Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Boy and the Beast (2015)

       Who doesn't love anime? Since its creation, anime has become a huge component in worldwide culture. At any age, anime has at least once influenced somebody's life. Nowadays, since it is more common; anime has integrated with human culture making it more of a norm in society. Either it is a thirty minute episode from a television series, or a two hour long film; anime is one of the world's favorite forms of entertainment. There are many prime examples of good animators out there, but one of the best has to be Mamoru Hosoda. His signature art style and the flow of his stories have captured the minds of many fans. From his works on animated films such as Digimon: The Movie, Summer Wars, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time; Hosoda had created perfect examples of animated masterpieces for many generations of fans. His recent masterpiece, The Boy and the Beast, has also followed in those footsteps. The film is about two worlds: the human world and the beast world. A nine year old, run-away boy named Ren/Kyuta becomes the apprentice of the stubborn and unorganized Kumatetsu (the bear) of the Beast Kingdom. Even though they do tend to fight; rather than master and disciple they become more like father and son.

      The Boy and the Beast is a film with heart and soul. The storyline was quite inspirational while the character development created an understanding toward humanity. From beginning to end, the relationship between Ren/Kyuta and Kumatetsu had plenty of tensions; but they were the good type of tensions similar to that between family members or friends. Having things in common with those you care about creates a better understanding amongst yourselves. Kumatetsu, Hyakushuubou (the pig), and even Tatara (the monkey) made it obvious toward Ren/Kyuta either it be aiding him with advice on how to clean a house, or to show compassion toward someone. There were many other themes in this film that added to its heart and soul: true strength, love, hard working, friendship, and empathy. Another theme was the dangers of one's heart while going through rough times. Humans weren't welcomed in the Beast Kingdom due to their hearts which were said to be full of hatred and darkness. Ren/Kyuta and Ichirouhiko (the two humans living amongst the beasts) had this void but it was Ren/Kyuta whom conquered it thanks to the compassion by Kaede. Though this film had a good standpoint on these themes; it did have great action and comedy. There were some parts that made you laugh while in others you were on the edge of your seat. Out of all the characters in the film, I really liked Kumatetsu and Iozen (the boar). Kumatetsu had a brash strategy when it came to fighting; using brute strength and determination while Iozen was more patient while in a fight. I do however wished that Chiko, the little white fluff ball that befriended Ren/Kyuta; had more to offer to the storyline since he was a total mystery. There were plenty of scenes in The Boy and the Beast that I enjoyed but, my favorites have to be solely around the fights between Kumatetsu and Iozen. I liked Iozen in the fights for his character and style but, Kumatetsu's determination made it even more enjoyable to watch. The reincarnation scene too was a favorite since it was definitely the highlight point of the film.

         My rating for The Boy and the Beast is a definite 5 out of 5. The storyline was truly epic alongside its amazing character development. Just the feeling from this film afterwards made me feel like a totally different person. This film did in fact made me cry but, it was tears of joy. The reincarnation scene is probably the greatest example in the film for this. The anthropomorphism in The Boy and the Beast had the greatest influence on the heart and soul of the film too. It helped enhanced a unique understanding that no matter what species you are; all life is considered to be ‘human’. Everything feels love and empathy alongside hatred and fear. When you let the negative emotions take you over; sometimes what you need to cure it is the help of your family and friends. If you haven’t already seen this film, go watch it now. You’re missing out on a good anime that captures the true essence of heart and soul.

"Fight, Kumatetsu!" 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bio Hunter (1995)

          Yoshiaki Kawajiri has created quite inspirational films/OVA such as Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, Birdy the Mighty, and the 'Deadshot' segment in Batman: Gotham Knight. His animation style is truly admiring and beautiful to watch especially in the realm of horror. Bio Hunter, based off the manga by Fujihiko Hosono, is a horror OVA about two molecular scientists (Koshigaya and Komada) who fight against a 'demon virus' that turns normal human beings into grotesque monsters. Koshigaya takes more of a scientific approach while Komada uses his claws (yes, he's infected) to solve the mystery behind the virus. Together they're known as the Bio Hunters, and no matter whose infected; they'll do everything in their power to save them from turning into ferocious beasts. The film picks up soon after Komada meets a young woman, Sayaka, whose being chased by the Japanese government for her psychic grandfather, Bokuda. While the duo decides to help her, Komada soon discovers that he's losing the fight with the demon from within.

       Bio Hunter is an excellent example of an anime film that needs to be followed-up by a series, or sequel. Not enough time for further character development, and since having a cliffhanger-type ending; makes the viewer wanting more. Approximately fifty-eight minutes long, this single episode film needs something to be added to it. The storyline itself was great since it had a lot of good elements: horror, science fiction, action, romance, and adult elements. With animated blood and gore it was an excellent example of a great animated horror. The science fiction atmosphere of the film gave the horror a boost alongside the scientific aspect for the story. Fighting sequences were brutal and entertaining alongside the action it brought with it. Romance gave the film a sense of humanity in a world ruled by power and beasts. The adult elements in the film gave it a mature setting for the potential violence soon to follow especially after the shortly lived opening. The monsters in the film were quite grotesque and horrifying ranging from the "pimple ghouls" to the tentacled, Deadly Spawn-like Chief of Defense (below). Aside from the obvious monsters in the film, it also added occultism into the story thanks to the help of Bokuda. My two favorite characters are Komada and the main henchman. Komada has the coolest demon form (crossed between a gargoyle, chameleon, and a wolf); while the henchman reminded me of Akuma from Street Fighter but, with a more business attire (not to mention he literally ate a crystal ball). My favorite scene throughout the film was probably the final showdown between Komada and the Chief of Defense whom were both in their monstrous forms.


     My rating for Bio Hunter is a hard one but, I have to say a 4 out of 5. Like I said earlier, the film needs either a series or a sequel. The cliffhanger-type ending opens up a perfect opportunity for a continuation in the story arc. The film had a good storyline, great characters and their designs; and outstanding animation. Whenever you get the chance, please watch this film. It brings back the nineties-style animation with grotesque horror similar to that of Wicked City.

"Uh-oh. We're in trouble. I'm starting to lose control." 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Devilman (2004)

         Out of all the superheroes, Japan's are probably the most unique as well as outright weird. They come in an array of shapes, sizes, and powers ranging from the most absurd to practical. Either it be from the Tokusatsu styled heroes such as Super Sentai and Ultraman; or the manga/anime heroes such as The Big O and One-Punch Man. Manga artist Go Nagai is one of many artists who created their own strange heroes throughout the years with some being very popular. Nagai had pioneered the mecha genre with Mazinger Z as well as created unforgettable heroines like Cutie Honey. Debiruman (Devilman) is also a brainchild of this legendary artist but, what makes him cooler than giant robots and cute magical girls is that he is a demon. Demons as superheroes are quite interesting because they take an unexpected turn in heroism. Comic book heroes such as Etrigan, Hellboy, Spawn, and Ghost Rider gained their powers from the forces of darkness but, instead fight on the side to aid humanity instead of destroying it. Devilman is a Japanese horror/superhero film about a young man who becomes a demon to help save the world from total destruction.

      The cast in the film is quite interesting since it had actual twins playing Akira Fudo/Devilman (Hisato Izaki) and Ryo Asuka/Satan (Yusuke Izaki). Akira is a mild mannered high school student who becomes a demon with his humanity still intact while Ryo is his longtime friend turned foe. Actress Ayana Sakai portrayed Akira's love interest as Miki Makimura, whose family adopted Akira after his parents died in a car crash four years earlier. Miki's father, Keisuke, was played by actor Ryudo Uzaki (Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) and Miki's mother, Emi, was played by actress Yoko Aki. There were plenty of good secondary characters throughout the film but, there were a few that stood out. First off, actress Asuka Shibuya (Karas: the Prophecy) played as Miko, a bullied girl turned demon similar to that of Akira. Second there was Ai Tominaga (R100) who took the legendary role as Silene, a harpy-like demon whose also the lover of the demon that possessed Akira. As a bonus for the film, American professional wrestler Bob Sapp (Elektra; Conan the Barbarian) was the world newscaster who filled in the gaps throughout the film.

      Devilman is the only live-action film in the franchise. The first anime aired in 1972 with a 1973 animated movie with Devilman teaming up with Mazinger Z. In 1987, an updated miniseries was released alongside an OVA for Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman which faced Akira against his inner demon, Amon. In 1994, the original concept for Devilman called Demon Lord Dante was released as an anime till 1996. This version was darker than what we have today and is considered the first incarnation for Devilman.  A spin-off appeared in 1998 as a gender-switching version called Devilman Lady plus another spin-off called Violence Jack, which consisted of three different OVA from 1986 to 1990. This version consisted of a possible link between the two series (both created by Go Nagai) in which Jack is actually Akira Fudo whose given a second chance to defeat Satan. Recently, another miniseries was created in 2015 that once again crossed Devilman with another famous Japanese superhero: Cyborg 009. Now back to the film, Devilman had good computer generated sequences in which Akira transformed into his demon form, or fought other demons. Even though they were short and quick; they were quite entertaining to watch but honestly they didn't hold the film. The storyline was alright but, at most parts it got kinda boring. The gore and blood effects were quite entertaining but, weren't over the top like other J-Horror films such as Machine Girl or Tokyo Gore Police. Even though the film was rated "13 and Older", the director sure wanted to stay away from the truly horrifying aspect that Devilman represents in the anime/manga.

       Here's an interesting fact about the word 'Devilman'. In the entire franchise when somebody refers you as a Devilman, it meant that you have more control than the demon whom possessed you. Basically a demon on the outside but, a human in the inside. That explains why Miko wasn't a murderous demon but, she was too a Devilman like Akira. The side story for her was also purposeful for the film because it should the willingness to live. Ironically, most of the humans in the films actually showed their true colors similar to that in Stephen King's The Mist. Human beings are the true monsters, not the other way around for the demons. The film did show a perfect example of fear and panic in people. Out all the scenes, the mob attack on the Makimura household was probably the strongest that represented this. My most favorite scenes were mostly centered around the time Akira transformed into his demon form. Out of all of them though; I have to say the fight between him and Silene, and the final showdown against Ryo/Satan were my favorite.

      My rating for Devilman is a 3.5 out of 5. Even though this film is not the best representation of the franchise, it did have pros about it. First off, this film actually got me into the franchise and I'm grateful for it. Second, it showed two sides of the human psyche: the dark side in which people begin to feed off fear and panic to the point that they lose their humanity; and the lighter side that never gives up even if its the end of the world or losing a childhood friend. Thirdly, the film actually followed most of what happened in the manga/anime with a few changes here and there. I recommend this movie solely for a bad movie night, or to finish off a Devilman marathon. My advice would be to watch the anime first of either adaption or spin-off before viewing the film to gain background knowledge on the actual storyline. Watch Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman instead because that won't disappoint you. I'm not saying Devilman isn't worth your time since it did more good than harm for myself but, please be aware that you should probably do your homework before jumping into this live-action version.

"Demons don't cry, Akira."