4 Shots From 4 Films: Summer Wars, Redline, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki

Typically, site anime expert pantsukudasai56 would be the one to recommend anything and everything anime. Anime in its series form, OVA (original video animation) and/or straight up film. I like to think my knowledge of anime is second only to his.

While I’ve had an off and on love affair with anime throughout the years I have seen my fair share of anime film. From pantsukudasai56’s viewpoint, only those anime that were produced from beginning to end with the intent of having a film release qualifies as anime film. OVA productions he sees as a sort of straight-to-video releases and shouldn’t qualify. his own initial 4 Shots From 4 Films entry were all anime films.

With his example as a guide I have chosen four anime films that veteran and burgeoning fans of the art form should check out. Two come from the heir apparent to the great Satoshi Kon. Another is a hyperkinetic (even for an anime) traditional hand-drawn anime which has had a major influence on the more recent Fast and Furious films. The fourth is a film from the late 80’s which rekindled my love for anime during my high school years.


Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (dir. by Hiroyuki Yamaga)

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (dir. by Hiroyuki Yamaga)

AMV of the Day: Otaku Paradise


It’s the 4th of July Weekend and one of the things I’ve gotten used to these past couple years is that it means Anime Expo has come around once more. While I don’t have the anime convention experience as pantsukudasai56 it is still a event that I’ve gotten used to attending once a year when possible.

The latest “AMV of the Day” arrives just in time for the largest North American anime convention held every 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles. Not to say that the other anime conventions around the country are nothing to sneeze at, but Anime Expo is a whole different animal that every otaku in North America needs to experience at least once in their life. It’s a video that comes courtesy by the very talented video editor who goes by the handle of BecauseImBored1.

A video that combines scenes from anime and real-life footage of cosplayers and anime con-goers into one timely video that celebrates the positive nature of the word “otaku”. It’s a word that has a negative reputation in Japan, but one that’s seen as a celebration of anime and Japanese pop-culture fandom worldwide. It’s a label taken on proudly.

“Otaku Paradise” has such a huge number of anime referenced yet barely scratches the surface of what “otaku” watches and follows year in and year out. I love the fact that the video intersperses these anime scenes with real-life people in cosplay of those very same anime characters. Not everyone cosplays, but every otaku appreciates and admires those who do. Yet, cosplayers and non-cosplayer otaku both have one thing in common and that is their acceptance of the label of “otaku”.

One thing this video made me do while I watched it for the first time and the many times since was put such a huge, happy smile on my face. It’s small consolation for having to miss this weekend’s Anime Expo 2014.

Anime: Another, Attack On Titan, Baccano!, Baka And Test – Summon The Beasts, Bakuman, Black Lagoon, CANAAN, Clannad, Code Geass – Lelouch Of The Rebellion, D.Gray-Man, DragonBall Z, Durarara!!, Fate/Stay Night, Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club, Fruits Basket, Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Genshiken, Genshiken Nidaime, Haikyuu, Hellsing Ultimate, Howl’s Moving Castle, Idolmaster, K, K-ON!, Kampfer, Kanon, Kara No Kyoukai – The Garden Of Sinners, Kill La Kill, Kuroko’s Basketball, Kyoukai No Kanata, Kyousougiga, Little Witch Academia, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, Lucky Star, Macross Frontier MUSIC CLIP Collection – Nyankuri, Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, MM!, Munto, My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, My Neighbor Totoro, Naruto, Ookami-San To Shichinin No Nakama-Tachi, Ore No Kanojo To Osananajimi Ga Shuraba Sugiru, Ouran High School Host Club, Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt, Persona 4: The Animation, Pokemon : White, Pokémon: Movie 2, Pokemon 2000, The Power Of One, Princess Jellyfish, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Romeo × Juliet, Sailor Moon, Sakura Trick, School Rumble, School Rumble 2, Shugo Chara!, Soul Eater, Soul Eater Not, Summer Wars, Super Smash Bros, Sword Art Online, Tales Of Xillia, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, Toradora!, Trigun, Uta No Prince Sama, Welcome To The NHK, Yu Yu Hakusho

Song: “Raging Fire” by Phillip Phillips

Creator: BecauseImBored1

Past AMVs of the Day

AMV of the Day: Calling

Time of a new “AMV of the Day” post and this time around it involves an anime which I thought was one of the best I’ve seen in the last ten years. This particular anime music video is called “Calling”.

The anime film Summer Wars (released in 2009) was quite a surprise for me. I haven’t really gotten into anime films unless it’s made by Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon, but this particular one by Mamoru Hosada became quite a favorite. During Anime Expo 2011 an amv by creator NekoKitKat25hug ended up winning AX2011’s Best In Show during it’s AMV Competition. While I wasn’t able to attend AX2011 I was still intrigued to check out the amv which ended up winning the con’s top AMV trophy.

“Calling” pretty much condenses Summer Wars into a four minute video to the tune of Shiny Toy Gun’s “Major Tom“. This wasn’t just a straight-up quick re-telling of the anime, but one that doesn’t really give away too much of the story like other amv’s who follow the same editing style. My favorite section of the video has to be final minute which still manages to make the film’s best scenes come off exciting and new.

Anime: Summer Wars

Song: “Major Tom” by Shiny Toy Guns

Creator:  NekoKitKat25hug

AMV of the Day: A Prelude to Dreams

The latest addition to the “AMV of the Day” stable I first saw in the final day of this year’s Anime Boston this past Spring. It’s title is “A Prelude to Dreams” and I will say that it’s one of the more interesting and unique looking anime music videos I’ve seen.

“A Prelude to Dreams” has won several awards from many anime conventions one of which was this past Spring’s Anime Boston as it won the “Best Other” category. It also won a the “Judges’ Choice” in the same convention. It was really the only AMV in the whole convention which deserved to win two awards. It’s creator, tehninjarox, did a great job in using scenes from thirteen anime series and films and created a well-edited video to accompany the song chosen. The song is the second Imogen Heap AMV I’ve chosen for “AMV of the Day”. This song is the DJ XSaryux mix of the Imogen Heap track, “Hide and Seek”, and I must admit that the music matches well with the scenes chosen from those various anime titles.

The editing job also made great use of smooth transition effects which made each scenes flow into one another without breaking the dream-like effect the song and images created as the song progressed. I’ve seen probably half of the titles the creator used for this music video and I was glad that some of them were from the anime film Summer Wars and the mahou shoujo series “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. It’s always great to see those two used in created ways outside of what they were already made for.

Anime : Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Genius Party, Genius Party: Dimension Bomb, Genius Party: Gala, Genius Party: Wanwa the Doggy, Summer Wars, Ef – The Latter Tale, Ef – A Fairy Tale of the Two, Bakemonogatari, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Katanagatari, The Girl who Leapt Through Time

Song: Hide and Seek (DJ XSaryux mix) by Imogen Heap

Creator: tehninjarox

Review: Summer Wars (dir. by Hosada Mamoru)

Anime films have been the type to make a major crossover from Japan to the United States when it comes to the US mainstream audience. While anime series typically still remain the realm of the hardcore fans of the genre the stand-alone films get much more love from mainstream critics and audiences in addition to the hardcore. One such film which looks to have made a successful mainstream crossover to the United States was the anime film Summer Wars which was originally released in Japan in August 1, 2009. The film saw it’s American debut at film festivals around the country in 2010, but since I saw it in late May 2011 I consider it a 2011 release for me thus qualifying it as one of the best films of 2011.

Summer Wars was the project of director Hosada Mamoru whose previous stand-alone anime film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, was well-received by fans and critics alike. Working from a screenplay by Okudera Satoko (adapted from a story written by Hosada himself), Summer Wars was a nice blend of science-fiction, romance and Japanese slice-of-life. The story begins with the introduction and explanation of the OZ on-line community which becomes a major focal point to the film’s story and the many characters in it. OZ was explained as an on-line, social networking community which has become so ingrained in the world community that everything anyone does was done through it’s portals. Think of OZ was an amalgamation of Facebook, Second Life, iTunes, Netflix and every other social networking site all working under one umbrella. It’s a virtual world where people just don’t socially interact through games and chat lobbies, but also a place where every real-world store has a portal where people could purchase things online. It’s also become a palce where governments from local cities to whole countries have set-up their own areas that would control their cities and countries’ infrastructures. It’s Facebook on steroids.

One of the film’s main characters happens to work as a part-time moderator for OZ. Koiso Keiji also happens to be a 17-year old math whiz who would become instrumental in the story to come. The bulk of the story has Keiji being invited by a high school friend in Shinohara Natsuki (explained to him as a job she needs for him to do) to come with her to her family estate where he ends up meeting the rest of Natsuki’s very extended family and also it’s soon-to-be 90-year old matriarch in Jinnouich Sakae. This part of the film makes up the romance and it’s comedic aspect as Keiji gets introduced by Natsuki to her great grandmother Sakae as her boyfriend and future fiance much to Keiji’s surprise. As Keiji tries to awkwardly play along with Natsuki’s plan the second part of the film’s story kick’s in as he inadvertently assist someone or something into hacking into OZ and begin a sequence of events which threatens every account in OZ, but later on even threaten the world.

This part of the story actually worked quite well due to the recent major hacking of Sony’s Playstation and Qriocity networks which gave hackers access to tens of millions of account users’ info. It was hard not to think about this real-life event as something similar (albeit much more massive and danegrous in scope) occurred in Summer Wars. The fact that the film was completed in 2009 and the Sony hack happened just a month ago was real life copying fiction instead of the other way around. It’s this part of the story’s plot which added to the thrilling aspect of the film as Keiji and others (mostly the extended Jinnouichi Clan he meets) try to take on the cause of the OZ hack (which we quickly learn wasn’t a person but an advanced A.I. program released by the U.S. Army into OZ to test it’s capabilities not knowing it would become self-aware and hard to control).

Weaving in and around this science-fiction are some of what makes some Japanese anime so easily accessible to those outside of Japan. We see a slice-of-life that, at first looks to be typical Japanese daily life, but as the story moves along becomes something that everyone would recognize and have some sort of kinship with no matter their race or culture. It’s the theme of family togetherness even through adversity and the occassional disagreements between family members. It’s here we see Natsuki’s great grandmother Sakae show the need for the family to always find time to sit down and eat dinner together no matter what problems each and everyone may be having. It’s these very serene, at times quite hilarious, scenes of family life with the Jinnouichi Clan that Summer Wars will tug at audiences’ heartstrings and cause more than just a few to tear up. Some have said these scenes were too maudlin and corny, but I look at that complaint as people trying to project their own cynical nature on what was really an honest look at family life and how keeping a family together through adversity (both big and small) becomes a reward unto itself.

The Japanese voice cast did quite a good job bringing their animated characters to life from the main leads in Keiji, Natsuki and Sakae right up to the little children who added some levity to the situation. While I try to always watch anime with the Japanese language on with English subtitles for Summer Wars I also watched it with the English-voice dubbing. I was surprised to hear that the English-dubbed version was not as bad as most anime dubs and was actually quite good. Summer Wars looks to boast a who’s-who of English dub voice actors which probably lent itself to a quality dubbing in the end.

Summer Wars was produced by one of Japan’s major animation studios with Madhouse and the look of the film bears this out. The virtual world which made up OZ looked beautiful and made great use of CGI-animation. The avatars used by OZ account members were inventive and a menagerie of characters that all looked to be very distinct each and everytime a new one came on the screen. The animation for the real-world aspect of the film used traditional hand-drawn animation. While it didn’t have the sheen and flash of most anime series the flat-look and natural color scheme used for scenes when outside OZ lent a sense of realism and the natural that made it easier to get into the film. These two contrasting animation styles really helped in pointing out just how different OZ was to everything else.

Hosada Mamoru’s direction keeps everything from becoming a jumbled mess as the film juggles not just two major plot threads concurrently but smaller subplots involving certain individual family members of the Jinnouichi Clan. It’s a testament to his handling of the film that we’re never lost as the film’s story unfolds. Whether it’s the fake relationship between Keiji and Natsuki becoming something more real to the prodigal son coming back to the family after a self-imposed exile of ten years right up to a high school baseball tournament involving one of the family’s younger members who also happens to be a star pitcher.

In the end, Summer Wars should be seen as a landmark film that officially heralds the arrival of one of anime’s great filmmakers. With the untimely passing of Satoshi Kon there’s been a scramble within the anime community to find his heir apparent. Hayao Miyazaki will continue to be one of anime’s godfathers and pillar of quality work, but amongst the younger generation there was really no one stepping up the way Satoshi Kon did in so short a time. I think with Summer Wars it wouldn’t be too farfetched to say that Hosada Mamoru has also stepped up to join Miyazaki as one of the creative geniuses in the anime world. It also shows younger anime filmmakers that there is success to be had doing anime outside the usual mecha, mahou shoujo and shonen series which remains the backbone and meal-ticket for animation studios in Japan.

Summer Wars is an anime film that I’d highly recommend to all whether they’re fans of anime or have no idea what an anime was. This anime is that good and one that deserves to be called just film without the anime tag. It will be interesting to see what Hosada Mamoru comes up with next. I, for one, can’t wait to see what it is. Also, I recommend people watch this on Blu-Ray. The difference in how the animation comes across between Blu-Ray and DVD is leagues apart.

Original Japanese Trailer