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Archive for April 2006

Hellsing Ultimate – First Impressions

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Time for a lil’ backstory. Hellsing always was (and probably will be) one of my favourite anime shows. Why? Primarily because i’m a sucker for cool vampire shows with lots of guns, stylishly depicted action sequences and crazy knife weilding clerics with evil Scottish accents. In all honesty though when the original TV series debuted a few years ago I couldn’t peel myself away from it, and while some lamented the departure from the plotlines of the manga, I found myself blissfully ignorant as I ploughed through the series.

Now it’s 2006 and i’m watching the new Hellsing Ultimate OVA, not a remake per se’ of the TV series of a few years ago, but instead a faithful recreation of the manga storyline. So far i’ve only watched the first episode of four, and so far it pretty much reimagines the same events that took place in the first three episodes of the TV series, so I cannot comment as yet regarding how different the manga storyline to the TV series.

While the structure of the story and the events that unfold are pretty much the same as the manga and the TV series (before it went its own way with the whole Incognito storyline that the manga lovers hate so much) there are a whole bunch of things that are just depicted differently. For instance, the fight between the zealot Vatican priest Alexander Anderson and Alucard is not an even fight at all, with Anderson basically decimating Alucard almost completely to the point that Integra Hellsing herself has to physically interject on his behalf.

On a character level, most of the characters appear to be the same, except for Walter who seems a whole lot more sinister this time round and Seras Victoria, who is very different from her TV series counterpart. Initally when you see her, she appears to act very similiar to how she did in the TV show, vulnuerable and scared. When Alucard turns her however, it all goes very different. It begins with this weird, almost chibi-esque dream sequence that she has about her being chased by these undead fiends, which has an animation style you would expect to find in something like Azumanga Daioh, and seems out of place somewhat. Crazy stuff.

Soon she wakes up, checks herself by pulling up her top (alucard blew a massive hole in her breast) sees that she’s ok and realises that Alucard was sat on the bed oogling her the whole time with his trademark grin and then she freaks out, almost Naruto style. Her whole character as a vampire completely threw me here, as on one hand she appears to be playing the role of the comic relief and on the other she’s a cold hardened killer, that although has moments of vulnerability, has little hesitance and certainly doesn’t have the aversion to blood that her TV series incarnation had.

In terms of animation, the duties have been passed over to Satelight, the guys who helped produce the animation for Heat Guy J, and the visually stunning Macross Zero. The charcter designs have been tweaked somewhat to bring them more in line with the characters illustrated in the manga, and as such, everything now has an almost sketchlike quality to it, which lends a whole different look in contrast to the TV series. Obviously being a OVA, the budget has been upped signifcantly and it shows. The battle scenes are more visceral and dynamic than they ever were, and the CG use is excellent but done sparingly which is good, as it would certainly detract from the integrity and quality of the new character designs had they over-indulged.

I am loving this series so far. I really am. My only nit-pick, and one that I am sure will be cleared up for the stateside release, is the dub. What made the original Hellsing TV series so damn watchable were the funky British accents that were used. In particular, the cool menacing Scottish accent of Alexander Anderson. In the Japanese version though, you miss out on all this, but ah well, i’m hoping that the cast of the original series make their return.

So there you have it, everything seems immensely promising so far if you’re a hellsing fan (manga or otherwise), or just a fan of high-octane gothic action.

Roll on the official release.

Written by bitsnark

April 22, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 TV Series Review

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Time for something from the vault now folks. What I consider to be the ‘kickstarter’ of the mecha genre proper.

Mobile Suit Gundam: 0079 TV Series

Genre: Mecha War Drama
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Distributor: Bandai Entertainment
Duration: 25 minutes approx per episode with 42 episodes total
Production Creation: 1979

Plot Synopsis

Due to chronic overpopulation, mankind has expanded out into space and in doing so has created space colonies, known as sides. As more and more sides were established, a resistance movement who called themselves the Principality of Zeon, wanted to declare independence from the Earth and the Earth Federation.

Unshakeable in their intent, the Zeon forces began a war to ensure that this dream of independence was realised. The story begins at the start of this war, Universal Century 0079. After the genocide of billions at the start of this war and the use of high-tech combat mecha known as Mobile Suits, the Earth Federation have very few experienced pilots remaining. Young teenager Amuro Ray finds the calm peace of his life shattered when the war spreads to his colony. Swept up in the chaos, Amuro somehow finds himself at the controls of the Federation’s newest and most deadly weapon, the Mobile Suit known as Gundam.

Known as the ‘grandaddy’ of the mecha genre, Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original Gundam effectively kickstarted the whole genre in the first place with it’s unflinching and realistic portrayal of war, action packed mecha battles and believable characters.

The Review

When I first got into watching anime, it was Carl Macek’s Robotech that actually started my love with the whole mecha genre. After that I ‘graduated’ onto Macross, Neon Genesis Evangelion and other such great stalwarts of the genre. At some point recently I thought something was missing in my mecha anime. This feeling was compounded by the fact that I had heard innumerable praise about Gundam and in particular, the original Gundam series. Intrigued, and at the same time somewhat skeptical that an old crusty anime from back in the 70’s was as good as everybody had told me, it was with almost clenched teeth that I sat down to watch the series. With bad memories of other 70’s anime fresh in my mind, I figured I wasn’t going to be greatly enamoured with Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original Gundam series.

How silly and misguided those prejudices were.

Mobile Suit Gundam is the anime, at least in this reviewers humble opinion, that can be credited with the genesis of the mecha genre. Above and beyond that though, Mobile Suit Gundam can most significantly be credited for being the first and still one of the best anime for illustrating the horrors of war in a believable and non-patronising way. Whereas some other shows may simply show war as the good guys versus the bad guys, Mobile Suit Gundam shows you the conflict from both sides and the full gamut of human emotion displayed by each.

To achieve this in a convincing manner requires characters that are both interesting to watch and entirely believable. Fortunately, Mobile Suit Gundam has these in spades. Everybody from Amuro Ray, the young reluctant rookie of the Federation, through to the cunning yet admirably driven Zeon ace, Char Aznable, seem to have truly fleshed out multi-dimensional personalities. Just when you think they might fall into a generic role, they surprise you with actions or words that really make you realise just how superbly deep these characters are. The plot too isn’t a half-hearted venture either as you might imagine, as there are political power plays on both sides, criss-crossing relationships, betrayals, plot twists and a fair amount of tragedy thrown into the mix. Oh yeah, before I forget, there’s a whole load of pretty good mecha battles for you action junkies too, just so you don’t feel shortchanged. At the risk of spoiling the plot, I will simply say that if you are looking for an intelligent, human portrayal of war and how it affects those that are both directly and indirectly involved, Mobile Suit Gundam is rarely bettered.

The aspects in which Mobile Suit Gundam have been subsequently bettered are, as you probably would have guessed by now, the technical stuff. Original broadcast in 1979, but failing to gain any kind of mass audience until the movie remix versions were released sometime later, Mobile Suit Gundam is a very dated looking yet functional looking show. Line art tends to be simple, as do any kind of detail on the characters, mecha or backgrounds. Animation also tends to feel stunted, dated and jerky at times, with some really low frame counts at times. Even so, for anime of it’s time period, it was a remarkable achievement as the production values were good for it’s time and it managed to keep the values steady throughout it’s entire forty-two episode run. Sadly though, it doesn’t really compare to the shiny vistas and glossy CG aided animation that many of us are bombarded with today in our anime shows, and as such, will be criminally overlooked by those who can’t get past the dated visuals.

Thanks to Bandai, some extra effort has been afforded in bringing the audio in this show up to scratch. The music appears to be substantially different and better than the original ultra-cheesy tunes that blighted the shows original broadcast. As good as the music may be compared to the original, it still seems a bit cheesy and overly repetitive at times. The sound effects though fair a bit better and don’t quite carry the same typical 70’s sci-fi sound effect selection that was present to start with. Not bad, but you can still tell that the audio aspect of this show somewhat reflects the time in which it was made.

Ultimately though, Mobile Suit Gundam charm lies in it’s great storytelling and compelling characters. Sure it isn’t the pretty show around by the longest shot, but look beyond it’s dated technical aspects and persevere. Trust me, if you have even the remotest interest in a good story with drama and mecha action in equal parts, you will be like me: wondering why you doubted it in the first place.

Highly recommended.

Ratings Summary

Animation: D
Art: D-
Music: C-
Content: A

Overall: B+

Review by: JP Jones

Suitability for children

Despite it’s appearance and the time in which it was produced, Mobile Suit Gundam does have some scenes of civilian death, people being burned alive in their cockpits and events like that. Thankfully, they are not depicted in any kind of explicit way and are tastefully done. There are some fistfights and some scenes where a small amount of blood is spilled, but just this and the minimal amount of profanity, make this suitable for those aged 11+.

If you liked this why not try…

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team – Bandai Entertainment
Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: – Bandai Entertainment
War in the pocket
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 – Bandai Entertainment
Moblie Suit Gundam: – Bandai Entertainment
Char’s Counterattack
Macross TV Series – AnimEigo
Macross Plus OAV – Manga Entertainment

Written by bitsnark

April 3, 2006 at 7:31 pm

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