Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quick Anime Review

Journey to Agartha (2011) | Rating: 3.5/5

...or Children of Lost Voices was something I picked off the shelf out of curiosity. I had never heard of this title before, but since I enjoyed Patema Inverted without knowing anything, then I figured I might have the same luck with this one. First, I want to point out that the animation is gorgeous and doesn't overwhelm your eyes with CGI effects, because there are a few moments that it is utilized. Second, the story is a bit simple, but the journey and characters really pull the viewer in and gradually involves your emotions when their backstories unfold. There will be times where you're at the edge of your seat or you get frustrated with one of the characters, but I found that a good thing meaning you're really invested in the success of these characters reaching their goals. Check this movie out, especially if you're into movies like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Gangsta. (2015) | Rating: 4/5

If you haven't seen it, I did do a first impression video for the first volume of the manga and touched a little bit on the anime. I realized after the fact that I should've mentioned this series reminds me Dogs: Bullets and Carnage and Samurai Champloo, which are both very entertaining, action packed, and very enjoyable series. For me, it took me a while to get used to the anime, after reading the first volume of the manga. First was the usual translating what you've already read into animation and making it just as entertaining and second was Nicholas's sign language and a bit of his speech. I've gotten so used to his gestures being translated into text that it took some adjusting to rely on Worick like the other characters. By the time I surpassed what I've read, I became more and more into it. I just hope that someone decides to pick it up for a second season, since Manglobe declared bankruptcy. Please don't let that bit of news discourage you from watching, because it is an exciting adventure with great and diverse characters.

Haikyuu!! (2014) | Rating: 3.5/5

I started with both seasons of Free!, moved onto the high adrenaline triple attack of Kuroko no Basket, and now I'm here with volleyball; a sport I don't have the best of history with. Fortunately, I didn't let my middle school past deter me from watching this comical gem. Unlike Kuroko no Basket, these underdogs don't completely succeed at everything they do. From episode to episode, even counting this current second season, they're still trying to grow stronger as a team and even a couple friendships get tested. It still packs the same excitement and almost the same intensity as Kuroko no Basket. I will admit that the art style and our two main characters' personalities took a bit of adjusting. Of course, with time, I got used to it and I've come to love Nishinoya and Asahi. Spoiler: I'm really enjoying this second season as well as the anime I replaced in its spot, Yowamushi Pedal.

Love Stage!! (2014) | Rating: 3/5

For some reason, I thought I was starting another musical base anime, but ended up with a boy love story between a movie star and an aspiring mangaka. Once again, the art style took some adjusting and there were a couple moments where I wish I wasn't watching it in my office, but it didn't go too far in the sexual territory. Just a little citrus, for those old school yaoi fans that know what I mean. It was an amusing story that had its great meta moments of "I can't be in a boy love story" or "This isn't an anime/manga!". Both characters had to deal with their emotions for each other in their own way and I find that a bit different from the norm, which is usually a one-sided love until it hits the other character later. At times, it did feel predictable, but somehow the story gives a few curveballs through comedic or dramatic twists to keep you moving forward. I won't say this show is for everyone, especially if you're not into boy love or cutesy things, but I had fun watching it and it was nice to watch a slightly more innocent boy love story, considering I watched all three Boku no Pico series. OTL

Steins;Gate (2011) | Rating: 4.5/5

As much as I wanted to do a quick review on Chaos;Head, I couldn't find the right words to describe how I felt about it. In short, it took me a few episodes to really get into, but overall I did enjoy it. Naturally, I had to check out the next alternate world, which is this series. Unlike Chaos;Head, this series really focuses on connecting the viewer with its characters and it relies on that connection quite a bit. There are some hard moments to accept and even areas that I was surprised it went such as gender identity, but they handled it with the utmost care. The story is more serious, dramatic, and psychological compared to its predecessor that features more action and a bit of emotional moments. They both hold some cool science fiction elements that could cater to gamers or time travelers. If it wasn't obvious, I enjoyed this a little more than Chaos;Head and I would like to thank the fabulous Japanese duo Zwei for leading me to this series.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Trick 'r Treat

Starring: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 82 minutes

Halloween may be over, but that doesn't stop Muddy Cult from posting horror movies...albeit a bit late. It's probably obvious that I haven't been the most timely with certain posts lately, but I'm trying my best. Between me and you, I originally had a bunch of horror movie reviews lined up for October, but I was thrown a few curveballs and never got around to it. Of course, past deadlines don't stop me from posting these things. Hopefully, they are still informative and entertaining.

Five interwoven stories that occur on the same block, on the same night. A couple finds what happens when they blow a jack o' lantern out before midnight, a high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer, a college virgin might have met the right guy for her, a group of mean teens play a prank that they take too far, and a hermit is visited by a special trick or treater. [source: IMDb]

For a couple of years, I've seen this movie on people's Halloween lists as something that's perfect to watch during the season. After watching, I can understand why. Sure, you can watch horror movies to get your thrills, but it's nice to watch a movie that actually revolves around Halloween and I don't think there's many of those out there. Trick 'r Treat is a bit of an anthology of stories, but unlike movies like ABCs of Death, each story connects to one another and occur all on one Halloween night. When the movie first began with a couple assumingly coming from a party or what have you, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. Their segment was rather short compared to the other scenarios, but it wasn't the last time we see them. They're pretty much a good bookend for this movie. In short, I enjoyed the smooth transitions from story to story. Even though each scenario was more off the wall than the next, they connected very well and had a bit of humor to it. To focus on the characters featured in this movie, I thought they were all pretty interesting and helped with some of the silliness and humor of this Halloween night. There was a good range from over the top characters like the principle and very subtly creepy characters like movie's mascot Sam.

I must admit that this movie does have it's silly or cheesy moments, but it does successfully contribute to the horror genre. Also, I don't think it would have a cult following if it didn't have some good scares, gore, and cheesiness. Most cult followings usually come with its flaws and this movie is not the best representative of the genre. While I wouldn't say that this movie is bad, it really isn't, but I can think of better horror movies and maybe even Halloween themed movies I'd rather watch every year. The movie doesn't fail in entertaining at all, but there are some gory moments that go overboard and sometimes the effects aren't the best and could possibly get you out of the moment of the scare. Other than those little things, which can be found in a lot of low budget or straight to video movies, I wouldn't mind watching this properly on a Halloween night with friends.

Trick 'r Treat is thoroughly an entertaining Halloween flick that would be fun to watch with a group of friends (or alone, if you're like me). The story transitions well and has a good balance of humor and horror. I really enjoyed the diversity of characters presented in each scenario and the actors are very dedicated to these crazy characters from story to story. I'm really hoping that Michael Dougherty keeps his word from 2013 and make a sequel to this cult Halloween movie. Overall, this is a very enjoyable Halloween flick that'll get you in the spirit and into the onslaught of gore and horror movies that October has to offer. Check it out on your next Halloween viewing party!

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 & 50

Title: Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 & 50
Language: Japanese
Genre: Music, Shoujo, Slice of Life
Episodes: 26 (13 each)

Keeping my promise to a fellow maid/host, I decided to watch at least the first season of this male idol anime, after completing Show By Rock!!. I didn't know what to expect, but I went in with an open mind.

It takes place at a fictional theater called Hollywood Tokyo in Harajuku, where members of the idol group "Shounen Hollywood" develop their talents with diligent work and studying. [source: MyAnimeList]

Knowing my maid/host friend's interest in Japanese idols such as Fudanjuku, AKB48, and Zen the Hollywood (which I'm not sure is inspired by the show or the show's inspired by them), I feel like she's way more invested and knowledgeable about idols than I am. There's very few Japanese idol groups I listen to and most of them I casually follow. Most of the jpop I listen to is more R&B solo artists with a sprinkle of EXILE projects like GENERATIONS, THE SECOND, and Flower. In other words, I've never explored the idol industry in great depth. I know some things, but I couldn't have a deep discussion about it compared to American pop artists and kpop idol groups, which is probably strange considering how much I love Japan compared to South Korea. So, entering this series taught me a few things about jpop idol groups.

Upon the first few episodes, I felt very unsure of my enjoyment. It didn't quite feel like a chore because I thought the characters were interesting, but the story and pacing took some adjusting. No, I wasn't expecting to ship these handsome characters or demand shameless shounen ai fanservice. In fact, I believe that could've ruined the purpose of the show. I think it might be the fact that it's part of the slice of life genre. It's a genre that can easily feel too much like reality that it doesn't deliver that feeling of escapism as say Bleach or Hunter x Hunter would give you. Now, I'm not unfamiliar with the slice of life genre as I do enjoy shows like Azumanga Daioh, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Fruits Basket, but they kinda have this odd gimmick, while this show has music. The story follows aspiring idols Ikuma Amaki, Kira Saeki, Shun Maiyama, Kakeru Kazami, and Daiki Tomii as they balance their day to day life and idol training. The show displays a great detail of the struggles these young men face such as participating in a drama, preparing for their first concert, being on the verge of disbandment, self doubt, and being more than a child actor. Each character comes from a different background which makes these various struggles more realistic and even more entertaining. The story goes at a moderate pace. Some episodes feature high risk dilemmas or obstacles for its characters and other episodes are more low risk or purely entertaining like their first appearance on a music show and watching Tomii's acting on a drama. Similar to real jpop idol groups (and even kpop ones), you're going to have a favorite out of the cast. Each member falls into your typical boy group archetype, so prepare your hearts fangirls and fanboys.

Before I move forward with this review, I want to state that I did enjoy this series, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered watching the second season. I enjoyed the diversity of characters, watching their journey to fulfill their dreams as idols and conquer their struggles, and learning about the jpop industry. The reason I want to make that clear to my precious Cult readers is because the next thing I have to say may sound like I didn't enjoy it. This series isn't one I could confidently recommend to everyone and it's definitely not because this is a bad series at all. To me, this series is a little slower than other slice of life anime I've seen. There's not a lot of major dilemmas that make the viewers worry and I'll reiterate not to expect any shounen ai (boy love) or hint of it. In short, this show takes some patience as it really focuses on the characters and their development from episode to episode. There's no real flashy gimmicks or anything, just pure entertainment and realism.

Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 & 50 is an entertaining and informative slice of life anime about idols that opened my eyes to the Japanese idol industry. The characters are fun and diverse and it was hard not picking a favorite from the group. The show focuses on its characters and the various struggles they have to go through individually and together. The music and performances are entertaining and feel like a real idol group, even though it can be a little cheesy at times. It is hard to forget some of their core songs though. It's definitely a more realistic take on pop idols and music industry that I've seen so far. I cautiously recommend this series to those who enjoy idol pop and want to learn more about their development and the industry. It's not just an informative series, it's also full of heartwarming and comical moments with catchy performances.

Rating: 3/5

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