Tag Archive: anime


Ghost in the Shell is a pile of garbage

What an execrable mess. It’s so embarrassing when a well-respected piece of storytelling is remade under the Hollywood banner and thoroughly butchered. You would think with so much access to talent and resources, a Hollywood film would take the work to the next level. Instead, it shoves it to the depths. This film is not worth anyone’s money. View full article »

Concerns About Ghost In The Shell

Ghost in the Shell Live Action FilmThe upcoming live-action Ghost in the Shell film captures the look of the anime films, but does it capture the soul? View full article »

There Should Not Be A Robotech Movie

Robotech was one of the great cartoons of the 80s. It’s fair to say that it molded a generation and solidfied the arrival of what came to be known as anime. Back then, however, it wasn’t anime; it was just an awesome show with transforming planes, gigantic aliens and an epic storyline. There’s an entire generation of people with fond memories of that series, and that is exactly why a movie of the show should never be made.

What was Robotech?

Robotech-Macross-Saga-robotech-22556538-1024-672Robotech was a show that could grow with the viewer. On the basic superficial level, it was an action show with people piloting giant transforming robots against aliens also piloting giant (non-transforming) robots. There was lots of action, big explosions, and an entire spaceship that could transform and destroy enemy space cruisers. What more could a child want? It was the perfect afterschool treat.

Robotech went beyond this basic template, however. This was largely due to differences in storytelling between Japan and America. American cartoons generally had isolated episodes. They were all standalone. The Japanese had connected episodes which necessarily result in long, often epic storylines. To top things off, Harmony Gold, the company that created Robotech, adapted three separate cartoon shows into one gigantic multi-generational storyline.

ref-sizesThe first third of the series was the Macross saga, adapted from the show Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, and easily the favorite of the three chapters. Macross set the mold by focusing on the three themes of war, love and music. These themes interlocked into a space opera of romance, suffering and salvation. Quite simply, there hadn’t been anything like it before. People forget now, but parents were complaining about the “realistic” depiction of war and death that was throughout the show. Children didn’t notice it. They just saw the robots and the action. But, as one grew older, the more nuanced aspects of the story began to show through. The show grew with the viewer.

Harmony Gold

Harmony Gold is the company that discovered the phenomenon of Robotech. Discovered seems the appropriate term here because while the company has other entertainment products, Robotech is what put Harmony Gold’s name on the map. Harmony Gold isn’t blind to what keeps its name relevant, either. A quick look at their Wikipedia page reveals that they aggressively go after anything that vaguely resembles Robotech. One paragraph is particularly telling:

Harmony Gold is known for making broad ranging claims on the Macross copywrite in order to extract payments from other companies. Harmony Gold claims in Federal Court that Hasbro’s SDCC 2013 exclusive set “G.I. Joe vs Transformers The Epic Conclusion” violates their copyright license on the animated Japanese Macross TV series (1982-84).

This is not the action of a company that is innovative, but rather one that is reliant on one singular cash cow.

Why There Shouldn’t Be A Robotech Movie

Simply put, Harmony Gold is not looking to re-tell or expand on the Robotech universe. They are looking for a payout. Further, their track record with other properties has been abysmal. One need only look at their Voltron in the Third Dimension show. With horrible animation and bracingly poor dialogue, it’s clear the company had no idea what it was doing. Voltron is a pretty easy show to master: very awesome giant monster attacks, the Voltron force unites, epic battle occurs, good guys win. Somehow Harmony Gold screwed that one up in spades.

It’s also worth mentioning that, after years in production limbo, the project is now moving forward through Warner Brothers. The media company has owned the rights since 2007 and has attached Michael Gordan as writer. His past credits include GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 300. These films alone show that Warner is looking at the project as a cash grab, and perhaps an answer to the Transformers franchise. Could it work out? Sure, but there’s no reason to believe that. There’s a whole universe to play with, but not if all anyone sees is explosions and robots. The story simply has more to it.

Conclusions

Will a Robotech movie get made? Probably. There’s a known fanbase and the TV series had a significant cultural impact. Should it be made? No. The people pushng it forward have no respect for the storyline and will turn it into a Michael Bay-styled ripoff. In a time when all childhood nostalgia is being mined for quick cash, a line needs to be drawn. This movie should be one of them. When I heard Transformers was being adapted into film, I knew not to expect too much. I would like to not have to expect the same for another childhood memory.

Akira and the Art of Cult Movies

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to see Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterwork in comics brought to the screen. Fascinating movie, especially when you see it with subtitles on the big screen. Dubbing removes a bit of the nuance.

What especially struck me, however, was the atmosphere. The crowd for Akira was predictably long, reaching down the block and around the corner. This is true of all cult films. The audience is patient and loyal and will happily stand in line as long as it takes.

Cult films are a strange subset of the movie-going experience. By their nature they cannot be mainstream. Most people will react with confusion or even revulsion, while a special few will wait forever and a day just to see a film in its purest form; in a run-down art-house movie theater with the fringes of society who just seem to “know” what quality really is.

There were all walks of life there for Akira that midnight. I saw punks in mohawks and pigtails sitting with people who looked like a mix of high fashion and 1920s flappers. Film buffs discussed the symbolic meaning of the themes in the film while cosplay enthusiasts discussed details on fabricating the clothing of the main characters. While bikers and hipsters mingled in the isles, people made way for an elderly man leading his almost completely blind son to the front row for a good look at the film screen.

A movie theater is a kind of temple. The audience members are the faithful and the theater employees are a combination of high priests and disciples. The film is the sermon. If this is true, then the cult film represents a hermetic order where the faithful are from all walks of life and the fringes of society. The experience is a combination of a carnival show and a faith healing seminar.

The manager of the theater came out as he, or someone, always does. It was time for the door prizes. Each ticket to the theater had a number and a lucky pair of attendees got their prizes. The manager then went over the upcoming midnight movies and took a poll on what movies people would want to see next. He hesitantly offered up Pokemon: The Movie and hung his head in shame when the audience roared their affirmation. And then it was time for the movie.

akira11
Akira is a cult film because no one in the mainstream really understands it. They see the flashy animation, the violence, the nudity and the gore and they think that’s all there is. It’s a story, however, about the chaos of youth resisting against the order of the old. Of a bureaucratic government so paralyzed by infighting that the very world is falling apart around it while the politicians do nothing. Some are incompetent, most are corrupt.

In a way, it hearkens to the Gothic genre of storytelling. In gothic literature, the world is corrupt and decaying while the established old attempt to submit and subdue the impetuous young. And like the traditional gothic genre, the young have their way regardless, tearing down the old order to establish a newer, better world.

Most people wouldn’t read that much into Akira. Then again, most people don’t understand Akira. That’s the magic of the cult film. There’s always something in it that “most people” don’t get or don’t want, making it a valuable commodity to a special few that see the magic inside the mayhem. This allows a film-going experience that is truly special because it’s appreciated by the special few.

That is the art of the cult film.

Akira Live Action Trailer

akira manga volume 1 cover

Akira was the epic manga masterwork of Katushiro Otomo. Part action, part thriller, part social commentary, Otomo created a world on the brink of destruction through the creation and abuse of super-psychics of which the most powerful was the mostly unseen, but oft spoken-of Akira. It’s only natural that people would want to see a live-action version, and when Hollywood doesn’t answer the door, crowdfunding aims to please:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/t1GO-93Nt3c&w=480]

And crowdfunding is what makes this so interesting!

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