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

Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review

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Credit: FUNimation

Dragon Ball Super has remained a global phenomenon, successfully bringing the Dragon Ball Z franchise back into the spotlight. Go into a store like F.Y.E. or Hot Topic, and you’ll find many Dragon Ball related items. Last year saw the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ,  which won best fighting game at The Game Awards. Putting it simply, Dragon Ball has returned as the most popular anime franchise. It continues in 2019 with the release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly.

Although the English dub of Super is currently airing on Toonami, the show ended last year in Japan. (If you wish to catch up for the release of the movie, Super is available subtitled for streaming on Crunchyroll, although the film does not contain any major spoilers.) The Tournament of Power was a crazy final arc for all the right reasons. Jiren served as the antagonist, and proved to be the strongest non-deity opponent Goku had faced. How do you top that? The answer: bring back one of the franchise’s most popular antagonists. Many of the prior Dragon Ball film villains are liked, but Broly in particular is loved by fans. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Broly is just as popular, if not more popular than the big three – Frieza, Cell, and Buu.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly serves as an adaption of the rather obscure manga titled Dragon Ball Minus, and grabs many elements from Broly’s original film, Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan. This film is wonderful for longtime Dragon Ball fans. There’s fantastic backstory, great moments, and the fights are epic. While lacking some of the overall cinematic quality of Resurrection ‘F,’ it features just about everything we like about the franchise.

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Credit: FUNimation

The movie begins over 40 years ago, when Planet Vegeta was still around. Its ruler is King Vegeta, but the Saiyans are subjected to the Cold force. We see King Cold arrive, but he’s there to tell the Saiyans that he is retiring. Instead, he is putting his son Frieza in charge. This eventually leads to Frieza plotting to destroy the entire Saiyan race. We also learn about a Saiyan baby with extraordinary powers even exceeding King Vegeta’s son. King Vegeta decides to exile the baby, named Broly, to a distant planet with no humanoids named Vampa. Broly’s father, Paragus, heads to the planet as well.

We all know what happens to Planet Vegeta. Frieza goes ahead and blows it up, but not before a pod escapes. Bardock and his wife Gine managed to put their son Kakarot into a pod for escape to Earth. In the modern day, Frieza is currently looking for more warriors to join his ranks. Two soldiers, Cheelai and Lemo, find Broly and Paragus on Vampa. Fueled for his hatred of King Vegeta, Paragus is happy to use Broly in service to Frieza. Now, Goku and Vegeta will once again have to face a powerful opponent.

The first quarter of the film serves as background for Broly and Planet Vegeta. The opening act is fantastic. The arrival of King Cold is filled with tension. This is actually King Cold’s first major appearance since being sliced by Future Trunks. Cold commands a presence in a similar, yet different way than Frieza does in the modern day. It’s not that long of a scene, but it shows that King Cold was a great character.

This scene also shows Frieza’s coming to power, and it’s appropriately brutal. Next, King Vegeta sentences baby Broly to Vampa. Paragus concludes that King Vegeta is doing this because Broly has more potential than the king’s son. Paragus is understandably fueled with hatred toward the king. Meanwhile, the Bardock scenes are great. It’s interesting how King Vegeta and Bardock are portrayed here. Bardock is clearly a hardened Saiyan, but still displays heart. Goku would take that trait. King Vegeta displays many of the traits Vegeta would inherit.

Bardock and Gine have a couple of scenes together, and they are nice. It’s particularly emotional when Bardock reveals he wants to send Goku away. Gine is a heartbroken mother; one could feel her turmoil as she watches the pod take off. Many non-viewers may look and think Dragon Ball Z is devoid of story substance, and only focuses on battling. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When Dragon Ball gets serious with its storytelling and dialogue, it’s some of the strongest you’ll find. That is evident throughout the first part of the film.

The only regrettable aspect of the backstory is that the film does not feature Bardock’s famous speech against Frieza before the planet gets blown up. Instead, Bardock is shown trying to repel the blast, but with no dialogue. Thus, the planet’s destruction was not as memorable as it was in the original Bardock film. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s worth mentioning.

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Credit: FUNimation

Of course, most of the film takes place in the modern day after the Tournament of Power. The early scene with Goku and Vegeta sparring was fun. The story here is that Frieza’s forces have stolen six Dragon Balls and the radar from Bulma’s lab. There is only one Dragon Ball left. Bulma, Goku, Vegeta, and Whis head on down to locate Frieza’s henchmen. The dialogue isn’t quite as captivating as the writing in the flashback. But, Bulma’s reason for collecting the Dragon Balls is interesting.

The more interesting aspects of the film during this are with Cheelai and Lemo, members of the Frieza army. They have been tasked with locating powerful members for the force. Despite who they’re working for, they are shown not as sinister lackeys, but as people with diverse personalities. Cheelai in particular is a highlight. One interesting sequence was in Frieza’s ship. At this point, Broly and Paragus have been brought on. A member of the crew hits on Cheelai, with her telling him repeatedly to go away. Broly’s response is anger. Due to the runtime of this film being longer than the original Broly film, there is more screen time for Broly’s character to be deepened. His scenes with Cheelai and Lemo were great at accomplishing this.

The main spectacle is Broly’s fight against Goku and Vegeta. Marketing confirmed a little while ago that Gogeta, Goku and Vegeta’s combined form from Fusion Reborn, would be appearing. It’s a shame this was spoiled, as it would have been a pleasant surprise. But before that fusion, we get incredibly animated battles. Base form Broly against Vegeta was great. Goku’s battle as a Super Saiyan God was arguably even better. This is clearly a theatrical film, replacing a lot of the rapid punches seen in the show in favor of more actual blows being felt. Goku has great dialogue in the middle of the fight, once again showing that he has the biggest heart of all the characters. Finally, seeing Gogeta again was a treat. (Though Vegeta at first refusing fusion has gotten a bit old.)

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Credit: FUNimation

With all that said, while the fights are a lot of fun, Broly himself isn’t all that interesting during them. The problem is that we’ve already seen this type of character multiple times. We saw that in Broly’s original film. We saw that with Kid Buu. We saw that recently in the Tournament of Power with Kale, a character who was even clearly based off of Broly’s Super Saiyan design. So, Broly’s persona of constantly shouting is a bit lackluster. Still, Broly overall is an effective character in the story. The film successfully introduces him as one of the most tragic figures in the franchise.

On a few last notes, Frieza holds a screen presence, like always. It was particularly interesting seeing him in the flashback. Also, his brief scuffle with Broly was fun. The film’s soundtrack is epic, as expected from Dragon Ball. There are a number of notable themes, such as during the sparring match between Goku and Vegta, and Gogeta’s arrival. You won’t find any of the much-used themes of Super (though they are really good); the music is wholly original. The film’s ending is different than in the original Broly movie. It’s a nice way to end off, and it could mean some exciting things for the future.

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Credit: FUNimation

Overall, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a very good film re-introducing an iconic character. Broly is a tragic figure, perhaps even more so than Jiren. Although Broly is a bit dull in his Super Saiyan form, there are enough story scenes to prevent him from being labeled a one-dimensional character. Goku is good, with a couple of great sequences. Although the second half of the film doesn’t reach the cinematic level of the opening act, the fights are grand. Dragon Ball fans will not want to miss this.

4/5

A big thanks to FUNimation for supplying a theatrical screener for review. Dragon Ball Super: Broly will be released in limited theaters starting on January 16th. You can locate a theater and purchase tickets here

 

 

GODZILLA: THE PLANET EATER Review – Where did it all go so wrong?

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It should have been epic. The Godzilla anime trilogy should have been a lot of things. The potential was there. In the first film, Planet of the Monsters, Godzilla was established as an unstoppable threat. I remember feeling in awe when he unleashed his iconic roar in the climax of the film. The actual movie wasn’t anything great, but it was decent setup. The potential was there. The sequel’s marketing hinted at a battle between Godzilla and a new Mechagodzilla. City on the Edge of Battle did not feature a Mechagodzilla throwdown, instead rehashing the battle against small machines from the first film.

City on the Edge of Battle had some neat ideas. Mechagodzilla taking over an entire city, and the Bilusaludo willing to become one with it in order to face Godzilla were interesting concepts. The problem is that these things completely took the place of why we watch Godzilla movies. In City on the Edge of Battle, Godzilla doesn’t do anything until after the first hour. That’s a bold move with a movie titled Godzilla, but maybe it could work if the climax was amazing. It wasn’t. At the very least, the poster for The Planet Eater showed Godzilla battling an intriguing new version of King Ghidorah. There is definitely a confrontation, but fans will likely be disappointed. The film itself is kind of bizarre in that it barely even feels about Godzilla at times.

Look, deep themes and meta storylines can be fascinating. Anime is home to many fantastic concepts and themes that Western animation barely touches. So, it’s certainly welcome that a Godzilla film in anime format could touch upon themes, such as what it means to be human, and the will to keep fighting. That sounds interesting, but it only works if the themes don’t overpower the kaiju element. The Planet Eater goes full on in attempting to convey something profound with its protagonist. The film is certainly thought provoking to some extent, but in the end, it got lost in its themes and forgot to be a quality movie. The ending is downbeat and out of left field, reminding everyone that this is the Haruo Sakaki saga with Godzilla just as a guest star. The after credits scene is strange in that it literally has nothing to do with Godzilla.

Now, that’s not to say everything about The Planet Eater is awful. The story, summed up, is about Metphies revealing his plan to Haruo. The Exif plans to bring King Ghidorah, a powerful space monster who the Exif worship as a god, to deliver Earth’s destruction. Haruo is of course against this, but is manipulated by Metphies in mind games. Ghidorah arrives on Earth, and Godzilla is powerless to stop him. With Haruo edging closer and closer to the end, Maina goes to the large egg and summons a familiar moth to go inside Haruo’s mind. With Haruo later back to his senses, it’s time to stop Metphies and Ghidorah’s menace…

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So, one thing that was well done was the build-up to Ghidorah. I got goosebumps when hearing the classic Ghidorah cackle. Ghidorah is treated as a god-like being, and the scene where he arrives and destroys the Aratrum was awe-inspiring. His arrival on Earth was also well done, with the animation being quite good. The encounter between him and Godzilla was, at first, interesting. Godzilla was clearly on the verge of losing, and the overall feel was that of a big climax. The problem is that the way Ghidorah was designed did not allow for a very engaging battle. It was barely even a fight as Godzilla couldn’t even touch Ghidorah until later.

The strange thing is that the film teases viewers with the classic winged Ghidorah look, but we never actually see that in the flesh. An even bigger tease was Mothra. Yes, Mothra does sort of show up – but only as a silhouette who goes inside Haruos mind. That’s her only appearance. Mothra appearing in person to help take out Ghidorah? A team-up with Godzilla, as a reference to their partnership in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Godzilla: Final Wars? Nah, none of that stuff. Instead, the film thinks we’re satisfied by Mothra being a flying shadow.

Some of the dialogue was good. The mind sequences with Haruo and Metphies were interesting, as Haruo was brought lower and lower by Metphies’ elegant vocabulary. Methphies was definitely a highlight of the trilogy, and it was great seeing him go full on calm fanatic in this movie. Haruo isn’t a terrible focus, but at this point we’ve so much of him and so little of Godzilla, that it’s hard to be engaged. It also doesn’t help that the ending was a terrible conclusion to his story.

The Houtua were interesting characters in City on the Edge of Battle, and the twins return here. One of the best sequences was Miana discovering Metphies’ alter to Ghidorah. Meanwhile, her sister, Maina has one notable scene where she goes to the Mothra egg. However, Maina is also given a rather…odd role. Haruo seems to have gotten over Yuko quickly, huh?

At this point, there isn’t too much else to be said about The Planet Eater, and the anime trilogy as a whole. Perhaps people who have never seen a Godzilla film will enjoy these more. The themes can be interesting, but they are sandwiched with dull pacing and little kaiju action. The Planet Eater teases with winged Ghidorah and Mothra, but not much happens there. Ghidorah’s “battle” with Godzilla did have some great moments, like Godzilla snapping one of the head’s jaws. But, it did leave a lot to be desired. The soundtrack was strong overall at the very least, especially when Ghidorah arrived. The Planet Eater attempts to be a deep movie, which is admirable, but in the process loses key things associated with the Godzilla saga.

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All in all, The Planet Eater is a mediocre conclusion to a mediocre trilogy. Throughout the films, there have been great moments and intriguing concepts. But, there is no satisfying endgame. Planet of the Monsters was decent setup, and City on the Edge of Battle was one overly long middle act for The Planet Eater, none of which delivered. Hopefully Godzilla’s journey into anime doesn’t end here.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Review

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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was one of the more popular anime of the last 15 years. It features the usual setting: a high school with a cast of diverse characters. Kyon provides narration into the happenings, but the story is truly about a girl named Haruhi. Her thing is that she’s tired of everyday normal life. She’s interested in aliens, time travelers, and espers, concepts one would not associate with normal reality.

But wouldn’t you know it, Haruhi actually encounters a time traveler, an alien, and an esper. Though, she is not aware of it. Only Kyon knows that these people claiming to be classmates are not normal. Haruhi forms the SOS Brigade, and together these characters go on numerous adventures. The only real question remains: why did these beings appear now, just when Haruhi told Kyon of her boredom with reality?

Melancholy is an engaging anime for quite a few reasons. The first is Haruhi herself, one of the strongest and most interesting anime characters I’ve ever seen. Her bold personality, and command of the situation is unparalleled. Her dialogue with Kyon is always a lot of fun, as Kyon always finds himself dragged into these crazy scenarios. His narration gives a nice sense of humor to the events.

Koizumi joins the Brigade a bit later, and is another notable character. He’s one character who explains to Kyon the mysterious phenomenons revolving around Haruhi. Koizumi’s calm demeanor, along with his role in the story as an esper, was interesting. Next, Mikuru is the time traveler. One of the most interesting parts of the series was when future Mikuru met present day Kyon. Present day Mikuru is unfortunately used for fan service. Aside from being a time traveler, there isn’t too much to Mikuru.

Finally, we have Nagato, the alien working for something called the “Integrated Data Sentient Entity.” Her dialogue is always interesting. One of the best parts of the show was the battle between her and a character wanting Kyon dead. Nagato displays no emotion, but does care for Kyon in some capacity. What’s frustrating is that the show leaves the viewer in the dark about the Sentient Entity. The show does explore the mysterious events surrounding Haruhi, but there are more questions than answers by the end. Of course, this isn’t the end of the anime part of franchise, as there is a movie and spin-off.

While the show is almost always really good, there is one big factor stopping it from getting the legendary 9/10. If you’ve seen this anime, you know what I’m about to say: “Endless Eight.” This arc had a time loop as the premise. Now, something like this could be interesting…for about three episodes, four max. But there are eight episodes with pretty much the exact things happening. No, they are just about literally the same episode, give or take some dialogue.

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Overall, “Endless Eight” aside, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a very engaging show. Haruhi is a great character, demonstrating intelligence, brashness, and even a sense of unbalance. She is truly a fascinating character. Meanwhile, Kyon is a fantastic narrator, and perfect foil to Haruhi. Koizumi is very good. Nagato is interesting, but needed to be explored more. Mikuru has her moments, but ended up feeling little more than a character for fan service. Generally though, most things about Melancholy are good.

8/10