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Anime DVD Reviews

My Neighbor TotoroMy Neighbor Totoro (DVD)
Hayao Miyazaki has been on the top spot for this website far too many times, and for good reason. This is it. This is the movie. This may be the greatest movie ever made, of any kind, in any genre, ever. There is no excuse not to see this movie. We shouldn't even bother writing a review, as an anime fan, you are obligated to not only have seen this multiple times times already, but to be touting it to every person (living or dead) you've ever met.

Beloved anime! My Neighbor Totoro has become one of the most beloved of all family films without ever having been much promoted or advertised. It's a perennial best seller on video. On the Internet Movie Database, it's voted the fifth best family film of all time, right behind "Toy Story 2" and ahead of "Shrek". Roger Ebert considers this to be one of the best movies ever made (it's on his list of the top 100 films of all time). Totoro is simply a masterpiece of filmic storytelling and is most definitely one of the greatest anime films ever. You'll run out of superlatives before you're done just trying to describe the first five minutes. And then there's the cat-bus...

Urusei Yatsura Movie 2Urusei Yatsura Movie 2:
Beautiful Dreamer (DVD)

Those of you not already familiar with the characters and situations created by Rumiko Takahashi may find this movie a bit strange. Those of you, however, who know anything at all about Lum and Ataru will find this to be one of the most thought-provoking, mind-twisting and all around coolest of the half-dozen or so Urusei Yatsura movies.

We LOVE Lum!Directed by none other than Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Angel's Egg, Patlabor), he brings his particular insight to the characters, along with his now patented formula for giving the viewer a trip through a nightmare unlike any other you'll every experience. With his love of using film-technique to play with time, space, reality and perception, Oshii weaves a tapesty that ultimately traps you like a spider's web. In 1984, when the film first came out, it was a true blast - after the first viewing we were so disoriented we could no longer determine what was real. It's like taking drugs, but much safer. And the ringing of that high-school bell is now somehow... ominous.

Fushigi YugiFushigi Yugi - The Mysterious Play -
Volume 1 (DVD Set)

If you enjoy Sailor Moon, if you are looking for a story that's going to suck you into it so deeply that you may not leave home until you're done watching, if you want to see the interactions of characters that will live with you for the rest of your life, then Fushigi Yugi may be for you. Like the "Aha" music video "Take On Me", the characters are drawn into a book (Universe of the Four Gods), and director Hajime Kamegaki uses limited animation to his advantage to place the action as if they were panels in a comic book. Sometimes it is more like watching the Manga that this DVD set originated from.

Purple hair and cool characters...The DVD set contains the entire first season — all 26 episodes, on four dual-layer DVD discs, and they still have room enough to also include some extras, such as an Image Gallery, Character Information, and provide dual-language capability. This excellent Shoujo anime series really combines the best features of Sailormoon and Card Captor Sakura. And when you're done crying your eyes out over how wonderful it all is, make sure to grab season two!

MetropolisMetropolis (DVD)
Director Rin Taro takes Osamu Tezuka's epic manga METROPOLIS (giving more than a nod to the Fritz Lang film of the same name), and attempts to condense it down to a movie format of under 2 hours, which is a daunting task alone. Additionally the movie breaks new ground in melding computer and cel animation in spectacularly innovative ways. Borrowing heavily from Blade Runner as well as Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo wrote the screenplay), Rin Taro tries to bring all of the Tezuka subplot, intrigue and idea-laden brilliance, but somehow it all gets lost in the opulent visuals. Only on the third or fourth viewing will you begin to understand it all.

Breathtaking Animation!It's wonderful to see the classic Tezuka characters animated with this much money behind them, but we must admit that they clash somewhat with all that high-tech 3-D. Nevertheless the film overall is a spectacle, and needs to be seen just for all the work involved - the art direction and design of the film are breathtaking. However, if you really want to delve deeply into the poignant issues presented within the story, read Tezuka's manga instead. This DVD also includes a second "Pocket DVD" which includes some really cool extras.

Operation CondorJackie Chan: Operation Condor (DVD)
Jackie Chan is currently a big star here in the USA with films like Rush Hour and his currently-in-theaters The Tuxedo, but here's one of his best films ever, and certainly one of his funniest.

Jackie and a lovely co-star...One of the most expensive movies ever made in Hong Kong, Operation Condor is a globe trotting spectacle of a secret agent on the trail of hidden Nazi gold. The action and comedy are kept to pace, no point of the film ever feels dull, and credit for that must also fall to his lovely co-stars. But make no mistake, the action is all-out wild and hysterical culminating in the best kung-fu fight ever done — inside a Nazi wind-tunnel with people flying through the air, and a V-1 on a cart moving back and forth. You must see it to understand, words simply cannot do justice.

Overall the film is lots of fun, keeps the entertainment value high, and, while not as polished as his Hollywood-made vehicles, seems more like what a 'real' Jackie Chan film is all about. And, yes of course, some of the best parts of the film are the out-takes shown during the closing credits.


 
 Anime.com Recommended Books:
 Akira Manga, Volume 1Akira Manga, Volume 1
Kaneeedaaa! Tetsuuuooo! Here's where it all began, the epic of epics, the most well-known anime of all time -- and the most popular Manga ever created. The Akira movie's 2-hour rollercoaster of action scratched the mere surface of the depth of the Manga. You really have to read the comic book if you're going to appreciate the quality of the storytelling and the magnificense of Katsuhiro Otomo's artwork. His work is incredible. Most Manga artists are renowned for their level of detail, but Otomo's is simply outstanding. The amount of work put into every panel makes you wonder how (even with assistants to help) he ever made any of his publishing deadlines.

Spanning over 2000 pages across 6 volumes, the series is recommended for mature audiences only, for graphic violence and gore, profanity, and nudity. Besides, to even begin to understand all the factional infighting that takes place around the central characters (many of whom only have small cameo appearances within the film), you probably need a Masters Degree in Politcial Science.

This series is a true landmark in science fiction storytelling, and I highly reccomend it to anyone who's ever wanted to read a thought provoking, action packed, and genuinely startling story that will keep you turning the pages until you hit the back cover. After this you'll need to grab the next volume!

The Films of Akira KurosawaThe Films of Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa isn't just the master of Japanese cinema, he's one of the great masters of filmmaking, worldwide. His work is up there with Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and other all-time-great directors. His work has so influenced other filmmakers that many classic films we know and love pay homage to his work in every other shot.

Here is a chance to read a terrific study of Kurosawa's films by the foremost critic of Japanese cinema and a man who had a personal acquaintance with the filmmaker. Newly revised and updated, this classic study now covers all of Kurosawa's films, surveying an extraordinary 50 year career. If you have any interest in Japanese cinema or in the art of movies in general, you can't go wrong viewing Kurosawa's films. Ritchie's book will guide you through them, teaching you about the man and his genius.

Gundam: Official GuideGundam: Official Guide
The Gundam multi-verse is now one of the most complex in all of anime. Gundam features a plethora of films, OVAs, limted series, multiple series that tie together, and the occasional series that doesn't even seem to take place anywhere in the same overall timeline, Gundam can seem like a confusing mess to a newcomer.

The Gundam Official Guide is one of the most thorough and informative books to cover the Gundam universe. The book covers every single TV series, OVA, and theatrical film to be based upon Gundam, regardless if it has been officialy released in the USA. For each series you'll find a glossary of terms, statistics of all the characters and Mobile Suits presented, as well as how the Universal Century timeline coincides with that series.

The book also briefly introduces you to some of the more noteworthy Gundam side stories — a collection of semi-official spinoffs, which include videogames, comics and graphic novels. There's also a decent amount of science and history explained from the universe.

Music and Soundtrack Selections:
 Film Score: Spirited AwayMiyazaki's Spirited Away, (Film Score)
It's Jo Hisaishi, what more do you need to know? As the soundtrack composer for every Miyazaki film since Nausicca, it's a given that the soundtrack will be everything you've ever dreamed of and more. And Sprited Away, currently playing in theaters and probably available on DVD next month, is the latest yardstick by which we define the word masterpiece.

His eccletic blend of Japanese modal tones and western neo-classicalism, synthesizer and quiet piano bring an ineffable flavor that is often imitated and never duplicated. When you hear his work, you know it's his work. And this particular soundtrack may be one of his strongest (we refuse to say his best, we still reserve that for his Laputa Soundtrack!). However, it's just so damn good that even his second best is light-years better than just about everything else out there.





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