The Anthem of the Heart (2015)

The Anthem of the Heart Movie Review……………………………………………..

The Anthem of the Heart Movie Review

The Anthem of the Heart is a 2015 anime drama film directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai. It is a disappointing movie.

It follows the girl who is a chatterbox and her parents get divorced because of her. As a punishment, her mouth is sealed and she eventually manages to speak her mind through singing. The premise is solid and it provides some great emotional moments. Yes, the ending is sweet and triumphant and overall the film had some pretty strong drama in it, both family and teen.

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Dont tell people to disappear like it’s nothing!

Words can hurt people!

You can’t ever take them back.

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The Anthem of the Heart Movie Review……………………………………………..

The animation in particular is the highlight as it is so beautiful to watch and polished. Both the scenery of the city as well as the designs of the characters are great and everything looks really professional and pleasant.

The score is also really well incorporated and some songs are quite solid. Having in mind that the score is essential for its narrative, they thankfully managed to make some solid use of it with a couple of great musical moments.

So why is The Anthem of the Heart then so disappointing? Well, mostly because it is overly emotional and too long. The film went into overly maudlin territory from time to time and I don’t know if that’s earned as I just wasn’t that invested in its characters or its plot for it to work fully. The characters are solid, but far from great and the same can be said about the plot.

But an even bigger problem if the film’s annoying emphasis on love triangles and relationship dramas. The film would should have focused on just one thing and that should have been the protagonist and her problem with speaking, that would have been great. But this way, it becomes overlong, convoluted and it lost focus more than a couple of times.

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The Anthem of the Heart Movie Review……………………………………………..

And I’ve had a big problem with the premise itself. Somehow I was under the impression that the movie favored loveless marriage and cheating over divorce and I just could not shake that feeling. I liked that the fantasy element proved to be just in her head and not real in the end, but I still found her suffering to be overly excessive and not that needed as she never did anything truly horrible. That is my major gripe with the movie and why I found it solid, but disappointing. And even more disappointing given the fact that it was done by the creators of ‘Anohana’ which is one of my favorite shows.

The Anthem of the Heart has some resonant scenes, an interesting story and terrific animation, but it is disappointing for its overlong and unfocused narrative, sometimes excessive emotion and a couple of problematic elements in the script and its logic.

My Rating – 3.5

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Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945)

Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors Movie Review

Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is a 1945 anime film directed by Mitsuyo Seyo that is the first ever anime feature. It is technically fine, yet troublesome in plot.

Yes, the plot here is very problematic and not just for the obvious reasons. But let’s state the obvious. This is a shameless propaganda movie and its anti-American and anti-west sentiments are so emphasized that it was painful to watch. It was just straight propaganda. The ending in particular is just unbelievable. How they depicted and drew Americans is so crazy and offensive, but having in mind the bad state between the two countries at the time, it is understandable. But still, this was too much.

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Tomorrow, the final page will be turned in our fight against the enemy

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Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

However, an even bigger problem for me was its lack of a clear structure. The story is just non-existent and the majority of it is very poorly and oddly edited and structured. When you read the plot afterwards, you realize that the movie does have one. But that isn’t clear while watching it, again owing to that mediocre structure. The entire first half for instance consists of just the scenes of animals being taught how to read and work. It’s only in the second half that the film starts to have a more defined storyline.

The lack of character development also bothered me and none of these characters is remotely memorable or even developed in the slightest. Momotaro himself is such a typical hero type and all of the animals don’t get much to do and they all blend in together as they’re so similar.

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Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

The score is also solid and the one song that we have here is pretty good and catchy. But the editing is so troublesome, the film is dull and slow, even for its slight running time, and I just found its political aspect overly emphasized and the lack of characterization and strong plot troublesome. It is historically significant, but there isn’t much more to it other than that.

Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is historically significant as the first ever anime film with very good animation and pretty good score, but it is otherwise weak as the plot is lacking, the structure is odd, the character development is very weak and its propaganda approach is overly emphasized. 

My Rating – 3

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Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987)

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise Movie Review

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise is a 1987 science fiction anime film directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga. It is a solid, yet very disappointing film.

This is the film that I have been looking forward to seeing for years and it definitely disappointed me. It is solid for sure and sometimes even inspired, but it rarely reached the greatness that I expected from it. The plot itself is one of the reasons why it’s so troublesome. The first half is excellent, but the second one is not. The first half centers on good characterization and intriguing astronaut drama, but the second one centers on boring military elements and its ending is rather typical.

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I am the first man in space. Can anyone hear me?

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Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

Lhadatt is really good, but unfortunately not as great as the script demanded him to be. The same goes for Riquinni. These characters are definitely good, but because this is basically a character-driven drama, they were disappointing as the format demanded much better development. But the voice actors did a great job.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise has some inspired and just marvelous animation. It just might be the best animated film of the eighties, it is that good! Not only is the attention to detail meticulous and highly impressive, but the visuals are polished, the designs are awesome and the film just looks beautiful to behold. It is a shame that it didn’t go down in the history of animation and it should have just for its animation which to me felt groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. If I didn’t know in advance, I would never guess that it came out in 1987, ever.

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Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise Movie Reviews…………………………………………………………………..

Another great thing about it is its sound design. The movie sounds terrific and every sound is beautifully created and very realistic. The music did felt overloud at times, but it was nonetheless very good and definitely fitting to its sci-fi sensibilities. Speaking of sci-fi, Royal Space Force is interesting for not being a typical sci-fi picture. It is to me above all a drama as the technology in the movie is definitely reminiscent to our own, but because this Earth is alternate and some things are definitely not like our own, the film is most certainly a science fiction tale as well. And I really found that mixture of the two genres to be very interesting and quite authentic in its own right. It led to a very weird and interesting feel to it.

The cinematography is excellent as the camera movements in particular are so refined. The same goes for the directing, but the pacing should have been better as the second half felt dull and sometimes uneventful. I really liked its serious tone, but I have to mention the attempted rape sequence. That to me came totally out of the blue and it is the weakest scene in the movie. Unnecessary and stupid.

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Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise Movie Review…………………………………………………………………..

The film is definitely sophisticated, especially in its religious themes, but I never found it to be particularly moving as the emotion should have been stronger. The dialogue is great, but the film is sometimes a bit too realistic for its own sake leading to a duller film than needed. In the end, I definitely found it to be disappointing, but I also respect it in some areas, especially the technical ones, and it definitely is an interesting experience.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise is a solid, yet disappointing film that has absolutely terrific, groundbreaking animation with an impressive attention to detail, a splendid sound design and score and the mix of science fiction and drama is very intriguing, but the characters needed better development, the second half is pretty dull and the film never achieved greatness in the storytelling department.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Boy and the Beast (2015)

The Boy and the Beast Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

The Boy and the Beast Movie Review

The Boy and the Beast is a 2015 fantasy anime film directed by Mamoru Hosoda. It is a pretty good, if disappointing movie.

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You can’t tell which one’s the master anymore

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The Boy and the Beast Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

It is about a lonely orphan boy who stumbles into the beast world and is taken as a disciple by one of the beasts who is as lonely as he is and the film basically follows the relationship between the two. And that relationship is naturally the highlight and the heart of the movie and is pretty strongly developed. I also liked the drama elements in the second half and the conflict of the main character and his life in both worlds is really well explored.

What I didn’t like here is the movie’s lack of identity. I really didn’t like that third act. Well, I respected the animation and some of the visual choices were original there, but the emphasis on action and spectacle bothered me as the film was mostly a fantasy drama before and suddenly delved into blockbuster territory. Hosoda mixed too many things in here and the mish-mash did feel odd at times.

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The Boy and the Beast Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

The character development isn’t the strongest, but is pretty good nonetheless. Ren is a somewhat typical, yet very well realized protagonist and Kumatetsu is easily the highlight as he is such a likable beast. The two are great together and their relationship is heartwarming. But unfortunately all of the others are pretty forgettable and Ichirohiko’s plot arc did feel a bit abrupt and underdeveloped.

The Boy and the Beast has a usually exceptional animation. The character designs are strong, especially those of the beasts whose looks I really liked. But the scenery is so good and some of the camera movements were absolutely magnificent, especially during action sequences. I didn’t particularly care for the action here, but it is undeniable that it was well executed. I especially liked the wide angle shots of the crowds of people. And some of the streets were just gorgeous to watch.

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The Boy and the Beast Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

As for the other technical aspects, the score was good, though sometimes a bit odd in its choices. The direction from Mamoru Hosoda is expectedly strong and the voice acting is excellent. The fantasy elements were the finest as well as the drama ones with the action stuff coming in at the last place, at least for me. But I did really like that whale near the end as it was gorgeous to behold and so authentic. The entire movie is sometimes derivative and too oddly mashed together, but you can’t deny that there were some definite flashes of originality here, especially in the visual department. The pacing is also really good and the film’s running time is never long despite lasting for 2 hours. The story is epic and it demanded that much run time. I also liked its humor and its light tone at times and watching the two goof around was amusing. But the realism present in its dramatic second half is also really respectable and I really liked the clash between these two worlds, especially in the protagonist’s head. The dialogue is also pretty good, but I wanted for a bit more emotion as the story demanded it. All in all, The Boy and the Beast is a bit of a disappointment in the director’s awesome filmography, but as a film on its own, it is pretty good nonetheless.

The Boy and the Beast has awesome and sometimes quite inspired animation, excellent main characters and their relationship, some really good and superbly executed scenes and good themes, but the film is still far from Mamoru Hosoda’s best works owing to its lack of identity in its odd mixture of plot elements which is most evident in its action oriented finale which is well executed but a jarring choice for this movie.

My Rating – 4

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Ringing Bell (1978)

Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell Movie Review

Ringing Bell is a 1978 anime film directed by Masami Hata. It is such an underappreciated, masterful move that is one of the finest animated films I’ve seen.

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Someone has to die so that someone else can live. That’s the law of nature

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

The film is about Chirin who is an adventurous little lamb. After the wolf kills his mother, he goes after him and requests that he teach him how to become strong like him. He eventually becomes a very strong ram and the two live together and kill mercilessly, but when asked to kill the sheep in his home place, he struggles to do that and confronts the wolf. Yes, that is the plot here and, needless to say, it isn’t a children’s film despite it being categorized as such. It is not only very violent and mature, but also incredibly deep and sophisticated.

I admired its sophistication. The film shows us the wilderness in an extremely realistic manner. This is not your typical Disney animal feature. In fact, it can’t be more opposite to that. It shows you how life truly is for these animals and I loved how it makes a statement telling us that only the strong can survive in nature and the weak are destined to either death or a life full of fear and suffering. That is hard to accept, but truthful.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

But what took me entirely by surprise is the territory to which the movie went in its third act. I never expected it to go that dark and deep. Chirin basically becomes a wolf in his way of life and behavior. However, when he decides not to kill the sheep and confronts and kill the wolf, the other sheep won’t accept him back to the barn as they fear him and they don’t recognize him. He has become something entirely different – not a wolf, not a sheep. And that is the major theme in this film – you can change the inevitable and you can try to become someone you aren’t supposed to be, but that is not going to work out as you can’t fight against nature.

In Chirin we have someone who just doesn’t want to sit back and wait for his death and that is very relatable which is why he’s such a strong character. His journey from an innocent lamb to a strong ram and an almost mythical like creature is so well executed that it is believable and emotionally rewarding. Woe is such a great mentor in a typical anime fashion and I loved that he took his time deciding that he wants to teach him. That was much more realistic than I thought it would have been done. The relationship between the two is so strong and it is as if you are witnessing something truly unique, one of a kind and special unfold before your eyes. And the entire movie feels like that. I also liked Chirin’s mother and her death was of course devastating to watch.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell is technically phenomenal and superbly animated. The animation here is simplistic, but still exceptional. The character design in particular was the highlight as all of the animals looked very real. The lambs looked sweet and innocent and the wolf and adult Chirin looked so powerful and majestic, not to mention menacing. The backgrounds are also nice and the film is very smooth and polished with some really striking imagery. There were a couple of sequences here that were just breathtaking and so commendable in their apparent artistry and sheer power.

The highlights for me were the death of Chirin’s mother which was very well done and of course that ending is so powerful. I loved the symbol of the ringing bell and that is a perfect title to this movie. That ending was so mystical and a perfect conclusion to this authentic movie. Woe’s death was also really powerful and every scene between those two was just phenomenal. You can easily see the admiration the wolf has for Chirin as he shows some real strength and perseverance and Chirin sees Woe as a father figure and that may seem odd, but was done really well here that it becomes understandable.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Let’s talk more about those themes of Ringing Bell as I only touched upon them before. Overcoming your weakness is one theme very well explored here, but then you have the laws of nature and how unforgiving and cruel it truly is which is a great lesson for kids and I really would show this movie to children despite its awfully dark tone as it has a lot to teach them. Another great theme here is revenge and how it can destroy your life and overcome you to the point of an obsession. You have the loss of innocence and the turn from childhood to adulthood. And I loved its message about pain. It tells us that life is cruel and it can be quite awful, yes. But by surviving the more darker chapters of your life, you only become stronger which is best described here by ‘the fangs of your heart’. The film is just so deep and layered that it really took me by surprise.

The score is breathtaking! That theme song is just so good that I was just moved by it immensely. The score is awesome, the sound effects are great and that theme song is perfect with or without lyrics/singing. It is also a great showcase of the universality of this movie. It feels Japanese in some areas, but it mostly feels universal in that everyone can appreciate it, no matter the nationality. And that is something that most Japanese and American animated films fail to accomplish.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell is tonally perfect, going from cute and innocent to dark and violent deftly. The action/fight sequences are so well realized and some of its images are unforgettable. It is thoroughly unpredictable and oh so authentic. The dialogue is amazing in that so much is said in so little lines. The emotion is powerful to the point of being overwhelming and truly I felt overpowered after I finished watching it. That is the effect only true masterpieces can accomplish and Ringing Bell is that masterpiece. It is one of the best animated films of all time and easily the most shamefully underappreciated.

Mature, dark and so honest and just real, breathtaking in its music and oh so unforgettable in its imagery, powerful in its characters and so deep and sophisticated in its themes, Ringing Bill is just fantastic in every aspect. It is a film that deals with the cruelty of nature, the dangers of anger and revenge, the need to overcome your given nature and weaknesses, grief and sorrow and the loss of innocence and it deals with all of those issues in the short running time of 47 minutes which is beyond impressive and achieved by using such powerful dialogue. Its characters are strong and mystical, the animation is phenomenal, the score is beautiful and the tone is admirable. It is one of the best animated films of all time and undoubtedly the most shamefully underappreciated. I was deeply affected by this movie and only true masterpieces can have such an effect on you and I am deeply saddened and frustrated that I live in the world where this film has been seen by just a handful of people.

My Rating – 5

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Ugetsu (1953)

Ugetsu Movie Review……………………………………………………………………………..

Ugetsu Movie Review

Ugetsu is a 1953 Japanese historical drama film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. It is a very good, albeit to me not great movie.

I found Ugetsu’s plot to be really intriguing, albeit not particularly well utilized. It has everything in it – romance, supernatural fantasy, hard-hitting drama and of course it is a period piece. However, I would say that it doesn’t succeed as a fantasy film as well as it does as a drama. Let me explain. The film is so dramatic, so emotional and such a great cautionary tale that it is superb as a drama. But those supernatural elements aren’t as properly explored unfortunately and I would have set an eerie tone to those scenes which was sorely lacking here.

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Ugetsu Movie Review……………………………………………………………………………..

Tobei is an excellent central character and his story here is superb. And I liked Genjuro and also Miyagi has her moments, but unfortunately others aren’t as memorable. The acing is great and the highlight is of course Masayuki Mori in a very difficult role.

The best sequences here come in the first half as that half is much better than the second one which is weird as the second has so much more potential. But it does have a great ending which is intriguing and quite unforgettable.

Ugetsu is the kind of a movie that I think would benefit from a second viewing. And it really does feel like that to me as I respect it and admire it now, but I do not find it great even though I should. It is good for the time being and I will see if that changes when I inevitably watch it again sometime in the future.

Ugetsu is technically polished. Yes, the cinematography here is gorgeous and everything looks splendid and even artistic. However, I have one minor flaw here. Some of the longer takes really got on my nerves as they significantly slowed the pacing and made the movie a lot duller than it should have been.

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Ugetsu Movie Review……………………………………………………………………………..

I find the movie very authentic in its mix of genres, albeit the execution is not the greatest. I also found it quite moving and its heart is certainly in the right place. I would have wished for more drama at times, but it compensated that with a great dramatic and moving ending.

The score is also good and the imagery is so atmospheric and just so memorable. The movie is very important and relatable in its conflict and it works really well as a cautionary tale. It is well paced and although not as involving and riveting as I wished it would have been, it was still for the most part very intriguing and interesting. The dialogue is also good as is the direction and the tone is suitable dark.

Ugetsu isn’t as great as I hoped it would be as its mix of genres isn’t conveyed particularly well, but it is still very intriguing and a great cautionary tale. It is also really well acted, superbly shot, so well directed and it has some highly memorable sequences in it.

My Rating – 4

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Harakiri (1962)

Harakiri Movie Review

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Harakiri Movie Review

Harakiri is a 1962 jidaigeki film directed by Masaki Kobayashi and starring Tatsuya Nakadai. It is such a good film with a very interesting story to it.

The film tells the story of Hanshiro Tsugumo, a warrior without a lord who requests to commit seppuku which is a form of a Japanese ritual suicide. I really enjoyed the storyline here and this is an example of a film mostly benefiting from a strong story and superb storytelling. It is always intriguing, sometimes even riveting and it is filled with a couple of great themes from honor to political hypocrisy.

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After all, this thing we call samurai honor is ultimately nothing but a facade

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Harakiri Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………………..

However, the problem lies in its second act. Harakiri has a superb first act and a riveting third act, but the second one is frankly very boring and tired. It stopped the flow of the movie effectively and it slowed the progress of its plot and it just dragged the running time quite unnecessarily. But thankfully the other two acts are just fantastic.

All of the characters here are well realized with the protagonist being phenomenal. I really liked him and he is such a memorable character. I liked the humor in this movie quite a bit and he is the one who brought it the most. I liked all of the other characters as well and the acting is so strong with Tatsuya Nakadai being giving a particularly good performance.

Harakiri has such a strong visual flair. The film’s visuals are, along with its story, another standout. Some of the imagery in the third act is absolutely mesmerizing to behold and quite unforgettable. I liked both the interiors as well as the exteriors in the action scenes. Speaking of the action, it is well executed. However, I’ve had a big problem with its unrealistic approach. One guy take son twenty or so warriors on his own and the fact that it took them way too many minutes to beat him was unfortunate as that is so unrealistic and deeply flawed. But at least the action is well executed and visually dazzling.

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Harakiri Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………………..

I really liked the central character in Harakiri, but I also loved the flashback structure in its storytelling. That worked here to its fullest advantage. I loved how unpredictable the film is and how original and sophisticated its plot is. I did find the family aspect quite boring, but everything else is phenomenal with the themes and especially dialogue being the standouts.

The film is for the most part really well paced and, apart from that somewhat boring second act, Harakiri is quite entertaining for a film that is over two hours in length. The score is also good and the sound effects are excellent. I wished that the film was more emotional, but it was still sophisticated and meaningful and it is also pretty realistic, if you do not count the action of course. I liked its attention to detail and it transports you wonderfully to its time period.

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Harakiri Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………………..

Harakiri also benefits from some great set design and many memorable moments from the opening to the ending to the twist that happened to those atmospheric flashback scenes near the end. It is most definitely a good film, but it could have been a lot better had it focused on just the politics and the major subplot instead of bringing the unnecessary family stuff the story. But it is still a good samurai film and one of the more underrated Japanese films for sure.

Harakiri does have a somewhat boring second act and that family stuff was unnecessary, but the storytelling here is fantastic with such a great use of flashbacks, a very unpredictable nature to it, clever themes and so many memorable scenes. It also has such a strong visual flair with many great shots, it is well directed and acted and it is overall such an interesting, really well crafted picture.

My Rating – 4

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Ninja Scroll (1993)

Ninja Scroll

Ninja Scroll Review

Ninja Scroll is a 1993 anime action film directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. It is one of the most well regarded anime films and is a solid, but ultimately disappointing movie.

The plot is the reason why this movie is incredibly flawed. It is never particularly well crafted and the first act is awfully rushed and unexplained. We never get the characters introduced to us properly and the action drives the plot instead of going the other way around. And another problem here is that it can definitely be felt that this was a storyline better suited for a TV show which is the treatment it eventually received. It started to get a lot better from the second act onward, but I was still very much disappointed in the outcome.

The characters are flawed as well. Jubei and Gemma are pretty good, but I strongly disliked Kagero and what they did with her. She is basically eye candy here being naked most of the time and being just there for the male audience to look at. Yes, Ninja Scroll is an awfully sexist movie and I hated that. It treats women in the worst way possible which was just unpleasant to watch. But at least her death scene was emotional and a strong character driven moment for Jubei.

The voice acting is pretty good here and everyone did a nice job. The directing from Yoshiaki Kawajiri is also pretty good and the pacing is mostly good from the second act as the first one is awfully rushed. I really liked the action in Ninja Scroll. It is polished, looks well and is very entertaining to watch. The movements are well choreographed, the weapons are nicely incorporated and most of the fights are really well executed. The mythology of the world is also very good and the world building is fantastic which only adds to my disappointment that the end product is so rushed and does not use the world’s capabilities properly.

The animation in Ninja Scroll is quite good, albeit dated by now. It is crisp and looks good, but is sometimes on the TV level of quality. But the characters look good, the action is great and some scenery is great to look at. I loved a couple of scenes here with some fights being awesome and some being really intriguing. There are many fascinating choices here from a very interesting use of weapons to some great characters and especially villains.

However, what I strongly disliked is the use of violence. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad later on as it is in the first half, but some of those scenes where just too gruesome and too gory to bear. The sexual scenes were even more annoying to me due to that evident sexist approach to the characters. Some violent scenes are needed as to raise the stakes in an already mature movie, but some are just plain unnecessary in their disgusting  imagery which is one of my particular pet peeves.

The emotion is there, but it is too cold at times. The tone is too serious with just a couple of comedic moments to be had. The score is very good, I must admit. It greatly accompanies some intense scenes with great sounds. The story is entertaining, but not that sophisticated and you never get anything particularly deep or complex here. The dialogue is mostly good in the scenes where it is present. But overall, this is a style over substance and a disappointing anime flick in my opinion.

Ninja Scroll has some very interesting scenes, the world building is great, the score is pretty good and the action is very well executed and mostly fantastic, but the characters aren’t that well developed, the film is rushed at times, it is always a style over substance and the film is too violent and incredibly sexist which was really annoying leading to a solid, but disappointing film.

My Rating – 3.5

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Tokyo Story (1953)

Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story Review

Tokyo Story is a 1953 Japanese drama film directed by Yasujiro Ozu. It is regarded as one of the best films of all time and while I do not find it that great, it is definitely a really respectable movie.

It is about an old couple who come to Tokyo to visit their children and grandchildren. Their children do not pay much attention to them whereas their daughter-in-law is really good to them. This is the kind of movie that isn’t particularly difficult to understand, but is never too simplistic and is rather sophisticated in its simple story because it showcases a lot of clever themes that are truthful and always relevant. I like how it wonderfully explores aging and the generational  gap between parents and children and how it gets worse as time goes by. It also wonderfully shows how people from rural places cannot adjust to big cities. But the best parts are those that explore death and grief dealt after the death of loved ones along with the change and loneliness that happens then.

But overall I really liked its slice-of-life storytelling with realistic characters and a story that is relevant and honest throughout the whole running time. It started off somewhat slow, but it progressively got better and the whole third act is phenomenal with some of the best and most beautiful sequences present. And I loved the city sequences as they are filmed beautifully.

The characters are really good. They are not instantly likable, but you get to love them eventually. The grandmother is really such a pleasant woman and the grandfather is so well developed and he gets a really great conclusion that is very impactful and so emotional. The children are solid but underused unfortunately. However, it is Noriko who is the real standout here with such a fascinating character development and such a lovable and grounded personality. She and the grandfather got the best moments in the film.

The acting is fantastic. Everyone here did a splendid job with each and every performance being great. Chishu Ryu is phenomenal in a rather difficult role and he is just fantastic from beginning to end. But it is Setsuko Hara who is naturally the standout as she plays the most memorable and most sympathetic role and plays it wonderfully with such a subtle and natural performance. All of the actors and actresses did great here.

Tokyo Story is a technically polished film that just looks beautiful to behold. The cinematography is naturally phenomenal with camera transitions being inventive and the movie is overall superbly well shot with great angles. The directing from Ozu is fantastic and he is the biggest reason why the film works. The acting is terrific across the board and the score is also really good. The dialogue is smart and honest and the tone is deftly handled. The movie has a brain, but it also has a big heart which is evident in its last third which is super emotional and just hard-hitting and leaves a big impression. It is a unique and impactful experience for sure. The approach is very realistic and the script is really well written.

It is such a well crafted film that is also very artistic at times with a couple of simply fascinating scenes that are beautiful to behold, both visually and emotionally. But it isn’t a perfect film as it has its flaws which is mainly the pacing. The running time is not overlong in my opinion, but the movie is slow and too sluggish in pace in its first third. Some scenes are dragged and there should have been more dramatic scenes. And also the characters are forgettable at first, but they improve a lot as the movie progresses. It isn’t a perfect film, but it surely is a very good one and although not an ultimate classic in my honest opinion, it still is one of the best Japanese films I’ve seen without a doubt.

Tokyo Story is such a unique and emotional movie filled with relevant themes honestly depicted, likable and realistic characters, superb performances and such a fantastic directing from Ozu and brilliant cinematography. Its pacing is sluggish, but it is a fascinating and even an artistic experience that is emotionally rewarding and visually beautiful to behold.

My Rating – 4.5

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Colorful (2010)

Colorful

Colorful Review

Colorful is a 2010 anime drama film directed by Keiichi Hara. It is one of the most shamefully underrated and not seen enough films. It is fantastic in my opinion and one of the most pleasant animated surprises in recent years.

It is about a boy who upon death learns from an angel that he has another shot at living but is placed to another boy’s body.  It then follows his relationship with his ‘new’ parents and friends along with his troubles in accepting his problems as well as him meeting his first friend. The story is absolutely terrific, thorough, beautifully crafted and a reason why the whole film works so well. It has such an intriguing premise with a beginning that instantly makes you interested. And the conclusion is immensely satisfying and emotionally rewarding.

But what drives Colorful is definitely the thematically rich story. It has such a mature tone and subject matter filled with so many fantastic themes. It explores wonderfully growing up, pressures of graduation, suicide and the necessity of  friendship and family, but I liked the most how it wonderfully deals with the theme of loneliness, failure to fit in and familial struggles. Those hit me the most as I recognized myself in those situations and I even cried at one scene! That is how powerful and emotionally exhausting it was. So beautiful and heartbreaking, but also inspirational and warm. What I also found very interesting is the explanation of the title where the protagonist explains how each and every one of us has a good and a dark side to us and that that is okay as it makes the world a much more interesting place to live in and that is what makes us humans. That is such a great quote that is instantly memorable and hit me on so many levels.

But those beautiful themes and complex and mature story wouldn’t be as good if it weren’t for good characters and I can safely say that Colorful thankfully has terrific character development. Makoto is extraordinary as the main character here, he is the standout and rarely do protagonists get so much development and growth as his character did. He has such a realistic behavior with at times too obnoxious and angry attitude towards his parents and friends, but that is what makes him great and fitting to the movie’s theme and title – he is flawed and not always nice, just like the rest of us. But his realization at the end of the movie seems real and natural in spite of somewhat difficult to believe and too fantastical twist. Saotome is simply great as his first true friend and the relationship that develops between the two is so touching and simply beautiful to behold providing some of the best sequences. His parents are also very likable and grounded and his brother is quite realistic both in his behavior and his relationship with Makoto. The spirit Purapura is good, if somewhat annoying, but his relationship with Makoro lends a bit of humor to an otherwise dark movie. Shoko is also very well developed and quite a tragic character here, while Hiroka herself is also quite good exceptionally in the scene where it is revealed what she does for money as well as her breakdown scene with Makoto where he explains the meaning of the movie’s title.

The animation is gorgeous to behold. It is hand-drawn, but somewhat computerized with very polished feel to it. It has such a great attention to detail, wonderful colors and it is fueled with evident craftsmanship. But what took it to the next levels are the sequences with the newly acquainted friends exploring the city. It is filled with such care and obvious affection to railroads and trains along with wonderful love for the old times. That is propelled with vintage photographs merging into animation in a moving and breathtaking manner. That scene is art in my opinion and a further proof how artistic and amazing anime can truly be.

There are a couple of minor flaws here thus preventing the movie from becoming a classic in my opinion, but only slightly. The tone, while great, is somewhat poorly realized with the first parts being too light-hearted and even childish and later suddenly delving into deep and dark territory. The shift should have been handled more delicately. I also wanted for Makoto to apologize to Shoko for treating her so badly but that unfortunately never happened. And the twist at the end was rather contrived and even obvious when you think about it, too much reminiscent to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ which was not needed as Colorful already has a plethora of great and unique themes as well. But those are some minor flaws that do not take much away from this exquisite anime.

The direction from Keiichi Hara is quite good and now I am interested in seeking more of his work. The voice acting is undoubtedly phenomenal with everyone giving powerhouse performances. But the tone is so mature and adult that I was stunned as even in Japanese animation, some themes and subject matter rarely get explored. But here you have suicide which is incredibly well explored and even some sex-related issues such as prostitution and cheating. That was unbelievable to see in animation, but is done in a great way, not ever crossing the line, but rather exploring it subtly and with great care and sophistication. It is animated beautifully and it is even artistic at times. And the score is as expected from anime, wonderful and very pleasing. The dialogue is smart and the editing is deft. Colorful has both brain and heart and that is commendable in and of itself.

With terrific character development filled with realistic and wonderfully realized characters, deft editing, superb dialogue, some incredibly emotional, even heartbreaking sequences and amazing animation that is at times even artistic, Colorful may have a contrived ending and the tone is not handled properly, but that tone is so mature and dark which was refreshing to witness, it has a complex and deep story filled with beautifully explored themes of loneliness, suicide, different personality traits, friendship and pressures of graduation. Colorful is the kind of movie that is perfect in many respects and a reason why I watch movies. It feeds both my brain and soul, it is smart and incredibly emotional without being sappy and it is a terrific achievement and one of the most shamefully underrated and rarely seen anime films in recent years.

My Rating – 4,5

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