One day in 1987, Fantasia and Heavy Metal met in a bar. They had a few drinks, got to talking and eventually went back to Heavy Metal’s place. And that’s how Robot Carnival came to be. When I say that Robot Carnival is a fusion of Fantasia and Heavy Metal, I’m not being a smarty-pants. It is an animated anthology film with each segment containing stories set to orchestrational, industrial and techno music, very reminiscent of Fantasia. However, many of the stories carry more modern, darker sci-fi fantasy tones that are really in-tune with what you’d see in Heavy Metal (just without the gratuitous nudity). The film is honestly marvelous, and it depresses me that there aren’t more films like it in the animation genre.
The wrap-around segment is directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, the acclaimed director of Akira. It’s about an overly-decadent society which created an automated entertainment techno coliseum called the “Robot Carnival”. However, the Robot Carnival became sentient and began traveling the globe, entertaining everything in its path and laying waste to human civilization at the same time. Its arrival is announced with various circus flyers, terrifying all who see them.
This is a very dark comedic bit, and rather short. The Robot Carnival-itself is much like a high-tech circus, yet everything kills you. Being the wrap-around segment, there isn’t a lot of meat to it and as such, not much to talk about. It’s very cool, though, and funny in a sick sort of way.
The first story, “Franken’s Gears” (directed by Kouji Morimoto), is another dark comedy. An obvious parody of Frankenstein, a mad scientist toils away to create a giant sentient robot. After countless hours of hard work, his creation comes to life. As it sits up, its massive power causes the laboratory to quake and fall apart. Oblivious to the surrounding danger, the scientist leaps and celebrates with joyous glee. The creation looks on at its “father” as the scientist beckons him to stand up and come closer. Then something very unfortunate happens.
The music really makes this story, I have to admit. It expresses the emotion of pure ecstasy that the scientist must be feeling as his “son” is brought to life. The ending leaves you not sure whether to laugh or cry, honestly. It’s funny, but very sad and tragic at the same time. A really good starting point for the film.
“Deprive” (directed by Hidetoshi Omori, whose work includes the Guyver) is a story about a girl and her robot friend. After giving him a necklace as a keepsake, the girl is kidnapped by a horde of evil robots and her friend is badly damaged. Repairing itself, the robot dons a holographic appearance of a young man and proceeds on a lengthy journey to rescue the girl. Eventually, he tracks her to the lair of a demonic cyborg and the two do battle.
Not a lot of substance to this story, I have to admit, though the animation and action direction really shine. It was around this point in the film where I really started to feel the Heavy Metal-vibe. It’s gorgeous eye candy, but not one of the more memorable or moving segments.
“Presence” (directed by Yasuomi Umetsu, who worked on Project A-Ko) is the first of two segments in this movie which contain dialogue. However, the story, music and animation are still very strong and the dialogue is almost unnecessary. Even if you’re watching this thing in raw Japanese and don’t know the language, you’ll still be able to follow and appreciate this story. It takes place in a time when robots walk among humans but are considered second class citizens. Kids tear off their heads and play soccer with them, people throw them out with the garbage and nobody gives it a second thought since it is assumed that robots do not have actual feelings. A toymaker, happily married and with a daughter, builds a robotic girl in his private workshop. He becomes frightened and confused when the android reveals true emotions and falls in love with him. The toymaker cannot cope with what he has done and in a fit of fearful rage solves the problem in a horrible fashion. Many years later, the toymaker is now and old man and continues to be haunted by the memory of what he did.
A very moving installment and one of the best in the entire film. The dialogue is mostly done through narration by the toymaker and hardly distracts from the overall experience. It is sad (people in the theater were crying, I noticed) but with an ending that’s very moving and beautiful. A true testament to the emotional power of animation.
“Starlight Angel” (directed by Hiroyuki Kitazume of Zeta Gundam fame) is a bit more upbeat, helping the audience recover from the previous depressing story. In this one, two girls visit a theme park (very much like Disney Land) and while running by a robot-themed ride, one of the girls drops her locket. A robot who works on the ride recovers the locket and tries to return it to the girl. The other girl is at the theme park to meet up with her boyfriend, who as it turns out, was seeing the girl with the locket at the same time (do’h!). Heartbroken, the girl with the missing locket runs away crying. The robot finds her and does his best to cheer her up.
Not my favorite story, to be honest. The animation is very fluid and pretty and the two girls giggling and having fun looks very natural. My complaint has to do with the coherency of the story. Toward the end, things get really weird and you’re kind of left with a “WTF?” expression on your face. Particularly, the robot that’s trying to help the girl might not be a robot at all…but then, maybe he is. You’re not really sure which is right.
The comedy-relief installment, “Strange Tale of Meiji Machines: The Episode of the Red-Haired Man’s Invasion” (directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo who did Black Magic M-66), is absolutely hilarious and for that reason stands out as one of the best stories. It centers around a mad scientist from Europe invading Meiji-era Japan with his massive brick-and-mortar robot. A team of Japanese teenagers counter his offensive with their own wood-and-bamboo giant robot.
This tale is a riot, partly because of the comic timing and sight gags, but also because the robots-themselves are so awkward and ridiculous you can’t help but chortle at them. For instance, at one point, the mad scientist’s robot runs out of energy so he has to power it up by peddling one of those old-timey bicycles with the giant wheel in the front. Simultaneously, the Japanese robot runs out of coal for the engine so they have to begin tearing wood and bamboo off of it to power their machine. This is the last segment to contain character dialogue and the music is almost an after-thought to the overall comedy. It may be different but it’s awesome. The mad scientist is voiced by an English voice actor (accompanied by Japanese subtitles) who is honestly quite good, though you sometimes have a tough time trying to figure out what he’s saying within his insane ramblings. The whole thing is set up like a Saturday Morning cartoon, even with a “You haven’t heard the last of me!” ending.
“Cloud” (directed by Mao Lamdo) is my least favorite of the bunch, and honestly, the most radically different. It’s about a small robot boy walking across the globe as various moments in history pass him by, being told through cloud formations.
It’s very “artsy”, and not in the kind of way I like. The animation is repetitive and low-key; a black and white, “sketchy” look, shown from only one angle with the only changes occurring in the clouds. It might have been more tolerable had it been shorter, but it felt like it lasted forever. Watching it in a dark theater, you almost fall asleep. I can virtually guarantee you that you’ll fast-forward through this segment on nearly every repeat viewing of the film.
“Chicken Man and Red Neck” (directed by Takashi Nikamura, chief animator of Akira) is the big Disney homage. It’s about an awkward drunken “Chicken Man” who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A great evil robot is summoning hordes of demonic machines from beneath the earth. Chicken Man finds himself the prey of Red Neck, a robot in a scarlet cape and hat who psychotically hunts him down. Trying to escape on his hover scooter, Red Neck chases Chicken Man into the heart of the giant evil robot’s lair, where all the demonic machines writhe and rave in Hellish flames.
This story is my favorite, I think. Why? Because it combines the Night on Bald Mountain segment of Fantasia (my favorite segment of the movie) with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow portion of the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (my favorite half of that movie). It’s like my two favorite Disney moments fused into one with giant killer robots sprinkled into the mix. Chicken Man is a direct homage to Ichabod Crane, with his dreaded chase with Red Neck being very reminiscent of the chase with the Headless Horseman. The Night on Bald Mountain homage is more obvious, with the hands of the massive Chernabog-like robot summoning evil robots from beneath the ground. The robots dance around pits of flames as the evil robot plucks them up and crushes them for its amusement. Very cool.
So there you have it: Robot Carnival in a nutshell. I also might want to tell you to watch through to the end of the credits, as there’s a little bit extra afterward. This movie is gorgeous and entrancing, I can’t recommend it enough. One of the best works of Japanese animation I’ve ever seen.
A Cobra Commander review.
Ssso, I had just kidnapped two scientists and ordered them to construct for me a massive ssuper weapon capable of harnessing the magma of the Earth’s molten core in order to raise the planet’s temperature just enough to increase property value in Wyoming (which I had intended to turn into the world’s largest quicksand pit once the foolish Americans had moved in), when that color-shifting fool, Zartan, approaches me demanding I watch thiss new movie he wass obsessed with. Now, under normal circumstances I would never take film recommendations from some Aussie biker freak with a sskin condition, but Zartan wass irritatingly insistent that I watch what he called “the most heart-warming film of our generation”. Insolent wretch! Cobra Commander hass no heart!
Sso I watched the movie yesterday…
Normally, I am not one to enjoy Japanese-animated filmss. The eyes are always too big and all the woman ssound the same. However, this one was directed by ssome filthy Capitalist urchin named Hayao Miyazaki, who happens to be one of my favorite cartoon animators. I had to watch the movie dubbed in English becausse there wass no one in Cobra Headquarters of Japanese descent to translate for me; that traitorous bastard Sstorm Shadow having quit for the millionth time (leaving Wild Weasel mosst upset, as now no one will translate his imported RPGs for him). The English dub wass produced by a terrorist organization far more maniacal and scheming than Cobra, and with a grip on the world populace my organization can only dream of equaling: Walt Dissney.
The sstory goes like sso: a mild-mannered family of yen-worshipping pigs move into a haunted house located in the rural regions of Japan. The father iss caring for his two bratty daughters alone, as his hideous wife is dying in the hospital of cancer or something. Ssatsuki, the eldest daughter, and Mei, the youngest daughter, frolic and play FOR TWO MISERABLE HOURS!! Zartan, I’m going to kill you!
Ugh. Anyhow, the children romp and play oblivious to the threat of active landmines or poison ivy. The ghosts in the home are friendly sspirits and leave the children be. While playing foolish games and annoying Cobra Commander, they stumble upon Totoro, a massive furry behemoth with jagged claws and flesh-rending teeth and a grin big-enough to stuff at least a dozen puppies insside. At this point I thought the movie had turned around, as ssurely this giant forest animal was nature’s perfect killing machine and would certainly devour both the children, the pathetic father and end Cobra Commander’s misery.
Unfortunately, no, that didn’t happen. Insstead, the massive Totoro sspent the remainder of the movie frolicking and dancing with the children. It was around this time that I considered hurling a Battle Android Trooper at the television screen and ordering Zartan’s execution. After an hour and a half of giggling and pirouetting, the plot finally went ssomewhere. Mei, that disobedient little harpy, runs away to ssee her hideous mother at the weak Capitalist hospital and becomes losst. Ssatsuki begs Totoro for help and eventually they are all rescued by a giant flying cat-bus-monster with glowing eyes. I think Cobra should shift its focus from annihilating America to the complete obliteration of Japan.
The voices were serviceable. The inattentive father was voiced by Tim Daly, that devilishly handsome man from Wings and the voice of TV’s Superman. Ssatsuki was voiced by that sickening little meatbag, Dakota Fanning, who shall one day feel the iron fang of Cobra at her throat as I personally see to her lengthy and blood-curdling dismemberment. Former Cobra agent, Frank Welker, voices Totoro. I sstill think he was better off working for uss.
As Cobra Commander, leader of a ruthless terrorist organization, I cannot put into words how much I disspise this film. However, pretending to be a normal wretched American dog (and I’m only pretending, mind you), I would say that this film iss very charming, wonderfully animated and ssuitable for any age (I’m pretending!).
(Not Cobra Commandersss) Grade: B+
“Super Android 13” doesn’t appear to be one of the more popular Dragonball Z films, though it’s one of my personal favorites in a “guilty pleasure” sort of way. I find it rather underrated and enjoy it mostly for the reasons people seem to hate it. “Super Android 13” is cheesier than other Dragonball Z films (if you can comprehend that), but at the same time it’s pretty self-aware that it’s so goofy. It’s not one of the best installments in the series, but I always have a fun time watching it.
The mad Dr. Gero of the Red Ribbon Army may be dead, but his evil lives on within a super computer of his own design. The computer crafts three new killer robots, Androids 13, 14 and 15, respectively. Their primary function: Kill Goku. The androids waste little time tracking Goku down and quickly engage him in a fierce battle. Goku’s comrades, Gohan, Krillen, Vegeta, Piccolo and the Super Saiyan from the future, Trunks, all pop in to lend a hand.
When Funimation first began dubbing Dragonball Z I was very displeased. Gradually, the voice actors grew on me with their own individual character quirks and I came to accept them. Still, I wasn’t suitably impressed with their efforts…until I saw this movie. This is one of the cheesier Dragonball Z films and the people at Funimation knew it, so as a result, the voice acting reflects it. And it’s a total riot. They had me snickering when the diminutive Android 15 showed up speaking gangsta jive, but I nearly erupted with laughter once the title villain appeared, spewing a heavy redneck dialect (“the Red Ribbon Redneck”, as Trunks calls him). They have a lot of fun with the voice acting in this film which really adds to the entertainment value. I probably wouldn’t like this movie as much as I do if it weren’t for the voice gags.
I’m also not typically a fan of the new music recorded for the English dub, but I rather like this one. They play this funky track for Androids 14 and 15 when they first enter the city and it just adds to the humorous tone. They also dub in a few “extra” lines that make me snicker, like that last bit between Vegeta and Piccolo at the very end. “Is it over?” “Not until the fish jumps.” *fish jumps* “Okay, it’s over.” *roll credits*
The fight scenes in “Super Android 13” aren’t really the best in the franchise, though they do manage one effect in this film which outdoes all the others: the ricochets. Characters are getting tossed around and sent bouncing off the surrounding environments like ping pong balls. The animation is good, though not really theatrical quality. I noticed a few errors here and there, but nothing too distracting.
As for the villains, aside from the humorous dubbing, I suppose they really aren’t that special. Android 15 is pretty funny with his gangsta voice and alcoholism, though his outfit is pretty stupid. Android 14 comes out the weakest of the lot, with no notable character quirks of any kind. Android 13, the lead villain, steals the show with his trucker appearance and heavy Southern drawl. The bit where he goes “Super Android” for the final battle is one of the lamer transformations in the series, with him just turning blue and sprouting orange spikey hair. He didn’t really have any impressive special attacks, either.
While the dubbing won me over, I can’t ignore some of the lamer parts of the movie. I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the Spirit Bomb Solution. They manage to use it in a slightly more creative fashion in this film, with Goku absorbing the energy into his body rather than just lobbing it at the enemy in the form of an energy ball. Still, it’s getting boring. I was also damn annoyed by the amount of comedy relief humor involving Krillen. It’s embarrassing to watch one of my favorite characters get turned into such a panty waist.
In all honesty, this is a pretty bad Dragonball Z flick but dressed up with a lot of self-parody and cheesy dubbing to mask the poor story and less-than-stellar animation. To its credit, they mask the set-backs rather well. I give “Super Android 13” a C as far as Dragonball Z movies go.
I suppose I should start off by noting that practically everything I know about Mazinger Z I learned from Tranzor Z, the show’s American version which ran on television in the 80’s. I’m an infinitely bigger Devilman fan, admittedly. Hell, I even bought a DVD of that wretched live action movie they made a few years back. Mazinger Z vs. Devilman is a film I’d wanted to see for some time, but now that I’ve finally gotten my hands on it, I must say, I was fairly under whelmed.
Dr. Hell (Dr. Demon in the US) is up to his usual tricks, trying time and again to defeat the giant robot, Mazinger Z (Tranzor Z), and take over the world. Dr. Hell sends a troop of evil robots to attack Mazinger and Koji (Tommy), Mazinger’s pilot, rises to the occasion and thoroughly trounces the opposition. However, during the battle, Mazinger unintentionally frees the giant demon, Siren: an old enemy of the demon-hunter superhero, Devilman. Siren frees a legion of her demon colleagues, but before they can lay waste to human civilization, Dr. Hell intervenes and takes control of them. Devilman catches wind of this unholy alliance, and in his human form as Akira Fudo, sends a warning to Koji and Mazinger Z. Dr. Hell has his sights set on Mazinger’s new power-up, the Jet Scrambler, and with the powers of, well…HELL on his side, things are looking to go in his favor. If the Earth is to be saved, Mazinger Z and Devilman must work together.
This movie probably should have been titled “MAZINGER Z!! …with special cameo appearance by Devilman”. Devilman is played mostly as a chump throughout the film, getting taken prisoner twice and having to be rescued by Mazinger on both occasions. To add insult to injury, he’s taken prisoner by Devileen, the one henchman from Tranzor Z I absolutely loathed. What this flick needed was 100% more Count Decapito (now *he* was a badass henchman). So, of course, as a Devilman fan, seeing my favorite character getting his ass beat repeatedly and being rescued over and over didn’t exactly sit well with me. The demons are also some pretty weak sauce, being defeated by the likes of humans with laser guns. This is a Mazinger Z film at its core and Devilman is treated more as a guest star, much to my chagrin.
Another issue I take with the film is that Mazinger Z and Devilman never actually fight. I came into the film expecting two of Go Nagai’s classic characters to throw-down and all I got was a lame team-up. The only instance in which the two title characters have a competing moment is when Akira challenges Koji to a motorcycle race (which he *loses*, god dammit!). If that’s their idea of “versus” then I’m exceptionally disappointed.
The animation is dated but serviceable. Toei does an *okay* job, but the animation still isn’t up to theatrical-quality, even if this film was made in the 70’s. There are plenty of noticeable uses of recycled animation and the characters, outside of action sequences, aren’t particularly lively, standing around in static poses most of the time.
But, I suppose the film wasn’t all bad. I’m a sucker for crossovers, and just seeing Devilman interact with Tranzor Z was enough to get a sense of satisfaction out of me. There is also a sweet moment where they play the Devilman theme song as he rushes into battle which invoked an “Alright!” out of me, since I love that theme song. Additionally, I thought it was pretty cool to see Siren, one of Devilman’s trademark villains, again. She actually faired rather well in battle and got a good chunk of screentime, unlike most of the other demons, which were defeated with relative ease.
Mazinger Z vs. Devilman is short, about 45 minutes long, and I’m not sure whether that’s a *good* thing or not. Perhaps if it had been longer Devilman might not have been slapped around quite so much. But I guess we’ll never know. As it is, Mazinger Z vs. Devilman doesn’t live up to its own title. And, as a Devilman fan, I’m a little bit pissed. I suppose it’s fun if you’re a huge Mazinger Z buff, but I just couldn’t get into the film.
I first saw this movie in a theater in Kyoto’s Purple Dragon shopping center in August of 2005. My Japanese is pretty good, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I’d never seen a single episode of the television series prior to paying $18 bucks to see this movie (tickets are crazy-expensive in Japan), so I had no clue just what the Hell was going on. And, even in English, unless you have watched *all* of the TV series, up through the last episode, you’re going to be just as lost as I was.
Now, what if you *have* watched all of the TV series? Holy crap, this movie is magnificent! When it was finally released on DVD in the US I had the benefit of seeing the entire TV series on my side for my second viewing, and I can’t believe just how great this movie is under the proper context.
Following the climax of the television series, Edward Elric is trapped in another dimension. Our dimension, shortly before the beginning of World War II. Members of the Nazi party have caught on to Alchemy, the Humonculi and Edward’s home dimension (which they refer to as the mystical land of “Shambala”). The Nazi’s intend to open the gateway to Shambala so that they can bring Alchemy back with them to our world, using the “magic” to strengthen Hitler’s forces. Edward is caught in the middle, as he is needed in order to open the gateway. Edward knows that this could be his one chance to return to his world, but at the same time, it could mean certain destruction for our world.
This is a brilliantly written film that works in the tension of post WWI Germany to the plot exceedingly well. The people who wrote this film know their history and their folk lore, using aspects of the Nazi society (including Hitler’s supposed obsession with the occult) to pen an enthralling experience. I went and looked up a number of the references made in the film to find out most of them were real. The setting also leads to lots of character conflict. For instance, Hughs (the Maeyz of our world) is a soldier in Post WWI Germany suckered into joining the Nazi party out of desperation. He genuinely thinks the Nazis are doing the right thing (remember, none of these characters have the luxury of knowing where all this will lead) which puts him at odds with Ed. It’s very moving.
The characters from the TV series are all there. Ed takes center stage, with the majority of the film taking place in our world. Al and his alternate version feature prominently, though. Al’s bit in the underground city with Wrath and Gluttony is amazing. Some of the other characters, like Winry and Hawkeye, are somewhat cheated of screentime, but practically every character from the show gets to make an appearance, even if it’s just their alternate version (there’s one cameo at the very end of the movie that’s absolutely hilarious).
The animation in this movie is non-stop eye candy. The fight scenes and action sequences are all fluid and choreographed to perfection, but that’s only the half of it. The backgrounds and environments are lush and detailed and are just dripping with beauty, even when the setting is the dank bowels of a castle. I’m so thankful I got to see this film on the big screen.
It’s hard to rank Conqueror of Shambala. If you’ve seen the TV series you will adore this film. If you haven’t seen the show, you’ll like all the pretty animation, but the story will go completely over your head. Still, if viewed in the proper context, this film is worthy of a B+. And if you haven’t seen the TV series, do yourself a favor and go check it out. You’ll be glad you did. Full Metal Alchemist is one of the best things to come out of Japan in a long time.