Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

Princess Mononoke is a 1997 historical fantasy anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of Studio Ghibli’s weakest offerings.

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You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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I never really cared for this movie and now upon second viewing, I can confirm that it truly is the most overrated Studio Ghibli film ever and also one of their weakest. That puts me in the vast minority, but I have to be honest and say that this is one of a handful of highly respected animated films which I deem very overrated.

That does not mean that Princess Mononoke is a bad movie. It is a solid film which has its strengths. Technically, the film is very strong and more on that later. In terms of story, it is ambitious and its attention to detail is remarkable. It has a strong environmental message and its characters are not painted black-and-white but are rather complex and realistic.

However, I still disliked those characters personally. That is because I could just never connect with any of them. Neither of them was remotely relatable or likable to me and that was a huge hurdle for the movie which never managed to overcome it. And it has too many characters and most are highly forgettable.

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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Ashitaka himself is very boring. I do not know why Miyazaki stated that he is an atypical protagonist when he couldn’t be more standard as heroes go. He’s bland and uninteresting. San is underdeveloped as is their relationship. Lady Eboshi is the only very good character in the movie as her motifs, her background and her goals are well realized and she is a complex person in the grey area of morality. But even she was not great.

As I said above, the only truly excellent thing in Princess Mononoke is its animation which is expected from such an art-driven studio. I really enjoyed the forests here and the animals are so realistically designed. The film features very polished, but still old-fashioned type of hand-drawn cell animation. The mix of traditional animation and the computer animation (present in demon flesh) is really well executed.

The film is very well animated, but even its animation is nowhere near the quality of Ghibli’s best films such as ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ for instance. The film succeeds as a historical piece as it has a great eye for detail and it recreated this period in Japan’s history so well.

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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But even though the dialogue is strong and the script is quite good, the execution is far from great. The film is just overlong, clocking in at over two hours. I was honestly bored. It is ambitious and epic for the sake of being ambitious and epic. I am not a fan of epic fantasy and thus this did not suit my tastes.

The film also features overwhelming action. Certainly some of it was great and so well executed with the fight between San and Lady Eboshi being the highlight, but still the film favored action and spectacle over substance. The gore is also overwhelming and not really needed so every bloody scene felt like a big distraction for me. All in all, even the environmental message is done better and more subtly in some of the studio’s previous classics so this surely is one of their weakest offerings.

Princess Mononoke is one of the most overrated animated films. Certainly the animation is excellent and frequently even stunning, the script is good and the characters are realistic and quite complex, but none of them was remotely likable or relatable to me and the film bored me with its prolonged runtime, excessive gore and overwhelming action and spectacle. And even its environmental message is done better in some of the studio’s previous classic films. It truly is Studio Ghibli’s most overrated film and one of their weakest offerings.

My Rating – 3

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Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 romantic drama anime film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. It is one of the best films that Studio Ghibli has to offer and one of my personal favorites.

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It’s not easy to live your own way. You can’t blame anyone but yourself

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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Let’s first talk about the story. The movie is interesting for being one of the rare Ghibli films with no fantasy elements whatsoever. The Baron fantasy sequences were actually figments of imagination of the main character. They are fantastical, but not real. Still, those were wonderful and they complimented the storyline really well. They are a textbook example of how animation can sometimes suit the genre of drama much better than its live-action counterpart.

This is a wonderful movie which is exceedingly romantic and sweet. I just adored it and watching it was such a beautiful experience for me. The romance between the two is exceptional and it develops at the perfect pace. The entire story with how they meet and how they were reading the same books was just so romantic and wonderful that I ate it up.

But whereas Whisper of the Heart succeeds incredibly as a teen romance, it succeeds even more as a pure drama. And what drama this is! Honestly, this was the deepest and most thought-provoking film I’ve seen in quite a while. I saw this movie around five years ago, but I am more mature now, so I respect it much more upon second viewing.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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I am currently at the most unpredictable and dangerous moment in my life. I am trying to find a job online, but it is moving at a slow progression and I am very anxious about finishing faculty so this movie was just perfect for me. I watched it at the most perfect time possible and thus I connected with its characters enormously.

It is a very smart, incredibly sophisticated story about two teenagers who chase their dreams but are yet not ready for a job. The line from Shizuko’s father about high school was pitch-perfect in its honesty and truthfulness – you can follow a different path than the default one given to you by your country and the entire world, but that path is going to be incredibly difficult and it is in the end not worth it. It is a sad, terrible truth that the movie made clear and with that I am struggling in my life right now.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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And another great line is how wanting to do something is not the same as preparing constantly and bettering yourself so that you can manage to get that job and secure your future. Life is difficult and getting a job and growing up is so hard and Whisper of the Heart gets that and is probably the most honest teen movie out of all of them as it teaches us those great messages in a very urgent manner.

Let’s finally talk about these characters, these great characters. Surely the parents are sweet and respectful and Yuko is a great friend to our main heroine, but honestly this movie is mostly just about Shizuko and Seiji and that was great. It’s a phenomenal chamber drama in a way. He is at first a bit too unlikable in a forced way, but he became much more likable and sweet later on and of course their relationship is very strong and heartwarming.

But Shizuko is amazing and I loved her. She is one of Ghibli’s finest heroines as she is so well developed and although a good girl, she isn’t overly kind and she seemed very realistic to me. Her troubles are so well established and her interactions with everyone were top-notch, but it is her love for books that was awesome to witness, her wild imagination was beautiful and her constant struggle with herself and her own dreams led to such a terrific character development and complex dilemmas.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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Whisper of the Heart is gorgeously animated! The character animation and designs are nothing spectacular, but the landscapes are excellent and for once we got a Ghibli movie set in a city. That was refreshing to see and Tokyo is perfectly animated. I loved that final scene which was gorgeous and of course the antique toy shop is the visual highlight as it is superbly detailed and immensely charming. The movie is not fantastical, but it compensates that with an astonishing attention to detail to everyday objects and the city itself.

The movie is superbly voice cast and the acting was excellent. Yoko Honna was just marvelous in a great role. As I said before, the dialogue is phenomenal and the script itself is absolutely spectacular. It favors drama and emotion over spectacle and fun and that was very refreshing. It is in line with ‘Only Yesterday’ as these two are two realistic, contemporary dramas rarely seen in animation and both are some of my favorites from the studio, both honestly quite underrated.

I do realize that the final scene was a bit too sentimental and it surely was overly emotional, but I still liked it, especially for its gorgeous setting and animation. The score is fantastic and Take Me Home, Country Roads is one my favorite songs of all time and seeing how it was a perfect theme for the movie only further strengthened my love for it.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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The fantastical sequences should have been shorter and sometimes the movie struggled with its pacing, but it was mostly top-notch in terms of both technical aspects and story/characters/emotion. I loved the shop and the cat, the grandpa was wonderful and my favorite scenes were the ones in the antique shop and the library. A very charming, atmospheric movie this is.

With superb character development and one of the studio’s finest heroines, wonderful animation fueled by a meticulous attention to detail, a perfect use of one of my favorite songs and a top-notch script, Whisper of the Heart truly is one of the best Ghibli movies and one of my personal favorites as I connected with it on so many levels. Thematically rich and incredibly smart and truthful in dialogue and its statements, the movie speaks to me on a personal level. Gorgeous in its romance and deep in its drama, you just can’t get a better animated teen drama than this one.

My Rating – 4.5

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Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990)

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water Review

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Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water Review

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a 1990 adventure anime series directed by Hideaki Anno. It is a pleasant, though flawed show.

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What a strange bunch

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Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water Review

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I was ultimately disappointed with Nadia because it started off so strongly, but eventually become typical. The first third of its run was fantastic, I loved it. It pleasantly reminded me of ‘Dragon Ball’ as it was wonderfully childlike, charming and adventurous. Very pleasant and I loved its mix of historical, romance and adventure with some fantasy elements.

But eventually it became focused too much on silliness, childish humor and the fantasy elements weren’t as exciting as they were promised previously. I loved some of its final episodes, but most of the middle parts felt lacking in excitement, adventure or characterization.

Speaking of the characters, they are mostly superb. This team of characters is very likable, diverse and ultimately quite memorable. Nadia is a solid protagonist, actually more than solid as she is very well developed and more flawed than heroic. Jean, on the other hand, is too heroic unlike Nadia, though they are a great romantic couple.

Nemo is not as interesting as he should have been, but Electra is much more memorable and very complex as a character. Marie is a typical kid, but King is such a cute lion cub and I adored him. Sanson and Hanson are too goofy, but mostly funny and of course Grandis is the highlight of this entire team – very funny, frequently even hilarious, and such a wonderful, likable and fun female character.

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Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water Review

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Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is very well animated. Its animation is advanced for its time, very pleasant, colorful and charming as is the style and tone of the entire show which is at times too comedic, but mostly fun and funny with a great adventure, but lacking in fantasy elements.

The show looks great, but it also sounds terrific thanks to both of its songs being excellent, but the opening is particularly strong and immensely catchy. The pacing is entirely off and the direction is lacking, but the show is likable and charming enough that it mostly transcended its flaws. I just wish that the second half was as strong as the first one was.

Worst Episodes: Run, Marie, Run!, Electra the Traitor, Nadia’s Love…? and My Darling Nadia.

Best Episodes: The Girl at the Eiffel Tower, The Little Fugitives, Infiltration of the Secret Base and The Floating Island.

My Rating – 4

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Pom Poko (1994)

Pom Poko Movie Review

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Pom Poko Movie Review

Pom Poko is a 1994 fantasy drama anime film from Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. It is one of the weaker, but still underrated Ghibli films.

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They used their balls as weapons in a brave kamikaze attack

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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So this is basically another nature tale where environmentalism is the prevailing message. This time around we follow raccoon dogs who have the power to transform into anything and are forced to transform into humans and live in their society as their forests are getting destroyed. So they do try to hammer this message a bit too much and for some that would be a deal-breaker, but I didn’t mind it too much as it is a very important message and people and children should be aware of this problem.

This is a very interesting film in that it very much seemed like a live-action film. Let me explain. Its running time is two hours and the film is sprawling, ambitious and rich in themes and characters which are all rarely seen in animation. That was a two-edged sword however. It was admirable in ambition, but it was also probably too long and some scenes in its middle section felt either repetitive or even unnecessary. There were too many details and plot points in my opinion.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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But the story in Pom Poko still worked and these raccoon dogs were very interesting as they have the power to transform and all those transformations were beautiful and interesting to watch. I loved how the humans were realistically portrayed in all their actions and yes – the ending killed me. It  affected me emotionally as it truly is a beautiful, poignant scene. Watching them live as humans and miss their forest home was devastating, but still that final scene where Shoukichi gathers with his companions was so touching and the fourth wall breaking finale was also devastating.

So Shoukichi is a memorable, likable protagonist, Oroku is a lot of fun and old Seizaemon is great. Now most of these characters are underutilized as you got too many of them, but still they all felt like a big family thanks to a lot of emotional connection, excellent interactions between them and fun humor. I loved their relationship with humans too. The voice acting is also pretty good per usual.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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So let’s talk about the animation. Firstly, the character design. Let’s first address the elephant in the room – those giant balls. Yes, these animals have giant balls that in the movie they use to fight the humans in the end even. So yes, it felt weird, but if you are used to anime, you would not mind it like I did not. In fact, it was quite funny to me and it is the most memorable thing about the movie for better and for worse. Love it or hate it, it is bold and the overall character design is actually excellent as they have three forms and they shift from realistic to anthropomorphic to transformed so smoothly and all the forms are beautiful.

The overall animation is very competent and actually great. I loved the natural landscapes, but the city imagery was also very memorable. That scene where you witness the destruction of the hill for the placement of the city was truly heartbreaking. The animation here is so polished and so beautiful as a whole that it honestly doesn’t stay too much behind their more well known, earlier efforts. The parade sequence is particularly dazzling to witness.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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Pom Poko also has a very strong score which accompanies those emotional scenes so well and I really liked it personally. The pacing is problematic, but the direction from Isao Takahata is very strong per usual as he is one of my favorite anime directors for sure. But I have to say that I really did not like the narration here.

The dialogue overall is excellent here and the movie is smart, but that narration kidified the movie a bit too much and it was just so unnecessary and extremely overwhelming as it took up a lot of the movie. But the humor is honestly quite solid and the film is charming and poignant enough that it overcame those many flaws and it is in my opinion quite underrated and possibly better than overrated ‘Porco Rosso’.

Pom Poko is a flawed, but solid and ultimately even underrated Ghibli film. Its narration truly is overwhelming, the film may be too weird for some in regards to the character design and it was too long and the middle section dragged a bit, but still this is a very moving, rich tale with a strong environmental message, likable characters, accomplished animation and such a poignant, truly touching third act.

My Rating – 3.5

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Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)

Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

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Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a 1995 mecha anime series that is one of the most famous animes ever. It is a pretty solid, but expectedly not great show.

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Mankind’s greatest fear is mankind itself

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Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

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I am usually not a fan of mecha, big robots and everything surrounding that narrative so me liking this anime was a surprise. I did not love it, but still I liked it to a degree. That is mostly because it doesn’t only rely on action, but it also has a strong story and a surprisingly hefty emotional investment.

I still found the second half of the show overly action packed and dull with only the final couple of episodes being standout in their original concept and execution, but the rest are not great. The first half is much better as the first 14 or so episodes are very engaging and a lot of fun.

The show’s humor is exceptionally strong and I loved the more hilarious and fun episodes. That penguin in particular was so funny. So Shinji is such a respectable central character and the rare hero who is at first whiny and not all that strong and heroic. That I loved and it was relatable to me.

Rei and Asuka are also quite well developed and I loved the dynamic between these three. Ritsuko is also memorable and strong, but the rest are forgettable. Neon Genesis Evangelion has a typical approach for anime with an abundance of female characters and not that many male ones which was troublesome and unrealistic. But I did like its sexual humor quite a bit.

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Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

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Neon Genesis Evangelion features a pretty strong animation and its visuals are the strongest aspect here as the series aged really well and looks good even today. The designs of the robots are also very good and diverse. The score is also good, not great, but memorable and it serves its purpose along with good sound effects and the show is overall technically polished. I just wish that the action-filled second half was slower.

In the end, I liked Neon Genesis Evangelion. It has too much action and is sometimes too convoluted and I have to say that it is intellectually not as profound and is overrated, but its characters are well developed and memorable, the show is emotional in approach and I liked its score and animation quite a bit.

Worst Episodes: She said, ‘Don’t Make Others Suffer for Your Personal Hatred, Weaving a Story, Fourth Child and Introjection.

Best Episodes: The Beast, Hedgehog’s Dilemma, The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still and Take Care of Yourself.

My Rating – 3.7

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Porco Rosso (1992)

Porco Rosso Movie Review

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

Porco Rosso is a 1992 animated adventure comedy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of the weaker Studio Ghibli offerings that still has a lot to offer.

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I’d rather be a big than a fascist

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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The subject of aviation is naturally very dear to Miyazaki, but somehow he never really knew how to utilize all that strong love for it. ‘The Wind Rises’ was problematic and Porco Rosso is no exception. It is a film that is just solid and I’d come to expect much more than solid from this director.

So the film is about an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace who was transformed into an anthropomorphic pig. The film is interesting for being the only Miyazaki film that is very realistic and could have happened in real life, everything except the curse part of course. Its Italian location is interesting and unique for the studio and I love the 30s decade so this was pleasant for me naturally.

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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But I have to agree with the director himself who stated that he made an adult movie for children. And that is exactly the major problem of Porco Rosso in a nutshell. It is realistic, it has politics and history in it and yet somehow the movie is not serious as it tries to be fun and funny. It is fun and funny at times, but this tonal inconsistency just felt off for me and ultimately the movie did not work as much as it could have had he decided on just one consistent tone.

I found its first act somewhat abrupt as it starts in a rushed way and it did not introduce me to its characters and its world properly. The third act of the film is where it is at its silliest and most childish and although amusing, it felt too silly in contrast to everything that came before it. The second act is easily the best one as it features some strong characterization, humor and wonderful drama.

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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Porco himself is very memorable and I really liked his character as he is a departure from the usual heroes from the director, or should I say heroines. His story is excellent and I loved the hint at the end that his face may be restored to human. Fio is such a wonderful, subtly feminist character and she is a lot of fun and has some great energy. The relationship between these two is the heart and soul of the film.

Donald Curtis is somewhat typical as an antagonist and again that fight at the end was silly, but Madame Gina is memorable as a love interest and I really enjoyed the love story in this movie and I even found this triangle to be pretty solid.

Porco Rosso is so well animated. It isn’t quite on par with the previous Ghibli films as it isn’t as artistic and the backgrounds are sometimes lacking, but the designs of the characters are so good, especially that of the protagonist, and the film is pleasing in color and quite endearing. The flight scenes are so well executed and I loved the attention to detail that went into the animation of airplanes. It is evident from this movie how much Hayao loves aviation.

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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The score is also stupendous. It isn’t as memorable as say the score from ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ or ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, but it is very fitting to the story and feel of the movie, not to mention the locations, and I loved how fun and retro it felt.

The movie is well paced and edited in spite of that somewhat rushed first act. It otherwise flows really well and the direction is as strong as usual. I also thought that the dialogue is quite solid and I loved the conversations between Fio and Porco and his origin story is so well told. So the movie is not one of Ghibli’s strongest and it is more in line with ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. Still, it is endearing and charming enough that I can’t criticize it too much.

Porco Rosso is a problematic movie. The animation is as wonderful as usual for the studio, the characters are memorable, I loved the relationship between Fio and Porco, the locations of the film are different and interesting and the film is so well scored and charming and endearing for the most part. However, I have to agree with Miyazaki himself that this is an adult film for children and it thus felt odd both conceptually and tonally. It struggled with its tone too much, the first act is somewhat rushed and the third act is silly leading to one of Ghibli’s more humble offerings.

My Rating – 3.5

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Hunter x Hunter (Election arc) Season 6 (2014)

Hunter x Hunter (Election arc) Season 6 Review

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Hunter x Hunter (Election arc) Season 6 Review

The sixth season of Hunter x Hunter is another disappointing season, but nonetheless a solid conclusion to the series.

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You should enjoy the little detours to the fullest because

that’s where you’ll find the things more important than what you want

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Hunter x Hunter (Election arc) Season 6 Review

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This was pretty much on par with Chimera Ant arc. Election arc has its great episodes, especially the ending, but it doesn’t really have a strong story arc as a whole. Most of it felt like a detour and not particularly engaging and certainly not exciting.

I wish it had more characters in it and somehow it only provided closure for Gon as the rest felt underutilized which was a problem from the entire second half of this big show. Most of the characters here were either forgettable or they did not get their proper due.

But Gon was great and I just loved that ending as I said above. Him meeting his father Ging was great, but the entire conversation they have in the last episode was excellent not only in the explanation it gives us about this world and its creatures and that they came from another world, but also because it was a satisfactory, heartwarming conclusion to this story and it was wonderful seeing them meet at last, though certainly not particularly complex thematically.

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Hunter x Hunter (Election arc) Season 6 Review

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The season has great animation and score per usual, but the action is not there and it is in pacing and tone a lot more boring than is usual for this anime. It is a pretty short and though consequential season, it’s still slight in terms of characterization and storytelling.

So in the end, this was a pretty solid and heartwarming, yet still slight and far from great season that concluded the anime well, but certainly not in the grand fashion. I liked Hunter x Hunter but I was endlessly disappointed in its second half of its run as the first one was just amazing and the rest of it just never caught up unfortunately.

Worst Episodes: Plea and Favor and Needle and Debt.

Best Episodes: Defeat and Reunion and Until Now and from Now.

My Rating – 3.5

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Hunter x Hunter (Chimera Ant arc) Season 5 (2013)

Hunter x Hunter (Chimera Ant arc) Season 5 Review

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Hunter x Hunter (Chimera Ant arc) Season 5 Review

The fifth season of Hunter x Hunter is another disappointing one and I am truly frustrated with this anime.

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Violence is the greatest power of the world!

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Hunter x Hunter (Chimera Ant arc) Season 5 Review

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Yes, this is the new low for the series and what was once one of the greatest anime shows ever in my opinion is now reduced to a regular anime and nothing more than that. I have never seen a bigger steep down for any other show than this one, I am serious.

Yes, Dragon Ball is also famous for being overly reliant on action scenes and long fights, but Chimera Ant arc is even worse than that show, much worse in my opinion as it has 61 episodes which is just too much for any story and this one started off great and I was intrigued with the Chimeras, but then it reduced to fight after fight and more needless complications and I honestly lost interest.

Chimera Ant arc is definitely the most horrific and gruesome of any arcs in Hunter x Hunter which is saying something. I liked its horror approach quite a bit actually. I really admired the animation and the character design of the villains, very creative and diverse in a lot of species. And the score was solid.

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Hunter x Hunter (Chimera Ant arc) Season 5 Review

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But the action itself was disappointing and not only prolonged, but also not all that interesting to me personally. The character moments came too far and few in between and even Gon and Killua were not as great here. Netero is interesting and the villain is great, but watching him play chess and games was basically a filler and this arc was too much build up and not enough great conclusion.

In the end, this fifth season of Hunter x Hunter is the weakest thus far with great animation, interesting villains and excellent horror approach to it, but the execution with too much action was disappointing and not particularly engaging and the arc is too long, complicated and ultimately kind of dull. Very disappointing.

Worst Episodes: A False Rage, Defeat and Dignity and Breakdown and Awakening.

Best Episodes: Very Rapid Reproduction, Evil and Terrible and Kite and Slots.

My Rating – 3.5

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Only Yesterday (1991)

Only Yesterday Movie Review

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Only Yesterday Movie Review

Only Yesterday is a 1991 anime drama film directed by Isao Takahata which is Studio Ghibli’s fifth movie. It is one of their most underrated and very best.

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There is always a tomorrow

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Only Yesterday Movie Review

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The story is so strong. I am not usually a fan of this framing device where we jump from present to past, but this use of flashbacks is so strong that it complements the movie instead of hurting it. Critics have pointed out the strong adult approach that is present in Only Yesterday and that is definitely the case here. It is intended for women, but could be enjoyed by men as well. But it is mostly for adults as its story is very mature and deep.

We follow a 27-year-old woman as she journeys to the countryside and meanwhile reminisces about her 10-year-old self. This is not just your regular reminiscing, but it is important as she thus grows more as an adult and realizes her past and present mistakes. She is somewhat lost as an adult and she wants to fix that.

What I loved about it the most is its portrayal of childhood. Now there are a lot of movies about this subject matter, but this is easily one of the best of its type because it shows so truthfully how everything seemed better and more magical during childhood, but it also shows us that some of the problems and traumas faced during childhood are never really forgotten and they shape you as a human being. Incredibly powerful stuff.

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Only Yesterday Movie Review

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And I loved her romance with Toshio, so well done. I rooted for them to end up together and it is implied that they did which was wonderful. Their conversations were just so wonderful and realistic that they were easily the highlights here in terms of the dialogue. Toshio is a great character and Taeka just might be my favorite Ghibli heroine or at least in the top two or three. She is beautifully developed and always grounded in reality as she is never portrayed as too good, especially as a child and I appreciated that.

Other characters aren’t as memorable but they definitely help shape her experiences as an adult and as a child. Toshio’s family does have some great moments with her as they pressure her into dating Toshio which was such a realistically depicted scene. Taeka’s mother is also superbly realized, caring, yet also careless at times towards her. The same goes for her sister. And of course I liked all of her classmates and especially her love interest.

The scene where the two share their first conversation is just beautiful to witness. It wonderfully showcases the power and innocence of childhood love. All of the scenes between Taeka and Toshio were of course the other highlights. I loved the scenes with hitting puberty and the period talk is something you rarely see in animation and is greatly portrayed here. And her math problem led to such a great and relatable scene to me personally.

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Only Yesterday Movie Review

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But there is no denying the power of the last sequence. I just adored that ending and it is in fact one of my favorite Studio Ghibli scenes ever. There you see the need for the animated medium as this is a drama and not a fantasy but there it employs its flashback approach by bringing the kids on the screen together with her and facing her with her former self. That moment was just poetic and deep that I felt it emotionally. The fact that probably my favorite song ever The Rose was playing during the scene only heightened the emotion for me. It is the truly touching pinnacle of this entire mature and relatable drama.

Only Yesterday is beautifully animated. Now it isn’t on the level of some previous Ghibli classics such as ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, but it is still incredibly strong. The film portrays its characters realistically as they are not overly pretty and perfect. The imagery is gorgeous and the attention to detail is once again overwhelming.

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Only Yesterday Movie Review

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The film showcases the importance of country life and especially farm producing and I just loved that. This studio has always been the proponent of living in the country, but this movie takes that to the next level as it also shows us the importance of working and how producing plants can be beneficial to not just your health but also emotionally as you help grow a living thing. The relationship between humans and nature is so well emphasized here and it shows us how the two can co-exist peacefully and productively.

The score is again terrific and not just in the ending, but also in its use of Hungarian and Romanian folk music as that somehow transcends and perfectly fits the country scenes. It is so well edited and directed and a further proof why I love Isao Takahata so much as he truly directs his movies stupendously and his Ghibli films are my favorites.

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Only Yesterday Movie Review

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Only Yesterday isn’t perfect as I thought that some scenes weren’t as compelling as the rest and the film needed more humor in my opinion as it was overly serious, but it truly is one of Studio Ghibli’s finest outings and definitely near the top of the list for me. It is an underrated film that should be appreciated by more people and now that it finally came out in the USA, I am glad to see that start to happen. Also, it is easily one of the best that the very weak year of 1991 has to offer.

Only Yesterday is one of the very best that Studio Ghibli has to offer thanks to again gorgeous animation, a truly phenomenal score, excellent character development and a rich story. Its framing device is put to some great use, the film flows so well, it is beautifully directed by always great Isao Takahata and it is so emotional, relatable and ultimately deep in its very mature story. The highlight is the ending which deeply touched me with its song choice, imagery and strong emotion.

My Rating – 4.5

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Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki's Delivery Service Movie Review

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Kiki’s Delivery Service Movie Review

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a 1989 fantasy anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is Studio Ghibli’s forth film which is solid, but pretty overrated.

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Flying used to be fun

until I started doing it for a living

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Kiki's Delivery Service Movie Review

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It follows a young witch in training. She hits her teenage years and moves to a new town where she starts earning money by delivering packages with her broom. She meets a lot of different people and experiences adulthood. It is a coming-of-age flick which should prove awesome for children and most especially little girls, but it is in my opinion too childlike and girly and it doesn’t have the adult appeal that childlike movies such as ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ have.

That is mostly why I didn’t love it. I liked it more upon my second viewing, but I still think it isn’t better than solid. The plot is somewhat non-existent except that it is a coming-of-age story and although it is too slow at times, I mostly liked its casual approach which is the director’s signature direction. He directed the film really well, that’s for sure.

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Kiki's Delivery Service Movie Review

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Of course Kiki not being able to talk to her cat eventually and losing her flying ability was a metaphor for becoming an adult and losing your innocence and I loved that, a very elegant and heartwarming way to state that transition. The movie is slow, but certainly quite sophisticated and although seemingly too sweet, it does portray many different types of people and some not all that good so it does become more mature at some points, but too rarely.

I’ve had a big problem with its ending. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a film that is leisurely in style and pace and thus its climactic ending felt way out of place and honestly quite ridiculous. It is a typical action-oriented finale that should be reserved for all those stupid family flicks made in USA and seeing Miyazaki resort to that was unfortunate.

Kiki is a good character, though a bit too good natured and somewhat forgettable when put against other strong Ghibli heroines. Jiji’s sarcasm proved to be a lot of fun and again I really liked that only she could talk to him. Their relationship pleasantly reminded me of Lyra and Pan’s relationship in ‘Northern Lights’.

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Kiki's Delivery Service Movie Review

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Osono is charming and Ursula shared a really great scene with Kiki and I loved her artistic background. As for Tombo, he is your typical Ghibli male love interest, but their relationship was admittedly quite sweet and touching. The voice acting is expectedly very good here.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is as superbly animated as you would come to expect from the caliber of this studio and its famous director. The character designs themselves are good, but it is the backgrounds that prove to be a real treat here. I absolutely loved how gorgeous some of the imagery was here. I always loved seaside towns and this town being European in style was refreshing to see in an anime film. I loved how the town looked and it felt so cozy, but the house interiors, the food, of course the nature and every little detail was beautiful to witness and Ghibli’s early films from eighties and nineties really do give hand-drawn animation a great reputation.

The score is also very good and grandiose and different in its style which I loved. Its opening and closing number was also quite sweet. The film is definitely wonderfully made technically and both the script and the dialogue offer some gems in terms of the scenes. My favorite scenes are Kiki’s discussion about art and flying with Ursula, her first scenes in a new town were all phenomenal and her scenes with Tombo and Jiji were all big winners.

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Kiki's Delivery Service Movie Review

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So the film is pleasant and charming, but admittedly too slow at times and I honestly thought that the film was way too simplistic and it definitely ended in a very mediocre, frustratingly annoying manner. It is a movie that is perfect for kids and little girls, but it never has that universality to it that other Ghibli classics have. It is the weakest Ghibli outing from the eighties by far and definitely one of its most overrated films. It is solid, don’t get me wrong, but I’d come to expect much greater things from this magnificent studio and this one is certainly way too overrated for my taste.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is expectedly gorgeously and meticulously animated, very well scored, pleasantly leisurely in pace and style with a good metaphor and it is a charming coming-of-age film that is great for children and especially girls, but it isn’t all that appealing to adults, I found its ending annoyingly too climactic and out of place and although the film is definitely sweet and solid, it is far from great and is actually one of Studio Ghibli’s most overrated works.

My Rating – 3.5

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