The Boondocks, Out of the Ink

The Boondocks

Yeah, it’s been out of the ink for a while, but I like that title, damnit. Right.

The Boondocks is so many kinds of good. I don’t often review TV series, as I don’t watch TV, but this is some politically incorrect, satirized, slice of life crap that’s just addicting. It follows the Freeman family, which consists of the elderly Robert (“Grandpa”) and his grandchildren, the cold and logical Huey, and the rebellious and aggressive Riley. They’re all African Americans, by the by, and that’s a major plot device. … It’s a joke! Geeze. Based on the comic strip by the same name, The Boondocks contains a lot of political and racial humor that sensitive viewers might find “overbearingly offensive.” So if you don’t like offensive humor, fuck off, I guess. Nothing personal, it’s just what to expect from the show.

The BoondocksWhile it has a measure of continuity, each episode embodies a different event or idea, like a rich white businessman monopolizing a little girl’s lemonade stand, or teaching black and white folk to praise White Jesus and punish those who are black of skin and full of sin. You’d need to see the latter to understand it, but the same can be said about most everything in this show. It can get pretty campy, but always tends to maintain a darker undertone. It’s certainly not goofy humor, as it tries to express the views of creator Aaron McGruder. So you can laugh, gain a little perspective, all that good stuff.

The artwork is amazing to boot. It has a distinctively anime twist to it, but more of a visually thematic “inspired by” than a full-on style. It’s unique, and it shows through in each of the characters. Cute characters look adorable, arrogant characters look pompous as hell, tough characters look- well, you get it. Exaggeration of traits without actual exaggeration, dig?

The BoondocksBesides the three protagonists, there are many reoccurring characters, both from the original comic and completely new to the series. Uncle Ruckus, for example. He’s the blackest character on the show, and he absolutely hates black people. He’s probably the number once source of inane racial slurs on the show, and a primary source of many sidesplitting moments. Go ahead, laugh! No such thing as guilty humor if there isn’t legitimate hate behind it.

You’ll also see a lot of real-world people brought into the show, like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, R. Kelly, Bil Cosby, and Martin Luther King Jr. Sometimes they deliver messages hidden behind layers of campy humor. Sometimes they just come out and say what they mean. Martin Luther King Jr. calls the ghetto black populace a bunch of n- well, I can’t say that in the review, but he calls them a bunch of ignorant, culturally detached N-words and says he’s moving to Canada. That’s the gist of it. Amazing. I wish they’d release season two on Netflix instant-view

The BoondocksOn a conclusive note… I wonder if my review was too white? The Boondocks has got me thinking; seeing the division between cultures. I don’t consider myself “white,” nor do I take pride in any particular cultural heritage, but the difference in perspectives is intriguing. Ah well, maybe that’s all a bit too personal. Give it a watch, have your own epiphany of racial self-awareness.

Alisha Karabinus of BlogCritics is turned off of the animated rendition of The Boondocks due to its shift of focus from social commentary comic humor to the sometimes outright silly humor on the show. It’s a classic case of “I liked the book more than the movie,” in my honest opinion, but I won’t deny the difference between the two. It’d be improper to arbitrarily state that the animated series is inferior to the comic, as they’re both made by the same person, and McGruder isn’t a fan of unnecessary censorship. Check out the longer, more negative review here: http://blogcritics.org/tv-review-the-boondocks/

Blood: The Last Vampire, 90 Minutes of Murder

Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood: The Last Vampire is exactly what’s written on the tin. It’s about a Japanese vampire named Saya that hunts down demons for a secret government agency while disguised as a schoolgirl. You get to see her slaughter a lot of things while pushing through sub-par plot and dialogue. Also, the special effects are and I quote from my first viewing of the movie, “No” on a scale of 1-10. I’ll complain more after I get further into it, so prepare yourself.

Saya has to go to a Japanese all-girls school in an American military base to beat down a pair of demons disguised as humans. Saya gets to wear a cute little schoolgirl outfit because reasons, and it’s really easy to tell which girls are the demons because they’re colossal jerks and try to kill a transfer student with katanas. Saya’s agents clean up the mess she makes of the demons, and the military fellas on the base start asking questions.

Blood: The Last VampireOh no, Onigen, the ultimate super powerful demon, is coming to town to kill everybody! That means all the demons that have blended into society get to come out and wreak havoc. Their poorly rendered 3D bodies get to slightly damage poorly rendered building chunks and then they get cut to pieces by Saya. Good plan, right?

There’s some more stuff about transfer student’s dad, and then she hangs out with Saya and the both of them go to face Onigen together. Despite the icky quality of the film, I shouldn’t spoil anything except for the fact that the big reveal is actually pretty stupid and royally clichéd.

Now to complain about things! Yay! I’ll start with the fact that the demon outbreak fight scene is strung the hell out. Slow motion every other second, the same slash being played over and over again for like sixty different generic demons… Ugh. It’s rare that I actually lose immersion during a fight scene and wonder to myself, “Are they done yet? Geeze Louise.”

Blood: The Last VampireThe constant and intrusive flashbacks aided in giving Saya some backstory, but it’s the same old, same old. She met her old master, trained under him, then Onigen killed him and she swore revenge. Also she had a boyfriend but her vampirism made her eat him. Tasty!

The last complaint was the terrible effects, but I already gave that enough mention that saying it again would be like packing this review with so much filler that it begins to resemble a movie called Blood: The Last Vampire.

I think I’ve made my point. Despite the overall poor quality it does have some pretty nice scenes near the beginning, however, so feel free to watch the first half hour or so before dropping it like an unwanted child on the doorstep of a random kung-fu master. Can you dig it?

Oh dear LORD it’s a movie based off of an anime. That explains everything. Holy hell. Ross Miller of ScreenRant will explain to you everything that I didn’t initially understand. He’ll let you know why the CG is forgivable, why the action is better without wire fighting… I don’t know. I need to look a few things up. Excuse me: http://screenrant.com/blood-the-last-vampire-reviews-ross-15155/

Ponyo – Something’s Fishy… Where’s the Bad Guy?

PonyoPonyo. I’ve had several phases of Ponyo. I’ll describe them to you:

  • First heard about it; went crazy wanting to see it.
  • Found out about the voice acting cast. Noah Cyrus? Repulsed.
  • Bought it on sale and watched it.
  • Love it more than any and all things adorable and whimsical.

What does Ponyo do, as a movie for kiddies and general Ghibli fans? Perhaps it’s time for a short synopsis. The king of the sea, Fujimoto, has a daughter named Ponyo. Well, he has MANY daughters, but the one that gets all the attention is Ponyo. She’s the adventurous sort, and thus winds up outside of her father’s little kingdom and in the bucket of a buy called Sosuke. Sosuke keeps her for a bit, loving her as a pet, but losing her when Fujimoto calls in his sea spirits to take her back.

As it turns out, Ponyo’s not ready or willing to return home. No sir. She steals some of her father’s power and turns from a fish into a little girl, returning to the surface to live with Sosuke and his mother Lisa. While doing this, she “accidentally” explodes the well of life in Fujimoto’s castle, causing Precambrian fish life and a great storm to erupt from the sea.

PonyoPonyo and Sosuke wind up holding down the fort at their elevated home while Lisa goes to check on the senior center she works at. A sudden rise in the tide cuts them off from the outside world, and not wanting to see Sosuke sad, Ponyo uses her fishy magic to enlarge a toy boat, .

When they arrive at the senior center, they find that it’s underwater, and enveloped in a jelly barrier made by Fujimoto. Ponyo’s mother makes a glorious appearance to judge the connection between Sosuke and Ponyo; if he accepts her as a fish and human, she may live with him. Of course, Sosuke does, and the storm flushes away, and everybody lives impossibly happily ever after.

You see, it’s not exactly the longest and most epic movie. I’d even go so far as to say there’s no legitimate conflict. That’s the puzzling part, though. There’s no conflict, but it’s still a wonderful movie because of the way Hayao Miyazaki presents it. You don’t watch Ponyo to witness the overcoming of some apocalyptic event; you watch it to experience the amazing world of Miyazaki’s imagination. Yeah, sounds corny as all get out, but it’s absolutely true. The characters are all relatable and charming, the art style is nostalgic and aesthetic, and the scenery is just plain great.

PonyoPonyo feels like a short story made into a movie. You typically don’t hear of that, but in this case, it’s like Miyazaki took The Little Mermaid and pulled it apart, only to put it back together and strip it of any negative plot. That would be the primary vice of this movie. Without any major controversy, or even an antagonist, a lot of people would leave Ponyo feeling rather incomplete. Personally, I didn’t find Ponyo’s shortcomings to take away from the overall quality of the movie, but that’s all very subjective. You need to see it to believe it. Prepare yourself for brain-melting amounts of absolute adorableness.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Assless Chaps

Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindThat got your attention, didn’t it? Yeah, you bet.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a bit of a mouthful, but it certainly is one hell of a good Miyazaki movie. Set in a post-apocalyptic world shrouded by toxic jungles, dotted with tiny human civilizations, and loaded with enormous and admittedly disturbing insects, this movie’s bound to tickle your drama bone. One of the predominant flaws is that the plot feels like an insincere Japanese role-playing game, but we’ll get to that after the plot outline.

The Valley of the Wind is ruled by the ailing King Jihl, who watches over his people with compassion and peace. His daughter Nausicaa takes it upon herself to explore the Toxic Jungle and understand the plants and creatures within, as opposed to wanting to destroy them. Everything is changed when one day a battleship from Tolmikia crash-lands near the valley, dropping off a giant throbbing orb that is soon discovered to be one of the Giant Warriors. These monstrous creatures brought about the apocalypse that ended the human domination of the planet in an event called the “Seven Days of Fire.”

Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindWith their precious cargo missing, the Tolmikians besiege the Valley of the Wind in order to claim the warrior, and the cooperation of the people of the valley. Through bayonet, cannon, and cudgel, the Tolmikians’ military methods quickly mark them as hated enemies instead of friendly compatriots. And, you know, because they murdered the beloved King Jihl.

During her transportation to Tolmikia for imprisonment, Nausicaa and Asbel, a gunner from Pejite, wind up stuck underneath toxic jungle. This is the result of a dogfight, I should mention. To their great surprise, the water and plants underneath the jungle are purifying the poison instead of propagating it. Their next plan of action is to travel to Pejite to warn the people of an inevitable Tolmikian attack. To their dismay, the entire city’s already been destroyed, and the Pejites have a plan to take out the Tolmikian officers by baiting a herd of colossal bugs known as Ohm into the Valley of the Wind with a baby Ohm.

By now I should have mentioned the prophecy of the warrior in blue. The prophecy states that a warrior clad in blue will arrive in a field of gold and save humanity from its impending doom. Nausicaa’s clothes are blue. The Ohm have little gold feelers that they use to feel things and heal injuries. See where I’m going with this? Nausicaa rescues the baby Ohm being used to lure the herd, gets trampled, the Ohm have an empathic moment, and they bring her back from the dead. She’s the prophesized hero.

The main problem with the movie is that it feels a little insincere at times, as I said. It feels like you already know the turnout from the very beginning of the movie, so there isn’t much need for guessing or tension. If anything, it’s one of those “take you along for the ride” epics where you just enjoy it one step at a time. Personally, I think the movie’s about a “pretty great” on a scale from “hate” to “crazy awesome.”

Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindAlso, a second issue that always comes up. Yes, Nausicaa is wearing tights that are just lighter than skin color. No, you’re not looking at her bare ass. For the love of crap, people. It’s a Miyazaki movie. Calm your faces.

A second opinion by Marc of AnimeWorld.com is available here, right through this upcoming digital portal. His means of review is MUCH more organized than mine, so it might be worth your time to snap up the good points from him instead of digging around in my muddle of opinions. Here’s the portal: http://animeworld.com/reviews/nausicaa.html

Sailor Moon, The Movie: Promise of the Rose is Your Childhood

Sailor Moon: Promise of the Rose1990’s kids will know this one. Oh yeah. This is a 1993 anime classic film based off of an awesome and deceptively cutesy TV series. Don’t think that it being based off a TV series makes it bad, though. It’s freakin’ Sailor Moon, The Movie: Promise of the Rose. How could that be bad in ANY way? Let’s crack open a bottle of plot and see how it goes down.

Darien, the true identity of the hero Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon’s love interest, is first seen to be giving a gift to another boy. A rose, accepted with great affection and the promise of the perfect flower. Darien had just lost his parents, and didn’t want to see his only friend go. The problem was, Fiore was an alien, and couldn’t stay on Earth too long because the air would eventually kill him. He left Darien, fully intending to find the perfect flower to return to Earth with, but ended up stumbling upon something very foul indeed. But more on that in a moment.

In the modern day, Darien, Serena, and the rest of the Sailor Scouts are out at a flower shop, browsing and having a good time. This is a shoujo, I should remind you. If I don’t succeed, the movie will remind you eighty times before it ends. It’s only sixty minutes, but it’s more than capable of melting your brain with love. I digress. A rain of flower petals interrupts the group as they’re leaving, and out of nowhere, a red-haired guy appears and approaches Darien. He seems pleasant enough, until he shoves Serena away when she tries to break him and Darien up. They were getting kinda… close. Darien realizes that it’s Fiore, the same boy from his childhood, and this unnerves him a bit. Something changed. Something bad.

Sailor Moon: Promise of the RoseSoon after, a plant monster attacks Tokyo with a cluster of vines in order to drain the populace’s life energy. The Sailor Scouts respond immediately, obliterating the flower-freak and saving the day… That is, until Fiore appears in his alien form and claims that he is responsible for the attack. But why would such a benevolent person stage such a horrid attack? Perhaps the dark flower on his chest should offer a reason.

Serena’s cats, Artemis and Luna, explain this one. The Kisenian Blossom is the most evil flower in existence, latching onto those with weak hearts and filling them with hatred and anger. One by one, she sucks planets dry of life energy to increase her own power, then destroys them and leaves. She cannot do this alone, however. Fiore’s heart was weak, and as such she sunk her claws into him and instilled him with vengeance against the human race for causing Darien’s loneliness.

During the fight between Fiore and the Sailor Scouts, Darien takes a dive for Serena and is critically injured. Since all the other Scouts have had their asses beaten, no one can stop Fiore as he grabs the dying Darien and spirits him away in a whirlwind of flower petals. Where did they go?

Sailor Moon: Promise of the RoseArtemis and Luna have this one, too. Apparently, he’s on a meteor. A meteor filled with the Kisenian Blossom’s plants is quickly descending to Earth, where it will open up and sprinkle the surface of the planet with dark seeds. In the end, the Earth would be reduced to a dead rock, and the Kisenian Blossom would move on. How can the Sailor Scouts hope to stop this evil meteor? How can Darien break his friend free of the dark blossom’s influence?

I’m not going to tell you. Watch the movie! It’s great! It’s overly dramatic, weepy, mushy, violent, flashy, and it really helps redefine the genre known as “Magical Girl.” I mean, seriously. You’re missing out if you haven’t seen this. What’s that, you said? Too girly? Don’t like the fact that the Scouts get naked when they transform? What, it’s not like you can see anything, pervy. I won’t tell you again. This is a classic of classic anime movies, and you won’t regret snapping this up on VHS (if you’ve got it) or DVD (if you want it) and giving it a good view. Remember! Only 60 minutes!

Is my opinion crap? I don’t think it is, but juuust in case you do, here’s the AnimeCritic’s take on Sailor Moon: Promise of the Rose. It’s also called Sailor Moon R the Movie, in case you’re wondering. http://www.animecritic.com/sailormoon/anr-sailormoonrmovie.html

Spirited Away, a Miyazaki Masterpiece

Spirited AwayHayao Miyazaki never makes a bad movie. Let me say that again, just so you know how serious I am. I’ll even italicize some of it for emphasis. Hayao Miyazaki never makes a bad movie. Sometimes he makes one that sort of shoots for the moon and hits mediocre. This is not one of those movies.

Spirited Away is a mix of folklore and modern perspectives that makes a sweet story enjoyable by almost anyone. It has fantastic characters, amazing art, astounding scenery, and many other overwhelmingly positive traits that will quickly drain my pool of flattering adjectives. Maybe a general description of the plot will help expand your understanding.

Chihiro is a young girl lacking in self-confidence and burdened by skepticism. She, her mother, and her father, have recently moved to a new house far away from her old home. She’s not too pleased with this, considering she’s leaving all of her friends behind. Her parents are sympathetic, but also eager to see Chihiro welcome the idea of a new school and life more openly. It takes a little more than an inspiring speech to pull that off.

Spirited AwayOn the drive there, Chihiro’s dad tries to take a shortcut, which leads them into an old train station, then into what looks like an abandoned theme park. Their curiosity getting the better of them, Chihiro’s parents decide to explore a bit. Then daddy’s bloodhound nose catches wind of a delicious meal (a lot of food), ready to eat. As they pig out, Chihiro is shouting for them to cut it out and come back, but to no avail. A few minutes of exploration later, the plot hits her like a truck full of bricks and shovels.

A strange boy in strange garb appears and tells Chihiro to leave quickly, before it gets dark. He blows what looks like blue flower petals from his hands, calling it a distraction while Chihiro attempts to make her getaway. To her horror, her parents have been turned into pigs. The boy, called Haku, finds her soon after and tells her to get a job at the bath house by asking the boiler man, Komaji. This is where her awkward and perilous adventure begins.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to justify the art style or quality. Hayao Miyazaki never disappoints when it comes to breathtaking visuals. I never thought I’d use “breathtaking” when describing a movie’s aesthetics for fear of sounding insincere or corny, but the only visual comparison I can offer is that of Vanillaware’s games.

Spirited AwayThe characters are great, too. They manage to cram a lot in there, but they each play their own separate part in the bittersweet story of Chihiro and her stay at the bath house of spirits. No-Face, Zeniba, Ubaba’s kid and pets, the frog, the three green heads… I’m not telling you who any of these characters are, though. Plot essential, you see.

It’s 125 minutes, but it’s definitely not a short movie by plot and action standards. There isn’t a whole lot of filler, if any at all, but that’s not surprising considering that it is a Myazaki movie. I think I should point out that while normally spamming the maker’s name isn’t any solid reassurance of quality… I won’t lie, it actually is in this case. This movie is good because Miyazaki made it, and because I’m reviewing it having watched it over twenty times and agreeing. Can you dig it?

Tekkonkinkreet: About Kids, For Older Kids

TekkonkinkreetTekkonkinkreet is very deceptive. The cover makes it look like a kids’ story about two cheerful boys who spend all their time running around a ragged city, having a grand old time. This is incredibly and mind-numbingly incorrect. This movie contains bloody violence, people being shot, people being bashed with poles, burned alive, stabbed with shortswords, and generally transported to places of physical discomfort.

Black and White are two street urchins that make up a gang known as the Cats. Black is savvy, bold, and harsh, while his counterpart, White, is a regular innocent daydreamer. In the run-down city of Treasure Town, they fight to control a turf they call theirs, fending off other gangs, yakuza… even aliens. Several characters in particular are of great importance to the plot and subplot, so they get initial coverage.

Kimura is a young member of the yakuza group trying to claim Treasure Town. He’s spent a fair portion of his life doing dirty work, and he’s starting to grow sick of all the crime. He wants to abandon the yakuza and travel somewhere far away with his pregnant wife, but fate won’t have it. Poor guy.

TekkonkinkreetThe Rat is a mob boss that Kimura works under; a sort of world-weary father figure who’s on his last legs, just trying to do what he can for his organization before his time is up. Surprisingly, he comes off as a very positive protagonist helper sort of character, which makes the impact of what happens to him all the more powerful.

Snake is the antagonist here. He represents an enigmatic though incredibly powerful organization that wants to change Treasure Town into a huge amusement park called Kiddie Kastle. In order to do that, however, he needs to have all competition put down. He uses Kimura and his two alien assassins to strike out against the Cats and the yakuza, deciding that the only way to get them out of the way is to kill them.

Snake is the basis of the plot, because it’s he who uses Kimura’s wife as leverage and orders him to kill his old boss. It’s he who has his two alien assassins try to take the lives of Black and White by gun and blade. This contributes to a fairly terrifying development in Black.

TekkonkinkreetWithin Black is a demon referred to as the Minotaur; a creature of impossible darkness and power that is kept in check by the purifying presence of White. When an assassination attempt pulls Black and White apart, everything starts to look bleak. Black finds the strength to murder the two assassins with whimsical ease, but where his physical struggle ends, his mental struggle begins

That’s about all I can tell you about the plot. Tekkonkinkreet is a very surreal anime movie, one with a unique art style and tone that you really can’t find anywhere else. Many of you will notice an obvious focus towards visual appeal, which may very well have taken away from the complexity of the plot and characters. From a neutral standpoint, I believe that Tekkonkinkreet is a great movie with a lot to offer to its audience, from plot to characters and shiny backgrounds.

Also worth mentioning is that Tekkonkinkreet is a three volume manga series. For those of you who’ve seen the movie and know that cinematics never perfectly reflect their work of origin, the manga might be a good place to turn. I hear there’s even a three-in-one graphic novel for those of you that don’t want to worry about three separate books. Whether you get the movie or the books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. If you get nothing, then poo on you.