Berserk (1997) anime review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

WARNING: If you haven’t seen the show before and intend to watch it, SKIP THE FIRST EPISODE!!!  That first episode should be the last episode, because it acts as a sort of epilogue to the entire fucking season (seriously, fuck them for putting that episode first and spoiling much of what is to come).  That aside, there will be spoilers in this review, which may make that warning pointless.

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Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (2004) review

Rated: 3 / 5 (might improve sometime in the future when I decide to rewatch this show)

And slowly, you come to realize, it’s all as it should be.
You can only do so much.
If you’re game enough, you can place your trust in me.
For the love of life, there’s a trade-off.
We could lose it all, but we’ll go down fighting.

So I’ve been aware of this anime’s reputation for a while now.  Some say it’s “the best anime no one has ever seen,” and by no one they mean Americans.  Not sure how true that is (personally, I think that reputation should fall upon Legend of the Galactic Heroes, something I have completely downloaded, but have only seen a few episodes so far; didn’t stop because it sucked, just have the mindset, “Let me finish this, and this, and this first, before getting sucked into this.”), as I believe it has gotten the attention it’s deserved since its release, but viewers have to jump through a few hoops to get the whole thing.  From what I understand, this only aired on the Sci-Fi channel (was it that far back, or was it SyFy at this point?) for a duration, and the last 15 or so episodes never aired, so most didn’t get to see how the anime would wrap up.  Well, I’ve seen the whole damn thing.  I won’t say how, but you could probably think of a few ways.

So, how was it?  Not too shabby, despite a couple minor caveats here and there; up until the last 5-6 episodes or so when it does this stupid bullshit that a lot of animes do that irritate me to no end.  I’ll get to what those are later, but for now I’ll just say they don’t fuck up the show to the point where I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Despite its faults, it’s one of the better anime series out there, and it doesn’t run so long to the point where it overstays it’s welcome (I mean, Inuyasha, Bleach, One Piece, holy fuck do those go on forever).

Oh, and there will be spoilers.  Just sayin’.

So the show starts out with this master surgeon, Dr. Tenma, who is considered to be the best doctor in the country (the show primarily takes place in Germany, but the lead doctor protagonist is Japanese), conflicted with his choices of whether he should continue to do what his bosses want, healing the patients they demand and thus prioritizing the more wealthy/famous/political over the commoners, or not.  The guilt of continuing this trend weighs heavy on him until he decides to disobey orders and do surgery on a young boy named Johan who was shot in the head, choosing to help him over the other more “important” individual.  Because of his actions he becomes de-promoted, and his twat fiance (who is the daughter of the hospital president) shows her true colors in that she was only in the relationship for the finances and high position, so she ditches him for another.  But the act has unforeseeable repercussions that extend beyond this.  Soon after healing the boy, several of the hospital higher ups are killed via poison, leaving nothing in the way of Tenma moving back up in the ranks.  And the boy patient Johan, along with his sister (who was admitted due to trauma/shock) disappear.

Years later, Tenma is successful, and glad to be rid of his fiance, who tried to come back to him (bitch, please).  However, a patient of his raves and rants about a monster coming for him, and he runs out of the hospital with Tenma in pursuit, only for both of them to become confronted by the monster.  The monster, as it turns out predictably, is Johan, the boy patient from nearly a decade ago.  Johan kills the patient, spares Tenma, and leaves.  Tenma also finds out that Johan is a serial killer, who has been killing many people over the years, which makes Tenma second-guess his philosophy that every life is sacred, and equal, and worth saving.  Are there some lives that shouldn’t be held as high as others?  Are there some lives that must be ended for the good of others?  Well, Tenma decides to change his life, leave his job, and begin tracking down Johan across the country, trying to find him and eventually kill him.

That’s more or less how the opening 10 episodes go.  And this is a series comprised of 74 episodes.  I began to wonder, “The premise is interesting, but how in the hell can they keep this show engaging for that long of a duration?  I’m seeing the setup for intrigue and deeper layers indicating that there’s more going on than what we’re currently seeing, but for another 60+ episodes?”

And the next several episodes began to worry me in this regard.  Because despite how the first few episodes seem, this isn’t one of those shows that tells its story in a straightforward manner where we continually follow the lead protagonist most of the time.  No.  For several episode stretches and different intervals, we are introduced to other characters, and follow their stories, like Tenma’s arc during the first act was just one story amidst a bunch of other stories that encompass a giant conspiracy.  In hindsight, this technique worked, but it demands patience from the viewer.  There were times where I went, “Ok, this is nice and all, but what the hell is happening with Tenma!?”  There are times when we leave him and then get introduced to some girl attending a college for a few episodes; or later on are introduced to some child of a rich man trying to become re-aquainted with his father; or follow a cop who’s a recovering drunk.  But after a certain point, they all start to link together.

By the time the series was halfway over, I was down with this style of pacing.  It accomplishes something that I desire in a lot of television shows.  That the main protagonist is not the center of the universe.  There are other pieces in the game that move independent of his actions/activities, who accomplish things that the protagonist is incapable of accomplishing, whether it’s because he’s not in the right place at the right time, or he doesn’t have the skill-set to do this sort of thing (ex: Tenma can’t really fight, and he’s just so-so with a gun, and most importantly he doesn’t know everyone anymore than he has all the answers).  Plus virtually all of these other characters are interesting in their own way, thus I didn’t mind so much that I was spending time with them.

By favorite of these side-characters is easily the detective Heinrich Lunge, who pretty much chooses to have no life outside of his detective work, and can become obsessive with solving cases.  And he has a technique for doing so.  He is able to recall conversations and details with eerie accuracy, like he’s a computer who can record information at will.  Yet his method does have a fault.  Despite being able to recall conversations word-for-word, another character (who is a criminal psychiatrist) points out that Lunge utilizes this technique in a biased manner.  If he has already predetermined a potential outcome, he will emphasize a tone/aura around his recall-ability, such as believing an individual said a line in a certain way (serious, lighthearted, grim, casual, a lie, a truth) when said-individual actually said the line in a different way.  Because as objectively-minded as some people try to be, there will always be an amount of subjectivity to how they perceive things.  Plus he does all his work at the expense of alienating his family; and there were times where I began to sympathize with this guy and begged for him to go to his daughter, a sign of good writing.

And speaking of multi-dimensional characters, to my surprise, Tenma’s bitch-tits fiance ends up showing a sympathetic side to her, though you do have to get pretty far in the show to see it.  And, of course, even the main villain Johan is shown to be multidimensional.  There are no perfect characters in this show, no heroes that aren’t infallible, no villains that are pure evil (even if they do their best to convince themselves and others that’s how they are).

Getting into the character of Johan here, he does become a fascinating character.  First one begins to wonder just how it is he’s able to brainwash/manipulate others into doing his deeds.  Because as we soon find out, he usually prefers not to get his own hands bloody (though he certainly has no qualms about doing so), but rather getting other people to do things for him.  Why?  What is his end goal?  Why is he doing this?  Well, honestly, despite the hopes others have for him (there are organizations who have an interest in Johan, partly because they’ve put some investment into him in the past), he seems more interested in causing destruction simply because he likes manipulating others to see how they will all interact with each other, like interfering with the paths a line of ants would take, forcing them to follow different trails and seeing how they will adapt to new obstacles.  And he is determined to show that no one really deserves to live, that there isn’t really any value in life.  Which is why he became a bit fascinated with Tenma, intentionally bringing him into the game, wanting to see Tenma’s early philosophy on life proven wrong by having Tenma turn that very belief 180 degrees.

He also has an obsession with identity, or more accurately, lack of identity.  Because he feels he himself has none.  Because he is a monster; because his beliefs were built on the foundation of an obscure kid’s book titled, “The Monster With No Name,” something he was read to during his younger years.  On top of that, he was also the subject to multiple experiments done on children, experiments designed to create a new Hitler, ala The Boys From Brazil, but more extreme.  The experiments were designed to make the children intelligent, incredibly disciplined, and very acute.  The main thing they were taught was on observing their surroundings, and learning how to read people, to anticipate how an individual with a certain type of personality would react to various general situations.  Thus the children could grow up to become master manipulators.  And lastly, and this is something implied more than anything else (though there are enough heavy hints dropped to convince me), that Johan wasn’t always a male.  As a very young child, before he was separated from his sister, he used to be a boy, but due to surgery from the organization, he was turned into a boy (and thus to my shock, this series somehow pulled off an LGBT twist that didn’t come off as forced at all, and it was rather brilliant).  It’s at this point that a lot of his questioning of identity and his madness begins to make a lot of sense, ultimately making him one of the more intriguing villains in anime history, with a very tragic backstory.  His innocence was lost early on, thus he believed early on that innocence doesn’t exist.

Though to be fair, it is quite easy for children to lose their innocence.

And since he was trained to be a manipulator (though some in the organization admit that he was a prodigy compared to the other children, which is something that was bound to happen), he finds ways to easily manipulate others.  Because if you observe one for long enough, you find faults in their character, regrets over sins of the past, or having no regrets and thus being prime candidates for doing evil deeds simply because they enjoy it.  There are many faults to be exploited in humanity, and exploit them he does, not for riches, not for fame, but to send a message.

Fascinating stuff, and there are other complexities I haven’t covered yet, but I’ll leave those for readers who wish to seek out the show.  And this would be as good a time as any before reading the rest of this, because now I’m going to spoil the ending (moving from spoilers to uber-spoilers).  Because the ending is why I currently don’t rate the show higher than 3/5.

It’s not that the final outcome in of itself was bad, it’s just some of the bullshit that was done to get there, bullshit that was easily avoidable.  So first off, about halfway through the show, there’s this big muscleman who gets shot and flies down the story of a building and into the smoke below where a fire had broken out.  The way they framed this, the way it was shown, an alarm bell rang in the back of my mind, “He’s going to show up again.  We didn’t see the life go out of his eyes, so he’s coming back.”  That’s anime 101 logic (and most film logic for that matter, but animes pull this shit all the time, and it annoys the fuck out of me because it comes off as insulting my intelligence, what little I have).  So I was (not) shocked to see him show up about a dozen or so episodes later.

“That’s right motherfuckers, you can’t kill me!”

But that’s just the warmup.  During the finale, this bodyguard and Lunge get in a scuffle, and Lunge continues to do this stupid shit that keeps getting bodybuilder to regain the upper hand.  One of these actions was so fucking stupid, the anime didn’t want to shame itself by showing it, so it happens off-screen and is mentioned later (you know what, fuck you, seriously).  “Oh, I let him live and didn’t bother to handcuff him or anything, which allowed him to tackle me while I was walking down this stairs with my back turned to him.  Yeah, it makes me sound like a fucking idiot doesn’t it?  Good thing you didn’t see me being a fucking idiot, considering I’m supposed to be the intelligent one.”

And then, of course, there’s the tip of the finale.  Where the main protagonist and others are face-to-face with Johan, guns pointed, people wounded, emotions running high.  Johan is asking Tenma to end his life, by shooting him in the head.  A part of Tenma doesn’t want to do this, because it’s not in self-defense, and he knows that he will be forever changed if he takes a life as opposed to saving one.  And no one else really wants him to do this other than Johan himself, though many do want Johan to die because of all the lives he has taken.  Long story short, some other semi-random schmuck ends up shooting Johan in the head, which was a lucky shot not only because he had never fired a gun before, but also because he was in a bit of a drunken state.  It’s a pure lazy fucking cop-out, and it results in the show trying to give the happiest ending possible, despite everything that happened prior to this, from episode 1 and onward.  It would’ve been interesting to see how Tenma would’ve handled himself after doing that, but nope, we’re not going to have any of that.

Plus the whole thing just seems naive to me.  And I get what they were going for.  Once you kill, you lose an element of innocence that you will never get back.  I get it.  But the fact remains that if someone had killed this psychopath far earlier on, a shitload of lives would’ve been spared his wrath, and many more would’ve lived.  You can talk about losing innocence all you want, but that is why people exist who are willing to lose that innocence to protect others so that way others won’t lose their own innocence, much less their own lives from others who have no innocence left.  But fuck that, the anime wants you to feel sympathy for this guy and demands that the viewer hopes for a redemption arc for Mr. kills-a-lot.

Seriously, this line is fucking said.  Fuck you lady, what about all the other people he’s killed, you wanna see if they forgive this cocksucker?

So yeah, all that stuff irritated me, and marred what had been a fairly excellent show, making it go from having minor annoyances to major annoyances.  But despite that, the show it still good, has some fascinated scenarios and some thought-provoking concepts and philosophies (up until it fucking simplifies them in the last 2 episodes).  And it is worth a watch.  The things that cause me major irritations may only be minor or insignificant to you.  So, there it is.

Golgo 13: The Professional review

Rated: 3.5/5

“Yes, if only I were like you, devoid of human sentiment.”

Now this!  This is how you do a movie about an assassin! A heartless, emotionless, cold-blooded killer with no sympathy and feels no compassion for anyone, and only speaks when necessary. It’s all about the job and finishing it. None of that, “Romantic interest who reminds him what it’s like to be human again” bullshit is present here. Tackling the themes of emotions (or lack thereof) and the things they can cause us do, and the destruction they cause.

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The Last Boy Scout and 8 Man After dual review (football edition)

Are you ready for some football? I’m not. I’ve never really been a football fan. WWF/E, MMA, and Ice Hockey are my preferred sports for viewing. But regardless, it’s difficult to avoid football when it’s America’s most popular sport, and when my dad watches it religiously. Plus there’s the Super Bowl. So I get caught up in a game or two off and on. But lately, as it’s been impossible to avoid for the past several months, these cocksucking players do their kneeling bullshit, to the delight of the coaches apparently, and it’s all for bullshit reasons. So, I’ve decided it fitting to review 2 films where football players get killed on the field.

 

 

Rated: 2.5/5 Yes, I’m implementing a decimal system in my ratings now. Don’t worry, it’s always going to be rounded to the nearest 0.5. There won’t be any 2.1s, 4.7s, etc.

“Now this being the 90s you can’t just walk up to a guy and smack him in the face. You gotta say something cool first, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, like ‘I’ll be back.'”

“Yeah only better than that. Like if you hit ’em with a surfboard you would say–“

“‘Surf’s up pal!'”

“Yeah, something like that.”

So the film begins with Billy Blanks, playing a football player, taking a pistol out on the field and blowing away a few tacklers before reaching the goal and then blowing his own head off.  Guess he wasn’t shooting any blanks.  Great start!

Anyway, this all starts off the plot of the film, making the viewer wonder, “What? Why?” and how it’s all connected to Bruce Willis’ case. And Bruce Willis here, well, this is one of those roles he could play in his sleep, and it looks like he is playing it in his sleep most of the time. But let’s face it, 90s Bruce Willis could get away with that because he wasn’t old and tired (more than usual) back then, and still oozed charisma and coolness that made everyone want to take on a bald or short-hair look, before neo-nazis made a comeback.

And then there’s Major Payne, played by Damon Wayans. He definitely tries, he makes a legit effort to act well in this role, but he’s just so-so at best.

The film goes into topics about how heartless the NFL corporation is.  That they really don’t care about the players, they only want money, blah blah blah.

To be honest, that’s the best I can describe this movie. So-so. It’s decent and entertaining enough, but I do think it’s good enough to have earned this cult-favorite status. A couple action scenes are fun, but most are just meh. The chemistry and interactions between the two leads aren’t as satisfying as I hoped they would be. Sure it has Bruce Willis and one of the Wayans brothers in it, and sure it also has some faggot named Milo getting butchered by helicopter blades.

Wait a minute…

There’s a gay guy who’s the main villain in a Bruce Willis film and his name is Milo!? Oh, I’m going to have some fun with this.

So Milo plays an asshole who is responsible, either indirectly or directly, for the deaths of a black woman and a police officer in this film. And on top of that he wants to assassinate the Senator.  On top of that, he’s likely jealous of this bromance between Bruce and Damon because he wants to suck Damon’s cock, because there’s nothing like the thick throbbing black NFL player dick.  And lastly, he just might enjoy rap music.  He must be stopped! And if football players can’t stop him, there is only one person who can. Bruce fucking Willis!

So Bruce Willis kills Milo, saves the day, and saves feminists and football players so that can continue bitching and playing. Come to think of it, many, including Roger Ebert, have called this film sexist with its depictions of women. With this one football star trying to force a woman to blow him, that asshole senator whipping a woman just because, and Bruce trash-talking his wife (though in all fairness she is a cheating bitch and she wanted Bruce to trash talk her, so…).

Now for things to get animated.

 

 

 

Rated: 3/5

So this anime is basically a glorified remake of Robocop. It’s not a complete retread of that film, it takes the concept of making a man into a machine in different directions than Robocop did, so it becomes it’s own unique thing. But the plot does revolve around a criminal linked to a corporation taking out a private detective who gets reworked at a “special” hospital and then goes out to fight crime. But that’s where the similarities end.

With that introduction out of the way, let’s get to the part I’ve been wanting to get to. Yes, there is football in this. And it is fucking glorious.

With that out of the way, to be honest, this is actually a pretty decent anime.  It has an intriguing plot that doesn’t treat the audience as stupid.  For a while there, I was thinking the film would try to pretend that we’re not supposed to know who 8 Man is, even though the main protagonist gets (nearly) killed prior to his appearance.  Thankfully, it’s not long after 8 Man’s first appearance that we see the protagonist hacking into a computer terminal using his abilities (in a way that’s also ripped off from Robocop), and we see that he has become a cyborg.

But the similarities don’t stop there (so I lied earlier, sue me).  To my surprise, this also adapts another plot element from Robocop 2, thus in essence becoming a combination of both films.  The bad guys need drugs in order to maintain themselves after getting robotic parts.  Without the drug, their body won’t be able to power their cybernetic parts and will eventually shut down.  Think if it as a necessary shot of adrenaline in order to function.  But like most drugs, there are side effects, such as addiction and going completely fucking crazy and wanting to kill a bunch of people.  Thankfully for 8 Man, he has access to a drug that is more clean and pure, without the bad side-effects.  So unlike Robocop 2, our protagonist needs this drug too in order to function.  The downside to getting “improvements” installed to your body.

But what really surprised me is that the villains aren’t superhuman, in that they can’t be killed by anyone other than 8 Man.  The cops actually take down a few of these thugs.  A bullet to the head (or two) works just fine.  So the film maintains an acceptable amount of believably (by my standards anyway, take that as you will considering this is an anime).

In regards to the plot, there aren’t really any surprises or twists or anything like that.  The film is fairly straightforward, but has enough interesting stuff in it to maintain the viewer’s interest.  Plus, 90s anime animation style is a dead breed, which is a pity.  I miss this style of animation.  It was bad enough that it got replaced with this more cartoony look we’ve had for the past decade, but now it’s getting even worse with this weird CG style which I believe they are doing simply because it’s easier.  No longer is hand-drawn needed.  No longer do we need simple cell-shaded style.  Now we get this weird CG shit.  I wouldn’t take such issue with it if it wasn’t for the fact that it seems to be replacing all other forms.  At least Studio Ghibli is still dishing out some decent styles, for now.

So anyway, if you haven’t seen it, check it out.  It’s worth a watch.

Barbarossa review

Rated: 3/5

Introduction (ie addressing some criticisms of the game)

So there are 2 versions of this game. One is the version which has anime chicks in scantily clad outfits doing some implied and ridiculous sexual gesture. The other version is a more historical version with black and white WWII photos. Regarding the latter, where’s the fun in that?

First of all, I own the anime-chick version, not the historical photograph edition. Some would ask why I would buy such a game. I bought it for a simple reason, spite. I despise all you easily offended politically correct gamers with all of my little black perverted heart. Some of which state that no one should play this game because it is vile, perverted, sexist (sexploitation), pro-lolita, pro-nazi, and glorifies horrible people in a horrible war. That revisiting/addressing WWII should be done in a serious/professional matter, and in no other way. And there’s also arguments along the lines of keeping your sexual fetishes in private. Subject matter like this should not be perverted.

“It amazes me that people who fancy a certain fetish can seriously be upset by the aversion displayed by people who don’t share this fetish.”Simon Mueller

I’m starting to think that political correctness is also a fetish.

You know, stuff like that. It’s less controversial to have a game with images of individuals getting their brains/organs blown out by knives/gunfire/bombs/zombies, but more controversial when there’s any amount of skin shown in any fashion, perverted or otherwise. That’s how it works here in America. Doesn’t help that the girls in this game are under-age.

All you SJWs scared off now?  Good.  This review is for everyone else.  Image by jpwrunyan.

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Ghost in the Shell (1995) analysis.

“There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it, I collect information to use in my own way. All of that plans to create a mixture that forms me and gives a rise to my conscience. I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.”

Rated: 5/5

Introduction

During my childhood there have been 3 anime motion pictures I have come to know that, in my opinion, have been considered the quintessential anime films. The one that brought anime to America, and brought it there to stay forever: Akira. The one that I understand why some like, but could never really “get:” Jin-Roh and the Wolf Brigade. And then there’s the one I consider the best of the 3, Ghost in the Shell. Ahead of it’s time, and more relevant than ever to this day.

For the record, if you haven’t seen this film, stop reading now and watch it. Because there is going to be massive spoilers ahead, spoilers that are necessary to make for the philosophical subject matters this film brings up. I intend to go in-depth with these topics. The 5/5 rating should let you know how solid this film is.

Like my review of the live action remake, I will mostly be focusing on the themes and metaphors and symbolism. As for the other stuff…

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