Covid-19 Lockdown: the Sequel – Anime Picks for Survival

“In between those Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings there is a plethora of quality Japanese animation to catch-up on, so here is a list of easily accessible Anime to get you through these difficult times”

Like an inevitable movie sequel, the UK, among many other countries too, are back in Covid-19 isolation. As the virus continues to spread across the globe, many have been told to work from home and isolate where possible. Restaurants, bars and most non-essential shops have closed once again, and many people’s living rooms have become their office. For others that may mean not being able to work at all. Staying indoors for long periods can of course take its toll in different ways to all of us. But don’t fear, as in between those Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings there is a plethora of quality Japanese animation to catch-up on. So here is a list of easily accessible Anime to get you through these difficult times. Because even a month can feel like forever. All the best to those struggling during these unprecedented times.

Dragon Ball Super

What better way to spend your abundance of free time than bingeing on a long-running, instant classic? Dragon Ball Super is the sequel series to the incomparable Dragon Ball Z. So, forget about that Dragon Ball GT boxset on your shelf and watch the real thing. 131 episodes and 5 sagas should pass the time on nicely. Even if you have already watched the DBZ movies Battle of Gods and Resurrection F it is still worth catching the whole action-packed series. The later sagas boast some of the best looking animated visuals ever seen on screen, and with a Crunchyroll account, the entire series (subtitled only) can be viewed for free.

Dragon Ball Super is also available on Blu-Ray/DVD by chapters or complete box set.

Cowboy Bebop

Let’s all be honest with each other here. We all have it on our DVD/Blu-Ray shelf, sitting pretty amongst all the other anime. But now is the best time to sit and watch those classics you worked so hard to get the best bargain online. Cowboy Bebop certain ranks amongst the all-time classic anime series. Experience a future of legal bounty hunters, otherwise known as ‘Cowboys’, as they chase bad guys across moons orbiting around a now-inhabitable planet Earth. Although only twenty-six episodes, it is an intergalactic crime caper entertainment of the highest order. It also stands as quite possibly the best single-season anime of all time.

Cowboy Bebop is available on DVD/Blu-Ray, and to stream for free via All 4.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

The prominence of anime on Netflix in recent times is remarkable. In the last twelve months alone, the contingent of classic anime additions bolster an already impressive library of latest releases. One such classic is Neon Genesis Evangelion. Seemingly left in license limbo, Netflix also went to town on this acquisition by having the English dub track re-casted and re-recorded. Make of that what you will (believe me, many have), but nevertheless, Evangelion truly does rank among the greats. What starts out as high school kids piloting world-saving robots against prophesised alien lifeforms known as Angels, descends into a fascinating crescendo of mental health, trauma and depression against an ever-escalating apocalyptic landscape. You can feel that director Hideaki Anno has poured his absolute heart and soul into this, and remains a work that Anno himself confessed was left completely burnt out after its conclusion. Twenty-five years on, Neon Genesis Evangelion remains as remarkable and essential anime viewing as you’re ever likely to see.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is available to stream on Netflix.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn

This original video animation adaption is another Netflix entry worthy of your watch list. This series of seven, mini-movie length episodes were released over a period of four years. MSG: Unicorn follows Banagher Links, a schoolboy, like many, residing in the space colony Industrial 7. His life turns upside down after meeting and rescuing disguised princess Audrey Burne and encountering a new Gundam armour. What follows is seven and a half hours of amazing action-adventure storytelling, and an audio-visual spectacle. MSG: Unicorn could easily be thrown in among the space opera genre on its appearance alone, which does it no harm, but at its heart and soul it is a highly-entertaining quest story. For those concerned, you do not need to be cultured in the way of Gundam in any way to know what is happening. Just sit back, relax, and let the fantastic action guide you through.  

Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn is available to buy on Blu-Ray and to stream on Netflix.

Devilman: Crybaby

The best Netflix-produced anime out there, Devilman Crybaby, is one of the most batshit crazy and apocalyptic series you’re ever likely to come across. This modern-day retelling of the 1970’s Go Nagai manga powers through the origin of Devilman, AKA Akira Fudo, and how becoming the ultimate anti-hero changes his life and of those around him. Love, betrayal, violence (a LOT of violence) and drama come together in this ten-episode onslaught on the senses. Forget the hilariously-dubbed Manga effort, Devilman Crybaby is as raw as they come.

Devilman Crybaby is available to stream on Netflix.

We’re a few days into the current UK national lockdown, what have you watched so far, or intend to whilst at home for the next three weeks?

A History of Manga Entertainment UK (Part 1)

“As the UK’s first anime outlet, Manga has distributed and produced some of the best (and worst) the genre has to offer in years gone by”

Manga Entertainment, as it is known today, was originally founded in 1987. It is famous, or infamous in some cases (yes, I’m looking at you, Legend of the Overfiend) for introducing Anime to the United Kingdom. As the UK’s first anime outlet, Manga has distributed and produced some of the best (and worst) the genre has to offer in years gone by. This ‘Manga Video’ brand was a name synonymous with the Anime genre throughout the 1990s, dominating the world cinema sections of HMV’s and Virgin Megastores (remember those?) across the country. The genre quickly grew to have a home of its own, as other Western-based publishers and distributers burst onto the Anime scene. The word ‘manga’ is of course the Japanese word used for comic, often of which are the source materials used to create anime series, movies and direct to video productions. Here is a brief insight into a company that has hit great highs and lows, and is now on the rise once again.

In the late 1980s, a new subsidiary of Island Records was created, withmarketing director Andy Frain placed in charge. By 1991, the company purchased the distribution rights to Akira. It was subsequently released into cinemas and was a massive success. Suddenly, a huge window of opportunity and potential opened; the western world was ready for Anime.

The Manga Video introduction present on most of its VHS catalogue, and contains footage from its very first releases.

From Akira’s success came the creation of the Manga Video label later that year. Managed by Laurence Guinness day to day, Laurence went on to become executive producer on almost every Manga Video release throughout the 90’s. Timing was everything; Manga Video acquired many of the big licenses, and the partnership with American publisher Central Park Media allowed the English dub costs to be shared. This gave Manga the tools to hit the UK market with many releases in the nineties VHS generation. By the time Manga’s first collector’s catalogue was published for its club members in 1995, there were 74 titles logged within it, with many more on the horizon. Retail success came from monthly OVA episode releases (e.g. The Guyver, Giant Robo), collections that were made very affordable due to the even cost spread of around £5.99 – £9.99 per volume.

Single-VHS episodes proved very popular for Manga’s sales

As the catalogue grew and grew, Akira had continued success in the home market, as it remained at the forefront of the Manga Video label. It came at a time when dark science fiction (Robocop, Aliens, and Escape from New York) was at its peak in Hollywood. Early releases such as Venus Wars, Lensman and Doomed Megalopolis gave Manga a clear target audience, that being young men, and quickly became the label’s marketing strategy. Manga’s regular release schedule of edgy, dark and often very violent productions soon became the bulk of its catalogue.

An early Manga Video advertisement, published in Super Play magazine

The English dub tracks were often scripted to include extra, and often unnecessary, profanity to increase the age rating classification (a process known as ‘fifteening’) to keep in line with this target demographic. Some releases had their soundtrack compositions completely replaced, with mixed results (Cyber City Oedo is a prime example of both methods). Over time however, the lack of subtitled releases, which would not arrive until the DVD line materialised, would be a constant source of complaint from the growing UK Anime fan-base.

A prime source of ‘fifteening’, with profanity deliberately included to give certain productions a more adult approach

Despite Manga Video’s VHS success, the success of Akira could never be replicated. Seeing potential in a new feature, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, Andy Frain was instilled as co-executive producer. This allowed Manga to release the movie on a worldwide scale. This ultimately led to a US-relationship, expanding the Manga Video catalogue even further. When Ghost in the Shell arrived in 1995, it performed well, but not to the levels Akira reached, with many of its new direct-to-video releases faring better for sales. The direct investment into GitS did not lead to a return in profits, and led to Andy Frain stepping down. And thus began troubling times for the label that began so well….

Join me next time as I explore what becomes a difficult, transitional period for Manga Video, as it aims to carry its legacy into the DVD market under a new, US-led leadership. Ta ta for now!

Neo Tokyo is about to E-X-P-L-O-D-E… into your Face in 4K at a Cinema Near You!

“Akira remains the benchmark Anime movie, and, for my money, the greatest of all time”

Manga Entertainment have confirmed that the new 4K restoration of Akira will screen in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from October 7. Katsuhiro Otomo’s towering 1988 classic has been given the 4K treatment for 2020. It will undoubtedly look better than ever. The film will screen in over 200 locations, including selected IMAX venues. There are previews taking place October 7 and 8, with the full opening on October 9. All screenings will be in the original Japanese with English subtitles.

Darcy Giles, Manga’s PR and Social Media Manager says:

 Prepare your eyeballs! We’re thrilled to announce that Akira is coming to IMAX this October for a very limited time only. Grab your tickets as soon as possible – you don’t want to miss this.

Need help finding your nearest screening? The majority of locations are on the website now, and expect the rest to be made available shortly. Over in the US, Funimation will be showing in selected locations from September 24with a 4K UHD Blu-Ray release this December. Find your nearest screening here.

Akira is the one of the world’s most treasured and revered animated movies. Its post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk outline of a world-away-from-ours in 2019 is one of animation’s most iconic productions. It tells the story of Kaneda, a leader of a bike teenage bike gang whose childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima, acquires escalating telekinetic powers after a motorcycle accident. In a world already ignited by chaos and violent protests, Tetsuo’s untapped power threatens to destroy it all.

Akira was the movie that kicked off the western Anime revolution of the 90’s. In the United Kingdom, it was the basis for the Manga Video brand, Manga Entertainment in its current UK form. Over 30 years later, Akira still remains their most important asset, with Manga ensuring each of its restorations reach UK shores. It remains the benchmark Anime movie, and, for my money, the greatest of all time.

Will you be seeing Akira in its latest restoration? Will this be your first time seeing Akira? Let me know your views!

Shenmue is Back (Again!) and Coming to a Small Screen Near You

The announcement comes after the release of Shenmue 3 only last year, which is unprecedented in of itself given the 18-year gap between Shenmue 2 and Shenmue 3.

Shenmue, Yu Suzuki’s revenge-driven, slow-burn saga that oddly encourages capsule toy and gambling addictions, is getting an anime adaption, courtesy of Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.

For Shenmue, this new production will only serve to boost a franchise popular both yesterday and today. The first Shenmue was released in 1999 for the short-lived but excellent Sega Dreamcast console, as did its sequel two years later. The demise of the Dreamcast, as well as Yu Suzuki’s departure from developer AM2 years later, meant the future of the franchise was up in the air since 2001. The successful Shenmue 3 Kickstarter campaign began back in 2015, the highest-funded video game project in its 11-year history, and was released in November last year.

The series tells the tale of teenager Ryo Hazuki, who, after witnessing his father’s murder at the hands on Lan Di, wishes to avenge his father’s death. It is an 1980’s-set journey that traverses the Far East, from Yokasuka in Japan, through Hong Kong and Guilin in China. Shenmue served as an open-world schematic for many video games that followed, and continues to do so to this day. The enveloped environments, including a day and night system, interaction with NPC (Non-Playable-Characters), daily schedules and free reign to explore at will, brought a living, breathing world at your fingertips.

This unprecedented animated project comes with series creator Yu Suzuki serving as executive producer, with One Punch Man’s Chikara Sakurai in the directing hot seat. The planned 13-episode series will be produced by Telecom Animation Film, responsible for the latest Lupin the Third series. The announcement comes after the release of Shenmue 3 only last year, which is unprecedented in of itself given the 18-year gap between Shenmue 2 and Shenmue 3. The announcement came out of Crunchyroll’s Crunchyroll Expo (CRX), which took place September 4-6. This will be the third collaboration between Crunchyroll and Adult Swim, following the announcements of both Blade Runner Black Lotus and Fena: Pirate Princess.

What are your thoughts on this one? To be honest, if there are forklifts, I am so on board with this.

Kiki’s Delivery Service: The Miyazaki Classic That Saved Studio Ghibli

“Even with three undeniably excellent movies in their repertoire, Studio Ghibli was yet to truly establish itself commercially”

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The key to making a kids’ adventure film fly with its audience is to achieve the unbelieveable. Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, released this week 31 years ago in its native Japan, certainly soars among the best of them. But Studio Ghibli’s fourth movie needed to be a sure-fire hit.

The studios previous movie, the wondrous My Neighbor Totoro, was a box office flop in Japan. Producer Toshio Suzuki paved the way for Totoro to be released as a double feature alongside Grave of the Fireflies. This was a collaborative effort from each movie’s respective publisher, Tokuma Shoten and Shinchosha. Of the two, Totoro faired disastrously. It is incredible to think that a movie so synonymous with western anime fans today, arguably Ghibli’s jewel in the crown, might never have reached the west if not for their next production.

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The late 80’s were a period of high-risk for anime feature films. Budgets were getting bigger, the movies more grand in scope and ideas, even experimental. In the previous year, 1988, Akira, one of the most popular anime movies of all time in the west, was itself a commercial failure at the box office in Japan. Kiki’s budget (800 million yen) just a year later was actually higher than Akira’s (700 million yen). Akira however was already on the western radar, and would be distributed overseas shortly after Kiki’s release. Even with three undeniably excellent movies in their repertoire, Studio Ghibli was yet to truly establish itself commercially.

As a way to build up hype for their next movie, My Neighbor Totoro was placed on Japanese television for the first time in 1989. With that came promotional material for the upcoming Kiki’s Delivery Service. The studio promoted the film on the TV station NTV, including interviews with girls of a similar age to Kiki, the 13-year-old protagonist of the film. Additional to that, commercials related to both the film and previous Studio Ghibli films were also aired, raising awareness in an attempt to expand their audience. Kiki’s Delivery Service subsequently opened in Japanese theatres on July 29th 1989, and became one of the year’s highest grossing movie in Japan.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the fifth movie from Studio Ghibli founder and visionary director Hayao Miyazaki. But this was not originally a Miyazaki-led project. Sunao Katabuchi, who would go on to make the 2016 anime In This Corner of the World, was initially in the director’s chair. Just a year before release however, Miyazaki announced he would be taking control. His influence shines through; the defining hallmarks such as luscious, green hills that seem endless in their beauty, and blue skies that are simply crisp and perfect. And beyond the magnificent visual aesthetics lies Miyazaki’s greatest gift: Positivity through adversity.

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Many will be more familiar with Spirited Away, the 2001 Oscar-winning tale of Chihiro, a young girl trapped in a ghost-ridden old theme park, and must strive on to locate her parents and free them all. Draw the fantastical aesthetics away, it is a movie about a young girl finding courage to do what’s right, and not take for granted what is presented to her as she begins to grow up. Adapting to a seemingly impossible, inescapable situation, learning who to trust (and, more importantly, who not to trust), developing bonds while never losing touch with who you really are.

These very real emotional situations are the endearing messages behind Miyazaki’s movies. Kiki’s Delivery Service is no different; there is no antagonist to impose challenges. The challenges are one’s we can all relate to. Finding one’s place in the world, the importance of hard work as well as finding adversity in personal challenges cannot fail to envelope the viewer in Kiki’s coming of age as a teenager. Apply Miyazaki’s now-staple but nonetheless always beautiful backdrops and structural beauty, and you’ve got one very special movie. One that is arguably Studio Ghibli’s most special, yet undeniably most important, of them all.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is streaming now in the UK on Netflix, and in the US on HBO Max.

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A Silent Voice Review

“A Silent Voice, one of Kyoto’s finest productions to date, undoubtedly gives the viewer provocation to reflect on any regrettable childhood actions.”

Director: Naoko Yamada; Distributor: Anime Limited. 12 cert, 130 mins.

Last year one of the most tragic events in Japan since World War II took place at Kyoto Animation. 36 people died in a horrific attack that has left a feeling of reflection and sadness associated with any Kyoto Animation production. A Silent Voice, one of Kyoto’s finest productions to date, undoubtedly gives the viewer provocation to reflect on any regrettable childhood actions. Naoko Yamada’s adaption of Yoshitoki Ōima’s manga Koe No Katachi, A Silent Voice, is a coming-of-age drama; A story of atonement, friendship, and much more. Originally released in the UK in 2017, it now receives the special edition DVD/Blu-Ray treatment thanks to Anime Limited. Sadness and reflection may root at the core of A Silent Voice, but its poignancy and beauty are defintely worth savouring.

6th grade student Ishida Shouya is the resident class prankster. That is until his increasingly-serious bullying behavior results in a hearing-impaired classmate being transferred out of his school. Ishida, ostrasised by his friends and classmates, begins to learn first-hand how it feels to be the victim. The original title translates as “The Shape of Voice”. It not only displays at both the beginning and end of the movie, it is also curiously closer to the movie’s meaning.

A Silent Voice is a movie about many things. Self-worth, friendship, love, restitution, even regret. The movie originates with bullying as its focus; its many forms and repercussions of such actions. Ishida’s pranks are cruel, unfair and systemic. And although he is responsible for the majority of the bullying against Nishimiya Shōko, his friends and even his teacher immediately and continually reject their new classmate’s difficulties, as well as her personality. Ishida’s happy-go-lucky life is turned upside down when both friends and staff ostracise him following Shōko’s bullying-driven transfer.

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Bullying is a subject that is of course very real. Whether it be shunning someone who just wants to be friends, or throwing their school bag into a pond. Yamada’s delivery of such actions plus their repercussions in later life are eloquently delivered. There is a distinct tenderness to Yamada’s direction, despite the movie exploring a number of unpleasant and difficult topics. Scenes with sign language are subtly non-subtitled to give you a flavour of what it’s like to deduce what is being said. Equally effective are silent Shōko scenes that lead you, through family facial expressions and Shōko’s actions, to empathise with their plight. Empathetic, endearing yet subtle.

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A Silent Voice makes extensive use of photography work. The palette is lightly-coloured and bathes the city of Ogaki with elegance and beauty. More so than the real thing, which is what animation should be; a representation of a world and it’s character, not the world itself.

The soundtrack is also a delight. Soft piano and ambient melodies capture the mood just as effectively as the moments where silence take centre stage in delivering emotion. It’s an auditory experience that’s memorable as a whole as opposed to standout tracks that stick in your mind.

Beguiling, sensuous, delicate yet brilliant, A Silent Movie is simply a captivating experience. The subject matter may well be polarising for some, but it’s a powerful movie that’s definitely worthy of anyone’s time.

Studio Ghibli movies coming to Netflix UK from February

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From next month, Netflix will show 21 feature films from Studio Ghibli in the UK for the first time. What better time to sample some of the best animation, along with accompanying scores, the world has to offer.

With Netflix’s acquisition, the movies will also be available to watch across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. Previously, Studio Ghibli had declined to offer digital versions of its content in any capacity. However in the US recently, Ghibli made downloadable copies available for sale.

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The movies will be subtitled in 28 languages as well as producing new dubs, which will no doubt be the main source of scrutiny.  The first wave of releases drop on February 1st. That means greats such as Castle in the SkyMy Neighbor TotoroKiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso will reach Netflix UK’s estimated 9.5 million subscribers.

Further to that, on March 1st, more classics will be added, including Nausicaä of the Valley of the WindPrincess Mononoke, and personal favourite Spirited Away. And again, on April 1st, Whisper of the Heart, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Wind Rises, and others, also drop. That’s no April fool. What a time to be alive.

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Fans of Grave of the Fireflies will despair however, with publishing rights currently residing away from Studio Ghibli. But that is nevertheless only a minor downer in contrast to the quality on the way. For me, I’m very much looking forward to educating my 7 year old daughter on Ghibli’s gorgeous, glorious greatness.

Full list of what to expect and when :-

February 1st

Castle In The Sky

My Neighbour Totoro

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Only Yesterday

Porco Rosso

Ocean Waves

Tales From Earthsea

 

March 1st

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind

Princess Mononoke

My Neighbours The Yamadas

Spirited Away

The Cat Returns

Arrietty

The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya

 

April 1st

Pom Poko

Whisper Of The Heart

Howl’s Moving Castle

Ponyo

From Up On Poppy Hill

The Wind Rises

When Marnie Was There

Which Studio Ghibli movie is your favourite? Which will you watch first?

Akira is Making a Comeback, Let’s Fall in Love With it All Over Again

The anime behemoth is back – in more ways than one

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This past weekend at Anime Expo 2019, legendary manga creator Katsuhiro Otomo announced a new anime project, namely an adaption of his Akira manga. Sunrise, one of Japan’s biggest animation studios, creators of classics such as Cowboy Bebop, Mobile Suit Gundam and even non-Japanese productions Inspector Gadget (i miss that) and Batman: The Animated Series, will produce. Sunrise CEO Makoto Asanuma confirmed the intention of incorporating the entire story of the manga. So yeah, pretty huge news.

And if that news alone wasn’t huge enough for you, well how about this: The original 1988 movie will receive a 4K remaster in both Japan and the US. Hopefully a UK version will follow also, with Akira still serving as one of Manga UK’s key licenses.

Otomo’s original sci-fi action manga ran for 8 years in Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine, from 1982 to 1990. It is set in Neo-Tokyo, a city that has been rebuilt following a mysterious explosion. The movie, directed by Otomo, created an explosion of its own in the west back in the early 1990’s. It is still considered by many, me included, to be the benchmark is Japanese animation. Its hard to argue this point, despite many other glowing examples in the last 30 years.

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After paving the way for anime into the mainstream, Akira also helped launch Manga Mania, a UK-based anime/manga magazine from Dark Horse Comics. The western translation became its premiere manga strip, with 100 pages each month. The magazine’s decline is often attributed to the end of the strip in issue 38. Akira’s 6-volume run is always in circulation across the globe, and remains one of the most successful and influential manga ever created.

As for the movie, a 4K edition is most welcome, and certainly deserving. Of all the Japanese anime works in the world, especially one that is over 30 years old, there are few that look better, even today. It wasn’t the most expensive anime film of its time (1.1 billion yen) for nothing. It has already undergone remaster treatment for both DVD in 2001 (as well as the alternative English dub track) and more recently Blu-Ray, featuring a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 192 kHz remaster. Definitely plenty to look forward to from a 4K version.

As for the manga adaption, if it indeed is produced as a series, don’t expect the same lavish production. Although I’ve little doubt that if Otomo is involved, it will need to be some form of standard-setter. His 2004 effort Steamboy is still the most expensive anime ever produced, standing at 2.4 billion yen, and was in production for 10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how the creative style stays true to his manga. Although the 1988 movie does not follow the original manga (it was still being produced by Otomo while he was making the movie), the style remained very true to the original.

So after 31 years, Akira has once again come to the forefront of Japanese animation across the world. I will of course remain sceptical of the planned Warner Bros Taika Waititi Hollywood effort. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go watch and read Akira all over again.

Buy Akira on Blu-Ray here

Buy the Akira manga here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neon Genesis Evangelion is Now Streaming on Netflix, and You Really Should Watch It

“But Evangelion is far more than just a typical “Mecha” series. If anything, it is a total deconstruction of the genre”

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What a time to be alive. For a number of years now, particularly in the UK, availability of anime from the 80’s and 90’s has been at a premium. The founding flourishing anime market that exploded thanks to Manga Video, ADV Films and others, has seen many Anime licenses come and indeed, go. In the case of Neon Genesis Evangelion, it remains one of the few exceptions to that trend. And with good reason; Evangelion excels in almost every department. And thanks to Netflix, as of today, the franchise now has a new home.

Neon Genesis Evangelion was animated by studio GAINAX, which is also known for the superb Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise, as well as the surreal FLCL. Often described as an apocalyptic, psychological drama, Evangelion depicts how teenager Shinji Ikari’s life is changed completely after he is summoned by his estranged father, Gendo, and pressured to pilot a secret paramilitary robot suit, known as an Eva. Gendo’s organisation, NERV, is the world’s last defence against giant monster-like beings called Angels.

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But Evangelion is far more than just a typical “Mecha” series. If anything, it is a total deconstruction of the genre. Shinji must learn to cope with his father who had previously abandoned him, saving the world, and growing up. He is desperate for acceptance in a world where he feels abandoned and alone. Eva’s can only be piloted by children,  and fellow pilots Asuka and Rei have their own emotional issues also, and must learn to cope with the pressures of piloting together. It’s a psychological cocktail that also boasts several fantastic action sequences.

The series is the definitive entry point for the franchise. In mid to late 90’s UK, where the anime scene was growing but still in its infancy, Evangelion was significant as part of that growth. In Japan however, Evangelion erupted the genre from a slump and quickly became a social phenomenon and new guiding light.

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The series’ production wasn’t without its own controversies, however. Rumours of production and budget issues at Gainax led to some visible decay in editing. Since that time it has been attributed more to director Hideake Anno’s creative process and changes. The final 2 episodes in particular polarised fans the world over, and shook the anime world at the time.

Ultimately, this led to the creation of 2 Evangelion movies; Death (True)2, an alternative, condensed cut of the series, and End of Evangelion, an alternative ending movie, just 2 years later. End of Evangelion has garnered its own deserved and widespread critical acclaim.

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The Netflix streams feature the original Japanese audio, plus a brand new English dub. This dub replaces the English dub used for the original ADV Films release and Manga Entertainment releases of the TV series and films, respectively. There are also multiple subtitle options available.

Having reached episode 5 at the time of writing, the high-definition remaster is very impressive, as is the new English dub. The original soundtrack is intact and sounds better than ever. With the first chords of its brilliant theme song I was immediately taken back to my college youth, collecting the 2-episode length VHS tapes every few weeks at a time when DVD was barely a reality.

Also At the time writing, these Netflix Evangelion anime titles are currently not available for home release as the licenses from ADV Films (TV series) and Manga Entertainment (Films) have since expired. More recently Hideako Anno has been working on the Rebuild of Evangelion films. The first movie starts with a remake of the first six episodes, with 3 subsequent movies taking an entirely new direction. The first 3 films are currently available on DVD/Blu-Ray, entitled 1.0 You Are (not) Alone2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, and 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo. The fourth and final film Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 is scheduled for release in Japan next year.

Netflix pages for each Evangelion entry:-

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Evangelion: Death(true)2

The End of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a tremendous feat in animation, drama and action. It serves as one of the glowing examples of the anime genre, and has been instrumental in growing its fan base across the world. And now, almost 25 years on, thanks to Netflix, its bound to grow even more.

 

 

 

 

Dragon Ball Super: Broly Blu-Ray Review – The Franchise Beast Comes to Your Living Room

Its Over 9000, etc etc

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This post includes the previously published cinematic review from February 2019.

Movie Review:-

There has never been a better time to be a Dragon Ball fan. Following Dragon Ball’s resurrection after almost 20 years with Dragon Ball Super, there has been a resurgence for Akira Toriyama’s franchise like never before. And while that series has now ended, there is no sign of a let up in that resurgence, either. Dragon Ball FighterZ, the excellently-accessible and instantly beloved beat-em-up, took the fighting video game scene by storm as well the franchise’s fan base, me included. And now, in early 2019, comes Dragon Ball Super: Broly: an anime movie for the ages.

Unlike the non-canon Broly movies of the 90’s, DBS: Broly is no simple series tie-in movie. This is Broly’s official integration into the Dragon Ball canon, with the story coming from series creator himself, Akira Toriyama. And where 1993’s Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan felt like nothing more than disconnected DBZ DLC, this Broly absolutely feels like the real deal.

Dragon Ball Z and Super were both series known for thrusting muscle over matter. DBS: Broly parks that notion somewhat for the first half of the movie. In its place is a history lesson. Broly’s origin is detailed but also that of the the Saiyan race as a whole. Indeed, the Planet Vegeta opening, admittedly initially met with uncertainty, quickly becomes the most successful and powerful gambit Toriyama has ever played. The Saiyans are not as they have always been perceived to be.

Nothing to see here, Richard Donner

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Their status as planet conquerors is reaffirmed, but under nothing more than a slave capacity to – guess who – Frieza. It’s a wholly refreshing take that also integrates the series’ sense of charm and humour to lighten the mood in the face of hardship. Furthermore, insight into Goku and Vegeta’s origins offer what no other Dragon Ball movie ever has before – immediate accessibility for newcomers to the universe.

As for Broly himself, as a child he is outcast to a distant planet due to his immeasurable potential power. Despite his father’s dedication to his son’s well-being, Broly is a child born of mental fragility, a loss of innocence, and the relationship with his father is a strained one. All of which resonate far too well; this is not some simple rival for Goku or a world-conquering threat. Broly is a young man who has been denied the chance to discover his own destiny by both his rulers and his father. Fast forward to the present, where – being mindful of spoilers – Broly, Goku, Vegeta and Frieza face off in a jaw-dropping, spectacular and unrelenting second act that few will forget.

A bit of work required on Broly’s ‘breaking the ice’ technique

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DBS: Broly is absolutely one of the best drawn animated movies ever. The use of 2D shading over 3D models during the excellently choreographed fight sequences is very well done. It delivers a sense of speed and detail never seen in the Dragon Ball universe. You’d be forgiven for having your jaw pushed back up from time to time, such is the quality Toei have delivered here.

As a spectacle, like many a Dragon Ball conflict, DBS: Broly feels like the build up to a boxing title match. You know for a fact there is a big fight on the way. But part of that anticipation is not knowing how it will turn out. It could be anticlimactic. It could be a fight that will live long in the memory. Somehow, over the course of its 40-minute back and forth fight sequence, DBS: Broly manages to be all of those things. It has to be seen to be believed. Slightly unfortunate however, given the shift from origin-movie drama to breakneck battle bonanza, is the resulting inconsistent change of pace. It reached a point that quite frankly feels a little overwhelming on first viewing.

DBS: Broly is an energetic, emotional and exciting thrill ride of a movie. It’s incredible to realise that Dragon Ball, a franchise that began over 30 years ago, has not only sustained its popularity, it stands to be more popular than ever before. It’s the Dragon Ball movie all fans have been waiting for. Given its rampant success so far on its theatrical run, plus the revelations of its Toriyama-penned story, there are sure to be new fans waiting in the wings.

Blu-Ray Review:-

Manga Entertainment’s release comes in various formats. There is the Blu-ray and DVD combination Steelbook, a collector’s edition Blu-ray featuring art cards and poster,  the standard Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a combination pack that includes Broly with Resurrection F and Battle of Gods. Sainsbury’s are also offering an exclusive edition featuring four art cards that are different from those included in the collector’s edition. Personally, I opted for the collector’s edition Blu-Ray release.

The transition of the movie to Blu-Ray is flawless, with both original Japanese and English dubbing tracks available. There is no ‘green tint’ that was present in the US Funimation release. Unfortunately, the UK release of the movie has no special features, which appears to have been a licensing issue.

Regardless of the lack of extras, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a must-buy for any Dragon Ball or anime fan in general. Despite its place in the Dragon Ball canon and timeline, the movie serves as a good introduction for new fans of the series. There are plenty of emotional moments for existing fans also. The first act alone is some of the engaging Dragon Ball material ever produced. And the final act, consisting of a 35-minute strong fight scene, is breathtaking anime entertainment.

 

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