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.

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.

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.

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.  

 

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.

fish stamp great

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.

fish stamp great

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.

fish stamp avoid

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: Dead End Adventure Review

Blog One Piece Dead End Review Title

Yo-ho-ho, he took a bite of Gum Gum!

What’s the Story?

Strapped for cash and craving some adventure (as is always the way for our favourite fantastical pirate crew), the Straw Hat pirates learn of a secret race across the Grand Line with 300 million berries as the prize and can’t resist entering. However there’re plenty of deadly opponents between them and the goal, including giants, fishmen, the famous bounty hunter Shuraiya and worst of all is the former marine, General Gasparde. Add in to that a kid out to save his Grandpa, treacherous seas and a despicable plot to wipe out the competition and this adventure may just turn into a dead end after all. Luffy and the gang have their work cut out for them!

The Review:

Okay, an unusual place for me to start, but let’s talk about translations! Now I bought one of the One Piece movie collections in order to watch this film and while the subs on the other two films are perfectly fine, the subs for this film are pretty poor, especially when it comes to names (I mean this film is listed as ‘Adventure of Dead End’, which sounds pretty stupid). I’ve decided to go with the translations from the One Piece wiki for this review because those spellings make more sense to me (and ‘Dead End Adventure’ is a much better name), but I’ve never come across this before, at least not off an official release I mean they really couldn’t be bothered to put together a new set of subtitles for the DVD release, really? Anyway, translations aside, I really like this movie. Honestly, if you’ve never tried One Piece (and with over 90 volumes of manga and over 900 episodes of anime I can’t blame people for being scared off, or having no idea where to start), but to me this film is a pretty good sampler of the series. Sure the story isn’t really canon and you won’t learn all that much about the rich world of the series, but its got a good handle on the characters, there’s plenty of exciting action, wacky adventures and it knows where it’s heart is.

Let’s talk about heart first, starting with our favourite band of misfit pirates, the Straw Hats. What surprised me most about this film was the quiet moments with the crew and you get the sense that the people who worked on this film really know these characters. From Nami getting angry at Badger for giving up on life, to Sanji explaining to Badger that they’ve all had hard lives in their own way, but they keep living because they all believed that one day things would get better. Even Luffy’s silent rage at Gasparde, both for what he did to the other contestants in the race and just his general scumbag outlook on life, all of it is a perfect summation of the characters and while you can learn more details from the series, watching this film will give you all you need to get who these people are at their core. Also I appreciate that everyone gets a least a couple of things to do across the adventure, even if Luffy is the only one to fight a named enemy character, the crew wouldn’t have made it through the race without each of their own special abilities at one point or another, which I appreciate (it’s especially nice to see Robin doing something with her powers, which feels like such a rarity these days).

Moving on to our original characters for the film, honestly, I think this is where this film shines brightest because, Shuraiya, Badger and the old man may just be the best original supporting characters in any One Piece film, no, scratch that, the best original supporting characters in any anime film connected to a long running series. Let’s face it, anime films connected to a long running series always have a whiff of filler about them, the characters that show up in it are never going to be seen or mentioned again and are often their just to force us to care about whatever location our main characters have found themselves in. Thing is though, Shuraiya, Badger and the old man really do make me care. They’re brilliantly written characters with a great tragic back-story to tell that perfectly fits in with the film’s theme of living on despite how cruel the world can be. Shuraiya is a badass fighter and he even gets to take out Gasparde’s lieutenant in one heck of a brutal fight. Badger manages to be a kid character that isn’t completely annoying and the real emotional centre of the piece and I pretty much love the old man, especially at the end.

As for our villains, well, Gasparde is really the only one of note, but what a note he strikes. He’s menacing and threatening from the get go and completely despicable. His outlook on life and his fellow human beings had be screaming for Luffy to knock that grin off his face and it was so satisfying when he finally did (they also have a pretty brutal fight, it may just be the animation quality, but you really feel the weight of all the punches that land and boy to they look like they hurt). That does bring me to my only complaint with the film, it might just be a matter of the film having to keep itself short to fit into the run time, but you never really get a sense of the scale of the race. While I love the quieter moments in this film and the connections all the characters share, it does mean there’s very little time for the race. After the initial rush of excitement the Straw Hats only face off against one other crew and that only lasts a few minutes before we get to the big twist and then go barrelling into the final confrontation with Gasparde. It just feels like we needed a bit more action in the middle somewhere to see some of these other crews in action and that would have made the twist even more effective, but I am happy with what we got.

The Verdict:

In the end One Piece: Dead End Adventure is a simple, but still great adventure. It’s a film that really understands its characters and with some of the best original supporting characters I’ve seen in an anime film and a truly despicable villain, it knows how to get you invested. It’s a film that knows where its heart and its focus should be, even if that means the adventure of the title gets cut a little short to fit into the run time. Still if you’re looking to experience of some of those carefree pre-time skip days of One Piece, or just wondering if you want to check out the series proper, then this film is a good place to start.

fish stamp good

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

Anime Corner: Digimon the Movie Review

blog Digimon Movie review title

Going Digital One Last Time!

What’s the Story?

Years ago Tai and Kari had a mysterious egg come out of their dad’s computer late one night. This egg hatched into a Digimon and as they bonded with their new friend, they had no idea that this was only the beginning of their greater destiny and lifelong connection to the Digital World. Years later, Tai and the gang are growing up and starting to drift apart, but they need to reunite fast as a virus Digimon has taken over the Internet and is causing havoc, though things are about to go from bad to worse as the Digimon gets its hands on a couple of missiles. Years later still, with the original gang older now, new Digidestined have stepped in to take their place and on a trip to America they come across a kid called Willis who has a very dangerous stalker.

The Review

And at last we are here, the big one, the grand finale, the end of the long, well-trodden road, or, to put it another way, I’ve been writing this blog for five whole years!!! Cue the lights, set off the fireworks, unleash the dancers and pass out the celebratory Colas. Okay, I actually don’t have the budget for any of that, in fact all I can afford is one party popper, which you can’t see because I write these reviews, not record them. Just use your imagination. Anyway I do find it crazy that I’ve been writing this blog for five years now, I certainly never thought about it going on this long. I’ve talked about this before but I started this blog as a confidence builder for my own voice and writing and in that regard it has worked wonders, while I struggle to read some of the earliest posts on this site, that is a testament to how far I feel I’ve come. I am a much better writer than I was five years ago and part of that is down to this blog. So, to anyone who has liked, commented or even just read any of my past reviews you have my heartfelt thanks and I hope you continue to enjoy what I do here. I will keep trying to make myself a better writer and I’ve yet to run out of things to talk about regarding anime and other animated properties, so expect the reviews to keep coming for a while yet.

Enough patting myself on the back though, because it’s time for the pain. At the start of this year I started a look back at a franchise I’ve loved since childhood, Digimon, and while I loved rewatching the original series, I was disappointed by the recent Digimon Adventure Tri films (though they had a few good moments), but now we’re here, the Digimon Movie and I sit here in both anticipation and dread. See the Digimon Movie is, as far as I’m aware, a special case when it comes to feature films for anime franchises over here in the West. Digimon was popular, not as popular as Pokemon unfortunately, but popular enough to gets its own film released in cinemas. Thing is though, Digimon doesn’t have a regular style movie as Western audiences would think of it (by which I mean something of feature length, around 90 minutes). The majority of Digimon movies last between half an hour to an hour in length, so they’re more big budget OVAs than anything else. So, what did Fox Kids do? Did they work with animators in Japan to create a unique, specifically crafted film for Western audiences to show just how much care and understanding they had for the Digimon franchise?

…….

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

No, no, they didn’t do that. Instead they took three of the films, cut them up and stitched them together as some Frankenstein monstrosity and shoved it into cinemas to make a quick cash grab. Welcome to the treatment of anime in the 90s/Early 2000s!

We start off on a terrible note, quite literally, with the Digi Rap. I call it a rap, someone is clearly trying to rap while sticking ‘Digi’ in front of every other word. It’s as terrifying as it sounds, but you want to know the worst part? It’s an earworm, it worms its way into your brain and you’ll find yourself humming it late one night, only to then go sit in a corner with your shame. It does fit the feel of the film though, cheap, poorly put together and just thrown out there and left to die. That’s not even the greatest crime of this film though, you want to know what is? I’m going to tell you anyway. It’s Kari, or as she shall henceforth be known, the never-ending constantly spewing exposition machine because she will not shut up! In an effort to make this shambling patchwork mess of a film in any way cohesive, the geniuses behind this film decided to have her narrate almost every single thing that happens. Between her and the soundtrack there’s hardly ever any quiet moments in this film and it ruins a lot of what should be tense or awesome scenes.

Of course there’s some things even this movie can’t ruin, such as a dinosaur fighting a giant parrot. That is the one thing in this film’s favour, it is utterly gorgeous, the animation is directed by Mamoru Hosoda (yes, Mamoru ‘Girl-Who-Leaped-Through-Time’ Hosoda, that guy) and Shigeyasu Yamauchi respectively and though its rushed and chopped up in places it is so good to see Digimon animated with a budget. I wish we could get a whole series animated like this. My favourite section of the film is the second section, based on the film ‘Our War Game!’. Even the version in this film manages to capture some of the sense of scale and excitement of the original, it even has some funny lines, as well as some stupid ones (I still don’t get the three bean joke, though the exasperated phone operator always makes me laugh). There’s some great action, plenty of tension, we get to see Ominmon for the first time and there’s some really fun character moments (Tai X Sora is canon, I accept nothing else!).

That brings me to the soundtrack, I should call this film out on this because the songs only have the most tangential connection to the scenes they’re played over and are often jarring, but I can’t help but love it. The soundtrack is the late 90s distilled down to its purest form and it hits me right in the nostalgia centres of my brain. That’s my real problem with this film, I hate it on a conceptual level, but there are parts of it I just adore. The best way I’ve found to watch this film is to just watch it with the sound down while the soundtrack loops in the background. I suppose that’s what this film represents to me, even when something’s bad, even when we’re dredging through the dark ages of anime, when shows were butchered and mistranslated for the sake of profit and making them ‘acceptable’ to Western audiences, there’s still good to be found. No matter what you do, you can’t completely erase the uniqueness and creativity of anime. There is always good to be found, you’ve just got to look for it sometimes.

The same applies to Digimon, I love this franchise and as the years have gone on I’ve only come to love it more and more. Yes the dub is stuffed full of corny jokes and songs that are tonally inappropriate to the scenes, yes the animation is cheap and the story has no right to be as good as it for something that was meant just to sell toys, even when they make poor decisions or get lost in convoluted plots, I love this franchise and will never stop seeing the good in it. I think we’ll wrap this up here, thank you again to whoever’s read this post and any of the other reviews I’ve put out over these five years. Y’all are amazing and I love ya, here’s to another five years! Hit it DJ!

All right Ready to go? I’m ready. Ready? Let’s go.
The digi-valution is up and runin’
did you see, did you hear, did ya know it was comin’?
Our digi-destiny starts today, let me hear you say

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

When digi win, the digi-vice in hand, its a digi dynamic force in digi land
When the digi past and digi present collide time to digi-phy

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

The digi world is digi safe, and now will meet its digi fate,
Good digimon to protect what’s right, we’ll have to digi-phy

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions!

 

fish stamp watchable

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

Anime Corner: My Hero Academia The Movie: Two Heroes Review

Blog My Hero Academia Review Title

Plus Ultra!!!

What’s the Story?

It’s summer and as a treat the number one hero All Might is taking his young protégé Izuku Midoriya along with him to visit an old friend. They arrive on I-island, a floating city that houses some of the world’s best and brightest scientists and all of their miraculous inventions. There they meet David Shield, an inventor who studied with All Might back in his rookie days and David’s genius daughter Melissa, but all is not well on I-island. As they plan an expo to show off the latest tech to the superhero world, villains invade, taking All Might hostage and locking down the whole island! It’s up to Midoriya and his fellow students from class 1A to free All Might and stop the villains, but not everything is what it seems…

The Review

You know, I’ve just realised this is actually my first time talking about My Hero Academia on this blog, which feels weird ‘cause it’s actually my second favourite shonen series of all time (One Piece is number one, but I’ll be talking more about that later in the year so stay tuned). I suppose I haven’t really talked about it because, honestly, I’ve never felt like I’ve had all that much new to say about it. My Hero Academia is a well-regarded and often praised series, both in manga and anime and I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of what is said about it, but the series has a movie now and I’m doing movies this month, so let’s talk about this. Why do I love My Hero Academia?

If you were to write out the premise of My Hero Academia on paper the series is actually pretty standard, it has a lot of the typical shonen tropes and deals with ideas that have been done before in one form or another (superheroes are a well ploughed field after all), but the genius is in the detail here. What MHA has created, in my opinion, is a world and a social structure that is endlessly interesting, the series constantly exposing new facets that just get you more and more interested and asking questions about how everything works. You add on to that characters that are incredibly likeable, some crazy and creative powers and a pace that keeps things moving without missing those big emotional moments and you’re on to a winner. Remember it’s not what you do, it’s how you do and MHA does everything with style. Midoriya is one of my favourite shonen protagonists, immensely likeable and you just can’t help but root for the kid. So, how does the movie stack up compared to that? It’s good, I love it, but I do have to admit that it’s hardly breaking the mould.

Anime movies, more specifically anime movies that are tied to an ongoing series always come with problems for me (which is why I tend to go in with lowered expectations). The biggest problem is that they’re often bound by continuity, they can’t introduce any major developments to the story or characters, because the series is going to carry on without them regardless and it’s kind of annoying when important plot points are introduced in spin off media. That also means that any locations or characters introduced are likely to never be seen again, which often gives these films a whiff of the filler. MHA Two Heroes decides to get around this problem with fanservice, and the good kind too, there’s no ogling female characters here, (that’s another reason I love this series, it treats it’s female cast with respect, it doesn’t neglect them or reduce them to only being cleavage shots and revealing outfits, I’m glaring at you Fire Force). No, instead we get a brief glimpse into the early days of All Might’s career, getting a look at some of his old costumes and how he handled himself when he was just starting out. We also get a chance to see Midoriya and All Might fighting alongside one another, which isn’t something we’ve ever truly seen in the series and it’s nice to have that moment here.

The plot for the film is fairly straightforward, heroes arrive in new location, get a bit of a look around. They go to a party, villains take over and the heroes must work their way up a tower to defeat said villains and save the island. For the most part it feels like an extended episode, though I do find it funny how the film keeps trying to come up with new ways to explain why the members of class 1A all happen to be on this island when surely it would have been simpler just to make the whole class go together, it wouldn’t actually change the plot in any significant way. I do like that the plot gives the majority of the heroes a chance to show off their stuff, and Midoriya even gets a new support item that let’s him use his full power for a bit, though of course this has to break by the end of the movie. Speaking of support items, let’s talk about David and Melissa Shield. While I doubt we’re ever going to see them again in this franchise, I think that’s a shame because they’re both likeable characters. In Melissa, Midoriya gets to meet someone who was in the same spot as him, i.e. quirkless, and has found her own way to overcome that. Maybe Midoriya would have gone down a similar path if he hadn’t met All Might. I also like the way that Melissa calls out Midoriya for apologising for not protecting her, when he should be thanking her for helping save him, we don’t do woman as damsels in this series thank you very much Midoriya.

That brings me to David and, spoiler alert for the big twist, he’s one of the bad guys, kinda, sorta. See David invented something that’s very, very dangerous, a power enhancer for All Might because he knows his powers are fading (though he doesn’t know why), and he’s hired a bunch of villains to get it back from the island security that have locked it away. Of course the villains take the power enhancer for themselves and that leads to our big climatic showdown. I like David and his fear is a nice preview of the state of society after the fall of All Might. This movie works really well as a bridge between seasons two and three of the anime.

The Verdict

All in all, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is a fun and enjoyable film. If you’re a fan of the series definitely check this out as there’s a bunch of great moments for fans, but if you’re new to the franchise it’s probably best to go see the series first, then come back to this. The animation and music are great, the action is top notch and the majority of characters get to show off their skills all building up to an epic finale. Go beyond and be a hero!

fish stamp good

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

Anime Corner: Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel 1. Presage Flower Review

Blog Heavens Feel 1 Review Title

Let’s do this, one last time.

What’s the Story?

Ten years after a disastrous fire erupted in Fuyuki City, the Holy Grail War has begun again. Seven Mages have been called to summon seven Servants, the spirits of heroes of legend, and now they will do battle for the all-powerful wish granting relic, the Holy Grail. Shirou Emiya has no interest in wishes, other than his own wish to become a Hero of Justice, but when he learns that the last Holy Grail War caused the fire he was lucky enough to survive as a child, he feels compelled to act. Trouble is Shirou is a pretty inept Mage and is in no way prepared for the bloodbath that is to follow, especially when an old childhood friend turns out to be a competing Master. Meanwhile something strange is making moves in the background, turning the war towards a dark outcome and what’s going on with Sakura, the girl who not so secretly loves Shirou?

The Review

The fate franchise, by this point, is a massive, complex beast, just asking someone where to start can get you several different answers (though for my money Fate/Zero is your best bet), and I’ve come to the conclusion that my favourite entries in the series are always going to be the offshoots, the prequel and the alternate universe stuff. The series that ufotable did before this film, Unlimited Blade Works, had an amazing start, before face planting in the second half. Having said all that though, Heaven’s Feel is the storyline I’ve been waiting for and, from what I know of it (I’ve done my best to avoid details of what actually happens over the years so I can appreciate this properly), this may be the one for me. This time we might get an exploration of the Rin and Sakura relationship, not to mention Shirou and Illya might have a proper conversation for once to talk about their family stuff. Heck, Shirou might even get an ending that doesn’t involve him carrying on being a self-sacrificing martyr with only the woman he loves to keep him sane (gods I hated that resolution to UBW).

Let’s talk about the film though, firstly, if you’re new to fate franchise, turn back around right now. Don’t watch this film until you’ve watched Unlimited Blade Works at least, and you’ll probably want to watch Fate/Zero if you want to get absolutely everything, but that plays into the unique nature of Fate/stay night. For those that don’t know, Fate/stay night was originally a visual novel with three distinct routes to play through the game, the routes use the same characters and locations across the same span of time, but the stories diverge at certain points to fill in new bits of back story and lore, so that while each route’s story is its own, they build on top of one another to form a complete whole. While I find that way of story telling fascinating, it does create problems in the adaptation department. Adapting one route is more than enough to fill an entire series, but adapting only one route is only giving you part of the story and if you then choose to go on and adapt another route, you’re going to be stuck rehashing several things at the beginning of the story before you hit the point were the story diverges.

That’s the problem this film faces and it never manages to quite overcome it. It does its best and, honestly, gets off to a really good start. The opening of this movie begins a year and a half before the typical events of Fate/stay night, we get to see the devolving friendship of Shirou and Shinji and how Shirou and Sakura came to know one another. It’s a good look into relationships that we know of, but haven’t really gotten the focus in past iterations of the story. Then we come to the problems, the film chooses to skip over a lot of the events from the beginning Fate/stay night (since they’ve already been animated in Unlimited Blade Works), only animating a few scenes that we need to see again or that lead into changes. Even then a lot of the early scenes cover ground we’ve seen before and the new scenes lack the emotional impact because unless you already know these characters you’re never really given a chance to invest in them.

It’s annoying because there’s a lot of stuff in this film that is really cool and interesting. The animation is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the action sequences are some of the best I’ve ever seen (the fate franchise has never looked this good before, ever). We get conversations I’ve been looking forward to for ages, but there’s no build up to them. There aren’t that many scenes of daily life and we skip over several big events and the characters reactions to them. Those have all been animated in Unlimited Blade Works, but for this story, as you watch it, it feels like your skipping steps and just bouncing from one random scene to the next. It becomes a patchwork narrative and it just doesn’t work because the story hasn’t had time to properly build up to those big moments to really make you feel, and while I enjoyed them, I didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have. The connective tissue of the story is missing. Hopefully the next film will feel more complete since by the time this film ends it’s well and truly separated from all the other versions so we won’t have to skip past anything next time.

The Verdict

In the end Fate/stay night Heaven’s Fell 1. Presage Flower is a film for fans, but it’s what it sets up that has me more excited than anything that happens in the film. The animation is beautiful, the fate franchise has never looked so good and the fights are electric, but when it comes to the characters there’s too much missing from the journey the characters go on. I understand why they did it, that stuff has been animated elsewhere, but without it the bigger moments in this film just don’t have the same impact. We’ll see how the next film turns out, when that eventually gets released in the UK.

fish stamp watchable

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