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hamano's reviews view profile

Moot Homage  
on September 8, 2006 - 10:15 AM PDT
  of Mute Witness (1994)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

This is a very entertaining film if you watch it with your Mystery Science Theater 3000 glasses on. The director's main claim to fame is helming An American Werewolf in Paris. Here, it looks like he saw what Woody Allen did with Stardust Memories and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy and was totally awed. "Look what he did with the works of his heroes Fellini and Bergman!" So Anthony Waller decided to pay tribute to HIS favorite director, who.... is.... Brian De Palma??? There are cheap gags, film-making inside jokes, a lush orchestral score, playful editing and camera work, Hitchcock moments, full frontal heroine nudity, all the stuff De Palma usually has in his bag of tricks.

The casting is interesting. The "mute" American girl who can hear perfectly well but cannot vocalize at all is played by a Russian actress who looks kinda like Sally Field from the Flying Nun days. Too bad she can't talk in the film... I bet she has a cute accent! Then there's an almost-but-not-quite-posthumous cameo by Sir Alec Guiness as "The Reaper"... a refined Russian mob boss with a veddy veddy English accent. Or maybe it was the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi.... (Apparently his scenes were shot 9 years before the rest of the film and this ended up being his last movie appearance.) In any case, if you're running out of things to watch, you'll get some laughs out of this one if nothing else.
Hard Sci-Fi for Little Girls  
on March 18, 2004 - 10:15 AM PST
  of Figure 17 Vol. 1: Soul Mirror
11 out of 11 members found this review helpful

This is an exceptionally well done children's show from the perspective of smart pre-teen girls and their SF geek Dads. If it was a "magical girl" show rather than a hard SF show, it might even have reached a larger shoujo audience. If the show's creators had added some weird romantic elements like CLAMP did in Card Captor Sakura (same-sex crushes, teacher/student romance) it might have developed more of an adult/teen following. But this series is what it is, maybe a set-up with a limited audience but a very well-executed one.

The show opens in bucolic Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost major island famous for its unspoiled nature and rolling pasturelands. It's Japan's Switzerland or Montana. A single dad has moved here with his 4th Grade daughter to start a new life apprenticing at a friend's bakery situated in a log cabin by a big family-operated dairy ranch. Tsubasa, the daughter, is a shy girl who misses the best friend she left behind in Tokyo, and is having a hard time trying to fit in with her new classmates. The fact that her dad works from very early morning to dinner-time at the bakery doesn't help... he's so keen on making a baker out of himself that he misses Parents' Day at school.

At the beginning there are obvious echoes of Cardcaptor Sakura, the framed photo of the beautiful dead mother in the kitchen, the cute alarm clock, the even cuter short-haired girl. However, Tsubasa's personality is completely the opposite. She is shy and withdrawn, and has very little confidence in herself. Yet she strives to support her overworked Dad, showing him a brave face even when she's feeling sad. Her school life is shown with some realism. The teachers seem like ordinary people with ordinary lives, and the students behave the way you'd expect 4th Graders to behave, with some boys vs. girls rivalry, some teasing, some showing off, some cliquishness. There are no exaggerated or stereotyped characters like you'd see in Cardcaptor Sakura or Saint Tail. The scenes at school and at home unfold at a leisurely pace... in fact, this may be the biggest problem for younger kids watching the show. The way characters and stories are developed might be too slow to keep their attention, especially considering that this was conceived to be an hour-long show rather than the usual 30-minutes.

Things pick up, however, when an alien "cop" transporting some mutated monster eggs crash lands in the woods nearby. The eggs are scattered, the spaceship is wrecked, and Tsubasa finds the injured alien. She's promptly attacked by one of the hatchlings, and cornered in the cabin of the spaceship, where she comes into contact with an alien artificial intelligence made of liquid metal. This transforms Tsubasa into a Figure, a sort of symbiotic bionic super-girl. Figure 17 has a killer bod, skin-tight er, skin? and FABulous blonde hair. She also has a great talent for tearing monsters apart with her bare hands. If your kids were scared by No-Face in Spirited Away they might also be frightened by these monsters. My 8 year old daughter enjoyed the kinetic fighting scenes quite a bit. After the first fight, through some unexplained process, Figure 17 divides into Tsubasa and an identical "clone", who is dubbed "Hikaru". Henceforce the two are able to join hands and merge into Figure 17 every time a new monster hatches to threaten the peace of Hokkaido. Hikaru is not an exact copy of Tsubasa, however. After all, she's some kind of living alien armor bred to fight monsters. She has all of Tsubasa's memories, but none of her real experiences on Earth. Hikaru also has a very outgoing and happy personality, and confidence and athleticism to spare! She's eager to experience Earth first-hand, and passes herself off as Tsubasa's twin sister to get into the same elementary school.

Much of the sweetness of the show comes from the way Tsubasa and Hikaru play off of each other's mirror personalities. They're best friends, sisters, rivals. Over the course of the first few episodes, each learns a lot from the other, Tsubasa gaining confidence and the ability to make good friends, Hikaru learning what true compassion and things like family are really about. And just when the Dads in the audience start to get sleepy, Figure 17 springs into action, not to mention the feisty Oldeena, another alien "cop" who shows up to help. She's kinda like Mireille from NOIR, but with an even hotter bod! (Moms, don't worry. This show is rated JF, or jiggle-free, by the Otaku Wives & Mothers Association! Absolutely no fan-service!)

Lastly, I'd like to direct your eyes to the lovely art of the series.... most of the backgrounds are rendered in watercolor, and the house and interior designs are very nicely done. The beautiful mountains and meadows of Hokkaido are just superbly drawn! (Did I mention that the OP song/credit sequence ends with a zoom-in/close-up/freeze-frame on Figure 17's chest? I have no idea why, but who cares? Also, the series director and script writer both worked on Berserk.)
Ridiculous Premise, but Well Done  
on March 18, 2004 - 8:05 AM PST
  of Strawberry Eggs (I My Me!) Vol. 1: Make-Up Exam (2002)
15 out of 18 members found this review helpful

OK, I have to jump to the defense of this lighthearted and breezy comic soap opera, because it's well worth the rental, in my opinion (I bought the whole series). First off, this is not a shoujo title despite the romantic storyline... This is a moe-themed shounen-targeted romantic comedy, so there's plenty of fan service. Moe is a term recently coined in anime when male fans realized the emergence of heroines and storylines that are largely, if not entirely romantic in nature (Ai yori aoshi is a good example). This trend seems to be driven by a parallel emergence of video/computer games popularly called "dating sims" and many anime titles with attractive young characters seem to have related romantic role-playing games, ranging anywhere from G/PG to X in explicitness. GAINAX has a best-seller with a PG dating sim based on characters from Evangelion, Sakura Wars is another G/PG rated anime/game franchise. Anime shows with R/X rated dating sims include Kimi ga nozomu eien and Kanon which are available as fan subs (the anime are much less racy than the games).

A lot of anime fans in this country think that shows with children are always kid's shows (but have you seen Now and Then, Here and There?) and shows about love/romance are always shoujo. But the world of anime is always evolving, and creative people are always tending to blur or blend traditional genre lines, rather than conservatively preserve them. I think with a show like this, you have to understand the audience it's trying to reach in order to let its charms overcome the inherent absurdity (and yes, CREEPINESS) of its premise.

In this country, romance between a student and a teacher is totally taboo, something reserved for tabloid headlines, porn, and shows that court controversy, like Boston Public. People have forgotten that it was once a popular romantic fantasy, a mainstay of soapy romance novels along with the fantasies of things like dashing gentleman pirates, chivalrous bikers, and even "dating a college boy"... Romance fantasy by its very nature explored socially taboo relationships that crossed socio-economic lines or racial/religious lines. But today in America in the drive to achieve "political correctness" in all aspects of society, I think we've lost the capacity to differentiate the line between reality and fantasy. People look at a show like this and we've been conditioned to think, student-teacher romance? Ick. The American version of Card Captor Sakura made sure to do away with any mention that Sakura's mother Nadeshiko had been a student of her dad in high school, the kind of classic situation that the romance fantasy veterans at CLAMP weren't gonna miss exploiting.

Getting back to the show in question, of course this is not in the league of titles like Fruits Basket or Ah, My Goddess. But I thought it was better than a lot of romantic comedy high-school anime shows out there. Over the 13 episodes on 4 DVDs, the main story arc and character arcs are very well developed and resolved if you give it a chance past the first volume. Once you accept the dumb situation and some of the dumb/annoying supporting characters, you're treated to a charming example of teacher/student Japanese seishun dorama (youth drama). Of course the young, inexperienced teacher helps our naive, initially helpless moe heroine break out of her shell and grow. Of course LOVE triumphs over EVIL (well, over the nasty headmistress of the school). Of course the core cast of characters learn important lessons about love and friendship. And it's all done very chastely and neatly, with a story that builds a lot of momentum over the last 4 or so episodes and ends with a clever sequence that echoes visual elements in the OP credit animation that we've been watching from the beginning, and also resonates from the early scene where candidate-gym-teacher Hibiki first teaches Fuko something new. I was helped to a great extent to stay with this show by the voice actors who did the male/female voices for the cross-dressing teacher, Hibiki Amawa, who were excellent. And Fuko is sooooo cuuute (this is the raison d'etre for a moe heroine). Incidentally, I'm usually very disdainful of the dub actors and English scripts a lot of my favorite anime shows are saddled with, but I must say the dub actors for Hibiki were almost as good as the Japanese ones, and the English script impressed me by refraining from using profanity, an unfortunate byproduct of the desperation to appeal to a young American audience. The word "shit" is used just once, by a male student, in a very emotionally appropriate moment, and the impact of the word is all the more powerful for the restraint in the rest of the script.

The series has excellent OP/ED songs in my opinion, and the extras provided for this series are really a lot of fun, especially the ad-libbed character introductions by the voice actors, who obviously had a ball recording them. The dub simulation of the ad-libbing wasn't half bad either. Overall, a fun show with a satisfying, emotional climax and a neat ending that wraps up the story nicely, all the elements that make up a good anime series for me.
Typical GONZO - Brilliant execution of a so-so story  
on December 4, 2003 - 8:30 AM PST
  of Last Exile Vol. 1: First Move (2003)
18 out of 21 members found this review helpful

I've been waiting for a series from GONZO that would live up to the hype surrounding their releases, and I was ready for LASTEXILE to be the one. I'll give Volume One a rating of 7 because I'm in a generous mood....

On the plus side, the music used in the show is exceptionally good. The overall production design is marvellous! This is retro, steampunk tech rendered to near-perfection, with tremendous attention paid to details. In one brief scene, you see the command room aboard the flagship of the battle blimp fleet. In one shot you clearly see a difference engine (a mechanical computer) churning away on ballistics trajectories or something. No one talks about it or touches it, it's just in the background. Only a steampunk fan would even know what the machine is, but it's there, moving very realistically. That's the level of effort that went into creating an alternate world where giant airships float about and wingless vanships buzz around like hornets, seemingly in defiance of the laws of physics. GONZO again advances the graphics of anime in the direction of the perfect seamless blending of 2D drawn art and 3D CG art.

Alas, if only such artistry and effort had been expended on character and story as well! The story revolves around two teens, Claus and Lavie, who pilot a silver vanship. Claus, the boy, is the gifted fly-boy whose father was also a legendary pilot. Lavie, who is almost a sister to him, is the mechanical wizard who is always fixing and upgrading their aircraft. They belong to the Vanship Union which is kinda like an aerial pony express guild. The Union hands out urgent delivery assignments to the vanship teams. The first couple of episodes deal with Claus and Lavie picking up a 3-star (degree of danger/difficulty) delivery of a message from a noblewoman to her husband, who is the commander of a battle-blimp fleet at the front.

It feels like GONZO is trying to unfold the story at a stately pace, giving viewers a chance to take in the design details and character concepts and such. But this backfires because the viewer just starts noticing images and entire sequences that are stolen from other shows (using homage would be too generous), and how one-dimensional the characters are. I got impatient for them to just get on with the story, which is a sharp contrast to Haibane Renmei, which is so rich with content I don't mind the slow pacing at all.

The entire opening scene is a rip-off of Castle in the Sky (Laputa), the scene where Pazu and Sheeta go up in a tethered glider to keep watch. Tatiana's red vanship is being towed through stormy clouds by the renegade battle airship Silvana. The crew of the Silvana wear uniforms copied from WW2 Japanese Imperial Navy designs (and I've seen that before!) and their morose black-caped captain, Alex Row, is a clone of Captain Harlock and many previous taciturnNemos. Someone hand that man a glass of red wine!

Later we're treated to a Vanship Race that would be very familiar to anyone who has seen STAR WARS: Phantom Menace, right down to some of the engine sound effects. It's interesting that both vanships and Tatooine podracers rely on unexplained technologies that seem to defy gravity but conform to the effects of mass and inertia.

I'm intrigued enough by LASTEXILE to add Vol. 2 my queue, but I'm hoping that the story moves along better, and more original/creative plot is introduced. We're left here with Claus and Lavie protecting a mysterious child from assassins/kidnappers. I'll scream if the little girl, Alvie, is hiding a blue jewel with special powers!

Fascinating - Is it anime transvestism?  
on November 24, 2003 - 12:09 AM PST
  of Mao-Chan Vol. 1: I Will Protect the Peace of Japan!
8 out of 8 members found this review helpful

Mao-chan is being marketed in the United States as a very cute magical-girl type children's show. On casual viewing, that is indeed the impression you get from watching it, as I did, with my 7yr old daughter. She thought the show was charming, but I noticed a couple of funny things about it that don't pop up in the shows my niece in Nagoya watches like OjaMajo DoReMi (Oja Witch DoReMi). OjaMajo was originally published by Nakayoshi, a well-established girls' comics magazine, and shown on TV at a time when elementary school kids were very likely to see it (late afternoon to early evening). It's not available yet on DVD here, but a similar program, Saint Tail, also serialized in Nakayoshi Comics, is available at GreenCine.

What did I see in Mao-chan? First of all, the Ground Defense Force officer assigned to command Mao looks just like Naru from Love Hina and is stacked! In the second episode, she walks in on Mao sitting on the Ground Defense Chief's lap, and blurts out "He's a Lolicon (He's got a Lolita fetish!)" before realizing that the Chief is Mao's grandfather. Thankfully, for MY 7 yr old girl, that bit did not compute, as they say. In another scene, a parliament member is accidentally bopped on the nose and he falls back with a very vivid spurt of blood flying from his face. Also the mecha, a tank, a jet fighter and a submersible, are very cool and realistically drawn. Mao's vehicle is no mini-tank, although the show takes pains to say that it's a 1:1 scale plastic model.

So I did a little digging, and found out that Mao-chan was typically broadcast after midnight, the manga was serialized in Shounen Magazine Comics, and it's part of a franchise that includes a Mao-chan "upbringing" sim PC game. "Upbringing" is a subgenre of the "dating" sim games, basically the player takes on the role of an adult who guides the "growth" of a cute female character.

Now, I came up with nothing to indicate that the purpose of the Mao-chan franchise was any kind of perverse prurient pleasure. If it's a fetish, it's a nurturing kind of fetish, I think. There are teen romance titles aimed at a male audience (Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Kanon) that ARE related to sexually explicit role-playing sim games. Mao-chan is a close to perfect simulacrum of a real shoujo girls' show.

So I enjoyed watching this title with my family (which is the intent of the American marketers, judging from their blurb); my wife and daughter both thought it was really cute. But knowing what I know now, I am strangely fascinated by this show. Watching it is kinda like holding hands with RuPaul....(Not that there's anything wrong with that!)
The Best  
on October 26, 2003 - 1:43 PM PST
  of The Iron Giant (Special Edition) (1999)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

This is hands down the BEST American anime film ever. It's hard to believe, but the USA has defeated Japan in the Giant Robot Anime challenge. 40 years from now it will be hailed as a masterpiece. Long after Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick and Vin Diesel are dead and forgotten, their voices will live on as the characters in this movie. Have you clicked "RENT" yet?

LOOSELY based on a story that poet Ted Hughes wrote for his children 5 years after their mother Sylvia Plath's suicide. Comfort? Atonement?
NOT a "medieval beer commercial"  
on September 23, 2003 - 8:25 PM PDT
  of Perceval (1979)
8 out of 8 members found this review helpful

In case you were led here by my slightly tongue-in-cheek blurb in the list 4Gradalis, I am posting a review which is hopefully more informative and helpful, especially in light of the fact that the synopsis offered above is accurate but suffers perhaps from being overly succinct.

If you're really in a mood to see something like a "medieval beer commercial" you should rent Brian Helgeland's A Knight's Tale starring Heath Ledger. This knight-as-rock-star tale has all the hallmarks of a new WB TV series, using songs by Queen and David Bowie to underscore scenes of jousting and banqueting. Stick around through the end credits for a round of funny farts by the principal actors.

Eric Rohmer's Perceval could be the polar opposite. It looks like the filmmakers went to the local Renaissance Fair and recruited a hippie theater troup to participate as actors. The acting style and set designs are intentionally kept very 2 dimensional. I think the intent is to reproduce the feeling of reading medieval literature or looking at medieval art. There's a high degree of artifice to the set designs (the entire film was shot in a studio) and things like scale and perspective are totally screwed up. The script is based on a 12 century unfinished manuscript by Chretien de Troyes and is faithful to the point of ending the film rather abruptly. The actors often narrate, on camera, the scenes that are taking place before or after saying their lines.

Perceval is also the opposite of Rohmer's usual films. Rohmer mostly makes realistic slice-of-life films set in modern France about people you might run into at a Paris cafe or office building. They hang out with lovers and friends, talk about work and romance, go on vacations, eat out, etc. etc. The scenes are usually shot on location, in real homes and apartments, on the beach, in a park, etc.

So it looks like Rohmer is "experimenting" here, exploring a style that is totally different from his other films.

If you like experimental or offbeat films, or if you are really a big fan of medieval stuff, this is a MUST RENT. The viewer is totally immersed in a illuminated book or tapestry brought to life. If you are a fan of action-movie style medieval fare, with flashy fight choreography and modern dialogue, stay away from this film and go have dinner at Medieval Times instead. You'll have more fun.

Notes on this edition: They used a mediocre print to make this DVD, resulting in colors that are inconsistent, damage to the original print appear, and the subtitles are HARD (always on). No extra languages other than French, and no soft subtitles in any language. Also, on my player, I got a FREEZE problem while navigating through the Cast/Crew credits in the Extras.

Notes on Babes: La Pucelle de la Tente and La Pucelle qui rit really are quite gorgeous, IMHO. And La Pucelle de la Tente later shows up on horseback wearing nothing but a worn and tattered cotton shift. The Holy Grail appears just once to Perceval, and really does look like a lamp from IKEA.
Not a Fairy Tale  
on September 14, 2003 - 2:12 AM PDT
  of Grave of the Fireflies (Collector's Edition) (1988)
19 out of 21 members found this review helpful

If you're looking at this page, and haven't clicked the "RENT" button yet, you're probably wondering if you should subject yourself to 90 minutes of children who starve to death. Yes, those apple-cheeked kids shown on the DVD cover die, and I don't think that's a SPOILER since one of the kids dies right at the beginning of the film, and the rest is an extended flashback. In fact, I think it's misleading and wrong to gloss over this fact in a misguided effort to try to get people to see this film (like the synopsis offered above). Don't rent this film if you want to see the kids triumph over adversity. This is a masterpiece that deserves to be appreciated the way Hamlet and Death of a Salesman are. Grave of the Fireflies is the tragic tale of one boy's fatal human frailty in the face of a terrible crisis (the 4 year-old sister really had no control over what happens). It's hard to believe that this film was released by Studio Ghibli as a double feature with My Neighbor Totoro which is as relentlessly whimsical and upbeat as this film is sad. I think you should rent this film. You should watch it, then, if you have kids, you should watch it again with your kids and be prepared to answer their questions. The things they show in this "cartoon" are things that really happened, things that real people saw. My own parents were 10 years old when WW2 ended. They lived through the same kinds of things, and fortunately for me, they survived.

Grave of the Fireflies has been called a "great film about the tragedy of war" and "a story of survival" but it's also much more than that. The reason it affects the viewer so deeply is because the story works as a classic tragedy specific to the character of Seita. If you watch the film with that in the back of your mind, I think you'll see where the true evil of war lurks. I'd like to get into that more, but not in this review (I'll post a companion discussion topic in the Anime forums).

PS: For the first time Studio Ghibli decided to use real children to do the voices of Seita and Setsuko, with excellent results.
City of my Dreams  
on September 13, 2003 - 11:20 PM PDT
  of Fellini's Roma (1972)
7 out of 7 members found this review helpful

In my early twenties, I watched a lot of Fellini... I was on an Italian director binge and I even considered trying to learn the language. I know this film is not considered to be among Fellini's best or most historical films. I know a lot of critics regard it as just a surreal travelogue.

The film is virtually plotless, with some autobiographical elements thrown in. In fact, now that it's been 20 years since I saw it, I must honestly say that there is very little of any "story" that I remember at all.

However, for some reason, if someone asks me what my favorite Fellini film is, I always say, "Roma!" I think it's because Fellini seems to be just having fun here. He's reveling in the pure act of film-making, without any of the self-contemplation that mark his other films.

I love the film for it's kinetic energy, and for some unforgettable imagery. The Ecclesiastical Fashion Show sequence alone is worth the price of rental. Definitely put this on your rental queue. Twenty years from now, you'll be glad you did!
perfect chicken  
on September 13, 2003 - 1:38 AM PDT
  of The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000)
7 out of 8 members found this review helpful

Three gorgeous Vietnamese sisters (and one brother) gather to cook up a memorial day feast for their late mother. The sisters sit in a circle caressing/plucking a chicken ever so tenderly in order to keep its skin perfectly unblemished, while talking about chopping up and eating a man's privates! Yowie! The brother, who is an actor, is annoyed with the youngest sister who is still single and lives with him, because every morning he finds her sleeping next to him! Wow! After he falls out of bed he puts on a slow ballad by Lou Reed, and he and his sister do sensuous morning exercises and stretches. Ooooh! They live in Hanoi, which, if not the most beautiful, is then certainly the wettest city I've ever seen in a film.

There's a lot of sexy stuff going on here (nothing explicit and no nudity) but for all the talk of penis stir fry the film is really a stately reflection on how love and marriages begin and end. The pace of the film is leisurely, with long contemplative conversations punctuated by scenes of exquisite wordlessness. The main characters are all wonderfully acted, sympathetic, and beautiful in his/her own way. This film is clearly a direct descendant of the films of Yasujiro Ozu and Eric Rohmer so if you love the works of those two like I do, you must rent this beautiful film. Three lovely sisters, weenie a la carte, and a perfectly plucked chicken...What more can you ask for?
Alternate Superboy - Fun WB Series  
on September 11, 2003 - 12:52 AM PDT
  of Smallville: Season 1 (Disc 1 of 6) (2001)
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful

Right off, let me admit to you that I'm a fan of the following shows, which I would categorize as ranging between "cult" and "guilty pleasure". The first season of Dawson's Creek, Alias, Buffy, Angel, Roswell, X-Files, Millenium, Xena and Hercules. So now you know where I'm coming from.

Superboy Tom Welling IS quite the WB Network pretty boy - sensitive and decent. However, I really like the Lex Luthor character - a smart but troubled boy who is sinister but not yet evil. Maybe he's pushed over the edge when he finds out Kryptonite is responsible for his hair loss! Chloe is the doe-eyed girl next door that reminds me a bit of the characters Yasuomi Umetsu draws for his anime works like Kite and Mezzo Forte - frowny but curvy. She's the annoyingly ambitious reporter/editor of the school paper (my guess is that she moves to Metropolis and gets a pseudonym...Let's see...Chloe, ChLOE, LOIS??) . Then there's Lana Lang....Ahhhh she's quite the Canadian Beauty. I wonder if actress and Neutrogena CM model Kristin Kreuk has a drop of Asian or Native American blood. She's a tiny thing, but she'd be welcome in MY fortress of solitude anytime!

What I really love about the show is that Annette O'Toole is Mrs. Kent. O'Toole's pretty old now, but I've had a thing for her ever since she got scared into the swimming pool in Paul Schrader's Cat People.

The show itself has a "monster/crisis of the week" format, with 2 series-long arcs dealing with the Clark Kent/ Chloe/Lana love triangle, and Lex's curiosity about Clark's secret powers (even as Clark himself learns more about the mysteries of his origins). The setting is updated as if the spaceship bearing the baby Superman crashed to the Earth in the mid-1980's.

Besides Annette O'Toole the best things about the series are all the little inside jokes and references scattered throughout the show referring to the original comics/TV/movie franchise. In one of the first episodes, Clark goes through some kind of hazing and is tied up in a cornfield with a red letter S (for the Smallville High football team) scrawled in paint across his naked torso! Hah! Ha ha! The OP song is also hilarious. "Somebody saaaaaaaaaaave me!"

When this show started, I was prepared for it to be a disaster like Birds of Prey or the charmless Dark Angel. It turned out to be a fun, smartly written series with a gung-ho momentum. Rent it!
BEST of the lot  
on September 10, 2003 - 10:25 PM PDT
  of Bubblegum Crisis - Ep. 7 & 8 (1987)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

This is the series that got me hooked on modern anime (as opposed to the stuff I watched as a kid). This volume contains the 2 episodes that I consider to be the best of the BGC franchise (including the BG Crash and BGT2040 series episodes)!!

EP.7 Double Vision
This IS a Linna-centric episode, but the REALLY interesting story about this is that the singer/robot-pilot Vision was being groomed to be either a spin-off or a replacement for Priss! This episode has a great showdown with GENOM, too. This is also the most movie-like of the episodes, with international settings and a script that plays out with great pacing.

EP.8 Scoop Chase
My favorite episode! Ostensibly it's about a cub-reporter named Lisa (voiced by the incomparable Aya Hisakawa) who attaches herself to Nene, but actually this is a meditation on the close sisterly relationship between the Knight Sabers, especially Nene and Priss. Appropriately the OP song is a catchy number that is sung by all 4 Knight Saber seiyuu. This theme is set up in a supremely comical scene when Nene catches Priss speeding. Then there's a fight scene where Priss comes to Nene's rescue. Then a great training scene, where Sylia is compiling performance data on the girls. Here Priss teases Nene mercilessly about her weight. Later, Nene is trapped in AD Police HQ without her hardsuit, facing a killer boomer, and Priss comes to her rescue again. It's shown clearly how, despite all the ribbing and teasing, Priss is ALWAYS there to destroy any threat to Nene. And in the end, cute little Nene shows how really valuable she is to the team. Overall, great acting, great character development, great action! EXTRAS: The character designs in this episode are ever so slightly Super Deformed compared to the more serious episodes. These Knight Sabers are the CUTEST of the bunch! Also a short gorgeously gratuitous shot of Nene in the shower and a sequence where she strips off her uniform to change into her hardsuit!
Not So Go (Nagai)  
on September 5, 2003 - 12:41 PM PDT
  of The Devil Lady Vol. 1: The Awakening (2002)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

This review applies to Vol. 1 through 3, which I have so far rented. Don't be discouraged by the name Go Nagai associated with this excellent series. Nagai is best known for campy sexy action (Cutey Honey)and turgid apocalyptic shock horror (the original Devilman). In fact, this is a spinoff of Devilman (the Japanese title is "The Devilman Lady") but owes more to its writers and directors than Go Nagai.

The stories are rather episodic (typical monster-of-the-week format) but there is a sustained atmosphere of dread associated with the main character's fear of completely losing her humanity. The music is classic horror done really well throughout. You'll be strongly reminded of the original Vampire Princess Miyu OVA's, and the EMMY winning Scully-centric episodes from the X-Files.

To top it off, Jun's voice is done by Junko Iwao, who does the sugary sweet high-pitched voices for Tomoyo on Cardcaptor Sakura and, confusingly, Sakura on Betterman. If you know those voices, it's a treat to hear Iwao grunting and snarling as she goes into action as the beastly DevilLady. Iwao's regular voice acting as human Jun is also very well done.

The animation is a bit crude, especially compared to a show like SoulTaker, but if you like a well written and atmospheric show, put this on your rental queue.
Best anime TV show ever!  
on September 5, 2003 - 12:06 PM PDT
  of Battle Athletes Victory Vol. 1 - Training
9 out of 9 members found this review helpful

I mean it. This would be my nominee for the best anime TV show ever. Not only is it richly funny, it has a huge cast of characters who are all equally well conceived and developed, a whimsically beautiful score, wonderful Japanese voice actors, a catgirl, and most of all enough energy and wit to keep up its momentum right up to the last frame of the final episode (#26). It even has 2 great endings (you'd think it was brought to a very satisfying conclusion at the end of Vol. 7, but in the final seconds, BANG, a literal cliff-hanger that left me sleepless for weeks until Vol. 8 arrived). The writers for this show were not only diabolically clever, but also had a knack for writing good melodrama that had me in tears a few times. The big difference compared to other comedy anime is that the story is one vast arc, and it never falls into the "sitcom" nemesis/crisis of the week format. Each episode is of course enjoyable on its own, but you can watch the entire show in one sitting like a super-long anime movie, too.

Too many fans have been misled into thinking that anime "masterpieces" are the ones with dark stories, interminable philosophizing, and tentacly apocalyptic endings (Lain, Evangelion, Akira all come to mind). Rent Battle Athletes Victory to see how good AND how much fun the best anime can be.
Supplement to excellent reviews by larbeck and hneline1  
on September 3, 2003 - 7:03 AM PDT
  of My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful

Disney has postponed doing their own (or Pixar's) new version of a Totoro dub, and a Disney DVD release of the film is uncertain. Under the relationship between Ghibli and Disney, Buena Vista Japan has released a DVD of Totoro in Japan, but they licensed the Fox Family/Troma Dub audio and Subtitles for their version. So fans in Japan who opt for the dub audio see the same thing that renters from GreenCine experience.

Troma and Buena Vista Japan compounded things by using the Dub script for the subtitles, instead of providing a more literal translation of the Japanese script, which is what most anime fans prefer. If you watch the Japanese release of Totoro in Japanese with English subtitles, there are scenes with no dialogue that are subtitled with the words from extra English dialogue added by Troma to cover moments of "awkward silence"...

If you're the type that prefers anime in Japanese with subtitles, you're kinda stuck as far as Totoro goes. Even if you're such a rabid fan that you buy a Region 2 capable player to watch the Japanese DVD, you'll just end up reading the flawed English Dub script! Might as well watch the version from GreenCine! The only way to get around this problem is to either learn Japanese or find a fansub that was done by a very conscientious anime fan.


Originally, there was just 1 girl who meets Totoro. If you look at the soundtrack album cover, there she is, standing at the bus stop next to Totoro in the rain, a curious amalgam of the sisters. When the decision was made to split her, the sisters were named Satsuki (Fifth Month) and Mei (May)!
kinda sorta precursor to Thelma&Louise maybe?  
on August 30, 2003 - 10:59 PM PDT
  of Caged Heat (1974)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Silence of the Lambs' Jonathan Demme's directorial debut, after graduating from Roger Corman's school of hard knockers (John Sayles made Piranha there!). Corman actually shadow-produced this film. It's definitely a women-in-prison sexploitation flick, but the way the girls band together to break out a feminist flourish that puts this a step above other films of this genre. Rent it and judge for yourself. Just remember, it's a women-in-prison film, not "Bridge Over the River Kwai" or "The Magdalene Sisters"!!!
Fun film steals style from Badlands  
on August 24, 2003 - 12:41 AM PDT
  of True Romance (1993)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful

I enjoyed this film quite a bit, and I can't really think of anything negative to say about it. However, director Tony Scott and writer Quentin Tarantino seem to have been a little bit more than inspired by Terrence Malick's 1973 classic Badlands, starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as two young people on the run. If you rent this movie and you like it, I urge you to also rent Badlands, to compare the similarities (music, narration, etc.) between the two. You'll see how True Romance is a film buff's tribute to real visionaries of the cinema like Malick (and dare I say John Woo, too)...

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