Anime Corner: Patlabor: The Movie Review

Police with mechs, do I really need to say anything else?

What’s the Story?

In the near future, of 1999, a new technology has revolutionised construction, the Labor. These mechanical giants allow for building on a scale previously unheard of, such as the Babylon project which hopes to reclaim land from Tokyo Bay for the ever crowded city. Of course with every new technology there are those that would use it for ill and so the police set up the Special Vehicle Section 2 who, with their Patlabors (Patrol Labors), fight these new cases of crime.

The suicide of a leading Labor programmer leads the officers of SVU division 2 into a potentially devastating case. Something is driving Labors crazy, setting them loose to rampage across the city, but what is the cause? What’s more with a typhoon due to hit Japan the potential for disaster is at an all time high. Is this all the mad revenge of a twisted man, or a final warning before things go too far?

The Review:

Patlabor is one of those franchises where I wish I could get hold of more of the content. As it stands I’ve managed to get my hands on the first two movies and the early days OVA series. I know there’s a TV series out there somewhere, but I’ve yet to track down a copy in the UK and this is an older series to begin with so my hopes have been steadily dwindling on that front. It’s kinda infuriating because Patlabor has such an amazingly simple concept, what if we had a mecha series where said mechs weren’t just weapons of war, but used as they potentially could be in real life (you know, if we had that kind of technology). The Labors of Patlabor are primarily used for construction, obviously the ones we follow are the ones used by the police and there are some military ones hanging around, but that’s not what the bulk of Labors were made for. There’s a depth and a realism to the world that this franchise creates that I just adore, not that the series is always serious, sometimes its just plain goofy and I love that side of it too (seriously check out the early days OVA series, the Godzilla parody is worth it alone, but there are some really great episodes in that series, especially the last three).

Enough talk about the franchise as a whole though, let’s get on to the subject of today’s review, the first movie. Honestly out of what I have seen of the Patlabor franchise this film is my favourite. It’s got an interesting plot, some gorgeously animated sequences and on the whole it’s just a lot of fun. My only real gripe with it is that it’s probably not the best place to start with Patlabor. I mean this film was the first thing I saw of the franchise, but I appreciate it a lot better after having watched the early days OVA series (which I’ll just plug again, go see it!). You see the film doesn’t really spend a lot of time introducing you to its characters or delving too deeply into who they all are. The characters are just there, doing what they do. Noah fusses over her Labor, which she calls Alphonse. Asuma takes the lead on the investigation, while also blowing his lid at several points and being a jerk to Noah on occasion. Ota is as gun crazy as ever. Then there’s Captain Goto, the puppet master, always one step ahead and manipulating everyone to do what he wants. Goto’s my favourite character.

The focus for this film is more on it’s plot and themes. It’s quite a ponderous film, but then it was directed by Mamoru Oshii, yes that one, so that should give you some idea of what you’re in for. There are several long, almost silent shots of Tokyo as well as scenes of characters quietly philosophising and yet the film never once lost my attention. Between some of the more gorgeous shots and animation sequences, as well as some fun character interactions, it’s hard not to be engaged with this film, but I also enjoy the ideas it’s playing around with. The central question of which is how much progress is too much? And in our rush to get the next new, shiny thing, are we leaving something important behind? You could apply that to this film itself, this is ‘old-school’ 80s cell animation after all. No matter where you stand on the debate between older anime and more modern productions, you have to admit that cell animation has a certain quality to it that is missing from anything since the 2000s. Not to rag on digital animation techniques, for me the majority of what we get today is better looking, but it’s also nice to take a break from the clean, bright colours and appreciate something a bit more textured every once in a while. Plus there’s all those great old school mechanical designs to look at.

Back to the film though, it’s not entirely all talk and philosophy. There’s plenty of great mecha-on-mecha action, but all of that action is grouped at either the start or the climax of the film. The rest is about the mystery of rampaging labors and police work. Asuma gets the lions’ share of things to do, which makes sense since he has a personal connection involved in this case and his job is supposed to be about strategy and directing the others so it makes sense for him to puzzle things out. Goto gets some great moments manipulating Asuma into working on the case in the first place and Noah gets a couple of moments, including a pretty badass one towards the end. Everyone else is pretty much relegated to the background unfortunately, but again characters aren’t really the focus here. The mystery itself is well-paced and always engaging, with the threat escalating as Division 2 realise the full scope of the problem. As I said, out of the OVA series and the two films I’ve seen, this is my favourite and one I keep coming back to. It’s also my favourite Mamoru Oshii work, you know just to get all the Ghost in the Shell fans angry at me.

The Verdict:

In the end, while I don’t think Patlabor: The Movie is the best gateway into this franchise, it’s certainly the best of the franchise (out of what I’ve seen). A smart, atmospheric mystery paired with fun characters, gorgeously designed mecha and some top notch animation. If you feel like taking a step back in time to watch an older anime film, then I thoroughly recommend this. Also if you want to check out some of Mamoru Oshii’s work before Ghost in the Shell or watch a mecha story where the protagonists aren’t sullen teenagers forced to fight in a war (not that those aren’t great in their own right) then check this out!

Also if you want some more mecha action, make sure to check out Mechanical Anime Reviews this month for Mecha March!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Given the Movie Review

He said it! He FINALLY said it!

What’s the Story?

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. That’s how the saying goes, but Akihiko isn’t so sure it’s true. He loved Ugetsu and then he lost him, but even after all this time he can’t seem to let go. Then there’s Haruki, so clearly in love with Akihiko and yet he can’t bring himself to say it, but there’s something there, right? Amidst all this tangle of feelings and unspoken truths, the guy’s band is starting to get some attention. They’ve made it through to the final stage of a competition and Mafuyu wants to write a new song. Can they get ready for the contest and have a new song ready in time, or will love be the spanner in the works? Mafuyu’s got something to say and just like before, he’s going to express it through music.

The Review

Given was one of my favourite anime of 2019, if not the whole decade (I really should have put together a list of my top 10 series from 2010-2020, ah well, maybe some other time). It’s a series that took me completely by surprise, normally I prefer my romance as a subplot to something else, but here it’s the main course and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was completely won over by the charming characters, gentle atmosphere and the odd subversion of typical romantic cliches (if you want more details you can check out my review of the first season HERE). So, all that being said, how does the movie stack up? It’s very good. It doesn’t quite make it to the unmissable stamp like the series did, but it’s still an incredibly solid film and if you’ve seen the series then you should definitely be checking this out. My complaints are minor at best and down to personal taste more than anything else.

Let’s start with probably my biggest complaint, there’s a shocking lack of Mafuyu and Uenoyama in this film. They are there, they have a couple of scenes together, Mafuyu gets some scenes interacting with others and then he gets to sing at the end, that’s about it. This is not their film, which upsets me because those two are just adorable together and I love every minute that they’re on screen together. Fair is fair though, there are other characters in this series and they deserve some of the spotlight, so why not hand over the movie to them. If you’ve skipped the story section of this review, for whatever reason, this film belongs to Akihiko, Haruki and Ugetsu, picking up on the plot threads that were left dangling at the end of the series and exploring their tangled mess of a love triangle.

That disappointment at the lack of Mafuyu and Uenoyama aside, this is an engaging love story. You feel the frustration, hurt and longing that makes up all three of the lead characters, each of them struggling to either move on from or towards a relationship. There are some wonderfully awkward moments and gentle bits of humour that I love this series for, but there are also some really intense, emotionally-charged scenes. Honestly this is a lot more what I was expecting from a romance series, with characters unable to bring themselves to talk about their feelings openly and occasionally getting lost in misunderstandings. That’s probably what docks this movie another point as one of the aspects I loved so much about the series was when it subverted common romance tropes. Still, that doesn’t make the tropes bad and they’re certainly well done, I felt everything this movie wanted me to feel. I mean I was tearing up by the time those last couple of scenes were playing and I practically jumped out of my seat when Akihiko stumbled his way into his confession.

One last thing to talk about, if you’ve looking for a big blockbuster of a film, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. The series was a very gentle, low key affair and, some of the more intense scenes aside, the movie follows suit. If anything it feels like three or four episodes of the series crammed into an hour’s slot. If you’re after something explosive and ‘big budget’, well that’s just not the kind of story this is. For every time the dial gets turned up to eleven, it’s often followed by a more calming, sweet and funny scene, which is how I prefer this series. On the visual front the movie looks just slightly better than the series, which adds to that feeling that this is a few extra episodes bolted together, not that that’s a bad thing. Honestly I prefer this film that way, I will always be down for more episodes of this series in whatever form they choose to arrive and now the stage has been set for the story to continue in whatever direction it wants. Give me a season 2 already!

The Verdict

All in all, Given the movie is a great continuation of the series I loved so much. By the end we’ve tied up a few plot threads that had been left dangling, gotten to know some of the characters a lot better and set the stage for stories to come. The romance may be a bit more tropey that it was in the series and there’s a shocking lack of Mafuyu and Uenoyama for my liking, but it’s fair that other people get the spotlight for a while. It’s a sweet, engaging and often funny love story, which is what the Given series always excels at. If you haven’t seen the series, check that out first, if you have then what are you waiting for? Check this out if you haven’t already!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Frozen 2

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from. All he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

And he did! For 6 glorious years he gushed over the exquisite and bemoaned the dull and infuriating. He tried genres he’d previously shied away from, found new favourites, made friends, and celebrated classics and unsung greats alike. Yet there was a foe waiting for him on his 6th anniversary. The first foe. The Frozen Foe. It is time to close the circle. It is time to review…

Water has memory, apparently.

What’s the Story?

Everything is just perfect in Arendelle. Since the end of their last adventure, Queen Elsa and Anna have an unbreakable bond, Kristoff is so in love he has marriage on his mind and everyone is just so content and happy, what could possibly change that? How about the strange voices that have been calling to Elsa? Or the four nature spirits that have spent years locked away behind mists, only for Elsa to unleashed them on an unsuspecting Arendelle. To save their home, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven will have to travel beyond the mists and into an enchanted forest. There they will learn the truth of the sister’s heritage and face a potentially destructive choice for their kingdom. Nothing lasts forever and autumn is the season of change…

The Review

I’m 6 years old! Okay, I’m not, I’m five times that age now (physically at least, mentally I’m still in my late teens), but I’ve been writing this little blog o’mine for six whole years and that surprises me more than anyone else. I never really had a plan for this blog, a few stray ideas like the backstory for my character that you saw at the top of this post, but that was it really. I just needed some place to talk about what I wanted to talk about, plus it’s done wonders for my writing and my confidence in my own voice. Honestly I’ve had a blast writing this blog these past six years and I hope to have a blast writing it for the next six years and beyond. If you’ve read even one of my posts, then you have my heartfelt thanks, I hope you’ve enjoyed what I do here and will continue to enjoy it going into the future. Enough preamble though, let’s get down to business. October 31st 2014, I wrote my very first review for the, at the time, latest Disney animated film, Frozen (which you can check out HERE if you’re curious). I had mixed feelings about the film at best and really those feelings were the catalyst for this whole blog. It took me a long time to come to terms with my disappoint in the first film, most of which was really the fault of my own overhyping and expectations clashing with what the film actually was, plus a few minor complaints.

I was nervous coming into this sequel, I mean Disney does not have the best track record with sequels to begin with. Then the first trailer hit and my hype rose to the ceiling. It was so dark and moody, showed a perfectly executed scene and promised exactly what I wanted from the first film. Elsa using her powers in an action sequence for more than five seconds! Hints at where Elsa’s powers come from! Anna wielding a sword like the knight she truly is! Then the film released and the reviews were…middling, which brought my hype right back down and, honestly, that was probably for the best. So what did I think of the film? It’s…okay. It’s not terrible by any stretch, it’s also not going to break into my top 10 Disney films any time soon. It’s just…okay and that’s fine. I did enjoy watching the film, but I can also see its problems pretty clearly and why it didn’t resonate with people as much as the original did.

I think there’s a fair argument to be made that Frozen 2 does improve on its predecessor in some areas, just not all. As the trailer promised, Frozen 2 gave me several things that I’d been crying out for in the original. Elsa is the shining star of this film, she’s throwing her ice powers around like a total badass, taking on all comers, and honestly her fights with the different spirits are probably my favourite parts of the film. The animation is top notch, as I expect from Disney, I mean the whole reason I sold my soul to this company was on the understanding that they consistently produce work from animators and creators at the top of their craft. The textures and the colours are just superb in this film, I mean just watch that cascade of water at the end of the film it is just outstanding from a technical standpoint. Part of my disappointment in the original was from the animation, honestly I think Tangled looked better (yes I’m a Tangled fanboy). The autumnal landscapes of Frozen 2 add that little extra bit of colour that the original was lacking, plus six years of technological development.

Where the original Frozen beats Frozen 2 though, and this is by far the more important area, is in its story. Frozen had a very clear story. Elsa has ice powers, which she is afraid of. She loses control of her powers and runs away, Anna must then travel up the North Mountain to find her sister and help her gain control over herself and her powers. The story is a single straight line, with every element and character playing into that story. Frozen 2 is much more muddled. Everyone has their own separate storyline and they barely intersect at all. Kristoff keeps trying to propose to Anna, and keeps messing it up (also Anna is paying him no attention at all and I think that’s something they need to work on before the idea of marriage comes up). Honestly it’s a one-note joke that has been done better elsewhere, even by Disney cough Rescuers Down Under cough. Olaf has nothing to do whatsoever expect for make bad jokes and it quickly takes him from loveable doofus to the annoying comic relief we all feared he’d be in the first film. Anna’s story is good in concept. After fighting so hard to reconnect with her sister she’d desperate to keep a hold of her, so much so that it’s consuming her and that is a fascinating development for the character. Unfortunately the storyline just doesn’t get the time it needs to develop and the resolution is kinda lacking.

Elsa’s story is the primary focus of this film, delving into where her powers came from, her family history and, really, Elsa discovering who she truly is. That storyline is very well done, the whole ‘Show Yourself’ sequence is probably my highlight of the film, it’s one of the few times where the film actually got an emotional response out of me. That smile as Elsa sings with her mother, truly, finally, understanding who she is was just magnificent. Back to the problem though, because none of the other characters are actually really needed for this plot. Elsa is the only necessary character, potentially Anna as she tries to hold Elsa back, but all the other characters are just kind of there. Honestly it does make me wish that this film was just Anna and Elsa. If it was me I’d just have them encountering wild spirits and dealing with the dangers of the forest, all the while paralleling the first film. This time, instead of chasing after her sister, Anna has to learn to let Elsa go and discover things for herself, and that that doesn’t mean they’ll never see one another again, far from it. It would also mean that we wouldn’t have to include random tribe and random soldiers that are also just kind of there.

I mean, if you do want to introduce this tribe into the lore of the series, as well as these spirits and mythology, as well as giving everyone something to do you’re going to need more than a film’s run time to do it. We really need to get to know these people and this locale if you expect the audience to care and there’s just not enough time or focus to do that here. Maybe if you had like a series worth of episodes you could do it. Nah, that’s silly. I mean what Disney film would get a series expanding its mythology and developing it’s characters. Cough Tangled the Series cough Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure cough. Sorry, I swore I wouldn’t compare this film to Tangled, no, I’ve got a review specifically for that franchise later in the month!

The Verdict

In the end, Frozen 2 is a decent film. If you’re an Elsa fan you’ll probably love this as she is the shining star, leaping into the action and finding herself while also finally explaining exactly where her powers come from. If you’re a fan of anyone else however, I’d suggest going back to the first film. The animation is spectacular and more than up to Disney’s usual standard and the songs are all enjoyable. It’s a fun film, treat it as such and you should have a good time, but this is not the start of yet another Disney renaissance (that honour still belongs to Tangled and I will fight anyone who says otherwise).

Thank you again to my wonderful readers, I hope you enjoyed this and will continue to enjoy my work here. Next week we’re back to anime as I have my first impressions of the current season, but after that we’re getting back on the Disney train for the rest of the month as there’s a couple of series I just have to talk about!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Wonder Woman Bloodlines

Blog Wonder Woman Bloodlines Review Title

“If you seek to harm it or my friends, you should have a weapon.”

Well, we’re back to the DC Universe animated movies and, hold on, what’s this? A movie that stars neither Batman, Superman nor does it focus on some variety of Justice League? You mean we’re actually going to give another hero the spotlight all by themselves? Has the world gone mad! I joke, but yes, DC finally got off their backsides and animated another Wonder Woman movie (it only took ten years and the success of a live action film to get them to do it!). I’ll admit that this was a film I had been waiting a long time for, I mean the original animated Wonder Woman movie was a lot of fun and I still adore the live action version (and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel whenever that arrives). Having said that, there’s always been the question of what Wonder Woman story you adapt into a film.

I mean once her origins are out of the way then Wonder Woman really doesn’t have any seminal stories that jump to mind, by which I mean something along the lines of a Dark Knight Returns or Death of Superman level of story. There have been many great Wonder Woman stories told over the decades, but her stories have never quite seeped into popular consciousness like Batman and Superman’s have (admittedly those two have only seeped in because of constant exposure over the years, but the point still stands. Ask Joe Bloggs on the street to name a Wonder Woman story and they will struggle). Wonder Woman Bloodlines chooses to solve this problem by adapting several stories at once and fusing them into one, though I’d say the biggest contributors are the origins of Silver Swan and the ‘Eyes of the Gorgon’ story.

There’re so many little nods and bits of Woman Wonder history tucked away in this film, without it ever feeling like you’re missing out on the joke. If you know who Ferdinand is then that’s great, otherwise you can just sit back and smile at the fact that Diana now has a minotaur chef and who wouldn’t want one of those. There’s almost a whole host of Diana’s greatest enemies here to throw down with her throughout the film, we’ve got Silver Swan, obviously, but we also get Cheetah, Giganta, Dr. Cyber, Dr. Poison and a couple of others I won’t mention for spoilers sake, but if you’re a Wonder Woman fan you’ll know who they are the second certain names are mentioned.

What’s the actual story though? Well, unfortunately, we start off in a familiar place with Wonder Woman’s origin being repeated, yet again (note to DC, and of course I know the higher ups of a giant comic empire are going to read this, please stop rehashing the origins of your most popular heroes, especially when they’ve had a successful film out only recently. You can trust your audience to know who Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman are. If I see Batman’s origin one more time, I swear…). Anyway, the film does claw back some points by making Diana’s origin somewhat relevant to the ongoing plot, namely her feelings of guilt and regret for disobeying her mother, even if it was the right thing to do. With Diana now banished from Themyscira she needs a new place to stay and she finds that with Dr. Julia Kapatelis and her daughter Vanessa.

Julia is fascinated by ancient cultures, especially the Amazons and so lavishes attention on Diana, planting the seeds for a festering jealousy in Vanessa, which will be our central conflict for the film. We’ve also got Dr. Cyber and Dr. Poison working together alongside other noted villains for their own nefarious schemes, drawing Vanessa into their orbit and transforming her into the deadly Silver Swan. If Diana wants to save Vanessa she’ll need to find her way back to Themyscira, battling the likes of Cheetah and Giganta along the way, before a final clash against an enemy she long thought dead.

I enjoyed this film, a lot, but it does have its problems. Pacing has to be the biggest issue, but in an odd way because this film never felt rushed, but there are definitely scenes that went by too quickly while others dragged on for just a little too long. I think it comes down to the fact that this film just tries to pack in too much at once, there’s a lot of action and a great number of characters, so much that the plot is constantly having to keep moving in order to stay ahead of everyone. All those villains I mentioned, it’s great to see them in animated form, but the majority of them are just there. They get cool action scenes, but you never learn what makes them tick. Honestly if it wasn’t for the excellent voice cast I seriously doubt I would have cared as much about the internal struggles of both Diana and the rest as much as I did. There’s a really great, meaty story here, but the pacing just robs it of so much depth.

The film makes up for this though by being incredibly fun. From some great one-liners and witty banter, to the action, which as I mentioned there’s a lot of, but it is so glorious. I love the fights in this film, not only are they brilliantly choreographed, but they’re exactly what a superhero fight should be, witty and exhilarating and, well, fun. That being said, the climatic battle of this film is one of the most brutal fights I have ever seen. I mean I thought Superman vs. Doomsday was a bloody match, this is insane and I wish I could describe it to you, but that would spoil things. Just go see it, please.

All in all, while Wonder Woman Bloodlines is not the best Wonder Woman film, it is still a lot of fun. From the multitude of great action sequences, to witty banter and a chance to see so much lore and villains from Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery finally put up on screen, any fan of Wonder Woman needs to see this film. Heck, if you’re just curious about Wonder Woman and want to see more of her I’d recommend this film. The original animated Wonder Woman is probably just that bit better and the live action one certainly is, but if we get enough people to see this film then maybe, just maybe, we’ll convince DC to keep making more Wonder Woman films, and that is a cause worth fighting for.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Maquia – When the Promised Flower Blooms Review

Blog Maquia Review Title

Mums don’t cry! But I do! Pass me the tissues.

What’s the Story?

Secluded away from the eyes of the world, the Iorph live out their long lives in peace and tranquillity, weaving the history of the ages into magnificent tapestries that only they can read. All that changes though when humans arrive, hoping to take the Iorph’s longevity for themselves. For Maquia, a young Iorph, it means the end of one life and the beginning of another. She escapes the attack and finds herself in the outside world for the first time ever, and when she discovers a crying baby, clasped in the arms of his dead mother, she can’t help but feel a connection. Deciding to raise the child herself, Maquia is going to learn what it means to be a mother, and that there can be joy even amidst the sorrow of parting ways.

The Review

This film is the directional debut of scriptwriter Mari Okada, and it should tell you something that I’m actually paying attention to the creative team behind this film. Mari Okada has written a lot of series that I’ve heard very good things about, even if I haven’t gotten around to watching them myself. From Anohana to Anthem of the Heart and O Maiden in Your Savage Season, she has quite the portfolio of work (she also wrote scripts for Hanasaku Iroha, a series that I actually own, but haven’t watched yet and is it me or are those blu rays glaring at me from their place on the shelf? I’ll watch you I swear!). I knew all of this going into this film so I was ready to be impressed, but I also tempered that with the knowledge hype often kills films for me. So, does this film meet expectations? Well…YEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

From a visual standpoint alone this film is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The colours are so crisp and clear, whether its rustling fields or the mirror-like shine of lakes and rivers, I just want to take each frame of this film and hang them up on my wall. Add on to that the gorgeous landscapes and intricate cities that we visit throughout the story and this film is a feast for the eyes. I want to shake the hands of the designers and background artists, everything from the creatures to the costumes and the characters are beautiful, that’s really the best word for this film, beautiful, in so many meanings of the word. Of course just being pretty doesn’t make a great film and since I brought up the director, let’s talk about direction.

Honestly it does astound me that this is Mari Okada’s first directorial role because she makes it look so effortless. For a film that has to cover several years, taking us from Maquia finding and naming Ariel, her raising him until their eventual separation and then reunion in his adult years. That is a lot of time to cover and in a film that’s under two hours it could easily feel like you’ve skipped over important chunks of the story. Fortunately that isn’t the case here and while there are time skips and things we don’t see, we see everything we need to and all the characters have a logical and natural progression throughout the film. You can tell how each character arrives at where they do and that is down to the skill of the writing and directing (both credits belonging to Mari Okada).

That brings me to the action, and for a film whose focus is on the quieter, more emotional moments, when the action does kick in it does it with gusto. The two scenes that stick in my mind are the dragon’s rampage at the start of the film and the big invasion at the end, both of which are put forward with confidence and style. It did have me question if this really is Mari Okada’s debut, maybe she did a few sly directing jobs under another name before, because these scenes are pretty much flawless. The action is fast and fluid, worthy of any big budget fantasy epic. It makes me want to see how Miss Okada would handle an action series, as well as wanting plenty more fantasy works from her. One of my favourite things about this film is its world, it feels so fully realised, every aspect of it has a reason behind it or some effect on the rest of the world that just makes the place feel whole. I want to spend more time in this world exploring it, and while a sequel probably isn’t on the cards I can’t help hoping for one, or at least for this to be made into a twenty-plus episode series.

That brings me to the story itself and, all told, its fairly simple story, which is for the best really. It’s hard to do a super complex story in a world that we have no prior experience with, introducing so many concepts and characters, and bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion all in under two hours. If you tried you’d be walking a fine line between it being complex and being complicated, which is best avoided. Plus this story is very much about the feels. You feel the bond between Maquia and Ariel from the moment they meet and through all their ups and downs and, yeah, I cried by the end I’m not ashamed to admit that. I think what I love most though is that all the major characters get their own little arcs, even what appears to be a throwaway character from the beginning returns later to pay off her story before the end credits role. We spend just enough time with each character to get to know them and care about where they end up, and that’s talent.

The Verdict

In the end, Maquia – When the Promised Flower Blooms is a wonderful film. It’s beautiful in so many meanings of the word, from the gorgeous visuals to some superb writing and directing. Every character feels like their own person, in a world that feels fully thought-through, I just want to spend more time here with these people, but if this film teaches anything it’s that nothing lasts forever and that’s not entirely sad. I wholeheartedly recommend this film, if you haven’t seen it already, heck, even if you have it’s worth more than one rewatch.

fish stamp great

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Anime Corner: Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review

Blog Dragon Ball Broly Review Title

I am the Hype!

What’s the Story?

Many years ago on the planet Vegeta, before it was blown to smithereens by the cruel Frieza, there was a child born with extraordinary power, Broly. Fearing the child’s immense strength King Vegeta had him exiled to a desolate world and that should have been the end of the story, except Broly’s father, Paragus, followed him into his exile. Now, after years of hellish training, Paragus has trained Broly to be a wild, near unstoppable force, something that Frieza is delighted to hear. Meanwhile, on Earth, Goku and Prince Vegeta have been training ever since the Tournament of Power, preparing themselves for their next challenge. When Frieza shows up with Broly though, he may be too much for even the two mighty Saiyans to handle. Looks like someone’s going to need a miracle, oh hey the dragon balls!

The Review

I suppose I should say that this review is better late than never because, yeah, it took me a while to get to this film. It wasn’t that I was put off by it’s reputation or anything, every review I’ve ever read or listened to regarding this film has been glowing (and this one will be no different), but I’ve found myself in a weird place regarding Dragon Ball over the past few years. I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, back before I even knew what anime was, and I loved it. As the years have gone on though I became more and more afraid of returning to Dragon Ball. Was my enjoyment just pure nostalgia? Dragon Ball was never the greatest in the story telling department and the Z era can pretty much be summed up as ‘and then they fought’.

Dragon Ball Super didn’t help. I gave up on that series very early on as I just wasn’t finding it interesting. I went back and watched a few key moments when the series was almost over and they were fun, but not enough to compel to go back and watch the whole series. I’d pretty much decided that Dragon Ball was just something I’d leave to my nostalgia, but then I found DBZA (again better late than never). The abridged series masterfully put together by Team Four Star reminded me of something that I’d forgotten somewhere along the way, the reason I fell in love with this franchise in the first place, the characters. I love these guys, from the world’s most dangerous idiot Goku to the actually really well developed Vegeta and all the side characters that barely get any screen time, these are all childhood friends to me. So, yeah, with that in mind I finally dragged myself out of the house and went and bought this film and you know what? I should have done it sooner!

This will surprise no one that has already seen this film, but it really is amazing. If Super had been half as interesting as this film then I’d have been glued to my screen week after week. What amazes me more than anything else is how much of a character film this is. I actually felt really sorry for Broly, something that I never did when I watched the original Broly movie (eons ago). Seeing the kind-hearted brute react to just the slightest bit of compassion and his growing friendship with Cheelai and Lemo really tugged at the heartstrings, so much so that I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry when the big fight comes towards the end of the movie.

That’s another shocking thing about this film, how little fighting there actually is. The majority of the first half of this film is taken up by actual story, we get to see planet Vegeta back in its heyday, seeing younger versions of our favourite heroes and villains, as well as a few characters that really should be more prominent in the series (do you think Goku even remembers having a brother anymore?). I mean we get to see Goku’s mother! Maybe it’s just me, it has been a while since I’ve seen any of the Dragon Ball films, but have we ever seen Goku’s mother in animation before? There are a few continuity changes here and there, Goku’s dad is a bigger softie than I remember and the Superman parallels are really being dialled up now, but I enjoyed seeing a bit more of Saiyan culture and what things were like on planet Vegeta (do you think we could get a prequel series set in this time line?).

All that being said, when the action finally does start, it really kicks things into high gear. The animation for this film is utterly stunning, from the vibrant colours and consistently on-model characters to the ferocious and fast-paced action sequences. Even when they switch out the 2D characters for 3D models you barely notice because everything is so frantic and explosive and yet you never lose track of what’s happening. For the animation alone I’d recommend watching this film it’s that good.

A couple of other little shout outs. The scene with Vegeta continually calling Goku an idiot was priceless, because the battle-brained moron really couldn’t get it into his head that Frieza was off doing bad things and would be back to do more bad things at some point! Speaking of Frieza, he is fantastic in this film, equal parts scheming, threatening and utterly hilarious, this is really the master villain at his very best. On a last note, don’t you just love how the dragon balls are now just being collected for stupid wishes, I mean, yeah sure, Oolong once wished for panties, but at least that was a spur of the moment thing to stop someone else getting a wish!

The Verdict

All in all, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a fantastic film. Funny, heartfelt and packed with amazing action, it’s a must see for any fan of Dragon Ball and I’d recommend it to non-fans as well. Having said that, while the eventual fight against Broly is stunning, the focus here really is on character. We get to know what makes Broly tick in a way no other film has and you really feel for the gentle giant. Add on to that a glimpse into the past and a chance to see some of our favourite characters as kids and I have no fear saying this is my favourite Dragon Ball film, period.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: One Piece: Stampede Review

Blog One Piece Stampede Review Title

Snipers are there for support!

What’s the Story?

Welcome to the Pirate Fest! Master of Festivities, Buena Festa, has set up the ultimate gathering of pirates from across the Grand Line. It’s pretty much the worst of the worst all in one place to fight, drink and…enter in beauty contests (?) to their heart’s content! Of course pirates want more than a good party, there has to be some treasure involved somewhere and Festa has got his hands on something truly special, Gol D. Roger’s treasure! No, it’s not the legendary One Piece, but apparently it’s just as good and whichever pirate manages to get a hold of it will have the power to change the world! Not everything is as it seems though, Buena Festa wants more a festival, he wants to kickstart a whole new era and just what is Douglas Bullet, a former member of Roger’s crew, doing on the island? When the Navy shows up as well things quickly turn from a treasure hunt into a no holds barred battle royale for survival!

The Review

I’ll warn you now, if you’re not a fan of One Piece then this is not the film to convert you. It is a film so steeped in the lore and the length and breadth of the One Piece world that I don’t really know what someone unfamiliar with the series will get out of it (outside of some gorgeous animation and amazing fight sequences). There’s so many characters and cameos and references to things from throughout the series’ history that I’m surprised the film doesn’t collapse in on itself. As a fan of One Piece since childhood I loved it, I cheered every time a familiar character popped up, or when we got to see the Straw Hats take on new, yet familiar, opponents (Sanji vs. Smoker!). Honestly I wish we could have seen a bit more of some of these match ups (Zoro vs. Fujitora!), but that would probably require another hour being added on to the film and wreck the pacing, which thinking about it I wouldn’t have minded that much. This whole film is basically a gigantic shot of fanservice to the centre of my brain and I adore it! Which brings me to my problem. As a fan I just want to go through all the little scenes and moments that were so amazing to me and gush endlessly about them, but the more analytic part of my brain can’t help but admit, there are problems with this film.

Let’s start with the story, obviously with such a massive cast of characters taking part we can’t have the story be too complicated, things would just get messy really quickly that way. Stampede decides to avoid this problem by having the barest of bare bones plots, the entire film is basically a continually evolving fight scene. We start with the members of the Worst Generation squaring off against one another, then Bullet comes in and decimates them and anyone else who gets in his way all in the build up to the big title fight were pirates, Navy, Warlords of the Sea and revolutionaries team up to take down Bullet once and for all. There are also lots of smaller fights interspersed between the struggle against Bullet but most of those only last a few minutes. It’s an exciting and action-packed extravaganza, but more than once I caught myself wondering if this was a Dragonball film. Part of what I love so much about One Piece, outside of the characters, is that it continually manages to tell heartfelt and heart-wrenching stories and while there were moments like that in this film (I’ll get to them in a minute), I felt like I wanted more.

I can’t help but put a lot of these feelings down to the antagonists of this film, which is a common complaint I have with the majority of villains in the One Piece films. Here’s the thing, Bullet could have been one of the greatest villains in the films’ history if we were shown his back story rather than just told it. Bullet is a man who was betrayed by his friends and superiors, a man who believed that the only person he could rely on was himself. That is until he was bested by Gol D. Roger and found someone to follow, but when Roger was executed he became lost, falling back into his thinking that only his own strength mattered. It puts him at greats odds with Luffy who fights for his friends and, in my opinion, all the best shonen fights are between two sides who have opposing ideologies. However, we’re only told Bullet’s backstory and catch flashes of it in a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sequences. Imagine if the film had opened with Bullet’s capture? The man raging about the death of Roger and going into a wild frenzy, that would have gotten me so much more invested in his character than some flashback sequence to when Blackbeard broke everyone but him out of Impel Down.

Let’s talk about those heart-wrenching moments though, because those are what really make this film so special to me. As usual the majority of the Straws Hats get regulated to the background in this film, Luffy is obviously the star of the show and Zoro and Sanji get some nice fights, but the rest are only given a few moments to show of their various attacks (I was impressed by the screen time Robin got considering she usually fades into the background, but really? You set up a Crocodile vs. Robin fight and skip out on it?! Why? I want to see that!). However, the MVP for this film has to go to Usopp. Generally speaking he is one of the weakest members of the crew and it’s even pointed out in the film that he’s also a bit of a coward, but when it comes down to it you can count on your man Usopp! It ties in nicely with the ideological clash with Bullet who stomps on Usopp in seconds flat and then tells Luffy point blank to get rid of such a useless burden. Yet it’s thanks to Usopp’s surprise attack that Bullet it taken down in the end, giving Luffy the opening he needs to pummel the guy. The scenes with Usopp really tug at the heartstrings, you can see how scared and outmatched he is and yet he doesn’t give up and that final take down is such a satisfying moment thanks to Usopp. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually wish the film gave me more scenes with Usopp and less of the fanservice.

The Verdict

All in all, One Piece Stampede is a brilliant film for fans. If you love One Piece and you haven’t seen this film then what are you doing? Find a way to watch it right now! However if you’re not a One Piece fan then you’ll probably enjoy the spectacle of the vibrant and action-packed animation and the Usopp scenes might tug at your heartstrings for a bit, but I don’t know how much it’ll mean to someone who doesn’t at least have a passing recognition of all of these characters (and there are a lot of characters). Personally I loved it despite its flaws and I’ll be buying it just as soon as it comes out on DVD. I just hope it doesn’t take as long to come out as it did for it to arrive in UK cinemas.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

 

Anime Corner: One Piece Film: Strong World Review

Blog One Piece Strong World Review Title

And a L-A-D-Y, Nami’s not shy!

What’s the Story?

After hearing reports of attacks on East Blue, the Straw Hat pirates set course for home, but along the way they run into the famed pirate Shiki, the Golden Lion. Once a fearsome pirate on the same level as Gol D. Roger, Shiki has spent the past twenty years in hiding, working on his ultimate revenge and now he’s ready to set his plans into motion. First though, he needs a top notch navigator and he’s set his sights on Nami! Trapped on a series of floating islands, the Straw Hats must battle their way through a horde of super powerful, super aggressive animals, as well as an army of pirates if they want to save their hometowns from utter destruction!

The Review

And we’re here at last, my favourite One Piece film out of all the ones produced so far (and no, it’s not just because this is the first film to be supervised by series creator, Eiichiro Oda, before anyone goes there. Also Stampede hasn’t come out in UK cinemas yet either, so bear that in mind). For me, this is the film that most captures what I love about One Piece. Yes, Adventure of Dead End probably gave me more consistent feels, and Baron Omatsuri was completely unique and beautiful, Film Z has the best villain and Gold is just fun, but this, Strong World, is One Piece distilled.

It’s a grand madcap adventure, full of heart, humour, action and a dizzying array of imagination. Whether it’s the Straw Hats battling it out with Shiki and his army of monster animals or just the banter that flies between them, I have an absolute blast watching this film. That’s something I really want to praise with this film, the writing and the humour especially. Most of that I’ll put down to the fact that Oda-sensei was responsible for the story this time around, though someone else is credited for the screenplay. It makes me wonder just how much changed, if anything, during the process of turning this into a script because the Straw Hats have never been written this well outside of the series. I find it hard to pick my favourite jokes, mostly being torn between Zoro’s ‘That wasn’t there before’ or Brook leaping in to save Robin and stealing Sanji’s thunder, or, frankly, any time Brook opens his mouth because he’s always hilarious.

Not that this film is purely just jokes, there’s plenty of action and a wealth of drama since a lot of the crew’s home towns are on the line. One of my favourite little scenes is when the local villagers apologise to the Straw Hats for being so happy about Shiki heading to East Blue, because it would give them a break, not realising that they were talking in front of people from East Blue. Admittedly it’s Nami that carries the lion’s share of the emotional baggage for the film, we see her home town in flashbacks and she keeps looking at the bracelet that her sister gave her while the others barely mention East Blue (though, again another bit of dialogue I love, there’s Zorro’s line about how if being from East Blue makes him worthless, what does that make the other guy?).

Nami does get a fair chunk of spotlight in this film and that’s another reason I like it so much, considering Nami is one of my favourite Straw Hats and she’s had very few times to shine in the series post-time skip. And yes, Nami is used for a lot of fanservice, but I’m willing to let it slide because at the same time it’s showing just how smart and cunning she can be. It’s not just her amazing navigational skill, but all the time she’s a prisoner of Shiki you can see her looking for ways to escape or to sabotage his operation, a lot of which works in the end, which I appreciate. Nami isn’t just some damsel in distress.

Let’s talk about the film’s villain though, Shiki. He’s the perfect mix for a One Piece villain, both an utter hilarious goofball and a despicable monster that you just can’t wait for Luffy to catch up to and given him the beat down he so richly deserves. For all the goofy comedy at the beginning of the film, Shiki has such a threatening presence throughout the film, especially when he shows off his powers, which are seriously overpowered. My hat goes off to his voice actor who walks the perfect line between comedy and intimidation. Also I love the fight scene in the middle of the movie where the majority of the Straw Hats team up to take on Shiki, we need to see more team up fights between the Straw Hats as they’re always spectacular when they happen.

Okay, enough gushing, let’s talk a little about some of this film’s problems, because however much I love it there are a couple of issues. For me, pacing is the biggest issue that this film has, this is the longest One Piece film to date and it’s doesn’t use that time as well as it could. The plot feels uneven, especially in the middle where we’ve got stretches of quieter moments interspersed by quick bouts of action. I love the scenes individually, but there’s just something off about the way they all hang together. The only thing I could put it down to is that the film doesn’t quiet know where to put its focus, or tries to focus on too many things at once, there’s the plight of East Blue, the villagers, Shiki’s army of arriving pirates, the animals, Nami’s situation. Maybe if this had been an arc in series it would have had more time to let things breath and even at almost two hours, the film feels like its glazing over aspects to keep the story going. Still, it’s not a massive issue, the fun I have with this film more than carries me through me it, but that might not be the case for everyone, just saying.

The Verdict

In the End, One Piece Film: Strong World is my favourite of the One Piece films produced so far (we’ll see what Stampede is like once that’s released). It’s packed full of great comedy, blistering action and a whole heap of heart, all of which is wrapped up in the usual inventive craziness of the One Piece world. This film feels like it has a scale and grandeur that most of the other films don’t. Nami carries most of the emotional weight of the story and gets a rare chance to show how tough and cunning she can really be. If you’ve not seen this film, make sure to check it out.

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Thank you for bearing with me while I indulged myself this December, back to regular reviews soon, though I have a special revisit planned for next week. See you all in the New Year!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island Review

Blog One Piece Baron Omatsuri Review Title

His name is Luffy, That’s Monkey D. Luffy, Gonna be King of the Pirates!

What’s the Story?

After receiving a mysterious invitation to Omatsuri island, which promises spas, beautiful women and dream-come-true food, the Straw Hat pirates head there to check it out. Unfortunately when they arrive Baron Omatsuri, the ruler of the island, challenges them to bizarre challenge after bizarre challenge, from catching giant goldfish to a ring toss race along the town’s canals. But not everything is as it seems on the island, who is the mysterious moustached man watching Luffy from the shadows, why does everyone have a plant sticking out of their heads and, most concerning at all, why are the Straw Hats suddenly at one another’s throats? The secret of this island is darker and crueler than anything they’ve come across before and unless Luffy finds a way to pull his crew together, he’s going to lose them forever.

The Review

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda (yes, that Mamoru Hosoda!), this is a One Piece story unlike any other in the franchise and I very much love it (in fact it may just be my favourite Hosoda film to date, there, I said it). Sorry to go full-on gush straight away and I can clearly see the parts of the film that might turn some people off, but for me, I was mesmerised by this film. From the style and the design of everything to the dark, haunting story it’s telling, I just wanted to drink it all in. My beloved Straw Hat pirates have wandered into a twisted nightmare realm and I can’t do anything but watch as they’re torn apart one by one. Argh! This is an anime film! It’s supposed to be filler! Why am I so concerned for the Straw Hats? Why do I get the feeling that this time it actually could be the end of them! Ahhhhhhh!

The feels is one of the strengths of this film, but we’ll come back to that later. Let’s start with the animation and the directing. Now anyone who’s seen a Mamoru Hosoda film before will know the animation style and it does take a few minutes to get used to seeing the Straw Hats drawn this way, they do look good though and the animation lends itself to the frantic style of the movie. Add on to that the energetic directing that bounces back and forth with the crew’s banter and this is a film that makes you sit up and pay attention, which just makes all the ominous warnings about how bad things are going to get all the more chilling. There’s an unsettling air to Omatsuri island even while the crew are getting caught up in crazy antics after crazy antics, you can’t help but notice the growing sense of dread, especially as the crew start to break apart.

That’s the thing about this film and the reason I love it so much (even if I wouldn’t want to see this done all the time). It takes the Straw Hats and their tight bonds of friendship that make up the vast majority of Shonen series and it delights in tearing them apart before your very eyes. Yes the Straw Hats often argue, with all of their lively personalities its hard for them not to clash, but you never doubt that when it comes down to it, they’ll be there for one another, except this time they’re not. This time their differences grate on one another until they split apart and once they decide to go alone, they’re done for. It’s heartbreaking to watch and yet completely understandable at the same time, they’re still friends deep down, but sometimes friends can really get on your nerves and the Baron uses that to his full advantage.

That brings me to Luffy and, really, this film has to be one of his greatest trials. It fully exposes his weaknesses as a Captain and I do genuinely believe that Luffy is a good Captain, just not this time. Yeah he’s wilful and never thinks things through, yes he’s not a very good sailor and would be dead a thousand times over without his crew to back him up, but he is a good Captain for one simple reason, he has good instincts. I know that may sound a bit silly, but it genuinely is Luffy’s greatest strength, he can see right to the core of a problem and knows exactly how to fix it. The best example I’ve got is the Alabasta arc where Vivi’s coming up with plans to end the rebellion and Luffy just sees right through it to the fact that if he beats Crocodile, this all ends, and yes he loses against Crocodile, but how does the arc end? All of Vivi’s plans have backfired and it’s down to Luffy to send Crocodile flying. Luffy can always spot an end boss and he always knows what the right thing to do is, however crazy it appears to everyone else.

That being said, in this film Luffy’s instincts fail him, he’s used to seeing his friends argument, but he fails to notice the subtle undercurrent that this time things are more serious. Luffy’s utter rage at the loss of his friends at the end of the film isn’t just at the Baron, but at himself as well. He should have noticed, he should have done something and if it wasn’t for the action of one brave dad, he’d have lost his friends forever.

Finally, let’s talk about the Baron. While he may not look all that imposing or threatening, the Baron is my second favourite villain ever produced by the One Piece films (my favourite is Zephyr from One Piece Film Z I you’re interested). The Baron is utterly ruthless and cruel and you just can’t wait for Luffy to slug him one, but at the same time you feel sorry for the guy. Spoiler Alert, he lost his entire crew in one devastating storm and the grief has driven him mad, though I’m sure the parasitic Lily Carnation wasn’t any help. Now he lives with facsimiles of his friends in an almost dream world, feeding the Lily other pirates in order to keep the illusion going and delighting in tearing apart strong groups of friends so that they feel the same pain he did. That…that is just messed up.

The Verdict

All in all, One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is one of my favourite One Piece films. It’s something totally different from the rest of the franchise and that’s what makes it such a great experience. It exposes the weaknesses of the crew and their captain, taking on a dark tale of grief, madness and pain, all wrapped up in fast-paced, wacky and unsettling adventure. For the first time in one of these films I felt like the Straw Hats might not actually make it out the other side and that is an achievement in itself. Whether you’re a fan of One Piece or not, be sure to check this out.

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That’s it for this week, so I hope everyone has a very merry christmas and I’ll see you back here in a week for the end of One Piece-cember as we pay a visit to the Strong World.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword Review

Better late than never! Sorry this post is going up so late, Christmas kind of got in the way tonight and like an idiot I forgot to schedule this post for release beforehand.

Blog One Piece Cursed Holy Sword Review Title

His Name’s Zoro, he’s just like a samurai!

What’s the Story?

Hearing about a legendary sword, Nami is convinced that there’s treasure to be had, but after Zoro goes missing the crew find themselves chased by Marines and quickly separated in the forest. While Luffy and Usopp confront the navy in a sinister dojo, Nami and the rest of the Straw Hats come across Zoro attacking a peaceful village, alongside the marines! Has Zoro betrayed his crew and friends purely because of a childhood promise? And what of the bloody history of the legendary sword? Surely it can’t be true, can it? When it comes down to it Zoro will have to face his friend, but is this one opponent the future World’s Greatest Swordsman has no chance against?

The Review

Sigh. While the myth about odd-numbered Star Trek films all being bad has engrained itself into popular culture, the same can also be said for the One Piece films (at least until we get to Episode of Alabasta, which I have mixed feelings on at best). The Cursed Holy Sword, for me at least, is one of the worst One Piece films ever produced. On a technical level it’s a fine film, the plot is simple yet makes sense, there’s plenty of fun and action (Zoro especially gets a couple of great sword fights), but as part of the One Piece franchise, this film fails spectacularly. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the characters and the world of One Piece that just permeates the whole film, so much so that I can’t help but think that the people who worked on this only had a passing knowledge of the franchise.

Let’s talk about the Straw Hats first and while on the surface their characterisation is fine, the way they talk to one another and interact is spot on for the most part, however there are just tiny little moments that bug me, because they don’t feel right. The first one that caught my attention was at the very beginning of the film, with Nami bringing up the legendary sword. Yes, Nami is obsessed with treasure and the mere mention of it will fill her eyes with Berries, but really? A sword? Nami is interested in a sword? It’s just the kind of thing she’d be dismissive of until someone mentioned it was entrusted with jewels or something, then she’d be interested. There’s Luffy as well and while he’s an utter goofball, he’s not stupid and I can’t see him running around a bunch of tunnels enjoying himself after losing a fight and being told that Zoro has left his crew. At that point I imagine him more ticked off and declaring that he’s going to punch the bad guy. Again, it just adds to the feeling that the team behind this film read a brief bio on each of the characters, but never actually got to know any of them.

That brings me to Zoro. Ugh. I really don’t like what this film does with my favourite pirate swordsman and it’s a shame, because the potential was there. A childhood friend of Zoro’s turns up and through circumstance pits him against his friends, there’s the potential for some real drama there and a decent exploration of Zoro (I do like the flashback scenes we get of Zoro and Saga), but again there’s that problem that he’s not really acting like himself. Yes, Zoro is a man of honour and will absolutely keep his word when it is given, but he would never just up and leave his crew without a word. This is the man who wouldn’t let Usopp rejoin the crew unless he apologised first, because as he rightly points out, how can you trust a crewmember that just ups and leaves? This is the man who took on all of Luffy’s pain and injuries after Thriller Bark. This is the man who will one day be the World’s Greatest Swordsman and will let nothing stand in his way! He. Does. Not. Just. Leave! I’m not quite sure how you’d make it work, but definitely not how this film tries to do it. The filler nature of the film doesn’t help either, as we know we’re never going to see most of these characters again and Zoro certainly isn’t leaving the crew.

Let’s talk about the setting of this film as well, because that gets it wrong too. One Piece, for all its fantastical elements, has its own logic to it and always learns more towards science (no matter how many strange fruits that give people special powers there are). In this film though we have magic, demonic possession and the power of prayer, which again feels so out of place. Luffy has been referred to as the natural enemy of God before and has a tendency to punch people who call themselves gods, and yet part of this film’s climax is down to a priestess praying to her gods to stop an evil sword! Honestly the setting of this film feels like some generic fantasy adventure that the Straw Hat pirates have just been pasted into by accident. This film just annoys me on so many levels and yet I do have to give it a bit of credit, Robin gets a prominent role as she gets to put her archaeologist skills to use and even gets to fight one of the bad guy’s named lieutenants (even Nami gets in on the action), which is happens so rarely in the main series that I’m almost willing to give this film a pass, almost.

The Verdict

In the end, One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword is a serviceable film, as long as you’re not a die-hard One Piece fan. If you’re after a generic fantasy romp with some lively action and funny characters then this will pass the time just fine, but if you come to this wanting to see the Straw Hats in action then I suggest you move along. While these people may look like Straw Hats, that’s clearly not who they are and we shouldn’t treat them as such. I’m going to go read the manga and remind myself why I like this series so much.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.