Thursday, November 29, 2001

Vision of Escaflowne OST 3


Credits: Yoko Kanno.

SHOPPING:
Escaflowne Manga and Artbooks
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DVD
Original Soundtrack
Track Listing:
  1. Short Notice
  2. Arcadia
  3. Epistle
  4. Farewell
  5. Aoi Hitomi (Blue Eyes)
  6. Perfect World
  7. I Recommend Instincts
  8. Scrappy
  9. Shrilly
  10. Revenge
  11. Illusion
  12. Blaze
  13. Fatal
  14. Hikari no Naka E (Into the Light)
  15. Again


Enjoy even without the visual experience >>> by firesenshi
If I had to choose just one anime OST from my collection, it would definitely be this album. Escaflowne Original Soundtrack 3 packs many of the most unforgettable and most poignant tunes heard throughout the entire tv series. Not particularly surprising, since these are the songs that colored the closing of a timeless story. As a fan who listened to the tracks, I could hear the endearing beat of memories flooding in once again--as if bidding me a last feel of the fictuous world that is Gaia before the curtains drop for the final time. Take for example, the songs Farewell and Arcadia. Their quiet and subdued tones remind us of the tearful and somber moods that took place in the later parts of the story. In the fast-paced beats of Epistle we are reminded of the final battles that Escaflowne fought against its enemies. And in Fatal we hear nothing but the whistling of Folken. The impact of this track comes in its utter simplicity--the mysterious calmness in the rise and fall of the whistled melody and the dying of its echo. Beautiful.

Anime OSTs usually need to be experienced before one can fully appreciate it, but such is not the case with this album. You don't have to be a fan of Vision of Escaflowne to love this. Not at all. You don't even have to watch the series itself (although I'd recommend it to any anime fan looking for a good watch). Hell, you could care less about anime and still know that this is good music. I know for sure because I've played it several times not only in the privacy of my own home, but also in public--and it actually made people stop and remark in praises. This includes my own mother, who is eternally opposed to my "weird, Japanese hobby". The look of surprise on her face, when I smugly told her that the album is from an anime, was priceless.

Then again, this is no ordinary anime soundtrack. This album is a collection of songs arranged and composed by Yoko Kanno, a true genius and master of her craft. Also, there is Maaya Sakamoto (then only 16 years old) who dished out the cream of the crop--Aoi Hitomi and Hikari no Naka E . Her voice, though young and mostly devoid of vocal acrobatics, is genuine talent. Along with a simple string accompaniment (for the main melody), she effectively captures the lighthearted wistfulness of Aoi Hitomi, singing of a cherished yet short-lived relationship. In Hikari no Naka E, she sings of farewell, her young voice once again bringing to mind the pain of ending an equally young love. Both songs embody the emotions of lead character Hitomi Kanzaki, when she experienced the thrills and the utter confusion in falling deeply for someone.

This album takes you for a ride through the final moments of the story that unfolded in the tv series. It draws you deep into the fictional world of its characters and lets you relive the romance of Gaia. It would be such a shame to miss it, so try not to.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Dragon Ball Z Movie 4: Lord Slug


Genre: Action / Fantasy
Parental Guidance Recommended
1991 Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, Fuji TV




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Cover Description:
The end of the world is fast approaching, in the form of a giant asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Not if Goku has anything to say about it! Goku and Krillin race to the rescue. Using their incredible powers, they narrowly deflect the asteroid from its deadly course. The Earth is saved... or is it?

A dark vessel descends from the surface of the asteroid, carrying a powerful new enemy - the evil overlord, Lord Slug. His forces have come to take control of the Earth and steal its natural resources, only in the process they intend to wipe out the entire human race! And when Lord Slug discovers the seven magic Dragon Balls, it seems nothing can stop his diabolical plans from coming to pass!

Now that Lord Slug has the power of Dragon Balls in his grasp, can even Goku save the Earth from the clutches of this mysterious invader?

Darth Paul set out a trap! >>> by skysenshi
This is torture! When my brother Darth Paul said he could not stand this title long enough to write an opinion, he wasn't kidding. Making me watch Lord Slug must be sort of a sibling prank.

First of all, I would just like to state that the English dubbing of the version that I just watched is definitely not from any country whose people are fluent in English. I'm pretty sure the dub actors didn't come from my country, despite the fact that English is not our primary language either. Most of them were talking with syntax that went, "Apologize me," when the normal structure should have been, "Forgive me." This made it quite difficult for me to understand some of what they are talking about.

The plot is nothing new. It still has the same story: Enemies getting hold of all seven dragon balls and requesting the "ultimate power" from the summoned Dragon. Goku and company get their posteriors kicked for a while and then of course still win at the end of the day. We've seen this all before, haven't we? There isn't anything exciting or remotely hilarious (except for the sheer stupidity of Piccolo's opponent. I quote: "Don't kill me, we could be friend! Oh, I'm glad. I be so glad you have set me to be your friend!" D-oh. You don't say that to Piccolo because he is not SailorMoon.). As a matter of fact, this movie is so lacking in any new development/improvement, the Dragon Ball saga can still go on even without this.

I can't really say anything positive here except for the artwork and the vibrance of the colors used, which is trademark of Dragon Ball and quite possibly the reason for the fandom's attraction to this series. If you're a Dragon Ball fan, I could recommend watching other DBZ titles such as the specials Bardoc, The Father of Goku and The History of Trunks. Other movies that would be better seen are DBZ Movie 8, DBZ Movie 13, and DBZ Movie 14 .

Oh yes, I almost totally forgot. There was one really funny moment that had my ears nearly bursting. You wouldn't believe how the grand master bad boss gets defeated. Mfpf...mffp...ha ha...ha ha ha! I guess Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug isn't totally devoid of humor after all!

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 7; Characters 7; Sounds 5

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Blue Seed


Genre: Shoujo / Comedy
General Audience
1995 Yuzo Takada, Takeshobo, BS Project, TV Tokyo, NAS




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Cover Description:
An elite team of special agents faces off against an ancient and bizarre race of creatures whose millennia-long attempt to enslave humanity have given rise to man's ancient legends of shape-shifting monsters and demons!

For over one thousand years, the forces of the Aragami have been held in check by a steady diet of human sacrifices, but now the bonds have been broken and its up to the elite agents of the TAC to take on mankind's oldest enemies, whose ability to impregnate, mutate, and control almost any living creature make them the most deadly of adversaries.

To combat an enemy who can attack anywhere, anytime, without notice will require the most talented agents from around the world and every resource modern civilization can provide, from high-tech super-computers and chemical weapons to plain old bazookas.

The most dangerous items in the TAC's arsenal, however, are the two special human weapons. Joining the agents in their battle are Momiji Fujimiya, a young Japanese teenager whose traumatic implantation with an unborn Aragami, a 'blue seed', has left her with enhanced psychic abilities, and Mamoru Kusanagi, orange skinned, cat-eyed former servant of the Aragami who rebels against the will of his masters to use his super-human powers to protect Momiji!

The ultimate destiny of the planet earth will be decided once and for all!

(26 Episodes)

Addictive till the final episodes. >>> by skysenshi
Before I begin my commentary on the main parts of Blue Seed, I would just like to commend its creators for the humor they have injected in the Omake Theater (extras at the end of every volume). Three most notable of these fascinating mini-stories, which have no relation whatsoever to the actual storyline, are the overview of Kome's puppy love, the heart-rending "The Day of Sugishita", and the Cinderella-ish "Grandma Go Go". I have never looked forward to a volume's ending as much as I did with Blue Seed's presentations.

That aside, I must admit that the first episode of Blue Seed didn't really strike me as a must-see. The artwork certainly isn't something remarkable, nor is the animation that spectacular. On top of that, what I'm writing about is the English Dub, so any Blue Seed fan would understand if I bashed Momiji's annoying high-pitched squeal--err, voice--to the high heavens. Needless to say, voice acting is very important in defining a character's personality. After hearing Momiji's whining tune, I was convinced that there is nothing to the character design that would make me want to finish all 26 episodes in one night.

I was wrong. The second episode had me changing my mind. The more I learned about Kusanagi, his connection with the dreaded Aragami, and his eventual softening towards our central figure, the more I loved every minute of every episode that followed. It takes a while getting used to the other characters, though, but once you go beyond first impressions, you'll discover that they aren't as bad as their English voice actors portray them to be. I should warn young impressionable readers about something, however: Blue Seed is dripping with so many one-sided love affairs, it actually hurts to watch those people involved! Especially when some of them are featured in the Omake I mentioned above. (My heart cried: "Poor Sugishita! You don't deserve to lose to an old fossil!") The main love triangle, on the other hand, reminds me somewhat of the newer anime Inu-Yasha. It's a Kikyo-Inuyasha-Kagome triangle, to be precise. It must hurt a lot to forever be in the shadow of someone so perfect, someone who is of the same image as yourself but so much more magnificent in so many ways...

Somewhere along the way, you'll realize that Blue Seed is about the struggle for ecological balance--that the myth of the god Susano-oh and his wife Kushinada is a symbolic representation of the human psyche. To be exact, this happens in the 13th episode, where the legend becomes twisted and conflict sets in. Blue Seed suddenly becomes something more than your regular cheesy comedy series. It metamorphoses into an anime that beckons a subtle philosophical analysis. For this alone, my scales have tipped tremendously in its favor. I would recommend this title for those who are looking for something light yet not totally lacking in depth and for those who are after feel-good endings.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 5; Story 8; Characters 9; Sounds 7

Darkside Blues


Genre: Dark
Parental Guidance Recommended
1994 Hideyuki Kikuchi, Akita Shoten, Toho Co., Ltd., J.C. Staff




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Cover Description:
From Hideyuki Kikuchi, the creator of Vampire Hunter D, Demon City Shinjuku, and A Wind Named Amnesia.

In the gothic landscape of the future, the Persona Century Corporation owns 99% of the world. They thought they wielded absolute power. They were wrong. A dangerous and lawless free-zone, Kabuki Town - also known as the Darkside of Tokyo - has become an anarchistic haven for misfits, criminals, and idealistic rebels. Now, a dark mystic with the power to topple the Corporation is aware of the threat he poses. Can one mystic and a small band of rebels stand against a global dictatorship?

A dark anime that lives up to its name. >>> by skysenshi
Dark is not my specialty. Most times I would leave it up to my sister Thundersenshi to write an opinion regarding anime like Darkside Blues, since this is her genre of specialization. Certain circumstances, however (like Thundersenshi still having about 200+ more unwritten commentaries piling up on her list), prevents her from doing so. In any case, I'm not really complaining because Darkside Blues is quite a good watch.

From the breathtaking artwork and animation down to the other-worldly action scenes, there really isn't any room for complaints. The play of counter-intelligence and the mind-boggling twists and turns definitely held my attention for the duration of the film. What's spellbinding in this anime is the person who calls himself Darkside. He doesn't really do anything, nor is he directly involved in the conspiracy against the dictatorship of Persona Century, but his mind games play an important role in the success of those who want to topple the existing power. The rest are just like minor characters of interesting variety--quite underdeveloped, but interesting nonetheless.

The English dubbing and sounds are quite decent, too. If you don't understand blues music, then I wouldn't expect you to like most of the BGMs here. I think this is part of the Darkside Blues' charm because it adds to the appeal of the atmosphere. It's like an attempt at adding spice to an otherwise dreary environment.

What Darkside Blues remind me of? Partly Lain, without the overusage of digital abstractions. Perhaps this is because of the way the characters in Darkside Blues speak, which is almost always in a deadpan manner, with equally deadpan expressions that match their voices perfectly.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 8; Characters 7; Sounds 7

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Whisper of the Heart (Mimi Wo Sumaseba)


Genre: Romance / Drama
General Audience
Credits: 1995 Hayao Miyazaki, Yoshifumi Kondou, Aoi Hiiragi (manga writer)




SHOPPING:

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Skysenshi's Description:
Shizuku Tsukishima is a self-confessed bookworm who visits the library on a daily basis. One day, she notices that in all of her library borrower's cards, there is a name that is always ahead of her. Somebody named Amasawa has been reading the very same books that she reads! Suddenly her thoughts were filled with this boy's name and a quick burst of desire to meet this boy envelopes her. He reads the very same material that she does, so he might turn out to be a very interesting person...Who could this Amasawa be?


Little treasures ... In pursuit of dreams >>> by skysenshi
If You Listen Closely (Whisper of the Heart) tells of a young adolescent's discovery of love and how this leads to a realization that she has not yet found that elusive "dream for the future". Her young feelings push her to the limits of her abilities, challenging her to look for herself. A gem in the rough. Unpolished. Beautiful.

Like many of Hayao Miyazaki's works (i.e. Mononoke Hime / Princess Mononoke), Whisper of the Heart has a lot of subtle metaphors and symbolisms buried underneath the guise of a simple plot that has an ordinary middle school girl at the center of its axis. One need not overanalyze to notice that every litle trinket in this movie has its own story, and that all of these are connected to the main figures Shizuku and Seiji. Truth be told, one could find it quite fun to try to decipher these relations even before the whole puzzle unfolds itself. The opening song Take Me Home, Country Road, for instance, which is an American song originally performed by Kenny Rogers, suddenly metamorphoses into a rewritten Japanese song. This marks the significance of change--a very important element in this anime. There are so many other little things that are amusing to note, such as the mysterious chubby cat, the doll named Baron, the grandfather's clock--all of which play a vital role in the storyline development. In the beginning, you'd think that magic is involved. In the end, you'd ascertain that it really is, though not in the way one would expect.

Character design is superb. One couldn't help but fall in love with Seiji, the lonely artist, who knows what he wants and is relentless when it comes to achieving it. Shizuku, the confused soul, represents the laid back attitude of today's youth. From these two characters, one can see the best of a genius mind. There is no need for exotic visuals or high-tech animation procedures. The raw substance alone speaks for itself.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 8

Friday, November 23, 2001

Legend of Lemnear


Genre: Action / Fantasy
Parental guidance recommended, contains delicate scenes
1989 Yoshin Pictures Enterprise, Kinji Yoshimoto, Satoshi Urushihara, AIC




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Cover Description:
An ancient world living under the shadow of evil. It is an age of darkness, of sorcery and of heroes. As the monstrous legions of the Dark Lord spread across the land, the sole surviving warrior of the devastated village searches for vengeance--Lemnear, the fabled Champion of Silver. As beautiful as she is deadly, she hunts the wizard Gardein and has vowed to kill him and his evil master to avenge the slaughter of her people.

But as Lemnear soon discovers, a greater destiny lies ahead than simply being the messenger of revenge. Within her lies an almost invincible power. A power which could change the course of history and free all mankind. A power which the Dark Lord will do anything to posssess.

And now, from the slave pits of the Dark Lord's servants, to the horror of his impregnable flying fortress, Lemnear must journey to confront the face of pure evil. Can she live up to her role in the prophecy, or will all be consumed in the Dark Lord's holocaust of conquest?

I try to wax eloquence... >>> by skysenshi
But I fail. We can go about the check list of Legend of Lemnear's attributes and see what are worth commenting about, however.

Artwork: Of the late 80s but still stunning. Animation: Great action scenes that will not leave you wanting. Story: So-so. The plot seems incomplete and the transition from one branch to another leaves so much to be desired. Characters: Bleh!

If you're a feminist, you'd probably love the first parts of the anime because Lemnear, the central character, is great with her fists and her feet. Unfortunately, what she has so much in terms brawn is equal to what she lacks in terms of brains. Lemnear is brash and a bit thoughtless. She just barges into whatever perilous situation without so much as a single thought, which either gets her bloody or naked. If the animators had gone beyond simple nudity and went into hardcore porn, then this would've been suitable for a hentai title. The second most powerful hero of the story, who calls himself the "Champion of Bronze" is a wuss, to say the least. His sole purpose in the anime is just to get his ass kicked so Lemnear can rescue him. No points for character design there either. The final boss--ah, in this aspect, Legend of Lemnear bears a good similarity with recent role playing games in that the final boss has so many forms that one could get confused as to its weak point. That's all he does, though, change forms and then eventually get his ass whopped big time as Lemnear and friend don't seem to die anyway. Trying to kill the main characters would be a futile attempt for the great beast in this case, would it not?

In the end, Legend of Lemnear is still nothing more than a save-the-world-from-evil flick that should have been better off kept in the shelves. Any more words? Ah, I'm afraid the headache I sustained from just watching this poor excuse of a "legend" has zapped any sense of coherence off me.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 6; Characters 5; Sounds 5

Outlaw Star (Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star)


Genre: Action / Comedy / Space Adventure
Parental Guidance Recommended
1998 Katsuhiko Chiba, Sotsu Eizu, Sunrise Inc., TV Tokyo, Xebec




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Cover Description:
Gene and Jim are mercenaries that will do anything if the pay is right. However, when a pirate hires them to help her find the secret key to a hidden spaceship, things go awry. First of all, the 'key' is a female android! Gene and Jim decide to 'liberate' the ship and its key. Now the pirates are on their tail, and the flight is going to be more than a little bumpy.

(26 Episodes)

Through the night. >>> by skysenshi
I'm not a fan of Cowboy / Western themes, but Outlaw Star made a great deal of impact for me. It's not just the art, which is of course very well done. It's more because of the humor and the distinctiveness of the characters' personalities.

Gene is a tough guy with a scarred body and an equally scarred past. Gene, however, is not your typical tough guy who has no care for the world. He is in fact the worst kind of sex maniac whose craving for women always gets him into the silliest kinds of trouble. Jim is his 11-year old braniac partner who, unlike most bratty anime figures, is adorable in his cute combination of innocence and arrogance. Three females make up the rest of the Outlaw Star crew: Suzuka the assassin, Aisha the brawny Ctarl Ctarl, and Melfina the bio-android. Once in a while the crew meets up with Fred Luo, a clever bishounen with the biggest crush on Gene (and sometimes on Jim).

The space battle scenes between ships are also something to behold, especially as the Outlaw Star is a grappler machine with arms that could crush the heaviest of metal. This makes Outlaw Star all the more unique in its use of high-tech gadgets and machineries blended with the most unusual set of characters ever created.

Both the original version and the English dubbed version are well done. The voice acting of the English dub match well with their Japanese counterparts save for Aisha, whose cute "kitteny" accent in the Japanese version is reduced to an ugly guttural sound in the English adaptation. Despite this slight flaw, the story more than makes up for it, having simple twists and a feel-good ending. If you loved Cowboy Bebop, you might want to take a look at this title and see more action and adventure. I finished all 26 episodes in one night. Maybe you would, too.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 7

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Escaflowne: Girl in Gaia Movie OST


Credits: Yoko Kanno.

SHOPPING:
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Track Listing:
  1. Yubiwa (Finger Ring)
    Vocals by Maaya Sakamoto
  2. First Vision
  3. Colors
  4. Into Gaea
  5. Ryuu-geki-tai Toojou
  6. Horse Ride
  7. Gaea Hitsuji
  8. Regret
  9. Bird Song
  10. Sora
    Vocals by Shanti Snyder
  11. Aruseidesu Fukkatsu
  12. The Hurt
  13. Take my Hands
  14. Organ Pub
  15. What'cha Gonna Do?
  16. Sora's Folktale
  17. Torushina Shinkou
  18. Dance of Curse II
  19. Black Escaflowne
  20. Tree of Hearts
  21. We're Flying
  22. Who Will Save
  23. Final Vision
  24. Nomitori Uta
  25. You're Not Alone
    Vocals by Maaya Sakamoto & Shanti Snyder
  26. Call Your Name


Why you won't buy the Yubiwa single (No! No!) >>> by firesenshi
Escaflowne: Girl in Gaea is a wonderful movie. Let nobody tell you otherwise that characters only have 5 minute dialogues in there because every good actor knows that there are no small roles, only small actors and that a great character in anime is not measured by screen time. The setting of this movie is in an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE than the Escaflowne TV Series so naturally roles have to be changed.

Now is this CD as phenomenal? A big resounding YES! If you love Escaflowne very very very much, I will give you a great advice: DO NOT BUY THE YUBIWA SINGLE. Why? There are 26 reasons why. I could say for the simple reason alone that this is Yoko Kanno and anything Yoko Kanno deserves a place in your CD collection. Should you want another reason, it's simply because the tracks here are all good. Too good in fact that you will think that buying the Yubiwa Single too stingy... not too much value for something of just four tracks with only two songs and two alternate versions of those same songs. I mean... why would you do that to yourself???

You want Yubiwa, I don't blame you. I love it. 3 years after the Escaflowne series, Maaya Sakamoto proves she's a great a find as Yoko Kanno. Her vocal rendition here is not like the other Escaflowne OSTs because her voice here is deeper, more soulful, more mature. Her vocal talents have been honed after 3 years and 3 OSTs. YES, you deserve Yubiwa. BUT you also deserve Sora whose vocals sung by Shanti Snyder accompanied with astonishing soft instrumentals like the tinge of the music box and gentle strings make it sound so extremely magical, you can't get enough of it. (You remember this in a scene where Falken is in his castle preparing for Van's attack. Sora sings this song and she later tells him his doomed prophecy.) The best word to describe the track Sora is enchanting.

You also deserve Sora's Folktale. You deserve You're Not Alone, the English version of Yubiwa. This is a piece sung by Maaya Sakamoto and Shanti Snyder. The vocals alone sound heavenly. The instrumentals complete with a mix of Latin choruses, Gregorian chant inspired pieces, soft acoustics and keyboard renditions plus elegant symphonic instrumentals and even some distortion! You deserve all 26 tracks of this CD which is as wonderfully produced as the Escaflowne movie. You deserve all this not a measly 4 track single which could only do nothing but just make you want for more. The Escaflowne Movie soundtrack is nothing but great value. Nothing but a masterpiece!

Macross Plus: Sharon Apple - Cream P.U.F.


Credits: All music arranged and composed by Yoko Kanno. (Lyrics and Vocals) Gabriela Robin. Akino Arai.

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Original Soundtrack
Track Listing:
  1. Information High
  2. Idol Talk
  3. The Borderline
  4. Santi-u

 



A fine selection from both Macross Plus OSTs >>> by firesenshi
In my opinion, not the best one to get if you like Macross Plus. This is only composed of four tracks where two of them can be found in the Macross Plus OST 2 and Macross Plus - for Fans Only. I was surprised that this does not include all the versions of VOICES given that this is supposedly concentrated on Sharon Apple. The selection here is not even quite addicting. Should you buy an album with only four tracks, one must make sure they are not at all saturating. Granted that the two tracks, Information High and The Borderline are not in the OSTs... I somehow didn't think they were that great.

Information High, sung in english, is a high emotion, high energy, typical pop number. To me it sounds like an '80s disco song especially during the 'aerobics' fever. You can certainly dance to this especially with such a long 8 minute track and the singer belts out rather well. And while The Borderline has charming, seductive vocals, the melody stays on just one tone that I later found myself yawning.

As always, I highly endorse the Macross Plus OST 2 or Macross Plus - for Fans Only soundtrack. Can't help myself. Sorry. But not this. Not this. Not this.

Macross Plus - for fans only


All music arranged and composed by Yoko Kanno. (Lyrics and Vocals) Gabriela Robin. Akino Arai.

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Track Listing:
  1. Welcome to Sparefish
  2. Fly Up In The Air - Tension
  3. Idol Talk
  4. Tepee
  5. Nomad Soul (piano version)
  6. Break Out
  7. Cantabile
  8. Myung Theme (cello version)
  9. Wanna Be an Angel
  10. Santi-u
  11. After, In The Dark - Torch Song
  12. Dog Fight
  13. Voices (a capella version)


A fine selection from both Macross Plus OSTs >>> by firesenshi
This Macross Plus soundtrack -- for fans only is a finer selection from both OSTs. The arrangement of the tracks are in such a way that it starts with a dynamic beat and ends on a more soulful, solemn note so the general feelings for this one is such that it gradually builds you up into such a momentum and later on settles you down with the relaxing aura of the strings and finally ends with Sharon Apple's VOICES. The tracks are similar to Macross Plus OST 2. If you ask me, I don't know which one to choose from the two, but considering there is the a capella version of VOICES here and the acoustic version of VOICES in the 2nd OST, that should give you an idea the differences in the version of these two OSTs. There is definitely more instrumental in the 2nd OST while this one has a track with a cello version and an a capella. Given these instrumental and voice solos, the tracks in this CDs seem to convey a much more reflective, solitary and personal feel as is the title -- for fans only.

The MYUNG Theme cello version is another track to note. This one has a piano and strings version in the Macross Plus OST 1. I think cello versions, because they sound lower than the regular strings, always give a more melancholy, more somber atmosphere to any musical piece. As is with any Yoko Kanno piece, the tracks here are a mixture of everything! From Tepee 's comicy whistling sounds and harmonica refrain to the church choral rendition of Wanna Be An Angel.

If you're a true Macross Plus fan however and have no idea which soundtrack to get (or just plan on getting one Macross Plus soundtrack), this soundtrack is my best suggestion.

Vision of Escaflowne OST 1 - Over The Sky


Credits: Yoko Kanno. Hajime Mizoguchi. Hiroki Wada.

SHOPPING:
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DVD
Original Soundtrack

Track Listing:
  1. Yakusoku wa iranai (I Don't Need Promises)
    Vocals by Maaya Sakamoto
  2. Flying Dragon
  3. Dance of the curse
  4. Murder
  5. Escaflowne
  6. Angel
  7. Cubic
  8. Romance
  9. Ne Zu Mi
  10. Wings
  11. Gloria
  12. Eyes
  13. Poketto wo karanishite (Empty the Pocket)
    Vocal - Maaya Sakamoto
  14. White Dove
    Vocals by Aceilux
  15. Mystic Eyes
    Vocals by Hiroko Wada
  16. Deja Blue


Awesome symphonies! >>> by firesenshi
Tenkuu no Escaflowne's first OST starts you off with nothing else but Yakusoku wa Iranai sung by Yoko Kanno's regular, Maaya Sakamoto. Notice the rhythm and you'll find that it's 3/4 per measure and those rhythms are always very catchy and easy to remember. (In music, 3/4 usually have simpler melodies and most children's nursery rhymes have that kind of beat. However, Yoko Kanno utilizes such a beat to her advantage in that it aptly fits the lyrics as they were sung.) What is best of course is that hearing the full version with the the choral backgrounds and even the sound of the bagpipes as part of the instrumental makes you want to sing the line, "Kimi wo Kimi wo aishiteru..." (I... I love you) even more.

Wait till you get to track 3, Dance of the Curse, Escaflowne's main battle theme which you will find in all OSTs including the Escaflowne: Girl in Gaia movie OST. Latin chorus sparked by intense beats of percussion and instrumentals define the intense moment of the battle scenes in Escaflowne as this is being played in the background. The Latin chorus sings "Es-ca! Flow-ne!" in a manner similar to that of the Star Wars: Episode 01 chorus in the background as Obi-wan fights with Darth Maul. The difference? Yoko Kanno was three years ahead in using Latin choruses to best define the dramatic conflict.

As this OST is filled with quite compelling sounds done no less than by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, you will also be pleased with the vocals included in this track. The track White Dove may be done in English but it is does not compare to Maaya Sakamoto's Poketto wo karanishite. The intro of which sounds like Irish music similar to The Corrs' intros. Maaya Sakamoto's voice sounds so downright kawaii that you later find yourself singing and stomping your feet to the a catchy and fun rhythm. The second to the last track Mystic Eyes is a deviation from everything because Hiroko Wada himself composed and sung this pop number which is also Escaflowne's Ending Theme.

Vision of Escaflowne OST 2


Credits: Yoko Kanno.

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Track Listing:
  1. The Vision of Escaflowne
  2. Fanelia
  3. Ask the Owl
  4. Charm
  5. Country Man
  6. A Mole Man
  7. Cradle Song
  8. Machine Soldier
  9. Shadow of doubt
  10. A Far Cry
  11. Market Place
  12. Medicine Eater
    Vocals by Gabriela Robin
  13. Godds Drunk
  14. Cat's Delicacy
  15. Love
    Vocals by ACEILUX
  16. Hitomi's Theme
  17. If You


Yoko Kanno is good at experimentation >>> by firesenshi
Tenkuu no Escaflowne's second OST proves that the talents of the great Yoko Kanno never ceases to amaze. The opening track alone is a mixture of sounds inspired by Gregorian chants mixed with some African tribal drumbeats and Oriental gongs. The next track, Fanelia, sounds typical medieval Irish music as those played in their festivals and banquets. The track actually reminds me of an old English countryside complete with thatched roof houses and red bricks. Ask the Owl, on the other hand, is a mixture of Turkish or Arabian music along with the mystic chants of the East on track called Charm.

Watch out for Machine Soldier. At first the sound synthesizers and heavy percussion clearly depict the sound of metals clanging or heavy machinery being soldered or used at work. If you don't mind the heavy clanging noise, you can enjoy its techno beats in the background depicting power machines or heavy computers assessing the machinery which makes construction seem like a symphony! On the next track, you will just love the string quartet here. A constant cello with the fast tempo of the violin creates a stunning musical irony and opposition which then merges into one melody that itself gives you a perfect musical image of the title of the piece Shadow of Doubt. You will genuinely appreciate the sound of the violin here not as an instrument for setting the mood of romanticism but a piece accentuating the conflict.

As for the vocals, A Far Cry is a seductive jazz piece with whispery and "hissy" vocals. Love by Aceilux is also in English yet the melody in it compared to the experimental instrumentals in the selection makes it seem so ordinary. If You has vocals very deep and airy which starts with only the piano as an accompaniment to her voice. The electric guitar in the refrain is a typical one for most melodramatic pieces and when one listens to the lyrics, it sure enough heightens the sadness.

Vision of Escaflowne - Lovers Only


Credits: Yoko Kanno.

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Track Listing:
  1. Yakusoku wa Iranai (I Don't Need Promises) TV Edit
  2. The Vision of Escaflowne (Take 2)
  3. Memory of Fanelia
  4. Dance of Curse
  5. Zaibach
  6. Flying Dragon
  7. Cradle Song
  8. Tomodachi (Friends)
  9. Bird Cage
  10. Chain
  11. Epistle
  12. Perfect World
  13. Blaze (Take 2)
  14. Hitomi Theme
  15. Angel
  16. Neko no Kimochi (Cat's Feelings)
  17. Arcadia
  18. Kaze ga Fuku Hi (The Days the Wind Blows)
  19. Mystic Eyes (TV Edit)
  20. The Story of Escaflowne ~ End Title


Choruses + Maaya Sakamoto >>> by firesenshi

Tenkuu no Escaflowne's Lovers Only OST starts with a TV edit of the opening theme Yakusoku wa Iranai. What you will remarkably hear here is the soft intro where Maaya Sakamoto sings the chorus slowly, softly, dramatically with only the soft piano doing the background. Escaflowne OST 1 - Over the Sky has the full version. However, given this more memorable rendition of the opening theme including the TV edit of Mystic Eyes ending theme, the instrumentals and vocals here are much more enjoyable than the first. (That is NOT to say Escaflowne OST 1 is not good because it is!)

There are a lot of Latin choruses here somewhat inspired by the somber renditions of Gregorian chants as in the second track The Vision of Escaflowne which was done by Members of the Theatro Dell 'Opera Di Roma. Add to that the symphonies done by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra with music composed by musical genius Yoko Kanno herself makes each Escaflowne soundtrack a must-buy. Of course Dance of the Curse, the phenomenal battle music is here also which will make you listen to the heart pounding chorus that defines drama like no other. Another favorite is Arcadia, where hearing it first sounds like a Latin or German rendition of a melancholy song but later I find out it is really in Japanese. The melancholy melody with an opera style soprano is actually a song of reflection and sad wonder. There is a part where she sings, "Naze, chi wo konomi, arasoi wo konomu no darou " (Why... I wonder is it that they like blood, they like conflict?) The styles of such things is actually reminiscent of Wagner's operas. Normally, I sleep through hearing those things, but this one being used as background for the scenes in Escaflowne heighten the intensity in them that makes them unforgettable.

The vocals are pretty impressive as well! Maaya Sakamoto sings a feel-good ballad called Tomodachi. The melody is wholesome and the lyrics where she talks of longing and friendship does sound rather mushy but trust me, nothing seems to go wrong where Maaya Sakamoto is concerned. But my favorite is Kaze ga Fuku Hi which is sung by Maaya Sakamoto as well. The melody is like the wind -- soft, breezy, soothing, and it feels good. More and more so as you listen Maaya Sakamoto sing, "Doushitara jibun no koto wo daisuki ni nareru n darou nante. Motto motto jibun no koto wo daisuki ni nareru nara" ("How could you fall in love with me? More and more, doing something as falling inlove with me?") Nah... that didn't sound mushy at all! You will like this kind of sentimentality because the vocals along with the intrumentals make it totally romantic!

All in all, let me just sum it up: Yoko Kanno + Theatro Dell 'Opera Di Roma + Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra + Maaya Sakamoto = sugoi! Nothing else but the best to put all of these in just one CD?

Brain Powerd OST 1


Brain Powerd OST 1
Credits: Yoko Kanno. (Some lyrics) Gabriela Robin.


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Track Listing:
  1. Power of the Light
  2. Ark
  3. Deep Trench
  4. Sonne
    Vocals by Arthur Stefanowicz
  5. My Little Pony
  6. Run
  7. Chemical Dance
  8. Butterfly
  9. Blue Tone
  10. Home
  11. Ground Zero
  12. War Ship
  13. Sparek
  14. Flow
    Vocals by Seika Iwashita
  15. Transmission
  16. Music Box
  17. Bridge
  18. Ephemera
  19. Field of Love
    Vocals by Kokia
  20. On the Earth


A different taste of fine instrumentals >>> by firesenshi
While this may sound cliche, I really just have to tell you that what struck me first is the cover. Fabulous manga type artwork with such amazing detail that you just may want to grab this CD just for that.

The first track Power of Light has light touches of piano that one is reminded of the wind and nature. Bagpipes fill the background in Ark and I don't know why but Irish-inspired music usually reminds me of the mysticism of nature probably because one is reminded of grass knolls where fairy dance. The Ark is just like that. I was actually surprised that I liked Sonne where I am reminded of the classical solos during Mozart's time as though one is hearing this in the theaters in Vienna performing for the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Butterfly is a nice piece. A song full of vocalizations of lalalala with no lyrics at all yet the guitar being the lone instrument captures a medieval melody. A soft magical piece is Music Box whose sound is as its title. I think all throughout her compositions, Yoko Kanno is very fond of the gentle music brought about by the music box since she keeps sampling it in such soundtracks as Escaflowne.

As always, if you find the musical pieces here are varied. While the instrumentals carry somewhat an organic feel to it, there is some variety such as in Ephemera where the choral sounds mix with tribal drumbeats. It's actually the first time I hear two different sounds in almost opposing genres merge together as one. Plus there is a somewhat acid jazz song in Flow where Seika Iwashita sings in sensual and pleasing vocals.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Tales of Eternia


Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
Parental Guidance Recommended
2001 Mutsumi Inomata. Xebec/ NAMCO.




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Firesenshi's Description:
Inferia and Celestia are two lands opposite each other in a world called Eternia. After a great war, the races from each land are still hating each other. However, a phenomenon called The Grand Fall wherein the two lands will collide. Meeting a strange young girl named Meredy who gave this warning, a young swordsman Reid Herschel, martial arts expert Farah Oersted and magic scholar Keele Zeibel are set on a journey to retrieve all the Summoning Spirits to stop The Grand Fall.

The journey is temporarily halted on an island called Velcarn whose inhabitants are rather strange from most Inferians. Its leader Xtushia is beautiful and yet filled with mysteries as the ruins of the island. Reid and his party meet another stranger named Marone Bluecarno, a beautiful bounty hunter with a dragon named Varossa. Recently, the Summoning Spirits have been reacting differently to the enchantment of Velcarn. Can Reid, Farah, Meredy and Keele get off the island continue on their journey to stop the Grand Fall?

(13 episodes)

Here's my missing sidequest! >>> by firesenshi
I have been a Tales of Destiny fanatic ever since. Now playing Tales of Destiny 2 on my Playstation, I really was surprised that they have an anime of this one. Actually, I thought that the anime was about the first Tales of Destiny, a story whose characters and gameplay I loved more than Tales of Destiny 2. The Tales series is actually a trilogy in Japan where there are three tales where Tales of Eternia, released in English as Tales of Destiny 2 is this anime's subject. Chalk that up as one disappointment.

The story of Tales of Eternia starts as you are a third of story in Tales of Destiny 2 in the game. There are glimpses of the story of how Farah, Reid and Keele found Meredy. I totally support that they produced this so that it did not come out as a retelling of the story in the game. Otherwise, the game would have been pointless to play. However, the sad part is that, you would not appreciate this story as much as I did if you didn't play the game. BUT it could also be argued that anime like these are made to reinforce playing of the game more such as other anime like Street Fighter and Orphen.

Actually, the way I see it, this is like my missing sidequest. The introductory parts you find in the game as well as the ending parts. In fact this anime ends with the whole party of Reid starting another quest in the game. If anything this anime is character-centered. You will have a vivid picture of what they look like, how they all act, plus some silly antics you'd want to see.

As a stand-alone anime, I hate to admit this to Mutsumi Inomata because I really do love his character designs in Tales of Destiny 1 ... but if you're not into the game, this can be quite boring. The fight scenes and battles plus a universe of dragons, Summoning Spirits and two worlds about to collide is indeed a great setting. But it only picks up in the four last episodes. My other disappointment is Keele Zeibel. He's quite bishounen and rarely have I seen bishounen so closely dressed up like that and nerdy. RARELY!

My advice? Get the game. That one has my rating of 9 on gameplay and characters. Get both Tales of Destiny. Then watch this one.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 6; Characters 7; Sounds 7

Please Save My Earth Image Soundtrack


Credits: Yoko Kanno.

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Track Listing:
  1. Past the Golden time
  2. Between the Times
  3. Passing is ---
  4. End of the Dream, Tears?
  5. Songs Not sing
  6. Vacuous Universe(Sky)
  7. Wound Wings
  8. In the Passing Clear Wind
  9. Slowly---Staring
  10. Ring
  11. ---of Blinking Dream
  12. Yearning Shining
  13. Exciting color
  14. Carry Heart's Pain on Wings
  15. Dreaming Time to the Earth(Sky)
  16. With Praying from the Moon

As endearing as the Please Save My Earth OAV >>> by firesenshi
Yoko Kanno always ends her tracks smoothly. However much the distortion or chaos there is in the introduction, she will always make it a point to end at a lower octave or a slower tempo using a string or use string instruments to add subtlety in the end.

Past the Golden Time has vocals that are pure fantasy. You will hear the opening violin intro prevalent throughout the Please Save My Earth OAV. If Maaya Sakamoto is the talent for Escaflowne, Akino Arai is one big discovery in this soundtrack. Akino Arai's voice is very breathy and soft, even magical. At times it even sounds so surreal. It sounds even as that of a prayer, a prayer from as far reaches as india or those that capture the mysticism of the East. While the influences of Yoko Kanno in this soundtrack may sound Eastern, I find great similarities in the soft instrumentals prevalently used by Enya. There are lots of New Age inspired tunes here that make the tracks here sound so seemingly reflective even magical and sometimes a nice kind of eerie.

Songs not sing is a fine track where it's amazing how the chaos of the electric guitar along with a few scratches suddenly turn into a choral hum as though chaos turned into angels singing. The tracks here fit the theme of the Please Save My Earth OAV very very well! The very theme of reincarnation is captured in the reflective pieces in this CD.

Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko


Genre: Fantasy
Parental Guidance Recommended
1985 Mutsumi Inomata (creator), Kunihiko Yuyama (director), Kaname Production, TOHO




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Cover Description:
Yohko Asagiri's an ordinary high school student, and she's in love with a boy who doesn't know it. To help things along, she's written a song to explain how she feels...but that song has quite a bit more then a couple of good bridges and a strong middle-eight. Yohko learns this when she's listening to it and is magically transported to Earth's other-dimensional sister world 'Ashanti.'

It turns out that her song is quite popluar with the locals...one might say they're breaking down the doors to get the only copy and a stereo to play it. It would also seem that this song has the potential to open a dimensional gateway between Earth (called 'Noah' by the locals) and Ashanti wide enough for a conquering force to invade and take over. This is exactly what someone wants to do. And, it's exactly why it was forbidden eons ago by the legendary warrior Leda who saw this coming.

It falls to Yohko and a few of her newfound friends to stop the onslaught and return the two worlds to balance. There are three on the side of order and an impressive army on the other(who fully understand the power of this discovery)...and the army's scared.

Maybe Yohko isn't so ordinary after all.

Did I miss something? >>> by Status

Okay... so Yohko is a regular (if wearing clothes that call to mind an old Madonna video) high school girl. She has a huge crush on a boy she met not too long ago. She composed a song for him. So far, so good. Oh, wait, it turns out that the song she wrote is the key to opening a rift in space time, sucking Yohko in to the world of Ashanti, where she meets a talking dog and a priestess of Leda (natch), who pilots a mech that looks like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Now all of a sudden Yohko's a well-appointed warrioress (if wearing clothes that call to mind a recent Madonna video) out to defeat an evil force who she hadn't heard of until that very morning.

Insert sweatdrop here.

I watched through this whole thing expecting some sort of revelation that would explain just what the devil was going on. Instead, the film would dance and sing (you wouldn't believe me if I told you) around every chance at a serious - or even half serious - plot. Excellent artwork
(for the 80's) and decent action made the movie tolerable, but the level of weirdness here defies belief. An okay rental, maybe, but LEDA is far from revolutionary.

One note: The audio on the VHS version is apparently problematic. The sound on my copy was severely garbled, and I've heard of it being very bad for other people as well. I was watching the subbed version though, so at least I could still follow the dialogue.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 5; Characters 6; Sounds 4

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Dragon Ball Z Movie 9: Bojack Unbound


Genre: Action / Fantasy
Parental Guidance Recommended
Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, Fuji TV




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Cover Description:
The infamous millionaire X.S. Cash is funding the most amazing martial arts tournament the Universe has ever seen! The four tournament finalists must do battle with warriors representing the four corners of the galaxy in a decisive battle to see who gains the right to challenge The Champ for the ultimate championship!

But a ragged band of criminals have a scheme of their own: take over the tournament and conquer the Universe in the process! Their leader is the incredibly powerful Bojack, an evil menace who has broken free of his stellar confines!

With Goku incapable of helping eradicate the planet's latest threat and Earth's greatest heroes falling one by one, the young Gohan must look deep within himself to find the power to destroy the wicked invaders. Can Gohan summon enough strength to deliver the finishing blow.

Insta-villain. >>> by Darth Paul (11.13.2001)

In a nutshell, the storyline was too simplistic. I was very disappointed especially of the fact that this movie followed Broli's, a step down to say the least. The-ultimate-evil-has-been-released-and-is-coming-to-Earth bit has been worn out since the sixties, when giant spiders and killer green men still ran amok upon obviously cardboard buildings and poor acting extras waited in designated areas to be crushed instead of just running away like what any real life, rational thinking human being would do.

In any case, I guess Bojack had too much of his work cut out for him just filling up Broli's shoes. It was something like, "Oh, an Evil dude appeared. I guess I should beat him up." The least they could have done was allot a 10-minute segment on villain backgrounds. I swear I'm a DBZ fan but I'm also not a liar so I have to call it the way I see it.

Adept: One of the few parts that I liked about this movie was the round between Tenshinhan and Trunks; one of the originals against the young blood. You'd think it was one-sided but it actually came out good.

Inept: Well I think my feelings about this movie are pretty clear. I didn't like the fact that they did an insta-villain (just add hot water to destroy the world!). Pathetic attempt to sugarcoat the bland story line with good action sequences (although they were impressive. Well after all, this is DBZ) and excellent art.

Individual Rating: Art: 9; Story: 6; Characters: 7; Sounds: 6

Dragon Ball Z Movie 7: Super Android 13


Genre: Action / Fantasy
Parental Guidance Recommended
Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, Fuji TV




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Cover Description:
When the peace of a routine day is interrupted by violent explosions it seems like the world is under siege! But Goku quickly realizes that he is the target of the sudden attack! who are these strange assassins? When Goku discovers that despite their great power, the culprits are not emitting an energy signal, it can only mean one thing: Androids! With Doctor Gero dead, who is responsible for master-minding this new wave of Androids that are stronger, faster, and ten times more deadly than before? The mystery unravels itself as the Android Assault begins!

WWF Attitude! >>> by Darth Paul (11.13.2001)
More of a supplement than a stand alone, the movie should work on character depth. The villainous androids can be very intriguing antagonists, given enough background as proven in the series. Still, my hat is off to Akira Toriyama for the excellent and obviously more improved job on the artwork. The art was more cinematic and fluid this time around and dialogue is starting to improve in terms of realism.

Adept: On the shallow hand, fight scenes are better. Maybe, I can even say that the scenes here are the best. Featured are a wide variety of air combos and wrestling maneuver classics such as the back breaker. This rates a 9 on my coolness meter. Definitely of movie quality. Scenes were executed with good timing so boredom is out of the question. Smoothness and motion of the animation were first class.

Inept: Yep, it's movie quality, good imagery, good execution and all that but still lacks the punch story-wise. The Androids are a proven and effective antagonists but their potentials, I believe, weren't fully utilized. All of the villains pretty much do the same thing, with the exception of a few quirks (bottle drinking from the little one is the only example that comes to mind for now).


Individual Rating: Art: 10; Story & Plot: 7; Characters: 7; Sounds: 7



Generic, but fun, Dragonball Z movie >>> by MarkPoa (??.??.2004)
Okay, let's see how this movie matches up to the Dragonball Z movie checklist:

Mysterious enemy/ies with supernatural powers kicks everyone's butts? Check.
Mysterious enemy/ies appear to be defeated halfway through the movie? Check.
Mysterious enemy/ies suddenly becomes more menacing and kicks everyone's butts again? Check.
Son Goku pulls out a new move/technique that obliterates the enemy in one hit? Check.

Yep. Standard Dragonball Z movie fare.

The movie's plot takes its plot from the Androids Saga. While the manga and TV series had Androids starting from 16 to 20 (not counting Android #8, the Frankenstein look-alike, in the original Dragonball series), the movie extrapolates on what numbers 13 to 15 could have been. In addition, the movie also gives some interesting twinks as to the origins of Cell and his ability to "eat" Androids #17 and #18.

There's nothing really innovative about the movie, but it has some of the most memorable and coolest fight scenes ever animated. Some particular highlights for me:

* Vegeta and Piccolo's entrances. Why are former villains turned anti-heroes so badass?
* Trunks fighting with his sword. Simply put: Whoa.
* The big grey android catching Trunks' sword between two fingers. Again: Whoa.
* The scene of the three Super Saiyans powering up. Simply powerful, with nice background music to pump it up.

I probably wouldn't be as hyped up about this if I weren't a regular Dragonball Z fan. However, if your main rule for watching a Dragonball Z movie is to be entertained by the fights, this movie won't disappoint.

On a side note: the American release titles are no fun. Seriously. I mean, which would you rather watch for an action flick: "The Utmost Limits of Battle! Three Super Saiyans!" or "Super Android 13".

I mean, seriously.

Art: 7; Story & Plot: 6; Characters: 8; Sounds: 6


Skysenshi's Note: Couldn't agree with you more on that last bit. I had to change the naming convention on the Anime Index because the American naming convention has become sort of standard. There are more English-speaking people than Japanese ones, I suppose, so we gotta go with the flow.

Monday, November 12, 2001

Tenshi ni Narumon (I'm Gonna Be An Angel)


Genre: Romance / Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended (contains delicate scenes and language)
1999 Heaven Project, Studio Pierrot, Bandai Visual. Screenshots courtesy of Tenshi Project.




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Skysenshi's Description:
One quiet weekday, as Yuusuke Kamoshita walks through the forest on his way to school, he bumps into a girl who is lying buck-naked on the ground. He accidentally kisses her and she wakes up calling him "husband", later following him to school and eventually to his home. Yuusuke would think that that's the last of his problem, ne? Wrong! For Noelle, the hyperactive naked girl that he had found earlier, brings along her strange family into the picture. There's the kind and warm Mama, the big and proud Papa, the perverted big brother vampire Gabriel, the invisible elder sister Sara, the sarcastic genius Ruka, the cynical witch Baba, and her silent accomplice in crime Nekhbet. The list of names grows bigger as each day progresses and Yuusuke finds that life on his own isn't going to be an easy aspiration after all!

(26 Episdodes)

Datte...datte...datte...datte...datte! >>> by skysenshi
Tenshi ni Narumon's visual abstractions and metaphors remind me somewhat of Utena. I haven't even mentioned the exotically queer character design and an opening theme that made me think of Utena's bizarre "Trilobyte Song" (as my cousins would call it). The anime itself takes getting used to; in fact I thought I got duped when I borrowed all 26 episodes in one day. It has the weirdest evil bosses with henchmen that have names like Pipipi--ah, never mind! Even more outlandish is the main character herself! Noelle is as clingy as Utena's Wakaba, but she's a lot more wacky and totally kawaii in her toddler-like innocence. It's actually amusing how she finds pleasure at the things we usually take for granted (i.e. grasshoppers, butterflies, crabs, etc.). What's surprising about this character is that, despite her bleached-dumb-blonde behavior, she has the keenest sense of observation.

Enough about Noelle. Let's discuss other interesting characters, and believe me, there are many of them. What got me obsessed with Tenshi ni Narumon are actually the "semi-guardians" Mikael and Rafael. As you guessed it, there's a huge potential for a great YAOI angle in there. These two are so heavily enshrouded in sex appeal that it doesn't really matter if they're straight or not. Rafael exudes an incredible dose of manly charm (*swoon*), while Mikael is the cool and composed (HAH!) self-appointed advisor to Noelle. Mikael also happens to be 1/3rd of the puzzle that Noelle has to piece together in order for her to realize her dreams of becoming Yuusuke's angel.

Tenshi ni Narumon is a comedy with monster-of-the-day themes that can sometimes be dragging. In the middle of the series, the situation in Yuusuke's household becomes similar to that in Tenchi Muyo, where the protagonist finds himself saddled with a "family" that he neither likes nor wished for. The bonds that eventually develop within this household, and the perpetual dangers that test these bonds, are very much like the dilemma that Shin Tenchi Muyo presented. On the other hand, there are episodes that get me teary-eyed particularly when the limelight turns on Natsumi Suzuhara, Yuusuke's secret crush. There's also profound drama in the last few volumes because Noelle's connection to Mikael and the forces that want to control her are revealed.

While not as grim as Angel Sanctuary or other anime that attempt to dissect the secret behind these heavenly creatures, Tenshi ni Narumon has a few philosophical ingredients of its own. They say that soulmates are fragments of a single soul that was separated by fate. Relate this adage to the imagery that this title exhibits, and you'll begin to understand what I am trying to say.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 8

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Rumic Theatre Vol. II: One or Double Manga


Genre: Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
1998 Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan, Inc. Viz Communications.




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Thundersenshi's Description:
Rumic Theatre Volume 2 is a compilation of nine short comics written by none other than Rumiko Takahashi herself. Join the wildly hilarious fray comprised of a diet-eager schoolgirl, a ghostly cheerleader, a real live Buddhist god, a young boxer-slash-canine, a con-couple, and a Takarazuka freak among many other insane characters!

Chapter One: The Diet Goddess
Chapter Two:
Excuse Me for Being a Dog!
Chapter Three:
To Grandmother's House We Go
Chapter Four: Shake Your Buddha
Chapter Five: The Grandfather of All Baseball Games
Chapter Six: Reserved Seat
Chapter Seven: One or Double
Chapter Eight: Happy Talk
Chapter Nine: Winged Victory


A compilation of short, happy reads >>> by thundersenshi
Rumic Theatre: One or Double is a fun reading material that can be enjoyed during those lazy, afternoons for basking and lounging under the warm sunshine. Short, sweet and witty, Takahashi delivers these stories purely for enjoyment. Of course, they're not as great, nor as legendary as her more popular and much longer works (Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, Inuyasha), but that is already expected! Also, the art seems to be a little outdated. To be honest, though, artwork has never been Takahashi's strongest point--but with her style that is neither spectacular nor ugly, she still gets her message across. And I guess that's what really counts, ne?

The stories are all pretty okay, though most are so-so. Only a few of them stand out, actually. First served is The Diet Goddess, my personal favorite among the nine stories. I wish it could've been longer, though. It is the sweetest of them all, it's characters utterly delightful and charming. Another one is Excuse Me for Being a Dog, which is so reminiscent of Ranma 1/2! The character sketches are identical--you'll see an Akane, a Ranma, a Genma and even a Kuno! Even the situations are smiliar. Then there's One or Double and Winged Victory that tickles the funny bone with its usual cast of eccentric characters.

Many of them seem to focus on sports (or what goes on behind them, that is). This can be seen with One or Double (kendo), Winged Victory (rugby), Excuse Me for Being a Dog! (boxing) and The Grandfather of All Baseball Games. Others like The Diet Goddess, To Grandmother's House We Go and Happy Talk deal with a more simplistic and realistic approach. The rest, being Reserved Seat, and Shake Your Buddha, are just...downright zany!

As I've already emphasized, Rumic Thatre: One or Double is merely a short, fun read. It's nothing to fuss over, and it can't possibly be as great as Takahashi's more popular works, but it will be a nice addition to your manga collection if you're a huge fan of Rumiko Takahashi.

Individual Rating: Art 7; Story 7; Characters 8

Cowboy Bebop Remixes


Vicor Music Entertainment. All sounds arranged by Yoko Kanno. Radio MC Yota by Oxygen Funk.

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Track Listing:
  1. Radio free Mars talk 1
  2. Tank! - Luke Vibert Remix
  3. Radio free Mars talk 2
  4. Forever Broke
  5. Radio free Mars talk 3
  6. Cats on Mars
  7. Radio free Mars talk 4
  8. Piano Black - Ian O’Brien Remix
  9. CAT BLUES - Mr. Scruff Remix
  10. Radio free Mars talk 5
  11. Fe - DJ Vadim Remix
  12. Fantaisie Sign - Ian Pooley Remix
  13. Radio free Mars talk 6
  14. Space Lion - 4 Hero Remix
  15. Radio free Mars talk 7 - [0:23]

Nice nice change of pace. >>> by firesenshi
Listen to the percussion as the 'DJ' with a Latin or Jamaican accent speaks. You can hear he's kinda smooth talking in a way! The format of this CD is CREATIVELY done as though you are in a radio show where the DJ who calls himself "Mr. Martian" babbles as a start that his program has "no sponsors, no commercials and no guarantees....Theeeese are the only rules." Upon describing the Seatbelts, he rambles on that "she wrote the music that kicks...rockzz.."

Expect a lot of techno pop and jazz in this remixes album. Of course... that's what it's all about. And who wouldn't be pleased? This is already great music! And nothing is better than the same great music re-engineered. Don't worry about anything. Only Britney Spears broke the rule that all remixes sound more fun.

Atmospheric tunes lay as background for some of the tracks. I enjoyed the remixes of Tank! and Cats on Mars , two of Cowboy Bebop's resident tracks in almost three of its other soundtracks.

f you look at the track listing above, you can see that this album is self-made. The names of Ian Pooley and 4 Hero among them? Whoa! When the great names in techno and drum and bass are up there, this tells you that this is one great collaboration!

If you hear someone say, "if you're not a fan of techno, this is not a good investment..." I suggest you burn that person immediately. I will. Who am I to generalize what non-techno fans will like? I'm not a techno nor trance fan yet I totally dig even the ambient samples in these tracks. Or if you're not a techno fan, why not try something new? Most likely, you love Cowboy Bebop that is why you're checking this track, right? Let me tell you something... I wasn't a fan of jazz until I was into Cowboy Bebop. The anime Cowboy Bebop itself is a totally new experience. This CD, done as though it is a radio show, is a nice candid one.

If you feel though that you just feel like jamming to the usual Cowboy Bebop sounds you hear in the anime, try going for OST2 and Blue instead. If you want to try something new, this is a great one! Don't worry. Not much of a culture shock.

Cowboy Bebop - Vitaminless


Vicor Music Entertainment. All music and vocals arranged by Yoko Kanno.

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Track Listing:
  1. The Real Folk Blues
  2. (by Mai Yamane)
  3. Odd Ones
  4. Doggy Dog
  5. Cats on Mars
  6. (by Gabriela Robin)
  7. Spy
  8. Fantaisie Sign
  9. (by Carla Vallet)
  10. Piano Bar I
  11. Black Coffee


Loved the Real Folk Blues >>> by firesenshi
Oh yes. Only 8 tracks. 8 wonderful and astonishing tracks that just won't make you forget what Cowboy Bebop is all about. While this is only a mini-album, this CD contains one distinguishing track -- The Real Folk Blues, Cowboy Bebop's ending theme by Mai Yamane.

Yes, I know what you're saying. It's also in other albums. This one is the original. The album Blue has another version. If you loved the TV version, you better hear the full version in all its emotional heavy blues movement with its lyrics sounding nothing else but the best mush you'll ever find. Llisten to the lyrics and it's the best breakup song if i've ever heard of one especially with the amazing instruments in the background.

Why else could this be a great album? It's a combination of jazz and Shibuya Kei. If you're an 'underground' techno-retro music fan, you probably heard of Cornelius, Fantastic plastic machine, Kahimi Karie and of course, Pizzicato Five. Already, these bands are having a cult fan base in the United States but in Japan where everything trendy today could easily be out of style tomorrow, they may declare this movement dead although no one can deny once you've heard these sounds, a combination of vinyl records and the new blues mixed together, the result is undeniably classic. If it sounds '60s or '70s to you, it's because that's what the 1990s Shibuya Kei phenomenon was all about -- the sounds on vinyl records but of course being a Japanese movement, the English sounds that were imported were given a bit of "now" flair.

Hearing Cats on Mars, a bubblegum synthesizer pop number with a catchy breakbeat, the vocals actually sound like Kahimi Karie to me. The last track Black Coffee sounds like a bit of Fantastic Plastic Machine and the new retro sounds I hear on French radio. A sample of the conversation is sampled in, "Would you please have some coffee with me?" to which the girl answers... "Nnn-o!" Her "Nnn-o!" sounds totally cartoony. What a fun piece this is!

In the track called Spy, the opening guitar riffs really epitomise the title of this track. Smoky lounges, car chases and flirtations with agents of the opposite sex come to mind when listening to this. Oohh... this CD is very versatile!

All in all, if you love Cowboy Bebop, love an eclectic mix of jazz and Shibuya Kei, this will be the best eight tracks in your life! Otherwise, if you just go for the Cowboy Bebop sound and don't want to mix in with the new genre I just told you, go for the that great Cowboy Bebop OST 2 or Blue. My suggestion though... try something fun. You've heard of the godfathers of Shibuya Kei called Pizzicato Five at least once in your life so you better try something different such the WONDERFUL tracks in this album.

Cowboy Bebop OST 2 - No Disc


Vicor Music Entertainment.

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Track Listing:
  1. American Money
  2. Fantaisie Sign (Vocals by Carla Vallet)
  3. Don’t bother none (Vocals by Mai Yasame)
  4. Vitamin A*
  5. LIVE in Baghdad (Vocals by Masaaki Endo )
  6. Cats on Mars (Vocals by Gabriela Robin)
  7. Want it all back (Vocals by Mai Yasame)
  8. Bindy
  9. You make me cool (Vocals by Masayoshi Furukawa)
  10. Vitamin B*
  11. Green Bird (Vocals by Gabriela Robin)
  12. ELM
  13. Vitamin C
  14. Gateway
  15. The Singing Sea (Vocals by Tulivu. Donna Cumberbatch)
  16. The EGG and YOU (Forever Broke)
  17. POWER OF KUNG FOOD REMIX (Remixed by DJ FOOD)

In a word - eclectic. What a mix! >>> by firesenshi

Let's just say that if you were to choose Cowboy Bebop OST 1 and this one, I'd choose this one. I know. I know. I also gave a 9 to the OST 1... but what's a girl to do when she likes both? If you look at the tracks, you'll notice that there are more tracks here that have vocals than in OST 1, which has mostly instrumental. The cool renditions in the vocals just make me love Cowboy Bebop all the more!

The familiar Cowboy Bebop tracks are the first one American Money. That zany public-service show Big Shot has its full version complete with sound effect samples of cash register going "Ch-ching!" and big men cheering "Go! Go!" as if they're making you gulp down your tequila. The last track Power of Kung Food Remix is Tank! in another version.

Fantaisie Sign by Carla Vallet is a track that opens with soothing vocals by a French version of Brasilian legend Astrud Giliberto. This, combined with a horn section, is nicely contrasted by frenetic percussive beats. Live in Baghdad is a different number. Remember the episode, "Heavy Metal Queen?" This is what VT is playing. But folks, this is not pure heavy metal you know. While the sounds of the electric guitar may make you want to head bang, you'll hear sampling of distorted voices in here as though techno crossed over. The lyrics are repetitive and so do some screaming beats. But like most heavy metal, this is one you'd just certainly want to just listen to... just plain JAM... and not try to digest very hard.

From heavy metal to Green Bird, a choir rendtion, a simple concerto. I actually love love ELM , the twelfth track. Soothing music that reminds me of 13th century German music. That's right. Medieval. The same kind of music that inspired Seal's Kiss from a Rose. Imagine a lonely minstrel singing on his guitar.

What's this CD composed of? A mixture of upbeat jazz, astonishing vocals, even some soulful concertos and some less than 10-second tracks. Don't underestimate the 10-second tracks -- they're all the VITAMINS you'll ever need. That's what they are -- a small dose... an energetic boost. Instrumental sax and guitar with sharp percussion to a brief halt. Those were the 10 seconds of my life.

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