Kim Possible episodes 1–33, 37–64: Everybody wants to &c.

[Screenshot]I follow animation pretty closely nowadays. Mostly from Japan, but I try to keep an eye on what Cartoon network and Disney Channel (to name the two most significant competitors) are up to. Disney’s offerings are generally weaker, if only because they’re less subversive. But Kim Possible is surprisingly fun. Mostly it’s very good dialogue ennobling it. It takes itself brilliantly unseriously and spoofs heroism and villainy mercilessly. Mostly it’s episodes with the Señors Senior that are particularly memorable: the atmosphere around them is terrifically zany. Technically it’s accomplished too: Disney’s pretty good at animation, even if they often have nothing worth animating. The one technical issue which bugs me is a peculiarity of character design which, ah, really is unseemly for me to even notice (you watch 56 episodes and 2 movies, and you start to notice things, damnit. I’m not ogling). Anyways, nothing groundbreaking here, just that it’s a purely fun show that’s willing to bend Disney’s usual blandness rules without being too aggressively hip. So, points for that.

Time will tell, of course, if the much awaited new season (which Disney is doing absolutely nothing within their power to publicize) will lve up to the standard set by the first three.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

The Black Cauldron: Another happy memory savaged

[Screenshot]Damnit, I wish a childhood favorite would live up to the hype. Not that I saw the movie as a child, but I loved the books (which have aged well enough for my tastes). This film had problems. I’m not sure if the problems would’ve seemed greater or lesser if I hadn’t read the books. They say pastiche is better than slavish adaptation, and the splice between the two first books is actually pretty well done, but the problem basically comes down to an overabundance of material, with the result that most scenes end up rushed and feeling insubstantial: in particular, the scene with the Fair Folk, although serving as a reasonable segue, ended up kind of pointless, at least by comparison to the same scene in the book. The sad part is that they added a fair bit which was unnecessary: I’m thinking in particular of Creeper, who plays the obligatory role of “bad guy’s servile sidekick”. We already have one sniveling creature in the story; did we need a second? While on the subject, the description in the books was kind of hazy, but I hadn’t expected Gurgi to resemble a terrier with experiment 626’s voice. Other characters kind of suffer too: I don’t object to the rolling of Achren, Arawn, and the Horned King into one, but the removal of Gwydion sort of leaves an empty space. A lot of the characterizations seem generally off: Eilonwy lacks fire, Fflewder and Doli lack any presence at all, and Taran’s a little too virtuous. And, uh, don’t get me started on the ending.

Technically, this film is fine: Disney doesn’t screw up on technical details, generally; but the plot and character imaginings make me sad. Does it do this for people who haven’t read the books, too?

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Torzók: Bleak again

[Screenshot]Well, Torzók plays into a Hungarian strength, what with the bleak realism. They have childhood trauma a lot, don’t they? Recent Hungarian films I’ve watched had children tortured by Nazis, sexually abused, and escaping from abusive families. So now we have one where a son is abandoned for reasons which seem somewhat murky. It’s interesting to contrast this with, say, Örökbefogadás.They’re both about childrens’ homes under communism, but one’s pre-1989 (and thus, out of censorial necessity, somewhat softened). Torzók may be more realistic, but it’s not the better of the two, cinematically speaking: the unmotivated cruelty of the wardens and vignettes from the everyday lives of the boys don’t actually adhere into a particularly meaningful whole. The best thing about this is the ending, in my estimation, which gives a strong hint of what happens next but leaves the story, to a certain extent, open. All in all, despite the affecting nature of some of the imagery, I didn’t get any real message from this, except perhaps that state-run orphanages in 60s Hungary kinda sucked. Oh, and a vaguely homoerotic subtext (and a heteroerotic subtext, at that), but beyond the idea that boys are discovering their sexual identity, it doesn’t actually go anywhere.

One last comment: once more we get a Hungarian film in 480i video with burned-in subtitles. Why do you hate Hungary, foreign-film redistributors? Stop doing this!

See also: IMDB.

カクレンボ: Creepy ≠ scary

[Screenshot]I didn’t actually realize when I got it that this was a short film. It’s pretty effective technically: one nice thing about a short film is that there’s that much less time in which to concentrate your technical efforts, and this one used CG but in a mostly effective manner. I’m generally down on CG as the effects seem to blend poorly with 2-D animation, but this mostly works. Where it falls down, of course, is characterization: it’s not only a short film, but a short film where every character is wearing masks, inhibiting facial recognition and expression. So what we have here is mostly a mood piece, and it’s a good one: the demons are imaginative, and the setting authentically spooky. What it’s not, though, is scary. But that’s OK too. Tonally, it’s effective, but there’s just not much to say otherwise, inasmuch as the plot and characters really didn’t engage at all.

See also: IMDB, WIkipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

The Boondock Saints: Delicious but morally simplistic

[Screenshot]I know a lot of people who really, really like this one. I thought it was pretty good. The plot’s pretty pedestrian, honestly: there’s not much to be said about vigilantism that hasn’t already been said, and certainly this film doesn’t raise the bar on that. So thematically and plotwise there’s nothing really awesome about this, but it’s blessed with skillful cinematography, a snappy and engaging script, and one really good performance by Willem DaFoe, who manages to be jumpy and clownish but still a credible adversary. It’s worth seeing just for his performance, honestly. I’m sure I had a lot more to say about this one, but, shit, I’m way behind and I’ve started to forget things.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Princess Nine episodes 11–18: FIts and starts

[Screenshot]So, more anime I watched a while back and never got around to writing about. The second and further discs frequently have little to be said about them, except “ayup, more of the same”. But P9 has a beginning and an end, so there’s a reasonable expectation that there’d be, y’know, plot development. So with the team assembled we get two impediments: a test game and a scandal. The test-game plot is kind of enh, especially given the bone-headed winning strategy the girls adopt. The scandal’s better, although once again we get perhaps too bright a spotlight on Ryo. But it’s basically her story anyways, which is my one real complaint about this generally charming anime. The DVD opens with the tagline “9 Girls. 9 Dreams.” but we get, at most, 4 of those dreams. Ryo’s, of course, and Izumi’s. Yoko’s, God help us. Maybe Mao’s or Kanako’s. And that’s kind of it. The others have personalities (including a deliberate complete-absence-of-personality in one case), but there’s still not a clear sense of how or why they’re invested in the team’s success, and we’re kind of running out of episodes in which to figure out what makes, say, Hikaru or Seira tick.

That’s my one complaint, though. The girls really are characterized well. And charming, which forgives a multitude of sins.

See also: ADV Films Website, IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

Hellsing episodes 7–13: Let-down

[Screenshot]I watched this a while ago, but I’m a bit behind in my write-ups. Anyways, there’s a lot of good here (mostly the same stuff I liked about the first 6 episodes) and more emphasis on characters who hadn’t been adequately described before, like Sir Integra. The plot, however, is sort of disappointing. The conspiracy of freak-chipping is plumbed in more detail, bringing forth elements which could be used to considerable effect, such as a worthy adversary for Alucard and a human traitor pulling the strings. But the oppositional vampire never really comes to life as a character, and the human-traitor plot gets tied up in a highly unsatisfactory way, so the effect isn’t so great. My favorite episore in this half of the series was easily the parallel conflicts between Integra and the Vatican and Alucard and Armstrong. It would’ve been nice to see the Iscariot Organization make more of an apprarance, really, since the conflict between different vampire-hunting methodologies is far more interesting than the actual war with the vampires.

Overall, the anime is still worth watching, althoguh not quite as satisfactory taken as a whole as I might have liked.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.