Tag Archives: Anime

This could work: an Anime Adaptation of 999

Here’s a fun fact for you, did you know that the creators of Danganronpa and Zero Escape are friends? I’m not honestly surprised and in fact, I find that enduring, given the creators perchance for making dark video games with diabolic and white, cuddly characters. Although I have not yet played Danganronpa (mainly through lack of specific hardware) I have seen the anime and it’s quite good in all honesty. After seeing the anime, I really want to play the game even though I know the ending to it.

Video game adaptations to the small screen can be hit or miss but can be done right and even extremely well. In particular, the visual novel genre seems to hit a particular easy-adaptation and well-produced stride among other video games. It’s not surprising given how there is already a well-thought out story immersed with fleshed-out characters and plot twists galore. A simple elimination of the minimal player interaction combined with a full anime budget and you got yourself a decent miniseries on hand. Ace Attorney has finally gotten its own anime adaptation and I’m hoping that Professor Layton will follow suit soon. As such, why hasn’t Nine Hours, Nine Persons, and Nine Doors (or “999”) gotten its own anime adaptation yet? I honestly think it will adapt quite well.

I think 999’s biggest problem is the branching storyline that is absolutely essential to the game. 999’s alternate histories and complex plot could easily confuse new viewers who may lose focus even for a moment. What’s more, 999’s, and its sequel, loves thought experiments and hypothetical situations, which take time to explain and may further confuse a person who would question why these are here in the first place.

Before I offer suggestions how this could be resolved, let’s look at another visual novel-adapted anime that also has branching storylines, Umineko: When They Cry.

Umineko focuses on an extended family that visits their island after the head of the household dies. The greedy family wants to know who inherited what in the will of their now deceased father/grandfather. What follows are a series of supernatural events where many deaths occur and many alternate histories are explored.

What made Umineko easy to follow was how the main character was aware of these alternate storylines. Through him, he can remind us how things happened and how he was going to change them. What’s more, the anime made watching easy for the viewer and sped up certain already-seen events while establishing who was alive and when. In the end of the first season, we are left with a cliff hanger but we are not confused thanks to the excellent plot development.

The anime adaptation of 999 should follow a similar tract. Some events, mainly those at the beginning of the game, are ones that we will witness over and over again. A simple reminder of what happened and when will help orient the viewers of where they are in the timeline and what puzzle rooms have been solved. What’s more, Junpei’s ability to jump timelines should be more heavily explored near the beginning of the anime so the viewer is not confused why events are happening differently this time. The thought experiments, which are very dialogue heavy, is probably the trickiest part of 999 to adapt as the original flavor of the game would be lost if these aren’t included. I honestly think these can be done though given the right circumstances. If other, thought-provoking anime shows, like Death Note, are not afraid to be complex and not talk-down to the audience, then 999 shouldn’t be afraid either.

If you wanted to be poetic, the anime could be produced into nine episodes. I’m not honestly sure if that would be feasible or not but given the circumstances, it’s possible.

With the final Zero Escape game coming out this summer, I would welcome the possibility of a complete anime adaptation of this series but I stress that an anime adaptation of Virtue’s Last Reward would likely be insane. 999 had only five separate endings whereas Virtue’s Last Reward had over 20! True, you probably wouldn’t have to explore every single damn ending (quite a few of them aren’t necessary), but the amount of timeline jumping in that game is craaaaazy. The game had a helpful timeline chart you could look at but I bet the anime wouldn’t have it as easy as that.

I think the best course of action is just to stick to 999 as that game is more concise compared to its sequel. Video games are a form of art and sometimes, just like from books to movies, you can’t do the original media justice when you transform the source into something else. And maybe an anime adaptation of 999 will fall to pieces because of which. You just can’t adapt the player interaction into an anime. But hey, it could work.

The Brotherhood Treatment

The Fullmetal Alchemist anime debuted in 2001 and was based on the hit manga series of the same name. The anime was a chapter-to-chapter retelling of the story, staying true to the original source material. However, once the anime caught up to the source material the story soon divulged and took a direction all on its own like an alternate universe. Characters that were minor in the manga were important in the anime and vice versa; some were given completely different back-stories and others simply never existed before. Although the anime itself was good, it wasn’t faithful to the original source material. This wasn’t rectified until 2012 when a new Fullmetal Alchemist anime, this time called “FMA: Brotherhood,” came out that gave us an anime that was completely true to the source material.

“Brotherhood” was amazing and I can’t help but think how other stories should get the same treatment as Fullmetal Alchemist. These stories were blessed with a good adaptation but were not completely true to the source material. And I honestly think they should get a chance to achieve that adaptation.

Take, for instance, Elfen Lied. Like Fullmetal, it was a manga series that produced a decent anime adaptation that strayed from the original source. Again, this was the case where the anime was simply produced too quickly for the manga to stay ahead of. Unlike, Fullmetal, however, this anime adaptation abruptly ended leaving an unsatisfied taste in my mouth. And it’s a real shame too! The anime has a great soundtrack (the intro is especially poignant), the art direction is well executed, and the voice work is very convincing. Unfortunately, many characters’ arcs are either brusquely shut down or lack a real transition thanks to the anime’s sudden ending. We missed out on what could have been an engaging alternate universe that would have been as satisfying as the original manga’s source.

If there was a readaptation of Elfen Lied (we’ll call it “Elfen Lied: Evolution”), many of the characters will achieve a satisfying progression in their story development. And if we were to keep the original soundtrack (a tall order, I know) and combine it with modern animation, we can create a beautiful, and haunting, telling of this controversial manga. With the popularity of the gruesome “Attack on Titan,” upon us, now is a great time to reintroduce this story to a modern audience.

Shifting gears to a lighter story, the “Scott Pilgrim” comic series is an excellent candidate for a reimagining. The movie, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” is a great adaptation and I can’t praise enough how tight and well done the first half of the movie is. The second half, I feel, suffers from a condensed story line and character motivations that seem questionable. Like Fullmetal, the movie was being produced at a time when the comic series hadn’t even finished yet. As such, they made up their own ending, which worked for the most part.

I think the “Scott Pilgrim” series has a very high potential for a remake. For one thing, it can be adapted into a television miniseries instead of a movie. This miniseries can really bring into light so many things that the movie either skimmed over or dropped. In the miniseries, we can see the badass, three-way fight between Scott, Roxie, and Knives’ dad. We can learn more about the Katayanagi twins. We can dive into Scott’s past and his previous relationships. And we can bring Envy to the foreground and really develop her character.  Scott Pilgrim can also flourish as his own being rather than an another Michael Cera character.

I think though the thing that will really make this miniseries stand out is the use of animation as a storytelling device. The movie was live action, and thus, this can be animation. The artist and author Bryan Lee O’Malley original work can now move and jump around like a Justice League or Spiderman cartoon and this can be amazing. We have even been given a taste of what this miniseries could be like as seen here:

I think it would be awesome

Of course, there are many series out there that deserve a remake (Nasauca: Valley of the Wind anyone?) and I’m not surprised! Given the nature of a source’s adaptation to a movie or television series, there are bound to be changes, especially if the adaptation surpasses the original source material. Game of Thrones has done this already with the advent of Season 6 so we might get a retelling of that story 30 years from now!  And I’m totally fine with that.

Podigious! A satisfying, critically thoughtful podcast about Digimon

Disclaimer: Podigious! briefly referenced my blog on one of their episodes which was awesome.  In critically reviewing this podcast, I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible.

Review Summary: Podigious! is a Digimon podcast which critically reviews the entire animated series, arc by arc, and analyzes various aspects of the show.  The hosts’ great chemistry and contrasting personalities liven a podcast that would otherwise be bogged down by its own geeky fandom.  Unfortunately, the fan feedback and Digimon news update that accompanies the beginning of each episode can drag on but luckily, you can easily skip that section and jump into the episode’s stronger portions of engaging debate.  If you cannot deal with people both positively and negatively critiquing Digimon then you should move on.  But if you can realize that not everything in our childhood was perfect then you’ll have a pleasant time listening to this “interesting” podcast.

Full Summary: I’ve listened to Podigious! for more than a year now but it wasn’t until the past few months that I have been able to (mostly) catch up to its latest episode.  I mainly listen to podcasts in the car and since I have done a lot of driving this summer and fall, I was able to burn through episodes rather quickly.  In doing so, I have become rather familiar to the show as if the hosts, Jeff, Ashley, Asher, and Andrew, were right there in the car with me, talking about Digimon while I silently listen to them.

Podigious! is everything I wanted in a nerdy podcast.  The hosts, particularly Jeff, the ringleader of the podcast, are very earnest in their love for Digimon and want to talk about Digimon simply because they can!  I like that.  What’s more, the episode-by-episode discussion of the Digimon anime series is great as you can jump into any podcast episode you want and listen to certain arcs without missing a beat.  I personally did this when I skipped the Devimon Arc and jumped right into the Etemon Arc and it worked just fine.

Of course, a good podcast needs good hosts and luckily, Podigious has them.

Three of the four hosts are very close to my age and in fact, they went to high school the same year I did as well (and the only reason why I know this is that they talked about when Harry Potter 7 came out in one of their episodes).  Because of their age, I highly, highly, identify them as they have the same Digimon nostalgia factor that affected me as well for these past 15 years.  And that actually plays into a big part of their show as they are critically evaluating the show and trying their best not to have nostalgia cloud their reviewing senses.  Sometimes, they’ll even mention how a particular scene has stuck with them for all these years and their reaction to that same scene may now be different due to a more adult perspective on it.

And it basically works.  The hosts point out certain inconsistencies or problems with the show and offer suggestions on how they could have improved the scene and the plot.  A few that stood out to me was the use of prophecies in season 1, how Yolei should have gotten the Digiegg of Knowledge and Cody should have gotten the Digiegg of Love (mind blown btw), and why in God’s name did Tai give Davis’ his goggles and not Kari or T.K.?  These inconsistencies are great as they point out what could have been on a show that surprisingly stuck to certain tropes passionately.

I don’t know what Jeff looks like so here’s Donald Duck from Kingdom Hearts. Image from http://kingdomhearts.wikia.com/wiki/Gallery:Donald_Duck

Of the four hosts, Jeff is probably the one I identify with most and represents the hardcore nerd in a fandom. Jeff is the like the heart of the show as he edits the episodes, he’s in charge of the discussion topics, and he talks, a lot.  Which is unfortunate as he dominates the conversations, especially in the podcast’s early episodes.  Sometimes, he would go on and on for a particular topic, such as, and especially, real life geography, and the other hosts would only respond minimally.  Luckily, the other hosts have found their voice and have been participating more and more in the episodes which is great.  Jeff has certainly relaxed as the series progressed as he used to be a little more uptight but now he’s kind of taking it more easy for the discussion topics and the “Follow Up” portions of the show.  Also, he should get a Word of the Day calendar.

Again, I don’t know what Ashley looks like so here’s Riley from Inside Out. Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3suT-csNs9U

Ashley represents the casual fan of a franchise and let me say, it’s nice to hear her be so verbally confused about certain aspects of Digimon as it sometimes takes a sane person to point out the rather weird and contrived world of Digimon.  She’s definitely been more vocal as the series progressed and it’s nice as she points out the gender B.S. that Digimon portrays.  It’s also funny how she can be just so fed up with Digimon at times, especially towards Kari.  Her playful frustrations towards Jeff also add a light touch to a show that can be bogged down at times by its own geekery.

You get the drill, how about Joe and Gomamon? Image from http://hero.wikia.com/wiki/File:JOE_Kido_%26_Gomamon_(ADVENTURE_51).jpg

Asher represents the shipping fan of a franchise and he is just like Ashley in that he points out Digimon’s gender B.S.  Asher also found his voice fairly early on and, again, like Ashley, talked more as the podcast progressed.  It’s always nice to hear Asher tear down Jeff’s nostalgia-filled world and make Jeff verbally uncomfortable with the stark, and let’s face it, unfair, reality Digimon has towards boys vs. girls.  From what I heard, Asher is the favorite host of the four and I believe it (he’s my favorite too).  Asher’s grounded, and sometimes apathetic, nature, contrasts nicely with Jeff’s enthusiastic and almost intense personality.  Jeff would have notes upon notes detailing certain aspects of an episode and then he would ask Asher what he thought about the episode/topic and Asher would respond that he didn’t write anything down (lol).  His shipping knowledge is very humorous as he would gush over scenes involving Davis/Ken or Matt/Tai.  I know appreciate Davis/Ken pairing more thanks to him.

Gundam! Okay, I’m done. Image from https://sddude.wordpress.com/tag/sd-gundam/page/3/

Unfortunately, Andrew, Asher’s brother, is the weakest of the four hosts.  Briefly mentioned in the podcast’s season 1, he became a part-time host in season 2 and unfortunately, he does not add a lot to the other hosts’ great chemistry.  It seems to me that Andrew barely mentions anything, even when compared to Ashley and Asher’s initially reserved nature, and does not fully pay attention to the conversation at hand.  I wouldn’t mind it as much if he had anything worthwhile to say but a lot of times he would just react awkwardly to the other hosts’ sometimes personal interactions or he would mildly insult Jeff and his nerdy nature.  He is kind of…stiff I want to say?  It doesn’t bode well with the more playful side of this show.  I shouldn’t be too hard on him though as a lot of times, he can contribute to the conversation by incorporating his Japanese and anime knowledge.  His status as a hardcore nerd can match Jeff’s knowledge which is nice that it’s not just Jeff talking in-depth about some esoteric thing about Digimon.

The weakest portion of the show is by far the aforementioned “Follow Up” which is Jeff and Ashely responding to reviewer feedback and questions, talking about Digimon news, and revealing who won the Ridiculous Dialogue Draft (RDD).  This section is at the beginning of almost every episode and man does it drag ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon.  This is the part of the episode that I usually let my mind wander.  And, truth be told, the Digimon news update kind of hurts the “timelessness” of the show as the main portion of the podcast episodes focuses on things that happened 15 years ago while the news update tells us things that we already know by now.  Sometimes, this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail would play in my head during the Follow Up:

I shouldn’t be too hard on the Follow Up though as you can skip it easily.  It kind of begs the question why I even listen to it in the first place.  Good Question.

I have no reasonable answer.  Maybe I just like hearing Ashley and Jeff talk (it does get lonely in the car at times when you’ve been driving 4+ hours by yourself).  Although, I have to say that it’s nice to hear Jeff and Ashley go out of their way to respond to reviewer feedback and respond to questions viewers may have about the previous episode’s content.

If the Follow Up is the weakest portion then by far the strongest is the RDD that is at the end of every episode and I love it.  God, listening to how…ridiculous…the DUB could be is amazing although I wish they threw in the occasional “touching” line since there can be a few in the show.  Maybe they’ll throw some in when they get into the heart of season 3 cause man, that season is an emotional roller coaster.  Anyway, I appreciate Jeff editing in the original lines of the show and give us the full (no) context it deserves.

The gender studies portion of the show is perhaps the most (in)famous section of the podcast.  Here, emotions can run a little high as the hosts break down Digimon’s less appealing gender aspects.  Ashley, and in particular Asher, go at the show strongly and tear it apart while at the same time offering constructive criticism on how the show could have made it better.  Although the hosts dominantly talk about the role women have on the show, they do occasionally focus on the guys and the show’s conservative take on what it means to be a man.  I admit, I was at first frustrated at listening to Asher and Ashley criticize one of my favorite childhood animated shows but I soon could not help admit that a lot of Digimon’s take on gender is indeed, Bullshit.  It definitely makes the podcast not just a simple fan gushing and instead, treats it like an actual show that has its flaws.  In general, I just love how Asher is so unapologetic about her opinions and it sharply contrasts Jeff’s desire to try and offend the least amount of people as possible.

Also, and on a side note, the hosts sometimes talk about the Legend of Korra and other cartoon shows during the gender segment which is nice as Korra is particularly strong when it comes to gender representation.  One show that they have surprisingly left out of the conversation is Steven Universe and it got to the point that I finally tweeted them and asked if they had seen the show.  I am relieved that they have (that show is great in all aspects of animation, plot, and, of course, gender representation).

This is actually a nice segue to my last point about the podcast in that the hosts are very responsive (well, Jeff is at least, Asher just doesn’t give a shit) to fan feedback.  It actually makes up a large portion of the Follow Up.  Jeff and Ashley respond to feedback whether it’s on twitter, reddit, or itunes.  I like how they bring up critical feedback and admit when they are wrong.  It’s nice for creators, of any kind, to respond to both negative and positive feedback and it shows they are not afraid to change things up and try to constantly improve the show.

As for the future of the show, I’ll definitely continue listen to them for their Tri and Tamers segments but after that, it’s hard to say as I really don’t like Digimon Season 4.  Regardless, Tamers is, and will be, fun to listen to as it’s Jeff’s favorite season and it has a super crazy plot that is neatly combined with its more mature vibe.  I’m hoping for more endless driving so I can become reacquainted with them once again.

Oh yeah, and I’m looking forward to this scene.

The Childhood Sweetheart Trope as Interpreted by 999 and Danganronpa

One of the most predictable and used tropes for anime, and in general other media, is the Childhood Sweetheart Trope (CST). A pre-ten year old boy and girl meet each other for the first time, acquire puppy love, and then are tragically separated due to extraneous circumstances before they meet up again as young adults. They fall in love again through a series of mishaps or adventures and then get married. There can be some fidgeting with this but for the most part this is basically the sub or main plot for a lot of romantic/semi-romantic anime ranging from the humorous Love Hina to the very gruesome Elfen Lied.

I am critical of this trope though for several reasons besides its foreseeable conclusions. One is that the characters, especially the female ones, are quite dull or one sided and have no overall personal goals or conflicting feelings that paint them as actual people. Two is that we as the audience already expect them to get together and thus when we see the boy or the girl dating someone else we know it will end badly. Three is that the trope has a very predestined feel behind it, especially if the boy and girl make a marriage promise, as the girl and boy are fated towards this end result no matter what they do. Finally, the girl characters are treated like rewards or trophies for the boy, especially if we primarily follow the boy’s POV, and not as actual humans.

Now I know this is not always the case (e.g., Elfen Lied) but CST is certainly prevalent in the story telling community. As such, I want to discuss two stories, the DS game 999 and the visual novel game/anime Danganronpa, and their unique interpretation of this dry trope. These two stories have an interesting approach to this tired theme and I wanted to gush why I think these two nailed it (and of course, spoilers).

Lower row, directly in the middle is Makoto and to his right is the blue-haired Sayaka. Image from http://www.egmnow.com/articles/reviews/egm-review-danganronpa-trigger-happy-havoc/#

Let’s start with Danganronpa, our main character, Makoto Naegi, likes Sayaka Maizono, a pop idol girl, whom he became acquainted with in middle school. The two hadn’t seen each other until the events depicted in Danganronpa and they hit it off well as they’re the only people they’re familiar with in the whole cast of characters. There is an implied mutual attraction and support between the pair.

Though they didn’t know each other before middle school, this is still the CST at heart as they were separated at a young age before being reacquainted several years later. When the terrible events of Danganronpa unfold, the story seems to set up the notion that their relationship will only get stronger before they become an actual couple.

However, this does not happen as a fellow student murders Sayaka and as such, we see the first twist Danganronpa offers for the CST. Makoto and Sayaka’s relationship will not blossom but Sayaka now becomes a martyr for Makoto, a beacon to for Makoto to triumph in the end.

Although Sayaka’s death may be inspirational, she is still a rather flat character. That was the case until an episode after her death revealed her hidden intentions. Sayaka, in all her innocent goodiness, was planning on murdering a fellow student and then frame Makoto for it. Of course, the murder doesn’t go as plan and she got murdered instead. This shocks both Makoto and us the viewer. We are set up at the beginning that Sayaka would be an innocent, loving girl and yet her actions had proved otherwise. Why did she do it? Well, we’re shown in the previous episode that her band members were severely hurt/already dead and probably would not be saved unless she murdered someone and successfully got away with it.

This…is awesome.

Her reasons for murdering actually seem sensible (besides, you know, the whole murder thing). Her band members are in grave danger and she has known them for years, they’re probably like family to her! Seeing them in peril prompted her to act the way she did so she could try and save them. She tricked Makoto into switching rooms with her, lured a student to the said room for the promise of teaching him music, and then attempted to murder that student and blame it on Makoto. Since she barely knows Makoto, she didn’t have any strong emotional attachment to him and thus didn’t have a problem in framing him for murder. I actually want to see an alternate universe where she did murder the student and and how Makoto would react to that.

Though I kind of thought she would be the first one to get murdered, I definitely did not see her ulterior motives coming and was nicely surprised by it. These first few episodes definitely set the tone for the rest of the series. Well played, Danganronpa.

Guy in the middle frame with the blue vest is Junpei and to his right is Akane.  Image from http://zeroescape.wikia.com/

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors just takes this trope though and blows it out of the water. Now, this game has so many ideas, themes, and morals behind it that I try to find any excuse to talk even just one of them. In this case, I want to talk 999’s interpretation of the CST as it’s just amazing.

Our main character is Junpei, a 21-year-old college student who is found on a rigged-to-blow cruise liner and must play the “Nonary Game” in order to escape from it. He meets eight other characters after escaping from his cabin room, one of which is Akane Kurashiki (alias “June”), whom he knew when they were kids. IMMEDIATELY, when Junpei explained who she was I was like “Ah, crap, here we go, another Childhood Sweetheart story.” I was not looking forward to Akane and I actively avoided her early on in the game. She seemed like such a flat character, another one of those innocent, sweethearts or whatever.

Well, as you may know, there are multiple endings to the game. After the first time through (I died of course), I went a different route but this time I actively engaged with Akane more often.

Holy crap, she’s funny, and a bit crazy too. Her sexually suggestive quips embarrassed Junpei (lol) and her crazy metaphysical concepts made him question her sanity. I was happily surprised how untypical she was while I was playing the game.

In fact, the more I played the game the more I realized that there was something really special about Akane but I couldn’t figure out why.

And then, wham, I came across the true ending to the game and my mind was blown. It was revealed that all along she was the one behind the “Nonary Game” and it was all an elaborate setup to not only get back at the people who hurt her ten years ago but also to save her from her own death.

Okay, where to begin.

When Akane was a kid, she was trapped in a room that was going to burn her alive. Her only way out was to solve a puzzle that she didn’t know how to answer. Her only way out was to telepathically communicate Junpei and have him solve the puzzle instead. How? Well, this is the part where things get crazy. One of the themes of the game is that the past is set but the future has multiple paths laid out. Akane tapped into that idea by communicating to Junpei ten years in the future and have him solve the puzzle instead. Her future self created an environment that was exactly similar to her past’s environment. This allowed Past Akane to look into the different future paths and try to steer Junpei to the puzzle that she could not solve. This is why the game has multiple endings (which blew my mind, this game did that a lot for me), Akane is trying to find that perfect ending. Once Junpei figured out the puzzle in the exact same environment, he telepathically communicated the answer back to past Akane and then she was able to figure it out.

This is actually why present Akane would inexplicably collapse when she and Junpei were exploring their environments. If the player chooses a wrong path (i.e., the path that takes them to the life-or-death puzzle) then present Akane would become sick because Junpei is not exposed to the puzzle, which means he can’t solve it, which means he can’t communicate the answer back to past Akane, which means she will die in the burning room, which means present Akane will die as well. Wrap your head around that one.

There are internet articles out there that like to deconstruct this concept into pieces and explain why this is so amazing so I won’t go into that. But what I do want to say is that all of this…the telepathy, the puzzles, the multiple endings, and the character herself just utterly destroy the CST. Whether done intentionally or not, 999 builds up CST and then just tears it down piece by piece and I really liked that. It’s not often that a storyteller has effortlessly guided my initial opinion of a character into making me think one way of them and then pull the rug from me and reveal what truly lies there. So good.

Image from Amazon.com

Okay, so what do these two stories have in common?  Why do I like them both?

Both of them set up the boy and girl’s relationship very casually, almost as if they were simply cookie-cutting the trope into their twisted plots but still keeping true to CST.  In Danganronpa, Makoto and Sayaka would get out of the murder game alive and become a couple; in 999, Junpei and Akane defeat Zero through the power of a emerging love.  However, this does not happen.  We are given a scenario where both Sayaka and Akane have ulterior motives and are trying desperately to win no matter what the costs.  We see what makes them tick and why they acted the way they did.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that these two females felt like actual people to me.  They feared, they planned, they made hard decisions, and they are not defined by simply trying to find that special someone or being in love.  That may be a part of them yes but it’s not the full picture.  I really liked that but it’s unfortunate that these characters stood out to me because they directly oppose a rather flat trope.  Regardless, because of their actions, they are what help make 999 and Danganronpa great as they took this trope and punched it right in the face.  Now that is awesome.

Unapologetic Nerd will be on hiatus next week in preparation for an extensive Star Wars article for Star Wars Day.  It will focus on one of my favorite novels in the series.  Don’t forget to check it out!

DBZ Battle of Gods is Definitely a Fan’s Film

We’ve all been there before.

You and your friends are major fans of a certain franchise. A certain topic of interest that comes up now and then is the perfect movie that would justify that franchise. The movie has to be done in a certain way, with a certain director and with certain actors playing certain characters. In your mind, it’s the perfect movie and that is why it’s just too good to be true.

Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods, however, comes the closest to achieving that fan’s perfect movie.

I wouldn’t believe it myself had I not seen it. When I heard about Battle of Gods I was interested to watch it but certainly not any time soon. However, when I finally watched it I was floored by how hilarious and amazing it was. Granted, it’s not a good movie but it is certainly an exceptional Dragonball Z film.

I want to hone in to two main points why I thought it was good, one is that they brought back the original English voice actors from the tv series and two the humor and art quality is great.

Bringing back the original voice actors made the film more enjoyable than it could have been. It would have been distracting to hear other actors voice Goku, Vegeta and the others. As such, I was able to be instantly familiar with the characters again like they were long lost friends. Props to Funimation for making sure that happened.

The second main point is the humor and animation. It looked so good to see Dragonball Z in stunning HD animation. That was fantastic and I look forward to more movies using that same style. The humor in the film was also top notch, I especially liked the scene where Vegeta is doing his best to entertain Beerus by making himself look like a fool.

These two main points are what make Battle of Gods a fan’s film. This is further enhanced by the inclusion of the original show’s theme, some good fighting sequences, some ridiculous power levels, and some great character interaction.

Ironically, the main downfall of Battle of Gods is its filler. The whole sequence with Lord Pilaf could have been entirely cut and no one would have bat an eye. It gave the film some unnecessary padding and honestly, who cares? But truth be told, it wouldn’t be Dragonball Z without some filler!

I was surprised to hear before watching the Battle of Gods film that there would be a sequel. This amazed me because I remember the trailer specifically states that Beerus is the strongest being in the universe. How were they going to top that?

I thought I had found the answer when Battle of Gods revealed that there were actually multiple universes with other Gods of Destructors and Creators. Cool, I thought, that’s what the sequel is going to be about.

Nope, it’s Frieza! Frieza! How can he be a credible threat? Many of the characters can take him on, hell, even Krillen can take on Frieza! My roommates and I were discussing how Frieza could be a threat to the Z fighters and we came to the conclusion that it would be something like this…

Frieza henchmen come to Earth and get the Dragonballs, they use the first wish to bring Frieza back and the second wish to make him the most powerful being in the universe. Boom, that’s all you need.

Regardless how they make him strong, I’m looking forward to Frieza’s Resurrection! If they do everything in the new film that they done in Battle of Gods then it will be wonderful. I’m especially hoping they bring back Frieza’s original voice actor, Linda Young, as that would be amazing. And finally, I’m looking forward to Frieza dying all over again.

Summer Wars and Digimon: Our War Game are Both Great Films

Stop me if you’ve heard this one; an anime movie with a distinct visual style directed by Mamoru Hosoda stars a young adult cast who have to battle a growing threat on the internet before it kills them in real life.  Okay, you know what I’m getting at here.  Digimon: Our War Game and Summer Wars are so similar to each other that it’s no wonder people compare these two films.

I heard about the comparison between these two films so much that I knew I had to check Summer Wars out.  I finally got to do that, appropriately enough, this Summer.

What I find interesting is how akin these two films are.  Did Hosoda like the concept so much he just had to remake the film again but in his own image?  And it’s not just a remake of the idea.  Certain scenes and images are so alike it really makes you stop and wonder.  Hell, if Digimon came after Summer Wars then something weird would be going on.  But that’s not the case, Our War Game came out nine years before Summer Wars.

I’m not going to talk about how similar they are to each other.  Many other people have already done that and this article does a good job of it.  Check it out.  Instead, I want to talk about other aspects between these two films.

There are also some neat side-by-side comparisons between the two films at the listed article

There are also some neat side-by-side comparisons between the two films at the listed article

For instance, Digimon embraces the notion of an online battle very nicely.  Though Season 1 played around with the internet in hacking terms, never did the kids and their partners actually visit the internet.  It was either the digital world or the real world.  As such, the internet could act as a gateway between these two worlds as demonstrated by the kids and their partners in the movie.

With strict ground rules never established in Season 1, the movie could take certain liberties with the franchise that wouldn’t seem farfetched or noncanon.  The internet battle was one of them and the DNA digivolution was another.

Though the kids in Summer Wars never got to visit the internet, they had the next best thing which was their avatars.  The avatars were very like Our War Game’s partner digimon with the exception that the humans were in full control of them.  Much of the film’s visual appeal and art stems from the weird avatars and their fight sequences.

The main antagonists have probably the strongest similarities between the two films.  Their actions and subsequent consequences may slightly differ but it’s their origins that are the most contrasting.  Love Machine was created as a virus by the American government and Diaboromon was…actually…we don’t know!  We have no idea how he came to be!  To me, that’s kind of scary.  Where on earth did this internet destroying, data eating, powerhouse of a digimon come from?  The fact that he still did not die and actually come back in the fourth movie speaks volumes on how hard he is to kill.  His bug-like nature fits him pretty well for a foe that just would not die.  To me, he’s the stronger antagonist compared to the game-adoring bad guy in Summer Wars.

The overall theme of people coming together to stop a foe works the best in Summer Wars.  And I mainly bring this up because our main protagonist, Kenji, doesn’t really save the day until the very end of the movie.  The Jinnouchi family helps him out throughout the entire film.  They bring equipment for him, the grandma gives them hope, the uncle advises him how to defeat Love Machine, Kazuma fights Love Machine with King Kazma, and Natsuki defeats Love Machine in Koi-Koi.  There’s a definite sense of we’re all in this together and this blossoms in the triumphant Koi-Koi battle against Love Machine.  I love it.

But…

I liked how Our War Game did it as well.  Unlike Kenji, Tai was having sooo muuuuch trooooouble trying to get his team together.  Dropped phone calls, people on vacations, uneasy relationships, etc.  Instead of “we’re in this together” it was more like “this is all we got.”  The music, which I mentioned before I liked so much, even seems to make fun of Tai as he tries desperately to scramble his team together, it’s hilarious.  And in the end it’s like his troubles were rewarded with not his team coming through but the whole world instead.  That kind of switch plays into Our War Game better than Summer Wars.

Truth be told, I find Summer Wars’ ending easier to swallow than Our War Game.  Our War Game came out in what, 2000?  Though the internet was just taking off by then, not many people were using it, especially in less developed countries.  By 2009, we see a dramatic usage increase throughout the entire globe.  This dramatic increase combined with Summer Wars’ OZ makes the ending more believable to me because everyone is using the internet and as such, the ending has more weight behind it.

Internet users per 100 inhabitants. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage (Sorry if the image did not load, the image loads when I edit the article but not when viewing the article itself)

Oh and you have to love how already dated Our War Game is.  Seeing them scramble to try to retain their internet connection is humorous.  And oh God Izzy, that computer is huge.  Probably a decade from now Summer Wars will be just as dated.

Gosh, after writing this article, I’ve come to realize how good these two films are.  I honestly can’t say if a non-Digimon fan would like Our War Game.

Wait.

Hang on, I’ll go ask Mary, she saw the film with me and she doesn’t know anything about Digimon.

She said she liked it but she couldn’t fully enjoy it because she had no idea who any of the characters were.  That’s almost exactly what this guy was talking about.  Here’s the passage:

“The biggest difference between them is the large cast both hold. Digimon uses pre-established characters that people can not automatically jump in and understand. Summer Wars on the other hand, introduces a complete new cast of characters, all being developed in front of the viewers eyes. Digimon, having 50+ anime episodes that allowed the character development needed does not accomplish what Summer Wars establishes in a 90 minute film.”

And there you go.  People who are a fan of Digimon will love both films but if you are unfamiliar to Digimon you should probably see season 1 before seeing this Our War Game.  But if you don’t want to spend all your time doing that, Summer Wars is just as good and is a great thrill ride.  Check both out, while Summer is still here.

Digimon Our War Game: Sub vs. Dub

I didn’t realize this at first while I was writing this article but apparently we’re at the 15th anniversary of Digimon!  I can’t believe it, that’s about 3/5th of my life!  It’s certainly interesting to think about.  Digimon was one of those fast fads that only lasted a year or two.  Apparently, the creators knew that as well.  A little more than a year after it premiered in America, the Digimon movie came out and we went fucking bananas.  It was almost the same hype as the Pokemon movie.  I really wanted to see it in theaters but my parents didn’t take me much to my chagrin.

When I finally saw it on VHS about a year later, I realized that this was not a very good movie!

The movie wasn’t good because the American producers wanted to tie three independent movies together to make a coherent plot and this failed miiiiserably.  Each of the three parts seem so distant from each other that no amount of forced cohesion could make it work.  Even the three parts of the movie varied in how good they were.  The first two parts were great but the third part was just baaaaaad.

Digimon Movie Chart

Even so, the second part of the movie (whose original title was “Our War Game”) was definitely the best.  Talk to any Digimon fan about this movie and they can agree that the second part was amazing.  Hell, if the producers had cut out the third part and just leave the first two parts in, the Digimon movie would have been many times better.

As such, is the Dub as good if not better than the Sub?  Well, no, but it is certainly close.

For one thing both the Dub and the Sub had stellar voice acting.  By now, the voice actors know their characters so well that emotional and comical moments are top notch.  Mona Marshall, who voices English Izzy, is fantastic and really nails her character.  Izzy always works best as Tai’s wingman and the chemistry between these two buds has never been this tight.

And I have to give credit to the Dub for really highlighting the heroes’ difficult task of defeating Diaboromon.  He’s strong, he’s unforgiving and to top it off, Wargreymon and Metalgarurumon are becoming more and more sluggish thanks to the constant emails.

Digimon Adventure Our War Game (XviD DVD-Raw) [5FF8BEE1]

So where does the Dub go wrong?

Well, besides the forced plot cohesion, many small things add up that would have otherwise been trivial.  Kari’s unnecessary narration is like…ugh…just shut uuuuup.  We don’t need exposition for every god damn scene that has no dialogue!  The forced plot cohesion mentioned earlier is uncomfortably wedged in and really sets the film back.  Besides that, the Sub’s comical moments are tighter and feel more natural.

The primary source I would point to is the Dub’s music which is kind of inappropriate.  The pop music can distract the viewer’s attention when it should be focused on the plot.  The Sub’s soundtrack, on the other hand, includes not just the original theme but symphonic songs as well.  In particular, Ravel’s Bolero, one of my favorite classical pieces, is used extremely well in this movie.

Ravel’s Bolero starts slow and builds and builds and builds and builds upon itself!  It starts with a slow drumbeat and ends with blaring trumpets and a crashing beat!  And this is exactly what Our War Game is about.  A threat whose strength increases slowly and slowly until it becomes and almost unstoppable threat.  Great use of that song.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is another song that is used inexplicably well during the lighter and more comical moments of the film.  It really gets you going as you watch these preteens try their damndest to stop Diaboromon even when half of their team is out of commission.

Izzy, Bathroom, Our War Game, Digimon

I still can’t believe this scene was in the movie

 

And this brings me to my overall point.  The Sub doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Like a clown trying to balance on a tight rope, you know you need to be worried but you also know everything’s going to be alright in the end.  The Dub on the other hand is too confused on what it wants to be.  It wants to be serious but the corny jokes oversaturate the movie and end up confusing it.

As a final note, as much as I criticize the Dub’s soundtrack, there is one part in the Dub where the music worked to its advantage incredibly well.

The birth of Omnimon is done quite differently between the Sub and Dub and whereas normally the Sub would be better, here they’re on near equal footing.

Have a look.  Here’s the Dub

 

Alright, now here’s the Sub

 

Whereas the Dub’s music is uplifting and suits that of a hero being born, the Sub’s music is intense and seems more like the birth of Jesusmon (which he basically is).  Nonetheless, with such different interpretations of Omnimon the end results work out incredibly well and fits nicely for both movies (however, the Dub is once again ruined by pop music so boooooo).

So in the end, the Sub won out.  But the comparison is not done yet!  There’s a movie out there that is so strikingly similar to Digimon: Our War Game that many articles have been written about it.  I aim to throw my hat in as well when next week I compare Our War Game to Summer Wars.