June 12, 2005

Films, Anime 

I read quite a lot of books, but recently it's 90% narrative. You know, essays, history and such generally require quite a lot of concentration and intellectual application, and in this period I don't have much of intellectual energies left after working. So I prefer to read something more escapist.

And, for entertainment I watch movies and anime. Since I bought a DVD player (that can also read DivX files...), I have to impose some restraint on myself, otherwise I'd fill my room with DVDs. I think DVD is a great invention: a compact but high-capacity, durable and easy to use support for images was needed. Indeed, the success of DVD is so overwhelming that the VHS will basically disappear in a few years, especially now that writable and re-writable DVDs and writers are affordable. Much as it happened with audio cassettes and CDs - but cassettes are stubbornly refusing to die. The reason is that while CD writers are rather cheap, cassette recorders are absolutely inexpensive and technologically almost primitive.

I am buying all Ghost In The Shell - Standalone Complex, and I'll have to buy the movie too. I have Nausicaa and Neon Genesis Evangelion - and when I go to the shop I really have to restrain myself; too much good stuff out there. Indeed, yesterday I went to buy GITS, but it was sold out.

So, I got Blood: The Last Vampire instead. It's a great anime, but it left me a bit disappointed. The all-digital animation and drawings are absolutely superb and left me with the eerie "more real than real" sensation. The Hercules and F-4s are rendered very very well. Also the music score and sound are top-notch, definitely. I have a nit to pick, tho: the B-52 has eight engines, not six! (What's a B-52 have to do with vampires? The story is set in the Yokota Air Base in 1966, and a B-52 is shown while taking off for a bombing mission in Vietnam).

The story... well, there isn't much of a plot: we only have this tough-as-nails girl Saya slashing and cutting her way with a Japanese sword through a number of hideous blood-drinking demons. And one guy unfortunate enough to be misidentified (Update 13/06: rewatching the film I realized the guy on the train was not misidentified). The whole movie has a dark atmosphere - there is no comic relief, no cute sidekicks. The story proceedes at a frantic pace from one riveting fight to another... and then it simply ends, without answering a lot of questions that have been raised. Saya is a vampire, the last of the "original" ones. But what are those other demons, and why she's on the hunt together with a bunch of American secret agents is not revealed.
The whole movie is only 48 minutes long, so it's not surprising that many things are left undeveloped. And it left me disappointed in the sense that it looked more like an extended preview than a complete story. Ah, Saya spends a lot of her screentime in a Japanese shcool uniform, for those interested. AnimeWorld reports that a sequel of Blood is in the works, and if it keeps up it will be another great anime. There is a website for this movie, too, and it contains some cool stuff but it's short on information. A TV series titled Blood+ will also air in Japan starting Oct 2005 - and this time Saya is a regular schoolgirl, at least at the beginning.

Speaking of cute sidekicks, it is almost a must for anime to have them. There are notable exceptions - Ghost In The Shell has nothing cute or comic; it's dark and gloomy from the first to the last second. But Standalone Complex introduces the Tachikomas, which are rather cute, chatty and offer comic relief - and also more or less serious considerations about Artificial Intelligencies and sentient machines. And things get completely mad in the short animation features Tachikoma Days (indeed, the opening animation says "Tachikoma-kun", that means Tachikoma-dear) at the end of each episode - the "bowling" scene in #5 is a riot of fun.

Still, the Tachikomas are first and foremost battle machines, strictly utilitarian and not accustomed to the needs of organic life; they are also armed and ready to open fire without esitation if required. All in all, my secret dream is to have a pet Tachikoma - no burglar is going to get past it, I tell you.


Yokimo Readman from Read or Die is the cutest girl in Anime.

I've heard that RoD is nice, but not exceptional. I'll take your word about Yokimo!

Extremely late comment. Wonder if you'll see this...

That wasn't a B-52 you saw in Blood; it was a B-47 Stratojet. That's why it only had 6 engines.

But I agree with you that it's inconsistent. As far as I know, the U.S. Air Force never used the B-47 in Vietnam.

My biggest problem with Blood was the mixed Japanese and English dialogue--or rather, the horridly flat quality of the English voice acting, which really grated on my ears, as compared to the Japanese. Unfortunately it seems to be very hard to find good English voice acting.

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