Ponyo Coming to America

Ponyo hits US Theaters in August and according to a source on Nausicaa.net, will debue on over 800 screens. If anyone has info on which screens, please post, but if you’ve had Studio Ghibli films in your city in the past, it’s likely they’ll be there again. This is the largest amount of screens for a Ghibli film by far.

For those who aren’t sure what Ponyo is, check out the youtube trailer below.

Death Note does Anti-Hero right

Mac of Visual Crack was the first to introduce me to Death Note, but really only in manga form. I read the first volume in English and decided the anime series was worth a look. Netflix sent me the first disc and I was hooked.

Death Note is the story of a kid stumbling upon a strange Death Note (as the Japanese word for notebook is noto or “note” basically. So when you hear the word “note” just substitute “notebook” in your mind). The notebook has the power to kill simply by writing the name of the victim in the book while picturing him/her. Believing the world is too corrupt, the kid takes it upon himself to rid the world of criminals–and anyone who gets in his way.


Light Yagami
A 17 yr old, attractive, things come to me too easily, high school student who soon goes to college to study law and basically become a cop like his father. He stumbles upon the Death Note and becomes the owner and the anti-hero protagonist of the story. He is also referred to as “Kira” (a japanese version of the word killer) by the police.

A world famous detective no one has ever seen before the “Kira” case. L is odd, smart, and a sweet-aholic. (And no, he isn’t sucking his thumb, he’s pressing it against his bottom lip, a habit when he’s thinking hard). L’s my favorite character of the series. I think the chibi version of him in plushies and what not are chou kawaii!

Shinigami: Ryuk and Rem
A shinigami is like a grim reaper, literally translated as “death god.” I’ve also seen it translated as “soul reaper” (see Bleach). In the series they are the owners of the death notes, and Ryuk in particular likes leaving them lying around for unsuspecting humans to pick up. Ryuk probably comes second in my favorite character of the series. I like his “whatevs” attitude.

Misa Amane
Hey, what’s anime without an annoying character? Very much typical teenage Japanese girl–well, that and a pop star–Misa has a super mega crush on Light and wants to help him in anyway she can. One of those self-sacrificing girls, but in a pathetic way. She’s probably my least favorite, but she makes for some interesting moments between the three of them (L, Light and Misa).

Mello, Near, etc.
There are quite a few other players that impact the story significantly, mostly being Mello and Near, but also Light’s dad and members of the police team to catch Kira. I can’t say I really cared for Mello or Near, though Near I like more, since he’s kind of like a little brother version of L. (If you think an L obsession is weird, watch the series and tell me if you feel differently! I dare you!)


Well, this is really more of a warning. It’s interesting how like the villain the movie Seven, you almost find yourself agreeing with Light. It’s also kind of disorienting to have the main character really be the bad guy in a sense (I’m trying not to spoil too much here).

Since the show isn’t hardly as long as Naruto, nor Bleach, this guide will be short. Without posting spoilers, once again, you should know you’ll likely be addicted to the show like crack until about episode 25. Some major plot changes are implemented, and in my opinion, the anime becomes less good–at least I didn’t care. In fact, I was affected so much by the change I had zero motivation to keep going with the anime and it took me a couple of weeks to get myself to finish it off.

Episodes 26 and on (up to 37) do contain interesting plot points and are worthwhile if you’ve enjoyed the series thusfar. There is also a bittersweet ending to the series, in a Shakespearian way, so the end was worthwhile for me, but it’s ANIME, 9 times out of 10 it isn’t going to end the way you’d want. 😉

So is it worth it? Yes. You’ll love it, well, if anime is your thing.

Anime series: A


Sometimes you wonder how a live-action movie will translate from manga, but if it works for Nodame Cantabile it’s gotta work for others, right? (*wink*) In this case I think it added to the Death Note universe. A warning to the animation fans… They will deviate from the manga and the series, but I think a lot of the deviations work.

Ryuk and Light argue over the philosophical issues of the Death Note. ;)

Ryuk and Light argue over the philosophical issues of the Death Note.

When we join Light in the first movie he’s already discovered the Death Note and is off-handedly discussing it with his girlfriend (aka he’s talking about Kira and his opinion of Kira without actually connecting the dots). And yeah, GIRLFRIEND. For the movies (since let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no, no, no, no way you can put EVERYTHING everybody wants, let alone yourself into a two-hour movie, especially with a series with enough material to make 37 episodes. 1/2 hr x 37 = 18.5 hours of material which equals at least 9 movies worth of time. Keep this in mind when you’re hating on Harry Potters or Twilight or other book adaptations.) …as I was saying, for the movies, his having a girlfriend worked. There just wasn’t enough time to develop the characters as well as the series did, even with two, and the girlfriend factor helped Light arc quickly.

L reveals he's the real brains behind the Truman Show.

L reveals he's the real brains behind the Truman Show.

But don’t get the movies wrong, for the most part they stick to the plot. My only qualm with the movies was the seemingly lack of time spent on developing L and a non-existent friendship between L and Light we got to see in the series. (I’m an L fan, ya know). However, the actor who plays L (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) I thought did a fabulous job. He had a lot of the mannerisms down and I thought was a little more interesting than Light.

The actor who played Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara), did a good job, but there was just something lacking. I think I prefer the voice acting job (Miyano Mamoru) did as opposed to Tatsuya’s performance, but it works for the movie.

L refuses the DoCoMo promotion.

L refuses the DoCoMo promotion.

I prefer the ending of the story in the movies to the anime series, simply because I kept expecting something like what happened in the movies to happen in the anime series. But if we’re talking overall Death Note, then I’d like a mix of the movies and the series. It’s interesting the trend even Hollywood is taking to making anime into live-action. (I just am opposed to Keanu playing Spike Spiegel is all).

Obviously it works, since Death Note was wildly successful in Japan ($28 mil for the first movie $53 mil for the second–tix sales) and will make some good money for Viz here.

Movie: A- (mostly for lack of development for L)


The anime series you can catch it in English (*puke*) on Adult Swim (Cartoon Network for the uniformed) in the early morning hours. It’s posted on the net with good fansubs. Or you can do it the Netflix way (which is the way I started) with your choice of English or subs–they have 6 discs available. I did Netflix + the internet.

The movies they recently screened at select theaters back in May across America, and you’ll be able to pick up the first movie on September 16th at Amazon or the like. I got both on ebay, Hong Kong versions. I’ve heard the dub is no good, so stick with subs.

There’s also a new spin-off movie called L: Change the World which came out in February which I have yet to see, but if it’s got L I’m all about it. Once I see it I’ll let you know.


I think the full series is available in English. It’s good, but yeah, it’s basically the book version of the anime. Still, I’ve been reading it in my spare time and find it worthwhile.

Death Note 3: Live-Action

If you’re a Death Note fan, whether anime, manga, or live-action movies, you might be interested to know (if you didn’t) that a spin-off movie was released in Japan in February of this year. I’ll try to keep spoilers out of it for those who have never seen Death Note before or haven’t finished it. This movie takes place after Death Note 1&2 and is focused solely on the character L.

And by the way, if you haven’t seen either the anime or live-action movies of Death Note to date, check out my review over at Dee Animated for a more in-depth look at Death Note’s characters, where to watch and what to expect. This is definitely a series worth checking out. Now, back to L.

According to summaries I’ve found around the net:

A case is sent L’s way in the form of a Thai boy who alone survived a deadly virus outbreak in his village. L gets another guest when 12-year-old girl Maki (Fukuda Mayuko, Little DJ) shows up on the doorstep. Both children are connected to an Ebola-influenza virus developed by Maki’s father which has been stolen by terrorists. With the terrorists hunting for Maki and threatening to unleash the virus, L is forced to leave his chair and venture out into the real world, both children in stow. The days tick down as L rushes to develop an antidote and catch the terrorists before time runs out.

It sounded interesting, and since I love L I snagged it off of ebay and when Mac and I (cuz I’m sure she’ll be up for watching it) finish it we’ll let you know if it’s a welcomed addition to the Death Note family or not. The film is directed by Nakata Hideo (Ringu and Dark Water–Japanese versions, and Ring Two), so I’m hoping it’s money at least moderately well spent.

Maybe this will give me the L time I feel like I missed from the first two movies.

Cowboy Bebop Live Action Movie

This is happening, according to Firstshowing.net, which could be fun and cool depending on the writers and director, but this news burst my bubble:
<blockquote>Just last week we discovered that Fox is developing a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie based on the popular anime series. Remarkably, the project still isn’t officially announced and Fox is still keeping it under wraps. However, a good friend inside the industry who is a very reliable source wrote in to tell me that the film is being fast tracked inside the studio and will most likely be out by 2010. He also revealed that Keanu Reeves has been attached as the lead character Spike for over eight months now and is still set for the role. Unfortunately there isn’t a writer or director attached yet, but with some new forward momentum coming from last week’s announcement, I don’t think it will take too long.</blockquote>
<img class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-187″ src=”http://deeanimated.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/spikekeanu1.jpg?w=300&#8243; alt=”” width=”140″ height=”66″ />Are you kidding me?  Let’s get a 45 yr old (this year) to play a 27 yr old character?  Can we say it’s time to update the acting pool to draw from?  I think I would have preferred a new face, or at least someone 10 yrs younger.  *sigh*  Well, maybe the director will say, not Keanu or he’ll get a different offer.  I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for Keanu to do it right.  He might surprise us, but I think the only surprise will be why he got casted in the first place.  Read the rest of the article <a href=”http://www.firstshowing.net/2008/07/30/rumor-keanu-reeves-as-spike-in-cowboy-bebop-movie/&#8221; target=”_blank”>here</a>.

They tried making a Batman/Superman movie and it got canned because of fans.  Maybe if we all come together and send (foxmovies@fox.com)e-mails to Fox saying why Keanu is a poor choice they’ll reconsider?  If not, look for Keanu Reeves as Spike in theaters 2010.

Gotham Knight-tastic!

I watched it. I’ve heard mixed reviews, a lot of people saying they didn’t like it, some that the visuals were great, etc., etc. Well, I liked it.

Gotham Knight, contrary to marketing belief, is not really any kind of Animatrix in the sense that the stories connect us from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight. So remove any preconceived notions about that before viewing. The DVD has more to do with Batman himself than the upcoming film. I think the false expectation of it being related to the Christopher Nolan movies is its release date and the fact that the Scarecrow is in it.

Think additional Batman: The Animated Series episodes with some spectacular Japanese animation styling, and you’ll likely find the short films more enjoyable.

The DVD contains six short films, some of them interweaving into the next, some not, but a worthwhile watch. Let’s run through them.


Don’t let ‘Speed’ Pass you by!

I’m a big Speed Racer fan. I watched the cartoon religiously, bought posters, made a Mach 5 pinewood derby car (see Dee Animated‘s header if you have doubts)–I love it.

So when I heard the Wachowski brothers were taking on making a live-action Speed Racer, I was both excited and nervous. I loved the original Matrix and I knew they could take good care of comic book/anime style material, but Matrix 2 & 3… let’s be honest, they weren’t all that awesome.

So the day came and I went to my local IMAX (I mean, if I found I only wanted to see it once, might as well do it right) with worried expectations. The movie seemed a bit slow for the first half and pretty exciting for the second half, but all in all, worth the time and money. I was thinking, yeah, I guess maybe I’ll give this a B.

For me, I really have to let a movie kind of wash over me, like listening to a new CD. I need to feel it out a little. I felt out this new Speed Racer, and after giving it some more thought I realized there was a lot more going on that I had let my pre-conceived judgment get in the way of.

In other words, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I did enjoy the movie.

Then Indiana Jones 4 comes out. How is this related? Well, I saw it on Thursday and family came into town over the weekend and wanted to go to a movie while in town on Saturday. (Thank Buddah Indy Jones 4 was sold out! Don’t get me wrong, but twice in the same weekend….) I suggested/convinced them to go to Speed Racer, thinking of all the movies out it was one I could do again.

The second time was definitely the charm.

Frankly, I am a little surprised it still hasn’t been recognized as the phenomenal film it is–at least by the fans–but perhaps they went in too judgmental like I did. So, I give you my review, a comparison of the old series vs. the new movie, pros and cons, music, and what to watch for if you’re seeing it for the first time or giving it a second chance (it’ll be longish, so grab yourself a snack and let’s roll):

The Original SPEED RACER:

First of all, I think we should all tip our hats to Peter Fernandez, the brains of the US side of Speed Racer. For those who knew nothing going into the movie, Speed Racer is the American version of a Japanese anime called Maha Go Go Go! Peter had previously done work on Astro Boy and signed up for the chance to work on Speed Racer. (See Planet Comic Book Radio for an interview recently done with Peter Fernandez. He talks about the show as well as the new movie)

The elements of a typical Speed Racer show include Speed doing impossible sorts of stunts with his car, all the while Spritle and Chim Chim are in the back, and usually fighting crime at the same time as winning a race. Throw in Racer X, some oddly named bad guys (Dr. Morebucks) and you’ve got it made.

How does the film compare? We saw Speed doing some impossible sorts of stunts, fighting crime, Racer X, etc. So aside from the quick dialogue traditional to an old Speed episode, I’d say the film stayed pretty true to the original anime.

Now there were some modernizing modifications, but I don’t see the big deal any Speed Racer fan would have with them. Speed Racer was made in the ’60s. Some of the ’60s stuff just isn’t going to work anymore. The new tracks I thought were an excellent touch in lending to the Speed Racer style of racing. And I think the production design is something Tatsuo Yoshida might have done himself if the manga had it been written in the present day.

Emile Hirsch plays Speed Racer, and I thought a great cast as far as looks go. One of my cons for the films is this Speed doesn’t seem to have as much depth to him as the original series’ Speed. It may have been Hirsch’s acting, but he frankly doesn’t have that many lines when I thought about it, and I think only a sequel would really make that call clear. But I thought for sitting a car that isn’t really “moving” so to speak (green screen), he did a very good job making me believe he was “driving” that car.

John Goodman plays Pops Racer, and I thought his casting was spot on. He was everything I imagined a live action Pops Racer would be, and I think he brought more depth to the Pops character. I doubt the Academy would hand out many Oscars to the Speed Racer movie, but John, you’ve got my vote for at least a nomination as best supporting actor.

Christina Ricci plays Trixie, Speed’s girlfriend, also a good cast. Trixie in the original series was pretty “girl power” for the time, and Ricci took it to a modern level for Trixie. However, overall her performance was nothing revolutionary by any means. I think you could some it up with lots of alluring kind of smirks and seductive talking. Don’t get me wrong, I think she did well enough with the role, and maybe that’s just the way she was directed, but I would have liked to have seen just a little more.

Susan Sarandon plays Mom Racer. I’m not really a Sarandon fan, but I appreciated having her in this role, because I think she helped bring the Racer family together in the movie. She’s barely present in the old series (not super surprising with Japanese culture) and I liked her inclusion in the movie.

Paulie Litt plays Spritle, and they may well have named it Spritle Racer, cuz this kid stole the show. Although I never imagined Spritle as a freckled-face, practically red head, he is the quintessential younger brother. He and Chim Chim provided fantastic comic relief and probably one of my favorite scenes of the movie is when him and Chim Chim are battling in Japanese anime style. I hope to see Litt soon in the future.

The rest of the cast was well chosen too. I loved Royalton (kept thinking, is this Tim Curry’s brother?), thought the newish version of Inspector Detector was great, Sparky was also spot on, the bad guys were great, and I love all things Japanese, so Rain was a welcome guest as Taejo Togokahn.

On casting, I think it’s only fair to rate this movie A+

We have Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Lost) to thank for a spectacular score. Something I always dislike is when the composer will just completely throw away any already established themes for the movie version of the show/video game, etc. Giacchino took the themes and ran with them.

I Am Speed” which plays right at the beginning is probably my favorite from the CD. Of course I’m thinking of all the color swirling as I’m listening to it, but from a musical standpoint, it’s telling us that we do in fact have a Speed Racer movie and it’s going to be big.

Racing’s In Our Blood” does a great job to heighten the emotion on the great scene where Speed and his father are watching the old Grand Prix race, by taking the original theme and slowing it down and turning it into a beautiful score.

And then of course we have parts of the original theme as well as hints through out all of the rest of the soundtrack, with the remaining score always playing back to the same style. The end theme song is by Ali Dee and the Deekompressors and I tend to favor the movie version over the remix single. I like that they’re trying to incorporate multiple languages and the original theme, as though the Wachowski’s wanted to tip off their hats one more time in homage to Speed.

Original Score: A
Pop Remix Theme: B+

The editing was revolutionary, and though likely unnoticed by most, reminded me of the same visual pleasure I got from seeing 24 the first time. It’s a little more complex than it looks, and truly a subtle homage to Japanese anime. I loved the composite of one image over another, it made me believe I was watching live action manga in all its full blown glory.

The production design was reminiscent of Tim Burton (no not the creepy side, the bright color side–he’s got two sides). I didn’t mind the Mach 6 design, as Speed in the original series had a couple extra versions of the Mach 5 he’d use on occasion.

This movie is full of little Speed Racer references and other fun things to tantalize fans. We got to see the majority of the characters in their cartoon version outfits–something not often done when transferred to the big screen. Speed jumps out of his car in the end in full blown Speed Racer pose. I loved Chim Chim wearing human pajamas and Spritle wearing monkey pajamas. Peter Fernandez appears as one of the announcers. The car jack sound effect was the same as the original–basically I found the movie to be a huge homage to the original show. I can’t understand the reviews I’ve seen that say otherwise.

On first view I thought the story was a bit slow in going, but upon more thought I realized it was all just playing into the end and bringing us along to understand the journey of the Racer family. Perhaps it’s just cuz I come from a rare breed of the nuclear family, but I loved seeing a movie where the family stuck together and relied on each other–even if some members did it more distantly. The race truly did become “a work of art” as Mom told Speed, because it was the warmth and art of the people who built the car that triumphed vs. the coldness and machinery or anonymity of the corporate rival.

So Moms and Mormons, this is a movie for you.

To be completely honest, I don’t think they could have chosen any better directors than the avid fans themselves. Worry as I might about Morpheus leaping out of the sky and telling Speed he is “the one,” (LOL) they did a great job with this piece. They picked a great crew which we owe for the awesome use of colors, production design, costuming, camera angles–the list could go on forever.

They said they weren’t finished with Speed yet and have hinted at a sequel, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ll be there opening weekend.

IN CONCLUSION: Seeing it twice did nothing but make me want to own it on DVD now. *sigh* I hate waiting. I went and picked up the manga and video game and I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve given them ample play time.

Go see this movie! Whether by DVD, regular theater, dollar theater, Netflix–go see it!

Overall Rating: A
Buy it on DVD? Definitely.

Believe It: “Naruto” will surprise you

So you’ve seen a spiky-haired orange jumpsuit kid running around lately, and you’re wondering: is this really worthwhile anime?

narutoI was first introduced to Naruto (pronounced NAH-ROO-TOE, with accentuation being on the “NAH” part if we’re sticking to Japanese and not the “ROO,” which you’ll find a lot of English speakers doing) at Comic-Con, seeing the costumes around and some manga and art. So I ordered the first disc up from Netflix and gave it a go. I have to admit, Naruto is obnoxious to a fault, but something about the series intrigued me, so I made it through the first four episodes and was hungry for more. (At the time, 1 disc was all that was available from Netflix).

I started the show with the English dub, which wasn’t too terrible for the first four episodes, but I find “dattebayo” to be less annoying than “believe it.” Besides, I find you lose a lot with dubs, so I’m a firm believer in subs first. (Yes, reading. Get over it!)

(Dattebayo, by the way, doesn’t actually mean believe it, but upon inquiring of a few Japanese friends, the translation works. Naruto is looking for a way to show everyone he’s “cool” and is basically using a catch phrase way of speaking to show them all that. Whether or not it works…. *grin*)

From a character arc perspective, Naruto is very well written, especially if you’ve come all the way to Shippuuden and gone back. Sure, he starts out as an annoying kid, but that’s what he is and as he gains confidence in himself, he sheds annoying layers one by one.

Basically, stick with it. Naruto will grow on you.

But if you’re like me, and a bit impatient with story arcs and “filler” episodes watching it all at once may drive you nuts. So I’m here to give you some recommendations to do a little editing, or at least let you know how long you’ve got until a particular arc ends.


The ARCS: (see http://www.narutofob.com/naruto-episodes.html as a source)
Episodes 1-5 Basically an introduction to Naruto and key players in his story.

Episodes 6-19 The first major story arc. Naruto and friends are out to show off their abilities, and we get to know a little more about the 3 (Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura).

Episodes 20-67 The Chunnin exams: which is a three part and where more of the larger plot begins to be revealed. I think this is where I first became annoyed with pacing of episodes. Basically every character and their dog (literally) are going to have a one on one match a couple of times. If you like watching all the different characters go at it, you’ll be fine. If you’re like me, you’ll find the 1 1/2 speed button on your DVD player.

We also get more of an idea of a larger plot arc coming up which basically kicks off in Episode 68.

Episodes 68-80 Trouble in Konoha: the real villains come out to play and reak havok. The show takes on a different sort of persona after this when we say farewell to a major character. I was a little put out, but there’s enough going on to pull you through.

Episodes 80-109 Itachi, Tsunade, and more. Here we get the set-up for the rest of the series leading up into Shippuuden. Villains and training, villains and training. One thing you have to know about Naruto is you’re going to be in for a lot of training episodes. Get used to it, because from here on out you can count on seeing it often.

Episodes 110-135 Naruto and Sasuke. If you’ve been loving Naruto, this is the point in the series you’ve been waiting for. I’m trying to be more general not to post spoilers, but for me this was the best part of the series. Note at this point, however, an arc you’re going to want to see finish won’t happen until the end of Shippuuden. My whole point in making this post was for people like me who might have taken it easier and slower with Naruto if I’d known it’d be several eps down the line before seeing a plot arc finish.

136-220 The much dreaded “filler” episodes. (NOTE: If you don’t know what a “filler” episode is: episodes that have little or no relation to the “actual” story but involve the characters, though often not the main characters. Some describe it as the Japanese writer’s attempts to do their own episodes, which doesn’t always work out ;)). So now you’re hooked hopelessly on Naruto and you’re dying for new eps, well, welcome to about 100 tangent episodes. A lot of these, unless you’re kind of a Naruto purist, are a waste of your time.

My recommendation for filler eps

HIDDEN STAR VILLAGE: 178-183 Naruto and co. heads out to the Star Village with shinobi who have unique powers from a dangerous source. I guess I like this one for the character traits we see from Naruto.

KURENAI: 203-207 Shinobi girl has mysterious painting power. The third hokage’s past is further delved into and I just really liked the idea. I think it kind of foreshadows Shippuuden.

gaaraGAARA AND MATSURI: 216-219 Gaara is drawn out to rescue a student. I love Naruto, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the reason I watch the show is for Gaara. He’s my favorite character, and I’m still unsure as to why–at least completely. If you’re a Gaara fan, whether small or large, this filler story is worthwhile.

And 220! Why? Because it’s the end of the show. And then you’ll be all ready for Naruto Shippuuden which is far better than Naruto.

Why bother watching Naruto in the first place? Why not just skip to the better series? Well, if you want Shippuuden to mean anything to you and to understand why Naruto is as passionate about his friendships as he is, then use my guide and get through Naruto. It’s all worth it for Shippuuden.

And finally, questions you’re likely to have (without spoilers):

1. Is Sakura always going to be useless? No, she gets tough. By Shippuuden you’ll hardly believe the bad @$$ mamba jamba was ever as weak and useless as she was in the first episodes.

2. Who is Naruto’s father? Well, you can look it up online if you’re that impatient, but it’ll come in Shippuuden.

3. Are filler episodes done in Shippuuden? (-_-) Well… if you don’t count, let’s take a look at Naruto and how we used to be, then sort of.

4. Why is the Japanese version better? Is that a rhetorical question?

5. I’m cheap and I want to watch Naruto 100% for free. Where can I do that? dattebayo.com subs Naruto, but since it’s licensed in the U.S. the Naruto eps might be off the site. They still do Shippuuden. Anime4Fans, one of my links can also show you the way. And if you’re not too cheap and prefer better quality, Netflix will send you some (it is available as of September 23, 2008).

I’ll probably do a comprehensive Shippuuden when it finishes.