Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2045 (Season Two) [REVIEW] | To Doublethink Outside The Cage

Yeah, let’s tackle something a bit more challenging before we once again dip our toes in braindead killer animal exploitation crap.

When i reviewed the first season of this new Ghost In The Shell series back in 2020, i wasn’t expecting it would take 2 years before the second part/season would finally air, not because these projects aren’t time consuming (they are), but the general lack of interest in this new 3D CG iteration of the franchise shown by fans and the lack of much news at all almost made wonder if Netflix didn’t consider cancelling.

But then again, in the meantime we saw that it would take a gargantuan dumpster fire such as the live action Cowboy Bebop to make the streaming giant go and actively go “yeah, we’re gonna make more of this trash but we actually decided not to”.

A rare move, given WHAT this company is usually okay with greenlighting in excess, while killing stuff people actually likes.

Still, after a while it became clear this second season wasn’t exactly making anime fans go in the streets to demand it big time. Riots were not made for SAC 2045 Part 2, that much is undeniable.

Eventually, in late May 2022 the second season dropped on Netflix, preceded by a compilation film of the first season, called – fittingly so – GITS SAC 2045: Sustainable Warfare, which we talked about in its EXPRESSO review, and overall served as a good refresher since 2 years had passed.

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[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.

[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.

Agon The Atomic Dragon AKA Giant Phantom Monster Agon (1968-1990s) [REVIEW] Uranium Chorogon

Digging deeper into the kaiju crevices, we find a lot of minor monster flicks from the “monster factory of Nippon”, Toho, in this case being a mini-series made of 4 episodes and with a confusing release history, as it was completed in 1964, but wasn’t broadcasted on Fuji TV until 1968, after Toho realized the project involved two of their own talents, with Fuminori Ohashi (Tsuburaya’s special effects apprentice) and writer Shinichi Sekizawa, already proven for penning other kaiju classics such as Mothra, Mothra Vs Godzilla and Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla (the 1974 one), and the company was convinced that Agon didn’t directly step on the nuclear toes of their monster star.

I said a confusing release history because in mid 90s the episodes were recompiled into a feature lenght film and distributed internationally onn VHS as Agon: Atomic Dragon… and i can’t find any source that actually pinpoints when exactly it was released in the 90s, Letterboxd instead says it was in the 80s, and there’s also a japanese DVD release in 2005 by King Records.

Thankfully is not hard to find in any form, as the english subbed episodes can be found on Youtube, and you might stumble upon fansubbed releases of the feature lenght compilation version.

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[EXPRESSO] Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (2020) | Eternal Pyre

Fuck it, i’m reviewing this one as well, since it did eventually arrive just now in theathers here in Italy…. after being made available on Amazon Prime Video months earlier, but i’m willing to watch it again to support anime cinema releases, and to properly assess things further for a review.

Since the series it’s the more recent shonen manga success story, i doubt i need to introduce Demon Slayer/Kimetsu No Yaiba, even more since i feel its success lies in being pretty straightforward and easy to connect, as its set in a fantasy Japan of old, where demons lurk at night and feast on people, but are fought back by a secret order of samurai with mystical blades and techniques, the Demon Slayer Corps.

The protagonist, Tanjiro, becomes a Demon Slayer in hopes to undo the curse that made his sister Nezuko a demon, and along the way befriendes the cowardly lightining fast swordman Zenitsu, as well as Inosuke, a wild boy wearing a boar mask.

The plot revolves around the trio being tasked to – alongside an experienced demon slayer called Rengoku – embark a train and protect the people on it from eventual demon ambushes, and this isn’t an original story, a mostly disconnected one-off adventure, as most of these shonen anime movies are, but actually bridges the events of the first and second season, and has some important stuff happening in it, so i wouldn’t recommend jumping into this if you haven’t seen the first season (or red the equivalent manga chapters), for spoiler reasons.

That said, it can be watched fine on its own, and rewatching it made clear it’s a pretty good shonen manga film, with excellent animation from ufotable as expected, funny moments, good drama, likeable characters and intense fights with high stakes.

Remember Kancolle? It’s back, in second season form!

Not even two weeks into 2022, and we’re getting befuddling news like that the second season of the Kancolle anime series isn’t scrapped, but it’s coming out this fall (October 2022), after 6 years of absolutely nothing aside from messages from Kadokawa confirming the thing was actually being made somewhere, somehow, and technically not cancelled.

Guess it was true, but it’s still a surprise considering how Kancolle as a brand has been eclipsed by competitor Azur Lane, who brought the formula into international hands, making more bazillions along the way, to say nothing of the other gacha free to play games with similar themes of “antropomorphized anime girls versions of weapons… and mostly WW II warships”.

The brand as a whole it’s not dead, and Kancolle still does decently in its own original browser game incarnation back in Japan, which i guess makes sense, since Kadokawa Games’ division never planned to make the game (officially) available outside of Japan, but i guess someone in the upper echelon of Kadokawa its kicking himself he didn’t push to localize the darn thing or make a smarthphone version to also make available overseas, since Azur Lane did exactly that, and stole Kancolle’s thunder and a huge part of the potential fanbase.

So yeah, i guess that other, different Kancolle anime series that was announced – and also confirmed as “not dead” over time- it’s also being made, eventually.

Guess i’ll have to review the first season of the Kancolle anime and the sequel movie this summer, i’ve already reviewed both Azur Lane The Animation and the slice-of-life spin-off Slow Ahead, so why the fuck not?

12 Days Of Dino Dicember #4: Attack Of The Super Monsters (1982)

It really IS Christmas time, because today we’re doing a movie that’s both dinosaurs and vintage tokusatsu cheesiness from the 80s. How can you go wrong? You simply can’t.

Add drill spaceship to the mix and you really can’t go wrong.

Though it’s worth pointing out this is actually an edited down TV series (i suppose it’s just the first 4 episodes of the series mashed together, as it was a common practice at the time), Dinosaur War Aizenborg, itself quite the interesting piece of media, as it’s an hybrid anime and live action show, with sentai style rubber suit and stop motion puppets action for the dinosaurs and giant monsters, but animation for the humans and most regular animals, played over live-action miniature sets.

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[EXPRESSO] Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop (Season One) (2021) | It’s time we blow

I was gonna make a full review, but then realized it wasn’t deserving of it.

Often you see people wondering who the hell is the target for live action adaptations of anime series that etched theirselves as classics, even more when it’s a series that become a hit even outside the anime circles, so you can’t really pull the snarky excuse “no normal people have seen the thing”.

In this case, i feel no one, because it’s incredible how they managed to create something that not only the fans will despise but newcomers will just find bad, and wonder why the hell people liked Cowboy Bebop to begin with.

An adaptation of an anime that should actually work better than most in live action, but manages to be a genuine complete wreck.

It’s also a live action adaptation made by and for people that scoff at anime, because that sentiment it’s made pretty much manifest by the many changes made to excuse, justify or alter many elements and expand on stuff regardless if it makes sense or if it’s good.

This was always gonna be different from the original, but this is such a witless, soulless, boring, badly paced and barely recognizable adaptation that fundamentally misunderstands the material and it’s willing do any random garbage with it, hypocritically treating the original as gospel but without really respecting it, or even understanding it, not really caring too much to anyway.

The fairly cheap CG it sparely uses to remember you it’s technically set in space doesn’t help. I seriously hope the budget for the One Piece live action they’re also working is higher than this.

The cast it’s quite good and does an unbelievable job, but they can’t save this pitiable, hackneyed, utterly ill-conceived trash from itself. Don’t even bother hatewatching it.

One Piece TV Specials Retrospective

An entire retrospective on One Piece films is coming, but since i already reviewed them all (expect for Stampede, which was due in Japanese cinemas by the end of the retrospective) for the italian Wise Cafe just 2 years ago, and we already covered the OVAs & featurettes last year, i thinked about it and figured making more time pass would lead to better material, instead of me just translating and partially rewriting the old pieces. I want to, but not yet. Not yet.

This retrospective will only consider the 13 TV Specials considered as such, you could argue a lot of special episodes (like the Romance Dawn version 2 anime remake or the Chopperman episodes) also fit, but then i would have also to consider the crossovers episodes with Toriko and Dragon Ball Z, and i’ll come clean: i considered doing them as well, but i simply don’t have the time right now. Sorry.

Look forward to those and an extra One Piece videogame review as well!

Some (mostly) SPOILER FREE words about Castlevania’s Season 4 and the series as a whole

Since i don’t have time to review the whole series right now (maybe for october), i’ll just talk about Season 4 of Netflix’s Castlevania animated series in a less composed and more “first thoughts” kinda way.

One season with the tall task to basically undo the damage the crappy (and honestly problematic in handling its themes and issues) third season did, and keep in mind i didn’t even know of the allegations of Warren Ellis (the writer) being a sex pest when the third season hit, i found out a bit later, and sure as shit it didn’t make me like the absolute trainwreck Season 3 was.

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