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.

Review of Alien: Covenant

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Set a decade after the events of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant continues the prequel storyline of Fox’s sci-fi horror series. Ridley Scott retains the directorial reigns for the franchise he brought to prominence back in the late seventies. Public opinion on Prometheus seems to be divided. I thought the movie had its flaws, but overall was okay. At the very least I liked how it tried to do something different, with a plot that explored humanity’s origins. The designs of Prometheus’ extra terrestrials were pretty cool too. People don’t want originality though. Most moviegoers lamented how HR Giger’s Xenomorphs were absent from the film. That’s something Fox has addressed in Covenant… even if you have to wait until the final act for the titular aliens to make an appearance.

OVERVIEW

Covenant is the designation of a colony ship that is on a multi-year voyage across the cosmos. When the movie begins the space faring craft is slammed by a solar burst. The impact causes extensive damage and claims the life of the ship’s captain, who was incinerated inside his cryogenic chamber. Ouch. The burns he suffered rival my own skin, that time I ventured to Ibiza with scant regard for sun cream. Anyways, unpopular first mate Christopher Oram assumes command before choosing to divert the Covenant to a nearby habitable planet. Perhaps the crew can abandon their original mission and settle on this world instead? Sounds like a reasonable plan, but first they will need to investigate a mysterious transmission that is broadcasting from the planetoid’s surface.

I am sorry to report that the Covenant’s colonists are no brainier than Prometheus’ scientists. Upon shuttling down to their destination they opt against using respirators, as the air appears to be breathable. Does no one in the future fear bacteria? Well, needless to say a couple of the expeditionary team get infected and end up giving birth to pale skinned Neomorphs. Forget the natal discomfort caused by human babies or Chestbursters erupting from a ribcage. These buggers own the market on painful births, thanks to a spawning process that sees them rip through their host’s spine! Stranded, the remaining crew are forced to survive against the unfriendly parasites. They must return to the safety of orbit or else it will be “game over man.”

VERDICT

My rating for Alien: Covenant is three stars. Thanks to Ridley Scott’s gorgeous cinematography I would rank the film above Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. It doesn’t however match the quality of the earlier Alien movies. Aliens had a more memorable cast and better action. In terms of terror Alien is way scarier. Scott’s original movie was creepy thanks to the suspense, which is something that Covenant lacks. Despite the advances in technology I must say that a guy, in a rubber suit, sneaking through dimly lit corridors is more frightening than a CGI alien snarling in broad daylight. Ironically, the Xenomorphs everyone was clambering for are less scary than the new Neomorphs. Their juvenile form is similar to a Velociraptor and the way they stand when fully grown is unnerving.

As is the case in these types of movie, most of the characters are stupid, underwritten and only there so the beasts have something to dismember. Katherine Waterston plays Janet Daniels – the poor man’s Ellen Ripley. She kicks arse in the final thirty minutes, but does little else before that. Michael Fassbender steals the show by portraying not one but two synthetics. The first of these is a friendly bot named Walter, who reminds me of Star Trek’s Data. Fassbender also reprises the role of David, who has gone off the rails since we last saw him in Prometheus. By utilizing Engineer tech, David plots to replace humans with what he considers to be superior life forms. Traitor! You cannot trust an Android. That’s why, when it comes to mobiles, I prefer an iPhone.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash Review

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Game of Thrones was correct. Winter is coming. Yesterday’s commute to work necessitated the use of a brolly, as precipitation poured down upon my noggin. Sigh, how I miss the warmer climes of July and August. Thankfully, regardless of the current weather, I can still enjoy the spectacle of bikini-clad babes thanks to the release of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. Marvelous and Tamsoft have once again treated us to a game starring their well-endowed female ninjas. This time however the teenage shinobi have traded their shurikens and swords for super soakers, as they compete in the titular water gun tournament.

OVERVIEW

It’s funny to see that the Peach Beach Splash competition is being streamed on a fictional site named New Tube. Somehow I doubt that the real life YouTube would support videos featuring half naked girls who cuss a lot. YouTube are currently waging a virtuous crusade against controversial content, which has seen many talented creators get whacked with the demonetization bat. Apparently this all started because a certain annoying Swede decided to go full Nazi, resulting in an advertiser boycott. Oh well, who cares. Let’s return to the more pressing matter of swimsuits and bouncy gals.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’s single player content includes a five-part story mode, some bonus missions and various tournaments. There’s multiplayer fun to be had too, courtesy of ranked competitive matches and a co-op survival mode. Unfortunately I have yet to dabble with the online features because I can never seem to find any other players to group with. Perhaps splitting the niche community across regional servers is to blame… or maybe everyone sticks to single player, as revealing to the world that you like this game is embarrassing. A fondness for midget porn is easier to justify than a passion for Senran Kagura.

To be honest it’s a shame that the salacious content will put off some people, because the game is a fun third person shooter brimming with tongue in cheek humour. Many of the levels pit you against hordes of weak enemies, robots and fellow ninjas. Sometimes, to spice things up, you’ll also be expected to use your liquid spewing arsenal to extinguish flames within a lenient time limit. Missing from this edition of Senran Kagura is the series’ trademark destructible clothing. There aren’t any garments to damage as the cast is barely wearing anything to begin with! On the plus side it’s possible to make downed opponents part with their raunchy two-piece, by squirting them with a rubber ducky. Quack.

VERDICT

My rating for Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a four out of five. Fans of the franchise will be pleased to learn that the series’ temporary transition from brawler to shooter has turned out well. My only complaint with the game is that the main campaign can be cleared in a few quick hours, as the levels are shorter than the star of a midget porno (wow two hobbit adult-movie references in one review.) On the plus side Peach Beach Splash gives you plenty of reasons to continue playing once the story is finished. There are tons of unlockables to earn in the form of artwork, music and cosmetic items. Replaying levels also awards card packs, which contain new abilities/guns for your characters, pets that can be summoned in battle and stat upgrades.

Peach Beach Splash’s mix of action, comedy and eye candy will serve me well for the upcoming nippy period. Why bother venture outdoors and get drenched when you can stay inside and watch the virtual beauties get soaked instead?