Beyond the Boundary: I’ll Be Here Review

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This weekend I indulged in a double bill of anime movie sequels. Saturday morning I watched the excellent Girls und Panzer der Film and on Sunday I checked out the follow up to Beyond the Boundary – subtitled I’ll Be Here. There are actually two Beyond the Boundary movies, available to buy in the UK via Manga Entertainment’s combo pack, but the focus of this review will be on the one dubbed Future Arc. I see no point in covering the Past Chapter film, as it is one of those horrible recap movies. Why watch an abridged version of the series when you can just enjoy the show instead? Beyond the Boundary is only twelve episodes long, so hardly a huge time investment. The only point of including a recap movie in this bundle is to inflate the DVD’s asking price. For shame!

OVERVIEW

I’ll Be Here takes place one year after the show’s conclusion. With Izumi going AWOL, it falls on her Siscon brother Hiroomi to take control of the Nase clan and assume responsibility for protecting their hometown from evil Youmu. Meanwhile, over in the local high school, immortal hybrid Akihito Kanbara and barrier summoner Mitsuki Nase continue to run the academy’s Literary Club. The club has shrunk in size as former member Mirai Kuriyama is suffering from amnesia, after barely surviving the show’s finale. Don’t feel bad Mirai, I too suffer from memory loss. Whilst watching this movie it soon became apparent that I was struggling to recall key events from the original anime. Who can blame me though, given that it aired four years ago? Maybe I should have watched the recap movie after all!

Although it pains Akihito, that knowledge of their relationship has been purged from Mirai’s mind, he feels it would be best not to remind Mirai of her tragic past. Unaware of her superhuman agility and cursed blood, Mirai can enjoy the life of a regular teenage girl. Ignorance is bliss after all. How long the secret can be kept hidden from Mirai remains to be seen though, as she has become the target of a hooded assailant who controls seemingly indestructible minions. The identity of the attacker is a mystery, as is the race of the servants he commands. Said creatures are too weak to be Youmu, but they can’t be mindless puppets either as they seem to possess a degree of intellect. Can our heroes unmask the villain before he harms Akihito’s favourite bespectacled beauty? Only time will tell.

VERDICT

My rating for Beyond the Boundary: I’ll Be Here is a three out of five. I really enjoyed the series and only declined awarding it full marks due to the inconclusive ending. This movie on the other hand is the complete opposite. I found the story to be mediocre, but on the plus side it does wrap up the franchise in a satisfactory manner. Many elements of the show, which I enjoyed such as the humour and action, are absent from this slow paced flick. The script is heavy on drama and tears, so there aren’t many jokes aside from a scene were Mirai showcases how poor she is at playing tennis. On the action front I thought that the battles were flashy, as you’d expect from a KyoAni production bolstered by a movie budget, but many of the fights are guilty of ending seconds after they begin.

For better or worse Beyond the Boundary: I’ll Be Here is one of those anime movies were conflicts are resolved by characters yelling out their feelings, rather than dishing out a super powered smack down. To quote Mirai, the movie isn’t “unpleasant” to watch, but it didn’t quite live up to the years of anticipation I had for it. Despite my misgivings I would still recommend purchasing the film, if you are a fan of the series, as there is a good payoff for sitting through the motion picture’s ninety minutes. Just like a Marvel movie I strongly advise that you refrain from hitting the eject button until the credits have finished rolling. Paying over a tenner to experience an ending that could easily have been tacked onto the original series is a bit steep, but hey it’s not all bad. The recap movie disc makes for a nice coaster.

Review of Girls und Panzer der Film

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Good things come to those who wait. That saying rings especially true for the Girls und Panzer franchise. Given that I reviewed the anime way back in May 2014, there has been over a three-year gap between the UK release dates of the series and movie. Either the folks at MVM Entertainment were in no rush to capitalize on the show’s popularity or the Japanese licensors were once again playing hardball with selling off rights to the international markets. One can only imagine how much profit was lost to piracy due to the slow ass localisation. Now that the Blu-Ray is finally out I can reveal if the movie “tanked” or if it is a hit. Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

Girls und Panzer der Film kicks off with a 2v2 match, which pits Oarai High and Chihatan Academy against the alliance of Pravda and St. Gloriana. It’s an action packed opener featuring a team who brazenly charge into battle and a squad of British infantry tanks, whose pilots stereotypically love to drink a good cuppa… even in the midst of combat! After the encounter the students of Oarai return home only to discover that their school has been shut down. It appears that the Ministry of Education have reneged on their promise to keep the institution open, on condition that the school triumph in the last Tankery tournament (which they did as chronicled in the series.) Going back on your word is heinous, but in the ministry’s defence you can’t blame them for wishing to cut down on costs. Maintaining a school based atop an aircraft carrier can’t be cheap.

All hope is not lost though. Oarai High’s student council president convinces the ministry’s bureaucrats to sign a legally binding contract that will force them to reverse the closure, should the school’s Tankery club manage to beat a university team in an exhibition match. Victory won’t be easy however, as Oarai’s opponents are led by a child prodigy who is fighting to secure funding for the refurbishment of her favourite teddy bear museum. To make matters worse the university team’s armoured core division outnumbers Oarai – thirty to eight. Not good, when you consider that the rules stipulate that you must eliminate all of your opponents in order to secure a win. Thankfully aid arrives from an unlikely source. All the rivals that Oarai bested in the series join our heroines’ cause and thanks to their inclusion in the Oarai ranks the stage is set for a fair 30v30 brawl.

VERDICT

My rating for Girls und Panzer der Film is a four out of five. I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie, given how little story it has. Most of the two hour running time is made up of two lengthy battles, with only a smidgen of plot sandwiched in between. Usually when a motion picture goes overboard with action I begin to suffer from fight fatigue, but in the case of Girls und Panzer the time flew by. I think Girls und Panzer was consistently entertaining because the onscreen warfare wasn’t just an excuse for mindless explosions. Tactics play a key part in deciding how the skirmishes play out and everyone, from the huge cast, is given a moment to shine. Another thing that kept things fresh were the varied environments where the action was set. During the decisive match tanks traded fire on a rural hillside, a hedge maze and even atop a rollercoaster!

I am usually a vocal critic of CG in anime, but in the case of Girls und Panzer I must concede that the 3D visual effects enhanced the viewing experience. Although I am no expert on the subject, others sources have informed me that the animators did a good job of authentically recreating the look of the WII era tanks that feature in the movie. In terms of character moments, there isn’t much to write home about. What we get however does the job. The manner in which the student body reacted to their school’s closure succeeded in getting me to root for the heroines. I also appreciated the scene were protagonist Miho returns home. After being forced to compete against each other, in the series, I expected that there would be some friction between the Nishizumi siblings. It was sweet to see that I was mistaken and that their family bond remains strong.

Cute girls and armoured vehicles is a strange combination, but somehow Girls und Panzer makes it work. After enjoying both the series and movie I can’t wait to check out the upcoming six-part Girls und Panzer: The Final Chapter. Hopefully the UK won’t be made to wait too long for that release. What do you guys think of Girls und Panzer? Let me know in the comments section below. Until next time – “tank” you very much for reading. Panzer vor!

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review

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The original Danganronpa trilogy concluded not too long ago, courtesy of an anime double bill. With the Hope’s Peak saga wrapped up, a new game has emerged and this time round it has been released both on PS4 and Vita simultaneously. I opted to purchase the game on Vita, as I find reading text heavy titles more comfortable on a handheld. That and I am also a cheapskate, so the Vita edition’s lower asking price helped to tip the scales in its favour. Like in past Danganronpas, Killing Harmony stars a group of sixteen talented youths who have been kidnapped and had their short-term memories erased. Trapped inside an Academy, they are forced to participate in a murder game. Is this latest release from Spike Chunsoft to die for? Read on and find out.

OVERVIEW

Escape from The Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles is only possible by committing homicide and not getting caught. When an assassination occurs players must investigate the crime scene and determine whom the culprit is, in the subsequent class trial. Deduce the killer’s identity correctly and you progress to the next chapter. Guess wrong and the evildoer is liberated, condemning you to a Game Over. The judge of the court cases is a mechanical teddy named Monokuma. He’s a beary bloodthirsty character. On this occasion, Monokuma is assisted by a quintet of offspring named the Monokubs, who are modelled off past Danganronpa characters. For the most part Killing Harmony plays like its predecessors. Scouring the environment for clues has been enhanced though, thanks to a new feature that allows budding sleuths to move onscreen objects.

What makes the Danganronpa games such a joy to play are its quirky cast of characters. Their humorous interactions are funny, which helps endear the sixteen hostages to players – making the moments when a victim perishes all the more poignant. Some of the students that feature in V3 include an accomplished maid, a bashful magician who insists that her tricks are genuine magic, a martial artist who detests men, a cosplayer who often quotes anime, a kinky inventor, a muscle-bound gentleman who is fond of insects, a spikey haired android and a compulsive liar (who tells more fibs than Hilary Clinton). My favourite character is astronaut Kaito Momota. In the first chapter Kaito comes across as a buffoon, but as the story progresses he proves to be a true bro.

VERDICT

My rating for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a five out of five. The game was a blast to play from start to finish, with the narrative’s only blemish being that the final trial drags on for a bit longer than I would have liked. Speaking of finales, I suspect that the twist at the end will prove to be divisive. I personally thought that said reveal was cool, but some fans are likely to disagree as it makes the events of past games feel inconsequential. For readers who may be wondering how the Vita version performs – I experienced no crashes and for the most part things ran smoothly. I did however encounter a brief glitch that caused the background music to cease playing whenever someone spoke. Thankfully the bug remedied itself after a minute or two.

I highly recommend Danganronpa V3, especially to gamers who are fond of Phoenix Wright. Just like Capcom’s lawyer series, Danganronpa is packed with zany mysteries that will test your deductive skills. The trials feel more kinetic than Phoenix Wright, as they are peppered with mini-games that include block smashing and driving sequences where you cruise across the highway collecting letters. In terms of content, the story clocks in at a respectable forty hours. Once the end credits roll some bonus content unlocks too. Right now I am playing the RPG mode, which involves fighting through dungeons with a party that you level up via a Danganronpa themed board game. Murder and board games? Sounds like Cluedo, only with fewer candlesticks and more robotic ursine.

Review of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

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Cowboy Bebop used to be my favourite anime and holds the honour of being the second ever series that I purchased on DVD (the first, in case you are wondering, is the less lauded Bubblegum Crisis 2040.) Manga Entertainment have recently re-released the Bebop movie Knocking On Heaven’s Door in the UK, which has given me the excuse to fire up my DVD player and spend some quality time with everyone’s favourite band of bounty hunters. Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Jet Black, Edward Wong and Ein star in a Halloween themed adventure that pits them against a terrorist. Is the movie a trick or treat? Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

When bomber Vincent Volaju detonates a truck loaded with a deadly chemical, in the Martian capital city, authorities respond by placing a 300 million Woolong bounty on his head. The reward catches the attention of Spike and chums, who are eager to supplement their unbalanced diets. Just think of all the meat you could buy with that money. Beats chowing down on instant noodles everyday – man shouldn’t have to live on carbohydrates alone, complex or otherwise. Motivated by appetite, the hunt for Vincent begins. Spike investigates the pharmaceutical company that the destroyed truck was registered to, Faye pursues one of Volaju’s associates, Jet hits his law enforcement contacts for leads and Ed in the meantime puts her hacking talents to good use.

Despite being set in the year 2071, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie doesn’t feel like a science fiction film. The Mars metropolis, where Vincent is based, has the architecture of a modern US city. Only the existence of spacecraft, which hardly factor into the plot, remind us that Bebop doesn’t take place in the present day. For the most part, the action relies on contemporary firearms and Spike’s martial art skills. Viewers who are not acquainted with the series can still enjoy the movie, as it is a standalone story. Long time fans of the franchise will however benefit from the full experience, as they will spot references and cameos that the uninitiated won’t.

VERDICT

My rating for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a four out of five. I enjoyed the movie a little more, this time round, than the first time I saw it. What starts out as a routine manhunt soon morphs into a tale were the hunters become the hunted. Spike’s pursuit of Vincent reveals that Volaju is armed with illegal weapons that were pilfered from a drug company. Needless to say, said corporation is keen to cover-up their involvement in the case and will silence anyone who gets in their way. By the end of this two-hour feature the fate of Mars hangs in the balance, due to the threat of a nanomachine outbreak. Why does it always have to be nanomachines? I have had my fill of those microscopic bots, ever since I completed the Metal Gear Solid saga.

Although I liked Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, I must admit that the series is better. For me, the show’s funnier episodes were its highlight. This movie however is low on comedy, aside from some humorous banter. On the plus side Vincent is a compelling villain, who reminds me a little of Spike. They both have fought in the Titan War for example and they both make remarks about how life feels like a dream. Visually the movie’s animation belies its age and the audio is solid. Like most Shinichirō Watanabe productions, the soundtrack is great. I also think that the dub is good. Steven Blum, who has previously voiced Wolverine, is responsible for Spike’s vocals. Perhaps that explains why the protagonist has superhuman recovery powers? One moment Spike is on the cusp of death and a few scenes later he enters the final battle showing no ill effects!

Fans of Cowboy Bebop, who missed this movie the first time around, should take advantage of Manga’s re-release. They won’t be disappointed. What do you guys think of Cowboy Bebop, be it the series or movie? Let me know in the comments section below. Until next time, see you space cowboy.

Review of Kingsman: The Secret Service

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James Bond meets Kick-Ass is how I would best describe Kingsman: The Secret Service. The movie features suave British spies who are armed with quirky gadgets (such as poisonous pens, semi-automatic brollies and taser rings) along with a smattering of comedy and heaps of brutal action. Kingsman’s similarities to Kick-Ass should come as no surprise given that both films share the same director (Matthew Vaughn) and both movies are based on a comic penned by graphic novel scribe Mark Millar. The question on everyone’s lips is whether Kingsman kicks ass or if it is painful to endure, like a kick to the gonads. Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

In another movie Kingsman antagonist Richmond Valentine could have been classed as a good guy. He’s one of those trendy entrepreneurs who favour baseball caps and McDonalds over smart attire and Michelin star meals. How many villains do you know that abhor violence (bloodshed causes him to hurl, as he suffers from hemophobia) and lobby against global warming? Sounds like a stand up guy, until you learn that his plans for combating carbon emissions involve a mass cull of the human race. I suspected there was something sketchy about him. Why would a pacifist need the services of a secretary who slices up critics, with bladed prosthetic legs, after all?

MI5 and MI6 are too busy misplacing laptops, so it falls upon the Kingsman secret service to foil Valentine’s scheme. Veteran agent Harry Hart (codename Galahad) is assigned to the case. At the same time viewers watch as unemployed chav Gary Unwin (nicknamed Eggsy) tries to transform his life by applying to the titular clandestine agency. There’s just one vacancy up for grabs and stiff competition for the spot, in the form of posh candidates that hail from a military background. Recruitment into the Kingsman ranks is not for the faint of heart. The process, dubbed the most dangerous job interview in the world, tests applicants by seeing how they perform in various scenarios – including skydives with no parachute and an assassination mission, were the target is a cute puppy!

VERDICT

My rating for Kingsman: The Secret Service is a five out of five. It’s an exceptional movie that boasts a great cast. Newcomer Taron Egerton does a fine job playing Eggsy the loyal, yet rough around the edges, underdog. Colin Firth steals the show in the role of gentleman spy Galahad. Based on this performance, if the James Bond franchise decides to reboot back to the less serious days of Roger Moore, I think Firth would make a great 007. Samuel L. Jackson on the other hand proves that he can be entertaining, without resorting to his trademark yells, in his portrayal of Valentine. The star-studded lineup also includes Sir Michael Caine, who plays Kingsman leader Arthur, and a cameo appearance by Mark Hamill.

I think the movie appealed to me because the story has heart. One can’t help but root for Eggsy in his battle against the snooty toffs, who act like they are his superiors just because of their heritage. The mentor/pupil relationship that forms between Unwin and Hart is sweet. After growing up with an abusive step-dad it’s nice to see Eggsy bond with a more respectable father figure. Kingsman’s humour and action remind me a little of Kick-Ass, although Secret Service is more classy… possibly due to all the English accents. It was surprising how violent the action can get. The second act church slaughter reminded me of Kill Bill, but the carnage is so over the top that it comes across as cartoonish rather than gruesome.

Kingsman: The Secret Service proved to be a pleasant surprise. Based off the trailer, I didn’t expect to enjoy the movie quite as much as I did. Let’s hope the recently released sequel maintains the standard set by its predecessor. Have you seen either of the Kingsman movies? If so, what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

Review of God Eater (Volume Two)

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Alien: Covenant didn’t fully sate my hunger for monsters eating humans, so the time has come to review yet another DVD that features carnivorous creatures. Two months after checking out God Eater Volume One I finally got round to watching the second and final chapter of this Ufotable series. Excuse the long gap between reviews, but I was trying to recreate the experience of having to wait ages for the next episode. It’s something that viewers had to put up with, back when the series originally aired, due to the anime’s well-publicized production delays. Evidently the show’s CGI visuals are not something that can be rushed.

OVERVIEW

Volume two commences with Lenka Utsugi and Alisa “under boob” Omela recovering from a mission that almost saw the pair meet their demise. The trauma of said operation has left Alisa whimpering naked in bed and Lenka isn’t doing much better. A medical examination has revealed that the strains of wielding a God Arc have shortened Lenka’s lifespan significantly. Doctors estimate that the angsty protagonist has just three years left to live before he croaks. Ah, that old chestnut of the hero having to choose whether he should continue using a power that is slowly killing him.

The solution to these problems is for Lenka to transfer from the frontlines to a command role. Alisa meanwhile conquers her demons by undergoing a session of brainwashing. The procedure is a success and also makes her more polite too… bonus! Not everyone on Lenka’s team can claim to be as courteous as the new Alisa though. Soma Schicksal, who appears on the DVD box art, remains an obnoxious edge lord. I’ll give him a pass though, as episode nine reveals that he led a rough childhood. Lenka also gets an episode dedicated to his backstory, which chronicles why he is so driven to slay Aragami. Get your hankies out for said episode, titled Scattered Petals, because it is an emotional tale.

God Eater concludes with Lenka’s leaders in the Fenrir organization executing Operation Meteorite. By activating strategically placed beacons, the group hopes to lure out waves of Aragami for an ambush. The plan hits a snag however when a traitor sabotages the devices, resulting in a horde of monsters making a beeline for a nearby refugee camp. Lenka and chums need to halt the Aragami stampede, but it won’t be easy as the deadly Dyaus Pita is part of the pack. As we saw in the last volume, Pita is much stronger than his brethren, is blessed with guile and worst of all possesses a manly beard!

VERDICT

My rating for God Eater (Volume Two) is three and a half stars. The show doesn’t quite live up to its potential, but when compared to other video game adaptations it is pretty decent. Apart from the odd janky scene, Ufotable have done a good job with the visuals and animation. The gravity defying action sequences in particular are impressive. Story wise however, the studio would have benefitted from spreading the narrative out across more episodes. In this second collection alone they cram in conspiracies, character development, flashbacks, oversized cleavage and romance within half a dozen episodes.

Pacing complaints aside, I enjoyed God Eater enough that I wouldn’t be averse to watching a second season. The manner in which the finale wraps up does leave the door open for more episodes. Whether the folks at Ufotable would be willing to revisit a franchise that caused them so many deadline headaches remains to be seen though. I suspect I’ll have to dig out God Eater Burst, from my PlayStation 4 backlog, to see how the story pans out. No pressure then. My library of console games that need completing only exceeds three hundred after all! Too much entertainment and too little time – got to love those first world problems.