Avengers: Endgame Review

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It’s finally here. Endgame marks the end of the Infinity Saga, the story that began 11 years ago with the release of Iron Man. Few could have predicted how massive the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. It is a continuing pop culture event, and Endgame is unarguably the biggest of them all. This movie is the direct sequel to last year’s Infinity War, which had Thanos wipe out half the universe’s life. It was a gloomy ending, and here we are at the endgame.

Avengers: Endgame is an achievement in film, and easily one of the most ambitious movies ever made. The climax is one everyone will be talking about for years to come. There are many fantastic moments that pay off from the previous films. The Russo Brothers have proven to be masters at juggling so many characters with Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War. That continues with Endgame. The film does have some problems however, making it, as a whole, the weakest of the Avengers films. It is a true spectacle, but with some controversial decisions that hurt the experience at times.

The Good

iron man endgame

The film’s first act is fantastic, as a fractured Avengers are now dealing with a world that has lost so many individuals. Steve Rogers encouraging others in a support group was really good. What I personally liked was the overall sad atmosphere of the first act. One of my personal favorite characters was Black Widow, easily Scarlett Johansson’s most compelling performance as the character. We see she was hit very hard by the events of Infinity War, as she considered the Avengers the only thing she had at that point.

Part of the first act focuses on Tony Stark stranded in space alongside Nebula. The scene with Stark recording into the Iron Man helmet for hopefully Pepper to hear was genuinely emotional. Tony was a big highlight throughout the film, and like Johansson, this is probably Robert Downey Jr.’s best performance yet as the character. Meanwhile, Nebula’s contribution cannot be overstated. Her character arc has come full circle here, from being the revenge-driven sister in Guardians of the Galaxy, to hero in Endgame.

Scott Lang was a lot of fun here. There’s a sense of urgency to his character that was really well done. (His wanting Captain America’s respect is also one of the funniest running jokes.) The film’s middle act was certainly unique, and though I didn’t love certain aspects of it, one can’t deny that it was an inventive way to celebrate 11 years.

The final good thing I will mention is the climax. The sudden build-up was excellent, and when all heck breaks loose, the viewer cannot turn away. This is the type of final battle that must be viewed on the big screen. The scope is unimaginable, beating out any kind of climax you can think of, from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, to The Matrix Revolutions. Captain America was at his finest here, showing that he really is the greatest hero of them all. Of course, as you see in the final trailer, the big three – Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor unite for a battle against Thanos. It is as glorious as it sounds.

The Bad

thor endgame

While most of the characters were on point and engaging, there were questionable decisions regarding two main Avengers. First, we have Thor. After the first act, Thor’s character goes in an unexpected direction, and arguably not a good one. Sure, it will get some laughs, but in retrospect, was the direction good, or was it just played for comedy? Honestly, the trinity uniting was slightly hindered by the way Thor was portrayed, especially after such a great outing in Thor: Ragnarok. Simply put, Thor’s portrayal was more controversial (negative) than the direction Hulk was given in Infinity War. Speaking of Hulk…

Like with Thor, the direction Hulk/Bruce Banner took was unexpected. It was interesting, but once again, it seemed to be played more for comedy at times, though to a lesser extent than with Thor thankfully. After Hulk’s appearance in Infinity War, many were hoping for a character arc where Hulk would come back and face Thanos. That does not happen. In fact, Hulk doesn’t do anything notable in the climax, which was a huge letdown. At this point, it really does seem like Marvel doesn’t know what to do with the Hulk’s character.

So, regarding the middle act, there was definitely something fun and inventive to it. There were a couple of good emotional aspects as well. But, at the same time, it did feel kinda disjointed from the first act. While the first act was somber in tone, the middle had more of a jokey feel. I’m not saying the whole film had to be somber, but the rather lighthearted nature of the second act didn’t mesh well with the serious happenings of other parts of the movie. Infinity War did a better job at balancing humor with the seriousness of the situation.

The Verdict

Endgame Trinity

Endgame has a great opening act, a mixed second, and a perfect/beautiful conclusion. The film may not be perfect as a whole, but it is satisfying on many levels. The final battle itself is worth paying the ticket for. Many of the characters are at their best. Sadly, Thor and Hulk fans may be left feeling betrayed. Still, their direction shouldn’t be enough to ruin the story. Endgame is a cinematic event, with thrills, laughs, and yes, tears. It has some of the most emotional sequences of any MCU film. The film serves as a great conclusion to a few longtime character arcs. If anyone wanted to step away from the MCU, Endgame does a good job at providing closure. However, the future is bright, as there are many new things to look forward to. Endgame is not only an end, but also a new beginning.

8.5/10

A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd Review

a good librarian like a good shepard

A Good Liberian Like a Good Shepherd is based on the visual novel of the same name. This anime is another in a long list of harem-based shows. For some reason, the idea of a school guy being surrounded by cute girls attracted to him is an immensely popular plot point in anime. Although it’s not always a bad thing, there has been so many shows with this kind of plot point that if an anime is going to use it, it has to add something unique. Otherwise, it’s just generic. School Days did this by subverting (very violently) expectations, as an example. So, what does A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd bring to the table?

The core story is about the main character, Kakei, learning about, and then deciding if he should become a Shepherd. Shepherds have the responsibly of making sure people’s futures are secure, thus helping them contribute to mankind. If say, someone who will become a famous singer in the future, dies prematurely, that can affect the world. Shepherds do good work, but the price is that once you become a Shepherd, your prior existence is erased. Memories of you will fade. Simply put, you’ll be forgotten. So, credit must be given to the writing for this intriguing part of the story.

With that said, A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd falls into the usual tropes. Kakei is surrounded by girls who just can’t seem to not like him. If you’re into this genre, where girls will stare wide-eyed as the main character gives emotional advice, then you’ll find the tropes endearing. But, it comes off as more generic than anything.

Don’t get me wrong though; the characters aren’t that bad, despite being put in some generic situations. The characters grow on you. As an example, Kana’s cheerful personality is always fun to watch. Her subplot a bit later in the show was interesting and down to earth. Although Kakei can be considered the main character, the show puts a great deal of focus on Shirasaki. Although she might not be too unique of a character, it’s hard not to appreciate her passion for wanting to make the school a happy place. Her speech in the final episode was really well written and inspiring.

The show is at its best when it’s focusing on the Shepherd aspects. Everything else can range from cute to just lacking purpose. The harem aspect was not needed, and ended up detracting from the experience. As an example, Tamamo has feelings for Kakei, but this does not go anywhere and is pointless. On the bit more positive side, I did like the library club’s purpose, and the friends worked well together. If the writing instead focused on one, singular romance, and better pace the Shepherd plot with the library club, things could have been much better.

An unfortunate thing in many harem-based shows is fan service. There’s no actual nudity in A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd, but the show likes to play around with it. You have the usual hot springs scene, and shenanigans, such as one of the character’s bikini accidentally flying off in the middle of a stage play. One major character is Kodachi. She was one of the most interesting throughout the 12 episodes. But, the camera can’t seem to help itself. Of course, her actual design is at fault too for being way too exaggerated. Pyra from the video game Xenoblade Chronicles 2 also suffers from this. These are interesting characters, but designed poorly.

kakei

A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd isn’t bad overall. The Shepard aspect of the story is intriguing, and the characters are likable. There is some good writing to be found here, and the flashbacks were effective. With that said, the show can often feel incredibly generic. If you’ve seen many types of anime, you’ve seen the tropes displayed here. The harem aspect just isn’t engaging. The fan service is too much and adds nothing to the story. For a better show combining plot and slice of life, I recommend checking out In Search of the Lost Future instead.

6.5/10

Captain Marvel Review

captain marvel poster

It’s a big year for Marvel Studios. Next month, Avengers: Endgame releases, a film that will end Phase 3. Then in July, Spider-Man will be back and heads to Europe where Mysterio will make his big screen debut. Before all this however, we are introduced to a band new player to the universe: Carol Danvers, known as Captain Marvel. This movie serves a few different purposes. Of course, it introduces a powerful new character to the film universe. It is the first female-led Marvel Studios film. It also bridges to Infinity War, as we learn about the relationship between Nick Fury and Ms. Marvel. Finally, it shows how Fury came up with the idea for the Avenger initiative, an unexpected, nice touch.

Carol has had a prominent role in the comics in recent history, and thanks to the movie, it’s only going to get bigger. Brie Larson, last seen as a photographer in Kong: Skull Island, brings the character to life. It’s a unique take on an origin story, and has surprising plot twists that radically change how the story is viewed. As a whole, Captain Marvel is solid. It’s an enjoyable film with especially great performances from Samuel L. Jackson as Fury, and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos.

The story begins with Carol (at this time known as “Vers”), training with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law.) Yon-Rogg is a leader of the Kree Starforce, an intergalactic band of soldiers whose task is to bring down the Skrulls. The Skrulls are shapeshifters, making them potentially deadly enemies. After a meeting with the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, Carol is given the okay to join the team on a mission. That mission ends up going bad, as Carol is tricked by a Skrull named Talos. Carol is taken to a Skrull base, where she’s forced to relive memories she has no recollection of. Thanks to her Kree powers, she is able to escape, and crash lands on Earth. Skrulls follow her, including Talos. Now, Earth is seemingly in danger, but things may not be what they seem…

captain-marvel

Carol Danvers is established early on as a headstrong character with a sarcastic wit. It’s not all jokes though. Carol does show scenes of feeling, such as her conversation with Yon-Rogg about the picture she found of her life on Earth. Brie Larson brings a likable charm as Captain Marvel. I would have liked to see more of those emotional scenes, because the “sarcastic character ” is nothing new in these movies. This film does not go overboard with jokes or one-liners however, as was the case in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. and Thor: The Dark World. Although I didn’t get that same inspiring persona as Gal Gadot emitted in Wonder Woman, I am looking forward to seeing more of Carol. One of the most effective sequences (and great example of editing) was in the climax, as it shows that Carol had fallen down many times throughout her life – but she always got back up.

The early space mission was engaging. It introduced the Skrulls as a big threat, and featured good choreography on a gloomy planet. While the space stuff is good, a lot of the best parts of the film are actually back on Earth. Once Carol crash lands on Blockbuster, the fun rarely stops. From Carol walking into Radio Shack to establish communications, to Fury’s first dialogue with her, there’s a lot of great moments. Speaking of Fury, right from his meeting with Ms. Marvel, viewers know they’re in for a treat. Fury is much like his current self, but less hardened due to not being exposed to these otherworldly dangers up until this point. What we have is an extremely fun character, who works really well alongside Carol. This is personally one of my favorite buddy cop duos I’ve seen in awhile.

The most interesting character might be Talos. Ben Mendelsohn plays this Skrull with perfect charisma. Perhaps the best scene in the movie is in Maria Rambeau’s house. There was such great tension thanks to Talos. He has easily become one of the best characters in the MCU.  Meanwhile, Coulson appearing as “the new guy” was fun. It’s a shame he didn’t have a bigger role. What’s even more disappointing is Ronan the Accuser. When it was announced that this character, who first appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, would be featured in Captain Marvel, fans were thrilled. But, it ended up being like a few glorified cameos. It would have been great to learn more about him, and what led him to become the psychopath seen in Guardians. This was definitely a missed opportunity.

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Another big character is Yon-Rogg. Here’s the thing: he was great in the first half of the movie, but then his character takes a different turn in the second. Jude Law portrayed the character of a mentor perfectly, bringing a sense of calm authority. But, this goes away because (spoiler) it’s revealed that he’s the one who killed Carol’s superior. Technically, this is a smart plot twist. But, Yon-Rogg just isn’t that interesting as a villain. Even Law’s performance took a dip – he was great as a mentor, but as an antagonist, it came off as run of the mill.

Captain Marvel features some great settings for actions scenes. Of course, we already discussed the film’s opening act on another planet. On Earth, there’s a great sequence inside an airforce warehouse. We’re also treated to action inside a Skrull spaceship, and later a Kree one. Of course, there’s also the train battle, probably the most memorable. The soundtrack definitely enhances these sequences, making use of some ’90s songs.

For a few last notes, the friendship between Maria Rambeau and Carol felt genuine. I also liked the scenes with Carol and Maria’s daughter, Monica (longtime comic readers will recognize her). Their sequence toward the climax was a very fun way for Carol to get the iconic costume. Oh, there’s also Goose, the cat-like creature. He was definitely fun to have around, but virtually nothing is known about him, which is a shame. He just kinda shows up, and then appears as a deus ex machina when needed. There’s definitely a cool aspect to Goose, but he could have used just a hint of backstory.

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Overall, Captain Marvel is yet another solid film in Marvel’s ongoing library. It doesn’t quite reach the quality of Black Panther, however. Carol herself could have used more compelling scenes, and Jude Law’s character ended up being a disappointment. But, the positives outweigh the negatives. Carol is still a very fun character that is portrayed nicely by Larson. The scenes with her and Nick are priceless, and feature some of the best exchanges from these films. Talos was also excellent – hopefully Marvel isn’t done with this character. All in all, this is a very good film with likable characters, fun action, and some great ’90s backdrops. (Hopefully you didn’t miss the Game Boy.)

8.5/10

Rainy Cocoa Review

rainy cocoa poster

Rainy Cocoa is based on the digital manga of the same name. Its setting is a cafe called Rainy Color. There, at least in Season 1, we follow Aoi Tokura, a waiter. We also have the energetic Ryota, and the rather standoffish Keiichi Iwase, who doesn’t seem to like Aoi There’s also Shion, who runs the cafe. Finally, there’s the mysterious owner of the cafe, Koji Amami, who pops in every now and then from his many travels across the world. Season 2 switches things up by focusing on a new set characters.

I’ll do my best in keeping this review from being too short, but there isn’t too much to say about this anime. Rainy Cocoa’s episodes are a little over two minutes each, so it can be hard (but not impossible) to create a compelling storyline. Still, even with that limitation, Season 1 was mostly pretty fun. The interactions with the characters were good. However, the ongoing thing of Aoi apparently looking like a girl didn’t make sense. Aoi doesn’t look like a girl, so the jokes on that didn’t land. Besides that, Season 1 was mostly decent. Shion was a very good character with his calm personality, and subtle advice. Keiichi came off as annoying though, and the scene where Aoi pretends to be a dog was just silly.

While Season 1 was fun enough, Season 2 lacked. This was because the two new characters, Noel and Nicola, just weren’t that interesting. They were also used for comic relief, something more prevalent in Season 2. There’s also Jun Arisawa the cameraman, and Haruka, someone who admires Jun’s work. This subplot was more interesting thanks to the characterization of Jun.

The saving grace of Season 2 wasn’t the actual episodes. Rather, it’s the bonus materiel after each installment. After an episode, the voice cast of the show will get together and talk. Not only would they talk about the show, but other media and life in general. For example, Ryō Horikawa voices Vegeta in the Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z, so that got brought up. Shouma Yamamoto played Kamen Rider, so he did a little on-stage demonstration of that. These cast segments alone make the show worth watching.

Overall, Rainy Cocoa isn’t bad, but never rises to greatness. The short runtime is a limiting factor, but more could have been done with it. Kaiju Girls is another anime with short episodes, but is a lot more interesting and fun. Rainy Cocoa had a promising first season, but the second lost its focus because some of the new characters just weren’t as good. Still, the segments after each of the Season 2 episodes with the voice cast were excellent. The theme song is also insanely catchy. The concept of a show focusing on the relaxed atmosphere of a coffee shop/cafe could be engaging, so maybe future seasons make better use of it.

6/10

 

MADE IN ABYSS: Journey’s Dawn Review

 

Made in abyss

Credit: Sentai Filmworks

MADE IN ABYSS began as a manga written by Akihito Tsukushi. It’s probably more well known for its 13-episode anime adaption, licensed by Sentai Filmworks in North America. This year sees the release of two compilation films of the anime for limited theatrical release outside Japan. Compilation films are nothing new for anime – we’ve seen that with Attack on Titan and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Making a compilation film can be tricky, as it’s more than just merging episodes together. For a 13-episode series, ideally you want to have at least two compilation films, as attempting to squeeze everything in one runs the risk of key scenes being cut. MADE IN ABYSS follows the two film format, with the first installment, Journey’s Dawn, releasing in select theaters next month. Part 2, Wandering Twilight, releases later in the year.

Now, moving on to the actual film, Journey’s Dawn compiles the events of the first eight episodes of the show. That’s a hefty amount of content, but the film gets the story going at a reasonable pace without feeling overloaded. Journey’s Dawn follows a young girl named Riko. She and many residents live near a hole in the earth called “the Abyss.” Here, many adventurers have gone in, but those who have traveled too deep never returned. Each layer of the Abyss gets worst and worst, to the point where people can lose their humanity.

While Riko is scavenging for relics in the upper layers of the Abyss, she is attacked by a monster. While she manages to briefly get away, the monster eventually comes upon her. Before being eaten alive, a mysterious blast repels the creature. Riko notices a boy, but learns that he is a robot seemingly connected to the Abyss. A bit later in the film, Riko receives a note seemingly from her mother, who went into the Abyss 10 years ago. It appears her mother is asking Riko to come find her. So, Riko and the robot boy, named Reg, journey into the dangerous hole in the earth…

made in abyss journey's Dawn

Credit: Sentai Filmworks

Journey’s Dawn begins brilliantly by establishing the setting and Riko’s mom. The Abyss itself is almost portrayed as a character, an otherworldly area of beauty, but also danger. Later in the film, we see an area called the “Inverted Forest.” As the name implies, the trees are upside down, giving a rather unique, unsettling look. We see creatures with unique features, things that appear almost alien to the world on top. The Abyss and the monsters that reside in it evoke a similar feel to the The Shimmer in the acclaimed film, Annihilation. The Abyss is a fantastic setting, making the viewer want to see more by the time the credits roll.

Of course, before Riko and Reg enter the Abyss, we get to see the world on top. This serves to introduce Riko and Reg. Riko is established as a kindhearted girl, as seen when she attempts to help the boy who saved her. She’s also a bit of a trouble maker, as we learn from the head of the orphanage. Riko’s unyielding cheerfulness is fun to watch, but she’s also capable of emitting genuine emotion. The scene where she learns about her mom’s whistle was effective. Reg is arguably the more interesting of the protagonists, a robot that doesn’t know who built him, and why. He’s capable of emitting emotion, but there’s also something distinctly mechanical about him. The entire sequence of him utilizing his “incinerator” as Riko calls it was effective. Reg’s more subdued nature makes for a great contrast to the bubbly Riko.

The first quarter of the movie does a solid job introducing the characters, and the motivation for entering the Abyss. The only negative thing was that Riko became attached to Reg rather quickly. That’s one possible danger of compilation movies: character development can feel rushed in comparison to taking it episode by episode. Thankfully, aside from the quick friendship between Riko and Reg, the film never feels rushed. The first quarter does a great job of establishing Riko’s friends in the orphanage. The emotional goodbye between Riko and Nat was well done.

Once the protagonists enter the Abyss, the story really gets going. It becomes something of a darker Journey to the Center of the Earth. The scenes with the creatures are tension-filled, and well animated. The character designs may give off a younger vibe, but there is some dark imagery in the film. The scene with a bird-like monster called “Corpse Weeper” chewing on human remains comes to mind.

The final act of the movie has Riko and Reg meet Ozen the Immovable. This was not only the greatest aspect of the movie, but one of the most well done things I’ve seen in any media recently. Ozen is a fascinating character and big highlight. I won’t get into the specifics, as spoiling these scenes would be a disservice to the film. What I can say, is that Ozen leaves her mark as one of the most notable characters in recent animation history. Every scene with her and the protagonists is a treat. Christine Auten did a fantastic job at providing the dubbed voice for Ozen.

Ozen Made in Abyss Journey's Dawn

Credit: Sentai Filmworks

The flashbacks with Rika’s mother, Lyza, are effective. Lyza is an interesting character, someone the viewer wants to see more scenes with. Meanwhile, the soundtrack does a good job enhancing the film. One particular piece of notable music is the theme that plays when Riko shows Reg the sunset behind the village. The music also works to give dangerous sequences, such as the early monster chase, and the Corpse Weepers, even more tension. It will be a treat to see the music in Part 2.

Journey’s Dawn is a strong opening to the MADE IN ABYSS saga. At its core, it’s about a daughter looking for her mother in a dangerous, unfamiliar land. Family is a strong bond, especially between mother and child. Despite not really remembering her mother, Riko is compelled to go into the Abyss. Meanwhile, Reg is an interesting character. Who built him? What’s his purpose? How does he connect to the Abyss? These questions make the viewer greatly anticipate Part 2. The Abyss itself is a fascinating setting, full of terrible creatures, and unique imagery. There are not many negatives. The development between Riko and Reg could have been better in the beginning. But, it’s not a deal-breaker. Journey’s Dawn is definitely worth checking out. I for one am excitedly anticipating Part 2: Wandering Twilight.

4/5

A big thanks to Sentai Filmworks for providing an advance screener for review. MADE IN ABYSS: Journey’s Dawn will premiere in Los Angeles at Regal Cinema on March 15th. A wide release will then commence on March 20th (subtitled) and March 25th (dubbed), courtesy of Fathom Events. You can purchase tickets here

Frankenstein vs. Baragon – A Retrospective

frankenstein vs. Baragon poster

The ’60s were home to some fantastic movies. For kaiju fans, some of the all-time best were released in this era. King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and Destroy All Monsters were all released in the ’60s. Even Gamera got his start here – his first film released in 1965. In fact, 1965 is an important year for this retrospective. Of course, it was the year Invasion of Astro-Monster (better known as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero) came out. But, there was another film from TOHO that also released in 1965. It also featured Ishiro Honda as director, Akira Ifukube as the composer, and Eiji Tsuburaya as the special effects director. Even the two core actors – Nick Adams, add Kumi Mizuno, were the stars. This film is Frankenstein vs. Baragon, originally known in the US as Frankenstein Conquers the World.

Frankenstein vs. Baragon is a peculiar movie, similar, and yet different than the other TOHO science fiction movies. The Frankenstein monster in this movie is a tragic figure, eliciting sympathy from the viewer. Baragon is a fantastic creation. (After watching this, you will be even more disappointed that Baragon didn’t get to do anything in Destroy All Monsters.) The story moves at a solid pace, though gets a bit slow toward the end. But, there aren’t many negatives that can be said about this movie.

As with Honda’s films, the cast deliver excellent performances. Kumi Mizuno for example demonstrates her ability to fully involve herself in her role. Kumi has played quite a few roles in kaiju films. In Matango, she played the seductress. In Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, she played the island girl. In Frankenstein vs. Baragon, she plays a passionate doctor. She can portray different characters with ease, a true actress in her craft. Of course, Frankenstein vs. Baragon delivers a satisfying showdown, as any versus movie should have. With Bandai having released the first ever vinyl figure based on TOHO’s Frankenstein, the time was right to look back on this gem of a movie. Hopefully when you’re done reading this retrospective, you’ll be inspired to check out the movie either for the first time, or the first time in awhile.

frankenstein vs. baragon screen

The opening sequence is an interesting one. It takes places in 1945, at the end of World War II. A German scientist is experimenting on something…something that sounds like it’s making heartbeats. Soon, soldiers come in and take the crate away, much to the scientist’s dismay. The scientist gives it to the Japanese, whom take it to Hiroshima. Upon opening the crate, it’s revealed that the thing making heartbeats is indeed, a heart. In fact, it’s the heart of the Frankenstein monster. The idea here is to create soldiers that can recover right away from being shot. Frankenstein’s heart would allow for such a thing to be possible. However, the idea is cut short when the Allies launch the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. 15 years pass.

In a hospital, Dr. Bowen (Nick Adams), an American scientist, has dedicated his research to helping patients from radiation poisoning due to the A-bomb. He is joined by Dr. Sueko (Kumi Mizuno) and Dr. Kawaji (Tadao Takashima.) Sometime later, Dr. Bowen and Sueko come across what appears to be a homeless boy. He is found in a cave, where Sueko attempts to befriend him.

The boy is taken to a hospital, where many people are looking at him. He is growing at an alarming rate, and it turns out he is related to the Frankenstein’s heart incident. Although not explicitly stated in the film, it seems to be that the heart has regenerated itself into a new Frankenstein. Frankenstein eventually breaks out of his cage in response to the reporters angering him with their camera lights. He runs around looking for food. Meanwhile, a monster destroys buildings, and eats cattle. Frankenstein is blamed for these things. But, later, it’s discovered that another monster was indeed responsible. Frankenstein sees Sueko in danger from this monster, called Baragon, and rushes in. What commences is a duel between titans…

Frankenstein is one of the oldest science fiction stories. It’s compelling because it consists of science gone wrong, and tragedy. The Frankenstein monster is a tragic character, and that plays a part in TOHO’s film, but in different ways. Frankenstein is portrayed by Koji Furuhata. Unfortunately, not much information can be found about the actor. It’s a shame, because his performance as Frankenstein was excellent. It takes passion and talent to play a character who has no lines throughout the entire movie. Frankenstein does not talk here. He does grunt, roar, and make sounds, but doesn’t have dialogue. This kind of portrayal works within the movie, because the character is like a lost child. The relationship he develops with Sueko is engaging. There’s a scene where Frankenstein has grown to a monstrous proportion. He goes to Sueko’s apartment, showing that he considers her a mother-like figure.

Talking about the cast, I already mentioned how great of a character Sueko is. One scene in particular that’s worth mentioning is the conversation between Bowen, Sueko, and Kawaji. Bowen and Kawaji seem to be leaning toward the idea of amputating one of Frankenstein’s limbs to prove whether or not he is actually the Frankenstein. Sueko is passionately against the idea, and it’s perfectly delivered by Kumi.

Frankenstein vs. Baragon Cast

Nick Adams and Kumi Mizuno work really well together, here and in Monster Zero. The scene with them having a meal together really does sound like a sequence where two everyday people are talking. The trio of them and Kawaji were fun to watch. A few other TOHO golden era stars appear in the movie. In the 1945 sequence, Takashi Shimura (Dr. Yamane in Gojira) briefly appears as the surgeon analyzing Frankenstein’s heart. It was a quick sequence, but Shimura was excellent here. A more prominent role is given to the police chief. He was very good, but the scenes of him trying to explain that another monster was responsible for the destruction were a bit slow. These sequences felt like they belonged in the middle act, not toward the end. This brings us to Baragon.

There was another non-Godzilla kaiju film the year before Frankenstein vs. Baragon. That film was Dogora, The Space Monster. Dogora had one of the best human plotlines in the entire kaiju lineup. (While Nick Adams in Monster Zero has been called the best American actor in these films, one could make the case that Robert Dunham is the best thanks to his fun portrayal of Mark Jackson in Dogora.) However, and this is probably the only time you will hear this from a giant monster fan, the actual kaiju part took away from the story. The Dogora scenes felt shoehorned in. Why? The plot was about the people, and the monster could have easily been written out. I bring this up because Baragon falls into this in the beginning.

Baragon appears briefly in the middle act, but disappears for awhile afterward. You could argue that it’s ominous, but such a lack of Baragon and mention of him made it seem like he was an afterthought in a movie titled Frankenstein vs. Baragon. Now, the film does kind of make of make up for this in the final 25 minutes. Baragon gets fun screen time as he breaks some beach houses, and snacks on some chickens. The story also finally gives Baragon an important plot by having him “frame” Frankenstein for the destruction. The writing could have done a better job at incorporating Baragon earlier, but the climax is satisfying enough to avoid calling it another Dogora. That, and the fact that Baragon himself is a fantastic creature.

When you watch a “vs.” movie, you expect quality action. Japanese monster movies do not disappoint, and especially not in Frankenstein vs. Baragon. The battle is lengthy and full of the creative maneuvers these classic movies are known for. Baragon has a unique jumping ability that is fun to watch. What I like about this battle is how much personality there is – both in the characters, and how the fight was choreographed. Frankenstein takes note of Baragon’s tail, and grabs it, seemingly gaining the advantage. But Baragon, realizing what’s happening, swipes his tail to make Frankenstein tumble over. In another scene, Baragon burrows into the ground, only to appear on top of a hill, much to Frankenstein’s surprise. It shouldn’t come as a shock how great Baragon moves and acts in this battle, as he was portrayed by none other than Hauro Nakujima – the man who brought Godzilla and Rodan to life.

The camera work is really good in the movie. There’s a scene in the climax where Sueko is on the ground and Baragon is approaching. It’s a genuinely terrifying sequence, as Baragon approaches and roars when he’s right over her. The special effects are mostly excellent, as one would expect from Tsuburaya. Of course, most fans know about the infamous horse. Instead of using an actual horse, a miniature was used. Honestly, it’s not that bad. What is bad however is the brief scene where a miniature tank and doll representing a soldier appeared. That scene, and the one with the boar, are the main negatives in a film with otherwise fantastic special effects and camera work.

The ending is worth discussing for a couple of reasons. If you watch this movie via the Tokyo Shock DVD, you’ll notice the “theatrical” and “international” versions. The original theatrical version features what you would call the true ending. In it, Frankenstein kills Baragon (by actually snapping his neck) and roars in victory. But, the ground beneath them breaks open, engulfing them into the earth. In the international version’s ending, Frankenstein kills Baragon, but instead of the ground opening, something else transpires. A giant octopus appears, the same creature that tussled with King Kong in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Frankenstein tries to fight, but the octopus grabs and takes him to the bottom of the ocean.

As for which ending is more effective, the giant octopus one is too abrupt. However, it’s definitely more enjoyable as it adds a brief kaiju battle to end off the film. But, the original ending makes more sense within the context of a coherent story. Interestingly, the giant octopus would once again show up, this time in the film’s direct sequel, War of the Gargantuas. (Gaira had much better luck with the octopus than Frankenstein.)

Akira Ifukube delivers an excellent soundtrack. The opening, rather mysterious theme, sets the tone for what’s to come. Unlike many of the Godzilla films, the music here is more downbeat – fitting, because the story has a tragic element. The final battle against Baragon was dramatic, and the music was a major part of that. All of this works to the film’s benefit, because the story has an emotional core to it. Like Honda, Ifukube treats the happenings with the utmost respect, and it shows in the maestro’s music.

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Frankenstein vs. Baragon is tragic, fun, and an engaging movie. The Frankenstein creature is one of tragedy, a misunderstood being whom doesn’t want to hurt people. Honda is masterful with monsters and creating compelling stories around them. Baragon unfortunately takes awhile to become part of the main story. He does get great screen time in the climax thankfully, and is a major part of why the final battle is so memorable. The core human cast is excellent – Kumi Mizuno and Nick Adams are engaging leads. This film is a fine example of the amount of passion that went into making these classic kaiju movies.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan Review

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The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan is a spin-off of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. More specifically, it is a spin-off of the film, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. In that movie, Nagato creates an alternate reality where she is a normal girl, and strange things like aliens and time travelers don’t exist. The Disappearance of Nagato takes place in this alternate world. It’s an interesting idea, but the anime does little to justify its existence. While watching, it’s easy to think, “Why aren’t we just watching more of the real-version characters?” Despite an overall feeling of the show being filler, it’s still enjoyable. There are plenty of great character interactions, and it’s never boring.

Disappearance grabs the main cast of Melancholy, with some changes. Of course, the biggest difference is that the characters are normal humans. This hurts Koizumi the most. He was one of the most interesting characters in Melancholy, being an esper and having connections to what’s going on supernaturally in the world. In Disappearance, he retains his elegant personality, but is given little to do other than act like a servant for Haruhi. It is interesting that he has feelings for Haruhi here, but since it never really goes anywhere, it leaves Koizumi a shell of his real-version self.

In  Melancholy, Mikuru is the time traveler. Besides that fact, she was given little to do than be put in fan service situations set up by Haruhi. One would imagine with her time traveler persona being eliminated, she would be even worst off in Disappearance. Actually, she’s given a bit more character here. Yes, she is unfortunately the victim of fan service once again, but there are two key scenes where she encourages Nagato. These were really good in showing Mikuru’s down to earth character. Meanwhile, Mikuru’s friend, Tsuruya, is given a much larger role than in Melancholy. It was definitely fun having her around to match dialogue with Ryoko and Haruhi.

As for Haruhi, she is pretty much the same character as in her show. What I personally liked is that she was given a bit more emotion than what was seen in Melancholy. In one scene, she consoles Ryoko, and in another, has some monologue near the end of the show. Speaking of Ryoko, one of the biggest changes from the original show is her. In Melancholy, we found out that she was a psychopath. Here, she is simply a person with a good heart who takes cares of her best friend. It takes true talent to make a character likable both as a crazed villain, and as a kindhearted person. Her relationship with Nagato is sweet, and makes us appreciate the Ryokos (the one in Disappearance anyway) in our lives.

One engaging scene was Ryoko sternly telling Nagato that she isn’t her mother or older sister, so she can’t solve Nagato’s problems, but she could help. At this point, Nagato was ready to give up on the Literature Club, so Ryoko had to say that because Nagato can’t rely on her to fix her own problems. It’s a great dialogue. The ongoing plot point is that Nagato has feelings for Kyon. Thus, this show is much more of a romance than Melancholy. This could have some good aspects, and in some ways, it has. We really do root for Nagato. But the trope of attempting to convey feelings to someone, only to be interrupted, is dated and annoying. The show could have shaved off some episodes in getting to the point.

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There is some great drama to be found here, making The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan a good watch. The mini “amnesia” saga near the end was very compelling, as was Ryoko’s outburst at Haruhi during the Valentine’s Day episodes. The anime can also be genuinely humorous, like Melancholy. Disappearance lacks the overall quality writing of Melancholy however, and doesn’t really have a satisfying ending. So, it’s not essential viewing, but if you’ve seen Melancholy and the movie, it’s a pretty good watch.

7.5/10