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REVIEW: Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

May 4, 2011 2 comments
The girls of Eva 2.22

The word you're looking for is HNNNNNNNNNG

You know what? It’s been an unexpectedly rough day since I sat down to watch this movie, and I’m ready to kick back with my fanboy hat on. What say you, blog-readers? Can I put on my fanboy hat and geek out about this movie or not? Doesn’t matter, I’m gonna do it anyway, cos today, I saw perhaps the freshest and most vital installment in the ongoing Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise that there has been since it originally aired in 1995. This movie does not “recapture the feel” of watching the series for the first time, it does not replicate the experience of being surprised. It surprises you. It grabs you and it jolts you out of your seat and your consciousness with such vicious force and determination that you are not asked to pay attention–you are told that you will listen and that you will obey. Consider my fanboy hat firmly on head when I say that Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance is the best entry into the franchise apart from End of Evangelion. It’s bright, it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s tragic, it’s badass, it’s astounding, astonishing and absolutely magical from start to finish. My objectivity cap is over in the corner, yelling at me about accessibility and if anyone but fans will appreciate this movie. And I’m happily telling that hat to stuff itself.

Rebuild 2.22 picks up nowhere near where the first movie left off, starting with no reasonable explanation on the North Pole with an Eva pilot we’ve never seen before trying to sync to an Evangelion Unit we’ve never heard of–“Provisional Unit-05”, by the way–and complaining on comms about the size of her plugsuit’s chest. It’s far too small for her ample European bosom, you see. The new pilot is Mari Illustrious Makinami (Trina Nishimura), and yes, they expect us to believe that’s really her middle name. Mari is a booster shot in the arm of this aging franchise, and it’s nice to know that even when making what’s ostensibly a direct translation of the series for a new audience, they’re adding and tweaking and modding and changing for the fans (as well as their own personal satisfaction). Mari is a new character, and is thus comparatively unexamined, but more on that later. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Hideaki Anno, Movies, Reviews

REVIEW: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt OST

February 7, 2011 1 comment

PSG OSTThis is seriously the best soundtrack I have ever heard to an animated program. That is only hyperbole in the most, but whenever I listen to this soundtrack’s greatest songs, it feels so true. Hideaki Anno, director of Gainax’s previous flagship series Neon Genesis Evangelion, said that in the years that have passed since Eva that there has been no newer anime. While this is certainly true in a literary sense, where Eva‘s imitators have fallen prey to Aping Watchmen and just going dark and edgy without going smart, there have certainly been more modern anime. Leading the pack in modernity since October of 2010 has been Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt–an unrelentingly, unapologetically different series that takes the traditional magical-girl premise and fills it with sex, violence and gross-out humour. Helping it along this path is one of the most righteous soundtracks in existence: a blast of techno and genres that have only existed since the year 2009. Wonderful.

It opens with five of the loudest crashes and bangs possible with the aptly titled “Theme for Panty & Stocking”. A one-chord wonder barely passing thirty seconds in length with improvised lyrics mumbled into an autotuner in a language the singer doesn’t speak, it is perhaps the most addictively simple theme song in history, aside from Hawaii Five-0. It conveys almost all of the feel of the series in thirty-two glorious seconds of blasting techno. Following on this theme is the extended version of our heroines’ power-up theme, “Fly Away”. I don’t know if they credit samples or not–perhaps I shouldn’t have said that–but this is a blastingly compressed, crunchy-to-the-max ode to side-chained compressors. With a kick drum sharp enough to rock your skull and bassy enough to flap your pants, it’s a glorious song even out of context. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Music, Reviews

REVIEW: Squid Girl

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment
The cast of Squid Girl

The Squid's the one with tentacles.

The Japanese are a curious bunch at best. I realize that for a large portion of you, that’s akin to saying the sky is blue, my skin is white or I’ve said a lot of rather awkward and uninformed things about racism and gender. But I can only ever really leave it to the Japanese to use the same broadcast network and the same medium to produce works that vary as wildly as HighSchool of the DeadPanty & Stocking with GarterbeltKissxSis and Shinryaku! Ika Musume (which, for all of you English speakers out there, literally translates to “Invade! Squid Girl“). I have seen works this past anime season that do nothing but the minimum amount of escalation on the last year’s works: one more nipple there, a little less steam here, a little closer to out-and-out incest all over. Squid Girl, oddly enough, is set at a restaurant on the beach and doesn’t have a lick of fanservice.

Squid Girl focuses on a girl who happens to have several attributes of a squid. She can spit squid ink, she has ten tentacles which she can use for a variety of everyday purposes, she can glow in the dark like a firefly squid. She also speaks in perpetual squid puns. Quick lesson on Japanese: every sentence ends with the verb. You can also add an auxiliary verb, roughly meaning “to be” at the end of a sentence when you want to be polite. Samurai, showing selfless dedication to their duty, would end their sentences “de geshou” (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Geso being the Japanese for “tentacle”, Squid Girl ends every sentence “de geso”. In English, this translates to a whackton of squid related humour, but that’s sort of the point. She also vows to invade the surface world as vengeance against mankind for polluting the ocean. She proves… inept to say the least. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Reviews, Television

REVIEW: Rebuild of Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Remakes, reboots–whatever you call them, they’re our subject in this series of reviews. The Rebuild of Evangelion series is a tetralogy of four theatrical releases that tell the story of Shinji Ikari all over again. In the last volume of (I’m) Not a Fanboy, I reviewed the entire Neon Genesis Evangelion series, and am thus likely not ideal to review these movies. I know all this stuff inside and out; when I see these movies, it’s with the eye of a fan, not a critic. I could tell you which episodes are being adapted for the screen, what scenes they’ve left out, what scenes have been shuffled around in the series chronology. And as a fan, I have the unique opportunity to answer the question: is Rebuild really necessary?

The story starts, as all canon Evangelion works do, with Shinji (Spike Spencer) alone in Tokyo-3, waiting for Misato (Alison Keith-Shipp) to pick him up and take him to NERV. Shinji is a lonely, wounded boy–not possessed of great courage, spark or will. Part of the essence of Shinji as a character is his melancholy. He wonders not what he can do for the world but why the world has thanked him for saving them. He doesn’t care for other people, he just wants to be left alone. Yet, fate–or more specifically, his bastard of a father, Gendo (John Swasey)–has chosen him to be the saviour of humanity and pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. Surrounded by interesting people in NERV and his daily life, You Are (Not) Alone chronicles Shinji’s introduction to Tokyo-3 life, from settling in with a new guardian to trying to make friends at school to saving the world from imminent apocalypse. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Hideaki Anno, Movies, Reviews

REVIEW: Grave of the Fireflies

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Let’s just start with how I’m planning to recover from seeing this movie. First, I watched the first opening to K-On!!. Big, happy, cute pop number performed by cute and clumsy girls. Light, fluffy, like the best eggs or blankets. After that, I compared that to the second opening of the season. Dave was right; the second one is better. Not that either of them are crap. It’s just that–yeah. And now I’m listening to Polysics, who are Japanese Devo on steroids, skipping their ritalin and cranking out the happy tunes. All of this is because Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most powerful war time tragedies ever made. It’s nice to remember after seeing something so human and emotionally engaging that people are sometimes kind.

As this movie opened with young Seita on the floor of a train station, homeless and about to die, clutching a can filled with bone fragments and ashes, you should likely gather that this movie starts bad and gets worse. War is not kind. War is not glamourous. War is not heroic. What it is is a brutal, merciless failure of the governments to protect their citizens. All war is ceaseless brutality with no point and no redemption. While it should be obvious to us now, after the entire military history of the world through the last century has been catalogued and recorded for all of us to see, it’s seeing a film like Grave of the Fireflies to remind you of how badly war just plain sucks. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Movies, Reviews

Conclusion: Neon Genesis Evangelion

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, a month and 16 681 words later, it has come to this. It’s now time to give my opinion on Neon Genesis Evangelion that counts for all of the series. Are you nervous? I’m nervous. Okay. Here goes, as spoiler-free as my review of End of Evangelion yet serving the entire series. I guess I should come out with it now–Neon Genesis Evangelion is damned brilliant, and if you don’t think so, you’re wrong. People have said that 2001: A Space Odyssey and Watchmen are worthless dreck before. If you can’t recognize the utter brilliance that is Evangelion, you don’t know what genius looks like.

It’s a complex character study of depression, loneliness and the physical and emotional manifestations thereof. Not only does it do this with utmost respect for the conditions and personality flaws of its characters, it does this while also functioning as a top quality Super Robot deconstruction. It juggles more narrative hats than can be believed, given its 26-episode runtime. It works on the narrative level, the subtextual level and the metatextual level to deliver a multi-layered and complex story worthy of being ranked among the best ever televised. All that, and it gave us the wonder that is The Jet Alone. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Hideaki Anno, Reviews

REVIEW: The End of Evangelion

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

End of Evangelion might be one of my favourite movies of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t put it on when it’s a rainy day and I wouldn’t say it’s the best stand-alone movie of all time, either. End of Evangelion is what it is and functions as it is because it’s the conclusion to a story that had already been mostly told. It’s a statement that’s immediately suspect, like someone saying that Revenge of the Sith is their favourite Star Wars movie. Is that out of the new trilogy, is that as a movie, is that in comparison to all six and really–would it hold up well as an individual film? With End of Eva, that’s a really good question, innit.

The End of Evangelion, for the dozens and dozens of readers I have (okay, for the two to six readers I have) is exactly what it says on the tin. It is the last two episodes of the television series Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s also the sequel to a clipshow movie called Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, which has had far too many incarnations to sort through in a movie review. It concludes the story of Shinji Ikari, a shy young boy tasked with piloting a giant purple robot to save the world. And boy, is it conclusive. Very, very conclusive. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Hideaki Anno, Movies, Reviews