Another year, another Scotland Loves Anime, I’m back with some new reviews on this year’s festival. It’s been a ton of fun again, both inside and outside of the event, and I’m here to offer my thoughts on the movies I saw:
Missing Kings is the sequel to the K TV series, which ends up being pretty average in its story, although it does have some great presentation in visuals and music. With a movie budget, I was expecting a bit more from this project but in the end I got more of the same.
The film takes place one year after the events of the TV series. Kuroh Yatogami and Neko are looking for their friend Shiro, HOMRA is currently disbanded and the Blue King Reisi Munakata and his team continue to patrol Shizume City. We are introduced to a new team in this movie led by the unknown Green King and his clansman Yukari Mishakuji. Their appearance causes these groups to come together yet again.
My main problem with Missing Kings is that it builds up to one big revelation and ends up being not really interesting. Sure, getting to that point was entertaining for the most part, but having a whole movie based on it was very underwhelming. What I found strange about it, as well, is that it never really takes the opportunity to explain more about this world, so it ends up being an extremely basic action movie.
At the same time, there isn’t much wrong with that as long as it entertains and, thankfully, it does that. The action scenes are good, the humour works (for the most part) and Yukari Mishakuji is a pretty decent new antagonist. Add in better visuals thanks to the movie budget and I can recommend this to people who have seen the TV series. For everyone else though, K: Missing Kings is a hard sell.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods
The first of nominations for the Scotland Loves Anime judges award (Golden Partridge award) was a popular worldwide TV Series that hadn’t had a new film in a long time. I have hardly watched any Dragonball Z since it disappeared off Cartoon Network all those years ago, so going into this movie I didn’t know what I was going to get. What I got surprised me a lot.
The movie takes place after the events of Dragonball Z, where the God Of Destruction, Beerus, wakes up from his fifty year slumber. He learns that Frieza has been defeated by Goku and he is curious about Goku’s strength. Furthermore, he is curious about a dream he has had about fighting a Super Saiyan God, so he decides to travel to Earth to find the Super Saiyan – but if he doesn’t find him, then he might just destroy Earth.
This synopsis seems to suggest a very serious action-packed movie which I assumed it was going to be; however I couldn’t have been so wrong. Battle Of Gods celebrates the whole Dragonball franchise in both action and humour departments.
The first half of the movie is more comedy-focused for the most part, bringing all of Earth’s familiar faces together; seeing them all interacting with each other was entertaining. The other half is more action-focused, and it didn’t last as long as I would have liked, since most of the fighters got sidelined, but what we got is impressively animated.
What I got was a film that put a smile on my face for almost all of the movie; the dub version was fantastic and I cannot recommend this enough to Dragonball Z fans and newcomers alike.
Bayonetta: Blood Fate
The second of the nominations was a movie from the popular game Bayonetta. The whole movie was said to have been the first game in film format, and since I have played the game myself, I was interested on how this anime would work. Sadly, I was disappointed by it.
To me, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate never had that Bayonetta aura for almost all the movie, that over-the-top fun that made the game’s presentation excellent. While Bloody Fate got the characters’ personalities right, the film felt dark, uninteresting and, worst of all, boring, which is the worst thing I could say about it.
Is it that bad? Well, not really, the action scenes towards the shows final climax are pretty good, although the music could have been a lot better. I really dug the character designs and there are a few interesting story moments for newcomers but again, the story in the Bayonetta game wasn’t the strongest aspect of it.
So sadly, I have to rank Bayonetta: Blood Fate below average; it’s hard to recommend to both the fans of the game or newcomers but if the positives interest you, then it’s worth at least one watch.
Next on the award list was possibly one of the favourites to win this award, so yet again going in blind, I went to see this movie and for the most part it didn’t disappoint.
Giovanni’s Island is set in a unique time period of post-WW2 Japan. It takes place on the island Shikotan, where we are introduced to Junpei and his younger brother Kanta. Everything is normal in their lives until the war ends and the Russians invade the island and take it over. While the Japanese and Russians try to get used to living together for a year, it’s not long before tension gets to boiling point and things start to get tougher for our main characters.
I think the film has two really strong aspects and I feel that if you like at least one of them then I would certainly recommend it, the first being the fascination of the Russians taking over the island after the war and seeing what the Japanese had to go through. Jonathan Clements said in his opening introduction that 80% of the story was true, so seeing the joys and hardships of our main characters makes it really engaging.
The other is the drama and the character interactions. The film actually has a light-hearted opening 40 minutes, so we get to know the characters on the island, and this helps, considering the darker tone of the second half. I wish a few of the characters could have been given a bit more development but I was satisfied overall.
While I did feel some emotion throughout this film and I really liked how it ended, I would have preferred Giovanni’s Island to have taken a more a historical look at events rather than concentrating on the drama, but that’s just me. I have no hesitation to recommend it when it’s released over here.
Appleseed Alpha is the last of the nominations and is the elephant in the room for being the only film on the list to be in full CGI. Considering I didn’t like the last release Appleseed XIII, I didn’t have a whole lot of excitement going into it but I enjoyed it a bit more than I was expecting.
This movie is a prequel to Masamune Shirow’s manga and once again we follow Deunan and Briareos, mercenaries who take up jobs to survive. They are asked by their current contact Two-Horns to destroy some drones in a certain area, and it’s there that they meet a solider and a young girl travelling to Olympias. Intrigued by their dreams of paradise, both of our heroes tag along with them but they are soon followed by an unknown force.
On the positive side, the CGI looks pretty darn good; it reminded me of the two Resident Evil CGI films that were released a few years back and it is put to good use, mostly for the Android characters like Briareos and Two-Horns. Also I can praise the final climax for having a massive action scene that puts the computer animation to good use.
Unfortunately, Appleseed suffers more bad than good, the dub is alright but has really bad lip-sync, especially at the start of the movie, and the soundtrack is all over the place with unnecessary dub-step, which is particularly noticeable during the Two-Horn scenes. The writing is really predictable, so it all comes down to if you want to watch a basic sci-fi action movie – or not.
It ended up being the weakest movie of the festival but it still has enough going for it to deem it watchable; if you’re an Appleseed fan, then at least give it a shot.
Detective Conan vs Lupin the Third
This is the latest collaboration between two beloved franchises in Japan. This is hard to discuss for me, since I have no history of watching Conan and I’ve only watched Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine TV series. Overall though I found it to be a lot of fun but with some issues.
The biggest issue I have with this collaboration is that you would have needed to watch the TV series to get the full film storyline, which is a big shame since the final part of the movie doesn’t make much sense until the credits roll, which is a shame. The tone is also a tad off-balance at some parts of the movie.
Saying that, the movie is just a good fun ride, and the Lupin and Conan casts interact really well with each other, giving the movie a ton of personality. It injects a lot of humor into most of its scenes and benefits because of it. Animation is also great and naturally mixes in both franchise character designs, plus the music is fantastic.
The story is what stops me from rating it any higher but Detective Conan vs Lupin the Third is a good movie overall and will hopefully get a release over here sometime.
The last film was our Mystery Film and turned out to be Short Peace, four shorts that got their first theatrical screenings here in the UK.
This one was the Oscar-nominated short and also my favourite of the bunch. It’s about a traveller who stops to rest at a shrine and is transported to an unknown place that is haunted by spirits.
This short succeeds in its unpredictability; it’s cool how the traveller interacts with the spirits he meets and ends up being really charming, as well as looking really good.
This one is more disappointing though. It’s a story set in ancient Japan and is about a man becoming a fire-fighter and a women who is forced to marry someone from a powerful family.
While more visually unique, this short is not very interesting for the most part, except maybe in the way it shows how fire-fighters do their job but the main characters are not that engaging, making this the least involving out of the four.
Probably the most violent overall, this is about Gambo is a white bear who suddenly appears to fulfil his mission to stop a big red demon from killing humans in a certain village.
This one is not for the faint-hearted. I would actually call it ugly, however it does deliver a well-animated fight scene at the end, so it ends up being a decent watch.
A Farewell to Weapons
Lastly is a short that feels like a mix between Spec Ops: The Line and Titanfall video games in terms of setting. It’s about a team of soldiers that is attacked by an advanced robot tank and have to use their military gadgets and weapons to stop it.
This one is a blast. The battle is a lot more tactical with all the team having different skills, it builds up to a surprising climax, and it’s pretty much why the short has that name. I really liked it.
If you want to watch Short Peace, you can get them all if you buy the PS3 game Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day which not only contains the shorts but a game backed by Suda51.
That’s my thoughts on Scotland Loves Anime for another year. If you went to the festival, why not post your experiences too?