Batman Ninja anime review

A new DVD release arrived on the door mat last week and with the Standard Grade exams over and my own work schedule having a gap in it my eldest son and I sat down to watch Batman Ninja.  An eagerly anticipated anime title which I had pre-ordered.  I had avoided reviews and opinions upon it.  We put it on and watched…

“Batman and a cast of villains including The Joker are transported back in time to medieval Japan in this ground-breaking anime feature.”

Our own feelings upon it were that the animation was superb with backdrops much like paintings from the Edo period (Japanese history is one of my passions) and that the action sequences were very well done.  The voice work was fine but the Batman character fell short of his regular brooding menace.  The plot was thin but rather than use this as a negative it was actually for a reason in my opinion.

The anime was made upon of scenes.  Each scene focused upon giving homage to a type of anime style and setting.  Across the span of play we had ninja films, Kurosawa tribute, water colour tragedy, giant mecha fight and more.  The plot simply acts to move the scenes forward.

The film can come off as strange and oddly paced if you do not have a grounding in the culture that is comes from.  It is a Japanese film made for that audience and it shows in the dialogue and seemingly odd choices by characters.  Overall we enjoyed it and if you want something that’s a bit different from the usual DC animated stories here’s an answer for you.

Thanks for Reading,


All You Need is Kill or Live, Die, Repeat Review

I treated myself to a night at home not doing any work and rather spending time with my good lady and watching a science fiction film.  I know…how dare I!  Moving on from that the film we choose to buy (I tend to just buy DVD’s as renting them is now very difficult and downloading does not suit me) was Edge of Tomorrow or Live, Die, Repeat or All You Need is Kill.  Take your pick of the title.  Though the last title is the book the film is based upon.  So sitting in the dark with a beer or two how was it?

Well as an adaptation of the book it was quite a bit different which was sad really as the setting in All you need is Kill was to me better than a d-day recreation set in London and northern France.  As a movie though Live Die Repeat was very good with a nice look and a lot of action.  Here is the synopsis:

“The epic action of “Edge of Tomorrow” unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again…and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.”

It is well worth checking out when you have a chance if you are a science fiction film fan.  Also it was good to see Bill Paxton back in the army!

So the book.  I have owned the book since near its English language translation date in the VIS Media edition in 2005.  I always thought it would make an excellent Manga but never thought it would be a Hollywood A lister live action film.  Here is the synopsis of the book:

“The story is told from the perspective of Keiji Kiriya, a new recruit in the United Defense Force which fights against the mysterious ‘Mimics’ which have laid siege to Earth. Keiji is killed on his first sortie, but through some inexplicable phenomenon wakes up having returned to the day before the battle. This continues and he finds himself caught in a time loop as his death and resurrection repeats time and time again. Keiji’s skill as a soldier grows as he passes through each time loop in a desperate attempt to change his fate.  After several dozen loops, he realizes his fate is tied to that of Rita Vrataski. He uses his knowledge of the day to get close to her and her mechanic, from whom he gets a copy of her massive axe, a weapon he learns to use well given the boltgun normal troops use runs out of ammo and jams easily. Realizing he is a fellow looper, Rita confides in Keiji, telling him of the system the Mimics use. There is a central nexus that can loop the day, as well as several antennae, all of which signal the loop to reset. Contact with an antenna is what trapped Keiji in the loop. Only by first killing all the antennae and then the nexus can Keiji escape. The Mimics constantly adapt to Keiji’s attacks, but he and Rita manage to eliminate the nexus, only to have the loop reset. After telling Rita this, she acknowledges that they missed one antenna. On the last loop (#160) they proceed to eliminate the antennae again, and then Rita attacks Keiji, explaining that being trapped in the loop has modified their brains so both of them are similar to the antennae, meaning one of them has to die before killing the nexus, else the loop will continue indefinitely. Keiji manages to kill Rita and then the nexus, and is hailed as a new hero of the Unity Army.”

Its a very original novel and its story works very well as a text, better than as a film if not using a narrator.  Confusion and despair mixed with a foreboding of events that will happen, have happened and will happen again.  If you have the inclination to read the book then you should and do so before you see the American adaptation of the book.

A last mention needs to be made of the alien creatures ‘Mimics’ which are described in the book but the film brought to CGI life.  It is a shame that no ‘making of’ book exists to be bought since I would purchase it.  The work that went into the design of the aliens was large and done in tandem with the designs of the armoured suits worn by troopers in the movie.  I got this information from two short documentaries included on the DVD.


Pacific Rim – Review


Pacific Rim Poster!

Two weeks ago I got the chance to be treated to a showing of Pacific Rim at the Odeon Kilmarnock.  It has taken me some time to get around to posting this review of the film basically because I have been mired in the shallows of the summer school holidays, birthdays, house guests and other things which have slowed me right down on non-essentials (see I do this blogging lark out of love not money!).  But now here we are and the film is still very much on at the cinema so its still relevant.  A full 3D experience in a modern and this time fully functioning cinema (my experience last year with Dredd was interrupted by technical problems in the same cinema)…how was it?

As normal I tried to avoid trailers, adverts and especially reviews of the movie before going and in this I was successful.  Aside from a TV spot and the basic idea I knew nothing and went into it with an open mind.  A mind that was frankly very excited to see the film since I really like giant robots, giant monsters and the whole anime roots and premise of Pacific Rim.  I also really like the films of Guillermo del Toro too and Hellboy as well.  So my mind was looking for comparisons for Pacific Rim and while some people have used Transformers and the 1990’s version of Godzilla they are wrong the true father of Pacific Rim is the seminal Robot Jox from the 1980’s (which you should watch if you like mecha) and it delivered big style.

The giant robots and the monsters were superbly rendered on screen and the action set pieces were at times really tense and nail biting too.  Characters are often a let down in summer blockbusters but not in this case as the cast played off each other brilliantly.  From the names of the ‘Jagers’ to the names of the pilots there was a tongue in cheek humour.  The film had heart and drive while dropping the nod to its source material.  At no point in the cinema did I feel bored or did my attention wander from the screen and while you could have written the ending on a postcard and mailed it from minute one of the performance it did not matter.  In short it is a very good film in its own right before you get to the genre and in terms of the genre it is one of the finest of its kind ever filmed.  Go and see it!

In terms of wargaming there is plenty of scope for giant robots in scales such as 15mm with 1/100th and 1/72nd plastic kits…heck even a few 1/60th if you want really big.  Gives me ideas!

pacific rim books

Pacific Rim Movie book and Pacific Rim Year Zero book

Finally I got a package this morning ordered just after seeing the movie containing the two books that go along with the Pacific Rim film.  Excellent!  Once time allows I will read them and hopefully post a wee look at each of them.

Go see the film!


Highlander the Search for Vengeance – Review


Its been a while since my last review of any film or especially my second great love (after wargaming and well my wife, so make it third great love!) anime from the far east.  So last night I perused my pile of unwatched anime and foreign language films on DVD and selected one.  You might remember I picked up a pile in HMW back in February this year and only now are they reaching the top of the list to watch in the free time I have.  I had planned on keeping Highlander the Search for Vengeance for watching with a friend but Friday night found me alone after being ditched by all and the sundry too; so mate less watching alone it was!  So was it any good?

Well yes I enjoyed it but it has little resemblance to the seminal film of the 1980’s from which it takes its name.  Its Japanese through and through and made by Yoshiaki Kawajiri of whom I am a big fan but its far from the best anime out there.  The story is fairly thin concerning Colin MacLeod and his quest for vengeance against Roman general Marcus Octavius.  Marcus kills Colin’s life love Moya in the 3rd century AD in Northern England and swearing revenge for this Colin is promptly killed by Marcus but lands up on Celtic holy ground where his immortal resurrection is witnessed by the ghost of a Celtic Seer, Amergan, who then accompanies Colin as he tracks Marcus through the next two millennia.  Colin fails again and again to kill Marcus and the narrative ends up in post-apocalypse New York for a cyberpunk showdown.  I will not spoil the ending.

The best things about this anime are firstly the voice acting which is spot on and secondly the flash back scenes to my beloved Scotland (it is Highlander after all) and to Rome and Japan during the Tokugawa period which are by far the best parts of the animation.  Yoshiaki Kawajiri delivers on his Fist of the North Star style with intense action, over muscled characters, busty women (no gravity in this world!) and so on.  It is far superior to the awful 1990’s Highlander TV series and as far as I know its canon.  I must also mention the music which is really good and sets the scene moving from the ancient world to the near future with ease.

What lets the whole anime down is the repetition of cliché and sequences.  In seems in places that the action set in the past was what the directors and animators wanted to do and the near future material was a ‘do we have to?’ bolt on later.  Its also not classic stagecraft with dialogue that will make you cringe in your seat.

Overall if you are a fan of Highlander at all then seek this out and watch it.  If you like sci-fi like I do then give it a try too.  If you liked  Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s other works then also see it.  For a few pounds give it a try!

It seems not just ‘there can be only one’, there can be many…


A haul of DVD’s for GBS

Today was a good day for shopping.  I don’t mean the kind of shopping where I trail about after my good lady uttering the mantras of ‘that looks good’ and ‘your bum ain’t fat in that’ I mean the kind of shopping where circumstances provide a golden chance to acquire something you want at a great price and without hassle.  Well this happened to me today in Ayr at the local branch of doomed HMV store and also in the mail this morning.  Below you can see a picture of the haul.  Sorry about the lens flare but shrink wrapping does that.  I have listed the titles under the image with links to their IMDB pages if you want to learn more about them.


Anime, World Cinema and Bargain Bin gold!

This lot cost me just over thirty five pounds sterling including the postage on the Amazon order for Gazariki which was superb.  The others were discounted on the racks, discounted and binned and then with a 25% blue sticker sale on top it was like Christmas at two pounds a pop!

I hope to review each of these films and series in the next couple of months.  If anyone reading wants something put to the top of the que just email me or comment.


Fleet Scale Success from Eli Arndt!

Since August I have been watching the progress of Eli Arndt’s tiny Fleet Scale Mecha designs and I am pleased to be able to say that Eli giving me the chance to get them into production has turned out brilliantly.  This month will see them released in their own part of the website along with a special Barking Irons Online article for them all about their presence in USEME and how to make best use of them overall in gaming.

FS01 Sprue

FS01 Fleet Scale Mecha or 6mm Power Armour

FS06 Sprue

FS06 Fleet Scale Mecha or 6mm Power Armour

These are some of the smallest wargaming pieces I have ever dealt with and on average each of them is 6mm or less in size.  That said some clever mold making and production sees them in white metal which was then painted by Eve Hallow. They will be released as single miniatures and as value sprues which are a little cheaper.  There are nine different, and they are different, mecha and from the paint schemes I asked Eli for Eve has done a super job (I heard him gibber when he handed them over that never again…too small!).

O.G.Joel has a draft of a 6mm rules set for USEME and these will fit in lovely.

Well done Eli!


Sky Blue 2142AD – Review

I picked this DVD up on a whim some time ago and at the time the few pounds it cost me meant that I did not even look at the box too closely.  I was taken in by the beautiful stills from the animation and the basis of the plot.  What I did not notice was the fact that is not Japanese it is in fact from South Korea.  Would this make a difference, would it make the film less appealing due to a different set of cultural values and norms compared to those of the more familiar Japanese?  Well to find out I had to watch it so in the early hours of Monday morning I did just that!

First off watch this trailer on YouTube.  This is one of the most visually awesome movies I have ever seen and I did stop the film several times to spool back to re-watch sequences just to see the superb backdrops.  I learned that Sky Blue (called Wonderful Days upon its initial release) took seven years to make and it shows.  A very high level of detail and what I can see was at times painstaking animation gives this film a hyper real look at times.  So overall it is well worth watching from an aesthetic point of view alone.  The Korean impact on animation across the world is massive (animating most programmes including The Simpsons) and it makes sense for them to want to move out of Japan’s shadow and establish a reputation for their own work.  Technically they have done this with Sky Blue; but only for the animation.  Why?  Because the plot is turgid.

Set in the year 2140, the familiar tale follows life in the city of Ecoban, a technological haven on an ecologically ravaged Earth. Humanity has been divided into the rich elite, who live inside Ecoban, and the refugees, who are forced to scrape a living outside. It’s a balance that the elite are happy to continue, especially since Ecoban’s ability to convert pollution into energy gives them a vested interest in doing nothing about the state of the planet outside.  Events finally reach a crisis point when a mysterious figure breaks in to Ecoban and tries to obtain information from the city-controlling Delos system. For city guardian Jay, the stranger is a face from her past that causes her to question her loyalty to Ecoban. The childhood friend she had thought banished forever, Shua is also the grandson of Dr Noah, the genius responsible for Ecoban’s creation. Now he is out to try and fulfil Ecoban’s true purpose, and maybe exchange the permanent clouds of pollution for blue skies. 

That is the plot and it is a stock cyber dominated post-apoco world with clichéd Japanese ports such as the sexy doe eyed heroine and the stylised hero with the hidden past adding nothing to any of them.  It is a shame actually as with a little more thought and perhaps a British or American writer they could have had a plot to match the visuals.  It is not a bad plot but it belongs to the 1980’s it is so staid in comparison to current anime.  I will also mention the dubbed English version which is poor and not well matched to the dialogue.  Better to watch it with sub-titles.

So Sky Blue 2142AD is worth watching, worth a few pounds to own but not worth the four to five times that which anime stores want for a copy.  In wargaming terms Ecoban provides a nice if not novel setting for 15mm or 28mm science fiction skirmish.  Pick it up from the budget bucket.


The Individual Eleven (Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex) – Review

Individual Eleven DVD in it’s Slipcase

After my review of Laughing Man from the Ghost in the Shell (GITS) series of anime I took the chance while up in Ayr this week to go back to HMV and seeing what else was in their bargain bin.  Again I have to wonder how long this store will remain in business as it only has very expensive and very cheap items with most of the expensive ones being fairly pointless like ten different kinds of headphones.  Lady luck was with me and as you can see above the condensed series follow up to Laughing Man was there on the shelf.  At only two pounds it was well worth getting even if it turned out to be no good.   I bought this one in the full knowledge that it was a near three hour movie version condensed down from a 26 part series.  Pricing on the boxed set for the series was a lot more running to about forty pounds so I gave that a miss.  So again Sunday seems to be my movie review day while it is quiet.  I have just finished watching this movie…how was it?

It is two years since Section 9 helped topple the corrupt Japanese government; Yoko Kayabuki, the incumbent Prime Minister, restores them to their position as an official law enforcement unit.
Section 9 are later recruited by Kazundo Goda, head of the Cabinet Intelligence Service[1], to intercede in an incident involving social refugees. The operation ends badly, straining tensions between the refugees and the government to breaking point. Over time, it becomes increasingly clear that Goda is manipulating Section 9 to suit his own personal agenda. Undertaking a risky plan to infiltrate the CIS’s computer database, Major Kusanagi uncovers evidence implicating the CIS in terrorist activity. Shortly thereafter, a terrorist organization called the “Individual Eleven” (responsible for a string of violent attacks on Japanese citizens and an attempt to assassinate the Prime Minister) commit mass suicide live on television news. Believing that he was responsible for the horrific incident, Section 9 turns its full attention on Goda. While investigating a nuclear excavation project, evidence is found linking Goda to the Individual Eleven.
The refugee population, led by the charismatic Hideo Kuze, declares its independence from Japanese authority. The military responds by dispatching both the army and navy to the island of Dejima, where the refugees have settled. In an effort to prevent a civil war, Prime Minister Kayabuki publicly announces plans for a United Nations intervention. Chief Aramaki, meanwhile, orders Major Kusanagi to infilatrate Dejima and capture Kuze.
Kusanagi succeeds in finding and capturing Kuze: before they are extracted, however, they are trapped under a pile of rubble created by a stray missile. Before being rescued by Batou, both become aware that, as children, they were the only survivors of the plane crash that left Kusanagi in a coma. Meanwhile, Goda arranges for an American submarine to launch a nuclear missile at Dejima. Section 9’s Tachikomas manage to intercept the missile, but in doing so sacrifice their artificial intelligence.
Goda reveals his intention to defect to the American Empire and is confronted by Section 9. He cannot be arrested, he claims, by way of a legal loophole; Kusanagi, acting on the orders of the Prime Minister by way of another legal loophole, shoots him dead. However, she is too late to prevent Kuze being executed by the CIS while he is held in custody.

That is the gist of the plot.  The animation is just as rich and thickly laid as the previous condensed movie and is in places a little better.  A noticeable difference is in the music.  There is a lot more music in this movie than the previous one and like last time I watched it in Japanese with sub titles.  The music is always rather odd, happy jolly tunes during a vicious knife fight, to those used to American action films but the tunes are well composed and add to the atmosphere.

I have to say that this movie offered me less than Laughing Man did.  The Individual Eleven is a political thriller and as such has a rather complex plot and aside from several small action sequences throughout this movie is mainly conversation.  But it does contain quite a few frankly excellent sweeping cityscape views of the megacity where the characters reside which I watched back a couple of times.  There is little look into ‘ghosts’ or cyberbrains or what it is to be a cyborg but then this was well dealt with in Laughing Man.  There is a short sequence towards the end where a character called ‘Proto’ who I had assumed to be human throughout the movie is shot and revealed to be a ‘Milky Android’ a creature not like a cyborg and never human but artificial none the less.  Unexpected but a nice addition to the film.

The villain of the piece Gouda is a second rate foe and one of the main characters even says so to his face!  Compared to the threat of the Laughing Man, Gouda is not much of a match but I do not think he was meant to be.  Gouda is a ‘trigger’ character to set events in motion and bring about the potential nuclear annihilation of millions of refugees as is the point of the movie.  The real villain is the system, politics, inter-government relations and personalities which combine into something which bullets cannot correct.  The other character of importance is Kuze the ‘leader’ of the refugees.  Kuze is the target of Section 9’s attempts to resolve the threat.  He is a full military grade cyborg who just soaks up bullets.  A former soldier who retired from the world Kuze is attempting to link millions of minds to his own through a ‘hub’.  Drop a nuke on the refugees and Kuze will ‘evolve’ them into a new ‘net’ being.  Very similar to the Japanese Kami beliefs.

In conculsion this movie to me is not as good as the previous one but that is only my opinion.  I prefer action and technology in a plot over really intense political theory and there is a lot of this here.  It is well worth seeing if you have seen Laughing Man and would like to know more without the expense of buying the box series set.


The Laughing Man (Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex) – Review

Last weekend I was up in Ayr at the local branch of HMV.  HMV has taken a dive in terms of quality in the last few years and choice also (I mean why would a music/video/game store devote 25% of its rack space to headphones of all kinds at the expense of a wider choice of music?) but that is not the point of this post.  Among the piles of films I came across the anime section and  therein some heavily discounted titles.  I really like most things Japanese and anime especially as it gives me ideas for wargaming.  So I had a dig and bought three movies that were down to two pounds each.  I will review each of them but I am limited to watching one a week really and I just finished watching ‘The Laughing Man’ now (got up early to do it when the house was quiet).  Now on with the first review!

Japan, 2030. Modern technology has reached great heights, but crime still plagues human society—and that’s when cyborg operative Motoko Kusanagi and the elite squad of Section 9 step in. Armed with the latest hardware and software, they follow the trail of the Laughing Man, a mysterious criminal who committed various acts of corporate terrorism six years ago and then disappeared. Now it seems that he has returned, hacking his way into people’s brains and turning them into puppets of vigilante justice. But how do you track down a criminal so brilliant that he can wipe people’s memories and leave only a laughing face as his calling card? The clues will lead Kusanagi and Section 9 to a conspiracy spanning the worlds of medicine, technology, and even the highest levels of government.

Striking Cover isn’t it.

I watched the film BEFORE looking it up online.  This is important as I like to view video and listen to audio, indeed read too, without others opinions in my head.  GITS Laughing Man is a long story running to 154 minutes which is way longer than the typical hour and a half.  The story is very interesting and the quality of the animation and rendering is top notch.  A special mention of the music too which was composed for the tale and is so good that I would listen to it on its own.   The plot concerns a group of characters hunting down the elusive ‘laughing man’ LM who can interfere at will with a person’s ‘cyberbrain’ and turn them into an automaton with a single driven purpose.  At times you doubt the LM even exists and there are copycats how try to be him as well.  As the film continues the pace of action does too and complex issues of humanity and machine integration as well as identity in an age of digital immortality are raised.  I enjoyed the discussion but I also liked how this discussion was dropped each time when the need for gun play came.  What stands out for me are several scenes in which a crowd of people are ‘infected’ and some of them come under the control of LM and attack the present politicians and security agents.  I will not spoil the film for those who wish to watch it but it is slick, well paced and has a rather surprising ending.  Well worth it.

Once I had finished watching the film I looked it up online and found out (I have never seen any Ghost in the Shell or this would have been obvious) that this film is actually condensed from an entire series of episodes of the TV show!  If I had bought the series I would have been annoyed at this but since I did not then it was fine and it did explain why at points city seasons and costumes changed in moments.  Some commentators did not like the voice acting for some characters.  I watched it in Japanese with English sub-titles so I cannot comment on that.  All the reviews I have read beyond the point about condensing a series into a movie are all positive and I agree with them.  This is easy accessible to a western audience unlike some other anime.

In terms of wargaming potential this anime has enough to keep sci-fi and cyberpunk fans busy for a year.  There are a half dozen scenarios in the gun fights alone and the plot has many points for ‘jumping off’ in a different direction or setting with the ideas given especially with the ‘hacked cyberbrain’ idea.  I think it is well suited to HOF Fire Team as most of the conflict takes place in a dense urban environment.  Do not be surprised if some of this pops up in my work for Barking Irons Online!

One last mention must be made of the logo that is on the cover of the box and the top of this post too.  It pops up all through the film blocking your view of the face of those under the control of LM and it is every effective because for all their advancements none of the ‘enhanced’ characters can see the LM as their cyberbrains prevent it.  Only a homeless alcoholic sees LM as he runs away as he is not enchanced leading to a vital clue.  I fancy getting a t-shirt with the logo.

Overall I would highly recommend this movie to all fans of the genre.  Excellent value and full of plot and pace.