Tag Archive | anime

Anime Update: May 2019

Normally, in this monthly anime update I discuss all notable or classic manga and home video anime releases coming to the North American market for the month. However, after an extensive search of about a dozen manga distributors and half a dozen home video anime distributors, I have come up short with suggestions for this month.

At this point I’ve seemingly become jaded and bored with much of the light novel adaptations, slice of life, kitsch, and low-brow productions offered up. My critical apparatus is somewhat dull by virtue of spending so much time away from the cinema as of late, and yet my taste remains true and my standards remarkably high. If you don’t believe me, go check out my go-tos for suggestions in this regard: Seven Seas Entertainment, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Discotek Media, Sentai Filmworks, and GKID’s. None of these companies is coming out with a new manga series of note in this particular month or releasing any classic anime either.

But I digress… for the time being. Theatrical anime is still a good prospect for the month of May. To begin, Funimation Films is releasing Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;urrection (not a typo btw) to select theaters on May 5th, 7th, and 8th. So if you’re a fan of that somewhat kiddy fair ten years after it was popular with a whole host of, shall we say, less than effete minds, then by all means go check it out.

GKID’s and Fathom Events are still partnering to present North American audiences with Studio Ghibli Fest 2019. And for the month of May, they are delivering the goods with what is quite possibly the greatest animated feature ever made: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This film (released in 1984) was famously the impetus for the creation of Studio Ghibli (founded 1985) as Miyazaki and Takahata worked together to fund and create it along with Studio Topcraft (who they would later acquire after the bankruptcy of Topcraft’s No.1 commisioner Rankin/Bass), which established the core of Ghibli. The film will show nationwide on May 20th and 21st, and as this is the film’s 35th anniversary, expect some extra features.

GKID’s is also releasing an interesting new Ghibli home video product on May 14th: a Princess Mononoke Collector’s Edition Set with a ton of extra features that more than make up for the $50 price tag. This release will be the definitive home video release of the film, potentially for decades, so I advise you to check that out here.

Fathom Events, like the champs they are, are also delivering more theatrical anime to your veritable doorstop this month. In 2017, a light novel about a Japanese Salaryman who dies and is reincarnated into an alternate reality world where World War I meets II with magic was adapted into a 12-episode anime. In 2019, the direct sequel of this beloved series was adapted into an animated feature. And now, it comes to American theatrical audiences through Fathom Events for one day only: May 16th. The series is called The Saga of Tanya the Evil, and is looks pretty phenomenal.

Finally, the convention schedule, like everything else this month, is pretty slim for the South-Eastern United States. As far as I can tell, there are only four cons going down within 12 hours of Charlotte, NC (my city). They are as follows: Carolina Anime Day in Charlotte on the 4th; Animazement (NC’s biggest anime convention) in Raleigh from the 23rd till the 26th. MomoCon (one of GA’s largest cons) in Atlanta from the 24th-26th. And GalaxyCon in Richmond, VA from the 31st until the 2nd of June.

With that, I’ll be signing off for the time being. So…

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

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Anime Update: April 2019

Though I’ve been largely absent from the reader for the past month, I wouldn’t miss this day if I can help it: the first day of the month. That means it’s about time I send out an update here regarding all of the cool new things going on with theatrical anime, home video releases and manga coming to a North American audience, plus a review of my region’s best upcoming Anime and Otaku Conventions. So, without further ado, here I go.

For starters, Seven Seas Entertainment is releasing a very important Classic Collection title that all true manga nerds will want to get their hands on immediately: the Space Battleship Yamato complete collection in one volume, set for release on April 9th. This tome contains Leiji Matsumoto’s legendary space opera series in its entirety for what I believe is the first time in the West. Author of series like Galaxy Express 999 and Space Captain Harlock, Matsumoto is one amongst a godhead of classic manga-ka including names like Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Go Nagai (Devilman), Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell), and Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2) who have helped to influence and shape the current form and content of manga like none other. So I hope you check out this manga when it becomes available.

Viz Media is also releasing some pretty exciting books this month such as The Art of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind on the 16th and a hardcover Nausicaa Picture Book on the 30th. Most interesting, however, is the publication of a new series of everyone’s favorite horror comics artist Junji Ito. Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection is set for release on April 16th and will assuredly be filled with spine-tingling macabre art and head-trippy surreal concepts in spades.

As for home video releases, Discotek Media is back in the game this month after a short hiatus brought on by their distributor moving house. On April 30th, they have quite a few releases slated. The ones that most piqued my interest include a DVD of the 1988 Cyberpunk OVA Appleseed (based on Shirow Masamune’s classic manga) and an HD Blu-Ray of Episodes 1-26 of Lupin III Part IV The Italian Adventure. 

Sentai Filmworks has a ton of releases set for this month, but the most important of these, historically-speaking, is their Gatchaman Collector’s Edition slated for release on the 30th. This includes the entirety of the over-100 episode series, the OVAs, the film, and a large artbook. This is THE definitive version of this classic series, and thereby deserving of its $99.99 price tag.

Then we have theatrical anime to consider for April. Funimation recently released some interesting material in February and March, but is currently not announcing any films for April. However, keep them in mind for the summer as they have two interesting films already set for release during that time period: Anemone: Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution (The newest Eureka Seven project) and POLYGON Pictures Human Lost based on an original story by famed Japanese author Osamu Dazai and directed by Fuminori Kizaki (Afro Samurai, Psycho-Pass). The latter of these two films looks to be an intense and arresting cyberpunk-tinged tale of future dystopian society, and thereby a film this anime reviewer will not be missing out on (if he can help it).

GKIDs is releasing two films they hold the North American distribution rights to through Fathom Events. The first is the long-anticipated 1st feature-length film by Studio Ghibli-veteran Kitaro Kosaka entitled Okko’s Inn. The film is produced by Studio Madhouse and thereby retains a high level of executive quality control in the process of choosing scripts and in releasing a film with their name on it. As Kosaka’s previous short film efforts Nasu and Nasu II were fantastic and even milestones in the history of anime (the former was the first anime filmed premiered at Cannes Film Festival), Okko’s Inn ought to be a great film. Catch it in theaters on the 22nd or 23rd of this month.

The second film being released by GKIDs through Fathom Events is the first film in this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest: Howl’s Moving CastleAs this is the 15th Anniversary of the film, expect to see some interesting bonus content about the film before or after its airing. Plan to catch this film on the 7th, 8th, or 10th at a theater near you.

And finally, GKIDs is releasing Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Mirai of the Future on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital on April 9th. So pick that up when you get a chance to continue rounding out your collection with great films by anime’s auteurs.

I’ll conclude this update with a quick run through of my region’s upcoming anime cons of consequence. The first is Nashicon in Columbia, SC from the 5th-7th. Nashicon was the first convention at which I ever presented a panel and it means a great deal to me. I would be there myself this upcoming weekend if not for the fact that my band is releasing our debut EP in Charlotte, NC on Saturday night. If you live in the area and are interested in attending that, here’s a link to The Boron Heist EP Release Show.

From the 13-14th, TigerCon is going down in Valdosta, GA. From the 19th-21st, Middle Tennessee Anime Con is happening in Nashville. And on the 20th, a one day convention entitled KiraKira Con is being held in my home city of Charlotte, NC at UNC Charlotte!

This concludes this month’s anime update. If I left out any pertinent media companies, events, or types of information you wished I had covered here, please let me know and I will do my best to incorporate said information in future Anime Updates!

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: March 2019

It’s about that time, in fact a few days past that time, when I review all the cool things going on in the world of anime, manga, theatrical anime, and the monthly convention schedule for the Southeast U.S.

For starters, I searched through the monthly manga releases by Viz and Seven Seas Entertainment and found no new series being released that really piqued my interest in any way this month. However, I am open to suggestions for other North American manga re-publishing houses to cover in the future (this also holds true for home video anime release companies I may not mention and groups who release theatrical anime on a nationwide scale).

That said, there are a few anime home video releases to keep an eye out for this month. The first is the classic sci-fi stop motion series Star Fleet, which is being released in full along with the complete X-Bomber series by Discotek Media on March 26th on SDBD, or Standard Definition Blu-Ray disc.

Sentai Filmworks is also releasing an important series in complete collection form this month. That series is the Armored Trooper VOTOMS TV Collection on SD DVD. So check that out and the rest of Sentai’s upcoming release schedule HERE.

This past month, the GKID’s licensed Studio Chizu film Mirai of the Future  was honored at the Academy Awards by becoming the first non-Ghibli anime film to ever compete for the Best Animated Feature Film category. To celebrate, GKID’s decided to re-run the film a second time in theaters. So if you haven’t seen Mamoru Hosoda’s fifth film on the big screen yet and thought you had missed your chance, use the opportunity asap while its still a possibility. And also keep updated on fellow Ghibli alum Kitaro Kosaka’s new film Okko’s Inn, set for release in April, at the GKID’s site.

As always, Funimation is an important name to keep in mind regarding monthly theatrical anime. And this month, they came through in a minor way. Funimation will be releasing the first two episodes of the new Fruits Basket anime theatrically on March 26th and 27th in select theaters nationwide. So keep that feather in your cap and stay updated on their projected release of the new Eureka Seven film later this year HERE.

Finally, I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t mention the best distributor of theatrical anime in the nation, Fathom Events. These cats were the ones who got me into watching anime in theaters in the first place and on every given month, they will have multiple titles coming to major theater chains near you like the AMC in my hometown, for example. This month you can catch Fate/Stay Night [Heaven’s Feel] II. Lost Butterfly in theaters on the 14th; as well as an edited theatrical version of the Made in Abyss series on the 20th and 25th in support of the projected second season set for release later this year.

Moreover, Fathom finally announced its 2019 Studio Ghibli Fest on Valentine’s Day last month and we’ll start off in a big way with Howl’s Moving Castle in early April. And as always, don’t fret if (like myself) you have already seen every Miyazaki film on the big screen. There will a variety of great Ghibli classics playing throughout the year like Yoshifumi Kondo’s classic Whisper of the HeartHiromasa Yonebayashi’s The Secret of Arriettyand Isao Takahata’s final film The Tale of Princess KaguyaCheck all of that out and more (like boxing events, classic film series, and operas) HERE.

Finally the con schedule for my region this month is as follows:

Agama Con from 2nd-3rd in Aiken, South Carolina.

Murfreesboro Anime and Comic Kon from 2nd-3rd in Murfreesboro, Georgia; Savannah Animazing Con from the 30th-31st in Savannah, Georgia.

Madicon from the 8th-10th in Harrisburg, Virginia; KigaCon from the 15-17th in Newport News, Virginia.

MidSouthCon from the 15th-17th in Memphis, Tennessee.

And finally, Triad Anime Con from the 15th-17th in Winston-Salem, of my home state North Carolina. At this convention I will hosting a panel on the ‘Other Studio Directors’ beyond the Studio’s founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. So, if you know anyone in the area, alert them to that and if you yourself are planning to attend, hit me up!

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

O Brother, Who Art Thou? (Digimon Frontier: Episode 30)

(Check out my previous review HERE. To go back to the beginning of this review series click HERE)

Again with the titles. We all know the reference of this one to a wildly popular Coen Production with all its attendant black humor and southern gothic references. And we know that Koji and Koichi share some relationship as near-identical persons, which means they are almost definitely brothers. So the name is a fun pun on the situation in the anime, but has little to do with the film it references thematically or narratively, and therefore, I’d have to certify this title rotten just like so many other lame puns I’ve commented on in this series in particular hitherto.

As BeoWolfmon continues to search for Duskmon in the shadows of the Dark Continent, his Digidestined friends track him down to help him defeat Duskmon if need be: a prospect that is highly likely now that both Koji and Takuya can Fusion Evolve. But Cherubimon is fed up with his minions being defeated so handily and he intervenes to prevent the Digidestined’s forward progress by caging them in a circle of black javelins with a large covering of darkness above. Patamon is an intuitive little Digimon luckily and uses his brains to suggest they dig their way out of the place when the rest find the black javelins impenetrable to all attacks. When they escape, Patamon- as the Rookie-level form of the Digimon protector Seraphimon- can sense the light emanating from Koji/BeoWolfmon and is able to get the crew back on track toward finding him.

The rest of the episode is pretty paint by numbers stuff that had previously already happened. Duskmon and BeoWolfmon duke it out. As the animation quality of Digimon has rarely been on the level of a Gainax or a Studio Trigger, the action sequences aren’t really fulfilling enough to warrant half an episode of jumping around and breaking stuff just to result in another draw, but that’s what they do anyway. They both see their human forms during the battle again and again they react in a confused manner to these images. They question each other in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the mystery between them, but instead of discussing the matter like two individuals who both stand to gain from a rational encounter, they continue to battle on and eventually one becomes the victor: BeoWolfmon.

Because Cherubimon is a god-like Digimon in terms of power, his apparition appears from out of the blue, out of the veritable machine to bestow upon Duskmon a new power. But first he alerts him to some of his past and allows Duskmon to realize that he is really a human boy named Koichi who searched after Koji and ended up in the Digital world because they are brothers. Koichi remembers his grandmother on her deathbed confessing to him that his father and brother are still alive and well (though we do not learn anything about why he was abandoned to live with her instead of with them). He sought out Koji and managed to find himself alone within the Digital World instead where his fear and self-loathing got the better of him.

There, darkness overwhelmed his spirit, which called toward Cherubimon like a magnet. Cherubimon offered to be his friend and to bestow upon him the power of the Legendary Warrior of Darkness, which would help him to survive in this hostile, new world. But the power came at a cost as Koichi became less and less human and forgot his identity and his past. He even forgot his main objective for coming to this world in the first place: to find his twin brother Koji. And now, after remembering all of this information and falling into a deeper state of depression, Cherubimon unlocks Koichi’s Beast Spirit of Darkness, which allows him to become Velgemon. From the vantage point of this stronger form, Koichi is able to overcome BeoWolfmon once again, though he is still emotionally grappling with his current knowledge and therefore, manages to fly off before the darkness consumes him totally and he destroys his brother Koji.

During this entire encounter, Koji knows only that whoever Koichi is, he looks awfully like himself. He seemingly has no knowledge of having a twin brother or a sibling whatsoever in the real world, and therefore probably thinks that Duskmon’s inner human image is something like a head game meant to throw Koji off while they battle. And that makes sense from his perspective as it would also be hard to believe that a human child who came to the Digital World from the real world would even be able to be corrupted by someone like Cherubimon. We know, because of Ken in Digimon Adventure 02, that human children can become corrupted when they enter the Digital World. However, Koji is a relative newcomer and the rules of the game might not be so apparent to him here.

Nevertheless, the battle is over for now as the Digidestined reunite and continue their long sojourn through the Dark Continent toward the ever elusive Rose Morning Star.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

Phantasmagoric Sakkakumon (Digimon Frontier: episode 29)

(Check out my previous review HERE. Or to go back to the beginning click HERE)

If you’ve watched this series before, you’ll know how weird this episode is in context. If not, in the previous episode of Digimon Frontier, one of the main protagonists, Takuya, went into the domain of one of their biggest enemies: Mercurymon. He was almost defeated by Mercurymon before getting some sort of deux ex machina power from a legendary DigiEgg the Digidestined team is holding onto. The power manifests as a light that gives Takuya the ability to fuse his Legendary Warrior Spirits and thereby Fusion Evolve into his strongest form yet: Aldamon. Through this new Digivolution he is able to defeat Mercurymon, destroy the final two areas within Sakkakumon’s interior matrix, and seemingly finally destroy this enemy for good.

However, we did not actually see Aldamon absorb the Beast Spirit of Steel, which is Mercurymon’s strongest form. Furthermore, Sakkakumon’s deadened husk remained floating in the sky above the party after their ‘defeat’ of this enemy. None of this really bodes well for the team, but one can be forgiven for thinking the battle is over at this point as the entire episode leads one to believe this outcome really happened. So when episode 29 begins and we find out that Sakkakumon is not dead and defeated, but very much alive, just without a Mercurymon form any longer, it’s quite an annoying prospect. We’ve just seen the Digidestined dispense with this guy for five episodes (or 10% of the entire series’ runtime) and now have to watch an entirely new episode where they battle with his residual energy once more. The senses reel and just when the series was getting good, it begins to drag once more, to pull the veritable rug out beneath us just as the Digidestined were closing in on the Duskmon mystery and finally moving toward the Rose Morning Star to find out what that whole place is really about. Bleh.

But as it were, Sakkakumon descends once more from the lofty heavens of the Dark Continent to rain down destruction, terror and mayhem on our Digidestined pals. But he has learned something from all of the Legendary Warriors of Light’s travails within his interior: namely, he has learned how to harness and use all of their attacks. Furthermore, he can reflect back their attacks when doled out toward him. As Takuya Fusion Evolves into Aldamon and tries pointlessly to break through Sakkakumon’s defenses, J.P. asks Patamon if he still has the power to give the rest of them Fusion Evolutions like Koji and Takuya. However, the little dude, once hatched, now has no such powers and therefore, as in my prediction hitherto, no one else will ever be able to gain this rare ability. Instead, J.P., Tommy, and Zoe all Spirit Evolve into their H Spirit forms as Beetlemon, Kumamon, and Kazemon, respectively. And again, the question of why they would not just rocket up to their highest levels as Beast Spirits first is beyond me, and beyond all rational calculation. Maybe they just really dig their H Spirit digs, you dig?

Whenever anyone launches an attack, Sakkakumon just reflects it back at twice its original power and douses his foes in a taste of their own medicine. Even when the lesser Digidestined get mad and Slide Evolve into their Beast Spirit forms, they are match. Hell, even when they attack all at once, Sakkakumon is so quick that he just oscillates and absorbs each attack patters before reflecting it back at his enemies. The guy is such a tank that J.P., typically high-spirited and strong-willed, advises the team to run away, to retreat from battle just this once so they can regroup and formulate a new plan. Even Takuya agrees and so the group runs away into a nearby chasm wherein they find a tunnel that leads them straight into a large cavern with only one way in or out. A pitch black cavern at that. Dumb dumb dumb.

Sakkakumon gives chase and traps the Digidestined in this cavern before turning off his bio-luminescence to take advantage of the darkness. And then the mind games begin as Sakkakumon uses what he learned of each Digidestined kid’s emotional traumas, failings, and fears while they labored away battling his minions within his internal matrix of elemental arenas. All the kids, except for Takuya who has truly learned to master his emotions and inner demons, start freaking out about how scared they are of the darkness. Fear and doubt enters their fragile pre-teen psyches and they even begin to distrust one another for a few moments as J.P. and Tommy take umbrage with Takuya always being so level-headed and telling them what to do as if he were their leader (and as the Digidestined of Fire, he kinda is their leader by default). Sakkakumon has sown the seeds of discord for a short time, but Takuya truly is a natural leader, and as such he tells his friends to close their eyes and to realize they are now part-Digimon living within their own Digital World.

Their senses are heightened as Digimon and through this power of focus, they can hear Sakkakumon’s breathing and movements. So they refocus their energies and head back into the fray against their opponent. Further, Takuya finds Sakkakumon’s weakness in his central orb/node that never emits an attack nor tries to defend against one. This is his power core. Also, by fusing attacks with each other, they can confuse Sakkakumon’s sensors into taking the full brunt of attacks, which are unlike pure elemental waves of energy. By distracting him with such potent new attacks, they are able to momentarily expose Sakkakumon’s core orb to attack, which Aldamon doles out in abrupt fashion to finally defeat the Legendary Warrior of Steel, absorb all of his Fractal Code, and his Beast Spirit.

At the end of this encounter, Cherubimon’s spirit appears momentarily (but only visibly to the viewers) to express his distaste at losing his final Legendary Warrior (he must already sense that Duskmon is a lost cause) and to alert us that he is releasing some sort of seal. The Digidestined endeavor to search for BeoWolfmon and Koji qua BeoWolfmon continues to search for Duskmon in the interminable darkness at the edges of the Dark Continent.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Darkness Before the Dawn (Digimon Frontier: Episode 28)

(Catch my previous Digimon Frontier episode review out HERE)

As Koji runs off chasing Duskmon who knows where, Takuya continues to search through Sakkakumon to find the final chamber and escape. He almost immediately lucks into an area of the internal matrix littered with highly polished metal mirrors wherein Mercurymon has been waiting for the final confrontation between himself and the Digidestined. However, Mercurymon has a few tricks up his sleeve in this domain. He can use any mirror or polished surface as a transfer area with which to teleport around the room. The large number of mirrors also allows him to manipulate the visuals of this domain and to throw projections of himself about the room, which Takuya qua Agunimon tries in vain to destroy.

If all of this weren’t enough, Mercurymon talks some mad shit and slays with his Elizabethan oratory at every turn making Agunimon more enraged and less in control of his rational functions. He forces the Legendary Warrior to fight on the offensive like a raging bull with a blindfold and a dead leg. And when Agunimon does land a fire attack on the correct Mercurymon apparition, he just lifts his mirror shield, absorbs the energy, and reflects it back through his Dark Reflection powers. Hitherto the Digidestined have mostly made their way about brute forcing encounters with enemies, but Mercurymon is one who suffers no fools. One with a tactical game far outpacing that of the pre-teen Digidestined team.

A portal opens in the sky, which leads to the final Area within Sakkakumon: the Light Area. The entire place is a large chapel with stained glass windows looking heavenward and a massive organ at the back of the room. Here, Mercurymon verbally prods Agunimon once again before revealing the apparition of Seraphimon bound by thorny vines: the entire sequence is littered with Christian iconography that one might think worth interpreting further, but the parallels are pretty apparent. Seraphimon is a savior/protector figure of the Digital World who has defeated and bound in ‘death’ by his own people: the Legendary Warrior of Steel and the Legendary Warriors of Darkness generally who have decided to follow the evil Dark Lord Cherubimon instead. The crown of thorns and the thorny vines. The fact that it takes place within a chapel. But here I’ll digress as it could all merely be a ploy to use interesting imagery in a vague manner like director Hideaki Anno did in his acclaimed show Neon Genesis Evangelion, which he has later stated he only used because it looked cool.

Takuya is taken aback by the image, as are his friends outside in the Dark Continent, and demands that Mercurymon free Seraphimon immediately. The request is, of course, absurd as Takuya-Agunimon cannot currently defeat Mercurymon and thereby has no way to force him to free Seraphimon. And anyway Mercurymon explains that this is merely the spectre of Seraphimon, something of a shadow, ghost, or Fractal Code copy from the data Mercurymon received when he defeated him. Mercurymon then absorbs this data and transforms into ShadowSeraphimon whose power level is beyond that of a mere Mega-level Digimon. Agunimon attacks, but finds his strength wanting, so he transitions through a Slide Evolution into BurningGreymon to hopefully match power level with a Mega-level Digimon form.

Unfortunately, he miscalculates and realizes only too late that he is no match for ShadowSeraphimon given his current Digivolution options. He is defeated and reverts back to Takuya as Mercurymon cradles his head in his hand and threatens to snuff out the kid’s life at any moment. J.P., Tommy, and Zoe Spirit Evolve and once again try to enter Sakkakumon by force, but find his defenses to be much too strong. Bokomon calls out to the DigiEgg of Seraphimon to help out his friend Takuya and the egg rises once more into the air above, releasing a stream of light energy that makes its way through Sakkakumon’s barrier without a pause. The light enters Takuya’s D-Tector and allows him to Fusion Evolve using both his H spirit and his B Spirit into the more powerful hybrid Digimon Aldamon.

Somehow this new form surpasses even a ShadowSeraphimon (a Super-Mega-level if you will) and merely shrugs off the best his enemy can throw at him before going in for the kill, taking Mercurymon’s Beast Spirit of Steel and trouncing the Light Area in the process. Mercurymon recovers just long enough to realize that his entire plan and the all work he has done in developing his strengths has failed. Aldamon crushes him totally and takes the remainder of his Fractal Code, his H Spirit of Steel, and returns him to a DigiEgg. Another result is the release of Seraphimon’s Fractal Code, which immediately exits Sakkakumon and enters the Seraphimon DigiEgg, which hatches into a Patamon with a waste-band like its ‘mother’ Bokomon who kept it warm and safe until this moment.

What’s weird is that even after Mercurymon has been defeated and all ten areas of Sakkakumon have been dealt with likewise, the giant darkened Sakkakumon edifice remains in the sky above as if some giant memorial to the battle that just took place. Also, a little theory here, but it was the power of Seraphimon’s DigiEgg that allowed Takuya and Koji to both Fusion Evolve and now that the DigiEgg has hatched, this power may no longer be attainable by any of the other Digidestined. Bummer. But hey, the series is almost 2/3 over by this episode, so it’s best they don’t spend a ton of that time grinding to gain their new abilities from episode to episode.

Finally, we learn nothing new of Koji’s situation in this episode focused solely on Takuya’s fight with Mercurymon. But we do know that there is only one more Legendary Warrior of Darkness left in THE Legendary Warrior of Darkness Duskmon. We also know that the darkness feeding on his emotions has allowed him to become as powerful as a Super-Mega in just his H Spirit form. So even if Koji catches up to him in his new Fusion Form as BeoWolfmon, Duskmon might still Slide Evolve into his more powerful, unrestrained Beast Spirit form and dominate. It will take both Koji and Takuya’s newfound powers, and maybe some teamwork with the other three Digidestined, to finally defeat this foe and figure out his deal. Namely, what exactly his relationship is to Koji.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Stuck in Sakkakumon With You (Digimon Frontier: Episode 27)

(Check my previous episode review out HERE)

Most of the Digidestined team have escaped from Sakkakumon while their friends Takuya and Koji continue to muscle on through the various areas within. J.P., Tommy, and Zoe Spirit Evolve into their H Spirit forms as Beetlemon, Kumamon, and Kazemon and attempt to reenter Sakkakumon to help out, but find a nearly impenetrable electric net force-field blocking their progress. Duskmon appears, and as his strength within his H Spirit form is well beyond a Mega-level Digimon, he is able to push on through to seek out Koji within the Darkness Area of Sakkakumon’s internal matrix.

As the other Digidestined have no way of entering the matrix themselves, they decide to try and contact their friends through the D-Tectors in an attempt to alert them to the presence of Duskmon. Zoe manages to get a hold of Takuya and tell him to track down Koji for back up, but they cannot seem to connect with Koji because of the interference of negative emotions and energy fields within the Darkness Area. Takuya makes double time to the nearest active eye portal, but finds himself within the Ice Area rather than his intended target. There, he is immediately attacked by an Ultimate-level Digimon called IceLeomon whose noble character shines through his possession by Sakkakumon. As Agunimon, Takuya tries to talk him down and bring him to his senses, but finds this impossible as the hold over his will is too strong. Instead, he swiftly decommissions the old lion heart after a quick, but intense exchange of blows, digitizes his Fractal Code, and finds that two new eye portals open up in his vicinity. One of these will lead him outside to his friends, while the other leads back to the internal corridors of Sakkakumon. Takuya chooses the latter path in the hopes of finding Koji before Duskmon lays waste with his sick fighting skills (forgive me, I’m listening to J Dilla as I write this).

Meanwhile, Koji didn’t have very long to wander through the Darkness Area before Duskmon appeared and grasped him by the throat threatening his life if Koji didn’t reveal who he was and why he seemed to have some relationship to Duskmon. Duskmon invades and interrogates Koji’s memories to learn more about him forcefully and finds out a bit about Koji’s life during the few days before he left for the Digital World. The story goes that Koji’s mother is dead and that his father finally moved on three years ago when he found another woman to fill the hole in his heart and give him a renewed emotional life. He and that woman got married and Koji has always been a little gruff toward her as he considered her unnecessary to the household and as no real replacement for his mother.

However, once when his father tried to talk to him about being nicer to her and trying to include her more in his own emotional life, Koji lashed out with is disaffection. She was coming up the stairs at the time and overheard the conversation, which hurt her feelings. Koji realized that she was no saboteur trying to take away his father from him or trying to replace his mother, but a real person with emotions who loves his father and wishes to become closer to him as a step-mother as well. On the day when Koji received the text message beginning the journey to the Digital World, he was in a flower shop looking to buy a bouquet for his step-mother and father’s three-year wedding anniversary. This was a big first step toward reclamation of something like a healthy household relationship, but the message was urgent and he ran out and left the Real world before he could give her the flowers and become closer.

The images of Koji on the train toward the Shibuya Station Underground Terminal trigger memories within Duskmon’s psyche of a boy who looks like Koji following after Koji and Takuya toward the station on that day. It seems that Duskmon may, unlike his fellow Legendary Warriors of Darkness, be a human child at his core who has merely turned to the powers of the darkness. Furthermore, he is a child who looks identical to Koji and therefore probably has some biological connection to him. These memories force Duskmon to his knees, which allows Koji to escape his grasp and Spirit Evolve into Lobomon. Cherubimon appears within Duskmon’s conscience and advises him to continue his fight and to keep working to plunge the Digital World into total darkness. He continues his fight and Lobomon continues to be beaten even as he Slide Evolves into his Beast Spirit form as KendoGarurumon.

And then, Seraphimon’s DigiEgg begins to move around in Bokomon’s waste band. It eventually comes dislodged and flies high in the air where it discharges a beam of light energy into Sakkakumon, through the Darkness Area, and directly toward Koji’s D-Tector. This light gives him the new power of Fusion Evolution, or the ability to simultaneously use both his Human Spirit and his Beast Spirit in battle. Koji triggers this new evolution potential and becomes the Super-Mega-level Digimon BeoWolfmon. This form can go toe to toe with Duskmon fairly well, but the abundance of light energy immediately defeats the Darkness Area and expels the two Digimon from without Sakkakumon’s body, throwing them far into the furthest reaches of the Continent of Darkness where Duskmon begins to run and BeoWolfmon gives chase as the apparent aggressor. The tables have turned in the battle against Duskmon and soon Cherubimon and the Rose Morning Star will be the primary focuses of the Digidestined.

But first, Takuya is still stuck within Sakkakumon and it seems that no one will be able to re-enter and help him finish off the final two regions. The first, the Light Area, is likely to prove no problem for Takuya as just another region that happens to have a strong Ultimate-level Light -type Digimon defender therein. If Agunimon can’t hack that, then BurningGreymon might be able to. The final region is the Steel Area where Mercurymon himself may be awaiting Takuya’s arrival. This is a more difficult foe to defeat as his reflective mirrors and hardened metal body reflect most types of attacks, including fire-based ones like those possessed by Takuya. If he can get some of that Seraphimon DigiEgg energy, however, there is probably no limit to what his powers can do and the Legendary Warriors of Darkness may be no more in short order.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Zoe’s Unbeelievable Adventure (Digimon Frontier Episode 26)

(Catch the previous episode review HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Thus far, the Earth, Wind, and Flame Areas of Sakkakumon’s interior matrix have all been disabled as the Digidestined previously entered each and destroyed the champions of those domains. In this episode, three more Areas will fall to the pressures of the Digidestined. The first of these Areas to go is the Thunder Area, which Takuya enters. There he finds a Parrotmon whose defeat is child’s play for Agunimon at this point. The big bird is defeated quickly, its Fractal code is digitized, and Takuya exits the Thunder area for another battle in a different sector of Sakkakumon’s interior.

J.P. likewise makes quick work of his Ultimate-level Digimon Cherrymon within the Wood Area. It seems that Sakkakumon’s champions may have once been worth their salt in battle against the Digidestined, but he has largely waited too long and allowed his enemies to grow too powerful. As the Digidestined now understand themselves to be a part of the Digital World, they can harness more of their power than ever before and thus even an H-Spirit Ultimate-level equivalent like Beetlemon finds it extremely easy to take down someone like Cherrymon just as he found Volcamon a weak opponent previously, and Koji and Tommy found their opponents Karatenmon and Asuramon relatively weak. After the battle, J.P.’s regard toward friendship is resolved and he feels that his Digidestined partners really are his true friends. This emotional confidence allows him to escape Sakkakumon and rejoin his friends Bokomon, Neemon, and Tommy outside of Sakkakumon.

Finally, the central focus of this episode is Zoe’s battle with Ranamon within the Water Area. Therein, Ranamon has been waiting for Zoe’s arrival so that she can prove which one of the two is most powerful, and thereby most deserving of praise as the most beautiful Digimon in the Digital World. She enlists her fan club of Armor type Honeybeemon to ensnare Zoe in one of their traps, but the Honeybeemon are so clumsy that they keep accidentally catching themselves in the traps instead. Each time, Zoe arrives and H Spirit Evolves into Kazemon to save the Honeybeemon from their own machinations. And though Kazemon remains none the wiser about the true motives of the Honeybeemon, they come to believe (or beelieve?) that Kazemon is actually a good person, a Legendary Warrior of superior moral standing than Ranamon who they find to be cuter than Ranamon to boot.

There is a narrative arc throughout this episode that consistently refers to the Snow White story. Initially, Ranamon becomes obsessed with defeating Zoe/Kazemon asap because of Mercurymon’s magic mirror. She calls to him and asks who the fairest of all the Digimon in the land truly is to which he responds that Kazemon is obviously the fairest in all the Digital World, and furthermore that her Beast Spirit form Zephyrmon is surely the strongest in the land. This lights a fire under Ranamon and influences her create a poison apple, which she hands to her Honeybeemon fan club with orders to give the apple to Zoe.

Although the Honeybeemon have come to adore and appreciate Zoe, they make a cold calculation, believing that Kazemon would not win in a fight against Ranamon anyhow. So they hand the apple to Zoe, which throws her into a stupor under which she begins to reflect on her school days and the fact that she could find no real friends back then. Everyone thought she was a snooty, stuck-up girl who purposefully tried not to conform or fit in with her classmates when the truth was that she was merely an individual who found such conformity impossible. Ranamon tells Zoe that she has no friends in the Digital World either and that her Digidestined teammates actually dislike her and talk about her behind her back. It is interesting to note here that Zoe has the exact same doubts and fears as J.P. regarding the authenticity of her friendships and as such, they are character types who really resonate with one another. This may be why J.P. and Zoe are the closest of all the Digidestined in Frontier.

Fortunately, Zoe awakens from out of her poisoned stupor by realizing that her friends must really enjoy her presence, that they are true friends indeed. She Spirit Evolves into her H Spirit form as Kazemon and proceeds to battle with Ranamon while the Honeybeemon continue to cheer on the latter, somewhat reluctantly. At a crucial point in the battle, Kazemon slide evolves into her Beast form as Zephyrmon as Ranamon does likewise and becomes Calmaramon. The outcome is as expected as Zephyrmon beats Calmaramon, but she also manages to take both of her Spirits and to digitize her Fractal Code in the process, which leaves only Mercurymon and Duskmon out of the original five Legendary Warriors of Darkness team.

Zoe and the Honeybeemon, resolved in their emotions and happy to be within each other’s presence and in the presence of friends, beam back down to the surface outside of Sakkakumon. There, Zoe, the trio of Honeybeemon, Bokomon, Neemon, J.P., and Tommy reflect upon how six of the ten Areas of Sakkakumon have now gone dark, but Koji and Takuya are still nowhere to be seen. And as they are still within the interior matrix of Sakkakumon, they alone must fight through the remaining four areas. These areas are Ice, Light, Darkness, and Steel. And presumably Darkness houses some antagonist at odds with Koji’s designation as the Legendary Warrior of Light, potentially even Duskmon himself. While the light and ice regions are probably somewhat uncontroversial, the Steel Area probably houses Mercurymon himself as the Legendary Warrior of Steel. If so, the Digidestined are just a few rooms away from defeating one of their last foes before reaching the Rose Morning Star and battling Cherubimon down the line.

It seems friendship is the theme of these Sakkakumon battle episodes as all of the Digidestined have some doubts about it. Doubts about whether their comrades are true friends or merely friends of convenience. Back in the real world, all of the Digidestined, except for Takuya, had no real friends and as such, they are all wary of whether their newfound partners will someday forget them or forsake them. A friendship or a new love is a miraculous encounter that is rare and beautiful and ought to be cherished and nurtured, coddled and protected. And for those who have given up on friendship or love, this encounter can throw one for a loop, can turn the wary into the waylaid and the wise into the foolish.

 

With love,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Dallos: The Battle of Monopolis

(Check out my previous Mamoru Oshii film review here: Urusei Yatsura: Only You)

Before the premiere of Gundam in the late 1970s and the resultant Gundam Boom of the 1980s, giant robot or mecha anime in Japan were typically of the Super Robot variety. These kinds of mecha often had flexible bodies or seemingly-impossible powers that did not conform to the laws of physics and their attendant applications of strength. A good example of this type of mecha anime in the 21st is Gurren Lagann wherein the writers postulate a new type of energy called spiral power within all living beings that allows them to dominate their enemies with basically just the strength of their wills.

When Gundam roared onto the scene with its psychological realism, narratively sophisticated plots about war, terrorism, and geopolitics in a future age, and with mecha that conformed more closely to what one might be like in real life, it changed the entire landscape for the better. Studio Pierrot head producers wished to follow up the success of Studio Sunrise’s burgeoning Gundam franchise with their own philosophically and politically sophisticated Space Opera, and to this end they hired on Mamoru Oshii and his mentor Hisayuki Toriumi to co-direct the film.

In Dallos, the Earth has run extremely low on its energy and natural resource reserves and in the early 21st century scientists found that much of the needed raw materials back on Earth could be mined on the Moon. They installed colonies of people in large containment domes who progressively eked out a place for themselves within this seemingly inhospitable landscape all while mining the resources of the land and sending it back to their ever-increasingly autocratic Earthling leaders. The people of the moon, or Lunarians, realized their subjugation to this colonial power and occasionally staged revolts and rebellions. But no avail. The people were forcibly fitted with metal Id head-bands from that point forward on which all of their criminal and public information could be scanned with little effort from the military police spinners in the sky.

A dictator named Alex Leiger has been appointed the colonial ruler and during his tenure has used the levers of power to slowly limit the freedoms of the people and choke-hold them into an ideological somnambulence. But there was once a folk hero named Tatsuya Nonomura who raised an army to fight for his people. He became a martyr, but the remnants of his movement remained and continued to fight against colonial oppression, imperial aggression, and the rape of their home’s resources, which only serve to enrich the Earthlings without likewise benefiting the Lunarian extractors of those riches.

Furthermore, there is a large machine out in the craters of the Moon, called Dallos, which is worshiped as a religious icon by the old guard Lunarians. This device’s powers have been forgotten throughout the generations and is even more mysterious as it exhibits evidence of being of extra-terrestrial origin. So when the young brother of the cult hero Tatsuya reaches adulthood and somehow manages to get caught up in the anti-Earth machinations of a terrorist cell/freedom fighter unit (in civil war’s one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and it is only the outcome of the battle that ultimately determines the popular historical designation) of his brother’s old comrades- including the charismatic and intelligent Dog McCoy- a new war for independence begins with powerful and agile makeshift mining mechas and Dallos versus the much heavier-equipped Earth nation with its deluge of fighter ships and battle suits.

Much of the influence for the events of this film comes from the classic war film by Gillo Pontecorvo called Le Bataille d’Algers or The Battle of Algiers, which portrayed the dynamics between freedom fighting and terrorism in the face of colonial and imperial forces in perhaps the best cinematic adaptation of such a conflict to ever be staged and completed. The film follows the events of the Algerian people and their freedom fighter class who use terrorist bombings and guerrilla tactics, as well as the force of international pressure to eventually secure freedom for themselves as an independent state no longer under the control and hegemony of the French State.

The socio-political dynamic between these two narratives ought to be immediately apparent despite the geological and spatial differences involved between a war over a small channel and a war between worlds. But the characters- like Dog McCoy and the Nonomura brothers- in Dallos mirror the enigmatic leaders of the Algerian War for Independence. They repatriate tools once used for their subjugation into tools for combat against a repressive regime. And like in various iconic terrorist bombing sequences in The Battle of Algiers, female Lunarians in the city of Monopolis hide guns in baskets of flowers, which they pass on to radicals at checkpoints in order to ensure the success of high-target assassinations. They use their purses to conceal hand grenades and various improvised explosive devices in an attempt to run off their oppressors. And like in the classic Italian neo-realist tale of civil war, the military police who are native eventually switch sides and aid their homelands as they ought to have been doing the entire time anyway.

Dallos was an extremely ambitious project for its time and is considered to be the first ever OVA, or Original Video Release (direct-to-video anime release), as well as the first animated work ever released direct-to-video in general. It is a landmark film for both its technical and production aspects and is unmatched in quality even by classic OVA series released by those who worked on this project like Lily C.A.T. or Venus Wars. Many of the staff on this production, including a number of artists and the head producer, would later start their own production company called Studio Gainax and for their first really ambitious project- the masterpiece Space Opera Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise- they took Dallos as their central inspiration and high water mark of an achievement to try beating.

Although typically attributed Mamoru Oshii as head director and to his mentor and teacher Hisayuki Toriumi as writer, dig a little deeper and you will find that the entire first part of this four-section OVA series was directed by Toriumi. Oshii helmed part two, but both worked together on the third and final installments of the series. Oshii felt that the film would not have been as good as it became without Toriumi’s guiding hand and presence in the work, but the two did butt heads on many an occasion during its production  as well. From this point forward, Toriumi treated Oshii as an equal and the two never worked together on a production again as Oshii’s talents had become very apparent and he was now ready to become a head director in his own right.

Dallos is a tale about the human spirit for conquest and discovery: some of the most magnificent and beautiful aspects of our human nature. And it is simultaneously a story of geopolitics, power dynamics, and the lengths to which men will go for gold: even if it means enslaving their fellow men. And it was the springboard for an OVA Boom in the anime industry, which had never realized just how lucrative the home video market could be. More importantly, it was a springboard for Oshii, who was almost immediately given the opportunity to direct another Urusei Yatsura feature-length film. And the qualitative difference between this film and his prior attempt are leagues apart as Oshii finally found his footing as a director and developed many ideas he could not use in Dallos due to his co-director role on that production.

 

Ciao for now,

Cody

The Dark Heart of Friendship (Digimon Frontier: Episode 25)

(Catch my previous episode review HERE)

After the defeat of Volcamon in the Earth Area of Sakkakumon, Bokomon and Neemon can see that one of the Legendary Warrior of Steel’s ten sefiroth eye nodules has gone black, meaning that this area no longer contains a champion and our Beast Spirit Legendary Warrior of Evil is 10% defeated. As all five of the Legendary Warriors of Light have been nabbed by various arms and dragged unwillingly into different eye sectors, they may soon defeat up to 60% of this titanic maze-like Digimon and ready themselves once more for the journey toward the Rose Morning Star where Ophanimon awaits their arrival.

In this episode, however, we are only privy to the goings-on around Tommy and Koji, who have fallen into the Flame and Wind areas respectively. In the previous episode, J.P. just happened to wander off from his friends and fall into the Earth Area, which just so happened to be his weakness as the Legendary Warrior of Lightning. For Tommy, he too has managed to find himself in the heart of enemy territory as the Legendary Warrior of Ice who is most susceptible to flame. As Koji has already gone head-to-head with Darkness in his battle against Duskmon previously, he is thrown into the Wind Area instead, though he may later have to fight against the darkness within himself after all in the Dark Area of Sakkakumon.

Tommy, while alone in this hell-like region where flames and plumes of fire and lava come spurting out of the ground at irregular intervals, finds himself all alone and vulnerable. He reflects on past talks with his older brother Yutaka (who is voiced by the same voice actor as Tai in the English dub). At home, Tommy was babied by his parents constantly and given just about anything he wanted. Yutaka realized that his parents were potentially harming Tommy emotionally and often tried to talk to Tommy about it, relating to him that the outside world becomes harsher year after year once you become a teenager. Yutaka meant to tell Tommy to toughen up in the hopes that no one would take advantage of his childish manner and so he could get some real friends at school one day, but Tommy thought his older brother was merely mocking him and being mean because their parents seemed to like Tommy more as the baby of the family.

Within the Flame Area, an Ultimate-level legendary Digimon named Asuramon (from the Hindu god of fire and destruction, if I’m not mistaken) appears and attacks Tommy. He immediately  begins calling out for his friends, the other Digidestined, which makes him realize that he does rely on others too often and maybe needed some of the harsh talk from his brother to become stronger-willed. Asuramon disappears, and a cloaked figure approaches who claims that he has scared off Asuramon for the time being. This Digimon is large and scary, but claims to have Tommy’s best interests at heart and wishes to become his friend. He purportedly leads Tommy to his friends and even brings him water to drink from time to time, which allows Tommy to wallow in reliance upon another for a time.

When it becomes apparent that this Digimon is not leading him back to his friends or to the exit of this world, and is instead driving him onward to progressively hotter, harsher climes until they reach the top of a lava mountain, Tommy asks his friend where they are really going. The ‘friend’ responds that he needed to go to the mountain first to grab something before bringing Tommy back to his friends on the outside world, but Tommy is not fooled. He understands that a true friend does not think of things in a tit-for-tat mode and instead is willing to help the other, even disproportionately if necessary. The friend reveals his true face as Asuramon and Tommy Spirit Evolves into Kumamon, and then eventually Slide Evolves into Korikakumon to defeat his relatively under-powered foe. When Tommy steps out of the Flame Area and into the eye portal to escape, he no longer holds any doubts about his older brother’s good intentions and he feels himself to now be emotionally resolved of his past problems. This feeling of wholeness and lack of self-doubt transports him out of Sakkakumon entirely and onto the shores of the precipice over which Sakkakumon floats. Most importantly, Tommy is back with Bokomon and Neemon.

Concurrently with the events described above, Koji finds himself within a grove in the Wind Area where those with a control of the air can dictate the battle. As he wanders about, a voice calls out and taunts him before appearing as the Tengu-Prince Digimon Karatenmon. This Digimon takes its appearance from a particular Oni in Japanese mythology that lives high in the mountains called the tengu who are associated most closely with the syncretic Buddhist-Shinto religion of Shugendo. and like that mythological beast, this Digimon is garbed in the ceremonial clothing of the Shugendo priesthood.

(A little aside, but about three years back, I spent a week at a little village called Dorogawa at the foot of Mt. Omine near Nara, Japan. This mountain is considered one of the holiest in Shugendo practice and is extremely difficult and treacherous to climb as it requires the use of ropes and chains with which to leap over precipices. As the climb is still forbidden to women and there were girls in my group, we instead made the climb up the secondary mountain of the region and performed cold water ablutions in 20 degree weather at the local Shugendo temple. The people of Dorogawa have a running tradition which states that they are not mere mortals, but are instead the mixed progeny of Oni and human beings. It was a great little place with amazing food and culture that I hope to visit again one day.)

Karatenmon continues to berate Koji from the trees and only descends for battle once he Spirit Evolves to Lobomon. The big bird wishes, like all Digimon in the service of Cherubimon, to defeat Koji and take his Spirits for the cause. And like all of his fellow Ultimate-level Digimon throughout Sakkakumon, he uses some mental games to his advantage in the fight. This time around the target is Koji’s lone wolf attitude and, displaying some mysterious knowledge about Koji’s inner life like all the previous enemies of this domain, he knows that Koji retains some sort beef with his mother who presumably left his father and him behind. Unfortunately for Karatenmon, he only succeeds in enraging Koji into Slide Evolving into KendoGarurumon and taking him out with an onslaught of attacks that makes overkill seem too light a word.

Koji exits the room, but Karatenmon’s words still weigh heavily on his heart, and as such, Koji remains within the complex of Sakkakumon generally. Three lights have now gone out in the outward eyes of Sakkakumon and he is 30% beaten. One can only surmise it is a matter of time before the others come to grips with their demons, defeat their foes, and make their way to the Steel Area where Mercurymon may be waiting as a last boss within Sakkakumon, a last boss whose defeat I surmise will be the end of Mercurymon as a Legendary Warrior.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

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