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Paprika (2006)

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Satoshi Kon has always been fascinated with the inner lives of his characters and the conflict that arises when self-perceptions are exposed to the air of reality. His first feature, Perfect Blue (1997) was a perfect Hitchkockian nightmare that explored the breakdown of a pop idol who attempts to break out of her teen image by taking on more ‘adult’ oriented acting roles, only to find that transformation sat mentally uncomfortably with not only her values but those of a … (read more)

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Wings of Honneamise (1987)

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Studio Gainax’s most visible pre-Evangelion project in the West was a meditation on spirituality, technology and man’s future in space.

The Royal Space Force is an embarrassment to the military, a funding black hole to the public, and its dress uniform an affront to fashion. The unit exists on a whim of the royal house, and is filled with misfits and dreamers. It is only during a war that the government sees a use for the Space Force: initially … (read more)

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Gun X Sword (2006)

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Gun X Sword creates a sense of unease right from the get go. Its hero Van’s (literal) Puritan attire of uncocked, felt hat and black longcoat seem to be cast offs from Vampire Hunter D. The hand-me-downs don’t end there. Van is not only a dead-ringer for Cowboy Bebop’s Spike but his personality is a facsimile right down to his melancholy indifference to the world around him. Finally, Gun X Sword’s setting, the planet Endless Illusion, is a futuristic … (read more)

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Fafner (2006)

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With teen mecha pilots, huge glowing celestial enemies and poly-mythological naming conventions with a leaning toward the Norse and the sturm und drang of Wagner’s Ring cycle, Fafner doesn’t so much wear its influences on its sleeve as tailor a whole leisure suit out of them.

What Fafner may lack in concept originality, it certainly makes up for with intrigue. The first volume works hard to set up an array of mysteries that pretty much indicate there aren’t one or … (read more)

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Origin – Spirits Of The Past (2006)

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Japan’s Gonzo Studio is best known for its anime featuring slick production values and embracing the fusion of traditional 2D animation with 3D CG elements. Gonzo’s prolific output has centered around sci-fi actioners like Kiddy Grade or Yukikaze but has showed a willingness to branch out into genre mashing with the Weimar Republic meets airships of Last Exile or Speed Grapher’s neon decadent near-future monster bash. In its fifteen year production history, somewhat surprisingly, Origin is Gonzo’s first foray in … (read more)

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Fullmetal Alchemist – The Conqueror of Shamballa (2005)

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It’s always a tough gig spinning off a movie from a loved TV series. Sure your production values are up and those action sequences suddenly get the necessary frames to make them look really sweet. But there’s a trade-off. Immediately you have lost the episodic slow burn of the series that built to a carefully crafted conclusion. The cast you have developed over 50 odd episodes must be prioritized with some members allowed to wave in a ‘where are they … (read more)

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Brotherhood of War (Taegukgi) (2004)

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Brotherhood of War was the highest grossing film ever in Korea at the time of release and it is easy to see why. It’s is big. It has battle scenes of visceral intensity to rival Saving Private Ryan, soaring orchestral strings and seething crowd scenes that make Gone with the Wind look like an amateur, suburban theatre production. Even the steam coming off an idling locomotive looks epic.

The core of the film is the relationship of two brothers, … (read more)

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Steamboy (2004)

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Steamboy starts with two shots of the world distorted by water. The first is through a droplet. The second is workers reflected in the radiating ripples as the droplet disrupts a pool of water. Welcome to Katsuhiro Otomo’s latest creation Steamboy: a world altered by another form of water — steam.

Whenever a major league hitter like Otomo steps up to the plate it is almost inevitable that a new benchmark in anime will be set. The PR machine … (read more)

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