Disney Animated Canon: ‘Big Hero 6’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Big Hero 6’

The follow up to 2013’s Frozen was a Disney film that was decidedly different than its predecessors, but still retained a bit of that classic Disney charm, and that film was an adaptation of Marvel’s Big Hero 6 comic book. After their acquisition of Marvel in 2009, Disney began researching a number of Marvel storylines for an animated film.

The studio would eventually land on Big Hero 6, and this comic was purposely chosen because of its obscurity. Disney’s version of Big Hero 6 borrows a handful of ideas from the source material, but is largely its own film with its own unique characters and story beats.

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As always with Disney films, the team dedicated a lot of man hours to realizing the look of the film. They created unique rendering systems to convincingly represent foliage, city skylines, cars and buildings. Most notably, Disney created the Hyperion system, which allowed them to create realistic lighting effects across the entire film.

With the character of Baymax, Disney wanted to avoid creating a typical robot. Director Don Hall was inspired by a burgeoning technology known as “soft robotics”, which aimed to give safer and more flexible components to machinery. This tech would serve as the inspiration for Baymax’s non-intimidating “marshmallow” body.

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As far as superhero film narratives are concerned, Big Hero 6 is pretty standard. Protagonist Hiro’s character arc is a simple, “great power, great responsibility” story, with some personal maturity thrown in for good measure, while the villain is just flat out seeking revenge.

Hiro is a 14 year old prodigy who graduated high school at 13, and spends his time participating in illegal bot fights. After some sly coercing from his older brother, Tadashi, Hiro decides to enroll in the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

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Hiro and Tadashi’s relationship is the emotional throughline that carries Big Hero 6. Tadashi meets a tragic end pretty early on in the film, and Hiro’s journey with coming to terms with this loss is the motivation for every single one of his actions.

Big Hero 6 did a great job of making me care about Tadashi before he was killed. He served as a responsible mentor figure for Hiro, and did his best to keep him on the right path. Even after his death, he still provides support to Hiro when he needs it the most.

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Hiro starts out a bit rough around the edges, but he eventually matures into a young man reminiscent of the older brother that he looks up to. He went from being fully prepared to have Baymax kill the villain, to simply apprehending him like a model superhero, and I can really get behind character growth like this.

Aside from Hiro, Tadashi and Baymax, there are a few other characters that round out the film’s principal cast, namely, GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. These four characters, along with Hiro and Baymax, make up the titular Big Hero 6.

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These characters are charming, but also a bit on the generic side. Taking a look at just about any still image of them will tell you most of what you need to know about their personality, Wasabi being the major exception. GoGo is the tough and edgy girl, Honey Lemon is the hyperactive and enthusiastic one, and Fred is the laid back, comic relief guy.

Although I found myself really liking these guys, they definitely needed more screentime. Hiro meets each of them when Tadashi shows him around the school’s lab, and this scene was a great introduction for them.

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But one of the more jarring plot elements of the film is how quickly Hiro and the group become best friends. Aside from their introduction, the group doesn’t have a proper scene with Hiro for some time after Tadashi’s death.

In that time gap, there is one really bad montage that shows snippets of the group helping Hiro with his entrance exam project. Fast forward, and the gang behave as if they have been friends for years.

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We also don’t really get to see the team as actual superheroes for very much of the film. I don’t have any real issue with this narratively speaking, as I felt it showed just how inexperienced they are when they take on their first mission, and it was nice getting to know them just a bit before they suit up.

The one plot element that I actively dislike is the villain’s daughter. Up until the reveal that she is alive, Big Hero 6 did an excellent job of subtly highlighting a parallel between Hiro and the villain, and I felt that bringing her back really cheapened the arc of an already simple villain story.

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Big Hero 6 has some truly beautiful scenery. The film doesn’t do very much with the setting of San Fransokyo with it comes to narrative, but it does provide a backdrop for a few really well done scenes, the best of which is Hiro and Baymax’s flight through the city (though special mention goes to the trip through the portal).

Seeing the pair soar through the sky is reminiscent of many classic Disney films, and I really appreciate that the team let this scene breathe and just be visually impressive. It was also really cool how this scene fed into the story, as the whole purpose of them flying was to gain a higher vantage point for Baymax’s scanner.

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Though a bit generic at times, Big Hero 6 still displays that Disney magic. The brotherly bond between Hiro and Tadashi, and by extension, Hiro and Baymax, is genuinely touching. The film has a lot of heart, with gorgeous visuals and cool action scenes to boot, and has a very unique spot in Disney’s line of animated classics.

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Anime Film Review: ‘Children Who Chase Lost Voices’

Anime Film Review: ‘Children Who Chase Lost Voices’

I went into Children Who Chase Lost Voices almost completely blind. The film’s director, Makoto Shinkai, was also responsible for 2016’s critically acclaimed Your Name. So in order to see the origins of his directorial skills, I turned my attention to this film.

His directorial debut was the film 5 Centimeters Per Second, which was out of stock on Amazon when I first searched for it. As such, I jumped straight to his second film, 2011’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

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Right from the beginning, Children Who Chase Lost Voices demonstrates the power of visual storytelling. The film centers on a young girl named Asuna, and there is so much you can learn about her without ever being told.

A typical day for Asuna involves going to school, cleaning the house, doing laundry, preparing dinner and studying, and all of these activities are conveyed without a single word. The only informative lines of dialogue are Asuna’s comment about her mother working late, as well as the prayer she says in memory of her father.

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Besides her daily household chores, Asuna makes a habit of visiting a cliffside that exists deep in the woods surrounding her home. She stocks a small cave full of books, snacks and other items that are important to her, and sits atop the cliff tinkering with a strange radio given to her by her father, claiming she can hear voices below the ground.

Not long after the opening scenes, the film’s real narrative begins. There had been sightings of a strange, bear like creature in Asuna’s town, and the students of her school are advised to head straight home.

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As Asuna is making her way to the woods, she comes across the monster, and is almost killed by it until the intervention of a young man named Shun. Shun’s fight with the beast was more violent than I expected. I wouldn’t way it was grotesque, but I didn’t at all expect to see that level of blood and wounds.

After spending a brief period of time with Asuna, Shun is found dead in the town’s river. The loss of Shun, in conjuction with a story that Asuna hears from her substitute teacher, Mr. Morisaki, sets the pace for the rest of Asuna’s journey.

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Shun is from a land known as Agartha. Agartha exists under the surface of the Earth, and is home to the descendants of early humanity, as well as the guardian Quetzalcoatl. Mr. Morisaki believes that Agartha holds the power to revive the dead, and wishes to bring back his late wife, Lisa. After an encounter with Shin, Shun’s younger brother, both Asuna and Morisaki end up traveling through Agartha.

The adventure that follows is pretty enjoyable. Asuna and Morisaki encounter many interesting locales, and a handful of memorable characters. There is plenty of danger along the way too. Asuna and Morisaki must deal with a group of skeletal monsters, as well as the residents of Agartha, both of which want them dead.

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Children Who Chase Lost Voices has a handful of plot elements that aren’t really explained too well. For starters, it’s never explained why Shun visits the surface world in the first place. The film does a great job of showing why Agartha’s citizens resent the top siders, which makes his decision all the more confusing.

Secondly, there is a strange issue with the strength of those from Agartha. They appear to have near superhuman level abilities, with even teenagers like Shun and Shin being able to leap from large distances and deal critical blows to the guardians. Again, the reason for this is never expanded upon.

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One interesting thing about the film is Asuna’s motivation. She’s caught between Morisaki’s desire to revive his wife, and the Agarthan’s desires to protect their home, all the while still mourning the death of Shun.

What I don’t like however is the fact that Shun seems to be her primary reason for going to Agartha. He’s a decent character, but the two only knew each other for maybe a handful of days, making the love that she feels for him less endearing. 

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But to be fair, I do feel that Shun reminds Asuna of her father, which would make her actions a bit more understandable. For Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai aimed specifically to capture the elements of dealing with loss, and finding the strength to carry on.

This sentiment applies not only to Asuna, but to Shin and Morisaki as well. All three characters respond to losing a loved one in different ways, and they all need each other’s support to move forward with new resolve.

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Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a visual marvel. The characters look nice, and the animation is smooth and lively, but the backgrounds are the real star of the show. Agartha in particular is brimming with vividly detailed buildings and landscapes, and the skyline that accompanies the final scenes of the film was breathtaking.

The real world setting is just as visually impressive as Agartha. The autumn themed foliage is wonderfully crafted, but my favorite part was actually Asuna’s house. It’s so simple, but I found it really cool to look at all the little details that were applied to the refrigerator, the cabinets and the walls.

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As a whole, Children Who Chase Lost Voices was an enjoyable film. It had a few plot issues, some that bother me way more than others, and I think a few scenes could’ve been shortened or cut for the sake of pacing. But the film’s highs are really high, and I’d say it is definitely worth the watch.

And oh yeah, the vocal track that plays over the credits, Hello Goodbye & Hello, is absolutely amazing.

Anime Series Review: ‘Sakura Quest’

Anime Series Review: ‘Sakura Quest’

I came across Sakura Quest almost entirely by accident. I remember seeing someone on Twitter comment on how great an anime called Hinako Note was, but I completely forgot the name by the time I tried to search it on Crunchyroll. The only think I could remember was the pink haired protagonist, and this happy accident led me to find what may be one of my favorite anime of all time, Sakura Quest.

Sakura Quest has a very unique and refreshing set up. It’s story centers on a college graduate named Yoshino Koharu. Yoshi thought that graduating from a university in Tokyo would set her on the path to accomplish great things, but the only things she’s managed to accomplish is failing dozens of job interviews.

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After having a happy accident of her own, Yoshi ends up in the cozy little town of Manoyama, the type of place where everybody knows each other. Yoshi was contracted to work as a member of Manoyama’s tourism board, and to serve as the town’s queen. But as it turns out, Yoshi’s contract was for an entire year, as opposed to a single day.  

Manoyama isn’t necessarily in dire straits, but it could definitely use the boost in revenue that typically comes from tourism. In order to make the town rich and prosperous, Queen Yoshino is joined by four other young women, namely, Manoyaman native Shiori, the quiet and reserved Ririko, internet enthusiast Sanae and aspiring actor Maki.

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One of the things that makes Sakura Quest so special is, weirdly enough, its normalcy. A college graduate being charged with bringing in revenue to a small town may not exactly be a common occurrence, but it’s something that I probably wouldn’t think twice about if I saw it on the news.

Even the characters themselves feel like normal people. In most other anime, Yoshi would be a happy go lucky girl with tons of charisma. But in Sakura Quest, she’s a normal, twenty something year old girl. This statement holds true for every other character in the show, and gives Manoyama a genuine sense of community.

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There are a number of locales and shops that make appearances throughout the show’s 25 episode runtime, and what’s really interesting is the differing reactions to the tourism board’s plans. Though Yoshi always has the best of intentions at heart, her efforts don’t always reflect the desires of the citizens.

At times, the board’s plans are at odds with the traditions of Manoyama, while at others the citizens are being a bit too rigid and unwilling to accept any kind of change. This is the biggest source of conflict in Sakura Quest, and one that the show does a great job of resolving.

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Characters never attempt to force their ideas upon others. Rather, things only get done after thoughtful conversations from every party involved, giving the show a great feeling of maturity. Overall, Sakura Quest is a show that should be very enjoyable for adults. You should know an anime is mature when the most unusual thing about it is Yoshi’s pink hair.

Beyond the efforts to restore Manoyama, one of the central plot elements for Sakura Quest is Yoshi’s personal arc. She describes herself as never having any real talent for much of anything, so the job of queen is very important to her.

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Seeing her struggle to succeed made me really feel for the poor girl. If one of her plans failed or stepped on the toes of the citizens, she would feel deeply sorry, and blame herself for not being able to understand the feelings of a native Manoyaman.

It is only through the support of her friends and the grumpy old Kadota that she is able to pull herself back up. By the end of the show, Yoshi felt like a much bolder and more confident young woman, one with the power to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

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This is also true for a number of other characters. Maki has to come to terms with the future of her acting career, while Ririko must learn to gain independence. One of the show’s best episodes is about a middle school aged girl named Erika, and her struggles with wanting to leave her small town life.

Much like Yoshi, who also grew up in a rural town, Erika yearns for the opportunities that she believes only exist in Tokyo. As much as this is an important event for Erika, it is equally important to Yoshi’s development, as it is much like looking in a mirror at her younger self.

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Another aspect that stuck out to me is it’s amazing soundtrack. The general songs you hear in the show have a very “country town” vibe, while the openings and endings are catchy and upbeat.The show’s first opening and ending, Morning Glory and Lupinus respectively, have actually become two of my favorites of any anime.

One last kind of weird thing that I love about Sakura Quest is the girls’ outfits. I don’t even mean this in a fan servicey way, I genuinely adore just how nice their clothes look. Each girl has almost a dozen outfits that they rotate throughout the show, and many times even in the same episode.

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I particuarly love Yoshi’s outfits, as she always looks so gosh darn cute. I’m partial to her blue shirt and white dress combo, as well as her denim shorts and yellow button up. But my favorite would have to be her blue overalls, mostly because I love the way she styles her hair when she wears it.

In many ways, Sakura Quest is an anime that has at least a little bit of everything that appeals to me. I love the character driven narrative, I love how refreshingly normal everything is, I love the animation and I especially love the soundtrack. It’s become one of my favorite anime of all time, and I hope future viewers will have just as much fun with Yoshi and Manoyama as I did.

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Anime Series Review: ‘Danganronpa: The Animation’

Anime Series Review: ‘Danganronpa: The Animation’

Danganronpa: The Animation is just that, an animated adaptation of Spike Chunsoft’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. The Danganronpa franchise focuses on the themes of hope and despair, and Trigger Happy Havoc centers on a group of prodigious high school students being forced to learn the truths of said hope and despair. 

In the Danganronpa universe, there exists a prestigious high school known as Hope’s Peak Academy. Hope’s Peak only accepts the most gifted of students, and their definition of the word means that you must have an extremely high skill level with a particular talent. Naturally, those admitted into Hope’s Peak are known as Super High School Level Talents.

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These talents can range from simple things like baseball, programming and writing, all the way to some really obscure ones such as being an idol, gambling, clairvoyance and royalty. In the case of our protagonist, Makoto Naegi, he has Super High School Level Luck.

Danganronpa’s story starts with a select few students being trapped inside the academy by a charismatic teddie bear named Monokuma, who presents himself as the school’s headmaster. Monokuma thrusts a sadistic goal upon his fledgling students. If they wish to escape from the confines of the academy, they must successfully murder one of their classmates, and get away with it.

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Monokuma’s killing school life feeds directly into the aforementioned themes of hope and despair. At times, the student body is hopeful that no murders will occur, and take solace in the strides they are making towards uncovering the truth. But the despair that they feel from being right at the peak of hope and falling is crucial to the narrative’s thematic elements.

As is to be expected, murders do happen in Danganronpa. After each murder, the students are to hold a brief investigation, followed by a class trial. If the students successfully deduce the killer’s identity, then the guilty party will be executed. But should they choose wrong, the “blackened” student will go free, while the rest of the class is executed.

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One area in which the anime falls short compared to the game is the culprits of the case. Almost from the start of the trial, their reactions and expressions make it extremely obvious that they are guilty, especially when they are talking way more than they usually do.

Danganronpa’s biggest issue is its 13 episode runtime, a runtime that needed to cover 20 some odd hours of gameplay. To its credit, the anime does hit all of the important story beats, but much of the character development is left out. What probably suffered the most however are the investigations, as they are paced lightning fast, and don’t always give the clues a thorough enough explanation.

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Another point I want to make about the anime, and one that isn’t necessarily a point of contention, is the difference between Funimation’s English dub, and the game’s English dub. In the game dubs, things are changed to be more suitable for an English speaking audience. An example would be the term Super High School Level Talent being shorthanded to Ultimate Talent (less of a mouthful).

Funimation’s dub seems to be more faithful to the original, right down to the fact that student’s address each other by their last names, a custom in Japanese culture. In the case of a character named Genocider Syo, they had their name outright changed to Genocide Jack in the games.

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Another thing of note between the two versions is the voices. With the exception of Makoto, the entire game cast has been replaced by Funimation’s in-house talent (feel free to call them Ultimate Voice Actors). Certain characters like Asahina, Sakura and Kyoko sounded mostly the same to me, while others like Togami and Mondo (voiced by Vegeta) were noticeably different. This isn’t a bad thing, as I actually found Funimation’s voice actors to have the  better performances.

The one voice that initially threw me off was Monokuma’s. He has such a whimsical and distinctive voice in the games, and I was really hoping that they carried the same actor over to the anime. To give credit where credit is due, the anime’s Monokuma sounds really great. His tone of voice is totally different from the game voice, which I think was a smart choice. In addition, he still manages to perfectly capture the bear’s personality and character traits.

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As I said before, the one constant between the two mediums is Makoto Naegi, voiced by Bryce Papenbrook. Papenbrook actually has a bit of history with Funimation, with his most famous role likely being Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan. Because of his experience with the company, and the fact that he was likely given much better direction, his anime Makoto sounds so much better than his game counterpart.

 Danganronpa: The Animation does get tons of points with me for being extremely faithful in mimicking the aesthetics of the game. Almost all of the music returns for the anime, the art style is near identical and even the various elements of the user interface pop up when necessary, right down to the iconic truth bullets and class trial minigames.

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Danganronpa: The Animation presents probably the best possible adaptation it can given its small number of episodes. The best way to experience the story and characters is still the original game, but I wouldn’t say the anime is a terrible entry into the series for newcomers. As someone who played the game earlier this year, I found the anime to be a serviceable refresher course of sorts. It may fall flat in some areas as an adaptation, but overall, Danganronpa: The Animation is a well done anime.

Shantae: Half Genie Hero: Pirate Queen’s Quest’, Risky Waters

Shantae: Half Genie Hero: Pirate Queen’s Quest’, Risky Waters

Last year’s Shantae: Half Genie Hero was a fantastic little adventure (and felt especially great on the Vita). It had fun puzzles and platforming challenges, tons of collectibles and a myriad of cool power ups, not to mention a really funny story. Pirate Queen’s Quest is a downloadable expansion to the original game, one that puts players in the role of Shantae’s swashbuckling rival, Captain Risky Boots.

Pirate Queen’s Quest shows us what Risky was up to during the events of Half Genie Hero. Her goal is to complete an invention known as the Dynamo, a device that will allow her to open a portal to the genie realm. To this end, Risky and her crew are on the hunt for five special components.

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It is important to remember that Pirate Queen’s Quest isn’t a totally new game, rather, it is a very familiar romp, but with a new pair of boots. Risky visits largely the same areas as Shantae did in Half Genie Hero, right down to the boss encounters. The major difference comes in the form of Risky’s pirate tools, new level gimmicks and new collectibles.

Risky lacks Shantae’s animal transformations and magic skills (as well as her sweet dance moves). She instead has access to a number of pirate weapons. Risky starts her adventure with a scimitar and three firearms, namely, a pistol, a homing rocket launcher and another pistol that has a spread shot.

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Risky eventually gains access to a pirate hat that allows her to glide, a cannon that gives her additional jumps, a grappling hook that can be used to reach higher places, and an orb that permits underwater travel. Having such a rich array of tools at your disposal means that Pirate Queen’s Quest scratches that same Metroidvania esque itch that Half Genie Hero did. Revisiting older levels to discover new routes rarely gets old if done correctly, and this expansion nails it.

Risky also has a different method of upgrading her abilities. Instead of buying upgrades from the shop using gems collected in the stages, Risky can only level up using dark magic orbs found in treasure chests. Because of this, defeated enemies drop firearm ammunition instead of currency (they still drops hearts as well).

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At first I didn’t like this approach to upgrades, but I gradually grew to appreciate how it further incentivised exploration and revisiting old levels. Risky’s pirate tools are just as fun to use as Shantae’s transformations, if not more so. They avoid the issue of having one skill feel too similar to another, as each tool serves a different purpose. Additionally, each tool is assigned to a specific button, meaning you don’t have to stop and toggle through item wheels (though I personally never found this to be an issue in the original game).

The majority of the levels are extremely similar to the way they were in Half Genie Hero, meaning the adventure will feel very familiar to fans of the original game. In order to spice things up, developer WayForward introduced a new level gimmick that takes advantage of Risky’s new moves, and tests player’s reflexes and timing.

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Each level has these grey, floating eyeballs that usually spawn a purple platform upon being hit. Other times however, they will change the terrain of a particular level, an example being the sand platforms in Tassel Town. The game occasionally throws floating rings into the mix as well, which Risky can latch onto with her grappling hook.

Pirate Queen’s Quest strips Half Genie Hero down to its bare essentials. The story, while present, is sparse when compared to the original game, and the hub town has been entirely omitted. When you aren’t in the levels or on the world map, you’re lounging in the captain’s cabin, with the only available options being travel, saving your game or asking for a hint towards progression.

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There are less cutscenes in Pirate Queen’s Quest, but they are just as well written. Risky’s snide remarks about her Tinkerbat minions got a few chuckles out of me, and I loved the various explanations for why she is fighting the exact same bosses as Shantae. In particular, the cutscene following the Tassel Town’s boss was really clever and unexpected.

Folks looking for an entirely new adventure will be let down by Pirate Queen’s Quest, but that also isn’t what the game promised. Rather, it aimed to provide a similar experience, but with new tricks and approaches to level traversal. As someone who loves doing basically the same thing with classic Sonic games, Pirate Queen’s Quest was a great time for me.

 

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Bambi’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Bambi’

Historical facts for this essay were drawn from the bonus features of the Walt Disney Signature Collection release of the film, as well as this fantastic article written by Johnathan North of the Rotoscopers.

The final film in Walt Disney Animation’s Golden Age lineup is none other than Bambi. Bambi was originally released in 1942, but Walt Disney had actually planned for the film to be the follow up to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Bambi turned out to have quite the arduous production however, so the project was put on the backburner so that the team could focus on Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Unlike the other Disney films of this era, the original story of Bambi was not a children’s book. Written by Austrian author Felix Salten, Bambi, A Life in the Woods was a distinctly adult novel, making it much harder to adapt into a story that is more in line with the rest of Disney’s catalogue.

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Bambi also presented Walt and his team of animators the challenge of accurately representing realistic animal movement patterns. Up to this point, Disney was known primarily for their cuddly and cartoony animals, and not so much for realism. As such, Bambi became the first film to utilize a practice that is still employed at the company to this day, and that is detailed research.

The animation team was given the opportunity to get up close and personal with many of the woodland creatures that are featured in the film. Walt had them study various elements of animal anatomy so that they could better understand their movements. Disney is quite famous for this level of authenticity, as they did the exact same thing with animal walk cycles and fur patterns for The Lion King, as well as the Swedish structures featured in Frozen.

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Watching Bambi’s movements in the film really drives home just how dedicated they were to being as realistic as possible. Bambi is just as lanky as any other newly born fawn, and way that the deer leap and bound across the meadows is very impressive.

Bambi was one of Disney’s greatest breakthroughs in what is known as effects animation. Elements like raindrops and lightning were of great importance to the film’s aesthetic. The animation team would spend hours watching water drip and breaking glass, all in an effort to better render these moments in animation.

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Another challenging task for the film were the backgrounds. Forests in real life are thick and obtrusive, making them a poor match for Bambi’s more cheerful moments. As such, the team opted for softer, painterly style backgrounds.

Walt himself wanted to the film to have a greater sense of depth than Disney’s previous efforts, and he used the 1937 short film, The Old Mill, as a test bed of sorts for new camera techniques (not unlike what was done during the Silly Symphonies),  giving the film a much more realistic framework.

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The story begins with the birth of a young fawn named Bambi. Almost the entire forest shows up to witness the first moments of the soon to be prince of the forest, and Bambi quickly makes friends with a young bunny named Thumper (and later, an absolutely adorable skunk named Flower).

The major narrative themes of Bambi are growth and discovery. Bambi doesn’t embark on some grand quest across the land, he is simply a young fawn learning his place in the world, and of the responsibilities that will one day be his.

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Eventually, Bambi is forced to learn the harsh realities of the world beyond his comfy little thicket. Humans are the primary antagonist in Bambi, and hunting season is an especially harrowing time for the residents of the forest. The hunting element is an important footnote in this film’s history, as it was actually disparaged by real world hunting organizations for its portrayal of the sport.

One of the most famous scenes in the film is the death of Bambi’s mother. As she is enjoying spending time in the meadows with her son, she notices the presence of humans. Without hesitation, she instructs Bambi to race towards their thicket, but she is unable to join him.

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Disney’s history has no shortage of tragic moments, and this was perhaps the start of them. What I find really interesting about her death is the way in which Bambi reacts to it. As humans, we typically go through a period of mourning for our loved ones. But as an animal, and one with great responsibility, Bambi is forced to continue his growth without the aid of his mother.

Bambi is somewhat of an oddball in Disney’s Golden Age, as it was not as critically lauded as its predecessors. Disney’s audience was conditioned to expect whimsical fantasy stories from the company, but Bambi, although still upbeat at times, was much more grounded than say, Pinocchio or Dumbo.

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Bambi was also not financially successful. World War II prevented the film from being released in European territories, cutting off a significant area of profit for the company. And again, many critics did not like that the film was not a fantasy, even Walt’s own daughter!

But Bambi has proved itself to be a film that earned the respect it rightfully deserved. Subsequent re-releases of the film allowed it to become profitable, and in 2011 it was inducted into the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress for its resonant message of nature conservation.

I feel that Bambi was a great film to cap off Disney’s Golden Age. As a fan of animation and Disney history, I really appreciate just how different it was compared to its sibling films, with its greater emphasis on realism. Bambi is a great film, and I’m certain that it paved the way for more mature storytelling and theming in animated films.

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Anime Series Review: ‘Akame ga Kill!

Anime Series Review: ‘Akame ga Kill!

Watching Akame ga Kill was a very interesting experience for me. I remember catching a few episodes of the English dub when it premiered on Toonami a few years ago, and it seemed pretty cool. So when I went to my first A-Fest in 2016, I decided to start collecting the manga.

At the time of this writing, I own all of what has been released in English for both the original Akame ga Kill, and the prequel spin-off known as Akame ga Kill Zero. As such, this is my first time watching an anime where I was already familiar with the manga’s storyline.

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At its core, Akame ga Kill is a story about death and corruption. Our protagonist is a plucky young boy named Tatsumi, and he is joined by his two childhood friends on a journey from their quaint little village to the capital city, a place full of opportunities. Things quickly turn for the worst however, as the brutal death of his friends is used to teach Tatsumi the harsh realities of the world.

Tatsumi is eventually recruited by a group known as Night Raid, a gang of assassins who operate in the shadows to change the corrupt empire. In order to carry out their missions, most of Night Raid is equipped with powerful weapons called Imperial Arms, or Teigu.

Lubba

 

Teigu were forged in ancient times of war, and are extremely diverse in appearance and abilities. Night Raid member Akame wields the katana Murasame, a blade that can kill with only a single scratch, while Bulat, and later Tatsumi, can call upon the armor of a dragon named Incursio.

Other Teigu manifest as an emotionally charged firearm, a deadly binding thread, and even a visor that can read minds and conjure illusions. Teigu are really cool in concept, but they leave a bit to be desired in terms of execution. Due to a combination of  Teigu diversity, and lack of balance on the writer’s end, Akame ga Kill’s power scale is all over the place.

Leone.jpg

 

Some Teigu are rather simple (Murasame, Lubba’s Cross Tail threads), while there are others that allow the user to heal from having limbs severed,  and even raise the dead to do their bidding. Having such a plethora of unique fighters is at times, a good thing, but it left me feel a little confused at the staggering difference between weapons.

General Esdeath is at the heart of the power scale issue, as she is so absurdly overpowered that most fights involving her are a joke. To be fair, I think her being as strong as she is was done to establish just how intimidating the task of overthrowing the empire truly is (not to mention the fact that she is essentially half Danger Beast), but this was something that stuck out to me about her.

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Akame ga Kill also somewhat suffers from the Naruto problem of having ninja that don’t adhere to our traditional idea of ninja (which for me is, admittedly, based heavily on Western stereotypes). The only genuine assassins in the show are Akame, Lubba, Chelsea and occasionally the wielder of Incursio. Aside from them, no one else’s Teigu are really suited for assassination tactics, meaning missions that don’t specifically target weaker foes usually result in all out brawls.

Akame ga Kill’s biggest problem is that it often feels rushed. The manga was still running when the anime premiered, so a few changes had to be made here and there. The first half of Akame ga Kill’s 24 episodes are pretty accurate to the manga, and have a nice, consistent pace. But the latter half show’s that 12 episodes was not enough to cover the story that was trying to be told.

Kurome Kill

Everything moves way too fast. Certain story beats were either omitted or heavily altered, death scenes are rushed and not given room to breath, and worst of all, a handful of characters are criminally underdeveloped.

The minister’s son, one of the main antagonists in the manga, is only in about two episodes, and Esdeath’s group of Jaegers are given so little screen time that they may as well not even be there, the major exceptions being Kurome and Bols. This is especially disappointing as a manga reader, as Wave became my favorite character because of his great story arc.

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My biggest issue with Akame ga Kill, both the manga and anime, is its name. I know this is extremely petty, but it has always bothered me that the show is named after Akame. Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a great character, but Tatsumi is the one the story centers on.

In addition, Akame isn’t any more or less important than the rest of the cast, which made it really confusing for me when the anime’s openings and endings billed her relationship with Kurome as the emotional crux of the story.

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In spite of the negative critiques I’ve given thus far, I don’t think Akame ga Kill is a bad show. With the exception of the statement about the show being rushed, most of my other complaints were just me nitpicking. In all honestly, I just think the show is pretty average, but almost painfully so.

I love the cast, but I’ve seen much better. Some of the fights have a cool action shot here and there, but they are mostly just passable. Are you seeing a pattern here? Akame ga Kill is a fairly standard experience, overall. The best things about the show are the music (special mention to the second opening song, Liar Mask), and the animation, which, is sharp, fluid and brimming with color. The show is also genuinely funny when it wants to be.

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Akame ga Kill was a fun watch for me, mostly because I’m willing to accept its flaws in order to enjoy what was presented. It has some interesting ideas, but it never develops them in a way to make the show truly stand out. Fans of the manga will probably find the show enjoyable, especially if you’re someone like me who actually prefers when the anime adaptation isn’t just a carbon copy, but I’d be hard pressed to recommend it to somebody who wasn’t already interested.

Oh yeah, as is customary for me to say at this point, Mine is best girl. Though she just barely beats out Chelsea.

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