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Gundam Evolve (anime review)

gundam-evolveTitle: Gundam Evolve

Director: Various – compilation shorts series

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: May 3rd, 2016

Format: DVD / 120 minutes / 15 episodes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C+

Synopsis: 

Explore the Gundam Universe from fifteen new perspectives!

Experience the ultimate visualization of the Mobile Suit Gundam Universe with fifteen short films featuring a mix of traditional and digital animation styles. You’ll find adventures from multiple Gundam series, including side stories of characters such as Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing, and a retelling of episode 39 of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series!

Features fifteen short Gundam films by directors like Kenichi Suzuki (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), Shukou Murase (Gangsta., Ergo Proxy), Takashi Imanishi (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin), and more!

Commentary:

The Gundam universe is broad and wide and Evolve is one of the stranger corners of that Universe. These 15 shorts are all over the place and after a while you aren’t sure what you are watching. It is very clear that the point of this compilation was to show off the awesome CG (Computer Generated Animation) in the early 2000’s.  The flaw in having it released now is that the CG just falls short and is at time very hard to watch. The other major flaw is that the continuity fall s apart with have so many different directors and creators involved.

Overall Grade: C+

Gundam Evolve is something very special in the Gundam franchise, but looses in critical aspect of being well made and coherent. The overworked CG and felling that this is nothing more than a compilation of cut scenes or music videos will leave you wanting for a lot more. I also found the inclusion of SD (Super Deformed) shorts as distracting and not helpful in puling off the grouping.

For most Gundam fans Gundam Evolve will be one of those curiosities that they will buy to add to their collection. For everyone else this set is just a confusing grouping of Gundam shorts that will leave you scratching your head and asking yourself what just happened to the last two hours that you will never be able to get back.

 

Mobile Suite Gundam Zeta: A New Translation Movie (anime review)

mobile-suit-zeta-gundam-a-new-translationTitle: Mobile Suite Gundam Zeta: A New Translation Movie

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Sunrise Inc., Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: May 3rd, 2016

Format: DVD: Feature Films / 3 Movies / 297 minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C+

Synopsis:

The Earth Federation stands victorious, but are they still on the right side?

Universal Century 0087. The Titans, a bellicose faction among the Earth Federation Forces, grows powerful and tyrannical, even using poison gas to suppress a civil unrest. Dissident soldiers from the same military stand against them, forming a resistance group called the A.E.U.G. Kamille Bidan, a civilian student, gets entangled in this conflict when he accidentally steals the Gundam Mk-II and joins the A.E.U.G., running away from his home space colony. Then he begins to fight along with Char Aznable, a former Zeon ace pilot who has infiltrated the Earth Sphere for reasons of his own.

Contains all three Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam compilation films.

Commentary:

Okay, I’m not real sure why there would be a re-release of these films unless they feel as though the original Zeta story was just too long and boring. Or maybe it is just another money grab. Either way it doesn’t make any real sense to make these films. I did enjoy them and I guess that someone not into Gundam might be willing to sit through these rather than the series, but I still have a hard time for more of the same old push by anime producers to crank out these remake films that just shortcut the story just to make a few more bucks.

Overall Grade: C+

Mobile Suite Gundam Zeta: A New Translation could be a great way to have a non-Gundam fan sit through the series without going through the series. I wish I had more positive to say, but this was something very common to have a series truncated into a movie or movies just to milk it for more.

If you are not familiar with Gundam and someone very close to you is then you might want to check this out it might lead to something greater.

Gasaraki Complete Series (anime review)

gasarakiTitle: Gasaraki: The Complete Series

Director: Ryousuke Takahashi

U.S. Distributor: Right Stuf / Nozomi

U.S. Re-Release Date: May 3rd, 2016

Format: DVD / 625 Minutes / 25 Episodes

Genre: Mecha, Supernatural

Age Rating: 13+

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Similar Titles: Evangelion

One of the most poignant phrases that haunts humans is “History always repeats itself”. There are many tragic dances that burn in the flames of time and never quite seem to be completed.

Synopsis:

Japan has become fat on its own prosperity and have begun to get more involved in world politics. The Gowa family with their power base and industrial complex have developed bipedal weapons that they call Tactical Armor or T. A.. There is something special about the way they react and it all appears to hinge on how Yushiro Gowa performs. There is a deep seeded bond between man and machine but this bond does not seem to be natural, but rather supernatural.

With strife and war breaking out in eastern Europe the Gowa Organization and the Japanese military use this chase to see these new weapons in action. Unknown to them another organization, Symbol, has developed their  own T. A.s and when the two meet the Gowa team have their hands full.  The key to their team is young girl named Miharu, who had appeared to Yushiro during a ceremony when he was about to resurrect some unknown power that heir family is noted as holding the key to. This power was supposedly given to them by the God Gasaraki.

Once back in Japan Yushiro discover a terrible truth about himself that puts him on the path to uncover the truth about his history. This path leads him directly into the depths of the Gowa history as he discovers that he is what is know as a Kai, the one who can control the giant warrior the Kugai. He ends up fighting Miharu while piloting the Kugai and manages to defeat her. Knowing that there is a connection they both run off to discover their past. In this search they discover that they are connected for over 1000 years and what their terrible purpose just might be.

The power of the Gowa and a highly idealistic Japanese visionary leads Japan to the brink of destruction. The key lies with both Yushiro and Miharu. Will they repeat the nightmare of the past or can they overcome their history and find a new path?

Commentary:

Even though 1998 seems so long ago it is great to take this trip back to see this highly dramatic series. There is so much going on with Gasaraki that it take 5 episodes to get a grip on what is happening. The blend of Japanese myth and modern day technology gives a special edge to the series. This is topped off by the heavy drama that is played out. There are very few light moments and that might be the one area of weakness. The heaviness takes it toll at times and you almost have to take a breath to relax in order to move on. That is not to say that the series is depressing, because I did not find it to be a downer in any way, it just takes itself very seriously.

As I moved through the Gasaraki I found myself coming up with plenty of questions regarding the history of this intense family and how these two young people were really connected to it. I was very happy to see them and us get a solid understanding of the past which suddenly proved to be very poignant. It opened the plot line up and exposed the mysteries that lay beneath the surface. I must admit that there were times that I found Yushiro and Miharu a bit flat and mono dimensional but in many ways it works to their advantage as the series progressed and explained who and what they really are.

Overall Grade: A-

There are several series out there that deserve a second chance through the arena and Gasaraki is one of those series. If you have not seen Gasaraki and are a fan of Mecha intertwine with supernatural elements then this one is up you’re ally. If you just enjoy a serious series that gives plenty of action then you should take the time to enjoy it.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Collection Two on Blu-ray (anime review)

mobile-suit-zeta-gundamTitle: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Collection Two on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Nozomi/ Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: April 5th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Sci Fi

Age Rating: TV14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

A new force enters the Universal Century conflict. Can the A.E.U.G. fight a war on two fronts?

The Universal Century world is locked into an escalating conflict. While the A.E.U.G. resistance group strives to convince the world of the justice of its cause, the brutal Titans continue to suppress dissent through violence and fear. Now the struggle enters a new phase as a powerful third force enters the battlefield, and the A.E.U.G. and Titans race to enlist the support of the mysterious Axis renegades. Confronted with his past, Char Aznable at last decides to embrace his role as leader of the A.E.U.G. But his choice may have come too late, for the Titans have completed their most terrible and devastating weapon.

Commentary:

In the world know as Gundam there are often conflicting messages, but one thing stands true, women make great shields. I think Zeta has the greatest body count of martyrs than any other Gundam series. The one thing that runs through most of this plot devise is that most of them die for the wrong person.

Zeta Gundam is still one of my favorite series of the franchise and yet it manages to frustrate me and remind me how backward much of the mindset set was back in the 1980’s. I am not proud to say that I come from the era and less proud to relive the foolishness that was viewed as high entertainment in the anime world,

Overall Grade: B

The series as a whole is good enough and is clearly a stand out in the Gundam universe. I know that there are a good deal of fans that will climb over each other to get their hands on this series and plenty that will stand back and scratch their heads. I do understand the fandom, I may not always agree with it but I get it.

So, all you Gundam fan get your Zeta hats on and get ready for part two of the Mobile Suite Zeta Gundam series to hit the store shelves. I know you will like it.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (anime review)

mobile-suit-zeta-gundam-Title: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Collection One on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Nozomi/ Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: March 1st, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Sci Fi

Age Rating: TV14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

The Earth Federation stands victorious, but are they still on the right side?

In Zeta Gundam, we see the future world of the Universal Century through a dark mirror. Having defeated the Zeon menace, the Earth Federation has itself become cruel and oppressive. A new generation of Gundam mobile suits is created not to fight for peace, but to punish the enemies of the state, and yesterday’s villains must become today’s heroes in order to balance the scales of justice. When a young civilian named Kamille Bidan is caught up in the rebellion, he little suspects the price he will pay in the fight for freedom.

Commentary:

I really wanted to like Kamille and I wanted to root for him, but that didn’t last. Once he joined the A.E.U.G. he became even more obnoxious. In the beginning he was a thief and then he just became a whinny little Japanese main character. Other than the obnoxious main character I found the series rather enjoyable. To be honest I don’t find the older series rather tiresome, but Zeta Gundam has some interesting points of view that are well developed and explored in a very deliberate manor. The philosophical viewpoint from A.E.U.G. is rather forward thinking for a series that is almost 15 years old.

Overall Grade: B

When the name Gundam is mentioned I know that I am in for a long conversation with a fan who are immersed in a universe of contradictions and  fanciful flights of science fiction that tend to defy any real grounding in physics or understanding of the universe we live in. Zeta Gundam manages to find some reality but the strength of the series is in its viewpoints not the understanding of the physics that surround them.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is a fun series and I have a feeling that the second collection will round it out and bring it home with a bang. I know that Gundam fans will grab this one up, but if you are new to the series this is a good one to start with. The animation is reasonable for a TV series and the writing is better than several of the other series in the Gundam universe. So, if you want to dip your toe’s in the world of Mobile Suit Gundam then Zeta is a great place to start.

 

Buddy Complex (anime review)

Buddy ComplexTitle: Buddy Complex: The Complete Series

Director: Yashiro Tanabe

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: November 11th, 2015

Format: DVD/ Blu-ray / 13 Episodes + 2 Specials / 375 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Sci Fi, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

It’s shaping up to be another boring day for high school student Aoba Watase until a bright light appears in the sky and a giant robot attacks the city. As the mechanical menace closes in on him, he’s saved by a classmate who’s piloting a mech of her own. After accepting a cryptic offer to join the alliance she’s a part of, Aoba is thrust into the future where a new world war threatens to tear the planet apart. With no other choice, Aoba must pick a side, learn to pilot a mech, and fight his way through an army of enemies as he tries to find a way back to the past he left behind.

Commentary:

Going into Buddy Complex I was a little concerned that it was going to be just another Gundam want-to-be. Well, to my surprise it managed to be much more. The series started off feeling rather familiar with the innocent high school boy suddenly becomes a hero mecha pilot. I know if there is a plot line it worn out it would be this one, but in this case it becomes a rather impelling story. The key is the writing and the ability to maintain the dramatic focus of the series. The other series I would compare it to is Aldnoah.Zero, but alas it doesn’t hold up to the same standards I found in that newer series. In this case I would blame that on the animation. I know that Sunrise is one of the top studios for mecha anime and I think in the case of Buddy Complex they rested on their old habits which hut more than helped.

Overall Grade: 

Buddy Complex offers a new look at an age old storyline and for all of the heavy history weighing down on it’s shoulders the outcome is positive. I am not sure why Funimation opted not to dub the series, but I am glad that they didn’t. I think that in this case the Japanese voice acting is so strong that I just don’t see any American voice acting doing justice to the series. On the other hand I think the lack of dubbing may end up missing a very important fan base. I just don’t see new younger fans taking the time to read as they watch. I know that there are still plenty out there, but they are looking for series like Danganronpa to quench their thirst.

There is something about the way the series ended that left me a little flat, but I guess that some things are always hard to Finnish off. It was easy to tell that a great deal of effort was put into the overall plot and development of the series and when trying to tie up some loose ends it can get a little messy. I don’t think it really matters much, Buddy Complex is very entertaining and delivers enough drama to keep you going and at the same time provides a story that is reminiscent of older Mecha series.

If Mecha is your game then Buddy Complex is for you.

Mobile Suit Gundam Collection 1 on Blu-ray (anime review)

Mobile Suit Gundam Collection 1Title: Mobile Suit Gundam Collection 1 on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Studio: Nippon Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Sunrise

U. S. Re-Release Date: Nov. 3rd, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 21 Episodes / 525 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Action, Adventure

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C+

Synopsis:

Universal Century 0079. The rebel space colonies of the Principality of Zeon launch a war of independence against the Earth Federation, using humanoid fighting vehicles called mobile suits to overwhelm the Federation Forces and conquer half of Earth’s surface. Months later, the Federation has finally developed its own prototype mobile suits at a remote space colony. But when the colony suffers a Zeon surprise attack, these new weapons fall into the hands of a motley crew of civilians and cadets, and fate places a youth named Amuro Ray at the controls of the white mobile suit Gundam.

Commentary: 

I am not sure how many times I have said this statement this year alone, but sometimes things are better off left in the imagination of the ones who love it. Mobile Suite Gundam Collection 1 is one of those things. The series, to put it quite simply, did not age very well. The one saving grace is that the Japanese language track is provided. I recall how I felt about Mobile Suite Gundam in my youth when it was something different in our anther simplistic world and now I can say that Mobile Suit Gundam has taken on the simplistic moniker. I find everything about it rather difficult to watch. I understand that it is being released to satisfy the hard core fans of the franchise because many of them see this particular series in the franchise as one of the best. I wish I could join that camp, but the story just doesn’t do it for me.

Overall Grade: C+

On a nostalgic level I found it fun to watch and Mobile Suite Gundam provided many laughs, most not intended. The animation reminded me of bad 70’s look that I didn’t even like back then and the choppy writing that tells the story but in a way that is sometimes hard to follow and other times too simplistic. Deep down inside I would have loved to see this re-made with a new writing staff and contemporary animation techniques. I know that won’t happen because it is too easy to just re-release it in its full original glory.

Of course I didn’t think it was all bad. I still believe that Mobile Suite Gundam and a few other series set the stage for the onslaught of great Mecha series that followed and there is also a marketing machine behind the Gundam franchise that needs to be recognized for its unequaled ability to own the ability to keep the fandom alive and growing. I can’t say that about other long live series. So, if you are looking for a trip down memory lane or just need to see where the craze all began then this is worth picking up or at least finding someone who dished out the cold cash and hang out at their place for a few days.

Full Metal Panic? Fomuffu (anime review)

FMP-FumoffuTitle: Full Metal Panic? Fomuffu the complete series (anime classic)

Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto

Studio: Kyoto Animation

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: September 15th, 2015

Format : DVD / Blu-ray / 300 minutes / 12 Episodes

Genre: Mecha, Comedy, Romance, Action, Adventure

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis: 

Sousuke’s locked, loaded, and ready to attack – which would be awesome if he was going into battle. But he’s just going to high school, and all the qualities that make him a good soldier make him an amazingly awkward classmate.

Poor Kaname knows that better than anyone, since Sousuke’s her undercover bodyguard. The guy’s supposed to protect Tessa too. But how “top secret” can he really be when he’s sneaking around in a teddy bear suit, blowing up lockers, striking out with every girl in sight, and taking a mech to the hot springs? Sure, Sousuke’s methods are a little intense, but high school’s tough. Collateral damage is to be expected, right?

Commentary: 

There are classic series and then there are ethos special series that are a little more than just classic series. Full Metal Panic is one of those very special series that is more than just a classic. Of course I am huge fan and since I first saw the original series. Now  I can’t say that Fomuffu stands as high on the ranking as Full Metal Panic or Full Metal Panic Second Raid. The reason is because the series is much more silly and looses itself in side stories that are there just to be funny.

In FMP and FMP Second Raid the humor was blended in with the overarching story which made them special and help raise the popularity of the franchise. Now Fomuffu being what it exists because there was a move form the original studio (Gonzo) to Kyoto Animation (their first production) and a clear imperative to make this grouping of episodes more episodic and only related to the series by characters. This concept worked only by providing 12 very entertaining episodes that are strong enough to stand on their own, not because of its relationship to the original anime.

Overall Grade: B

Fomuffu is a pure comedy and provides plenty of laughs. There is also the familiar characters who bring a smile to my face any time I see them. Much of my grade is based on a sentimental fondness for the series, but I have a feeling that new eyes to the series will also see the humor that exists in these episodes.

The thing that I both like and dislike about Fomuffu is the stand alone aspect to the episodes. Now there are some that are 2 episode arcs but on a hole the series is much more about the story in easy episode rather than an overarching plot line. Normally I dislike this approach because it mimics a pattern developed in the west to make each episode stand on its own. That makes for little development and little substance when you are dealing with a 25 minute episode.

I do have to hand it Kyoto Animation for their first production and their ability to follow one of the superstars in the anime world at that time. They did a great job and I didn’t see Fomuffu and looking dated that way I see many other shows form that 2003 time period. The look is clean and easy to watch.

If you are looking for a comedy that does not require any long term development in the story then you need to check this out. Better yet, if you are looking for 12 episodes that will make you laugh then you really need to spend some time with Full Metal Panic? Fomuffu.

 

Nobunaga the Fool Collection 2 (anime review)

Nobunaga-the-Fool-Collection-2Title: Nobunaga The Fool: Collection 2 on Blu-ray

Director: Eiichi Sato

Writer: Shoji Kawamori

Studio: Satelight

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: September 29, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 11 episodes / 275 minutes

Genre: Mecha, Action, Drama, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

As the ley-lines of the Western Star near the point of collapse, the threat of invasion continues to escalate. Fearing attack from their sister world, the Eastern Star braces for the eruption of full-scale interstellar war. Meanwhile, betrayal follows betrayal as the factions seeking the Holy Grail continue to turn on each other. The Table is shattered and with Jeanne in the clutches of Cesar Borgia and Machiavelli, the seer seems destined for torture and burning at the stake. Will history repeat itself or will Nobu be able to pull off a daring rescue? King Arthur’s horrifying plan comes to fruition and the fates of two planets depend on the actions of one man!

Commentary:

In the year of Nobunaga some of the series paying homage to the infamous Japanese warlord who aimed to unite Japan. Nobunaga the Fool does a great job of telling the story of Nobunaga in a fanciful mecha world where the historical warrior of the western past meet the historical warriors of the Japanese past. Of course there is plenty of rewriting of the characters to make them more interesting, but I’m not complaining.

The one area that I felt was missing from the second half of the series was the simplistic persona of Nobunaga. He became much more serious and introspective which ended up loosing some of the charm. The story manages to keep moving forward and we do finally get to the big event, but getting there just isn’t as well put together as the first 13 episodes were.

Overall Grade: B

Nobunaga the Fool as a single series does a great job of blending the history with fantasy and keeping some of the historical realities with the characters even if the story doesn’t really stay in the same universe.

The animation is classic for a mecha and the overall quality makes it very easy to watch the series without any cringe worthy moments. I did think it too a little too long to develop a few of the characters. I guess that the last two despises managed to save the series for me and remind me that this is truly a product of japan not a Japanese story adapted by the North American entertainment industry.

If you are looking for a solid Mecha anime that blends the past with pure fantasy then Nobunaga the Fool is something that you will enjoy for what it is.

Argevollen Collection 1 (anime review)

ARGEVOLLEN-Collection-1Title: Argevollen Collection 1

Directed by: Atsushi Ōtsuki

Written by: Tatsuo Satō

Studio: Xebec

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23 Films

U. S. Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Other series to check out: Knights of Sidonia, Nobunaga the Fool and Aldnoah. Zero

Synopsis:

Tokimune Susumu has every reason to distrust the military and question orders. His sister has already died in the service of the Arandas military, and his secret reason for enlisting is to ferret out the truth behind her mysterious death. So, when a civilian convoy is in jeopardy and his own battle mech is destroyed, Susumu’s all too ready to break ranks and jump into the cockpit of the experimental Argevollen.

What he isn’t expecting, however, is that activating the Argevollen conforms it to his mind alone. Now he’s on the frontline of the ongoing meat-grinder that the war between Arandas and Ingelmia has become, and his only certain ally is an attractive civilian contractor whose reasons for being in the war are as convoluted as his own.

Commentary:

2015 may just end up being the year that the Mecha series made their triumphant return. At least in the U. S., really 2014 was the year in Japan. I think that some of the very best series release in the states this year are mecha and Argevollen is a classic example of where the genre tends to be very good and also very heavy handed.

Argevollen gives us a rather common story line of a young mecha pilot who has raw ability but doesn’t understand how to control himself. Can you say Full Metal Panic, you know it is all about being able to connect with the machine to become the ultimate fighting mecha. Of course his youth and lack of understanding tends to get in the way and is pure energy and mindless will ends up being his savior. The level of coming of age struggles may be at the core of all too many anime, but is is also fun to watch and at the same time very frustrating when the drama ends up being heavy handed. And heavy handed drama is front and center with Argevollen.

Overall Grade: B

For a mecha series it is very entertaining because of the way they bring this band of military outliers together and prove that you don’t have to be spit and polished to be good. There is also the connection between Tokimune Susumu and Jamie Hazaford that is handled very well. Jamie is a reluctant player in this war but as things move forward it is clear that she is meant to be right where she is and that she is there to help Tokimune and Argevollen become a single unit.

The animation is above par but in the end it is all about how these characters blend together. I can’t say that Argevollen is one of the top offerings of the season, but if you are a mecha fan then you should be pleased with this series too. I still think the heavy handed dramatic approach is what always hurts mecha series. I will always love the approach that Full Metal Panic took with a easy blend of comedy and drama with plenty of wonderful action to keep things going.

Argevollen will find its home in the hearts of plenty of fans, so if you enjoy a action packed mecha then this one is for you.