I first heard about animation director Kenji Kamiyama when I heard about 009 Re:Cyborg. Growing up, one of my favorite anime series was the 2001 adaptation of the original Cyborg 009 manga (penned by Shotaro Ishinomori), so seeing that the series would have new life blown into it made me incredibly excited. Unfortunately, in the swirling torrents of being an adult and having a million things to do, I still haven’t gotten around to watching Kamiyama’s film vision of the series I enjoyed so much. Despite this, though, news of Kamiyama’s upcoming film still has me anticipating some slice-of-life goodness mixed in with some sci-fi on the side, right alongside some beautiful animation from studio Signal.MD.
It’s a strange and wonderful thing to be diving back into the world of Harry Potter, a franchise that so many people around my age literally grew up with. There was certainly a lot of pressure on the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to transport us back to a world we all knew and loved, and I’m happy to say that while it certainly differed a lot from the series of films starring Harry and the gang, it was generally delightful. It made a lot of good storytelling choices, introduced a lot of great characters, and really invoked a sense of wonder, which is what every Harry Potter story ought to do. There were a few small hiccups in execution: specifically, some elements of the magical world seemed incongruous with the rest of the stories. Even with that considered, however, nothing significantly detracted from the overall experience, and I came out of the theater excited to learn more about Newt, Tina, and the American wizarding community.
Spoilers below the cut!
2016 may be a shitshow, but at the last moment, anime seems to be conducting a noble effort to make the end of the year a bit sweeter. Freshman on the sports anime scene, Yuri!!! On Ice, appears to have skipped the typical queerbaiting of its predecessors and jumped right to a heartwarming portrayal of a healthy relationship between two bisexual men (fingers crossed this won’t get fucked up as it approaches its final episodes); unable to keep himself from his passion, Hayao Miyazaki has stated he’ll return from retirement for just one more feature length animated film with Studio Ghibli; and both Spirited Away and Sailor Moon R: The Movie are getting theatrical releases, Spirited Away in early December and Sailor Moon in January. As I’ve traveled back home for the holiday season, I’m about 90% sure that none of the theaters in my little town are going to be showing either of the two animated films. Like that would stop me, though.
Out of the Sailor Moon filmography, I remember watching Sailor Moon R—subtitled Promise of the Rose in the North American release—back in the wee days of my youth, and as such it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when I say that it’s hands down my favorite of the three. Aside from the rose motif, little me adored the flower-based baddies and the romantic triangle that had a satisfying conclusion. Older me sat here not even a day ago reminiscing about the film wondering, “did this movie even have a love triangle?” I’m not doubting the shoujo genre or glossing over its flaws, but I watched the dub of the movie, and if there’s one thing I remember about the early dub of Sailor Moon, it’s that anything pertaining to not being straight typically had a shoddily woven rug thrown over it in hopes that the kiddies wouldn’t notice. And the potential love conflict between Darien, Serena, and the antagonist Fiore would have had almost inescapable implications of homosexual love between Darien and Fiore. Yet, upon watching the film again and keeping an eye out for this, I found that Fiore’s feelings probably weren’t intentionally glossed over. Furthermore, while the American dub may actually be gayer than the original Japanese, the ambiguity isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case.
Note: since I’m mainly speaking of the dub, I will be using the names from said original dub.
Most people have what they would consider their quintessential Halloween movie, from groan-worthy B movies to the scariest of horror flicks. While I would be hard pressed to pick the Halloween movie for me—I’m indecisive—I would absolutely say that one of them is the 1998 made-for-Disney-TV-movie Halloweentown. I mean, it’s got “Halloween” right in the title. Yet, as with most things from our childhoods, there’s always the fear that going back and revisiting previously cherished media will reveal how shitty and terrible it actually was. I’m not sure if it was by virtue of it being a Disney flick (and thus having to be pretty safe anyway) or the quality of the film’s script, but even almost twenty years later, Halloweentown, despite some problems, remains a bright spot in Disney’s filmography because it focuses on the power of family in an almost unbelievable situation.
It’s almost Halloween! Every Halloween I look for witchy movies, but sadly, the vast majority of them portray witches as evil and very very few of them even attempt to portray Paganism, Wicca, or witchcraft correctly. So recently, I attempted to look up Pagan and Wiccan-friendly movies and one movie kept popping up everywhere: The Last Keepers. I was pleased to find that it was on Netflix and sat down to give it a watch. It didn’t have the strongest story, but I can certainly see why it is a well-reviewed movie within the Pagan, Wicca, and witchcraft communities—though it is still not without its issues.
Since Kiki’s Delivery Service was already taken, I decided to review something that appeared to be similar in concept. Back in 2013, Studio Trigger—who you may know from their work on series like Kill La Kill, Kiznaiver, or the Steven Universe episode “Mindful Education”—released a short film that bloomed across Tumblr in gif form. This film was Little Witch Academia. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the film itself; sure, I could glean some things from the images I saw floating around, but that says nothing for plot and given the twenty-six minute length I was a little dubious on if Academia would be more than just fluff and cool animation. To my surprise, while a lot of it was really cool animation, Academia also managed to have a pretty cool plot and created a universe where no girl is punished for pursuing magic, no matter what she believes in.
Spoiler warning if you haven’t seen it yet!
Recently I was bored and decided to try something new on Netflix. Since Netflix is awesome, it suggested several things I might like, and to my delight, I soon found a fairytale with a female protagonist and Tim Curry as a supporting male character. That alone was enough to get me to watch, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much the movie subverted some typical sexist fairytale storytelling.
The Secret of Moonacre is the story of Maria Merryweather, a young girl whose mother died when she was young and whose father recently passed away. She discovers that her father lost all of his assets to gambling and she is being sent to live with her uncle in Moonacre Valley. The only thing her father was able to leave her was a book called The Ancient Chronicles of Moonacre Valley. Maria begins to read a story about a woman so pure and good that nature loved her and the moon blessed her with magical moon pearls, which is why people began to call her the moon princess. But when she reveals their powers to her father and fiance, they become greedy and each attempt to steal the pearls for themselves. The princess then places a curse on the valley using the power the moon gave her, declaring that the pearls must be returned to the sea or the valley would be cursed forever. When Maria goes to live with her uncle, she discovers that not only is this story true, but that she is the new moon princess and must break the curse on the valley.
This was a surprisingly feminist story featuring a young girl entering a dangerous and magical world who is able to take control of her own life and help others. Her magic comes from being good and pure, like the first moon princess, but this does not translate into the same sexist storytelling that many fairytales do when a woman’s strength is said to come from her goodness and purity. Nor is Maria a boring character with no faults: she is never put up on a pedestal, but rather her strength comes from the fact that she is able to use her virtues to overcome her faults.