Attack on Titan 2: End of the World Movie Review

Attack on Titan 2: End of the World Theatrical Poster (c) Toho Pictures

Attack on Titan 2: End of the World Theatrical Poster (c) Toho Pictures

Money is indeed the root of all evil. Nope this has nothing to do with the film’s storyline folks but that’s what I felt after watching the film. How come the mangaka and publisher of the breakout and multi-awarded manga (and well-received anime) let their brilliant work got Dragonball: Evolution-ized? (TRANSLATION: f*cked up)

I had hoped that picking up from the last turn of events from the first part of the film that was shown last month, there will be redemption on the franchise. Unfortunately, the producers wasted yet another screen time as they started “Attack on Titan 2: End of the World” (Japanese Title: “Shingeki no Kyojin: Endo obu za Warudo”) with a series of recap that ultimately sacrificed what could have been a spot to go deeper on the whole mythology.

And then there’s a series of flashback and a laughable dream sequence that is totally forgettable. Whoever wrote that dream sequence deserves a slap on his face with the first 17 tankōbon (volumes) of the manga. Why the hell Shikishima was in that sequence? Oftentimes, people say that one’s biggest rival is himself. So seeing Shikishima on Eren’s dream sequence made me realized that Eren is an embodiment of a pathetic loser guy! But then again, this is the f*cked up live-action movie version. In the manga, Eren’s ramification was triggered by his aspirations, ideals and ordeals in life, oftentimes he got an extra push from Mikasa and Armin, his closest childhood friends, so seeing this on the manga/anime is acceptable. But suddenly putting Shikishima on that sequence is out of the line and it just doesn’t make sense at all. Essentially, the second-part of the movie immediately picks up after the aftermath of the attack so it doesn’t make much sense how Shikishima immediately became so invested with a stranger like Eren, and that Eren would actually grew a pair of balls.

Another standout (not in a good way though) was the shift of focus from the “regular-sized” Titan (Part 1) to “Colossal” Titan (Part 2). Suddenly, viewers were introduced to this big (aka Colossal) Titan and the reign of the regular-sized Titan was abruptly omitted. Well, they were briefly shown (like 5 seconds) to remind viewers that they still exists, just outside the walls running through hills: but remember that the wall is still wide open so given the film’s timeline (Eren’s capture; the team’s journey that leads them to the bomb; all the talksh!ts; useless screen time; eating potatoes; etc.) not a single regular-sized Titan made an attempt to enter the city?

Purist like me keeps on asking, why did they omitted Levi’s character (from the original manga) and replaced by Shikishima? But after seeing the 2-part live-action movie, I thought it was a good thing on Levi’s part to be spared from all the embarrassment.

Rating: 6.5/10

Boruto: Naruto the Movie Review

Boruto: Naruto the Movie Theatrical Poster (c) Pierrot

Boruto: Naruto the Movie Theatrical Poster (c) Pierrot

“Boruto: Naruto the Movie” is part of the “Naruto Shin Jidai Kaimaku Project” (Naruto’s New Era Opening Project) to celebrate the original manga’s 15th year anniversary. Naruto – the popular manga from mangaka Masashi Kishimoto ended its serialization in Japan last November 2014.

As previously teased on “The Last: Naruto the Movie”, “Boruto: Naruto the Movie” focuses on the new generation of ninjas. Dreams do come true as Naruto is now the 7th Hokage and is married to Hinata with two kids: Himawari and Boruto; while Sasuke, his longtime friend and rival is now married to Sakura and is gifted with a daughter named, Sarada. Other “Konoha 12” Team formed a family of their own; there are obvious pairings but with some odd pairings nonetheless.

Similar to the “The Last” film, “Boruto” made references to the last 4th Great Shinobi War which was the last and concluding part of the manga that sees Naruto promoted as Hokage (Kakashi Hatake became the 6th Hokage presumably after the war.) But the lurking question is what if you’re new to the Naruto fandom; will you be able to enjoy the film? Absolutely yes, as the viewers were aided on what transpired on the last war so you’ll get a sense on the basic premise of the film.

The “Boruto” movie pays homage to Naruto’s origin: family. What separates this film from the other Naruto movies is that unlike its predecessors where you have to save a Princess, “Boruto” is heavily tied on emotional relationships – an ordeal where old (younger) Naruto struggled but eventually triumphed.

The writers also picked up a very good material for the ultimate throwback – the “chuunin” exam. The original “chuunin” arc from the Naruto series is basically one of the keys to the manga’s early success because of its inquisitive fight battles so seeing the new generation of ninjas on the same dome is reminiscent to the early beginnings of Naruto.

Overall, the eleventh Naruto film – “Boruto: Naruto the Movie” is so easy to watch, it’s a feel good movie; and technically, the film is almost perfect: from story-telling, animation to overall direction. “Boruto” will treat viewers to an endless “throwbacks” that is both nostalgic and invigorating restart on Naruto franchise. Be sure to catch the post-credit scenes where Kishimoto reveals the identity of Mitsuki’s parents.

Rating: 10/10

Attack on Titan Movie Review

Attack on Titan Theatrical Poster (c) Toho Pictures

Attack on Titan Theatrical Poster (c) Toho Pictures

The live-action film, “Attack on Titan” is based upon the best-selling manga and hit anime series of the same title (Japanese Title: Shingeki no Kyojin) by mangaka Hajime Isayama. 100 years ago, Titans suddenly appeared on Earth. Soon, human civilization veered on collapse due to the Titans. Humans then built a giant wall to defend themselves. Within the giant walls, humans lived in peace, but, 100 years later, the giant wall is broken.

The film started on a rather slow paced and alterations on the original material immediately hailed hardcore manga and anime fans including me. It is worth noting that I haven’t seen a single trailer prior to watching this film because the otaku in me would always inevitably compare the original and the adapted work early on.

One could agree that the original material (manga) is well-received because of the core genre which is “revenge” and yet there is a balance of “action” and “narrative” – at least on the original manga. The movie however was a dire adaptation of one of the most celebrated mangas in recent years. Case in point: let me tell you, Eren Yeager is the “HEART” and “SOUL” of the whole Titan-verse, period. But the movie shied away from the original material and insinuates as if Mikasa Ackerman is the lead character.

For the benefit of those who doesn’t follow the manga and haven’t seen the first season of the anime (yes, there’s a second season coming this 2016), Eren wanted to be part of the Survey Corps right from the start and his resolve to be part of the elite soldiers was intensified even more when he witnessed his mother’s gruesome death at the hand of a Titan.

The Eren I grew to love, is a strong man fueled with determination to protect mankind; with her adoptive-sister, Mikasa – a remarkably strong and talented fighter; and Armin Arlert, Eren’s childhood friend, that at first lacks courage and strength but is an invaluable asset to the group because of his high intelligence. Together, the three of them sets out on a journey for a common goal – to protect humanity. Unfortunately, this wasn’t mirrored on the film version. For me the characterizations of these three are intricate parts of the whole story-telling. These are the basics, sure, you can replace or add new characters but fans will always look for the fundamentals.

Instead, the film took a different turn, but even on their own version, the story is still shallow. Eren mourned when Misaka was believed to be dead and yet there’s no proper closure on his mother’s demise. There’s a moment when the scene cuts to a drunken Souda, still coping for the death of his wife that became a laughing stuff at the cinema, but wait, the guy got a point. He’s been drinking to ease the pain; to grieve. But Eren? Yeah my mother died, okay let’s move on. The writers basically wanted to build a fan service out of Erin and Mikasa so they rushed everything. Shame.

The film is full of non-sense dialogues; hence, wasted screen time. They could have utilized these to let the moviegoers delve deeper into the whole Titan mythology. Moreover, the fighting scenes weren’t choreographed well; there’s a lackluster display of three dimensional maneuver gears; and well, the whole movie is a disaster.

The second-part, “Attack on Titan: End of the World” is due this September. Will it fair better is yet to be seen. In the meantime, if you’re a hardcore manga and anime fan and doesn’t want to get Dragonball: Evolution-ized, then don’t watch this film.

Rating: 6.5/10

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Movie Review

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Theatrical/Character Poster. Image (c) Warner Bros. Japan

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Theatrical/Character Poster. Image (c) Warner Bros. Japan

“Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” is the first of the two live-action installment sequels on the continuing saga of Himura Kenshin – the wanderer, or otherwise known as “Battosai”, and is loosely based on the “Kyoto Arc”, which is undeniably one of the most-celebrated arcs from the manga and eventually on anime material created by mangaka Nobuhiro Watsuki.

“Kyoto Inferno” basically covers the story of an ex-assassin – Shishio’s foundation and his evil plan to overthrow the current Meiji government. While there are few alterations in the live-action adaptation, the writers clearly established that Kenshin is a changed man, repenting for his sins by protecting Tokyo. This is why Kaoru got worried when she heard of the looming war because she fears that Kenshin might go back to his old self again in the form of killing – this, if you didn’t know is basically the whole point of Kenshin as a wanderer, armed with a reversed-blade sword to protect and not to kill.

When Sojiro Seta, Shishio’s right-hand man was introduced in the anime, he easily became one of my favourite villains that’s known for not displaying emotions and always smiling even when fighting and possesses swordsmanship skills at par with Kenshin. So, it was rather disappointing that it felt like their fight scenes were rushed but boy, those fight sequences were choreographed perfectly.

Telling a good story is one thing, but the real challenge here when adapting an anime or manga material would be the execution. The anime, of course, works like magic because you can do almost anything, there is no limit (except when it’s a total fantasy genre) long as it is believable. One can easily jump from one rooftop to the other; suspend oneself up in the air; and other tricks that you can recall from your favourite anime or manga. But having that shown in a live-action film was a different level and it brings some guts to do that (let us not talk mess here that is “Dragonball Evolution”). Having staged the fight sequence on a dry surface is really challenging, so kudos on the last few minutes when Kenshin is fighting Shishio’s team on a wet surface/ship. Suffice to say, those equally hard fight scenes were choreographed really, really well that I couldn’t help but ask for more!

Couple of things: these are subtle but as a hard-core fan I really enjoyed that part when Kenshin is fighting with Shishio’s thugs, the fight sequence is way moving too fast, but it didn’t escape my eyes when the camera focused on how Kenshin “tilt” his reversed-blade sword. Another one was during his fight with Cho when his blade cuts Cho’s hair. There’s also this particular scene that I’m a bit worried at first because I thought people in the cinema would find it over-the-top and would just laugh over it, but they didn’t. It was when Kenshin thought he killed Cho, and he remains in his fighting stance – this is a recurring theme in any anime/manga and I’m glad that nobody reacted on the scene (or perhaps they didn’t care too much?). And lastly, during Aoshi and Nenji’s fight where the latter had to say his parting words (while in his fighting stance) to the former before he fell off his knees and dies. These are just some of the feats that I got to love from the original material that the producers successfully injected on this film.

What I like about this whole Rurouni franchise is that the producers were able to pick-up the right materials. The first Rurouni film back in 2012, I thought, was really the beginning of the saga. Takani Megumi’s back-story was rather complicated and it fits perfectly on that category to build up the conflict without trying too hard on the narrative side. While on the other hand, villains like Udo Jin-e and Takeda Kanryu sits really well too on the “villainous” category: one that spells power/influence, and the other with strength/skills. Having said that, it’s a good thing that the producers picked-up the “Kyoto Arc” from the original material because this was really the highlight of Kenshin’s post-assassin life.

What’s ahead? I won’t mind if the writers would have a different approach on how to end the whole Shishio story via the second installment “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” but it would be a feat for me seeing a four-way battle between Kenshin-Aoshi-Saito-Shishio. We’ll also see if Kenshin will finally succumbed on killing again to save the people that are dear to him. And as Shishio said, “the strong will live and the weak will die” so, who will live? And who dies?

Rating: 10/10

Hunter × Hunter: The Last Mission Movie Review

Hunter × Hunter: The Last Mission Theatrical Poster. Image (c) MADHOUSE

Hunter × Hunter: The Last Mission Theatrical Poster. Image (c) MADHOUSE

Inquisitive and enjoyable fights – these are just some of the legacies that mangaka Yoshihiro Togashi sets on his manga, Hunter × Hunter, which is also rumored to return this April (so take this news with a grain of salt). It is confirmed that H×H will be back this June joining Weekly Shonen Jump line-up. Unfortunately, these legacies weren’t mirrored on the movie version, at least in my opinion. The first movie, “Phantom Rogue”, was a total let down and “The Last Mission” is competing on that same level too. It is worth noting though that Togashi didn’t contribute anything on these two feature films. Heck no, the guy can’t even finish the manga material and was on indefinite hiatus since 2012 for unknown reason (aka laziness) .

Revenge is a recurring theme on most of the shounen anime movies and even on mainstream TV/movie. I have no qualms about it but there’s a better way to put it on story-telling. Look at One Piece Film: Z, how Eiichiro Oda managed to put a huge amount of depth on Z’s character that I actually developed an emotional attachment with him, and yes, he’s the antagonist of the story. But with “The Last Mission”, BLEACH’s Grimmjow Jed’s (the antagonist) story just didn’t work out as they expected. The back story was so shallow, everything was boring. With the first movie, they hardly explain “nen” (a technique that lets you manipulate your own life energy known as aura) and I was surprised that on this new movie, moviegoers were suddenly introduced to “on” (a technique that drawn from your hatred). Okay, I’ll let this one slip.

If I’m not following the manga/anime, I will immediately get lost when they introduced Bisky, Wing and Zushi, like who are these guys? They even flashed Kaito’s image, who is Kaito? Suffice to say, the overall narrative was really bad. I’m guessing that moviegoers that doesn’t follow the manga/anime knew nothing about these four. Too bad. I also didn’t get the sense that Chairman Netero, if not the strongest in the world, maybe, at least from Hunter Association, can’t do anything when bound by Rengoku’s power. Seriously? You’ll let Jed blow the Heaven’s Arena, because again, if I’m new to Hunter-verse, I’ll view Netero as a useless old-geezer which is actually NOT. Then the bad guys dumped Leorio on the sewer but ended up on the “higher levels” of the Heaven’s Arena… okay, let’s not be silly in here. But the major letdown for me was when in the end, it was still Gon on super saiyan mode that defeated Jed. I would have preferred Netero and Jed settling their issues as they basically represents the two faces/sides of the coin.

On the plus side, MADHOUSE’s animation this time was crispier and there’s noticeable change on the characters’ illustration which I really don’t mind. And if there’s anything good that happened in this film, it’s probably the ending theme: “Hyōri Ittai” by Yuzu at the epilogue which is also the current ending theme of Hunter × Hunter anime which is nearing its conclusion for the “Chimera Ants” arc.

If the writers can’t come up with a decent non-canon story-line, then I hope “The Last Mission” would be Hunter × Hunter’s “Last Film” because it’s really a shame.

Rating: 6.5/10

One Piece Film: Z sails at #2 at the box office! First week gross higher than Road to Ninja’s total gross receipts

One Piece Film: Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

One Piece Film: Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

Toei Animation’s “One Piece Film: Z” debuted at #2 at the Philippine box office according to BoxOfficeMojo beating the gross receipts of Trance ($89,217), Identity Thief ($84,068), and Dark Skies ($59,045) for the week of May 1-5. With a strong start of an estimated $127,197 (PhP 5,184,269) via 42 screens, One Piece’s first week alone gross higher than Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie’s total gross receipts of $123,613 (PhP 5,068,627) on its nearly three-week run.

Distributed locally by Pioneer Films and is exclusive to SM Cinemas, One Piece Film: Z is the twelfth overall film of One Piece. Original manga creator Eiichiro Oda executive-produced the film and features “Z”, as Luffy’s strongest opponent yet.

The movie is still being screened on select SM Cinemas. Check the schedule and ticket prices here. Next week, May 15th, sees the premiere of “Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rogue”, pitted against “Star Trek: Into Darkness”

UPDATE 2: One Piece Film: Z on its second week (May 8-12) earned a total grossed amount of $141,886 (PhP 5,820,631) and dropped from #2 to #10 spot according to BoxOfficeMojo.  The film saw a significant drop based on its 2nd-week box office ticket sales but still managed to outperformed Road to Ninja.  On the other hand, Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge debuts last Wednesday and is exclusive to SM Cinemas. For the complete schedule and ticket price, click here!

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One Piece Film: Z Movie Review – The Opposing Ideals, Fan-service and more!

One Piece Film Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

One Piece Film: Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

After manga creator Eiichiro Oda’s story contribution on “One Piece Film: Strong World” (2009), he’s back once again via “One Piece Film: Z”, this time, to oversee the overall production of the twelfth feature film from his long-running and fastest-selling manga in Japan – One Piece. The movie which revolves around the main antagonist, “Z” (also known as “Black Arm Zephyr”) and dubbed as the strongest opponent yet is non-canonical, meaning to say, this is a stand-alone story arc so everyone who hasn’t been following the manga journey can have a grasp of the story and will need not to worry.

The premise is simple. Former Marine Admiral Zephyr with the aide of his henchmen Ain and Binz want to destroy the world by blowing up three volcanic islands identified as the “End Points” with the help of stolen “Dyna Stones” – thought to be comparable to ancient weapons and are the marine’s “trump card”. But every story has a hero – The Straw Hat Team: meet Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky and Brook.

For me, the opening fight scenes between Z and Kizaru set the mood of the whole movie and I kind of hoped that it won’t disappoint me until the very end because some movies tend to have this rich and amazing opening scenes but the story-telling dwindles and got lost along the way. While I found the cherry blossoms party screen time a bit long, I think it’s necessary to show to the new audiences how close are they to each other and as a group – and also to validate Luffy’s action towards the end of the film.

I’m not quite convinced though why blowing up three volcanoes would lead to destruction of planet Earth. But other than that, I like the film and totally bought the whole Z’s back story. I felt the justification on his character as a good-hearted navy man who worked so hard to protect the government he trusts; turned into an exact opposite of himself when his wife and son was killed by a pirate which leads to his creation of Neo Marines organization. Oda incredibly managed to put a huge amount of depth on Z’s characterization that I actually developed an emotional attachment with Z given that he is the villain of this story. Need I say more why the film was titled after him?

One Piece Film Z Character Posters. Image (c) Toei

One Piece Film: Z Character Posters. First row: Luffy, Nami, Zoro, Sanji; Second row: Robin, Chopper, Usopp, Brook; Third row: Franky, Ain, Z, Binz. Image (c) Toei

As for the other characters like Nami, Robin, Brook and Chopper, they are basically there for the comic relief while Sanji, Zoro and Luffy had their moments on their respective climactic battles. On the animation part – it’s technically flawless, the camera angles, and the fight scenes; as expected from Toei. They did a really good job back there and you’ll immediately notice it on the opening scene, the texture, and the tone, kudos to the art director of this film.

The last few minutes where Z fights to his death and eventually came to his senses is just tear-jerking while showing a series of flashback from his childhood, where he plays the role of “Hero of Justice Z” – his own creation of a super hero. It’s a bitter-sweet but a fitting ending to bring closure to Z’s character.

To summarize, the movie isn’t about saving the world from volcanic eruptions; it’s about: your dreams versus principles – doing what you want, no matter what anyone says.

With an enjoyable battle and a well-done exposition, I’ll give this movie a 9/10 rating!

This review was also published and featured on PinoyExchange.
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36th Japan Academy Awards nominees revealed! Evangelion, Wolf Children, Momo, Friends, and One Piece made it to the Animation of the Year Category!

Evangelion: 3.0 You-Can-(Not) Redo is nominated on this year's Japan Academy Prize for "Animation of the Year". Image (c) Studio Khara

Evangelion: 3.0 You-Can-(Not) Redo is nominated on this year’s Japan Academy Prize for “Animation of the Year”. Image (c) Studio Khara

Last Tuesday, the Nippon Academy-Sho Association announced its nominees for the 36th Japan Academy Awards, showcasing the best films of 2012. This year’s nominees for “Animation of the Year” are: Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (Director: Hideaki Anno), Wolf Children (Director: Mamoru Hosoda), A Letter to Momo (Hiroyuki Okiura), Friends: Mononoke Shima no Naki (Takashi Yamazaki), and One Piece Film Z (Tatsuya Nagamine).

Last year’s winner was From Up on Poppy Hill which was the highest-grossing film of 2011 in Japan. The most successful films in this year’s nominees are One Piece and Evangelion. According to Box Office Mojo, One Piece Film Z has earned ¥6,552,837,671 (302 screens) while Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo has earned ¥5,287,972,051 (124 screens); both films are still showing.

Touted as Japan’s version of America’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars), the Nippon Academy-Sho Association presents the Japan Academy Prizes every year. The nominees all receive “Awards of Excellence,” but the actual top award in each category will be presented in a ceremony on March 8 at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo.

Below are the list of nominees:
BEST PICTURE
Dearest
A Chorus of Angels
The Kirashima Thing
The Floating Castle
Chronicle of My Mother

BEST ANIMATED PICTURE
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
A Letter to Momo
Friends: Naki on Monster Island
One Piece Film Z

BEST DIRECTOR
Shinji Higuchi (The Floating Castle)
Junji Sakamoto (A Chorus of Angels)
Masato Harda (Chronicle of My Mother)
Yasuo Furihata (Dearest)
Daihachi Yoshida (The Kirashima Thing)

BEST LEADING ACTOR
Hiroshi Abe (Thermae Romae)
Masato Sakai (Key of Life)
Mansai Momura (The Floating Castle)
Mirai Moriyama (Drudgery Train)
Koji Yakusho (Fleet Admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto)
Koji Yakusho (Chronicle of My Mother)

BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Kiki Kirin (Chronicle of My Mother)
Tamiyo Kusakari (The Terminal Trust)
Erika Sawajiri (Heruta Skelter)
Matsu Takako (Dreams For Sale)
Sayuri Yoshinaga (A Chorus of Angels)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Shuji Otaki (Dearest)
Koichi Sato (Dearest)
Koichi Sato (The Floating Castle)
Teruyuki Kagawa (Key of Life)
Kengo Kora (Drudgery Train)
Mirai Moriyama (A Chorus of Angels)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Shinobu Terajim (Heruta Skelter)
Ryoko Hirosue (Key of Life)
Akira Mitsushima (A Chorus of Angels)
Aoi Miyazaki (Chronicle of My Mother)
Kimiko Yo (Dearest)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Saki Takei (Rurouni Kenshin, Today, I Started Loving You)
Fumi Nikaido (Holy Scripture of Evil)
Shota Someya (The Kirashima Thing, Another, Holy Scripture of Evil)
Masahiro Higashide (The Kirashima Thing)
Changmin (Fly With The Gold)
Matsuzaka Tori (Shizanmono, Today, I Started Loving You)

BEST FOREIGN FILM
Argo
The Intouchables
The Dark Knight Rises
The Girl with Dragon Tattoo

Source: Japan Academy Prize