This Week: Wicked City, Blood-C: The Last Dark, and ∀ Gundam.
Wicked City (Youjuu Toshi)
The film that pretty much put Yoshiaki Kawajiri (of eventual Ninja Scroll fame and others) on the map, and it has his trademarks all over it: visuals above all else. The plot is bland, every character is one dimensional at best, and it has some jarring transitions due to originally being a much shorter work.
It only remotely salvages points by Kawajiri’s intimate understanding of action and visuals. The various demons are intricately designed to be lovely animation show offs as they transform, writhe, melt, entangle, and otherwise contort themselves into all kinds of interesting shapes and sizes with superb detail and fluidity. Scenes have very crisp timing, and cinematography is generally rock solid.
Often said to be a production laden with misogyny, and that’s not without merit. If a woman is on screen either something bad has befallen her, or she is the badness that will attempt to be the befalling. It also outright smashes the rape button, using it about a half dozen times. The only justification that really comes for it is Taki’s boss remarks on how big of a weakness to women he has, and driving that message home as alarmingly ham handled as possible. The demon world is trying to prevent him from having a child, after all. And Kawajiri isn’t really a director who does subtlety. The handling of it all is rather bombastic however, even for him.
Blood-C: The Last Dark
I watched the entirety of Blood-C a few months ago, and found it to be a pretty rubbish drama. It did, however, give me some hearty out loud guffaws as characters stumbled their way through the overwrought script and folks were ludicrously butchered in the most unintentionally hilarious ways (episodes 8 and 12 get special notes for that). The kind of “recommendation” one gives to a Z-grade horror so-bad-it’s-funny romp. The series departs on a cliffhanger, and I have admittedly been dreading getting around to this movie.
Due to how the storyline has progressed, we are introduced to an entirely new set of supporting characters. And by jove, it really wants you to like them, because it spends almost the entirety of its run time propping them up and telling us all about them. Saya is practically a background character in her own franchise movie. It almost seems like a passive-aggressive response by CLAMP to how many reviewers felt about the writing in the previous show, that now it just wants to bombard the audience with the content many found to be the worst part about it. And… their whole crack at the series just isn’t very good with narrative or dialogue.
Even with the ending of the TV show and the implied overtones they would go with in the film, I’m sure something compelling could have been done to justify keeping the show’s at least amusingly bad tone. Have Saya use that second happy carefree fake persona she was overwritten with and freed from, learning to access fragments of it and applying them as a tool to be able to walk around the city and arouse less suspicion while acquiring information. That would have opened a window to all kinds of opportunities.
However, the Blood franchise has pretty much managed to survive this long, despite numerous setbacks, on its entries abilities to pump out slick looking action and fight scenes. And this movie has… about three or four of them in nearly two hours, all of which are extremely short and underwhelming in execution. I think the final showdown fight (which required a whole TV show and the rest of this movie to build up to) literally clocks in at less than a minute. The whole production just feels aimless and lost in every way. And unlike Blood-C, it doesn’t even have “unintentionally funny” going for it.
It’s actually kind of a shame, as while I don’t mind kicking Blood-C around, I think there’s very much a place for it. What it had wasn’t critically good, but it was endearing in how seriously hard I saw it try to do things like killing off the entire town with marshmallow rabbit things who literally scooped fistfulls of people up into big bags and set a blender arm to “liquify”. I rate it low, but I’m very likely to rewatch the show someday, like I have with my favorite terribly hilarious 80’s OVA’s and such, which is kind of an anomaly these days. The film could have continued that, and it’d have a nifty little legacy in that respect.
∀ Gundam (Turn A Gundam) [Episodes 1 – 17 out of 50]
Essentially Gundam channeling the best aspects of Pocahontas, War of the Worlds, and Studio Ghibli. The latter isn’t actually involved (this is still a Sunrise production), but I’d be damned if it didn’t feel like how they would handle it.
This has been such an all around joy to watch so far, which is entirely appropriate given Yoshiyuki Tomino had finally escaped from the crushing depression he had for so many years. The people of Earth are operating at roughly early 20th century technology levels, so visuals are adorned with things like biplanes, airships, and carriage coach style automobiles along with our titular Gundam and related mobile suits. It’s a wonderful charge to the imagination, and pairs great with the light strings and woodwinds soundtrack.
Mobile suits of all shapes and sizes inspire dramatic tension, confusion, and awe by merely existing.
Character narratives are the highlight and driving force above all else. So far, pretty much everyone has very real and sympathetic reasons for how they act and the struggles they are dealing with, both internally and in judging how others are also reacting to the Earth – Moonrace situation around them. Carefully constructed houses of cards and poker hands for everyone, and I’m glad it has been spending so much time focusing on these narratives, particularly in the information the characters are hiding from each other. This is especially true regarding the female main characters, which are definitely the strongest and most developed I’ve seen in a Gundam entry for some time now.
I will say, this is not a series for those just seeking stylish giant robot fighting action. As of where I am robot combat moments are limited affairs, but as a result their opening fire is treated with more weight, especially when combined with the setting.
I’m going into this already fully aware of The Big Reveal, but I don’t feel that’s harmed my enjoyment in the least. Rather, I’m just really appreciating the ride there and looking forward to learning how that all unfolds and happens.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.