Monday, December 30, 2013

Frozen (2013)

"Why do you shut the world out? What are you so afraid of?"

Since I feel completely out of steam right now due to the holiday season, I'm just gonna cut to the chase and say that not only is Frozen possibly the best musical to come from Disney in the last decade, it's also easily my second favorite movie of the year! (Although, comparing any movie to Pacific Rim just wouldn't be fair) The writing is solid, the characters are memorable, it has a strong message, and overall it's just a lot of fun.

In the kingdom of Arendelle lived two princesses, eight year-old Elsa and five year-old Anna, who were as close as sisters could be, until Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with her magical ice powers. Their parents, the king and queen, take Anna to a wise troll to try and save her, who tells them that the only way he can save Anna is if he erases any knowledge she has of Elsa's magic. It is from then that not only were the sisters forbidden to leave the castle, but Elsa was locked away, alone in her room, as she was being taught how to control her powers. As time went by, the two of them drifted further apart and became less attached to reality outside the castle walls. That is, until the day of Elsa's coronation...

Something that caught me off-guard with Frozen was that it had a very different feel from most other animated Disney musicals. Whereas a lot of the more modern ones that come to mind (Aladdin, Mulan, etc.) maintain a good focus on the scale of the main characters' actions, Frozen doesn't seem too concerned with that. The strict focus on character made it feel more like an adaptation of a stage musical than anything else I've seen come from Disney. Whether or not that was intentional (individual CG models can be very difficult to make, after all), I thought it worked in that regard.

What I took away from the movie was that it was a cautionary tale about what happens when children are sheltered from the rest of the world. As a result of how overprotective the king and queen were towards their daughters, Elsa never learned how to be confident using her powers around others while Anna becomes so desperate for company that she falls for the very for man she meets. Naturally, nothing good comes from this, and the rest of the movie shows the two sisters learning how to live their own lives.

What I liked most about it was the soundtrack. In fact, I felt compelled to pick up a copy on the way home from the theater! Two songs in particular, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "Let It Go", are really well-written and evoke so much raw emotion that it wouldn't surprise me if, over the next decade, they become as fondly remembered as "A Whole New World". I'm also going to add that it is not easy to convey emotion convincingly in CG animation. The only songs that I felt didn't add quite as much to the plot were "In Summer" and "Fixer Upper", which were still good songs in their own right.

If you can still catch Frozen in theaters, then do it. In 3D, too, if possible. It may not be like any of Disney's past musicals, but if this is the new direction that they're headed, then I'm behind it completely.

Frozen was directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

CLIP SHOW: "Star Fleet" by Brian May + Friends

By the early '80s, Japanese comic book legend Go Nagai had become a household name. He had written many famous comic stories across virtually every genre, including horror (Devilman), superhero (Cutie Honey), and erotic comedy (Shameless School); many of which he adapted into highly successful TV cartoons. However, he is probably best known for being one of the most influential figures in shaping giant robot fiction, with his creation of the very first piloted robot, Mazinger Z. It was from there that Nagai tried venturing into more uncharted territory when he created a marionette-animated TV show called X-Bomber. The story focuses on the adventures of a small crew of Earth Defense Force pilots as they fight to protect the Solar System against the evil legions of Commander Makara using the power of their transforming robot, the massive Dai X.

Shortly after X-Bomber's run on Japanese TV, it was imported to the U.K. as Star Fleet, where it was dubbed into English and got an entirely new score. In 1983, Brian May of Queen became inspired to record an EP based on the English language theme song after he was introduced to the show by his son. Star Fleet Project was May's first solo outing, and included several of his peers such as Eddie Van Halen on lead guitar and fellow Queen member Roger Taylor on backing vocals. A music video was made of the "single version" of the title track, which consisted of Star Fleet show footage and clips of May's disembodied head singing and floating through space.

Star Fleet Project was originally not intended to be released, but May gave in when everybody he played it for encouraged him to. Unfortunately, it was only officially released on vinyl, largely forgotten by a world in need of unfaltering heroism. Let's all send that message back to Earth Control!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Karate Bugmen: Mystery Bugmen Theatre - Azteckaiser, ep. 1

In this episode of The Karate Bugmen's "Mystery Bugmen Theatre" segment, I join the main crew and a couple of the guys from The Oriental Cartoon Show in live-riffing the first episode of the underrated Japanese action show, Pro-Wrestling Star Azteckaiser! The story revolves around a mysterious masked hero who fights to save professional wrestling and all of its competitors from the Black Mist federation, led by the evil Satan Demon! Azteckaiser is a live-action special effects show with animated fight sequences, and was co-created by two of Japan's biggest comic book legends, Go Nagai (Devilman, Mazinger Z) and Ken Ishikawa (Getter Robo).

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Oriental Cartoon Show: GaoGaiGar & GaoGaiGar FINAL

This episode marks my second appearance on The Oriental Cartoon Show. Here, Mark and I talk about one of my favorite giant robot sagas: GaoGaiGar: King of the Braves, and its place in Japanese robot history.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mazinger Z vs. The Great General of Darkness (1974)

"Deep beneath the earth, seven robots lay dormant: a human, a mammal, a bird, a fish, an insect, a reptile, a ghost... and the Great General of Darkness."

After having watched Pacific Rim in the theater three times and with the home video release coming up, I'm definitely in the mood for some old-school giant robots. Let me tell you, it doesn't get much more old-school than the very first piloted robot, Mazinger Z! Although Great General of Darkness was the titular robot's second theatrical feature (the first being Mazinger Z vs. Devilman), it is unquestionably the most influential.

Like every theatrical film based on a Toei Animation TV show, it expects that the audience is already familiar with the characters and setting. Just in case you're going into this one blind, I'll give you a brief synopsis: Koji Kabuto is a teenager who lives with his little brother, Shiro, and his grandpa, Dr. Juzo Kabuto, a brilliant inventor.

One day, Koji discovers a secret laboratory underneath his house, where he finds a massive robot and his grandpa, crushed under some rubble. Juzo explains that he's been spending years down in this lab building this robot, "Mazinger Z", constructed out of the most indestructible metal known to man: Super Alloy Z! With his last dying breath, Juzo tells Koji that Mazinger Z is his to do whatever he wants with, and that with such power, he could become either a god or a devil. Koji and Shiro, now orphaned, live with Professor Yumi, a colleague of Juzo's, and his daughter and Koji's girlfriend, Sayaka, at the Photon Research Institute. Japan soon finds itself under constant attack by Mechanical Beasts, which were unearthed from ancient Mycenae ruins in Greece by the evil Dr. Hell, and only Koji and his friends can put a stop to this threat with the power of Mazinger Z!

As Koji and Sayaka's friend, Boss, is taking cover from a vicious storm with his two lackeys, he sees a shaman who tells him that a powerful evil, The Great General of Darkness, is coming to take over the world and that the only thing that can stand in his way is Mazinger Z. When all the major cities in the world come under attack by an army of giant robot monsters, Koji, Sayaka, and Boss all once again sally forth inside their mighty robots to save the world once again! However, this time, Koji learns very quickly that this is a fight he may not win...

To keep from disappointing anyone, I'm just gonna come right out and say that not only do we not see Mazinger Z actually fight the Great General, we never even see them occupying the same space together. It became something of a tradition during the '70s when Toei was making crossover movies based on Go Nagai's work that we (almost) never see the titular fights commence.

You may have noticed that I haven't actually discussed the overall quality of the movie, itself. When you consider that it's just an extended episode of the TV series, there's really no need. Stock footage, static animation, new weapons out of nowhere, and Ichiro Mizuki music are the order of the day, and your tolerance/appreciation of all that will determine whether or not this one's for you.

If you want to take a look back at a really important milestone in giant robot history, then watch Mazinger Z vs. The Great General of Darkness. Without our mighty Castle of Iron there would be no Voltron, Gundam, Evangelion, or Pacific Rim, and I can guarantee that you'll find elements of each one of these famous mecha stories right here, where they made their grand, Rocket Punching debut!

Mazinger Z vs. The Great General of Darkness is based on the comic book series, Mazinger Z, written and illustrated by Go Nagai.

Friday, July 26, 2013

BraveStarr: The Movie (1988)

"From destruction came creation: A new power... a new hope... a new hero... BraveStarr!"

When I first saw the above poster and read a brief plot synopsis, I went in to BraveStarr expecting a grand sci-fi epic with a strong western influence. Unfortunately, all it really amounted to was Cowboy He-Man in Space. I guess I should've known better after seeing the Filmation logo appear onscreen, but I really wanted this movie to be good. Unfortunately, it didn't exactly meet my expectations.

In the far future, there exists a far-off desert planet called New Texas, which has become home to many explorers of the final frontier. It is now under attack by an evil monster called Stampede and his right-hand man, a gun-slingin' sorcerer named Tex Hex. Luckily, the Galactic Marshall, BraveStarr, has been deployed to tame this town. Guided by mystical powers given to him by a wise Shaman, BraveStarr and his friends will take the fight to Tex Hex and free New Texas from the evil clutches of Stampede once and for all!

As fun as the plot may sound, the way the story is presented can be just brutal to sit through. During the first scene, we get to listen to the Shaman talk out loud to himself about how there's this incredible, omnipotent evil power haunting all of New Texas, and that a then-teenage BraveStarr is the only person who can stop it. The problem with this is that he keeps going on and on about this evil power, and yet the audience is given no clue as to what it is, what it looks like, or what makes it evil. After we finally get to see what Stampede looks like, the rest of the first half is just more dry world-building exposition.

Concerning the animation, if you've ever watched an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, then you already have a pretty good idea of how it looks. Almost everything produced by Filmation sports an very similar animation style. Considering BraveStarr: The Movie was a feature-length film released in theaters, though, this is unacceptable. The animation quality does steadily improve over the course of the movie, to what I would consider Filmation's best, but it still doesn't stack up well to its contemporaries.

The characters are all completely two-dimensional in personality, and it's easy to predict what will happen to them later on shortly after they're introduced. However, I found myself enjoying every moment that Tex Hex was onscreen. Much like G.I. Joe's Cobra Commander and He-Man's Skeletor, he just had a certain charm about him that stemmed from his flamboyancy, overwhelming passion for what he does, and constant failure to do so. Eighties cartoon villains, gotta love 'em.

Unless you're a diehard fan of Filmation's other works, and I know there are a lot of you out there, then you can probably skip BraveStarr. Despite my wording, it isn't a terrible movie by any means, just an extremely disappointing one. I did enjoy the score (a lot, actually) and Tex Hex was a very entertaining character, so there were parts that I liked. If anything, it taught me to do a little more research about what I watch before I watch it.

BraveStarr: The Movie was directed by Tom Tataranowicz and was based on the syndicated TV series and action figure line of the same name.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Oriental Cartoon Show: Transformers Prime

The Oriental Cartoon Show, a podcast about cartoons and comics of all kinds, has just launched, and I'm one of this episode's guest stars. Listen as we talk Transformers Prime for almost two straight hours.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


"I am the knowledge and strength of 10,000 worlds. I am flesh and machine.
I am becoming everything."

2013 is shaping up to be a great year for Superman. With the overwhelmingly positive reactions to the most recent Man of Steel trailers, it seems like everybody is once again ready to believe that a man can fly! However, his first big adventure of the year has already come out, and its name is Superman: Unbound.

After rescuing his girlfriend, Lois Lane, for the 63,842nd time, Clark Kent starts to become annoyed with her taking his powers for granted so she can keep chasing the scoop of the century. While Lois does enjoy the perks of being Superman's girlfriend, she tells him that she also feels like he's smothering her by trying to protect her from every little thing as well, like being hit on by co-workers. Meanwhile, Kara Zor-El, who is still adjusting to her new life on Earth as Supergirl, is growing tired of her older cousin lecturing her, believing that he doesn't know what it's like to be powerless for most of his life, like she was.

When Superman learns that a meteor is about to collide with the Earth, he heads over to stop it, only to discover that it's actually a robot drone. Supergirl recognizes it and reveals that it belongs to Brainiac, a mysterious being that abducted Krypton's capital city, Kandor, as she watched, and left the rest of the Kryptonians for dead. The Man of Tomorrow then tells a disappointed Lois that he needs to go out into space, and then leaves to take on this mysterious invader.

Over the years, Superman's amassed a very interesting and varied rogues gallery, and Brainiac, through his many different incarnations, has long been a fan favorite. I find this version of him particularly interesting because in this story, he comes across as an accurate representation of how the U.S. continues to portray the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He's an unsympathetic, calculating, physically-imposing information vacuum that will go through anything and anyone to obtain all the knowledge in the galaxy. Add to that a truly chilling performance by John Noble (The Lord of the Rings, Transformers: Prime), and this take on the classic DC villain makes for an exciting antagonist for the personification of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

For as powerful as Superman is and how exciting his fights usually are, I believe that he's at his best when he's faced with a dilemma that challenges his sense of morality. What I like most about Unbound is that while Brainiac's invasion of Earth may be the conflict that's at the forefront of the story, the whole event helps Superman to realize the problems that Lois and Kara are going through because of him, and what he can do to save them from himself.

If you aren't really all that familiar with Superman as a character, then Superman: Unbound is a really good place to find out why he has had such incredible staying-power, among his many other powers.

Superman: Unbound was directed by James Tucker, and is the sixteenth entry in Warner Bros. Animation's successful DC Universe Animated Original Movie series.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


"I'm an Amazon. We're prepared from birth to give our lives in battle."

One of the biggest complaints surrounding DC's successful series of direct-to-video animated features is that there are so few that don't focus mainly on Batman, Superman, or the Justice League. While Wonder Woman, alone, may not be as popular as the above three, I think her first solo outing is easily one of the best in the series. It succeeds by offering more variety by way of adding elements of Greek mythology and some interesting commentary on gender politics to the usual superheroics.

Centuries ago, a bloody battle took place between Queen Hippolyta and her Amazon warriors, and Ares, the god of war, and his undead army. Toward the end of the struggle, Zeus stopped Hippolyta from killing his son, and blessed her people with everlasting and a place to isolate them from the destructive world of Man, the island of Themyscira, as compensation. Cut to the present day, where their culture has completely stagnated. There have been no advances in technology, and no one has entered or left the island. Ares is locked away in a small prison cell, with his godlike powers sealed away. The only change brought to their way of life was the daughter that the gods had blessed Hippolyta with: Princess Diana.

During a fierce dogfight over the ocean, U.S. military pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands on Themyscira, and causes a massive panic. While the Amazons are busy interrogating him, learning about the modern Man's World, and planning to return him to the States, Ares has his sights set on revenge, and plans to achieve it, no matter the cost.

First off, I can't praise the casting choices enough. Keri Russell (Felicity) and Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern: Emerald Knights) add a surprising layer of emotional depth to Diana/Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, respectively. The biggest surprise, though, was seeing in the credits that Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-Man 2) played Ares. He just came off as much more sinister and demonic than in any other roles I've seen him in, and it was definitely something to behold.

What I liked most about Wonder Woman was that it wasn't afraid to shake up the DC animated movie formula a little. It felt less like a superhero movie and more like a classic Greek epic. At its core, it's a story about a warrior who ventures to distant lands on a quest, learns more about herself and the world around her, and eventually comes to realize her own power. There were parts of the story, particularly those taking place on Themyscira, that reminded me of "The Epic of Gilgamesh", in how they portray Diana's journey toward becoming a hero. It also added some social commentary to the mix, bringing several gender issues to attention through Diana and Steve's interactions with each other. For instance, Diana, having only lived around women her whole life, is quick to dismiss all men as being vulgar and womanizing through her unpleasant interactions with Steve. However, through working together to stop Ares, they both learn to communicate their problems with each other better in order to work together.

As much as I enjoyed Wonder Woman, I did have a few problems with it. The first being that for a movie that's filled to the brim with swords and dismemberment, there's a very noticeable lack of gore. I kept wondering if there were some shots that had been removed for the final cut to make it more accessible, which I found out was actually confirmed by producer Bruce Timm. Also, for a film that spends a lot of time criticizing the "male gaze", it's not afraid of showing off the occasional cheesecake shot of Diana and the other Amazons, which felt kinda jarring. Finally, while the writers did a great job providing updated explanations for many of Wonder Woman's classic trademarks, like her red-white-and-blue armor, they never explain how she got that damn invisible jet!

It's a real shame that Wonder Woman isn't getting the same respect that many of her contemporaries are these days, but this updated take on the classic character should change some minds, and change the world!

Wonder Woman was directed by Lauren Montgomery, and is the fourth film in Warner Bros. Animation's successful DC Universe Animated Original Movie series.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CLIP SHOW: Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

During the late 80s/early 90s, it was almost impossible to think of an R-rated action movie that wasn't adapted into a children's cartoon. During an era that spawned such shows as Rambo: The Force of Freedom, Highlander: The Animated Series, and Conan the Adventurer, a short pilot was made for a kids' cartoon based on Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., a particularly bizarre movie, even by Troma Entertainment standards. While the movie focused solely on the titular hero, a cop who became the unwilling recipient of ancient Kabuki powers, and his mentor as they fight to defeat "The Evil One", a group of sidekick characters were created for the show. Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. would have been Troma's second attempt at children's television, following the short-lived Toxic Crusaders, but it inexplicably never went into production.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


The direct-to-video animation market in Japan used to be a hotbed for up-and-coming animators to be able to spread their wings and show off the full extent of their talents by either creating their own independent short films or adapting comic and novel series'. From the eighties to the mid-nineties, video stores were flooded with many different genres and styles of Original Video Animations (OVAs). Some of my favorites from this era include The Guyver (1989), Riding Bean (1989), and M.D. Geist (1986).

Unfortunately, with the turn that the Japanese economy's taken since then, animation studios have become much more averse to taking any risks. These days, the only DTV animated features being released in Japan are either TV show tie-ins or pornography. Thankfully, an annual project conceived two years ago, called "Anime Mirai", in which the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs funds on-the-job training for new animators, has been resulting in more independent OVAs being released lately. The short film that I'm writing about now, Little Witch Academia, is 2013's entry from Trigger, the animation studio that brought us the amazing Inferno Cop.

After attending a magic show by the dazzling Shiny Chariot, a brash, starry-eyed young girl named Akko enrolls in an academy for witches, but soon discovers it's not as easy as she hoped. She falls asleep in class, her spells backfire on her, and she's bullied by a girl named Diana, who both looks and acts like she might as well be Draco Malfoy's younger sister. When Akko tells her friends that she wants to be like Shiny Chariot, they say that she has a reputation for giving off the wrong impression of what witches do, and is probably a fraud. When it comes time for an exam that requires the students to navigate a labyrinth and seek out treasure, Akko jumps at the chance to both prove her worth and vindicate her idol.

Little Witch Academia sports a nice, safe story that doesn't break any new ground whatsoever, but it's competently written. The plot's solid, and it gives the audience enough of a reason to cheer on its hero. However, an original story was not the intended goal here, since it was created solely as a way for a young artist to put his talents on display, which it greatly excels at. The character designs are original, the colors are vibrant, and the animation is very fluid, which makes it really stand out from what's considered the norm for anime these days.

This was what the OVA movement was all about: letting artists showcase their talents by allowing them to take risks and not feel the need to conform to the industry standard in order to sell home video copies and merchandise. Little Witch Academia oozes that sense of artistic freedom, and in doing so, feels like a breath of fresh air. At only twenty-five minutes, it's able to maintain a good pace and doesn't drag on at all. I recommend it to those who like independent animation and want to show their support for it.

Little Witch Academia is Trigger's submission for the 2013 "Anime Mirai", and was animated and directed by Yoh Yoshinari (FLCL, Gunbuster 2: Diebuster).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CLIP SHOW: "At The Movies" Animated Film Reviews




 An outstanding film critic, who viewed animation as a medium instead of a genre.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


"Mr. Jackson, we officially present your new home in space."

To say that Michael Jackson has done it all would not be that big of a stretch. Aside from a multi-platinum music career, he has also starred in film, television, and even video games. Michael made his animation debut in the classic 1991 episode of The Simpsons, "Stark Raving Dad", where he played a large white man at a mental asylum who believed he was MJ. In 1997, MTV Animation released a short made-for-TV film centered around the King of Pop called Planet Jackson, which stands as one of the most heartfelt, as well as obscure, works based on his life. It was thought to have been lost because MTV discarded the sole film reel after a lack of publicity resulted in staggeringly poor Nielsen ratings. This may also be due to the fact that Jackson did not voice himself in this feature, presumably because of scheduling conflicts that arose while he was filming the movie, Ghosts.

In order to escape unwanted media attention, the King of Pop hires a large crew to build him his own space station, far out of the public's eye. Isolated out in space, Michael is finally able to rediscover true happiness now that nobody's trying to leech off of his success. However, his euphoria is cut short when he is visited by a fleet of enemy ships, commanded by his siblings, who have all become white in an effort to emulate their famous brother. Now, Michael must make the difficult, heartbreaking  decision of whether to fight his own family in deadly starship combat, or be forced to bend to the wills of everybody around him for the rest of his days.

Planet Jackson is a perfect metaphor for all of the hardships that Jackson was going through during the late 1990s. It does a very good job of getting across the idea that no matter how hard he tried to hide from all of the negative attention he was getting, stemming from his divorce with Lisa Marie Presley and the many child molestation allegations, he couldn't escape. It is a tragic tale that pulls you in with its bright animation style, courtesy of acclaimed sci-fi animation director Toshihiro Kawamoto (Macross Plus/Gundam 0080), and then silently tugs at your heartstrings, showing just how high the price of fame can really be. It's truly unfortunate that not many people have had the pleasure of watching a production so worthy of Michael Jackson's name.

Although Planet Jackson was once so obscure to the point where many doubted its existence, a few years ago, somebody came forward with a VHS recording of it that had been taped during the film's initial broadcast on MTV, and uploaded it to YouTube. Now here, for all of you to enjoy, is Planet Jackson:

Planet Jackson aired as part of an episode of MTV Animation's Cartoon Sushi during its anime parody-themed Ultra City 6060 segment, and was created using stock footage from the direct-to-video series, Mighty Space Miners.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CLIP SHOW: "Flight of Icarus" by Iron Maiden

While the original music video for "Flight of Icarus" was released in 1983, this alternate version was released alongside it on Iron Maiden's 2003 compilation DVD, Visions of the Beast: The Complete Video History. This edit, along with five others featured on Visions, was animated by the now-defunct flash animation studio, Camp Chaos. It was brought to life by interweaving shots of the band from the original video with newer animation meant to evoke the image of the 1983 EP cover:

Monday, March 11, 2013


"It was the dark ages when Braiking Boss and his robots ruled the Earth. Some found the courage to resist this tyrant. Among these freedom fighters, one stood out above the rest."

Tatsunoko Productions is a famous animation studio that is probably most recognized for its many superhero characters created during the 1970s. Among them is the Neo-Human, Casshern (romanized as "Casshan" in the original Streamline Pictures release of this series), who was the human son of a scientist that developed androids to try to benefit humans' needs, only to have them turn on their masters. In the wake of this worldwide catastrophe, the boy, named Tetsuya, volunteered to be turned into a cyborg so he could defend humanity. Together with his girlfriend, Luna, and his transformable robot dog, Friender, Casshern wanders post-apocalyptic landscapes, saving villages and fighting the robot armies of the android who originally started this rebellion, Braiking Boss ("Black King" in the Streamline release).

In this iteration, Casshern is portrayed as an amnesiac Jesus allegory whose strength is determined by whatever the writer feels will prove more exciting at the time. Unfortunately, the big problem with this incarnation is that it never actually does feel exciting. Even with an endless supply of exploding robots and a theme song from Mr. Exciting himself, Hironobu Kageyama (Dragon Ball Z/M.D. Geist), this miniseries was unable to elicit any sort of reaction from me. I say this because it just feels like there's far too much emphasis on providing exposition than giving me a reason to care about these characters and why their struggle is so important. Too much tell, not nearly enough show.

The backgrounds and character designs are all really good, but it becomes hard to care once you realize that Casshern has only slightly more fluid animation than a motion comic. The animation was another reason I couldn't get absorbed in any of the fight scenes. There was very little movement during the action, and the fights were kept very short, presumably due to budget constraints.

What could have been a cool, action-packed series about a cyborg superhero karate-chopping robots in half turned out to be surprisingly dull. Casshern: Robot Hunter is a story with a lot of potential that was ultimately squandered by its tendency to put world-building before anything else and its lame animation. I spent most of its run time wanting to just stop it and pop in The Terminator instead, since it explores very similar themes without making me constantly want to check the clock. For a far less mediocre take on this character and his quest to save mankind, I would recommend you watch the original series. The more recent remake, Casshern Sins, is also pretty good, if a fair bit melodramatic.

Casshern: Robot Hunter is based on the 1973 television series, Neo-Human Casshern, created by Tatsunoko Productions.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


"This devil... it will be the god who brings us salvation..."

No matter what it may be, if it has Go Nagai's name on it, you can sure-as-hell expect to be entertained, and this is no exception. Mazinkaiser SKL is the most recent animated offering from Nagai's company, Dynamic Productions, and exists as a spin-off of the miniseries, Mazinkaiser (itself a spin-off of Nagai's 1970s comic series, Mazinger Z). Thankfully, absolutely no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this, as this is series is completely stand-alone, and makes for a pretty good introduction to the exciting world of Go Nagai.

In the far future, there exists an island called Kikaijima, where three different tribes have been waging a seemingly endless war for complete control over the island and its resources. The first tribe we're introduced to is the Kiba Army, a large group of Mad Max-style badlanders who rely more on brute force than anything else. Next, the Garan Army, who have a Warring States Era samurai motif, and are more strategy-reliant than the others. The last tribe is the Hachiryokaku, a convent of toga-clad women with magical abilities. The only thing these groups have in common is that they all use the same instruments of destruction: GIANT ROBOTS!

The only thing keeping this small-scale war contained is a device called the Gravity Curtain, which is a powerful force-field that regulates what can and can't enter or leave the island. Unfortunately, due to the amount of power being used by Kikaijima's inhabitants to keep the war going, the Gravity Curtain has become so unstable that it will explode in 66 hours, possibly ending all life on Earth. In light of this, the government has dispatched two former mercenaries and their demonic-looking robot, Kaiser, to the island to crash, smash, and slaughter their way through legions of other robots in order to save the world from a massive cataclysm.

From the time when I found out that Mazinkaiser SKL was being made, I couldn't wait to see it. Ninety minutes of two homicidal psychopaths in a giant robot tearing apart everything in sight in the name of justice while 80s heavy metal masters Loudness belt out some face-melters is exactly the kind of thing I look for in my action entertainment. There isn't a dull moment to be found here. The action manages to remain exciting throughout, which definitely makes up for its very simplistic plot.

Due to the nature of Mazinkaiser SKL as a three-part direct-to-video series from Japan, you really shouldn't go into this expecting a more complex plot than what I described above. Towards the end of the second episode, there are hints of possible character development in the final episode, but all that gets dropped in favor of more robo-carnage. Considering I wasn't expecting any development before watching this, I was able to let it slide.

If the very thought of robots exploding in a huge bloody mess to the sounds of screaming 80s metal gets your blood pumping, then you'll love Mazinkaiser SKL. Just be warned that prolonged exposure to this series may lead to the following symptoms: 1) Adrenaline starts to flow. 2) You're thrashing all around. 3) Acting like a maniac. 4) WHIPLASH!
Mazinkaiser SKL is based on an original story by award-winning comic book writer/artist, Go Nagai.