month! And my step brother is an anime fan too!), like this, Catnapped, Sea Prince and Fire Child, and, naturally, Digimon now that I will finally have it on DVD, mwahaha! But I'm trying to figure out who I'd recommend this to. Tezuka fans, obviously, 80s anime movie fans, yep, anime kids movie fans, yep, and maybe fans of weird stuff? I dunno.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:27 pm Reply with quote
Started Mirai Nikki last night. Yep, definitely every bit as creepy as I thought it would be. Haven't decided yet if Yuno is creepier than Ringo from Mawaru Penguindrum, but I'm only on the second episode so there is plenty of time for her to get even weirder.

Also re-watched Nisemonogatari earlier this week. I think I enjoyed it even more than the first time I watched it while it was being simulcast. Seeing it again makes me realize just how good the Karen Bee arc is, even if it is a bit slow and anti-climactic. Araragi's talk with Hachikuji at the beginning is absolutely brilliant, and Kaiki is one of the best villains I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, I think the Tsukuhi Phoenix arc is what drags the show down. It's the point of the show where you can tell that NisiOisin never intended the story to be published, which is kind of a shame because if it had finished strong like the Tsubasa Cat arc of Bakemonogatari, it could have been an easy "Excellent". Instead, I felt it was much weaker than Karen Bee and relied to heavily on campy and sometimes uncomfortable fanservice (granted, it was some of the highest-quality and most artistic fanservice I've ever seen... clearly, this is where SHAFT's Madoka profits went) without providing enough substance, making even a "Very Good" rating a bit of a stretch.

Still, I enjoyed it immensely, and watching it again isn't making the wait for Kizumonogatari any easier.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 4:12 pm Reply with quote
And it seems that I am now tearing through my Otakon pile! That will stop after this though, the last thing on the pile is GaoGaiGar, and that's 52 eps. But Freedom is a 7 ep OVA (I so knew ep 7 would be longer than the other eps!). I paid $15 for it at the con, glad I got it Friday since the booth didn't have it by Saturday.
So the story, for those of you who aren't aware, is that Nissin Cup Noodles somehow funded this. They went all out, Utada Hikaru does the freakin' OP! And the other strange thing is that it's all CGI with cel-shading. It took a bit of getting used to the cel shading, but once I did, wasn't that awkward. So you remember how in Code Geass, you saw Pizza Hut at every turn? You will see Cup Noodles here, but I think there was more Pizza Hut per ep of CG than there was Cup Noodles in the entire 7 ep OVA. Seriously, they funded it, but Pizza Hut out advertised them in the "real life food brand in an anime" category. But since the Cup Noodles are in Japanese, for me it was just kinda like they were eating any off brand of Cup Noodles or something. I dunno. For anyone concerned though, it's not too too distracting, and it's sure as hell nowhere near as distracting as Nokia and Mountain Dew in Transformers or Pizza Hut in Code Geass. Though at one point, they clearly let a small paranoia crack open up when spoiler[it was revealed Cup Noodles were readily available on both Eden and Earth despite the two not knowing the other exists, and I went "what the hell do you mean "Earth Variety"?! There are special flavors local to Florida?!", lol]
But ok, enough about Nissin and their rather bizarre decision to fund a 7 ep OVA entirely in CGI as part of their 35th anniversary. For having such a strange origin, it's a really solid OVA. It's like they cared more about making a damn good OVA than necessarily advertising their products *cough*Bayformers*cough* It's about a base on the other side of the moon, a multi-domed world of many of millions of people. Almost 200 years ago, a space station dropped onto the Earth and made it uninhabitable. But one day, the main, Takeru, is doing community service on the moon surface when a small meteorite thing crashes in his line of sight. Upon investigation, he finds a photograph of a beautiful girl with the message that Earth is ok. You can kinda see where some of this is going storywise if you're at all familiar with the genre. The OVA seems to be divided into three parts, eps 1-3, eps 4-6, and the longer finale ep. It doesn't feel rushed per se is the weird part, despite covering a lot of material (super long final ep helped a lot). But that's the glory of an OVA I guess!
Anyway, I heartily recommend this for fans of stuff like Megazone 23 (especially if you watched part 2 and went "you bastards!"). It was a really awesome scifi anime and one I don't think I'll soon forget and one that I certainly plan to come back to in the future. I think this is one of those BluRays that are stupid expensive, but I think the DVDs did me just fine. Once you get past the two most awkward things about it (Nissin and CGI, the latter being the far more awkward part), and maybe overlook a few of the "well duh, of course the escape route is the one direction with no enemies there" sorts of moments that occur maybe once an ep (though in the heat of the moment, I was willing to forgive it), you're in for a treat. The dub was also pretty awesome, a mix of awesome but more common people like Johnny Yong Bosch and Michael Sinterniklaas, to pretty new people like Robby Sharpe (I'd love to hear more from him, seems he got a role in Bakuman though, if it ever comes out), and rarely heard epic people like William Frederick Knight (aka all of the most awesome old guy voices, like Daisuke Aramaki and the crazy old guy in Paranoia Agent). It's really awesome!
I rate it 9 out of 10 and can't wait to rewatch it! It ended up being one of those 'Accidental marathons' sort of thing, oh how I love those!
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 1:46 pm Reply with quote
Whenever I attempt to approach Freedom in a critically receptive manner, I soon stumble into the trough of the oft-cited "uncanny valley". The combination of computer-generated backgrounds framing classically-animated characters has received its fair share of ire over the years, though the visual converse of this arrangement is a degree more jarring.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:54 am Reply with quote
On a lark I decided to try out Shiba Inuko-san. It's funnier than I thought'd be and shorter, too(just a minute long, not counting the OP). I do think it'd be better if Shiba Inuko-san didn't speak Japanese and just used dog sounds, though.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:10 am Reply with quote
I finally got to watch Claymore.
I needed something serious and dark, without loads of dialogues/writing on the screen. After Bakemonogatari and Tatami Galaxy (finished neither so far, both drag on a bit).
Well, so far so good, looks like I am going to enjoy this one quite a lot unless somewhere along the way they decide to do a U-turn and make it really bad.
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Mesonoxian Eve

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:13 pm Reply with quote
Over the weekend, I managed to watch Rozen Maiden (all) and Kanon. By the time I was done, I was ready to snap the DVDs in half because both these series really got on my nerves.

And they used to be favorites. Let's start with Rozen Maiden. I don't know how I forgot, but Jun, the male lead, is a whiny self-centered son of a birch tree. Over 24 episodes, his annoying voice and attitude made the series worse as it went on. I must have blocked this out before, because I don't recall it being this bad. Needless to say, this series won't get another viewing with me.

Following Jun was Yuichi in Kanon, a lead who I wanted to punch every time he opened his mouth. This was once one of my favorites, and I wouldn't doubt for a second Jun's attitude just carried over into this series as the two are near identical in terms of dealing with their issues.

What's striking is how much this series gets attacked because of the "uguu" girls in it, but they're all actually doing just fine until Yuichi enters their life and just pretends to know what each girl needs to be "fixed". Go back and watch it. You'll see it.

What makes it worse is once a girl is "fixed", she's dropped off at the hospital and the next girl, which I'll correctly call a victim, is in Yuichi's sight. By the time the series is over, 5 girls are hospitalized, including Ayu. Son of a birch tree. These girls should have thrown this bastard into the freezing river considering they're in danger.

Still, though: I did enjoy the visuals of this series. I loved the sunsets and lighting that draped over a town often covered in snow.

I was going to start Clannad after this, but decided it was best if I didn't. Tomoya may just come off like Jack the Ripper.

Now, I'm watching Baka & Test, which is a campy high school comedy. The title of this series is stupid. I mean, why couldn't it be called "Idiots and Tests"? After all, that's what it's about! Stupid FUNimation anime titling department.

Well, that's all I have for now. See you next time.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:34 am Reply with quote
It was a cold, wet, blustery, winter’s morning here in Melbourne when I caught a train to the city to see A Letter to Momo at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. It’s a fantastic venue with a huge screen and with seating for about 400 people. It’s steeply tiered so that wherever you sit there is an uninterrupted view of the screen.

I arrived about twenty minutes before the start and got myself a great spot about five or six rows back in the centre. Shortly afterwards a young bloke sat down two seats to my left and settled himself in nicely with biscuits and a thermos full of coffee (did that smell good, or what!). On my right three people made themselves comfortable and began to tuck into some very Asian smelling food. One of the things they had didn’t smell the best but the rest was mouth watering. And I thought I was there for the visual and aural experience.

Just before the film began the first school group arrived. They were all girls and filled the rest of my row and the two in front. They must have unsettled the guy on my left – I didn’t smell coffee thereafter. They were shortly followed by a second school group, this time mixed, who filled the rest of the rows to the front of the cinema. All the students were actually well behaved and added to the atmosphere. Given that A Letter to Momo has a school aged heroine (11 or 12 years old, perhaps), they responded appropriately to the film’s many emotional highlights. They were good. The film deserves credit for engaging them so effectively.

On to the film itself. Following the death of her father (who left a letter that never got beyond a salutation), Momo struggles to come to terms with her grief and guilt, and finds herself distanced from her mother. When the two move to a new home on a remote island in the Japanese Inland sea, Momo befriends a young boy and his perceptive younger sister, an absent-minded, timid postie and three highly entertaining goblins. With their help Momo begins to see things differently, gets some notion of what her father had wanted to write to her, and prepares to take the plunge into her new life on the island.

One of the things that struck me from the beginning of film is how Momo is, or more correctly isn’t, presented to the viewer. There are no obvious visual cues, a la anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day to indicate the personality type. Clearly Momo is depressed: she even comes across as sullen. In appearance she is part Chihiro from Spirited Away, part Kei from Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade (Hiroyuki Okiura directed both) and lots of Makoto from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (though somewhat younger than the last two). Indeed, visually it follows the style of Mamoru Hosoda’s two recent movies. That may be just current fashion or perhaps due to the involvement of production house Kadokawa Shoten in all three.

Getting back to Momo, she is no kawaii, moe, or dere dere standard type. She is someone we are going to get to know over the course of the story. And the film is happy to take its time in the telling. She may be a regular schoolgirl, but she’s a very real seeming, regular schoolgirl.

One of the marvels of the film is the way it captures a girl on the cusp of puberty. Her body is still a child’s, but she views people and events and objects not always in the self-centred, acquisitive, curious way of a child but frequently in an appraising, measured way of an adult. Nevertheless, she still has a child’s lack of self-consciousness about her body: she constantly moves and deploys her limbs in a very naturalistic, innocent way. Indeed, another of the great things about the movie is the natural way everyone moves. I think it’s one of the best anime I’ve yet seen in this regard. All the same, like so much anime, the camera loves to linger on her body, though it is done in a chaste, rather than fanservicy, way.

As an example, the moment that got perhaps the biggest laugh from all the school kids in the audience, along with the rest of us, is when Momo, lying on her back on the floor and suffering severely from malaise, wants to move but cannot raise the energy to stand up. She slides across the room on her back by pushing with her feet. It's a moment everybody could relate to: you’re down in the dumps so you end up doing something silly and pointless because you just couldn’t be bothered.

If there’s a problem with Momo it’s that she’s just a bit too ordinary. But, then again, it makes it easy to relate to her and, therefore, sympathise with her.

Other than the goblins, none of the other characters get a real lot of screen time. Even Ikuku - Momo's breezily cheerful but struggling mother - is mostly offshore, attending a care givers course (the irony there is stark). Initially, I found the goblins problematic. Until their appearance, the story suggests a strong sense of realism, other than the three water droplets that are our first hint of what’s to come. The effect of the goblins is to upset the apple cart (or, more correctly, the mandarin cart) of seriousness that had prevailed until their entrance. The film gets away with it because they are so appealing, despite a tendency to grossness. I won’t elaborate further other than to say there are a couple of really gross yet hilarious moments involving bodily actions that should be enjoyed without forewarning.

In a movie like this you know form early on that it’s going to have an emotional resolution. It doesn’t skip on that promise. Two big tear drops fell from the centre of each eyelid onto my cheeks – I must have been holding my head perfectly straight at that moment – as Momo and we finally get the answer we’d been waiting for from the beginning. Given the anime community’s current penchant for a strong emotional involvement with characters and story then I’m sure this film is going to be a winner.

This film is Hiroyuki Okiura’s first directorial effort since Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade in 1998. They have very little in common other than they are both very typical products of their time and have a slight similarity in character designs. Neither are or were particularly groundbreaking in their visual style or subject matter for their time but both films excel in important areas – artwork, animation and story telling. The quality in both just shines through. Perhaps in Momo the human characters are a tad ordinary and the goblins just a little too silly but I sure hope I get to see more films from Okiura in the future.

Rating: I find that I come away from cinematic anime experiences with an enthusiasm that wanes over time. I'll be harsh and rate Momo as very good. It approaches The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars in its appeal and is somewhat better than any of Miyazaki's post - Spirited Away efforts.

The MIFF has been supportive of anime. Since 2007 I've seen Paprika, The Sky Crawlers, Summer Wars, First Squad - The Moment of Truth and now A Letter to Momo. In that time it has also shown at least two more - Tekkonkinkreet and Mai Mai Miracle.

Anyway, it's back to Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I've only got twelve episodes to go.

11 August edit: No-one has posted since the above effort (do I frighten people away?) so I'll add my next report here.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes season 4 (episodes 87-110)

Like the Aria franchise, Legend of the Galactic Heroes gets better with each series. (How about that? I managed to get in a comparison between such different anime!) Even though LotGH lost what I thought was its best element late in the third season, it surprised me how engaging and compelling it continued to be. Perhaps the rivalry between Yang Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm had been milked for all its worth? It was refreshing to see other characters get their moment in the galactic light. In particular, the other rebel leaders get a chance to shine while, on the Empire side, Reuenthal has, what I think is, the best arc of the entire franchise.

Reuenthal's rebellion is the first and only time that LotGH aspires to genuine tragedy - in the Greek or Shakespearean sense. That is, his downfall is entirely attributable to a flaw in his nature - his overweening pride. Set up for crimes he did not commit, he is too proud to plead his own case and too proud not to take a shot at top spot. He knows his tilt at Reinhard will likely end in his own destruction. Not only do we have a classical tragedy unfolding but it has the awful sense of doom that is so intrinsic to things like Agamemnon or Macbeth. The deaths of spoiler[Kircheis, Yang or Reinhard] are arbitrary - especially spoiler[Reinhard's] - and, while there are several instances of Empire commanders dying because of their recklessness or thoughtlessness, they are comparatively insignificant characters. High ranking mooks, if you will. The two glasses of whiskey sitting undrunk on Reuenthal's desk when Mittermeyer belatedly arrives to negotiate with him is, I think, one of the best moments in the entire franchise.

For their part, the new Iserlohn Republican Government - guided more by "foppery and whim" than genuine democratic principles - have the opportunity to show their mettle now that the overwhelmingly charismatic Yang is out of the way. The robust Schenkopf (who gets some of the best lines in the franchise), Julian Minci (who not only matches Reinhard's military nous but also his unremitting humourlessness), Dusty Attenborough (who could be Yang's double but for the freckles) and Frederica Greenhill now demonstrate a richness previously hidden from view. There are some irritations, though. Minci's love interest, Katerose von Kreutzer, is sometimes spoiled by a too-often sour character design and a surprising equally sour vocal performance from Kotono Mitsuishi, along wih the reliably irritating banalities of Olivier Poplan. Also, I can understand the intended irony of the rebels espousing democracy while having the leadership cabal appointed by the leading faction, however that Frederica is supposed to be the leader of the rebels but whose only meaningul decision is to abrogate all decision making to Julian is more likely just another instance of how unimportant women are in the series. Really, they are just ornaments in a series about men, for a male audience. Even the most interesting woman of the franchise, Hildegard von Mariendorf, loses all her agency once she is impregnated by Reinhard. It's one of my abiding issues with anime in general - women are diminished by love.

The other major factions of the franchise - Rubinsky's and the Terraists - continue to be its weakest elements. Neither are able to transcend cliche and it comes as no surprise that both subplots are resolved altogether too neatly and predictably.

Happily, the final conflict between the Empire and the Iserlohn Republican Government is as exciting as anything seen in the franchise. Minci finally gets to show his mettle as a tactician and strategist while all the admirals and various commanders have their final moments on stage in ways that entirely suit their natures. Who dies and who survives is somewhat predictable but usually fitting. The climactic scenes veer into improbable territory - everything about the lead-up and climax of Minci's face to face meeting with Reinhard is downright bizarre - while Reinhard's illness, even if its effect on the fleet is done interestingly - is typical of the franchise by blunting the dramatic and tragic possibilities of the situation.

In the end, of course, the story of LotGH is Reinhard's. Initially he is a fascinating character but by the third season his overwhelming seriousness has worn out its welcome. In addition, too much meaning is layered onto his life. Perhaps that is why this season spends so much of its time with other characters. The series ends at exactly the right point with Reinhard's story concluding, but with much hope for the future. The personalities of the surviving leaders - spoiler[Mittermeyer and Mariendorf of the empire and Minci and Greenhill of the republic] - give every indication that a more peaceful era awaits the galaxy.

On a technical level, the series is much improved visually with more movement and improved actions scenes. Character designs have a more three dimensional feel to them even if they are still behind the best of the 90s. The near contemporary Irresponsible Captain Tylor is much better in this regard while Cowboy Bebop - only two years away - is in an entirely different league altogether. The music, largely, but not restricted to, Beehoven, Bruckner, Mahler and Shostakovich (there's even some Stravinsky thrown in), is as wonderful and appropriate as ever.

Rating: despite my criticisms I would rate the final season as excellent. Reuenthal's arc and the way the major threads of the franchise are concluded lift this season well above the others.

Overall the LotGH has many faults but the sheer scope of the tale, its vast array of characters - the characterisations outside of Yang Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm may have seemed slight at first but the sheer length of the series gives most of them an opportunity to show their stuff - and the political examinations, if naive at times, help it overcome its shortcomings. It is also very well structured for such a long series and is rarely anything less than engaging and frequently - especially in the gigantic battles - gripping. Because of its structure and its ongoing appeal LotGH is, as an entirety, great than the sum of its four seasons.

Overall rating: very good. (The ratings for the individual seasons were decent, good, good+, excellent.)

I can't end without a screenshot. This is one of my favourite moments. It shows Reinhard's loyal and capable chief of secret police, Kesler, who isn't averse to torture and truth serums, celebrating the birth of Reinhard's heir with the Kaiserin's maid and friend, Marika. Even the chief of police can lose his composure. The two subsequently marry and live happily ever after.

That's soot marks on their faces. You have to earn your happy ending in LotGH

Last edited by Errinundra on Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:20 pm Reply with quote
I have started watching Fate/stay night, and am finding out what everyone else already knew: that different animations of Type-Moon material are... very different.
I have adored The Garden of Sinners, and was luke-warm about Tsukihime. Four episodes in, I'm finding Fate/stay night pretty dreadful. Worse than Tsukihime. The character designs are certainly attractive, but the animation seems uninteresting and little has happened so far to make the formulaic plot terribly plausible or interesting character-wise.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:35 pm Reply with quote

Last edited by Masakaki on Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:37 am; edited 2 times in total
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Surrender Artist

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:39 pm Reply with quote
Masakaki wrote:
Hehe, I'm checking this thread just for errinundra's posts. So good. Shocked

They are pretty boss (and rather pretty, what with the picture and blue text).
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