Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Download: Namu Amida Butsu wa Ai no Uta (1992)

So, Download is an action/sci-fi OAV from 1992 that, on first glance, might look like a lazy and unimaginative Akira wannabe, but it's in the small details that Download keeps its charm and its uniqueness. It's about Shidou, a Buddhist monk-cum-hacker, who's dating an exotic dancer named Namiho. Unbeknownst to each other, they're both also using different methods to investigate the malevolent activities of the sinister Echigoya conglomerate. Eventually, they also team up with a biker gang who lost a friend to Echigoya's schemes to take the mega-corp down.

Now, though this is a fairly accurate description of the plot (which I've obviously left a lot out of to avoid spoiling anything in case any of you decide to go and watch Download), it might cause you to judge this OAV unfairly, assuming it's just one more entry among the many other darkly-toned and grimly violent cyberpunk OAVs and movies that were made in the wake of Akira's massive worldwide critical and commercial success. The way Download stands out from the crowd though, is in its execution.

Rather than putting on a parade of human misery, showing a world of starving street orphans and evil cyber-goons lurking around every corner, Download instead gives us a lighter take on the dirty and violent cyberpunk dystopia. The character designs (and the look of the world in general) have a soft, almost squidgy quality to them, and the way everything is animated, especially the way that characters move and interact with each other, has a frenetic, cartoonish look and feel. The result is that the setting, Moonlight City feels like a fun and exciting city of adventure (albeit a dirty, violent one populated by biker gangs and evil corporations), rather than the hellish pits of despair seen in the likes of Cyguard or Battle Angel Alita and so on (not that those works are necessarily bad or anything, just that it's nice to have something different).

The result is an entertaining and fairly unique way to spend 47 minutes, and one which comes highly recommended. It's a shame that this OAV seems to have been almost totally forgotten by history: it never received an official english release, despite being the sort of thing that Manga Video were filling the UK market with in the early 90s, and judging by the fact that the fansubs (done in 2015) only have a VHS rip as their video source, that suggests that it's been forgotten and never rereleased in Japan, too. A terrible shame that something so entertaining and with such a strong identity has been allowed to fall by the wayside like that.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Kamen Tenshi Rosetta

Kamen Tenshi Rosetta is a thirteen episode long superhero show from 1998. It aired at 1:30am (or 25:30, as Japanese TV schedules would put it), so it's safe to say it was aimed squarely at an otaku audience. It was also subbed in that interim period in the history of fansubs, after the decline of VHS, but before the rise of Bittorrent, when fansubs were distributed on DVD-Rs and VCDs. This, coupled with the fact that western tokusatsu fandom was still very small, made getting ahold of it in 2015 slightly more difficult than usual. It centres around a teenage girl, Jin Asuka, who learns one night three important things: firstly, humanity is being preyed upon by demons called "Dueltos", her salaryman dad Kenichiro is an egyptian-themed superhero named Jin Kamen Pharoan, and the ankh charm he gave her long ago is magic and allows her to become a superhero herself, Kamen Tenshi Rosetta.

From this premise, the show spends most of its run as a typical monster-of-the-week affair, with a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque angst towards the start, as Asuka never asked for her powers or destiny and so on. It doesn't even get a main villain until the last few episodes, just individual monsters that turn up, do evil stuff and get defeated. The show's writers were obviously big fans of Sailor Moon, too, as some of the plots feel very similar to the weekly monster plots in that show. In fact, there's an episode early on that's almost the exact same premise as a Sailor Moon episode: a mysterious audition looking to cast teenage girls is actually a front for an evil monster that wants to eat the girls. Rosetta's version of the plot is a little darker, though, as rather than audition for a TV drama, it's heavily implied to be an audition for porn, or at the very least, something seedy and unwholesome.

Kamen Tenshi Rosetta is generally somewhat darker in tone than most modern Japanese superhero shows, especially ones with female leads. But don't misunderstand: it's not bogged down in gritty drama and edgy grimness, in fact, it's got a lot of quite silly humour, even right up to the final battle. It's just that it feels a little less safe, the streets seem a little dirtier, the shadows a little darker than the usual. But like I said, it's never too dark, it's never depressing, and there's always some lovably terrible Japanese comedy round the corner to lighten the mood.

The action scenes are not bad, about as good as to be expected from a late-night low budget TV show. The worst thing I can really say about them without feeling like I'm being unfair is that a lot of the fight scenes take place in dark locations, and are shot quickly and often from a bit of a distance. Obviously, this is a decision the makers made to try and hide any weaknesses in the effects and monster suits, and it doesn't look too bad when you're watching the show, but it does make it harder to take cool screenshots of the fights to put in blog posts about the show!

All in all, Kamen Tenshi Rosetta is a pretty good show. It's nothing special, and it doesn't have the knowing winks to the camera that more recent otaku-targeted TV shows have, but it's a decently entertaining superhero show with a good balance of action, drama and comedy..

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Batman: Digital Justice

Released in 1990, Digital Justice had lofty ambitions. Not only did it claim to be revolutionising the way comic art would be created, but it also predicted that it would, in time, be counted alongside the likes of Blade Runner and 1984 as an immortal classic of dystopian sci-fi. 25 years later, we can see that though computers are used by a lot of comic artists, they're used to create traditional 2D art, rather than the 3DCG type art that features in Digital Justice (which has aged like a banana in the years since its publication), and obviously, it's been pretty much completely forgotten by everyone whether as a sci-fi story in its own right, or even just as a notable Batman story. If anything, it feels more like the equivalent of a straight to video action movie starring Rutger Hauer or Chistopher Lambert than any serious addition to the sci-fi canon.

The story revolves around James Gordon, GCPD detective, and grandson of the Commissioner Gordon we all know from regular Batman stories. He finds out about a secret conspiracy causing the armed flying robot drones that have replaced most of the police force to assassinate various targets around Gotham, with their actions covered up. While investigating these events, James also finds the costume of the original Batman, given to his grandfather as a gift by a retired Bruce Wayne. Various events lead to his picking up a good-hearted street punk as his Robin, and together they eventually find the batcave, which is being run by an AI program written by the late Bruce Wayne, who gives them both fancy high tech costumes to fight the enemy behind the drone murders: another AI program, written by the late Joker, that controls all the other computer systems in Gotham. Obviously.

The story isn't great, but it's about on par with most of the "Batman in a different setting" Elseworlds stories that would follow it throughout the 90s, but what really sticks out is the artwork. The whole reason for this comic's existence is that it would be the first ever comic with completely computer-generated artwork. More specifically, the artwork is a combination of computer-coloured 2D artwork, which actually looks a lot like the Judge Dredd and Sinister Dexter stories 2000AD would print in the late 90s with computer coloured artwork, so I guess you could say it was ahead of its time in this aspect. There's also a lot of 3DCG artwork, which looks pretty much how you'd expect 3DCG artwork from 1990 to look. Very low poly, lots of purplish-grey cuboids with jagged edges, and the represntation of The Joker's AI program is a bizarre jumble of simple 3D shapes. It's good that DC were confident enough to push the boat out on this, but it's definitely more of a piece of experiment art than it is an attractive aesthetic item or an effective narrative work.

I don't really think I can recommend Batman: Digital Justice. There are a million better grim cyberpunk dystopiae to enjoy in pretty much every medium, and you can go to youtube and see many more attractive and imaginative works of early 3DCG. It can remain a historical curiosity, something that could never have been made at any other time.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Avengers Grimm (2015)

You could probably have guessed from the title, but this is a mockbuster cashing in on the popularity of Marvel's Avengers movies, made by the masters of the form at The Asylum. It's got a very different feel in general, though, and interestingly, there are more superheroines in this movie than there are in all of Marvel's movies put together.

So, there's trouble in the land of fairytales: Rumplestiltskin (who is not a hideous gold-loving troll, but a smug guy with mind control powers) has brainwashed the king's armies, and is generally causing havoc with the aid of his main henchman, The Big Bad Wolf (who is actually a large muscular man, not a wolf, though he does growl and snarl a lot). Using the mirror on the wall as a portal, Rumple, the Wolf and Snow White end up going to the real world. Some time later, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood turn up and also go through the mirror, smashing it (but bringing a piece through with them) in the process. They arrive in a modern-day American-looking city that's ruled with an iron fist by mayor Rumplestiltskin, while Snow White provides a thorn in his side.

Of the heroines, only the actual royalty gets superpowers: Cinderella can cure Rumplestiltskin's brainwashing, as well as transform objects, Rapunzel has long, unbreakable hair with an iron ball on the end that she uses as a flail (prehensile hair tendrils would have been cooler, but probably also too expensive for a production like this), Sleeping Beauty can sort of project energy that makes people fall asleep, and Snow White has ice powers. Red Riding Hood is just a highly skilled fighter and archer, with an obsession on achieving vengeance against the Big Bad Wolf for killing her family. Red's also by far the most interesting and charismatic of all the characters, with the princesses all being a bit bland in comparision.

Obviously, the main plot is the princesses trying to kill Rumplestiltskin, Red trying to kill the wolf, and Rumplestiltskin trying to both kill the princesses and get their piece of the mirror so he can open a portal and bring through his armies to conquer the Earth. There's also a gang of Earth natives who are a kind of neutral third party, until Rumplestiltskin brainwashes their leader (Iron John, played by Lou Ferrigno) and literally turns him into a living metal golem.

I wont spoil any more of the plot, because I actually did like this movie. It was entertaining, it hid its low budget well, and it's about a team of super-powered heroines. Though I do have a small, probably futile hope that we might get a spin-off all about Red Riding Hood, the ending does leave things open for a possible sequel in the future at least. The reception this film has recieved in general though is really unfair: all the people you see wanting superheroine movies have ignored it because it's not licenced from a comic, and everyone else has really brutally slated it in what can only be a deliberately hyberbolic, affected manner simply because that's what "has to be done" when talking about B-Movies. Actually liking a flawed, low budget movie is totally uncool,  unless it's done ironically. How boring.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Dragon League Episodes 1 & 2

So, before I get into the specific details of this show, I want to talk about the concept of "6AM Cartoons": a specific kind of cartoon defined more by a vague feling than anything else. Basically, the kind of cartoon that would be picked up cheaply, usually dubbed into english from Japanese or French and broadcast in the UK or US at 6AM, with no accompanying merchandising push or promotion of any kind, in those countries at least. Stuff like Sandokan, Spiff and Hercules, Albert the Fifth Musketeer, Ulysses 31 (at least when I saw it in the 90s, anyway) and so on. Even Sailor Moon was one of these shows at some point in its history! Anyway, though it has no english dub (as far as I'm aware, these two fansubbed episodes are all that's been translated into english at all), Dragon League definitely has the feel of a 6AM cartoon.

It's a sports anime, though it eschews the usual modern Japanese school setting for a medieval fantasy kingdom, where humans live alongside animal-people and dinosaur-people, and also actual dinosaurs. Obviously, football is very important in this kingdom, to the point where the equivalent of the knights of the round table are the national football team, led by a huge lion-man. The main character is a young boy named Tokio and his dad used to be on that team, but apparently there's some kind of old grudge between him and the aforementioned lion, Leon.

This cumulates when Tokio and his dad return to the city, and his dad has a "duel" with Leon. Of course, the duel is a one-on-one football match using a magic golden ball. Dad loses, and as a result is turned into a tiny dragon, but he can still talk and stuff so I guess it's okay? The next day, Tokio sees some teams of youngsters roughly his own age (though it's hard to tell, since none of them are human) having a practice game inside the castle grounds, and since one team is a player short, he joins in. The team he joins is terrible, and they're playing against a team of skilled bullies.

By the end of the first half, Tokio's team are losing, but only by 10 goals, where they're apparently down by 40 by this point in most matches. But then, disaster strikes! Tokio is arrested by a castle guard for trespassing and taken to the dungeon. He then has to escape using a combination of football skills and general mischief before half-time is over to finish the game.

Unfortunately, this is where episode 2 ends, so we don't get to see the outcome of the match. So, Dragon League isn't any kind of great hidden gem or anything, but it's an inoffensive little show, and though the concept is pretty strange, you can't help but be surprised you haven't seen it done before. It's also surprising to find that there's apparently no videogame adaptation at all, not even a Japan-only one. There's something about it that just screams "Super Famicom licenced game".

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Tank Top Fighter

Tank Top Fighter is a 2013 TV vehicle for ex-AKB48 member Erena Ono. I guess it wasn't a very successful one, since she retired from showbusiness in 2014, at the grand old age of 20 years old. In it, she plays a college student named Kai, whose father is arrested and jailed for murder and embezzlement (though thanks to the only subs available being fairly below par, the amount he stole seem to change every time it's mentioned. Was it 100 million yen or 10 thousand million yen? Who knows?), but the families of the victims say they'll allow him to be freed if they're paid back the amount that he stole. Is that really a legal thing in Japan? Because it sounds absurd.

Anyway, since she's a college student, and her sister works part time as a computer programmer, there's no way they have that kind of money. But the victims' lawyer tells them they can make the money back by collecting bounties on the heads of various wanted criminals. It's not a particuarly original premise, but it works. The stories, which are typically 2 episodes long, are about Kai and her sister finding their current quarry, through investigation and athletics. That is, there are a lot of scenes with Erena Ono running and climbing over things, whether she's chasing a criminal or just trying to get somewhere quickly, she does a lot of running.

When she does catch the criminal, there's a fight scene, and while these should be the main draw of the show (since they're at the end of each story, and all), they're not that great. I mean, they're okay, but they're nothing special, and I've seen better fights in plenty of other low budget Japanese TV shows. The show's not a complete bust without them, however: the plots are interesting enough, both the individual cases and the overarching plot revolving around Kai's dad and his alleged crime, and there's plenty of twists too. Though some of the twists aren't exactly shocking, for example, I don't feel like it's too big a spoiler to reveal that her dad's actually the victim of a grand villainous conspiracy. The show also has its lead as a draw: Erena Ono is a very cute girl-next-door type, and like I said, the show is mainly about her running about, solving crimes and fighting, which is nice.

I wouldn't really recommend going out of your way to hunt this show down and watch it, but if it ever somehow falls into your lap, there's definitely worse shows to watch. I have one final note before ending this review: there's some comic relief in the show in the guise of two bumbling police detectives. They aren't important or even involved in the main plot at all, though, and the fansubbers don't even bother subbing their scenes at all after the second episode.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Other Side - Human Furry Animals

I first saw this documentary when it aired back in 2000, and since at the time, I'd had no internet access, and the infamous CSI episode, as well as the various more salacious and exploitative furry documentaries hadn't aired yet (or if they had, I hadn't seen them), this was the first time I'd ever heard of furries as a subculture. Looking at it now, it's actually very different to the modern-day stereotypes of furry culture: there's no fursuits on display, only at the most face and bodypaint, and ears and tails. Furthermore, rather than simply looking in from a distance, the bulk of the documentary is spent on long, personal interviews with a few furries, and the sexual aspect of the subculture is touched upon, but it's far from the focus.

Instead, furries are shown to be pretty much just like any other subculture outside of the mainstream, just a group of disparate people brought together by a common interest. Though, it is mentioned that there's a higher than average proportion of LGBT members in the community, and we do see a lot more men onscreen than women, too, and also everyone in the documentary is white. I don't know if this was representative of the furry scene as it was in London at that time, if it just happened to be whoever was present when the cameras were, or even if there were people who didn't want to be filmed, though.

As I've already mentioned, the sexual and fetishistic aspects of the subculture are only touched upon briefly, and with more respect towards the subjects than most later documentaries would afford, but a great deal is made of tactility. The way furry material feels against the skin, the fact that furries do a lot of hugging, scratching, biting and other physical interactions when meeting in person is talked about a fair bit. Sounds pretty nice, to be honest, though I can imagine that some less socially adjusted members of the subculture would probably cause problems by overreaching people's boundaries (this possibility isn't mentioned at all, though. Maybe it hadn't happened at any of this group's meets? I don't know).

There's also an interview with someone from a sub-subculture of "weres", who believed that he was a wolf in a human's body. I guess in modern internet parlance, this person would be considered Otherkin? This segment made me feel a little uncomfortable, as the interviewee talked a lot about their innermost feelings, and the way they perceive the world through the senses of a wolf, and it all felt a little bit voyueristic. Only a little bit, though, and it doesn't put a damper on what's otherwise a nice little documentary. When I did get internet access the following year, I was surprised to learn how vilified furries were online, it seemed odd to me that people would get so angry about those nice people from the doc i watched.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Some Rambling Thoughts on Early 80s X-Men

(For clarification, we're talking roughly issues 150-200 of Uncanny X-Men, and this post is slightly adapted and slightly expanded upon from a forum post that I wanted to keep here for prosperity.)

One thing i'm really enjoying about 80s X-Men is generally how tactile and hormonal it is. I don't think there's anything like it in modern mainstream superheros. The closest would probably be Adam Warren's Empowered, but that obviously has a lot more sex, and the characters are a few years older than the 80s X-Men. but there's a part where Nightcrawler, Rogue and Colossus are training/play-fighting and Nightcrawler jokes about kissing Rogue, and she flies off crying. He realises what he's done and says to Colossus "I never even realised she's never had the experiences we take for granted: she's never been kissed, never even been touched!"

But what I'm talking about isn't really a sex thing. It's more like how most of the characters are going through teenage/young adult stuff, like working out who they are and their place in the world.

There's also loose tiers maturity among the characters. There's the naive youngsters, like Shadowcat and Colossus. The young adults, who might not be much older than them, but they've lived lives that have made them more mature by necessity: characters like Storm and Nightcrawler. Then there's the actual adults, who all have different methods and levels of involvement with regards to the upbringing and education of the younger characters: Xavier, Wolverine, Cyclops, Banshee, even Emma Frost and Magneto could be considered part of this category at times. One issue in particular I really like regarding Magneto has him taking Kitty Pride (Shadowcat) to the National Holocaust Memorial in the hopes of finding someone who might have known her great aunt. (And of course, Emma Frost eventually becomes, along with Banshee, one of the mentors of Generation X, an all-teen X-Men offshoot in the 90s)

I guess what I'm trying to get across here is that the most important thing about this era of X-Men is that it's about growing up in a non-traditional situation while also feeling like an outsider to society, and that's why I love it so much. What I'm really looking forward to, though, is catching up to the mid-late 90s era starting with the Phalanx Covenant and Age of Apocalypse storylines, which is where I started reading X-Men (and superhero comics in general) as a kid, and seeing what my enlightened adult brain takes from it now.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Metal Mania

I've grown a kind of grim fascination with these Christian "Media is bad" Videos from the 80s and early 90s since I downloaded a couple last year. This one, as is clear from the title, details the ways in which heavy metal is destroying the youth of America. As someone who was raised in South Yorkshire by a mother who trusted my intelligence and judgement to give only the barest set of rules (essentially amounting to "don't get hurt, don't hurt anyone else, don't get arrested") I can only pity the poor kids who's parents were taken in by these tapes and subsequently had their adolescent years trampled over. The host of this video, Bob Larson states near the start that his video will "help to break down the barriers that heavy metal has built up between you and your children", showing a bare-faced unwillingness of the makers and their audience to even try to understand their children.

He shows a clip in which he talks to members of the band Laaz Rockit, who tell him that the music they make and the themes it contains are only entertainment and flavour, and that they're not only on the same label as the Christian band Stryper, but they are also friends with them. The video then cuts to the host alone in his own studio, where with a stony face, he tells the camera "Laaz Rockit seem like a nice bunch of guys, but remember that they've sold their souls to rock and roll."

As I said in the first paragraph, Bob just can't understand why metal contains themes of destruction, demonology, the occult and so on. He's completely incapable of imagining that anyone could take listening to metal as a positive experience. He says that musicians are manipulated by Satan to sow seeds of rebellion in teenagers and youths. He goes on to say that metal musicians and fans don't come from families or backgrounds with "a strong bond of love", which feels entirely like a weaselly way of leading into his real agenda: the motive of this video is entirely to cajole parents into being stricter, more controlling and less forgiving to their children.

Later in the video, he talks to teenagers, who tell him to his face about the positive effect metal has had on them as people, and who are mostly thoughtful young people. The only truly "negative" thing he can say about these kids is that they aren't Christians, or at least, they aren't the kind of literal interpretation Christians he'd like. Metal has given them self-esteem, and one girl talks about how metal has turned her life around after she attempted suicide. After this, there's another one of Bob's solo spots where he disregards all this and extolls the virtue of "tough love" and that any "harsh words" between parents and their children are only temporary and are needed to get kids back in line.

Other videos of this genre I've seen that tackle subjects such as action cartoons and Dungeons and Dragons have been almost laughable in their ineptitude. Though I'm sure they caused as much bad parenting as this video, those always seemed like the creators were just out to make a quick buck, with no regard as to who might get hurt in the process. Metal Mania and Bob Larson seem completely sincere and completely malicious. It's insensitive to those who might have been affected by these sorts of videos, but I admit, I usually watch these as a kind of bizarre psuedo-entertainment, as the hosts will make bizarre connections between media they don't understand and all kinds of extreme phenomena. Metal Mania doesn't have that kind of value, it just feels like a nasty, malicious video with a potential for causing real harm to innocent people.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Environmental Superhero Ecogainder

Ecogainder is a low-budget tokusatsu TV series, and while this usually means a weird late night show made specifically for an adult audience, in this case, it's actually an educational show aimed at kids. Ecogainder himself is an android sent from the future to educate the people of 21st century earth about preserving the environment, though he seems to focus all his efforts on one middle class Japanese family. The villains, trying to tempt this same family into wasting energy and not recycling are the Eco Crushers, Mudaana (played by AKB48's Sayaka Akimoto) and Hakais, who are working under the orders of Queen Deathgaia.

Mudaana and Hakais are the most interesting characters in the show, as the Suzuki family are just generic "everyman" types, and Ecogainder himself barely has a personality at all, beyond giving environmental advice. They're based on the old Doronbo Gang archetypes started by Yatterman and seen in a ton of shows and comics and videogames since, though they're missing a fat guy, having only the attractive woman and skinny guy parts of the trio. Hakais is a pretty good example of exactly how low the budget for this show was, as the weapon he wields is clearly just a plastic Doctor Octopus arm toy, not even modified or repainted.

What's interesting about those two is how their relationship with the Suzukis changes over the course of the series. A typical episode sees a member of the family thoughtlessly doing something that's mildly environmentally unsound, like forgetting to recycle, or leaving the TV on standby, at which point the Eco Crushers will turn up and aggressively state how great it is that the family are helping the cause of environmental destruction. Then Ecogainder shows up, and the three of them go off to the "battlefield", which is some kind of big white tent thing, and Ecogainder shoots his ecology beam and the Eco Crushers are banished away.

But over time, the Suzuki family's reaction to the Eco Crushers changes: at first, they're scared and confused when Mudaana and Hakais show up to harass them, over time, they treat the villains as a mild nuisance, and the series' big turning point is a few episodes from the end, when the kids are bored and turn the heating up specifically to summon Mudaana and Hakais so they have more people to play cards with.

I'm sure I'm not spoiling anything when I reveal that in the last episode, Mudaana and Hakais turn against Queen Deathgaia and help Ecogainder in the final battle. It's predictable, but still nice. Ecogainder is definitely no must-watch series, but it's only fourteen nine-minute episodes, so if you really need to see a cheap superhero show, this one isn't too painful. Be warned though, that the series focuses mainly on comedy and educational value, with pretty much no real action on offer.
This series is also known as Kankyou Choujin Ecogainder

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Rebirth of Mothra (1996)

So, one day a big logging company finds an ancient seal, so one of their executives takes it home and gives it to his daughter as a present. Turns out, though, that this seal being in place was the only thing stopping an evil fairy called Belvera from summoning a horrible monster, so she does, and it's up to the good fairies, the Elias (not the Shobijin for some reason) to summon Mothra to save the day. Oh and that exec's family were all drifitng apart, but they bond of the shared trauma of being caught up in a battle between enormous powerful beings and remember that they all love each other. Aww.

The horrible monster in question is named Desghidorah, and like long-time Toho antagonist King Ghidora, it's a giant evil three-headed dragon, but it's black and grey instead of gold. It's not just a simple, lazy recolour, though, as Desghidorah has four legs, shorter necks and a stockier build in general, as well as having a spikier and more agressive/less regal to it. The easy thing to do here would be to assume that Desghidorah's design is simply supposed to be a Satanic-looking Ghidorah variant, but I think it could be interpreted as representing pollution and unchecked industrialism.

Desghidorah is black and grey and spiky, and its powers include breathing fire and causing the ground to explode, while Mothra is a goddess that exists to protect all life on earth, and is implied to be connected to the earth's lifeforce. In fact (and there are spoilers from this point on), when the original Mothra is killed, one of her larvae creates a cocoon for itself to transform into a new Mothra, named Mothra Leo. This scene happens in the midst of incredibly lush greenery, and is interspersed with footage of animals living peacefully in the wild. Furthermore, Belvera rides around on a mean little robotic dragon named Garu Garu, while the Elias ride on a cute tiny Mothra named Fairy Mothra.

Anyway, Rebirth of Mothra is a pretty good film. I can't say it's one of my all-time favourite kaiju movies, but it's definitely worth a watch. This is thanks in no small part to the effects: Toho were really making incredible monster effects in the late 80s through to the 90s, and this movie is no exception. The monsters, minature sets, pyrotechnics and other effects all look amazing, and it's made even more impressive by the fact that none of the monsters in this movie are humanoid or even bipedal. Despite this handicap, the battles also look great, when they could easily have ended up looking like two inanimate puppets smashing into each other.

The only part I didn't really like was the ending, where the dad of the family looks out at the devastation caused by Desghidorah and/or the logging company and vows to change his ways and help create a better world for future generations. Then Mothra Leo flies overhead and magically turns the wasteland into a vast, fertile meadow. It's all a bit sappy to be honest. But yeah, as long as you turn it off after Desghidorah gets re-sealed, Rebirth of Mothra is a great movie.
(This movie is also known as Mothra, but if you call it that, then people will think you're talking about the 1961 movie of the same name.)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Books of Magic #24

Hello! You might know my other blog, Lunatic Obscurity, where I review obscure old videogames in an attempt to save them from damnation (in the Fortean sense of the word). Because I have many thoughts about comics, TV shows, movies and other miscellany, I've started another blog (this one). This blog will probably be pretty different in tone and content to the other one, since it I do plan on it mainly being an outlet for thoughts, rather than the opinionated reviews of LO, but who knows how much of this will end up being true?

For the inaugural post on this blog, I've picked a single issue of a comic, and it's a single issue that represents various firsts for me: the first comic I'd ever read that was marked "for mature readers", the first time I'd ever seen fairies depicted as anything other than harmless creatures in childrens' stories, and probably the first comic I'd ever read that didn't contain any action. Read without the context of the issues preceding it, this issue is about a girl going up a hill, reading a letter and meeting a fairy. Though it doesn't sound like the kind of thing that would appeal to a 10-year-old boy,it totally enthralled me! I'd never seen anything like it before!

It wasn't set in a city acting as a superhero habitat, or a futuristic dystopia, but in the Irish countryside. A countryside, which, as depicted in this comic at least, bore more than a passing resemblence to the Yorkshire countryside that surrounded the village where I lived. The main character was just a mostly-normal teenage girl, in regular clothes. Even with the fairy and the talking stones and such, every part of it, story and art, felt totally grounded in reality. I'd never seen or read anything like it before!

I've since read the entire Books of Magic series several times, so I know all about Molly O'Reilly, Amadan, Tim Hunter and all the other things that led up to and from this issue, and though the series as a whole is one of my all-time favourites, even against the rest of the localised golden age that DC's Vertigo imprint was going through at the time, with series like The Sandman and House of Secrets alongside Books of Magic, this issue in particular will always have its own special meaning to me, for introducing me to kinds of fiction and aesthetic that were totally new to me.