[EXPRESSO] Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko (2021) | Niku Niku Ni!

Anime cinema time!

Finally arriving here as a 3 days only event screening, Fortune Favours Lady Nikuko (based on a novel of the same name by Kanako Nishi) is the latest feature film from director Ayumu Watanabe (Children Of The Sea, Space Brothers) and once again animated by Studio 4C.

A more straightforward tale than Children Of The Sea, the movie tells the story of the titular Nikuko, an easy going, cheerful, incredibly passionate and gluttonous woman who falls for crappy men that swindle her, forcing to continuously move elsewhere with her 11 yo girl, Kikuko, whom is unsurprisingly embarassed by her mother penchant for eating, her goofy demeanours and naivetè. Despite having nothing in common, they settled in living on a boat in a small port town.

Incredible animation, realistic portrayal and characterization of kids that age, a good balance between drama and comedy, some effective emotional moments, great characterization, there’s pretty much everything that makes a good film… and this is a good film, flawed but still good.

Despite being the title character, this is the story of her child, Kikuko, while Ninuko feels like a support comic relief, as she’s animated differently for that very purpose, and while you can’t really hate her, it’s frustrating how she ultimately lacks the proper nuance as a character to be more than a butt for the many visual fat jokes.

Also, while you get invested in the events, there’s barely a plot at all, more like a collage of slice life sequences focused on character study, which is fine but there’s also not much even in terms of overarching conflicts, so it’s kinda hard to stay invested all the way through.

Even so, it’s still a good film…. you most likely will not fall in love with at first watch.

[EXPRESSO] Ghost In The Shell -Stand Alone Complex 2045: Sustainable Warfare (2022) | Cyborg Cut

I’ve reviewed the first season of Stand Alone Complex 2045 before in detail, but as a refresher for season 2 finally arriving (2 years after the first one, dang) later this month, i’d figured i watch the film-like compilation cut of Season 1, titled Substainable Warfare, recently arrived on Netflix.

Btw, yes, this actually follows the continuity from the older Stand Alone Complex series, being set 11 years after the event of the movie Solid State Society, BUT, in typical GITS fashion, it’s also a separate entity that can be enjoyed on its own… even though in this case you really need to have some familiarity with the Stand Alone Complex series to get the most out of it.

As a very quick primer, GITS it’s about an unit of elite special agents, Section 9, led by Motoko Kusanagi abd working for the Japanese goverment, with its members having various degrees of cybernetic implants and specialized skills used to deal in terrorist attacks, infiltrations, hacking incident, and all that cyberpunk jazz.

Here we have the group mostly disbanded and acting as a mercenary unit in America, until the rise of the so-called “Post Humans” leds to Section 9 being re-formed to deal with the issue.

The recut itself it’s well done (though it does away completely with the “geezers bank heist” episode, shame), in terms of the material… well, it’s still better than Arise, though it tries a bit too hard to update/modernize the cyberpunk themes, and this first part/season ends on a cliffhanger when it starts getting good.

Then there’s the okay but kinda questionable choice of artstyle, going for a fairly good 3D CG that sadly doesn’t feel THAT much improved upon, 11 years after the same animation studio (Sola Digital Arts) curated Applesee Alpha in similar fashion.

Berserk and The Band Of The Hawk PS4 [REVIEW] #musoumay

Even if i reviewed (or re-reviewed, since i did already cover this one in 2017 on my older Italian blog) this one before of Miura’s passing, i would have told a tale of sadness, woe and disappointment.

But i won’t deny that with Kentaro Miura spiralling out of this mortail coil just over a year ago… there’s an extra serving of melancholy to the subject, which it’s ironically fitting in its own way.

As you would expect, there was some expectations at the time, even more since Koei Tecmo teased it and made a big deal about one this being one of more bloody and violent Warriors games ever…. and in hindsight it’s very telling, as they also did this lip service for Warriors Of Troy. Oh boy.

That aside, you would expect the Berserk musou to be pretty bloody and gory regardless, and it definitely delivered on that, can’t take it away from the game. I can though laugh at the fuckin localized english title they went with for this game, Berserk’s main character has a name, and a pretty not-generic one, you know?

He’s called Gatsu/Guts, just so you know.

Though that it’s not completely random, as the game starts from the Golden Age arc and covers up to the Hawk of the Millennium Empire Arc, with them boarding the ship after fighting Ganisha serving as the closing chapter.

Continua a leggere “Berserk and The Band Of The Hawk PS4 [REVIEW] #musoumay”

Spy X Family (2022) [ANIME FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

I didn’t plan to do another “first impressions” piece on a recent anime release, especially since the original manga by Tatsuya Endo (whom you might be already familiar with, as he previously worked on fan-favourite TISTA) sky-rocketed in popularity after debutting on Shonen Jump in 2019, and especially last year as it received wider releases globally.

A relatively new series on Jump with an original premise that doesn’t fall in the “battle manga” genre, but instead goes for a spy theme was bound to turn heads and be popular, and eventually get an anime series. So here we are, and while this series doesn’t need my “push” to become popular or anything (as it’s also streaming in most countries on Crunchyroll, which is obviously marketing the hell out of it) it’s one of the few shows i’ve decided to actually follow as they air this season (alongside Ya Boy Kongming!, of course), so might as well say something about it.

Once again, i’m considering the first 3 episodes as a basis to draw these first impressions from.

Continua a leggere “Spy X Family (2022) [ANIME FIRST IMPRESSIONS]”

[EXPRESSO] Pacific Rim: The Black (Season Two) (2022) | Kaiju Kult

Well, look’s who back, a series that i honestly even forgot existed, but they did announced this second (and final) season, guess that branding helped.

So yeah, while i didn’t hate the first season, Pacific Rim The Black was kinda the perfect example of “Netflix anime”, as in, it looks like anime, it’s produced by an anime company and japanese directors, but you could tell it’s written by non-japanese staff.

Which isn’t necessarily an issue, but you just can tell right away and it creates this slight disconnect, and due to that once again it’s hard to say for whom exactly this is made for exactly, given it’s still made in okayish but still janky 3D CG (and the specific “3D CG anime jank” of Polygon Pictures output), which is kinda offputting for most of the self-proclaimed “anime enthusiasts”.

But on the flipside, it’s not that bad, it’s honestly alright, it’s entertaining enough and this one picks from the point where the first season started having some interesting worldbuilding and character development, and manages to make the plot have some purpose (though it kinda has to, since this is the final season), introducing a death cult of Kaiju worshippers.

It’s an actual improvement over the first season, the writing it’s still nothing impressive, but it’s better, though despite being just another 7 episodes, i did wonder if it was ever supposed to be longer, as some resolutions and events happen very quickly, almost abruptly so.

Again, it’s alright, but as the idea of anime series based on Pacific Rim makes a lot of sense if you think about it, it kinda let you wish it had better animation and a slightly longer lenght.

Still, for a spin-off “western-ish anime” series that didn’t need to exist in the first place… it’s decent.

Paripi Koumei / Ya Boy Kongming! (2022) [ANIME FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

(Impressions based upon the first 3 episodes)

I stumbled by chance into this new anime, and i feel it was meant to be, given my love for Romance Of The Three Kingdoms i’m not gonna skim over a new anime with good ol’ Zhuge Liang (AKA Kongming) as the protagonist, especially since it’s not a historical tale, but a sort of isekai-ish story where, after his death by illness in the Wuzhang Plains, sees him reincarnated as his young self in modern Shibuya during Halloween.

He gets drunk as a skunk and enjoys the party life that night, then the next day he’s helped by a young girl, an aspiring singer called Eiko, realizes what actually happened to him, and decides to help her back by serving as her “career strategist”, but first he needs a job to secure some “war funds”.

Luckily Eiko works and sings at a club run by a huge ROTTK nerd, so “ya boy” Kongming is hired as a barman.

Continua a leggere “Paripi Koumei / Ya Boy Kongming! (2022) [ANIME FIRST IMPRESSIONS]”

[EXPRESSO] Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (2022) | & Knuckles

Might as well, since i did watch the first live action Sonic movie 2 years ago, i didn’t hate it, so let’s see if there are some improvements or whatever. Shame that since it’s dubbed here i won’t be able to hear Idris Elba voicing Knuckles, but what can you do?

After banishing Eggman/Robotnik into another dimension at the end of the first movie, Sonic and his acquired human family move to a peaceful town in Montana. Sonic tries to moonlight as a superhero-vigilante but as he causes more trouble by doing so he’s recommended to lay low and wait until his powers will be needed again.

Turns out that time is sooner than expected, as Dr. Robotnik comes back from his fungine dimensional exile, bringing a powerful creature known as Knuckles fighting for him in search of the fabled Master Emerald, while Sonic finds an ally in the two-tailed fox Tails.

To my surprise, this one (in a similar fashion to the actual videogame sequel of the original Sonic The Hedgehog game) is better, still nothing mind blowing, but it’s definitely a step up, not only as the story ups the ante (as expected), introduces more characters, but also has more lore about the world from where Sonic was born, with the owls vs echidnas wars and stuff.

It’s just more fleshed out all around, with even the human characters having some funny bits, the various elements from the game being integrated more into the plot, which is pretty much predictable all the way but quite enjoyable, in no small part thanks – once again – to Jim Carrey’s gargantuan serving of acting ham as Doctor Robotnik, but also due to the more substantial plot.

It’s honestly a decent family-kids movie with a 90s flair (deliberately and fittingly so).

[EXPRESSO] Belle (2021) | Every Me And Every U

You know what, i did have some expectations from Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, as i did quite like Mirai, and i hoped the streak would continue… and it kinda did.

That it, when i wasn’t baffled by the script “skipping” to the main scenes but forgetting to introduce actually crucial information that would lead to said scenes, as Hosoda’s ambition it’s sadly overreaching, and the final result really lacks cohesion, coming off as both overwrought and undeveloped in some aspects. Which is a goddamn shame because the premise, the themes and the overall concept are pretty damn good, but are elaborated on in a way where there’s too much to it.

Belle it’s about the 17 yo Suzu, a very timid and shy girl who has lost her mother and lives with her father in a rural small town. One day she receives an invite to “U”, an advanced and immersive social network with millions of users, receives the avatar of “Belle” and – with the help of her tech savvy friend – becomes a sensational hit singer. But soon she meets with a reviled user with the avatar of a dragon-like beast, hunted by U’s “police force”.

The animation is pretty good, the visuals are quite nice and sometimes pretty dazzling, the music – a big part of the movie – it’s also good, some scenes are quite good, so it’s frustrating how it’s dragged down by the oversprawling script, which makes some questionable choices and really could have used more than a trimming to flesh out the characters betters… and to explain how the hell some characters – out of the blue – know plot crucial information, among other things.

Overall, it’s a decent movie, but it’s too all over the place for its own good and ambition.

[EXPRESSO] The Cuphead Show (Season One) (2022) | Ragtime Round

Unlike many videogames to animated series adaptations, Cuphead having his own Netflix show makes some sense, given its aesthetic molded after the style of 1930s cartoons, why not make a cartoon using the characters and the retro-aesthetic?

I’m gonna say this now so we can move on from it, but yes, i really wanted the team to opt for a full proper rubberhose style animation, but that would have required a fuckton more time and money, and honestly the animation is pretty good, with some episodes even mixing live-action sets, and overall i gotta say it delivers on the presentation.

The voice acting is on spot in terms of accents and lingo too, the character designs and mannerism are perfect but in terms of content it’s a bit uneven because it doesn’t really go all the way to imitate the source material, i mean, you expect a lot more in terms of guns, cigars and gambling, but nope, it’s kinda mild and forgettable.

It also basically ignores the plot of the videogame it’s based off, instead going for mostly episodical…. mundane adventures. Yeah, Cuphead owns the Devil its soul… but that goes ultimately nowhere, and the writing it’s uneven, as some episodes do manage to work in a musical number, some good jokes and a good rhytm to the slapstick, others feel like they exist to waste time and deliver cheapo jokes that come off as too modern.

The Cuphead Show it’s an odd case of a series stuck in between a cheapish low effort animated comedy and a tribute to 30s style cartoons, so ultimately it’s just kinda there, inoffensive, fairly short and easy to binge, cute but just with not much of substance going on under its “borrowed” aesthetic.

A second season has already been greenlit, regardless. Mh.

Girls/Dolls Frontline (2022) TV ANIME [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

The gacha-age of anime it’s still going strong, since after the gag anime based on Girls/Dolls Frontline debutted on BiliBili… we’re now actually getting an adaptation of the strategy gacha game’s story, because why the fuck not? Why yes?

Doesn’t matter, it’s there anyway, so let’s take a look at the first 3 episodes, i did actually play this one a lot more than most of these “things turned anime girls” gacha game, since it was actually a strategy game that held some actual gameplay alongside trying to roll the best “gungirl”.

Yep, this time we have mass-produced humanoid robots virtually indistinguishable from humans called “Tactical dolls” (referred to as “T-Dolls” for brevity’s sake), named after a specific type and model of weaponry, and a very Terminatoresque plot set in the not-too-distant future of 2045, when World War III erupts and various PMCs send out their tactical dolls to fight.

Continua a leggere “Girls/Dolls Frontline (2022) TV ANIME [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]”