Tekkon Kinkreet Review

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Something to admit outright concerning Tekkon Kinkreet is that its approach to storytelling is incredibly straightforward and uninspired. Its manner of trying to encourage the viewer to pay close attention to detail flashes signs of other films that came before it, especially within the last fifteen years or so. To some extent, it almost feels American, which becomes more apparent when one knows that the director behind this film is, in fact, American. While some are more than willing to excuse this, others won’t have the ability to fully empathize with the outcome because of it.

What makes it a little more than meets the eye is its (usually) stunning animation. Many times throughout the first few scenes within the setting of Treasure Town I was enthralled by how fluid, how realistic everything dazzled on-screen. It felt like a true and blue film, with the perks of having full control over the project’s structure. Stylistic choices are fairly divisive as they are, with characters appearing more human and fairly rigid in their anatomy, a far-cry from the typical anime style of large eyes and pretty women. It’s a gritty, yet magical attempt at creating a world both like and unlike our own, with a touch of fantasy to a cruelly realistic environment that shines brightly in its darkness.

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There’s something wonderfully human about this film that fascinates one’s curiosity, with a lot of attention going into human ordeals. Despite the tepid display of sci-fi and extraordinary elements, the real spectacle is one that underlies it all to contain the basic necessities of the human condition. Images of fire, aliens, flying children, and vivid daydreams persist, only to be struck down in importance by the idea that all life should find happiness in their own way, whether through positive or negative activities. If only Tekkon Kinkreet had the focus to make the film more than just another one-dimensional story.

Indeed, there is a lot to like in terms of storytelling through animation and character introspection. What makes this frustrating is that that’s all there really is to the film. Characters’ situations can be empathetic, but not so much that one is crying from their pain, cheering for their accomplishments, and riveted with their onscreen presence. They all, in some degree of affirmation, suit a single role they’re meant to play; the old nostalgic, the changing man, the light, the dark, the sin of everything before. All of these things add up into a single message of good intentions in addition to a number of one-hit symbolic jabs. Its value doesn’t quite hit the spot of emotional tranquility it tries to pursue with each passing line, lines which hold the key to understanding the images that accompany them.

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Fortunately, it has everything one could possibly need to follow comfortably: a decent major cast, intriguing visuals, and a lovely story. Containing heart may be all that’s necessary for this film, as the structure and flow come off as somewhat artificial. Not to mention, the imagery and its presentation within the darkest scenes make up somewhat for the semi-dull ordinary sequence of events. Fascinating how the symbolic make-up presents itself with the chaotic whimsy of the film’s dark-ish tone. Even with this, it only eats up a good fifteen minutes of runtime, so while the ending is intriguing, it takes quite a bit of time to build up to it.

One other condition of Tekkon Kinkreet is its inconsistency, both in terms of story and animation. Some scenes have wonderful, immensely fluid animation, while others are shaky at best. At points it almost seemed as though I was watching another ordinary scene from a 2006 romcom, without the destruction of skipped frames. Not to mention, some of the symbolic presentation is either not fully explained or explained to thoroughly. The contrast between Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) together is fairly straightforward, but apart, things that are hinted at with a single line or so become full-blown conflicts of major importance. And when not that, the images of what people are supposed to represent are flashed onto the screen as if to taunt the viewer—”Think! Think, so that you may better appreciate our efforts!” A shakiness illuminates the light of factored quality in one of two ways: fitting two into one, or cutting the two into three and placing the remains among the already loaded one. In layman’s terms, biting off more than one can chew.

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It’s more than a decent film, though I’d hesitate to call it a good one. I was swooned by its messages of good-heartedness and the complacency of its chaotic circus show. My only regret is that I could not try to interpret what may have been left behind by a less-than-proper level of enthusiasm. When I was done, it was done, and the fabric of all that was shown whisked into the chamber of forgotten ideas placed within my moistened brain. Perhaps that may be the most insulting adjective to be held by something so dearly crafted. Tekkon Kinkreet has enthusiasm, but nothing truly worth remembering outside a few key details.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

The Circle Review

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One never really knows what they’ll get when they watch a film for the first time. There are reviews, trailers, interviews, and more that may influence one’s expectations going into one, but until the movie begins to play and the attention has been provoked, the quality of a given picture is shrouded in complete mystery. Thankfully, The Circle preaches that knowing is good, but knowing everything is better, and knowing everything about The Circle is a very good thing. Think of the lives that could be saved when the truth about The Circle comes into view, so that everyone with that knowledge can use it to guide people in the right direction. Really, this review is in the reader’s best interest, so read very, very carefully.

Typically, when one reviews film, they use a mental Pro-Con list of sorts to factor in the strengths and weaknesses of a particular subject. They then get a feeling of what overtakes the other, and mix it all in with their overall feelings and level of interest as the credits roll. While it sounds pretty straightforward, many different elements apply to the process of coming to a conclusion on a film’s worth, depending on the person. With all the filler context in place, the point to this spiel becomes relevant: what are the strengths to The Circle?

Absolutely nothing.

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It’s amazing how completely wrong every aspect of this film is, whether characters, story, pacing, and most notably, logic. The effort a full team of writers must’ve taken to make this film as sound as possible, while adding in the necessities of a fulfilling cinematic experience makes the conclusion all the more bizarre. The leaps this film takes to make everything so succinct is astounding, despite never making any time to realize its full potential. If the film is in any way like the novel it was based on, then it wouldn’t surprise me if the source was written by a teenager who has never left their house in their life.

Logic, especially, is one thing that The Circle actively ignores. Points of conflict and the easy coasting of one scene to the next, despite the severity of the things being claimed on-screen, have the impression that the author simply wanted everything to be taken at face value. Much like a fantasy flick, where explosions only scratch characters and travesties are met with 100% goodwill, events are placed into the world and accepted because no one is there to question it. People are completely accepting of the things that are slowly taking over the earth, because the general populace is a swarm of braindead zombies willing to listen to Tom Hanks. Except for the one, single, sole person with a brain and is aware that people lie.

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Through every minute, the fallacies begin to pile to the point that, by the end, one can’t help but question the entire structure of the society itself. The Circle is inherently flawed, from its very foundation of “The Circle” concept company to the ways it manages to bypass common courtesy laws to get to the point of power the likes of Google or Facebook. Even outside of these cases, which is difficult to shield from due to sheer quantity, the execution of these things are easy, inconsequential, and rushed. An enormous lack of feedback from the viewer takes place when things simply happen without any reason to believe things are actually happening. How sullen things become when halfway through, even the most benign of viewers become keen on how trivial the importance of the characters are in the grand scheme. Constructed from the most imaginative of minds, then coated with paint flung without a single care, The Circle has the literary capabilities of a drunken lunatic.

Undoubtedly, the story is worse overall than its characters and their actors’ abilities to bring them to life. Still, it is a one-two punch that could knock out Conor McGregor without effort. Emma Watson is perhaps the most bland female lead I’ve seen in quite some time, and what’s even worse, her character eventually loses her initial intelligence to the brainwashing of The Circle’s stupid “influence.” Not only bland and unoffending, her character becomes outright unlikable due to her hasty lack of common sense and outright heel turn at times most grandeur. This only worsens when considering her character’s screentime overlaps everyone else’s by a good twenty-five percent. Hanks, Boyega, Oswalt, and any others with some semblance of importance are treated as reserve players, popping up when the film feels it’s time for them to make an “impact.” Such transparency only further drags the film down into the depths of its own ambition. Never does it live up to the expectations it places upon itself, and its characters feel so jadedly simplistic and underutilized that Watson may as well have been the only actor to be given credit on the film’s cover art. Not because she was any better, but because her character’s importance rises so far above everyone else’s that the film can’t bear to show a single scene without her.

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In terms of performances, it allows me to grieve for what little this film has to offer. No qualms should be attributed to individual performances, as as little as some are shown, they do a serviceable enough job to hold one over. Watson, despite her character’s limited array of personalities, plays the unassuming simpleton very well. Hanks is also quite the likable host, and his character, at times, doesn’t seem to embody the seed of Satan as the film adores foreshadowing. With as little experience as John Boyega has, his performance is somewhat typical, though I would note he is likely the weakest link of the bunch. Perhaps due to his very limited screentime, his charisma is little more than a whisper, leaving it easy for one to forget he even appeared in the film at all. The most natural actor of the bunch was Beck, hands-down, as his performance was just like what one would see anywhere.

At this point, it may be redundant to include that the little implementation of technological doo-dads pertaining to the opinions of the general public was fairly interesting. It gave the film a somewhat futuristic pop that its setting tries so hard to allude to in many cases. While the manner of profanity was turned down far more than it should’ve to replicate true society, it was a nice quirk to include some oft-floating text bubbles that presented life in a rather cynical light, providing comfort and self-preservation only in appropriate situations. Too little, too late, unfortunately.

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I suppose it would be considerate to say that The Circle tries. However, the implementation of horridly exaggerated events and the zombification of every possible human being (except one) leaves only a taste of the atrocious recipe for disaster that this film represents. Borderline insulting with how easy the entire ordeal feels, cutting up the general population to their own whim for the sake of power. All because everyone seems to believe that Tom Hanks, and his signature smile and silky voice, is enough to have even the most cynical of hares groove to his tune. Not this hare.

Final Score: 1/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

Perfect Blue Review

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If one is stepping foot into the world of anime for the first time, a name that may come up often amongst connoisseurs of anime films specifically is Satoshi Kon. While Kon doesn’t have a large collection of films under his belt, what he was able to produce before his untimely death of cancer in 2010 speaks volumes to people within the anime community and industry. Known for his distinct style of disorienting storytelling, his films are typically consumed with pleasure by fans of psychological or methodical thrillers.

Watching anime for a number of years, I’ve never experienced one of Kon’s films, nor have I been one to dabble in anime films in general. With my recent trek into the March of the Movies, I felt a desire to finally give Kon’s work a shot, knowing a fellow anime consumer is practically in love with his entire library. I was aware beforehand of the kind of reputation Kon had, though I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I finally decided on his directorial debut: Perfect Blue.

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Among the first distinctions of Perfect Blue that struck deeply was how un-anime-like it felt in general. Characters were animated realistically, complete with noses, proportional eyes, and lips. Its setting allowed for an immediate hook for those looking for something more mature, with adult characters trying to find work within the entertainment industry. While the concept of “pop idols” are entirely of an anime (or Japanese) stigma, there’s very little that the film requires other than the bare minimum, allowing for short, controlled reactions and behavior from the cast. With hardly a thing jutting out to manipulate high-energy humor or drama, it requires the audience to pay careful attention to every movement, as it vows not to be taken lightly.

Due to this feeling of somberness, one can almost be bored by the first thirty minutes or so of Perfect Blue. One aspect of the film that can be simplified is its very gradual speed, choosing to let every possible introduction take place. Who the characters are, what they do. How the situation came to what it did. Where the characters’ priorities lie. Why all of this is important. It’s somewhat of a chore to try and take in every prerequisite that is shown before “the good part” begins. By that time, however, many may likely forget they were ever bored in the first place.

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Once things begin to unwind, the real fun of Perfect Blue reveals itself. What’s even more admirable is the amount of foreshadowing leading up to that point—things that don’t even seem like foreshadowing. The symbolic nature of the build-up gives meaning to the characters involved and genuine disturbances within their positions. Mima, an aspiring actress after a semi-successful circuit of being a pop idol, must face constant self-scrutiny for the decisions she makes to further her career as an actress. For someone transitioning from something as sweet as a “pop idol” to a far more vile environment as acting, her gradual mental breakdown, while not heavily noted at the start, is an assuring detail to her character and morality. She, herself, along with those around her, act as the catalyst of these barrages of self-doubt and regret, eventually spiraling into a place where she (nor the audience) can truly comprehend what is real.

This climactic breakdown is the pinnacle of psychological thrillers, something that would make fans of anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion take notice. Even if one were to be indifferent to the characters or their struggles, the last twenty minutes of the film is a triumphant spectacle of Kon’s brand of directing. Allowing each little trinket of knowledge became something of an indisputable necessity, all leading up to an eruption of unwinding realities and scenes. A very strong ending almost single-handedly makes Perfect Blue recommendable, if not for the well-prepared journey to that point.

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Though realistic in its presentation, animation isn’t quite the same spectacle as the story. Some shaky movement here and there isn’t entirely distracting, just the fact that it could’ve been altered more, particularly within the last twenty minutes, to further cement the feeling of dementia. There also exists a sort of graininess about Perfect Blue that makes it far less than a perfect blue. A sign of the times, one could say, though one could also say that it’s simply an indicator of the film’s realistic setting and tone. Despite the sudden vibrancy of the fantastical imagery of Mima’s idol half, there’s a sort of “dull” manner to the animation that could turn off viewers.

Another issue arises in that while the plot is intriguing and eventually becomes captivating, characters are not as wonderful. They do what they must for their role within its structure, leaving them to fester within the realism of their situation—distilling their core personalities. One could describe Mima outside of the mental fragility and one wouldn’t be entirely sure if it’s Mima. Characters simply react to what’s in front of them, picking and choosing their moments of propensity. That isn’t to say the characters are dull, rather none of them really stand out in a positive way based on who they are or what they cherish. Some become interesting based on what they eventually mean to the plot, though not of their own accord. Not everyone will take issue with this, but those who do will leave the experience without any strong emotional attachment.

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At the end of the day, one’s pleasure surrounding Perfect Blue may very well come from whether or not they prefer its dominant genre. Execution is key here, with everything coming into focus just so they can direct to a horrifying conclusion. Kon’s mastery of this is on full display in his first project as director, though one could likely expect more out of his mind than what was shown here. Perhaps it should be noted that the film is an appetizer to the mind of Satoshi Kon, something that can be appreciated as time goes on.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Day Thirty: Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Kou) (MotM 2017)

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(Disclaimer: All images were found via Google.)

It’s only appropriate that the latest film in the franchise that I genuinely enjoy comes as a direct follow-up to another film I genuinely enjoyed. Not insinuating these films aren’t direct sequels to one another (though some aren’t), but Part 7 is a sort of continuation of Part 2, hence the “(Zen)” and “(Kou)” within the names. Part 7 is also technically the last film in the series, with the two upcoming films serving as side stories, though still within the realm of importance. One can tell with the sense of finality to the film’s ending scenes that it’s all come full circle. If only it included everyone.

As if it’s expected by this point, production value is a major positive for Part 7. Animation is spectacularly glossed over each scene and the character’s expressions. Choice of instrumentation in the background does very well for the most emotionally charged situations, all accumulating with Shiki’s fight within herself, something that’s been hinted at for many films. It did to some extent with the last movie, but seeing as I was more immersed with the story this time around, the final fight, while not amusingly gory or loaded with an epic appeal, amassed a flurry of emotions within me. Among the first times within the film series where I acknowledged the beauty of a specific scene or situation.

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Something of a debate between fans of the series is the difference in quality between this film and Part 5. The latter has the advantage of sheer spectacle and psychological creativity and intrigue. Characters are more plot pieces than individuals and the bizarre framing of perspectives makes for a very intriguing two hours. Part 7, on the contrary, appeals more to the humanity of its characters and the morality of the situation. It treats the characters as though they manipulate the plot, making their issues and conflict feel more personal and within their control. It also makes the characters feel more alive within their environment, something that Part 5 hardly did. It revealed necessary and interesting info about them, but it never allowed them to simply exude their charisma.

It is this switch in priorities that make the divide between these two parts intriguing, with one focusing on a more apathetic, psychological front, while the other appeals to the emotions and the well-being of the characters. The reasoning involved makes the difference in quality quite appropriate: viewers are likely to find Part 5 more entertaining and technically sound, and Part 7 more affectionately humane. One is likely to find Part 5 the better film, but Part 7 the more likable film. For me, it’s no different. I acknowledge that Part 5 is probably a better film, but I enjoyed Part 7 far more, especially during the second half. What becomes the central issue is how much of Part 7’s more forced arbitrariness one can tolerate.

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Realism isn’t exactly one of the series’s major focuses, but here one could make the case that it’s trying really hard to be both subtle and direct. Bloodshed is also one of the series’s more prevalent identifiers—the amount one survives this time around is a little worrying. Stenches of plot armor fill the scenes to a high degree. Some characters don’t seem to be of any importance, despite their roles in prior films. And for the last time, the male lead’s uppity attitude is still fairly annoying. There’s not a gray fiber within him, it is only good and bad, moral and amoral. God forbid one kills out of self defense. Even so, with that stipulation in place, the final scenes offer an intriguing take on what the characters truly stand for, and how they cope with it moving forward.

Emotionally gratifying as it may be, this is not of its entire body. The second half is splendid in its build-up and highlighting of the characters’ dimensions, along with some signature uncomfortable moods. Prior to it, the film is just build-up of the same degree as films past. People talk, listen, gather information, do some things here and there in a slow, but gradual pace to a tormenting end. A plague to most of the films in some capacity, slow starts are something that make the films a little tiring to marathon day after day.

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Is it the best? Or the second-best? It could be one or the other, depending on one’s preferences and priorities of technical splendor vs. emotional value. I enjoyed Part 7 a lot more than Part 5 when all was said and done, but again, Part 5 had a lot more going for it to make it a longer-lasting experience. I really appreciate that by series’s end (kind of), the characters are the ones receiving the brunt of the importance, rather than trying to fulfill more of the depressing story it adores to overexaggerate. Still, it would’ve been helpful to have the narrative serve far more closure to those outside of the two leads and within the universe that seems still so very unstable. Also, if I may be frank, the ending is just a wee too “Happily ever after” for something like this.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Eight: Kara no Kyoukai 5: Mujun Rasen (MotM 2017)

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What if I told you… that this was the best of the bunch? What if I told you that this film is not only the best in the series thus far, but the best it will ever be? The quality equivalent of the Mona Lisa, The Godfather, Tom Brady; the best of its time and the objective masterpiece that exceeds all others. What if I told you that it not only deserves a perfect 10/10 rating, but exceeds that into a realm never once even conceived, something within the range of 10/-10 or 101/010. What if I told you that the film doesn’t deserve any of this?

Creating a sense of self is important for any and all works, something that distinguishes it from the masses and gives it a flavor that can be enjoyed not just by anybody, but nobodyKara no Kyoukai 5 has a repertoire of dazzling phenomenons that give it a desirable emptiness that helps establish a line of structure within the madness. Think to a series such as Steins;Gate or The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, series that take advantage of hasty logical prompts through use of time travel and alternate realities. Think to what these series accomplish with their winding stories, constantly looping within themselves to create absurd resolutions and harrowing character experiences. Part 5 has a defensive mechanism to use this as a crutch.

It’s high time the films within this series take advantage of the situation and reveal what’s important and worth watching about their cast of faces. Not only is there above average development for key characters, it even manages to make new characters tolerable. The third member of the main group whom I left unnamed in past reviews (Sorry), Aozaki, becomes vital to the explanation of the confusion that takes place, and masterfully gives her a lot of credibility on top of her absurdity. The world that Kara no Kyoukai creates and leads up to ’till this point becomes far more clear than in past presentations, giving firm realization to the audience that they have been watching for a reason.

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What a confusing story. One that takes up so much time and tries to overcomplicate itself for the sake of appearing well-developed and deeply insightful. Plenty of development around the characters and the story are presented in a fulfilling way, almost as if the director decided to unleash their creative monsters. Previous films lacked effort in presentation, whether through story, character interaction, or action. Blending this all makes a frivolous monotony present that tarnishes the films’ ability to remain entertaining. Part 5 makes up for this tremendously with erratic camera movements, abrupt scene transitions, and a controlled chaos that usually works in the film’s favor from an artistic viewpoint. In layman’s terms, the film puts a lot more effort into making itself feel enthusiastic for what it’s doing compared to its previous line-up.

Darkness and gore always play an unnecessary factor in this series thus far, as little about this changes here. Constant reminders of despairing details haunt the characters and their dilemmas, giving emphasis on the humanity of the cast and, pray tell, THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Imagery has a wonderful way of distorting one’s expectations, especially when concerning the fragility of people, whether physically or emotionally. Many times I prayed that characters were down and out for good, only to become mocked as they revert back to a comfortable state. One thing that can be said is the film doesn’t know what to tell you and it adores it.

Another step up is the art and animation direction. No, really. The amount of dark detail shown makes for an engrossing experience on top of an already ecstatic style of presentation. Scenes are given more importance through manner of specific details—whether through words or certain objects, and are animated in a crazy slideshow similar to that of the Monogatari series. Fluidity improves, gore is more obscene, spectacles are more intriguing, and abject magic gives meaningful allure. One could very well pass off the tale and the characters just to sit in awe of the twists and turns of the impressive detail.

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It is the best of its kind. Not that that matters. It has style, precision, and a controlled mess that somehow becomes engaging enough to follow through with, better established by the developments shown in previous films. With the foundations in place, Part 5 becomes more important to the establishing of characters and the chaotic muscles of the symbolic, psychological plotline. Through the lens of the big picture, it may not prove very important, as it’s simply an isolated incident with more promised in the end. However, what it does show is an impressive amount of detail the series has been hesitant to reveal in pictures past. Characters feel sparsely real, with a story that tries very, very hard to be evoking of a multitude of emotions, effort that doesn’t go unnoticed. A wild ride at its core, though perhaps not one that many of a more experienced palette will find very fulfilling.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Six: Kara no Kyoukai 1 + 2 (MotM 2017)

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I could put the entire names within the title of this post, but that would take up far too much space, so I’ll simply distinguish these by their number order. I decided to take the time to watch two of these at a time, as the length of most of the films are so short that I’d hardly count them as films. Some are much longer, while some only hover around forty-five minutes. These next coming days will either feature one of two of these films, leading all the way to the end of the month.

KnK 1: Fukan Fuukei

In introduces the audience to a world not quite like our own. The characters are already established and the relations are already in place. It’s a rather confusing entry to the film series that takes the route of showing what’s to come rather than giving the facts right away. This leads to it effectively being reliant on its miscellaneous features to succeed, which in this case would be things such as atmosphere, animation and art, and basic character interaction. To some degree, it succeeds in these ways, but not without any reason to give it any insight.

A lot of things don’t really make sense, and many of the events have the sympathetic value of seeing a random kid get a ‘D’ on their latest homework assignment. That’s not to say the film doesn’t try to make them sound interesting, but the way it chooses to begin, it couldn’t possibly manage to make everything interesting while also creating a serious and dramatic tone, which limits character personality most often. I only recall a single point where the characters have anything that can be considered a “cute” discourse. It feels heavily important to take all of it in, just not for the sake of this film in particular.

Maybe later on the film will make more sense. On its own, there’s simply little reason to watch it, aside from it being the first in the series. From its other points, action scenes (the few there are) are decent, with a lot of fluid motion put forth to make cinematic actions feel grand. Outside of this, the art and animation is standard, while sloppy in some spots. There isn’t much else to say, other than that what is there isn’t completely outside the radar of interest. Things are foreshadowed and a lot of intellectual mumbo jumbo is brought to light for the sake of symbolic hootenanny. Anyone should know that I adore symbolic hootenanny.

Final Score: 5/10

KnK 2: Satsujin Kousatsu (Zen)

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And now we have some interesting story!

Two of the characters from the first film return in more prominent roles, providing some much needed insight on their character dynamic. Develop them it does, as the female lead in particular, Shiki, becomes far more dangerous than what she seems in the first film.

Before anything though, this male lead is absolutely insane. He sees this girl, alone in the middle of a dreary night, then falls in love with her. Over the course of the film, he finds out she’s capable of horrid, atrocious things, yet never feels the need to abandon her or believe in her goodness. This obviously pays off, as shown in the first film, which takes place three years after this one, but still. This guy is horribly persistent, even for a male lead.

Even so, Shiki makes this film all the more intriguing, with her strange distinction and haunting pastime. The focus of her and the male lead’s growing relationship makes for an endearing endeavor, even if the background holds a bloody secret. It’s the kind of build-up one would typically enjoy from a typical high school romance, except the loner involved isn’t a loner by means of “feeling outcast.” There’s some serious psychological contamination involved that makes the events feel bigger than normal, but somewhat in the way that feels too serious to be believable—not such that fantasy has to be, but within the range that it should be.

Character interaction alone makes this film a fascinating trinket, even with the somewhat despondent effort to make it feel grounded. There’s a lot of insightful idiosyncrasies involved that make it feel as though they try too hard to have it be grand on a scale that only the writers expect it to surpass. I suppose the need to always have something dark looming in the background gives it a sharp edge, but must they always make it feel so pseudo-intellectual through mind hacks and witty statements? These are teenagers here. Keep it simple, silly.

Art, animation, and atmosphere are better this time around as well, with a particular scene with the male lead running away from Shiki highlighting a boost in animation detail. Lots of dark (in brightness) scenes with eerie glows, and a sheen to common aspects that give it a spooky feel, which helps the horrifying tone of half of this film. Movements don’t feel as blocky this time around. Characters have a greater allure of color to their faces and attires, only to be outshined by the constant attention to background and time of day.

It’s still within those introductory stages—thankfully it seems good things are to come with a decent backstory like this one. If it can prove that it can make characters feel real and interesting, and not only one or the other, the already intriguing overarching story could really flourish. Animation is already something of a guaranteed hit at this point, the future looks bright(ly sinister) for the coming days.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Four: Hardcore Henry (MotM 2017)

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Seeing the trailer for Hardcore Henry, I scoffed. “The first feature-length film to be exclusively first person,” the ads praised. Such a thing being heralded for that? Way to implicate expectations based on a single gimmick. Does it have a good story? Characters? An eye for detail or something that can grab the viewer without boring them? I gave myself every excuse not to see the film, and when positive reviews piled up, still I ignored them. I had made up my mind and deemed it unworthy of my attention. It had a certain stigma about it that I didn’t care for.

Today, upon the suggestion of my brother, who watched and enjoyed the film, I saw Hardcore Henry. I gave it a shot. It not only floored my expectations but made me appreciate the amount of effort to make the gimmick feel innovative and believable. Indeed, I have completely eaten my words and have jumped onto the Hardcore Henry fan train. Though, it does have some issues.

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This is another one of those “That’s the point!” films, where things are the way they are to better accomplish an intended goal. For this film, it’s the idea of style over substance, through means of making the audience feel as though they’ve plopped right into a late ’90s-early millenium arcade shooter. Time Crisis is among the most famous examples of these, with Hardcore Henry taking everything and more to establish itself as a film that can carry the weight on its lead’s cyborg shoulders. Because of this heavy comparison, the film also embodies the flaws that carry over from video game to cinematic picture.

It is horribly simplistic, and if not for the heavy amount of blood and gore, fairly cheesy. Flashy deaths, flurries of explosions and weaponry and supernatural phenomena. One would assume they were in a modern version of Dynasty Warriors mixed with Mortal Kombat. The amount Henry gets away with can’t be counted on every finger and toe, and that includes erratic behavior and death itself. Enemies are doused like sprinklers in a hurricane. There exists a scene near the end where Henry single-handedly kills roughly fifty cybernetically-enhanced people, all of whom at one point had him surrounded. The chances of his survival at that point is laughable, not to mention against a lead antagonist that can use telekinesis.

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Story, or its iteration of it, isn’t anything truly revolutionary, either. Again, basic good vs. evil with not many twists along the way, save the end. A lot is left unexplained and what is explained leaves much to be desired, though rest assured the film ends somewhat abruptly. Its first half has a long stretch of endless goose chases and fight sequences that are all somewhat disorienting. One has to wait for the meat at the end of the bone, though whether one isn’t already satisfied by the texture of the bone getting there is debatable.

What makes Hardcore Henry so fun to watch is through means of witty writing of character and insanely chaotic action scenes. Hobo with a Shotgun tried to incorporate some of this within itself, however it only used the bare minimum and it ended up being more gory than stylistic. The action sequences in Hardcore Henry are more akin to John Wick, with a lot of scenes revolving around fast, precise weapon fire, should Henry be packing. If not, his abilities give his physical attacks a powerful force. Combined with the first-person view, it all combines to create an image of being within the action, instead of watching it.

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When mentioning characters, there’s really only one character who stands out, which is Jimmy. Jimmy is a scientist responsible for certain things within spoiler territory, and upon first glance seems to be immortal. His random change of character with every passing scene makes for a hilarious mindfuck of absurd proportions, perhaps hinting at the uselessness of NPCs. He manages to go through some development as the film goes on, though minimal, based on his interaction with Henry and the reality of his situation. More than that, however, is the charm of his constant change of attire and personality. It’s really stupid and I love it.

While this is not technically a “good bad movie,” there’s a silliness to Hardcore Henry that transcends itself onto the final product. At one point in the film, I heard the “Wilhelm scream.” That is not a sound effect that should be in a serious film. With all that was stated earlier, one shouldn’t walk in expecting something that will wrap the viewer in dramatic ecstasy. It’s easy to ignore the flaws present when it’s doing everything it can to give you the full cinematic experience. It’s uproariously entertaining, with just enough emphasis on character and plot to let the audience care about the obnoxiously heavy onslaught of metal and fire.

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It’s recommendable based on entertainment value alone, just don’t expect something spectacularly impactful. The shaky camera could cause concern for those who have issue with headaches and such, as certain parts are pretty out of focus. For those who aren’t bothered by it, Hardcore Henry is an exhilarating experience best suited for those who don’t expect the world from it. I may be biased because I really enjoyed arcade games like Time Crisis, but that’s that, and this is this.

Final Score: 7/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!