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Anime RoundupBy Oliver Chin
In a summer of prequels and sequels, it's nice to fall back on the enjoying variety that anime producers continue to provide. As others carp about the sartorial failings of a Jack Ryan replacement, the timeline tampering with web slinging nostalgia, or the sacrilege at creating a digital Muppet on a sugar rush, anime fans can rest easy. They know that the latest releases will reliably depict a wide range of science fiction and fantasy, which they can sample at their own pace and pleasure.
Here are some current offerings that cover the major poles of adaptations from manga titles and continuations from a well-known feature or series.
The mission of the clandestine ARCAM Foundation is to find and secure mystical artifacts the world over. And now on a distant Turkish peak, it has located Noah's Ark. Unfortunately, if this discovery falls into the wrong hands, the human race may be doomed. Lucky for us, the #1 Japanese Spriggan operative is on his way, high-school student Yu Ominae.
Battling a splinter group from the US Pentagon, he may be overmatched by chain-gun wielding and garrote-whipping cyborgs, and the ferocious psychic power of a rogue Colonel. But aided by his fellow French agent, augmented battle-suit, and never-say-die spirit, Ominae may be civilization's last hope. Will the enemy unlock the omnipotent secrets of the Ark, or can this Spriggan overcome his dark past to thwart their evil plans?
Based on the manga series named Striker, this feature (AD Vision, $29.98, 90 minutes) goes the typical route of condensing a longer string of stories. True to the comics series, the fighting sequences are amazingly rendered in rousing detail, with bullets, bodies, and blood flying in all directions. Action fans will sate their appetites for destruction, and manage to tolerate the pseudo-scientific conclusion. Even though the ending implodes, the hyper-kinetic mayhem which pulses non-stop through the show will supply action-junkies their desired adrenaline rush.
1b. Love Hina
Representing lonely, daydreaming bachelors everywhere, Keitaro Urashima finds himself in quite a dilemma. Unable to pass the exam to get into Tokyo University, he decides to hit the books yet again. Now he will focus his thoughts in the country while working at his grandmother's inn. However grandma makes good on her vow to give Keitaro an experience he'll never forget.
No one told him she was retiring, the inn was now a girl's dorm (complete with hot spring), and that his childhood sweetheart Naru was a resident! Now can this undersized, unsure and oversexed nerd survive in a house teeming with girls? Can he gain their trust, posing as a student of a school that has never admitted him?
A big hit in Japan, this multi-volume show (Bandai, $29.98, 100 minutes) fine tunes the formula of fulfilling male fantasies: one hapless man fending off throngs of young women in various state of undress. As a slickly produced lowbrow comedy it hits the mark, but appeals to a viewer's sensibility far beneath his brain. Some may get a rise out of the slapstick hi-jinks, whereas others may find the T&A teen spirit hitting below the mark.
2a. The End of Evangelion
Though the fan-favorite series has finished running its course a while ago, the fervor lives on. As a result, the hard-core loyalists can get a double dose of the controversial ending with Death and Rebirth, and The End of Evanglion later this fall. The latter (Manga, 87 minutes) supplies the final two of the series 26 episodes and alternate original ending.
In this climax, the Earth's secret military tribunal Seele decides to attack NERV, once they discover its leader's ultimate and threatening plan to use the Evangelions, giant robots piloted by a select group of 14-year olds. The organization that successfully defended the Earth against the alien invaders known as the Angels, now finds itself driven to the brink destruction by their own people. Now the question becomes now whether the teens Asuka, Rei, and Shinji save the day, but whether they can save their own humanity.
To learn the fate of beloved characters (who lives, who dies and why) and humanity itself comes with a big price to pay. Viewers have to swallow Director Hideaki Anno's expansive, emotional, and esoteric vision. It is a payload packed with alternating doses of unbridled violence, introspective pauses pregnant with profundity, live-action collages, experimental imagery, and an overdose of seemingly random riffs on Judeo-Christianity. After a while, individuals will decide for themselves whether becoming uncomfortable was the means to understand that the End was to stop making sense.
2b. Armitage - Dual Matrix
In a subdued sequel to the hard charging "Poly-Matrix", our feisty heroine Armitage returns to battle a mad scientist and his evil androids. Now a happy homemaker with her partner Ross Sylibus, formerly of the Martian Police, Armitage must protect her young daughter Yoko…and you know how bad angry mommas can be.
A mysterious group wants to eliminate all evidence of the covert project to create more "Third Type" cyborgs, but find the secret of how Armitage was able to create a human offspring. Unfortunately, that rubs our female avenger the wrong way, as she tries to uncover the conspiracy. Meanwhile Ross, now a security guard, is drawn into the controversial robot's rights movement and must hold down the fort against two deadly clones of Armitage herself. Can the real deal prove her mettle against this pair of razor bladed, roller-skating robots, who have been engineered to be her superiors?
The production design and product packaging are top notch in the special edition (Pioneer, $29.98, DVD, 90 minutes), which is also available as a double disc set with its predecessor. However this hints at how this show is more shine than substance. The central issue is how can a robot have a will to live than overrides its mechanical function. Curiously, the script is devoid of the same spirit. Though it includes the requisite elements that made Poly-Matrix memorable, it depends too heavily on the viewer's familiarity with the first movie, as the characters break little new emotional ground. The animation is slick and stylish, but missing soul of the machine.