Discotek Media

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial/list!)

Okay, we are now onto part 2 of the Worst to Best of 2018, and we will be going through the next couple of films on my list. If you haven’t seen part 1, please go back and see which films were on the bottom. Now then, let’s get started!

 

33. Tehran Taboo

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The first few films on this list are going to be in the category of “flawed, but ambitious”. Tehran Taboo definitely has its share of topics to talk about that include sex, religion, and the commentary about life in that country. However, while I’m usually down for a film to be an experience, I found this one to be a tough pill to swallow, and it was sort of boring. I don’t really remember much outside of the themes and the rotoscoped visual style. Still, it’s an interesting film to check out if you are looking for something more adult in your animation.

32. Bilal

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I didn’t know what to expect from this American/Arabic production from Parajoun Entertainment, but I was impressed. For a foreign feature, the CGI is rather impressive for the context of where it is from. I also like how it’s a grand epic adventure based on a real life individual. However, the problems come into play with the pacing. It looks like it wanted to go through the entire life of Bilal, but couldn’t pace it well to make sense. Huge spans of time jump forward constantly in the film, and we are introduced to many characters that don’t get much development. Also, while the goal of more realistic designs is admirable, sometimes the uncanny valley sets in, and some designs look more awkward than others. Still, I hope the studio behind this film can find support to keep making films if they are this ambitious.

31. Sgt. Stubby

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I feel badly that this film didn’t do better. Granted, its tone and not up-to-par animation didn’t help things, but a family film set in World War I is quite a risky endeavor. Yes, it’s not an “incredible” film, and it was never going to go full-tilt mature in tone to tackle one of history’s biggest wars, but the fact they were able to do this in the first place is something I can fully respect. It even takes time to let the characters talk, and it’s not just focused on the dog in question being adorable. It’s not perfect, and I can’t find myself really watching this one again, but once again, it’s at least different than most animated features.

30. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

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Who wouldn’t love a legit Batman film where it’s set in an alternative history where he takes down Jack the Ripper? For the most part, I enjoyed the character chemistry between Bruce and Selina, and when they can let the ominous atmosphere and slight horror elements set in, it’s quite an eerie watch. Sadly, the entire reason this film is on this part of the list is because of the current animation style that is used for these direct-to-video films. Instead of putting more money into trying to copy the comic’s unique Mike Mignola art-style, it looks like every other generic DC-animated feature around, which really sucks. It’s one of the biggest opportunities that has been wasted on such a cool film. Maybe in a decade or so, we will get an actual big-budget take on this comic’s storyline that can deliver on the horror.

29. Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

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I have reviewed this one already, and even though I have watched it three times, my opinions never changed about it. It has good action, good chemistry, and a few fun dark comedic moments and a nice Grindhouse-vibe, but the story’s tone is all over the place. It never felt like it had a true idea of what they wanted the entire story to be, and while I love the twist with who the real villain of the film is, it does raise some questions about previous DC film tie-ins. Still, it’s one of the better DC features that you can get, and I can understand why people enjoyed this one.

28. The Death of Superman Part 1

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While there are a lot of flaws with this story, like how they had to pretzel the story to fit the comic that this two-parter is based on, and some of the characters don’t feel like they add much to the story, when it actually focuses on Doomsday and Superman, it’s a lot of fun. It has some of the better action animation out of the DC films. You just feel the brutal strikes that the two give each other, and it actually made me care about Superman. Granted, the biggest flaw of this film is that it’s a two-parter that ruined not only this film’s story, but also killed the concept of death permanently in comics. Still, I recommend this and part 2.

27. The Grinch

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Now, if I was just including theatrical animated features only, this one would be lower on the list, but out of all of the animated features, this one fits perfectly in the mid-area of the list. It has beautiful animation, whimsical visuals, and a decent Grinch character. It might not be able to fully complete the themes that it introduces, but it’s so harmless that I find it the least offensive of Illumination’s films. It also has a nice ending, and it actually makes Cindy Lou endearing. It’s another Illumination Entertainment picture, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this one again.

26. Hells

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Yes, this movie’s plot is a huge mess, it overstays its welcome, and it feels like a lot of the characters don’t have any personality, but the animation for this film is so wild. It’s vibrant and wildly creative with its designs and what hell looks like. While you can obviously see where most of the money gets put into the flick, it’s a passion project that I can get behind.

25. Big Fish & Begonia

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To me, this is China’s first official foot in the door of serious animation fare. It’s beautiful, it has complex themes, and while the story is a bit bloated and has way too many characters and things going on, you do feel for the two main characters. The voice cast is great, the visuals are some of the most unique, and interesting out of an animated feature, and if you want to be supportive of these types of Chinese features, please check this film out.

24. Hotel Transylvania 3

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Now then, we are getting into the films that I think are pretty good. While the franchise as a whole is inconsistent, I think this is the best one, because it knows how to handle its characters, the jokes were funnier, the animation was great, and it had more of a plot on which to focus. Then again, when it’s all being directed and written by Genndy Tartakovsky, then that makes sense as to why it’s the best film in the franchise. I had a great time with this flick, and while some of the side characters don’t have too much to do, they are, like this movie, highly entertaining.

23. Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

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While this may not be South Korea’s first animated feature, it’s one of the first to get a major US release, and while it may have the same issue as Chinese animation with not being wholly original in the story department, it uses some jokes that aren’t all that funny, and the animation might not fully be up to par, I still found it an earnest and enjoyable fairytale-style film. The animation is pretty solid, and the physical comedy with Satellite Girl is actually really funny. Any time she shows off her robot girl gimmicks, the jokes are great. It’s an oddball film, but I like well-executed oddball films, and I think people should see it!

The Other Side of Animation 43: Lupin the 3rd Special Part 3: Lupin the 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is cursing and female nudity. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the reviews!

Here we are, the final part of this three-part Lupin the 3rd special. If you had to ask me what elements make the Lupin the 3rd franchise great, it would be rather simple. You have to have a solid heist, a creative and fun execution of said heist, great interaction between the main characters, and be a lot of fun to watch. It might sound simple, but you won’t believe how many times something that seems so easy, could be so horribly messed up. Green vs Red was a prime example of this whole ordeal, because it focused so much on one element, but forgot to give just as much focus to the other elements. It resulted in a boring story, and an experience I feel like isn’t worth the price of entry. At the very least, due to a franchise that has been around for over 40 years, there are plenty of specials and films to look at, and for me, one of the better gems of the franchise comes in the form of Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. This special was a spin-off two-part event that rides on the coattails of the 13-episode series, Lupin the 3rd: The Woman called Fujiko Mine. Jigen’s Gravestone was released back in 2014 in Japan, and was recently released by Discotek Media with their very first dub job. This special can also be seen as a starting point for the newest TV series that you can watch on Crunchyroll if that is your thing. So, how good is this special? Well, let’s put on our best blue coats, and check it out.

The film takes place after The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, but before Lupin the 3rd: Part 4. It once again stars our loveable thief, Lupin, voiced by Keith Silverstein, and who now dons a blue jacket. He is with his partner- in-crime, Jigen Daisuke, voiced by long-time voice actor, Dan Woren. During a job to obtain a precious stone, the plan goes belly-up. The two escape with the stone, but it just so happens that they are in a country known for its high-class security. If making a challenging escape wasn’t bad enough, the two of them are being stalked/hunted by a hitman named Yael Okuzaki, voiced by Jamieson Price. By the way, this is all going on with a background story of two nations, East and West Doroa, trying to make a peace agreement, and the queen of East Doroa was assassinated during a concert while in West Doroa. Is there a way to stop this madness, and what does the sub-plot with Fujiko Mine have to do with the overall situation?

One of the best elements of this special is how focused it all feels. There is pretty much one plot of Lupin and Jigen trying to find out what is going on while avoiding Yael Okuzaki, and uncovering the fiasco that was the assassination. It leads to some great action sequences that are intense. It’s always good to see the heroes struggle. When you have characters that are over-powerful, you don’t feel like investing your time with them, since you know they will always be okay. The best part about any film or any kind of story is having characters you can relate to. It’s like watching early Steven Segal films, the lead-in Sword for Truth or Damian Wayne in any of the current DC animated films. They are strong characters, but since nothing can’t stop them or cause them to struggle, you lose interest. This is also pretty shocking in terms of the struggles you see in Jigen’s Gravestone. Jigen is one of the best, if not, the best sharpshooter of all time. He can take down anything with a well-placed shot from his revolver. However, this movie brings in the hitman Yael Okuzaki, who actually beats him. Think about it. The best sharpshooter in anime/animation history loses a fight against someone better than him. Granted, you find out how Yael is able to be so good, later on in the special, but you get the idea. Even the ever agile Lupin gets knocked around. Sure, everything wraps up nicely in usual Lupin-style, but I was kept invested with the characters and the story until the end. I actually enjoyed the chemistry between Lupin’s light-hearted attitude and Jigen’s more stoic stubbornness. Yael is also a cool villain. He uses a special sniper rifle that is just the bare minimum of weight, and can shoot at extremely precise targets. Not only that, but he is also a great duelist, and drives a hot rod with a chain gun in the engine. He is a pretty imposing figure each time he is on screen.

For an hour-long spin-off, the special has some great and expressive animation. I love this look from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and what is similar to the style of the newest TV series. It updates the visuals with thicker lines and smoother animation, while having more retro/exaggerated anime designs. The ending theme song Revolver Fires is also delightfully cheesy in terms of being a very James Bond-sounding theme song. The voice work is also well-done. It’s Discotek Media’s first dub, and the actors they hired were great. Keith Silverstein (Vector the Crocodile in the Sonic franchise, and Robin from Batgirl: Year One) is a good Lupin, the ever-popular Dan Woren (Roy Fokker from Robotech, Rene D’Anclaude from Armitage III, Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach, Jagi from Fist of the North Star movie, and Chapel the Evergreen from Trigun) does a solid job as Jigen, and Jamieson Price (Jelly Jiggler from Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo) is intimidating as Yael. The other actors from this special, including Kirk Thornton, Richard Epcar, and Cristina Vee, all do good jobs in their roles as Mamo, Zenigata, and Fujiko Mine, but they aren’t really the focus of this special.

I have a few problems with this special. First off is the pacing. The overall special is paced well enough to keep you invested, but for one reason or another, they cut the special in half. This means you get to hear the cheesy ending theme twice. I feel like there was no reason to do this. This isn’t The Hateful 8 in regards to length where you needed a mid-point break. It’s an hour long, I think if people can sit through the length of an Orange Is the New Black episode, they can sit through this. I also found Fujiko’s role in the film to be blatant fan service. Her role in the film isn’t entirely pointless, since where you see her is connected to the overarching plot, but she doesn’t add anything to the story. She doesn’t even help out in the end against Yael. This film’s story isn’t even about her, it’s about Jigen and Lupin’s first real heist gig together. This special was so good at keeping the focus on the two actual leads. They don’t even bring in Goemon, and Zenigata only comes in at the very end in a post-credit scene. I don’t mind Fujiko as a character, she is quite good and has an interesting relationship with Lupin, but you could have omitted her and her nude fan service, and the story would lose nothing of importance. I guess it would be better than just putting a female-in-distress in the film in place of Fujiko, but again, you would lose nothing. They could have easily replaced this with more time to develop Jigen and Lupin’s relationship.

Even with these gripes, Jigen’s Gravestone is a great little gem of an action flick to watch. Sure, it has some flaws, but after watching Green vs Red, this is Castle of Cagliostro levels of greatness. If you feel like owning either the DVD or Blu-ray version, you can get a copy off of Discotek Media’s website. It used to be up on Hulu, but apparently Hulu hated old anime, and doesn’t have it up there anymore.  We can hopefully see this on Netflix in the future, along with the anime Hulu removed. Now then, next time, we go from hidden gem, to a surprising little flick like The Angry Birds Movie. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 34: Lupin the 3rd: The Mystery of Mamo Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Parental Warning: There is some partial male and female nudity, but nothing like Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black levels of nudity. Just be aware of this if you decide to watch this movie. Enjoy the review!

Well, Japanese Animation Month might be over, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a look at some more Japanese-animated movies! I wanted to tackle something different in terms of famous Japanese animated films, since I want to save Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Hosoda’s films for special occasions. I then thought about all the movies based off of popular anime that are out there. They mostly are of low-quality, since they don’t really connect to the plot, have villains that will be found nowhere or even mentioned in the main TV series, and will have plot elements that would have been helpful in the main show’s story. And you won’t believe how true that statement is. Find a long-going anime series, pick out one of the films from said series, and watch them. This is why I wanted to choose a film from a long-running anime series that actually works, and that’s where one of my favorite anime characters of all time comes into play, Lupin the 3rd. The famous series began as a manga way back in 1967, and has spun off multiple TV series, TV specials, video games, live action adaptations, and movies. My first time experiencing the franchise was when it was on Adult Swim’s anime block on Saturday, and the very first episode I watched was A Bouquet of Bills Blossom in Rio’s Sunset, which was episode 2 of the second Lupin the 3rd TV series. The overall series is like a cartoon-ier take on heist films, where the episodes revolve around some kind of heist or job that Lupin and his crew are going to pull off. It’s a really fun, if a tad dated series that I could recommend to any new anime viewer. I decided to finally take it upon myself to check out and review the first full-length movie based off of the franchise, The Mystery of Mamo. The Mystery of Mamo was released in 1978. It was directed by Soji Yoshikawa, who worked on Tomorrow’s Joe, Armored Trooper Votoms, City Hunter, Cyborg 009, Future Boy Conan, and The Mysterious Cities of Gold. It had a pretty positive reception, but as someone who doesn’t watch a lot of anime anymore, what do I think of this? Well, let’s find out.

The gang is together once again after the mysterious rumor is circulated around that someone who looked like Lupin the 3rd was killed. Of course, by the stubborn nature of Detective Zenigata, voiced by Dan Lorge, this turns out to be false as he finds Lupin, voiced by Tony Oliver, to be alive and well. Lupin’s next heist is to find the philosopher’s stone. The twist that comes into play about this is because the heist is actually part of a bigger plan to find out about a mysterious individual known as Howard Lockewood aka Mamo, voiced by Paul St. Peter. Can Lupin the 3rd find out what is going on, with the help of his friends like the firearm specialist Jigen, voiced by Richard Epcar, the samurai Goemon, voiced by Lex Lang, and Lupin’s love interest/rival Fujiko, voiced by Michelle Ruff? Well, you will have to watch the movie to find out.

One thing I will say about having movie tie-ins with Lupin the 3rd is that the series was more or less just a series of heists that didn’t connect to one another, so really, the problems that a lot of shows have that I listed above don’t appear here. You can watch this and not have anything glaringly wrong with the TV series. As a first movie, the overall execution isn’t that bad. You still have a big heist, the finding of the philosopher’s stone, dealing with a mysterious little person, car chases, action, and the great interaction that has made these characters stand up through the passage of animation and time. I actually respect that this movie also tries to be a bit more with its themes, by being more philosophical with topics of identity, mortality, love, and honor. On top of the action and offbeat humor and exchanges, the film also gives time for the characters to talk and develop a little more with one another. It’s great when you find not just animated films, but films in general, that let the audience breathe, relax, and watch characters grow. Some of the action is quite impressive and fun to watch, with some scenes that inspire sequences you see in the next Lupin the 3rd movie, Castle of Cagliostro.

With that being said, I think its overly ambitious story becomes a bit too much for itself, since the last third is just bonkers. I personally think Lupin the 3rd, or at least during this time period of the franchise, doesn’t blend well with philosophical themes. It tries to reach for higher moments than most animated films during this time, but to me, it falls flat, and the big twist about who Mamo is doesn’t help either. Speaking of Mamo, I found him to be a boring villain. Not to say he wasn’t evil or anything, but his personality was not interesting. Another element that falls flat is the animation. It is the same quality of animation you see from the TV series of that time. It feels cheap, and it really pales in comparison to Castle of Cagliostro. I know that isn’t fully fair, but when the two films came out a year from one another, and the second one has famed director Hayao Miyazaki behind it, it’s hard to not compare the two. I also found the more perverse side of Lupin to be an annoyance, since The Mystery of Mamo carries the joke of Lupin always wanting to “Marvin Gaye” and get it on with Fujiko. It’s not that it isn’t funny, but to some, I can see them not liking the aggressiveness of Lupin, since in Japan, his womanizing sleaze is part of the comedy of the show. It’s just an example of humor not translating well into another culture. If you like this kind of stuff, that’s fine, and more power to you, but the partial nudity seen in this film could have been taken out without it affecting the film or story. I also found it odd that the film just ditches Goemon after a certain scene. He just vanishes for the rest of the movie. It’s like how the princess in Disney’s animated Robin Hood film isn’t seen for the third act, and then pops up at the very end. You are told why he leaves, but to not come back until the very end is odd to me.

The overall film might be a bit complicated, and it might not reach those big philosophical goals that it aims for, but The Mystery of Mamo is still a solid enough action adventure movie. If you want to buy this movie because you like action/adventure animated movies, or want to get into Lupin the 3rd, Discotek Media has the definitive edition of the film with a huge amount of content, including the different English dubs from the Streamline dub to Manga Entertainment’s dub. That is the one I watched, since the voices from Manga Entertainment’s version is what I personally think of whenever Lupin the 3rd comes to mind. It might not age as well as Castle of Cagliostro, but there is enough here to warrant a purchase and a watch. Well, how about we take a break from Japan, and let’s go over to Spain and look at an underrated GOYA award winner with Nocturna. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked what you saw, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!