Tales From Earthsea

(Check out my prior Ghibli essay here: The Cat Returns)

Ursula Le Guin’s fantasy cycle ‘Earthsea’ is a six-volume series set in a high fantasy atmosphere on par, at least, with Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The world’s physical and metaphysical structures are elaborated on so well and so unobtrusively as if to guide the reader immediately there, and as such it has been a delight to readers (like myself) since the series’ inception in the mid-60s and the publication of the first book A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968.

Before producing the manga, and then the animated film, of Nausicaa in the early 80s, Hayao Miyazaki too was enamored with the story of Earthsea. He asked Ursula Le Guin then if he could adapt the story for animation, but was turned down on the grounds that she hadn’t heard of him (he had only directed one feature by that point in 1979’s Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro). Years later, after the success of Spirited Away (which was the highest grossing anime ever at that time as well as a worldwide phenomena that put Ghibli on the map in a much bigger way than previous endeavors), Le Guin gave her permission to create the film. However, Miyazaki was by that time already working on Howl’s Moving Castle at that time and instead gave the project to a completely untested figure in a nepotistic decision he, and many critics, would come to regret.

This person was Miyazaki’s son Goro Miyazaki, who by this time had never worked in animation and had only even proved his interest in Studio Ghibli by managing the layout for the Ghibli Museum where he handled the architectural designs of the gardens and the layouts for exhibits. Goro, not being as familiar with the Earthsea cycle as his father, and not having done his homework on the series’ most important elements and themes, set out to adapt the stories of the third and fourth books in the cycle, whilst peppering in elements from his father’s manga The Journey of Shuna, which was influenced by the tone of Earthsea (though characteristically Miyazakian).

The third novel, The Farthest Shore, depicts the Archmage Sparrowhawk (also known by his true name Ged) who travels throughout the lands of Earthsea as sickness ravages the world and darkness threatens to wipe out all magic power. Wizards are mostly powerless, madness takes hold in the populace, and the old songs and names of things are forgotten to most as the Wizard Cobb uses the Pelnish Lore (an unbalanced, dark magic developed by the world’s most sinister wizards of old) to prevent his own death and ensure his shade never reaches the other shore where it will become doomed to everlasting depression and torment (the afterlife of this world is much like the Jewish Sheol or Greek Tartarus). The end of the world is nigh as the dragon Orm Embar works to right the balance, while Sparrowhawk tries to achieve the same end in his own way whilst simultaneously trying to save the young Prince Arren from the darkness in his own heart, a darkness fueled by his fear of death that mirrors Cobb’s fears and threatens to develop one day into a second Cobb if not dealt with now. The final altercation is the destruction of Cobb by Ged and Orm Embar, and the salvation of Arren who resigns himself to life and death, deciding to revel in his time, and returning home to become crown prince of his kingdom.

The fourth book of the cycle is Tehanu. Tenar, the one-time high priestess of the Tombs of Atuan, who was saved by Ged from this arcane religious cult unwittingly worshiping demons, in the second book of the series Tombs of Atuan, lives as a farmer in the countryside. She finds a young girl who has been burned by her nomadic family and left to die on the side of the road. Tenar names her Therru, meaning ‘fire’ in the Hargish language. As the girl grows into young adult age, Ged, evading the king’s men who are after him at the time, comes to Tenar’s farm to help with the harvest and to hide out. After a series of events involving political intrigue, we will find that Therru is the daughter of the great dragon Kalessin and that her true name is Tehanu. As the world is still unbalanced, Ged goes on a voyage to meet the dragon of Earthsea, who are coming closer and closer to the human domain of Earthsea and farther away from their own domains, causing havoc in the empires of Earthsea. Tehanu is able to help assuage the dragons and communicate their problems with Ged.

Finally, The Journey of Shuna elements present in Tales From Earthsea are relatively sparse, but notable insofar as they muddle the plot. There are slavers in both properties who enslave young children who have run away from home or are left unattended by their parents. One of these children is named Thea, who becomes one with the character of Therru/Tehanu and is almost enslaved in the film, but saved at the last moment by Prince Arren, who should be king already by the time that in the chronology and not merely a young boy still troubled by darkness. The slavers are made to coincide with the characters of the king’s men who are after Ged in Tehanu, except they are not exactly the king’s men in Tales From Earthsea, but are instead Cobb’s men who are tracking Ged in an attempt to lead him to Cobb’s palace where his magic will become useless due to powerful Pelnish spells cast in the area, this way he can be contained and killed by Cobb who will claim his title as Archmage of Roke Island (and of Earthsea). Finally, the only other Shuna element in this film is the presence of Prince Arren’s mount (in the Earthsea cycle very few people have horses or any such thing as they are almost useless in a land of archipelago islands and thereby boats and one’s own two legs are the best means of travel) which is a red elk-like being similar to the one in the manga and to Ashitaka’s red elk in Princess Mononoke. 

The whole things is entirely too complex for one film as it crams in story ideas from three separate pieces of epic literature in a way that makes it inaccessible to all but those who have already read the the Le Guin books. For such viewers, the film can be a visual feast and the fun of the voyeurism comes in identifying story ideas as it progresses and trying to correctly identify where they originated. But for the average viewer unequipped with the requisite readings, the film is a huge mess and nearly impossible to follow.But this distinction is not unambiguous either. Goro Miyazaki strips some of the most important elements of Earthsea in the process of depicting it in such a condensed manner. The archipelago nature of the world is left out as all of the travels of our protagonists is by land, which is impossible in the original cycle as each island is relatively small (the largest being an anomaly something akin to the size of Ireland, while the rest are minuscule in comparison.

Second, and most important to the novel’s ideological structure, is the physical appearance of the inhabitants of Earthsea: they are all of dark complexions except for the insane brood of northern brutes in one of the northernmost islands where Tenar was born and lived in Atuan. These pale skinned figures are devoid of magic ability and secondary to the rest of the inhabitants of Earthsea who are more civilized and cultured.  Goro Miyazaki makes the fatal flaw of white-washing his characters and changing one of the most fundamentally important points about Earthsea: its radical approach to race in a genre with traditions of leaving out non-whites entirely or depicting them as brutes. In this sense, Goro Miyazaki’s film is not only almost unwatchable for those without a knowledge of the books in the first place, but also immoral, unconscionable, and unthinking to those who do know the books and appreciate what they have done ideologically and in terms of shifting generic conventions. As such, the film has no real audience (except maybe for those who have read the books, but did not like their ideological re-configuring of generic conventions for one reason or another and would prefer Earthsea as Earthland proliferated by only Caucasians).

However, being a Ghibli film and having the marketing power that that studio provides backing the picture, it made $68 million USD at the box office (making it the fourth highest grossing Japanese film of 2006) on a $22 million USD budget. As such, in the future, Ghibli would take more gambles with Goro as a director at the helm of projects. However, critical reaction was staunchly against the film, even on the part of Ursula Le Guin who did not even recognize the world pictured therein as the one she created in her Earthsea cycle, and Goro’s own father Hayao who saw the film as extremely flawed and regretted giving his son the opportunity to make the film instead of hiring someone else to do it. Over the next five years, Goro would study diligently in the ways of narrative and scripting to better learn how to create a good work. This would pay off in his next endeavor, which would be masterful, focused, accessible, and ideologically progressive and affirming, in a word, everything Tales of Earthsea was not.


Cody Ward


A Million Points of Light (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 50- Series Finale)

(To check out the penultimate episode’s review click HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Phew, it has one hell of a ride doing these reviews of Digimon. Thanks for sticking around and helping me to pull through to the end of the original Adventure chronology (Adventure Movie reviews are forthcoming and Tri is set for on down the line). Without the constant support and knowledge that these are getting viewed, liked and shared, I’d have quit long ago. With that said, and an addendum set for this review’s end, let’s get started.

When we last left the Real World, Matt, Joe, and Izzy narrowly missed their opportunity to follow their young Digidestined counterparts into the Real of Emotions as they followed Oikawa, Arukenimon, Mummymon, and the Dark Spore Children. Unbeknownst the older crew, Oikawa’s parasitic Svengali emerged as MaloMyotismon, leaving Oikawa drained and at death’s door. He absorbed the Dark Spore energy of the children to take on his final form and then dispensed with Arukenimon and Mummymon before battling with the Digidestined who then used the power of this novel plane of reality to multiply their Digimon partners into more than two dozen Digimon that overwhelmed MaloMyotismon, and inadvertently ripped a hole in the fabric of reality, opening out into the Digital World. MaloMyotismon escaped into this realm where he was able to harness the dark energy of the remaining spires and of the chaos of the world to simultaneously attempt a violent coup of both the Digital World and the Real World.

Matt, Joe, and Izzy see these events unfold once their friends enter the Digital World as the sky is rent apart and the Digital World is visible from the Real World vantage point (as in the finale of Digimon Adventure 01). Sora and Tai have joined the group, as well as all of the Digidestined parents and siblings, and the parents and loved ones of the Dark Spore infected children, and Noriko Kawada who was unable to join the other 19 Dark Spore children following Oikawa.

The Dark Spore children, including Noriko in the Real World, realize what is happening and that even Imperialdramon Fighter Mode, Shakkoumon, and Silphymon may be unable to stop MaloMyotismon. The kids blame themselves and appear distressed and depressed by what their willingness to become like the Digimon Emperor has wrought. Davis explains to them that they aren’t beaten unless they give up and tries to convince them to give their aid in the form of hope and light to the cause of defeating MaloMyotismon. Meanwhile, in the Real World, the entire group have driven away from Highton View Terrace, where the portal to the Digital World was sealed tightly by BlackWarGreymon’s earlier sacrifice. they have instead opted to move to a different area that they also know is portal-friendly: the campsite where the Digidestined of Adventure 01 first went to the Digital World!

Even though the Dark Spore children have yet to believe in themselves and their ability to defeat evil, the hundreds of Digidestined children worldwide have woken up and are sending their Digivice’s light to the heavens and into the Digital World. The force of their wills and hopes and dreams open Digi-ports worldwide and soon, the six young Digidestined are accompanied in their fight against MaloMyotismon by all of the Digidestined. Mimi and Michael, the Poi Brothers, Derek and the other Oceanian Digidestined, Catherine Deneuve, and Rosa and Mina, and tons of other children they either met during their Digimon World Tour just days prior, or have yet to meet. The blinding light of the power of all these Digidestined’ Digivices and Digimon begins to weaken MaloMyotismon, then the original five Digidestined and Noriko enter from their vantage point at the campsite.

But the Dark Spore children are still in a state of self-loathing and explain that they can’t help at all as they are fake Digidestined with no Digimon partners or Digivices. Their feelings empower MaloMyotismon further. Davis tells the kids that they still have dreams and hopes and desires and must remember those. He gives an example of his own dreams for his life, which are quite banal but every bit as justified as anyone else’s: He wants to open a chain of noodle carts worldwide! Noriko, encouraged, remembers that she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher: a sentiment that Kari mirrors. Another child remembers that he wanted to be a baseball player, another a manga-ka. As the kids become inspired and begin once more to believe in themselves, they weaken MaloMyotismon, who feeds off the energy from their Dark Spores. Next, their own partner Digimon and Digivices appear before the children, MaloMyotismon is turned into a shadow and purged by their Digivices. And finally, Imperialdramon fighter Mode launches his Positron Laser attack at the shade and destroys him utterly and totally, leaving naught a Digi-Core in its wake, and thereby destroying Myotismon once and for all.

As everyone celebrates the final victory, Gennai appears and gives Gatomon back her tail ring, which he explains was found by him ages ago and not returned until now as it unlocked the power of the new Digidestined to Armor Digivolve: a power crucial to their initial defeat of the Digimon Emperor and the subsequent destruction of the regular-Digivolving blocking powers of the Control Spires. But he still doesn’t explain how the tail ring truly operates or why it would have the powers it does, or how Gatomon happened upon it in the first place. It is truly an enigma, a macguffin almost, if you will.

After doing some digging, I have found out that the tail ring is actually a Holy Ring, which signifies the wearer as a Holy-type Digimon. When lost, The Champion-level Gatomon became as weak as a Rookie for the rest of the series as this ring was an integral part of her strength (However, this effect does not translate to Angewomon, who is still the strength of an Ultimate, or to Nefertimon who remained the strength level of a Champion).However, by weakening Gatomon to the practical level of a Rookie, its loss was integral to her ever being able to Armor Digivolve in the first place as only Rookies are able to do so. The Holy Ring is a natural phenomena for certain types of Digimon, but its identification with pure or Holy types also stages it as a unique item within the duality and balance of the Digital World: in a word, it can channel good energy to combat darkness.

The Dark Spore children, like Ken, can never remove their Dark Spores totally. However, also like Ken, belief in themselves and their hopes and dreams, as well as personal development will strengthen their ability to combat the urges of the darkness within them. Before leaving the Digital World, Cody goes to his father’s old friend Yukio Oikawa through the portal in the Digital World and back into the Realm of Emotions. He tries to drag the man across the threshold to the Digital World to fulfill his one life’s wish to visit that magical plane. But Oikawa is too weak to make the journey across in his mortal coil.

Across the divide between the worlds, a small Digimon named Datirimon appears and expresses his joy at seeing Oikawa once again. He explains that they met over the net years prior and that he is his Digimon partner. Oikawa is overjoyed, and his skin is no longer of a grey hue (as MaloMyotismon is no longer within him), but he has no strength and begins to dissolve into Digital Data that transforms into butterflies of light, which enter the Digital World as a new force for good and the balance, an eternal godly type of force that will protect that world surreptitiously for years to come. Datirimon is teary eyed at having to lose his partner after years of waiting to meet in person. He dies and presumably becomes one with the apparition of Oikawa. The two use their life force to restore the Digital World to its old state and away from its current chaotic state of decay. Flowers bloom and Digimon flourish once again within the land.

Now, it is 25 years later and T.K. is narrating these final events.He has become a novelist specializing in recounting of his days as a Digidestined saving the world, and he has a son with an undisclosed woman. He and his son are on the way to a reunion with their old Digidestined friends and we find that Matt and Sora are married and have two children. Matt and Gabumon are astronauts who have completed the first Mars mission (it seems that in the Adventure Universe the Japanese will beat Elon Musk there), while Sora and Biyomon are fashion designers. Tai and Agumon are diplomats, and Tai has a son with another undisclosed partner. Mimi and Palmon have a cooking show, and Mimi has a son who looks somewhat like her American friend Michael.

Joe is the Digital World’s first doctor and he too has a son with a woman who is not pictured. Izzy and Tentomon are Digital World researchers and Izzy has a daughter with whom he shares a special bond in the form of a coding language all their own. Kari is a kindergarten teacher and has a daughter. Yolei and Ken are married with three children, and while Yolei is a stay at home mom, Ken and Stingmon are detectives. Cody is a defense attorney and has a young daughter. Finally, Davis and Veemon run a successful worldwide chain of noodle carts and he has a son as well.

Everyone on Earth is claimed to know now about Digimon and the Digital World, and everyone has their own Digimon partner, their Digital companion, their Digital friend. But the fight against evil and darkness, the fight to uphold the balance of the worlds and the planes of reality is constant, and there is always a chance in the future that the world will need saving once more. As all of the children of the In-training Digidestined have Digimon partners corresponding to their parent’s Rookies, I think we can be safe to say that the Digimon Adventure Universe is in good hands.

That’s all for now on Digimon Adventure 02 the series. Perhaps some day, I will revisit the series in the original Japanese and create a blog series on each episode’s differences and what new information is gained about the metaphysics, ontology, and structures of the Adventure Universe, but for now, I’m a little burned out. For the next few weeks, I will be creating weekly essays on the films associated with Digimon Adventure 02 as well as an essay on the 1983 film WarGames from which director Mamoru Hosoda gained inspiration to make the second Digimon film Our War Game!. During this time, I’ll be taking a break to review and essay the critically acclaimed sci-fi philosophical thriller series Serial Experiments Lain by Chiaki J. Konaka in an effort to get myself ready for a review of Digimon Tamers starting sometime next month!


Thanks for your continued support. Love ya!

The Digidestined Cody

The Last Temptation of the Digidestined (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 49)

(Check out part 49 HERE. to go back to the beginning click HERE)

ExVeemon runs in head-first to fight MaloMyotismon and won’t give up until he either defeats his foe for dies trying. He punches MaloMyotismon in the face and seems to inflict some damage to the dark denizen, or at least to his pride, before MaloMyotismon releases a ray attack that envelopes everyone in the room in blinding white light.

In the following scenes, the Digidestined find themselves in ideal situations in a dream worlds of their imaginations fostered by the power of MaloMyotismon’s rays. T.K. imagines he is at home eating dinner with not only his mother, but his brother Matt and his father as well, meaning they are no longer separated by divorce and once again reunited as a family. Yolei imagines she is home as well, but without all of her siblings and huge portions of food and desserts for her alone. Cody is in the Digital World with his father Hiroki and is showing him the world that Hiroki and Oikawa wanted so much to see as children. Kari is in a park in the Real World where the Dark Spore children are all safe and happy with their own Baby and In-Training level partner Digimon. No one in that world messes with them or even bats an eye at the Digimon’s presence.

Their Digimon next appear one after another to help bring their Digidestined partners back to their senses. Patamon and Davis work to pull T.K. out of his illusion, as Hawkmon and ExVeemon call into question Yolei’s wish to be an only child, which she realizes is wrong both morally and emotionally as she loves her brothers and sisters. Armadillomon barely convinces Cody that his father is only an illusion as, surprisingly, Flamedramon appears in a hole in the whiteness surrounding the vision which leads them back to the odd realm in which MaloMyotismon is waiting. Gatomon and Raidramon (somehow there are three Champion forms of Veemon running around simultaneously) pull Kari back to her sense and out her daydream.

Meanwhile, Ken imagines that he is in the Digital World in a desert where the Digimon Emperor form of himself is tied to a pillar and is being tortured and beaten to death by a group of vengeful Digimon. Sam arrives and picks up the glasses from the Digimon Emperor and Ken calls out to him. Sam acknowledges Ken’s presence but doesn’t speak to him. Then Wormmon shows up and talks Ken down from his self-loathing once more, and potentially for the final time, as Ken next gives a powerful self-affirmative speech: “I’m tired of beating myself up for the past. I’m not the Digimon Emperor anymore. I’ve paid for my mistakes…. How dare he [MaloMyotismon] use my brother against me! I’m not a tool for darkness! And MaloMyotismon can’t change that!” The five other Digidestined, Armadillomon, Gatomon, Patamon, Hawkmon, and ExVeemon, Raidramon, and Flamedramon show up to pull Ken out of his alternate dimension.

Once back in the odd alternate surrealist reality room, ExVeemon, Raidramon, and Flamedramon all attack MaloMyotismon at once. Here, in this realm, emotions and hopes can become reality, and as such, all alternate forms of the Digidestined’s Digimon partners can manifest themselves simultaneously. All of the Digimon begin Digivolving and doubling until there are five Rookies (Veemon, Armadillomon, Hawkmon, Wormmon, and Patamon), six Champions (ExVeemon, Ankylomon, Aquilamon, Stingmon, Angemon, and Gatomon), eight Armor Digivolutions (Flamedramon, Raidramon, Digmon, Submarimon, Halsemon, Shurimon, Pegasusmon, and Nefertimon), two Ultimates (MagnaAngemon and Angewomon), three DNA Digivolved Ultimates (Paildramon, Shakkoumon, and Silphymon), and two Megas (Imperialdramon Dragon Mode and Imperialdramon Fighter Mode), that’s 26 Digimon, two of which are both on MaloMyotismon’s level vs. just him.

MaloMyotismon seems worried at the prospect, but even more so in the knowledge that his mind illusion attack was completely ineffective against one of the six children (Davis) who “had no fears or insecurities for it to feed off of.” Davis explains that he has no fears or consuming wishes or envy or jealousy and that he just lives his life and is happy to have what he does. And more importantly, that his only all-consuming interest at this moment is defeating MaloMyotismon, which would have been impossible in any world or frame of mind than the one he is now currently within in the first place. Both Imperialdramon’s attack MaloMyotismon with their Positron Laser attacks, which overwhelm him but also rip a hole in-between the worlds and pushes MaloMyotismon into the Digital World.

Once there, he begins to regain his strength by absorbing dark energy from throughout the realm and from the remaining Control Spires still standing. The Digidestined and their Digimon follow into the Digital World, but are now down to three Digimon (Imperialdramon, Shakkoumon, and Silphymon) in the battle against MaloMyotismon who has become stronger than ever before. As he grows not only in power, but in size, dark orbs are emitted from his body, which find their ways to the three Digimon and knock them all out for a short time. MaloMyotismon then rips open a portal to the Real World and begins to send his seemingly infinite spring of dark energy to that world in a bid to take over both worlds at once. And as darkness spreads over the home of the Digidestined at a rapid rate, and the Digidestined Digimon lie defeated on the ground before him, it looks like MaloMyotismon’s plans are about to come to fruition.

The episode ends here, but its time for a little bit more elaboration of the Realm of Emotions (a stand-in title as the place only appears in these few episodes and had no official name as far as I can find). The alternate realms in the Digimon Adventure Universe work like lines that stand in relation to one another in parallel structure when they are balanced. But when they come unbalanced for any reason, the lines, which are normally straight, become warped and bent and therefore closer to one another than ever before. As MaloMyotismon used Oikawa and he used Arukenimon, Mummymon, BlackWarGreymon, The Digimon Emperor, and The Dark Spore children to destabilize the Digital World through the creation of more tools for darkness, the planes were warped. In the Real World and the Digital World, physics applies relatively the same, but with some minute differences in ontic structures of beings (DNA being the basis in the former whilst Data is the basis in the latter). However, in the Dark Ocean, the dark dreams and hopelessness and self-loathing, in a word the dark inclination, of denizens therein make things real. Emotional and rational, that is to say cogitative or willed, forces are the constituent units of being, the ontic grounds of all things therein. In the Realm of Emotions, which is similar to the Dark Ocean, these same forces shape reality, but instead of fear and loathing and depression as the main forces, the forces of imagination, of creativity, of hope and dreams are the main forces. This is the shape of that world.

(Cinema, shot in the Real World but translated technologically through celluloid or digital data, captures the fears and the dreams, the anxieties and the imaginative creativities of its auteurs. It lies at a crossroads of all of these symbolic realms.)


One more to go,

The Digidestined Cody

[Concluded HERE]

Foreign Correspondent

(Check out my previous film noir essay here: Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent)

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 thriller, Foreign Correspondent, was his second American film, but his first truly Hitchcockian film for that market. He arrived in the U.S. in 1939 at the request of Hollywood producer David O. Selznick and almost immediately jumped into work adapting Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca. Also released in 1940, the two films battled it out at the 1940 Academy Awards with Rebecca receiving 11 nods to Foreign Correspondent‘s 6. Between the two pictures, only Rebecca won any, Best Picture (then known as ‘Outstanding Production’) and Best Cinematography Black and White, both of which it won by beating stiff competition (Foreign Correspondent among that competition on both counts).

The cinematography in Rebecca was definitely deserving of the best cinematography nod as George Barnes’ work on that film was ethereal and gothic, and supremely affecting artistically and viscerally. However, the cinematography on Foreign Correspondent is top-form as well, with an even tone throughout what seems to span dozens of locations or sets. The cinematographer of that film, Rudolph Mate, was to become a film noir staple in the coming years though he began his career in Europe working on the classical films of Carl Dreyer like Vampyr and Le Passion de Jean d’Arc, and Fritz Lang’s fantasy film Liliom, before making his way to the American scene where he would direct the classics Gilda and The Lady From Shanghai before moving on to direct his own picture, including the film noir staple D.O.A. Mate’s Academy nod would be the first in a five-year run of five consecutive years for work on films by both Korda’s King Vidor, and one Sam Wood (with who I am unfamiliar).

In the film, Joel McCrea plays our American Everyman John Jones, a rough and tumble crime reporter in New York known for altercations with cops and the Underworld crowd alike. His boss has too many academics and soothsayers in his employ in Europe and Great Britain in a crucial time when war seems eminent. They find it difficult to find the facts and send them back to HQ, so the boss decides to send an average Joe (or John) type to do the job and settles on John after finding that he actually assaulted a cop the previous week (Hitchcock never liked cops and was always afraid of them throughout his life after a curious incident in his youth when his father sent him with a note to the local police station. There they followed the note and put the young boy in a prison cell for five minutes and left him there, making certain he knew the real potential downfall of committing crimes and stepping away from the straight and narrow.). John Jones gets his effects together, his tickets and passport, has a going away party, and arrives in Great Britain to begin work as a foreign correspondent, soon to turn war correspondent.

Once there, Jones goes to press meetings for Peace Organizations, one of which is headed by Stephen Fisher and his daughter Carol Fisher. Jones and Fisher develop a rapport and her friend Scott ffolliott (yes, I spelled it correctly) and Jones develop a working relationship as well. When Jones goes on his first assignment to the Netherlands, the Dutch politician and peace advocate Mr. Van Meer is Jones’ next assignment. But before he can get an interview with the man, he is assassinated by a photographer with a gun on the steps outside of the meeting hall. Jones, Carol Fisher, and ffolliott track the killer and discover a network of spies, eventually connecting the event to Carol’s father.

War is announced as Germany begins air raids above British soil and London, and the principal characters depart for America aboard a light passenger jet. Stephen Fisher and his daughter Carol make amends, and even Jones and ffolliott are admirably well-disposed to the man they will have to arrest for treason once they touch down. But as they fly over the Atlantic, an American warship mistakes them as a German bomber and shoots them down, only learning too late in the process that they are Brits and Americans onboard a commercial airplane (how they screwed that up I have no clue, but in some things on celluloid we must suspend our disbelief). Lives are lost and sacrifices made, but eventually the ship picks them up and brings them back to London (they had traveled less than two hundred miles across the Ocean thus far) where John Jones becomes a real war correspondent, and in the film’s final moments gives a great propaganda oration, ala Edward R. Murrow, on radio as the city is bombarded by enemy incendiaries.

The film is an extremely effective spy and political thriller, as well as being a powerful piece of propaganda for the war effort. Even Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called it a great work of propaganda that will likely boost the esteem and strengthen the wills of his own regime’s enemies. Besides being a powerful political document of sorts, it an auteur work of at least three great artists within the medium of cinema, including the greatest maker of thrillers who has ever graced the screen in Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest cameramen and cinematographers of the period in Rudolph Mate, and production design work from the great art director William Cameron Menzies (whose other works include designs on The Wizard of Oz, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Things To Come, The Thief of Baghdad, and Duel in the Sun).

It was Hitchcock’s first true Hitchcock film in the states as Rebecca was a gothic affair with thriller elements, but with few of the elements that constitute a the Hitchcock brand: spies, the wrong man, doubles, the macguffin, and humor alongside drama. Foreign Correspondent by contrast is about spies and political intrigue, the man who is assassinated as Van Meer turns out to have been a double of Van Meer killed to make it appear as if Van Meer were dead, the peace treaty secret clause (Clause 27) is the macguffin, and the characteristic humor is sprinkled effectively throughout but especially in the scenes when Carol and John first meet, as well as in the moments when he first escapes his would-be murderers in the Hotel Europe. And in the sense that it is the first characteristically Hitchcockian film in Hollywood (as opposed to the much more Clouzotian Rebecca) it is an achievement worth celebrating and looking back upon fondly.


Cody Ward

Oikawa’s Shame (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 48)

(Check out part 47 HERE if you missed it. To go back to the beginning of this series click HERE)

The Dark Spore infected children have been directed to meet upon the Highton View Terrace bridge where Oikawa will meet them to bring them into the Digital World. The Digidestined have luckily been following the Dark Spore children and keeping an eye on them, meaning that they are privy to this information as well. Izzy, Joe, Matt, and the six young Digidestined are all hiding out in some nearby bushes waiting for Oikawa to appear. Meanwhile, Tai and Sora are together elsewhere, following Noriko Kawada as she walks around town and eventually makes her own way to the Highton View Terrace meeting place.

Izzy’s mom calls him on his cell phone and expresses her interest in helping him and his friends in any way she can. Matt and T.K.’s dad is corralling the technological forces at his disposal in the Television station while their mother works to collect information using the resources at the newspaper office where she works as a reporter. Ken’s dad, who used to work with Oikawa, is searching through the records of his company for any potentially useful information on Oikawa. Sora’s parents and Joe’s older brother Jim are working together to scout out the area around Highton View Terrace to give their Digidestined relatives the heads-up on when Oikawa and his goons arrive and where from. Izzy’s mom has decided to help out by making food and buying snacks for everyone, which she discreetly delivers to Izzy and his friends, making sure not to break their cover in the process.

As Oikawa, Arukenimon and Mummymon watch these events unfold from atop a nearby apartment building, Izzy’s mom has another good idea of how to help out. She decides to go visit the homes of the Dark Spore children’s parents to explain what has been going on and that their kids currently need them there to help out. If anyone can help to bring the kids back to reality, it would be their loved one after all. As she runs off to gather the parents, Oikawa appears on the bridge with the 19 Dark Spore children. He attempts to open up a Digital gate to the Digital World, which should be blocked by BlackWarGreymon’s sacrifice to close the portal indefinitely.

The Digidestined approach the bridge and Ken confronts Oikawa about what his purposes for picking him as Digimon Emperor in the past were. Oikawa responds that he chose Ken because he was emotionally vulnerable in the wake of Sam’s death and because Ken was a Digidestined, nothing more. He also explains that the Control Spire technology were originally designs from the Dark Ocean. By having Ken create these devices within the Digital World, he weakened the defenses of the that world, which normally only allows children to enter it as their perceived innocence is not deemed a threat. Oikawa’s lifelong goal has been to visit the Digital World, but he was never able to as a child, and now with the Digital World’s defense much weaker after the creation of the Control Spires and Azulongmon’s usage of one of his 12 Digi-Cores, Oikawa may finally be able to achieve his dream.

As he continues to try to open the Digital Gate, he channels the energy of the 19 children and manages to open a portal. As he and his precocious young charges enter the gate, it starts to immediately close and become smaller. The six young Digidestined, plus Arukenimon and Mummymon, just barely make it through, thereby leaving behind Matt, Joe, and Izzy. Oikawa’s dream seems realized for a brief moment until everyone realizes that the world they have entered is not the Digital World, but an odd, surrealist playground where one’s dreams and hopes and desires can warp reality.

As Oikawa begins to emotionally break down, the Dark Spore children show signs of similar emotional distress at not being in the place they too had hoped to enter, where they might have met their own Digimon partners and become Digidestined like their hero Ken Ichijouji (when he was Digimon Emperor that is). A giant mouth appears in the air above and begins to prophecy that the Digital World will forever be beyond the reach of Oikawa. He states that they are in a “world of despair where their souls will be consumed by darkness,” a place that is “no place for you to hide nor hope for you to escape.” Oikawa recognizes the lips and the mouth as his own, and the voice as similar to his own. The voice is owned by a parasitic being who Oikawa has hosted for the past three years since the death of his friend Hiroki. His sadness and hatred at the time weakened him and allowed for his possession by the Digi-Core corpse of an evil force whose voice Gatomon recognizes immediately as Myotismon!

Myotismon states that Gatomon’s tail ring was the basis for the concept of the Dark Spiral (an odd offhand comment that has little to do with what is going on at the time), then Oikawa begins to feel really ill. A white light emits from his mouth and a clone of Oikawa is formed from the energy. As Oikawa collapses to the floor, drained of all strength and life-force, the clone approaches the Dark Spore children. Arukenimon and Mummymon block the Digidestined and their Digimon partners from intervening as the Oikawa clone harvests the energy from the children’s Dark Spore flowers and uses it to take on a Mega-level Digimon form as the powerful MaloMyotismon. He then commences to destroy both Arukenimon and Mummymon out of sheer malice. The two, who were engineered from DNA, from Oikawa’s genetic essence, will never appear again and cannot regenerate like normal Digimon. Their final confrontation is sad, uncalled for, tragic, and ultimately a little heart-wrenching as viewer’s watch the comic relief of Adventure 02 killed off in brutal fashion.

The Digidestined do not immediately jump in to fight MaloMyotismon as they fear for the safety of their Digimon partners. after witnessing the brutality of MaloMyotismon and his strength, they are scared that their friends could end up just as dead, and worse yet, trapped metaphysically within a realm outside of the Digital World (meaning they cannot regenerate normally as Digi-eggs in the Primary Village and are instead subject to the metaphysical laws of this realm, which are currently unknown). However, they have one ace up their sleeve: the gungho will power of their leader Davis Motomiya! He and ExVeemon charge into battle all the while advising their friends that they cannot let fear control them. The outcome is anything but certain as the Champion-level ExVeemon is horrendously outmatched by MaloMyotismon, but anything could happen.



The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

BlackWarGreymon’s Destiny (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 47)

(Check out part 46 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

As the Digidestined in the Real World work to close the Highton View Terrace gateway on their end, the Digimon partners of the six older Digidestined (namely, Agumon, Gabumon, Palmon, Biyomon, Tentomon, and Gomamon) work to close it on their end in the Digital World. But the work is easier said than done and no one knows exactly how to go about it. On TV, government PSAs play round the clock and ensure people that there is nothing to panic about and that citizens should remain calm, whilst also being cautious of leaving their homes at night.

As Cody and his grandpa watch these PSAs from the comfort of their living room, Armadillomon, who has been hiding under the table beneath them, drinks some of grandpa’s ‘prune juice’ (actually packets of Shochu highball). The old man catches on when he feels something weird move against his leg, then Armadillomon comes out from beneath the table and Cody tries to explain to his grandfather about Digimon, but not before the old man confesses that he already knows what Armadillomon really is. When Cody’s father was a boy, he was obsessed with Digimon video games and believed that they were real. He was not a Digidestined like Cody and his friends, but had his own Digimon friend in the Digital World who he met through the internet. Cody is taken aback by the information, but glad that he needn’t explain anything to his grandfather.

Arukenimon, Mummymon, and their master, Oikawa, are hiding out in an abandoned rural house. Somehow, they can sense that one of the children’s Dark Spore’s is almost ready to harvest and begin to make their way back to the city where Noriko Kawada is acting more strange than ever before. She is angry at her mother for trying to give her dinner while she is studying and seems particularly agitated. Cody and Yolei have met up and are surveying Noriko’s house, where they overhear the conversation.

Then Oikawa shows up and offers a Dark Spore injection to Cody. Cody refuses and chides Oikawa for infecting any children with them in the first place. Oikawa claims that the children decided of their own free will to harbor the spores and Cody responds that Oikawa brainwashed them with false promises that they would become superior beings. He then continues to verbally fight back against Oikawa claiming that he has no idea what it means to be a superior being in the first place and that a superior being is “one who helps and cares about others.” Oikawa then detects the surname of Hida on Cody’s backpack and realizes that he is the son of Hiroki Hida, Oikawa’s childhood friend.

As Yolei arrives, ready to fight Oikawa, and Arukenimon and Mummymon arrive ready to protect him, Oikawa calls off his minions and retreats from the scene with them. As he retreats, Oikawa thinks back to his friend Hiroki and how much Cody resembles him not only in appearance but in temperament and idealism. An emotional wave washes over him, weakening his evil instincts momentarily and causing real physical pain. Oikawa reflects that he was a weird child and that everyone picked on him except for Hiroki, then remembers that he has a destiny to fulfill that does not include continued reminiscence of old times and he consequently shakes off his blues and speaks of how he was destined to create virtual beings with his own DNA, his genetic essence. Nevertheless, his emotions win out and Oikawa visits Hiroki’s grave.

When Cody returns home, he asks his grandfather about Oikawa. The old man tells him that Hiroki and Oikawa were once friends. Meanwhile, Ken has taken up duties to follow Noriko. Being an unnaturally precocious child, she knows she is being tailed, stops and turns on Ken, inquiring why he has fallen so low from one-time genius to sentimental Digidestined. Ken explains that friendship and kinship are more important than power, which will only lead Noriko to loneliness. She’s not buying it and starts to walk away. Until her head begins to pulse with pain that is. A red halo of energy sits atop of head and grows until a Dark Spore flower sprouts from out of her noggin.

Oikawa, Arukenimon, and Mummymon show up just as Davis and Cody do likewise. Stingmon and ExVeemon DNA Digivolve into Paildramon as Armadillomon Digivolves into Digmon and the two hold off Arukenimon and Mummymon. During all of the commotion, Oikawa picks up Noriko and runs off with her down the street, where he eventually stops and harvests the flower, absorbing its energy and leaving Noriko drained and nearly catatonic. A force-field of dark energy surrounds Oikawa, then BlackWarGreymon arrives and tries to attack Oikawa, but is blocked by the force field. He asks Oikawa if he created Arukenimon and Mummymon because he was afraid to be alone, which seems to hit a raw nerve and troubles Oikawa all the more.

Oikawa claims that he, a human, has the power to obliterate BlackWarGreymon, a Mega-level Digimon. And it seems that he does, but BlackWarGreymon responds poignantly that “power won’t help you to escape the loneliness you feel because you don’t have any friends. It just makes it worse.” This echoes the sentiments Cody expressed earlier and heightens Oikawa’s emotional instability. If that weren’t enough, Cody’s grandpa arrives and tells Oikawa, who he calls by his first name Yukio, that he became lost when Hiroki died, but that he wants to be friends with him now as it would help both of them to assuage their grief over the loss of Hiroki. Just as Oikawa seems on the verge of accepting the old man’s offer of friendship, the darkness inside of him takes over the rational and emotional Oikawa.

Oikawa attacks the old man head-on and is blocked only barely by BlackWarGreymon who takes the brunt of the attack at full force. We see the image of an unknown, sinister Digimon appear over the face of Oikawa during this moment, before Oikawa takes himself back over and flees the scene in shame. BlackWarGreymon seems on the verge of death after the attack and flies off to Highton View Terrace where he plans to sacrifice himself in the hopes of sealing the portal between the world’s there forever. Although Agumon, Wormmon, and Veemon told him that life could be simple and even boring, it turns out that BlackWarGreymon remained melodramatic and fate-obsessed to the end of his life, but was ultimately able to turn this death-wish and obsession into a positive, which will help the Digidestined and the Digital World for years to come.


Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Advise and Consent

(Check out my previous film noir essay: Pickup On South Street)

Otto Preminger’s 1962 noir on political thuggery, posturing, and backbiting was a pretty scathing picture of the American political scene of the time. The tale of a President’s nomination to the role of Secretary of State of a man with a hidden past unveiled during his confirmation proceedings, and of a young senior Senator being blackmailed to hide the evidence with dark secrets from his own past, challenged the Hollywood production code and the communist blacklist. And like Preminger’s audacious past works like The Man with The Golden Arm (a Nelson Algren adaptation about a heroin addict), Anatomy of a Murder (with it’s frank sexual language), and Exodus (on which he hired the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to openly write the script), he chipped away significantly at both of these immoral ‘moral’ bodies: the Code and the Blacklist.

Henry Fonda plays one Robert A. Leffingwell who is being nominated by the conservative President and looks set for an easy confirmation with a conservative Majority Party in the Senate. The Senate Majority Leader Robert Munson has set up a panel including a member of his own party, the junior Senator of Utah, Brigham Anderson, as its leader. Also on the panel as an honorary voice is the Senior Senator of South Carolina Seabright Cooley (played by Charles Laughton in his final film role, six months prior to his death. Unfortunately, his great acting is weakened considerably by a terrible South Carolinian accent, which he learned through coaching by a Mississippi Senator, but results in something between a vague Southern sonority and Australian) who, although a member of the conservative party, has turned against Leffingwell for his apparent willingness to negotiate with Russians instead of going to war with them (a seemingly reasonable stance, but assuredly not one favored by the old warmongering Cooley).

Cooley gets an anonymous tip from a man named Herbert Gelman that he used to know Leffingwell and has some dirt on the nominee. When Gelman arrives, he reveals that he used to attend the University of Chicago whilst Gelman was a professor there. He took a course with Leffingwell and was invited to a communist cell meeting with him along with two other men: Max Bukowski and James Morten. Gelman asserts that he left their meeting and refused to join them, then was subsequently failed in Leffingwell’s class, and lost his job at the Federal Power Agency where Leffingwell also worked at the time. The evidence is a bombshell set to explode and destroy Leffingwell’s chances of securing a nomination. The panel takes  a short recess and Leffingwell returns, however, with an old friend who knows Gelman and assures the panel that he was never registered in one of Leffingwell’s classes (Gelman was mistaken about which class it was), that he was fired not for refusing to join Leffingwell’s communist group but because Gelman had a mental breakdown and could no longer perform his job duties at the necessary level (Gelman claimed he was sick of tuberculosis), that subsequently Leffingwell actually secured a letter of recommendation for Gelman to the Treasury department where he was later employed and remains employed to this day, and that the address at which Gelman claims the meetings took place there is and has been a Fire Station for more than 50 years (Gelman was off by one digit in the actual address).

Gelman is dismissed, though Leffingwell will later confess to the President that the information was true. That he was part of a communist group for a short time, but never a member and the ideas quickly soured with him, so he subsequently left and never turned back ideologically. He asks the President to pull his nomination, but he refuses. Cooley will later track down James Morten who now goes by Fletcher and also works in the Treasury. He will secure his admission that Leffingwell was actually in the communist group, which does not prove Leffingwell’s communist affiliation, but makes it clear that he committed perjury when denying Gelman’s claims in court. The evidence is set to explode once more when the next nomination proceeding occurs.

Meanwhile Brigham and Munson have both found out the information on Leffingwell and go to the President asking that he drop his nomination. But the President is adamant about appointing Leffingwell, as he has not long to live and wants to leave that strong position filled by a man like Leffingwell who will continue on his policies, unlike his weak Vice President Harley Hudson. Leffingwell’s most adamant supporter is the Junior Senator of Wyoming Fred Van Ackerman who is a pacifist. When he finds out that a member of his own party, Brigham, is trying to censure Leffingwell and prevent his nomination, he gets his cronies to dig up dirt on Brig. What they find is that when younger, and in the military stationed in Hawaii, Brig had a homosexual affair with a member of his troop. Ackerman’s goons hound Brigham and his wife at home about information and Hawaii, calling for him to continue the investigation.

Brigham meanwhile, has turned against the nominee who he understands is not a communist, but knows perjured himself and thereby, his appointment would make a mockery of the Senate’s otherwise esteemed and honored proceedings. He tracks down his old friend Raymond Shaft, whose shaft he… (I’ll just stop myself there), in New York in a gay club called Club 602 (this was the first depiction in American cinema of a gay club since before WWII). He confronts Shaft who tells Brig that he sold the information for money, not thinking it would be used against him. Brig returns to D.C. where, conflicted over his duties to the country and the honor of the proceedings on the committee panel, and his own desire to keep his past hidden and his name pristine, he kills himself.

The next day, Munson confronts Cooley and expresses his anger that Cooley’s actions put too much pressure on the young panel head Brigham Anderson, and that he’s just as much to blame as the one who blackmailed him (Munson and his colleagues know about the blackmail, but only Brigham’s wife knows about the particulars, which she has reconciled herself to as Brigham was a good man and a loving husband and father despite his homosexuality). Munson will chide Ackerman in the courtroom for his role in Brigham’s death, prompting the junior Senator to leave the court, and the conservative party to lose a much-needed vote in the close call.

The end result I will not reveal here, as it’s something of a twist ending with multiple turns that demands viewing. The film’s depictions of political machinations and strong-arming, of a house of government embroiled in corruption and partisanship, that kills its own kind whenever one is found who is just and upright, and for all the wrong reasons of supposed immorality, is a seething, dark picture of Washington D.C. as no different, fundamentally, from the dark underworld of crime pictured previously in Preminger’s noirs of the 40s and 50s. And we can only hope, in any period, that its depiction of the body politic as diseased and cancerous does not hold true for our own as well.


Cody Ward

[Next up: Foreign Correspondent]

Duel of the WarGreymon (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 46)

(Check out part 45 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

At a Tokyo office building, a man is rifling through a filing cabinet looking intently for some information on Oikawa. When he finds the file, the scene pans up and out to show the Digidestined standing in the office nearby. The man is Ken’s father who worked with Oikawa until only a few days prior when Oikawa left the business without explanation. Although he may have been influencing the activities of Ken, Arukenimon, and Mummymon over the past year or so of events in the Adventure 02 timeline, he seems to only have committed himself in earnest and full-time to his goals in the past week.

Next, we are shown a rest house at the base of Mount Fuji. Oikawa, Arukenimon and Mummymon have stopped their car near the place and have broken into the house. They are watching TV reports and speculation about the nature of the Digimon who recently appeared all over the world. Because the news media have surprisingly short memory spans in the Real World of Digimon Adventure, they have forgotten the incidents of three years prior when Digimon made themselves apparent, and somehow think that the Digimon are related to UFOs and aliens. Oikawa scoffs at the stupidity of these particular humans (who are seemingly much dumber than their child counterparts) and regales his minions with prophecy of how easy it will be to take over the Real World with einsteins like these running the joint.

To the house of Takashi Yoshizawa, one of the children infected by Dark Spores by Oikawa. He has completed all of his winter vacation homework in just one day since his return home and is extremely precocious due to the effects of the spores. His parents look to exploit his genius when TV crews come by for f follow-up on the missing children (Takashi having been one of them). Secretly, Takashi looks down on his parent’s attempts at exploitation and views them as mere insects, mere worthless beings in the way of his success whose presence and constant ingratiation he believes will hold him down.

At T.K.’s house, we learn that his and Matt’s mother is a newspaper reporter and that she has been helping the Digidestined by gathering information and making a list of the names and addresses of all of the 20 children infected by Dark Spores. The Digidestined take this information and split up in groups to monitor the children. T.K. and Cody follow Noriko Kawada and find her to look like an average kid. she even seems friendly or kind as a stray cat is following her and nuzzling up against her leg. But then, the anger and frustration and evil brimming up within her come to the forefront and Noriko kicks the cat out of spite. Elsewhere, Davis, Ken, and Kari are tracking down Takashi, but are turned away from his apartment by his parents who don’t believe their claims that he is in danger.

The vignette structure of this episode is noteworthy as scenes shift every two minutes or so almost constantly throughout, making it one of the more difficult episodes to catalog and follow sequentially. For example, next the scene shifts once more back to the rest house at the base of Mount Fuji. It begins to snow pretty heavily and Oikawa, thinking practically, alerts Arukenimon to the potential problems they may have driving off to their next destination in the morning if the tire chains are not placed on the car. He orders her to go do this work as he is tired of her company, and surprisingly, Arukenimon agrees to follow his orders, though she is not happy about being bossed around like this. Oikawa has all of the power in his relations with Arukenimon and Mummymon, and although seemingly a mere human, must harness something much more powerful and sinister beneath his facade. Whilst outside, Arukenimon sees what appears to be a shooting star, which then comes closer and closer to the Earth like a meteor or an asteroid before landing in the woods down range. But it’s no natural phenomena. BlackWarGreymon has appeared again and is hunting down Arukenimon and the others.

Back in town, the Digidestined meet up and report their findings on the children. Yolei believes that even if they could convince the Dark Spore children that the spores are evil and not beneficial in the end analysis, they cannot do anything to remove them. They must instead follow continue to follow them around in the hopes that when Oikawa gathers them once more, they will be able to do something then to fix the situation. And that in the meantime, by tailing them, they can make sure that the kids don’t cause too much trouble. Groups are formed once again, this time with the older Digidestined kids joining in to help out. Matt and Joe pair up, as do T.K. and Cody, Izzy and Sora, while Davis, Ken and Yolei each presumably go off to tail kids by themselves.

Tai and Kari head toward the Digital World where they meet up with Agumon and Gabumon and find that since Azulongmon sacrificed one of his DigiCores to allow Paildramon to reach Mega level and the original eight Digidestined Digimon to reach their Ultimate levels once more, the Mega level Digimon Sovereign has been weaker. Azulongmon’s defenses are not as strong as they once were and now portals to the Digital World are growing easier to bridge and gain access to from both sides. As Agumon still has much of the energy of the DigiCore within him, he goes into the Real World with Tai and Kari to deal with BlackWarGreymon, who is now known to have escaped the Dark Ocean and returned to the Real World for some as yet unknown reason.

Back once more to the rest house and Mount Fuji, Oikawa, Arukenimon, and Mummymon are battling against and trying to hold off BlackWarGreymon. The Mega level faux Digimon begins to theorize ontologies with his would-be prey and recognizes that he was created by Arukenimon’s Spirit Needles and the Control Spires, but wants to know the answer to the deeper question of who created his creator Arukenimon (and by extension Mummymon). Oikawa reveals that is was he who created them by converting his own DNA into data and designing them. BlackWarGreymon now understands that the reason he, Arukenimon, and Mummymon do not belong to, and are rejected by, the Digital World is that they are less a part of it than they are of the Real World. However, being ultimately digital, they really belong to no plane of reality at all. Furthermore, because Oikawa has used his own mortal coil to create digital beings, he has broken the distinction between the two worlds and transgressed a fundamental ontic boundary. As such, he no longer belongs in either plane as well and should be eliminated.

As BlackWarGreymon readies himself to dispatch his maker, Oikawa seems physically and mentally disturbed by the remarks. His frustrations and near-madness develop into anger and he prepares to challenge BlackWarGreymon head on who jumps into action and is just about to land a blow on Oikawa when Agumon appears and stops him. Agumon tries to reason with BlackWarGreymon that by destroying Oikawa he would be doing something evil himself and that the Digidestined still need Oikawa to save the Dark Spore infected children. But BlackWarGreymon doesn’t listen, recommences his attack, then Tai’s Digivice begins to glow, Agumon Warp Digivolves into WarGreymon, and finally stops BlackWarGreymon’s attack using force. The battle is on between two WarGreymons!

Meanwhile, Kari and Nefertimon are tailing Oikawa, Arukenimon, and Mummymon as they attempt to escape in their van. Aquilamon and Pegasusmon show up just in time to help out in the pursuit, while Stingmon and ExVeemon redirect traffic along the roads leading toward the mountain and Digmon breaks the road ahead in the hopes of physically stopping Oikawa and his companions from escaping. Once Stingmon and ExVeemon have done enough to protect innocent civilians and have sufficiently redirected traffic and closed off their portion of the road, they rendezvous with their friends and DNA Digivolve into Paildramon, but find themselves still unable to stop Oikawa as Mummymon and Arukenimon launch attacks from atop the van. Paildramon then Digivolves into Imperialdramon and heads toward the nearby JSDF (Japan Special Defense Forces) base to prevent Oikawa from nearing it and causing trouble or damage therein. They succeed in doing this, but along the way, Arukenimon and Mummymon knock out Nefertimon, Aquilamon and Pegasusmon and escape through a mountain road.

Imperialdramon changes forms to its much more deadly and aggressive fighter mode and begins to help WarGreymon in his battle against BlackWarGreymon. The two Megas succeed in stopping him and knocking him out, but do not destroy him in the process. BlackWarGreymon laments that he still exists and was not killed in the fight, but Wormmon, Agumon, and Veemon talk to him and succeed in warding off his pessimism, professing themselves ready and willing to be his friend as soon as he would have them. They express the sentiment that life can be simple, even banal, but can still be meaningful without some grand purpose. BlackWarGreymon eventually accedes to their reasoning, picks himself up, and flies off, potentially more optimistic than ever before.



The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]


Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 film Frenzy would be his second to last picture (the final film being 76’s Family Plot) and his final return to top form in the thriller genre he helped to pioneer, establish, codify, and develop from the earliest years of his career as a filmmaker. It was also the first time he returned to his country of England to direct a picture for almost twenty years, and it would be his last time as well. Frenzy is Hitch’s first film with a nude scene (no actual nudity is present in Psycho, rather he shot the infamous shower sequence strategically to suggest more violence and risque material than was really shown in the frames themselves). Due to the nudity and the graphic nature of the murders that take place on this film, it was also his first film to secure an ‘R’ rating.

The film is a classic Hitchcockian tale of a man in the wrong places at the wrong times under all of the worst circumstances: the Wrong Man. In London, a serial killer and rapist is on the loose and is causing quite a stir in the local papers and local imagination, especially after one of his victims washes up on the shore of the Thames during a high-profile political speech from the Mayor of London. The body is nude except for a necktie wound around her neck, the Necktie Murderer’s modus operandi, macguffin, and strangulation tool of choice.

Richard Blaney is drunk who has just been fired from his job as a bar attendant for drinking on the job. The waitress of the seedy pub is his girlfriend Babs, and the two live fast lives of occasional reckless abandon and unseemly soirees in between their longer spells of quiet desperation and under employment. Blaney’s ex-wife Brenda runs a match-making service for Londoners finding difficulty in the marriage market. they separated years prior, but still remain somewhat affectionate, so Blaney visits her to complain about being fired and to have someone to talk to about how down and out he currently feels. During the meeting at her office, he is originally quite agitated and punches her desk as he takes out his frustrations, prompting Brenda’s assistant to regard Blaney as a potentially dangerous man.

Blaney and Brenda end up going out to eat dinner together for old time’s sake, and on Brenda’s dime (she offers to take him out), where he gets drunk and rants and raves about the conditions of his life. Brenda offers to give Blaney some money, but he refuses. However, as they depart each other’s company, she sneaks some money into his pocket without him knowing.

Blaney meets his friend, the fruit merchant Robert Rusk, that same day and relates to him the account of his firing. Rusk, it turns out, is the necktie murderer, and he has just found his fall guy. Robert will later visit Brenda, then Babs, in a turn of events that has Blaney pinned on multiple murder charges and locked up ultimately as a serial killer. His behavior the prior night at Brenda’s office, his drunkenness and inability to hold down a job, and the Brenda’s money found on his person all tie Blaney to the crimes, but some odds and ends don’t add up fully to the chief police inspector Oxford. He investigates further and the rest of the story unfolds as Oxford zeroes in on the right man, Blaney injures himself purposefully in jail in order to get a hospital stay, escapes, and also works to track down Rusk to exact his revenge.

The whole exercise is an example of what was called Hitchcock’s movie, his plot, his themes, and his stagings, which he revisited again and again over the years in many of his greatest films. I think it was Bogdanovich who said that Hitchcock made the same picture over and over (he did this literally in his 1956 remake of his early 1934 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much), and it is true of Frenzy that if you have seen The 39 Steps, The Wrong Man, or North By Northwest, then you’ve practically seen this film as well. But the manner of execution is more deft than ever before as he experimented with more extreme expressions of violence and sexuality in his later years.

And I know it was Bogdanovich who said that Frenzy is a young man’s film, full of stylistic experimentation, panoramic helicopter shots of the Thames, complicated dolly shots of the interior of Rusk’s home, the camera retreating from the apartment to the exterior market, allowing viewers to assume what happens inside rather than showing everything. Hitch experiments with sound and in particularly dramatic moments like when Babs exits the bar before her fated meeting with Rusk, and when the guilty verdict is later handed down to Blaney, the soundtrack cuts out completely and all that’s left is utter and complete silence. His use of color is muted, almost like the championed goal of all practitioners who got their starts in film noir to create a sepia, almost black and white color film through strategic uses of palette. While no masterpiece, Frenzy is a work head and shoulders above the majority of thrillers released then and now, and deserves a critical re-appreciation and re-visit, which I am happy to say it has been receiving over the past decade or so.


Cody Ward

The Cat Returns

(Check out my previous Ghibli essay on 1995’s Whisper of the Heart)

Studio Ghibli’s first two films not directed by Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki came within two years of one another: Ocean Waves in 1993 and Whisper of the Heart in 1995. After the death of the latter film’s director, and longtime Ghibli collaborator and friend, Yoshifumi Kondo, Miyazaki would go into a pretty deep tailspin of stress and officially retired from animation (though he would be back to create Spirited Away just a few years later. This cycle of retirement and un-retirement would mark the next twenty years of his career). The next non-Takahata/Miyazaki release came in 2002, after which point the studio began working with young talent in earnest once more.

A Japanese theme commissioned a film about cats from the studio in the early 2000s and Miyazaki jumped into conceptual work on the project in the hopes of adapting a short story involving the characters of the debonair cat statue The Baron and the fat cat Muta from Whisper of the Heart. He worked alongside the manga-ka Aoi Hiiragi who created the original story, but when the theme park’s plans for the short film were shelved, Hiiragi continued to develop the story. The concept grew in length into a full-length manga, which was subsequently adapted into a feature-length screenplay by manga-ka and writer Reiko Yoshida, then developed into an over 500-page storyboard by the animator Hiroyuki Morita. It was this final version of the property that impressed Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki to introduce the work to Miyazaki for greenlighting, which resulted in the first commission of a feature film by Ghibli to a ‘green’ animator in seven years.

By 2001, Morita had been working as an animator for 13 years on various projects. In 1989, he worked on in-between animation for Kiki’s Delivery Service. In 1999, he worked again for the company as an animator on My Neighbors the Yamadas. But he began his career as an assistant on Akira, which later landed him a job as animator on Katushiro Otomo’s 1995 anthology film Memories. And in 1998, he worked as an animator on Satoshi Kon’s classic psychological thriller Perfect Blue. All impressive works in their own right, but prior to The Cat Returns, Morita has yet to work as a key animator, as an assistant director, as an animation director, or as a director of any work of animation: Ghibli was taking a huge gamble, but they corralled the forces of their studio behind him to produce a strong work within the Ghibli canon (albeit not as emotionally affecting as Ocean Waves or Whisper of the Heart).

The film details the fantastical exploits of a teenage Japanese girl in Tokyo named Haru. She is your average high school girl who worries about boys and about her relative awkwardness compared to other girls in her classes. One day, a cat walks by her and her friend on the way to school. It is carrying a gift-wrapped box by the ribbon with its teeth and darts across a busy street in the hopes of crossing to the other side unharmed. When it sees a huge truck bearing down upon it, it freezes up, and Haru runs into the street, lacrosse stick in hand, where she scoops up the cat and manages to throw it and herself onto a patch of grass and out of harm’s way just in time. Her lacrosse stick is broken in the process, but the cat is grateful and shows it thankfulness by raising up on its hind legs in bipedal fashion and addressing her in human tongue, promising to reward her for her act of bravery of kindness. As Haru’s friend comes running into frame, the cat returns to its normal posture and runs off into a nearby alleyway where it disappears to continue its delivery mission.

That night a procession of cats of regal manner approach Haru’s home, where they awaken her and call her into the street below. The bawdy King of Cats addresses Haru and gives her a scroll listing all of the gifts that the Cat Kingdom is the bestow upon her in the coming days. They depart, but the next morning hundreds of lacrosse sticks are found outside of Haru’s home, there is catnip in the pockets of all of her clothes (which prompts local, normal cats to follow her around most of the day and into school), in her locker there are dozens of small gift boxes with live mice inside, and back home in her yard, thousands of cattails have been planted. Haru is understandably upset by all of the commotion as she is allergic to cattails, afraid of mice, and didn’t take kindly to hundreds of cats following her around and pawing at her pockets all day. The emissary of the Cat Kingdom arrives and asks how she likes her gifts, finds that she is pretty angry, and offers to appease her with the final gifts in her scroll: a tour of the Cat Kingdom to commence later that night and the gift of the Prince’s paw in marriage.

The rest of the film transforms into a madcap adventure in which a voice speaks to Haru, telling her to find the Cat Bureau by following a large white cat. When she finds the cat, she does so and travels through winding alleyways, on tops of buildings, and into an enchanted grotto where the old antique store from Whisper of the Heart lay, this time in miniature. The statue of the Baron comes alive in the shop, he introduces himself and brings to life the stone crow on the plaza’s central square pillar, who introduces himself as Toto. The fat cat Muta begins to speak as well and the three devise a plan to save Haru from marriage to a cat in the Cat Kingdom, but just moments before her royal cat entourage whisks her away. The adventure continues as the Cat Bureau heroes fight to save Haru from her feline matrimonial feat and her slow degeneration into a cat herself.

Although the film is arguably not very Ghibli-esque visually and has a style all its own, that style is extremely fluid and lively and cel-based as in Ghibli tradition. It is zany and wild and fun-loving and most importantly for the Studio, it made its money back, and some. From a $20 million budget (USD) the film’s box office receipts drew $54 million, making it the best domestic release of that year. Studio Ghibli looked set to have a young director on its payroll who could continue on the brand successfully. However, Morita has inexplicably only ever worked with Ghibli one other time in his career since: as a key animator on 2006’s Tales from Earthsea. Morita had a pretty successful journeyman career from then on, working as a key animator on Chiaki J. Konaka’s Texhnolyze and Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, as well as directing his own series Bokurano: Ours, in 2007. Morita seems to have retired from animation work in 2011, while still only in his mid-40s.

Thus began and ended a third hopeful period in Ghibli’s history in which they found a talented prospect to helm the future of the studio and then lost that prospect in just as short order.


Cody Ward

[Next up: Tales From Earthsea]

Sheila Renee Parker

Author. Paranormal. Romance. Fantasy. Follow Sheila on Twitter! @sheilarparker

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