Friday, April 22, 2011

Neon Genesis Evangelion

So seeing as this is probably going to be my last blog entry, I thought I'd save my favorite animated series for last. This series is one of the reasons I got so into animation in the first place. It's called Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is at first glance, a typical giant robot show. It's premise is that in the year 2000 (the series aired from 1995 to 1996) a meteor struck Antarctica, flooding the Earth, and killing half the human population. Afterwards, these giant monsters referred to as Angels begin attacking humanity. The only thing which can fight the Angels are these giant robots called Evangelions. And the only people who can pilot the Evangelions are three teenagers named Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, and Asuka Soryu.

The first thing that stands out about Neon Genesis Evangelion (commonly referred to as "Eva") is that the designs of the Angels are some of the most creative monster designs I've ever seen. The designs captivate you, and do to the fact that the Angels regularly defy physics, each episode's fight with an Angel is intense and exciting to watch.

Above: An Evangelion fighting an Angel

However, the main appeal about Eva is the characters. Like I said, at first glance, Eva appears to be a pretty typical giant robot show. However, as time goes on, you see that it's really a psychological examination of the characters. Each of the characters has mental and emotional issues, and this eventually becomes the main drama of the series, with the Angels and the whole question of why they exist becoming sort of a subplot.

Basically, the main theme of Eva is an examination of alienation, depression and the distance humans put between each other. The series creator, Hideaki Anno, was depressed at the time he created the series and it shows throughout the series. As the series goes on, it gets more and more disturbing. When it first aired it was originally on primetime. Eventually, it had to be moved to a timeslot after midnight because it would have been too disturbing to air on primetime.

The whole trend of the series becoming more dark also applies to the animation. Eventually, the animation becomes so twisted that it can only be described as postmodern. The animation is also rife with religious symbolism, and many a person has tried to analyze all of the symbolism in Eva. The concluding movie to the series, End of Evangelion, looks like it was made on acid. In fact, here's my approximate reaction when I first started the series and when it ended:

Beginning of the Series: "Huh, this looks like a pretty typical giant robot show. I wonder what's the big deal?"
End of Evangelion: "...WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH?"

Eva made a huge impression on me when I first watched it, mainly because I could relate in a way to many of the characters, and its whole plot left me speechless. Countless people have felt the same way after viewing it. Neon Genesis Evangelion made a huge impact when it aired, and it continues to influence animation to this day. Everyone should watch it, if only to view one of the most iconic anime series of all time.

On one final note, Hideaki Anno has recently started making a remake of the series, in the form of four movies, called Rebuild of Evangelion. It's undoubtedly influenced by the fact that Hideaki Anno has grown a lot as a person in the fifteen years since Eva first aired, and is now happily married with a daughter. The focus is no longer on psychological drama. Instead, its main appeal is that many of the Angel fights are now redone with amazing animation and CGI, and many characters spend less time contemplating their emotional issues, and more time fighting Angels. In addition, neglected characters from the series seem to be getting more character development so far. Two movies are already out on DVD and Blu-Ray, and two more are planned. However, I wouldn't recommend watching Rebuild of Evangelion before the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series. Rebuild has its own appeal, but its much better to appreciate when you've already seen the series. Finally, I hope you love the series as much as I did.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show

Like many kids of our generation, I would religiously watch Cartoon Network. Those shows defined our childhood and it's shame that so many kids cartoons pale today pale in comparison to past cartoons. And without a doubt, my favorite show on Cartoon Network was Ed, Edd n Eddy. I used to spend countless afternoons watching it. Of course, it's been years since I watched it, but when I heard that Ed Edd n Eddy only recently ended, and that it concluded with a hour and thirty minute long movie called Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show, I had to check it out.

The whole movie's basically about the Eds fleeing town after one of their scams goes awry, and going off to find Eddy's brother. The movie perfectly concludes the series. First off, the movie is worth watching for the first twenty minutes along, in what is probably the most epic car chase ever. I don't want to give too much away but let's just say it has all of the slapstick humor that made me love Ed Edd n Eddy as a kid. As for concluding the series, it does a great job at that since we finally get to see Eddy's frequently-mentioned older brother and an ending where the Eds actually win for once.

 When the movie was over I did feel a bit sad, since one of my favorite shows from childhood was now officially over. Still, as a whole, watching it made me experience an awesome feeling of nostalgia.

So yeah, if you want a huge hit of nostalgia, go watch Ed Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show. Amazingly, the whole movie is available on Youtube. So I'm guessing that with all their new, crappy shows, Cartoon Network doesn't really care if someone violates their copyright on Ed, Edd n Eddy.

Friday, April 1, 2011


A young man stands in his bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April, is this young man's birthday. Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name!

What will the name of this young man be?

Okay, so today I'm not going to blog about an animated series, but a webcomic called Homestuck. A few of my friends from high school read it and had been bugging me for a long time to read it, but I was put off by its length. About two months ago, I finally set down to read it, and I was not dissapointed.

Homestuck is described by its creator, Andrew Hussie, as "A tale about a boy and his friends and a game they play together". It's basic premise is that four kids receive a game called SBURB, which allows them to manipulate their environment in a way similar to The Sims. It starts off feeling sort of like a deconstruction of The Sims. But then they notice that a certain object from the game starts a countdown when activated. And then meteors start impacting the Earth. Before they know it, the Earth has been destroyed in the Apocalypse and the kids find themselves transported to a new dimension. And as the kids begin to learn the true nature of the game, SBURB, it only gets more and more complicated.

The thing that may put people off about Homestuck is its complexity and length. It's basically the webcomic equivalent of Lost. The thing is though, it gets incrementally better, so I would keep reading more if you're not liking the current pacing. Andrew Hussie writes occasional recaps so readers can grasp everything that's going on but otherwise, it can be hard to follow. As for its length, it updates nearly every day. And it has been updating since April 2009. Since each update is usually multiple pages, its current length is around...5500 PAGES. Yeah, needless to say, it took me weeks to get caught up.

One cool thing about Homestuck is that while the art is pretty simplistic, it uses more media than other webcomics. Andrew Hussie will occasionally create flash animation and even flash games and the result is some of the best flash animation I've seen on the internet. He'll also occasionally release whole soundtracks for the webcomic, made by numerous artists. It ends up drawing you in more than your average webcomic.
For two good examples of the flashes (which don't spoil the plot) watch these:

So, if you have time on you hands, I would definitely recommend reading Homestuck. The first page can be found here:

Oh, and here's an image I found to give you a basic idea of the plot:

Friday, March 25, 2011


So, anyone who watches Adult Swim I hope has seen Superjail!. But if not, I think I should blog about what is one of the best shows on Adult Swim right now.

So, Superjail! takes place inside a giant prison that is inside a volcano, which is inside another volcano.  The jail is run by the Warden, who is basically a demented Willy Wonka. He's assisted in running the jail by Jared, his neurotic yes man, a killer robot named Jailbot and a transsexual prison guard named Alice. As for the prisoners of Superjail, there aren't many recurring characters, besides two creepy genius twins and a knife-wielding psychopath named Jackknife.

The main characteristic of Superjail is that it seems like the Warden can bend the laws of time and space to his will in order to control the inmates. Such as dressing the inmates up in wolf costumes which causes them to turn into werewolves during a full moon.

The main appeal of Superjail! is the deranged animation and the over the top graphic violence. Each episode ends with nearly all of the prisoners being killed in a gruesome bloodbath, each of them being given a unique death. I'd be surprised if this WASN'T made while on drugs.

The only real flaw of Superjail! is that each episode is only fifteen minutes long. But in that time you still get to see some of the most creative animation I've ever seen. So definitely watch it on Adult Swim if you're not already. And it's getting a second season which is going to premiere on April 3.

And just so you can get a feel for it, because really, it's almost hard to describe, here's a link to the pilot episode:

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This movie is based on a novel by award-winning author Neil Gaiman. I remember buying this book back in middle school at the scholastic book fair and I loved every moment of it. When I saw a movie based on the book was coming out in 2009 I couldn't wait for an adaption of one of my favorite childhood books. And when I finally saw it in theaters I was not disappointed.

Coraline is about a young girl named Coraline Jones who has recently moved into a new house. She finds life constantly boring and is annoyed by the lack of attention her parents give her. However, one afternoon she finds a hidden door that is mysteriously bricked up. Later that night, she follows mice to the door, which is now open, and leads to a more fantastic version of her world. The world is an exact copy of her house but with its residents more lively, more delicious food, toys which are alive, and animate plants. There also lives the Other Mother, an exact copy of Coraline's mother but with button eyes, and who promises to give Coraline anything she wants. However, she is also intent on making sure Coraline stays with her forever.

Looking back, I'm almost surprised the book was marketed to children because it gets consistently more creepy as it goes on. The movie is exactly the same way, and the ending scene is downright nightmare fuel. I heard numerous children crying when I saw it in theaters. It gives the film a great feel though, oftentimes feeling like a modern day Grimm's Fairy Tale, and its nice to see an animated film which isn't worried about scaring kids.

What really makes the film stand out is that it's probably one of the greatest pieces of stop-motion animation ever produced. Stop-motion is a type of animation where objects are moved in small increments and photographed between frames, giving the appearance of motion. The amount of detail they show in the world which is created is incredible, and makes you appreciate how much patience the animators must have had. One short "making of Coraline" videos released prior to the film's release, shows one artist using knitting needles the size of human hairs to create the clothes of the characters. In contrast to most other animated works, there's very little computer generated imagery, its done almost entirely in stop-motion. To get an appreciation of the skill it must have taken to animate the film this way, just watch the trailer:

What's also notable about the film is that its directed by Henry Selick (not Tim Burton), the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And it was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was also the first stop-motion film shot in 3D and I'm really glad I had the chance to see it in 3D when it was playing in theaters. Overall, Coraline is definitely worth checking out. Both for its exquisite story and for its amazing stop motion animation

Friday, March 4, 2011


Get ready for some of the trippiest animation you'll ever seen in your life.

Paprika takes place in the near future where a device called a DC allows people to enter other people's dreams. And yes, I know this sounds similar to Inception but Paprika actually came out four years prior to Inception. The device is used as a type of psychotherapy treatment, with one researcher, named Dr Atsuko Chiba, assuming a persona in the dream world with a completely different personality named Paprika, which she uses to treat people. However, a prototype portable version of the device, called the DC Mini, is stolen and is missing a safeguard which basically prevents people's minds from being hacked. Soon, people start going insane as a dream from a schizophrenic patient invades their minds, and people's perception of reality begins to unravel.

As I mentioned, one of the main appeals of Paprika is the trippy animation. It honestly looks like it was made while on drugs. The dream from the schizophrenic patient I mentioned? Here's what It looks like:

Most of this has to do with the film being about the nature of dreams. In the dream world the laws of physics are constantly broken and the setting of the dream world shifts nearly every minute. As the film goes on, the viewer can no longer tell what is reality and what is the dreamworld anymore.

The director of this film, Satoshi Kon, was an absolute genius, who had frequently been compared to Hayao Miyazaki and had won numerous awards. I would highly recommend anything by him, especially one film, Millennium Actress, which I may blog about at a later date. What's tragic is that he died of pancreatic cancer last May at the age of 46, thereby depriving the world of one of the most talented directors to ever live.

All in all, if you're looking for something trippy to watch, I would definitely recommend Paprika. And while the nature of dreams is the main theme of the film, don't expect it to be like Inception.

Friday, February 25, 2011


"Nothing amazing happens here. Everything is ordinary"

This is one of the first lines in the series FLCL, spoken by the protagonist Naota. This is despite the fact that he lives in a town which is home to a giant robotics factory which resembles an iron. Later, he nearly gets run over by a maniac girl on a Vespa named Haruko Haruhara, who also hits him on the head with a Rickenbacker bass guitar. From the bump on his head from where he got hit with the bass guitar, a giant robot eventually pops out. And this is all in the first episode. And the series only gets weirder from there.

 While there is sort of a space opera-type plot in the background of FLCL, it's very hard to make out. And honestly, it's unimportant. The main appeal of FLCL is just how goddamn wacky it is. As the show gets weirder and more insane it constantly leaves you laughing with its cartoonish antics and the fourth wall being consistently broken.  In fact, Adult Swim said that this is their favorite anime to air and described it in a commercial thus: "Don't worry, it'll start making sense soon... Well, that's not really true, but it keeps getting better and better and better".

A popular rumor is that the series was created by the animation studio, Gainax, to test out new animation techniques. And it shows. The animation style is very erratic and resembles Loony Tunes in a lot of ways. It's constantly shifting between art styles, at one point turning into manga panels and at another point turning into the art style of South Park.

If anything clear can be said about the plot of FLCL, it's that it's mainly a coming of a age story. Although a very weird one. The main character, Naota, is a middle schooler who is entering high school next year, and is  constantly serious and trying to act like an adult. Eventually, after all of the crazy events of the series, he comes to realize that he should enjoy being a kid while it lasts. The strong characterization in the show has helps lend to its appeal.

Another notable thing about FLCL is that it has a very nice original soundtrack by the Japanese alternative rock group, The Pillows. The ending theme in particular is very catchy and the music tends to fit the animation very well. I liked it so much that I have the entire soundtrack on my iPod.

The only real disappointment about FLCL is that it's only six episodes. Although, even that's not too bad because it allows you to watch the whole series in around three hours. And they manage to pack a lot of crazy into those six episodes. All in all, if you're looking for a fun, wacky series to watch, you can't go wrong with FLCL. It recently came out on Blu-Ray and DVD, and is also available as an HD download on iTunes.

Oh, and here's the trailer:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kino's Journey

So, I watched this series about a year or two year ago. It's not very well know but it's without a doubt one of my favorite series. My only regret is that it's only 13 episodes long, and that it never got a second season.

The main premise is that a traveler named Kino journeys from country to country with her talking motorcycle Hermes, learning about the culture of each country she visits. She makes a point of only staying in a country for three days, to avoid settling down. What's nice about the show is that its premise means that each episode tends to be its own self-contained story rather than part of an overarching plot. Like I said, I only wish there were more episodes. While this means that there isn't much character development of Kino, it tends to be a very relaxing series to watch. I remember feeling stressed out and depressed during the time I watched this, and I was always eager to watch this show as a way to de-stress after school.

Now, while the show is for the most part very relaxing to watch, there tends to be a huge mood shift between episodes. One episode for instance, has Kino having to fight to the death in a coliseum, while in the next episode, Kino helps a girl build an airplane. Some episodes are light-hearted but most tend to be somewhat violent or disturbing. The countries Kino visits tend to have a dark side to them but at the same time, Kino also encounters people who remind her that the world isn't such a bad place. A phrase frequently repeated throughout the series is, "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is".

Don't be put off when I say it tends to be disturbing, it doesn't really lessen its mood, and tends to make you think. The setting has a great fairy-tale like feel to it, and each of the countries Kino visits tends to be really interesting, with some bordering on science fiction, and others feeling like the 19th century. The soundtrack for this series is also very beautiful and helps to enhance the relaxed feel of the show. So all in all, if you're in the mood to watch something relaxing, I would definitely recommend this show.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Place Promised in Our Early Days

Okay, as a guy, I don't normally like romance films. They usually seem cliched to me and tend to bore me. However, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is one of the rare exceptions.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days takes place in alternate timeline where Japan has been divided into two nations, with the main island of Honshu occupied by the United States and the northern island of Hokkaido occupied the Soviet Union. On the southern tip of Hokkaido, the government has built a mysterious tower that is so tall that it is visible from Tokyo. By the time of the story's beginning, the two nations are gearing up for war.

 The story begins with two boys, Hiroki and Takuya, in their last year of middle school. They live on the northern tip of Honshu, where the tower is right across the Tsugara Strait to the north. Fascinated by the tower, they begin building a plane to one day visit it. As they build the plane, they become close friends with a girl named Sayuri, whom they promise to bring with them when they visit the tower. That is, until Sayuri disappears over the summer.

I can't reveal much more of the plot without spoiling the whole movie, but let me assure you, this is one of the most heart-breaking films I've ever watched. I'm not afraid to say that I was crying by the end of this film.

The director of the film, Makoto Shinkai, is an absolute genius who has frequently been referred to as "The Next Miyazaki". All of his films deal with the themes of childhood love and separation from the ones you love, so all are heartbreaking to watch. So, I would also recommend his other two films, 5cm Per Second and Voices of a Distant Star, although this is without a doubt my favorite film by him.

The film is also notable in that the animation is absolutely beautiful and suits the mood of the film perfectly. Especially the backgrounds, which are so beautiful that they deserve to hang in an art museum. The background for this blog is actually from one of Makoto Shinkai's other films, 5cm Per Second. And for your viewing pleasure, here's some of the backgrounds from The Place Promised in Our Early Days.

So overall, I would recommend this film as being one of the few romance movies I've enjoyed, that is both heartbreaking and beautiful to watch. Not to mention it has an amazing soundtrack, with a beautiful violin solo getting special mention. For those of you with Netflix, it is available on instant play.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Secret of Kells

So, I watched this film about a year ago and it is without a doubt one of my favorite films. I also think it is one of the most spectacular animated films produced in animated years. It's an Irish film called The Secret of Kells, which unfortunately never saw wide release in the US.

The Secret of Kells is a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, one of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts ever created. Set in the time of the viking raids, an abbot named Cellach is obsessed with building a wall to protect a monastery from viking raiders. Cellach expects his nephew Brendan to continue his work when he's gone, but Brendan is mainly interested in illuminating manuscripts. He is told the story of Aidan of Iona, a master illuminator who fled a viking raid with what is supposed to be a beautiful illuminated manuscript. Aidan later comes to the monastery, takes Brendan under his wing, and asks Brendan to venture into the forest to look for gall nuts to make ink. Despite being forbidden to do so by the Abbot, Brendan ventures into the forest where he meets a forest spirit named Aisling.

The film is notable in two ways. First, the animation is some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. In today's world, it is one of the few 2D animation films in a sea of 3D animation, which is wonderful to see again. The drawings are remarkably detailed, as the above image shows, and simply needs to be seen to understand just how great it is.

The plot of the film is great, in that it draws from Irish history and mythology. Aisling is supposed to be a type of Irish fairy called the Tuatha De Danann, and at one point Brendan battles a pre-Christian Irish deity called the Crom Cruach. All of this gives the film an enchanting feel.

The Secret of Kells was actually nominated for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Pixar's Up. I've always felt it should have won, not only because it's an enchanting film, but because in an age when the animation industry is utterly dominated by 3D animation, it's important that awesome 2D animation is awarded, so that the art does not die out. After all, most of the greatest films in animated history, and nearly all the films of our childhood, were hand drawn.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dragon Ball

So, on a whim, my roommate decided to download this last night. While I should have been doing a homework, I decided to watch this instead out of a sense of nostalgia. And now I have a blog post out of it.

I'm sure most of us here watched Dragon Ball Z on Toonami when we were young, so I'm not going to bother to explain the premise. However, I'm pretty sure less people watched Dragon Ball Z's predecessor series, Dragon Ball. At least I know I did.

Dragon Ball's first season starts off with us meeting Goku as a kid. He soon runs into Bulma, who is looking for the seven Dragon Balls. Goku happens to have one, so she enlists his help as she goes looking for the Dragon Balls. Along the way, they meet several characters familiar to anyone who watched Dragon Ball Z as a kid, such as Yamcha, Oolong, Puar, Chi Chi and Master Roshi.

The first thing I noticed about Dragonball is that several of the characters who barely did anything in Dragon Ball Z, such as Yamcha and Bulma, serve much more important roles in Dragonball. It's nice to see characters who you tend to think of as useless actually do something.

Another thing I noticed about Dragonball is that it's much more light-hearted and silly in tone compared to Dragon Ball Z. One episode, for instance, deals with the gang saving a village from a rabbit who turns people into carrots. It's a pretty big difference from Dragon Ball Z, where every episode seemed to decide the fate of the universe.

Overall, if you're expecting Dragon Ball to be as intense as Dragon Ball Z, you'll be pretty disappointed. But if you just want something light-hearted to watch (or just want to experience a nostalgia rush) then definitely watch Dragon Ball. I guarantee you'll enjoy it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Regular Show


So this is a show both I and my roommate love to watch. It's known simply as "Regular Show" despite the fact that the main characters are a giant blue jay and raccoon named Mordecai and Rigby respectively, a talking gumball machine named Benson, a giant lollipop named Pops and a yeti named Skips.

So its basic premise is that Mordecai and Rigby are two twenty-something slacker types who work for Benson as groundskeepers at a public park. Through their slacking off they somehow inadvertently manage to summon inter-dimensional monsters or just generally cause chaos through other means:

...such as summoning David Bowie in a white El Camino from the sky...

...or transporting people to the moon through a magical keyboard...

While the show would be funny just for the weird as fuck situations the main characters get into, the dialogue is also very well-written, and is filled with many quotable lines, such as the one for the above image.

A lot of times, it feels like a stoner show (hell, it would be a wonder if the show wasn't made while on drugs) and it makes you wonder why the show airs on Cartoon Network rather than on Adult Swim. Hell, even the creators seem to lampshade this:

It's amazing that the creator, J.G. Quintel, was able to get a show green-lighted by Cartoon Network in the first place, considering he produced this cartoon as a student:

Overall, this is quite possibly one of the most amusing shows I've ever watched. The only real shame about it is that each episode is only 15 minutes long. A new episode airs each Monday night at 8:15 on Cartoon Network.