Spring 2016 Anime Impressions

Since I’m around a year behind in my movie reviews, I’ll post a quick summary of my thoughts on what I’ve seen of this season’s anime and try to keep up to date there!

  • Kuromukuro (2 eps) – a sci-fi mecha show that seems just slightly more realistic in its depictions of characters lives than normal. Just slightly though, and now that I’ve said that, there will probably be a talking alien penguin in the next ep.
  • Macross Delta (1 ep) – I can’t resist Macross! Mecha plus singing and dancing, this time featuring an idol group (whose music quells some kind of berserker syndrome) and the pilots who protect them.
  • Gyakuten Saiban (4 eps) – I’ve played the first game and watched the live action movie, so this series is probably just a retread. The animation isn’t very good, and the translation I’m watching idiotically uses the localized names. However, this series has been fun so far.
  • Hundred (1 ep) – This looks like some kind of standard action-sci-fi harem show, with a very girly boy best friend.
  • Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (2 eps)  – Set in a steampunk zombie apocalypse, the production values are high and there’s some interesting ideas here – though the main character is a bit annoying and the walled cities are reminiscent of Shingeki no Kyojin. The heroine (?) seems cool though.
  • Kiznaiver (3 eps) – I’m watching this one because it’s by Trigger, and after 3 episodes I still don’t know what’s going on.
  • Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko Janai to Omotta (3 eps) – This MMO-related comedy is probably my guilty pleasure of the season, with the MMO-addicted heroine ranting about how リア充 (normal, non-otaku people with girl/boyfriends) should all just die. There’s enough cringe-humour to keep me coming back so far.
  • Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (3 eps) – The production quality on this light novel adaptation is high (I particularly like how the lighting changes over time, and how Nouto Mamiko’s character moves), and the setup is strange but intriguing; though the Japanese preference for low fantasy here makes you wonder about the significance of the beginning. The light-novel talkiness of the characters does get a bit annoying, especially when they talk themselves into trouble, but that’s what you get from the genre I suppose.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal third season (3 eps) – The animation has improved massively from the last two seasons, and transformations are no longer CGI. Maybe the studio realised the demand for Sailor Moon and decided to pony up cash? The storyline is a little bit more complex this time too.
  • Terraformars Revenge (4 eps) – This was my brainless action series in the last season, but it seems the plot stepped up a little now, so it’s taking more of my attention.

 

 

My favourites so far are Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, and (almost certainly) Macross Delta.

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Avengers 2: Ultron

I really didn’t like Avengers 2 – it was pointless in the grander scheme of the story, and uninteresting as a movie by itself. As a movie, it was entertaining and worth a watch – especially the early scenes, but afterwards its shortcomings just made me angry.

Soft spoilers below.

While I like many of Whedon’s works, his flaws were on display here. Ultron was an unthreatening villain styled like a comical cartoon character. Now I like James Spader, but the kind of demented personality he gives Ultron doesn’t make sense within the movie, and undercuts his gravitas. The villains and potential villains end up just adding to the already overcrowded pantheon, and the countless Ultron robots are basically cannon-fodder for CGI beatdowns.

Whedon attempts to develop the characters, but is hamfisted about it (Black Widow apparently flirts with a different character in each movie!) and the character interactions were pretty weak.

Taken to Run All Night

Liam Neeson has managed to create an identity for himself as an action hero, following the hugely successful Taken, which was written and produced by Luc Besson.

The first movie was the best by far, a solid rescue/revenge thriller in which Neeson tracks his abducted daughter and wipes out a lot of bad guys. Keying off fears of being a powerless parent whose child goes missing in a foreign country, it was pretty effective.

The second movie was weaker, though the whole family get to participate in running around Istanbul, chased by Albanian gangsters.

The third movie is almost a different show, and by far the weakest, with Neeson tangling with US law enforcement. While his friends join in, it bears very little resemblance to the other movies and seems quite pointless.

Run All Night is like the grimer, alcoholic version of the Taken series, in a universe where no one respects Neeson. It’s a solid action movie, though I had whiplash from Neeson-the-respected-spy to Neeson-the-despised-hitman.

Inside Out Underworld Rogue Nation

Sadly I didn’t enjoy Inside Out as much as I hoped to. While it was entertaining, it wasn’t able to overcome my bias against CGI flicks. There were some nice metaphors for the brain, a good enough story, decent senses of place, and an interesting philosophical inversion, but it fell flat for me.

I watched Underworld 1 and 2, and they were entertaining enough. I liked that most characters had English accents, and that there was some lore behind it, but the main characters didn’t have enough personality. In the first movie, the final fight was over too quickly, and the hybrid thing didn’t work for me. The second movie bugged me with issues about the timeline and geography that seemed like screw-ups.

The fifth Mission Impossible was pretty decent; my hatred for Tom Cruise didn’t flare up because his character was pretty unobjectionable. The female lead was unusually interesting, lending some ambiguity to the storyline that disappears too early. Unfortunately there was pretty much only one heist, and the villain was weak as always.

Ninja Kingsman Occulus and Dumber Eyes

While I really enjoyed Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman was a miss (though a close miss) for me. The trailers looked like a low-rent James Bond, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a satirical subversion of the secret agent genre, featuring a working class yob making good. There were many great elements in the movie, but the “hacking solves all the plot problems” and the shallowness in most of the characters were too much for me. I couldn’t get my head around Samuel L Jackson’s Valentine – he seemed too much like a cartoon character, and not a scary one – though it was interesting to hear how the stutter was Jackson’s own idea, from when he actually had one. Gazelle was very cool though.

I used to be a huge Ninja Turtles fan as a kid, but the Michael Bay movie didn’t do it for me.

Occulus was a horror flick with an interesting premise – it starred Karen Gillan, but too much is allowed by the power to cause delusions.

The original Dumb and Dumber was a long time ago, and I didn’t expect to be as entertained by the extremely late sequel to the gross-out comedy as I was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely dumb and your brain cells will receive a punishing, but I laughed.

Big Eyes is an unusual Tim Burton movie, obviously born from his love of the artist. Waltz’s performance carries the movie, and while some elements were a bit on-the-nose, the movie’s gentle mockery of the art world was pretty funny. It was interesting how Margaret agreed but later changed her mind. The self-cross-examination was the highlight of the movie.

A Deluge of Sci-Fi Flicks

I was pretty wary of Divergent, being another one of those adaptations of dystopian YA novels (parodied expertly by Twitter account @DystopianYA), but it turned out to be pretty good.

Chappie was a disappointment, despite Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley (both fantastic actors), and I’m wondering if Neil Blomkamp was just a one-hit-wonder with District 9 (aside from the sci-fi worldbuilding he does). There were lots of wasted characters and the ending was kind of silly.

I actually enjoyed Jupiter Ascending, it was imaginative and very good-looking, and I enjoyed Mila Kunis’s character, though almost everyone else (in particular the hero) were very shallow.

Automata was a decent sci-fi flick that covers a lot of similar ground that other movies cover. The pacing is a bit slow, and the protagonist somewhat difficult to like though.

Ex Machina was very strong, with a few nice twists despite its very restricted focus, and Oscar Isaac was amazing – especially the dance scene! You can see him and Domhnall Gleeson in the new Star Wars too, though in very different roles. The movie covers a more advanced kind of Turing test, about proving whether an artificial intelligence is human-like, and I liked how it explicitly dismisses the technical questions in favour of the philosophical.

Hobbit 3

It’s truly amazing that Jackson could take a 200-page children’s book and inflate it to three long movies that rival Tolkien’s triple doorstopper magnum opus. Much of my enjoyment of the Hobbit movies comes from the opportunity to explore the cinematic vision of Tolkien’s seminal fantasy universe; for all their flaws, the Hobbit movies have been a lot of fun.

Like the other movies, the Battle of Five Armies suffers from bloat with unnecessary over-the-top content. I don’t need five minutes of abstract visual effects preceding a battle between Nazgul and some of the most powerful characters on Middle Earth that doesn’t go anyway, or a strange interspecies romance that I can’t help question the biological  validity of. I didn’t like that the villain was CGI (a human actor in makeup with CGI touch-ups would have been for more convincing and tangible), nor that so many scenes were too-weightless-to-be-real CGI – I hope Jackson isn’t going down the Lucas path.