Before the Black Out: More Human Than Human | OWLS “Diplomacy”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  eleventh monthly topic, “Diplomacy,” I decided to incorporate my loose thoughts on Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 into this glance at the past, the present, and the future of the franchise’s iconic sci-fi world. The matter at hand: In an age rife with incredible development, improvement, and achievement, when did humanity lose its defining future–its ability to reason compassionately?

Whenever we have a disagreement with someone, we use our words to express our thoughts and opinions. However, there are those who would rather use fists instead of words—those who forget that being “right” isn’t the most important thing, and those who lose sight of compromising and acknowledging differences in opinion and belief. Diplomacy is an important skill and tactic that not many of us have or are able to utilize properly especially in “social media wars” for sensitive issues and anime discourse—we just express our opinions without really listening.

We will be exploring some of the best negotiations scenes in pop culture media and discuss how effective these diplomatic moments are and what we can learn from them. We will also discuss why communication and listening are important traits to have, and whether or not there are other means to enforce peace.

I’ll be taking this in a bit of a different direction, like say, what happens in a world without diplomacy—a world without choice—where issues can’t merely be talked through, but require brute force to get a point across. War is necessity. I’m talkin’ about the dawn of a revolution, the beginning of the blackout bigger and darker than the world had ever known. Welcome to Blade Runner.

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Thanks Lyn for the prompt (this month’s theme was admittedly tricky for me, so I hope you all enjoy a VERY different OWLS post)!


A brief discussion on the 15-min fall 2017 anime short “Blade Runner: Black Out 2022,” produced by Cygames, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop). It serves as one of three short films based on the original film by Ridley Scott as an intended sequel to fill in the events before “Blade Runner 2049.” SPOILERS only for “BLACK OUT 2022” will be present.

A Dystopian Vision of Our World, the Not-So-Far-Off Future

Set three years after the events of Blade Runner, we are presented with a vision of Los Angeles in 2022: a grim, metal and rain-coated field of shacks and skyscrapers that continues beyond the horizon as far as the eye can reach. It’s an overcrowded metropolis in which millions of people roam the streets, shoulders practically touching, yet people couldn’t feel more disconnected on a personal level. The scene is gloomy, very neo-noir in tone, and the only sense of organization comes from not the city’s inhabitants, but its layout and structure; a handful of massive, sprawling, and imposing ziggurats distinguish between the penniless street-dwellers and those empowered with privilege.

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Between the maze of ominous alleyways and towering steel spires, one would find two types of species: the living, us standard human types, and the manufactured, bio-engineered androids coined “replicants” (these happen to be new Nexus-8 models, mind you, which mean that their lifespans are programmed to be just as long as a normal human’s—a significant improvement since the four-year lifespans of Nexus-6 models in the original Blade Runner). Already faster, stronger, and smarter than humans, this latest replicant enhancement robbed humans of their final upper edge against the robots, and unfortunately, this didn’t settle well with the populous.

Hunters, fighters, and police began their assaults on a race that didn’t even get to choose its genes—their maker, in fact, was human, so why the cause for outrage? Human nature, that’s why (cue events of 1982’s Blade Runner). Replicants were brutally hunted down, more killed than imprisoned. Feeling the urge, the drive, the right to power over all they create and manipulate, unjust violence by humanity broke out everywhere, and it’d only be a matter of time before the Replicants as a whole decided to fight back. In their rise, humanity fell further to the lowest levels of jealousy, corruption, and greed.

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A Means to an End

FINALLY, we get to Black Out 2022, a brief tale that begins at the climax of the Replicant Revolution, a stage craftily set by what I’d imagine to be many painstaking hours of sorting out the details so that the franchise’s history flowed smoothly with the coming of Blade Runner 2049. We find a young female, a replicant named Trixie, in the streets being approached by a group of thugs when Iggy, a once-soldier replicant, bursts onto the scene and rescues her. Iggy had left the battlefield once he realized that, in the war on terror, BOTH sides were using replicants as disposable pawns. Flash forward and together the two team up with other members of the underground replicant freedom movement to destroy the Tyrell Corporation’s database of registered replicants, so that replicants can no longer be hunted, as well as plunge Los Angeles into the dark ages via atomic bomb. Heaven and hell are for the humans—now, THIS life, is all the replicants have.

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Too often, these war shows about rebellion cause us to contemplate the same questions: How did things turn out this way? Was this really the only way to win? Did we even really win anything in the end? And you know, I find them to be more rhetorical than anything. Rather than asking a serious question and expecting a straight answer, these questions merely exist to put a point out there. How did things turn out this way? Well, because we kept agreeing to disagree, that’s how. But really, perhaps it’s because, somewhere deep down in the darkest of our human selves, we wanted this result—this form of means to bring us to the end. As the saying goes, “If you go down, go down fighting,” right? Then WHAT is so wrong about rigging a bomb to protect the lives of millions of ill-fated replicants? (rhetorical question, just think)

Maybe there isn’t a way outta this one. Sometimes, words alone are not enough to probe individuals to act. Replicant injustice was akin to a crueler version of slavery by the time of the revolution—it was humanity who created beings capable of achieving self-realization and freedom, and it was humanity who purposefully dangled that freedom in front of their innocent, unknowing faces, far beyond their grasp. I hate to admit it (and no, I don’t condemn the use of atomic bombs, ever), but maybe the replicants were right on this one.

According to basic psychology, Kohlberg’s theory on moral development might have an explanation to the justification of rigging the great black out of 2022:

Of his 6 stages, the last is the rarest case of man, one in which he weighs universal ethical principles. Gifted individuals like Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr. fit this bill, as they pass judgments based on universal human rights (whether it’s for or against the law, this is inherently right/wrong). They tend to disregard law and social agreement for what is believed to be the greatest good for all, kinda like groovin’ to the beat of their own drum. Whoever is leading the Replicant Revolution is likely such a charismatic character, one who is seeking an end where replicants can live freely regardless of how many laws they have to break getting there. Now, back to the Blade Runner . . .

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If Only We Could Talk Things Through

BEHOLD, THIS is the future you asked for, humanity. THIS is the world in which you gave all of your power up to an oppressive state that knows all and sees all, and thus it created more slaves. THIS is the route where humans essentially reduced a complex lifeform into a machine. This is . . . the black out is . . .

It’s the world you deserve.

Call me bitter, but there’s a time and place for war, there really is. When some people get their head SO far up their asses that they close off their mind to new ideas and thoughts, it’s time for change. And that is EXACTLY what the replicants did and in the most peaceful way possible. Through the black out, two lowly replicants transcend their original purposes to become free-thinking individuals.

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The film ends just as it began: Iggy walking away from a storm of ash and flames with an eye patch, symbolizing that he, like Trixie, has cast aside his original purpose as a replicant soldier (replicant IDs are located under the eye), transforming him into a cold warrior fighting for justice and the freedom of his kind. Now, in theory, all men are equal, and the means of terrorism have brought upon a glorious end: all of the world is painted black. There is no record of who is or isn’t a replicant. Is it an ending of hope? Well, if you find their actions to be “stage 6 justification” like I do, then it might be. Enslavement of any kind should never be tolerated, and as such, sometimes we need action to prove a point—much like asking a rhetorical question. To quote MLK Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, as with the rest of the franchise, shows us a future void of diplomacy. It’s a world where those who are inferior neither get a voice nor a chance to negotiate their terms of living. There is no fairness. There is no thoughtfulness, or sensitivity, or care given to the replicants. To change the treatment of their kind, the replicants had to think bigger and above themselves—to a region of thought that even most humans fail to fathom—accurately becoming, as ironically as the Tyrell Corporation proclaims, “more human than human.” And it is through the awe-inspiring darkness of the black out that we see the light.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – MLK Jr. 
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Once again, I didn’t even get to discuss the art and animation of the world of Blade Runner in the anime style—which is perhaps the single most interesting element about this entire short film!!! Guys, 2022 is seriously beautiful, both fluid and engaging during the action scenes, and simply breathtaking in terms of landscape. JUST LOOK AT IT. MY GOD, what I’d give to just walk through the blue, rainy, compact streets of the city!! It’s like a dirtier, grittier version of Ghost in the Shell, and if that means anything to you then you ought to give the franchise a watch.

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Speaking of, this is NOT RECOMMENDED for a blind watch. You won’t get any of it. It’s designed to serve as a one of three prequel short films to the latest Blade Runner 2049and boy did they help a ton! So yes, start with the 1982 Blade Runner, as I highly recommend it, then make your way up. For Black Out 2022, I’ll gladly place it under the “Cakes” menu for future reference.

This concludes my November 10th entry in the OWLS “Diplomacy” blog tour. A new friend of mine, Irina (Drunken Anime Blog) chose to explore how her otome stories and games taught her that you can’t please all the boys with your charming diplomatic ways. Then look out for Lita (Lita Kino Anime Corner) tomorrow, November 11th with, well, it’s a surprise!  Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

LISTEN TO THIS. “Almost Human” by pop-singer Lauren Daigle is an interesting choice for an ED theme, and I wouldn’t have picked a different one. SO GOOD!!

 

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Having Unpopular Opinions Can Suck (GitS LA + more) | Cafe Talk

Uf, I can’t believe I have to write this post. But something has to be said so that I can have closure on this subject.

That’s right, we’re diving back into the live action Ghost in the Shell 2017, which I had previously covered in my review. Before we get too deep, however, I had written a more formal review about the film which you can view right here. It’s got most of my thoughts, from casting and cinematography to world-building, set design, and the soundtrack. Speaking of, Lorne Balfe has been graciously releasing a couple tracks each Friday in response to the fans’ call (mine included), so that’s really awesome of him!

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Welcome to “Cafe Talk,” a comment-welcome segment that, while it doesn’t happen as often as it should, is pretty fun to write! With this one, frankly speaking, we’re talking about being pissed off when no one likes your opinions, and exactly how much of a downer it can be. Sound relatable?

Your Opinion Doesn’t Suck, People Do

What can I say? You’re typically never in the wrong for harboring an opinion (unless that thought potentially threatens, harms, outcasts, etc. a person). Opinions are just personalized ideas, views, or judgments, and ideas are just that—intangible concepts. Alone, opinions and ideas can’t do much of anything, but when tagged together with a voice, that’s when things can get interesting.

Communication tends to happen after one’s opinion is formed; they seek out other individuals, groups, or even communities to see how their opinion stacks up, and whether it’s a favored or disfavored belief. More often than not, your position is accepted (YAY) as the popular opinion (hence the world “popular”).

You’ve done it! You’ve got nothing to fear!

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Last day of shooting, posted on Instagram by Juliette Binoche (Dr. Ouelet, right) and Scarlett Johansson (Major, left). They’re so happy I’M CRYING

Unless you’re like me, in which a chorus of crickets followed by intense booing ensues upon opinion delivery. You’ve just created an unpopular opinion (DAMMIT), and should you choose to continue to be vocal with your convictions, you’re life is about to get a bit harder. Just remember, this is NOT your fault—it’s a very human thing to stick with groups and label others as outcasts. You’ve just decided to bring something new to show-and-tell, and that scares the weak, the non-creative, the non-accepting, the unadventurous, the unappreciative, the crowd-followers.

Here, to console you, I’ll share a few of my own unpopular anime-related opinions cause, like, we know your thoughts can’t be as near as bad as mine, heh heh heh . . .

  1. I like Sword Art Online (oh crap, we’re starting with a strong one)
  2. I like Sword Art Online II more than the first (yes I just went there)
  3. Sailor Moon Crystal is a pretty enjoyable and strong adaptation of the original manga (no going back now)
  4. KILL la KILL‘s fanservice isn’t that off-putting (hi Kausus :3)
  5. Danganronpa: The Animation is a great adaptation of the game
  6. I don’t mind Kickstarting anime localizations
  7. Typically, I’d rather meet the English voice actors of a show rather than the Japanese seiyuus
  8. I thought The Empire of Corpses was a cool film
  9. Bryce Papenbrook is a good voice actor (in most cases, NOT Kirito)
  10. The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) is fantastic NOT just because of Yuno Gasai
  11. “Monster girl anime” seem stupid
  12. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) should NOT be skipped; both it and Brotherhood hold well on their own, respectively (same goes for Deen’s Fate/ stay night)
  13. Free! is NOT just about muscles and wet boys
  14. No Game No Life is not recommendable because it doesn’t end (same goes for Deadman Wonderland)
  15. Madoka Magica: Rebellion is a masterful film
  16. I love Robotics;Notes and Chaos;Head almost as much as Steins;Gate, even if Steins;Gate is the best
  17. The Viz Media English dub of Sailor Moon is better than the DiC dub
  18. I enjoy all of the Pokemon films
  19. Higurashi’s second season Kai is better than the first
  20. The Eden of the East films complete the story wonderfully
  21. Watamote is a funny anime, not a sad one
  22. The live-action Ghost in the Shell (2017) is an incredible and artistic film that respects its sources and holds quite well on its own

. . . Wait, that last one, “That’s not even cool bro . . .”

*cries*

So now that we’ve broken the ice (and melted it), let’s get this out of the way.

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My Unpopular Opinion, an Argument

Ghost in the Shell (2017) was a film that I walked out of not pondering endless sci-fi wonders, but feeling warm and tingly inside instead, which is quite unlike any entry in the franchise thus far has made me feel. But rather than chastise it as “something so far off of the original path that it’s unrecognizable,” think of it as a new side to the franchise. Ghost in the Shell has always been about vast interpretations and new ideas anyway, so why not welcome this unique artistic approach regardless that it looks like the black sheep in the herd.

Even Mamoru Oshii, director of the original 1995 film (which is much of 2017‘s inspiration) only wished for Directer Sanders to not be bogged down by his and Kenji Kamiyama’s Major (Stand Alone Complex), but to create his own as another face to the franchise.

Clearly, a lot of heart was put into visualization of the world—you can feel that the director was going for something GitS, but altogether a new and innovative vision [more relevant to our times].

I loved this fresh spin on the franchise, even if it admittedly bit off a little more than it could chew by trying to tie in so many homages to the franchise that, in fact, make each installment distinct from one another. And like any adaptation, if I wanted to see the original story all over again, I’D JUST WATCH THE ORIGINAL.

And about the casting, I’ve paraphrased a YouTube comment that quite honestly deserves a million likes:

“It’s controversial, but not incorrect casting. Major is an “Asian woman” in a European frame (robotic body), sure, yet part of the theme of cyberpunk and the series/movie revolves around self identity and what truly makes someone themselves—their experiences and actions. The people who said she should have been Asian were not only missing the entire movement of the franchise, but were critics just trying to push their political agenda onto a beloved title. Likely, they didn’t know the source material and went, “Oh, but, it’s Asiany and it’s made in Asia, sooooo.”

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What it Feels Like to be Crushed Your Unpopular Opinion

After I put myself out there, I definitely got “politely flagged” by other community members. They were responding to me, just trying to kindly say that they didn’t care for the movie—and that’s fine, especially since they were so nice!—but you kind of feel, I don’t know, down. It’s like you’re floating on your own raft out on the open waters, which are filled with bloodthirsty hate-filled sharks. And then you’re suddenly reminded that nobody is going to come and save you, so it’s either hold strong to what you value, or let it all go to the sharks.

And you know what? I’m still here, floatin’ away in this little hell all because I like the live action Ghost in the Shell. Stupid, right?

When you value something that others simply don’t, you start to get lonely. Nobody wants to waste their time attempting to scrounge up the very few “pros” that exist (if any) just to please you. They’ll notice, maybe console you saying something like, “Yeah, it could’ve been better,” or perhaps remind you once again as to why your opinions are dumb. But then they’ll go and find something else to talk about, and it almost leaves you feeling guilty for liking (or not liking) what you do. After all, you just missed out on a potentially awesome conversation—if only you shared the same opinion, that is.

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By having an unpopular opinion, you can feel isolated and at its worst, ashamed. You almost wish you could naturally hate something like everyone else did, or fall in love with something the way everyone else did. And then your problems would be gone—But THAT itself IS the problem:

Without your differing ideas, there would be only one main belief about something, and where’s the fun in that? Because you decided to explore where no one else dared, you walked out with something that no one else has, and you should embrace that, not hide it away!

Which is why I’m going to say it:

 “IT’S NOT JUST A SHELL. THE LIVE-ACTION GHOST IN THE SHELL IS NOT JUST A FREAKIN’ SHELL.”

I’m sick and tired of people—reviewers, critics, heck, even the media—calling it that just to make some stupid-ass pun. The SAME stupid-ass pun at that.

So from this experience that I had, I learned that you should always:

DELIGHT in the fact that your opinions may be different than the rest.

BE HUMBLE with your beliefs, proud but open to suggestions, discussions, and different viewpoints.

SUPPORT the things you love, for they brought you joy.

And for goodness sake, ENJOY something because YOU like it, not because others tell you not to or that you’re supposed to.

Don’t let all of the negative opinions and hate bog you down like it did me. Don’t let it! Hate puts your mind in the gutter, and honestly doesn’t feel good at all. You start second-guessing yourself, “Should I really be liking this,” which is EXACTLY what happened with this film for me. Instead, we should all keep on loving anime and the opportunities to ponder, interpret, and discuss that it has brought us. THAT is all you have to do!

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Have you ever had an unpopular opinion that struck you so deep that it brought unwanted hate your way? And did you defend your case in the respectful way you should have? Also, have you ever felt lonely or isolated for liking something that nobody else does? List some for me like I did, as I’m very curious! And almost more than that, I’m SO HAPPY to finally put my thoughts on this film and its controversy to rest. When it was in theaters, I had gone it THREE times (and saved the tickets just for this post), and as of now, I have purchased the artbook, the Blu-ray, and an adorable little Funko Pop of the iconic Geisha! And whenever the soundtrack comes, I’ll buy, support, and listen to that, too! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Ghost in the Shell (2017) Dives Deep Enough to Prove Itself a Fascinating, Engaging Ride | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 2017 live action film “Ghost in the Shell,” produced by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow, as well as loose ideas from the entire franchise, especially the original 1995 film of the same name.


The First of Her Kind

In a future not too far from our own, people have grown to love technology. You can bet that anyone you run into on these cold streets will sport some sort of cybernetic enhancement modded to their body: prosthetic limbs, wired inner organs, or the trending metal-encased cyberbrain. These advanced augmentations were coded to grant humans more convenient lives: quicker, safer, and less cumbersome living.

After a horrifying terrorist attack, Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) transcends into the first of her kind: the stunning results of the first-ever brain transplant into a fully synthetic body. Now a cyborg soldier programmed to eliminate cyber crime, super hackers, and back-alley schemes, the Major is automatically drafted to hunt down the ultimate next-gen terrorist—one who is able to hack into people’s minds and puppet them.

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Suffering from a faintly growing illness of glitching memory fragments, however, the deeper the Major dives into this case, the more intense her glitches become. As the possibility emerges that her new greatest enemy might in fact belong to her blurry past, the Major arms herself for a treacherous night journey. Nothing will stand in the way of satisfying her human curiosity, as well as the inevitable reawakening of her soul to a life that was stolen from her.

A New Story

While I’ll admit that we’re looking at the film’s weakest part—the plot—first, it’s impossible to deny that this live action reigns as one of sci-fi’s more interesting films in recent times, and holds the gold for the best live action iteration of an anime produced thus far, granted that I’ve only seen segments from most of them. What we’re looking at here with GitS (2017) is a fairly well-structured story of self-discovery followed by revenge, a typical Hollywood formula that feels relatively topical compared to the franchise’s classic 1995 film, which explored the deep values of being human, artificial sentience, and of course, the vastness of the Net.

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This apparent shallowness works out because of what the film is aiming at, though; in 1995 we dove into present identity and the other weighted themes previously listed—the Major as she is existing, if you will—but in 2017, we’re instead considering how the Major would feel about her past (2nd GIG did this), and what her creation ultimately means for the future of humanity, about feeling disconnected because she lacks the background that everyone else has laid out for them. Dig too deep into the original content and you risk deviating from the main intent: a new story.

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How This Live Action Holds on its Own

We take a undoubtedly cliche ride with the Major as she discovers how she came to be, and it all clicks together wonderfully and feels unique because of how huge the title is, what it means to others, and the sheer number of comparisons that can be drawn between this seemingly shallow film and its deep, thought-provoking origination. Everybody’s experience with it will be different, and that notion makes it not only thrilling to watch, but exciting to talk about.

So the film DOES in fact deliver a fresh outlook on an already well-refined series, standing out from its manga, anime, and even video game counterparts by re-imagining the Major’s previous identity, something that purposefully remained ambiguous throughout the franchise. It was a bold, completely unnecessary “prequel” adventure, but now that it’s over, I can’t help but welcome it openly with an applause. GitS is all about varying interpretations, proven true by Motoko’s complexity in 1995 and the franchise itself, which has had several makeovers. The idea of re-envisioning shouldn’t feel new, but everything from its tone, emotional pull, presentation, and core writing should. Speaking of new faces, how does ScarJo hold up as the Major?

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Casting the Characters

Several races and colors collide in the astonishing multicultural world that the franchise is known for. I had no qualms with the casting before I entered the theater, and that hasn’t changed. Johansson is a white female actress playing a traditionally Asian character, but that’s in fact where most of the misunderstandings arise—Motoko Kusanagi embodies no one race, no one color, no one gender, and she probably never will. This was stated by 1995‘s director Mamoru Oshii, and for people to be throwing up their pitchforks in revolt of the supposed “whitewashing” is actually kind of pitiful. The context of the show allows for virtually ANYONE to play the Major, and given Johansson’s overly qualified resume for sci-fi action films, I’d hope people would rescind their bombastic comments.

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TL;DR I thought Johansson was not only appropriate for the role, but her performance was great considering that Rupert was aiming for the more hot-headed, brash, young Major of the Arise series. I prefer this Major to the 1995 one because she arguably feels more relatable.

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But just like she is in her many iterations, the Major is nothing without her Section 9 team, consisting of Chin Han as the very-human Togusa [insert comment about race being appropriate here], Takeshi Kitano as rough and intelligent Chief Aramaki (who actually speaks Japanese since English is hard for him LOL), Pilou Asbæk as the big ol’ softie Batou, and a “surprise” favorite actress of mine: Juliette Binoche as the compassionate Dr. Ouelet. To quote Guy Lodge (Variety), “A warm, wistful Binoche, brings more pathos to the role than the script strictly demands.” She makes my heart weak.

There’s a real chemistry to be felt between Dr. Ouelet and the Major, as well as between Major and Batou, and that’s something that they nailed to a tee.

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“We cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us.” – Dr. Ouelet

The World of the Future

Where its story stumbles a bit, GitS (2017) leaves your jaw dropped with its incredibly “exciting and elaborately designed future settings,” plunging you into a visually entrancing world where cyberpunk is clearly the hottest thing. My GOD, this show is everything when it comes to its unique visual style! They use a clever lighting system that projects the color palette of the original 1995 onto the vast metropolis, giving off a vibe that’s so cold and distant, yet very interconnected with the world at the same time. CG solograms (solid holograms) layered over a typical Hong Kong-like setting give the atmosphere a very futuristic edge to it that I simply crave. You can tell that a lot of love and respect was put into the film.

 

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My favorite part of this film were the iconic shots of 1995 and Innocence that were recreated and woven into the story: the shelling sequence, building jump, deep dive, water fight, geisha attack, tank battle, and more. It’s all there, and yes, the scenes do not feel “thrown in” just for the allusions, but well-placed for the story’s flow. It’s a visual style to be praised, and its action sequences and use of practical effects (not just CG, but actual, physical props like the geisha masks, thermoptic suit, prosthetic and cybernetic enhancements, and other costumes) give us artsy people something really freakin’ cool to grasp onto. The hard work that went into replicating the world of Ghost in the Shell, largely from that of the film-loving folks of New Zealand’s Weta Workshop for prop creation and setting design, was very much appreciated.

 

The Greatest Injustice

Here it is, my biggest beef with the show and it’s NOT EVEN about the film itself. It’s about how it’s being dished out, or rather, that some of it is not. Paramount and Dreamworks refuse to offer Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s mind-blowing sci-fi soundtrack for sale. I understand that the movie’s box office reception was somewhat poor, but for crying out loud AT LEAST FINISH what you started. It’s a shame that a work of art, even if it’s controversial, cannot be appreciated in full just because it might not sell. These are million, probably billion, dollar corporations—it’s NOT too much to ask for by any means. There’s currently a petition going around for the soundtrack’s release (which I have signed), so hopefully we’ll see some change this way. If you value this show and artistic justice, please consider signing here!

If you stuck around for the credits, you’d have heard a remixed version of Kenji Kawai’s memorable main theme of the original film, a remix which I honestly prefer, as the drums in the second half give it a really epic feel! Again, love the throwback! All of the music adds to the gritty sci-fi tone.

Not the Last of Its Kind

It’s not very often that a sci-fi film will shift from a typical revenge mission to a cross-examination of cultures, intertwined human connections, and the irrefutable weight of family warmth. That in itself makes Ghost in the Shell (2017), despite its somewhat cliche story line, an incredibly unique experience. I’ve got nitpicks, but I’m more so thankful that I enjoyed the film beyond those glaring issues. It’s plenty entertaining, and if you look deep enough (or watch it three times like I did), you’ll surprisingly find deep, thought-provoking layers in the subtle actions of the actors.

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However much you enjoyed the show, there are bound to be more live action adaptions like it in the future—for me, that’s a hopeful thing, something nice to look forward to. This may not be relevant (not to spoil the ending here), but as a half-white, half-Asian lover of science fiction and the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise, I hustled into the theater prepared with an engaged mind, and left with an unexpectedly touched heart. It’s a show about doing what you feel is right—following your ghost—even if that challenges the world you live in and the people that once trusted you.

Because sometimes, like here, you make the right decision. 

“I mean, the character is living a really unique experience. She is a human brain inside an entirely machinate body. She is very brave to take a risk and give up everything she knows, everything that’s ever made her comfortable to discover the truth, to follow this calling. And at the end of the film really makes a huge sacrifice for the greater good of humanity. That, to me, was what was the major draw.” – Scarlett Johansson on the Major’s character

Final Assessment:

+ It’s A LOT better than I thought it would be for an anime live action; it only gets better the more I sit and think about it

+ Homages to the original material and the rest of the franchise are worked in fantastically

+ Visuals easily rival those of high-dollar action films; cool and damp futuristic atmosphere is established with excellent lighting; stylish designs and neat aesthetic all around; a very immersive world

+ Props, costumes, etc. layered beautifully with limited special effects for maximum potential; practical, physical props engineered perfectly

Ghost in the Shell is all about varying interpretations and new ideas, to which this is no exception; multicultural and multiracial world embraced

+ A fine movie if you ignore all the pointlessly controversial backlash nonsense, and this is coming from a hardcore fan of the original

– Story remains weakest part; revolves around somewhat predictable plot twists; boring antagonist; fails to explore Kuze’s Net and the world that could potentially await

– Major’s “strandy” hair can be a bit bothersome at times

– No official soundtrack release as of yet


Ghost in the Shell (2017) may not be an anime, but I’ll still welcome it here at the cafe as a “Cake,” a film that’s shy of master status but certainly worth watching for GitS or plain-old sci-fi fans in general! Despite it being an unfairly received film, I had the time of my life witnessing my Ghost in the Shell journey come to an end. It’d been a long time since I was that happy to see a film in theaters, and I’ll be coming out with a second post chronicling my loose thoughts on its reception, controversy, and the theater experience, so stay tuned for that!

I’m happy and proud to call this one of my favorite sci-fi live action movies of all time! PLEASE, let me know your thoughts on the film! Also, had you been familiar with parts of the franchise prior to, or did you dive in blind? I may be a bit of an optimist, but I enjoy hearing all sides. If you enjoyed the review, let me know with a “like” or a comment! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Seraph of the End Review

PLEASE, PEOPLE! It’s not Attack on Titan. It’s not even close. Sure, the main character wants to kill every last one from the enemy side – that is pretty close to Eren Yeager’s passion, though Eren is a much more dimensional character. Seraph of the End is absolutely, without a doubt nothing like the famous Titan-smashing epic, and I can confirm that by this first half alone.

Vampires crawled out of the chaos that emerged from a mysterious disease that spread like wildfire. With this disease wiping out all humans older than age 13, the scheming vampires subjugated the remaining youth like livestock, keeping them huddled together in fear as they sucked their blood whenever needing to.

Orphan Hyakuya Yuichirou survives in the slums under vampire rule. Yu hates them with a passion, but when they threaten his orphan family, his rage ignites, and he dreams to kill all of the vampires. Every last one.

Episode one of this anime is by far one of the best first episodes I’ve seen to date. Entrancing mood, exhilarating pace, musty and dark setting – you’ll easily be amazed! Not to mention, the end leaves you with such gushing emotions you can only hope they build up as the series progresses . . .

Sadly, nope. Episode two abandons our gloomy vampire paradise to bring us, yes, our overused high school setting. Ughhh. Just wait, it gets a little better, for as soon as the next couple of episodes are over, we return to the frontlines but with opposition in mind and a “Cursed Gear” in our hands. These strangely overpowered demon weapons turn vampires into dust after a single hit! Now, our true story unveils itself as we follow the Moon Demon Company, a vampire resistance team among others composed of Yu and his new friends, which sets out to eradicate the enemy in this post-apocalyptic Japan.

I admit that after episode one I, was incredibly depressed to witness a more stereotypical yet simply conventional plot. Had they taken out the whole school training thing and spent more time rescuing some encaged children and building characters this way, then I could consider forgiving the series. At least the latter half returned some interest, though very little.

Seraph‘s cast is cliché. The cocky protagonist, the “friend” that bickers with the protagonist even though they’re close buds, the shy boy, the tsundere, the a**hole chief – it’s all there, trust me. Mikaela, Yu’s orphan brother, does stray from the norm, but there’s not enough screen time of him to uncover layers of depth. Yu himself, albeit narrow-minded, still manages to be an entertaining character for me. There is, however, one individual that stands out more than Mr. OP Shounen.

Her name is Shinoa, the female protagonist whose sarcasm and merry wit stands out as a new character type for me. She’s amazing with the scythe, which would be cooler if we saw more, but Shinoa also always seems to know what’s going on (besides the end). Her ability to remain above everyone else yet not be annoying makes her interesting to watch. Hayami Saori portrays her charming mannerisms and constant teasing with little sardonic bolts of high-pitched laughter, a joy to listen to every time! 😉

The art is absolutely phenomenal!! Sharp, bold, eye candy characters against soft pastel building ruins and sunsets adds so much to the “devastated world” theme. Actual animation by Wit Studio (Attack on Titan with Production I.G.), however, sucks the bum hole. Action scenes are super awkward, as one moment you’ll watch a soldier holding up a sword to a vampire, then we skip to a character monologuing for five minutes, afterwards flashing back to view the characters in the same pose. Who decided to choreograph this, cause this is literally so awful! There are a few neat sequences involving the Cursed Gear, but that’s all you will get from the animation.

One of the main reasons I stuck with this series was for the music, but like most of it so far, I was tragically disappointed. It’s quite true to say that it’s “just more Hiroyuki Sawano,” as one reviewer put it, but it also lacks impact and stand alone pieces I’ve come to expect from him. My biggest complaint wasn’t the low quality of the tracks, though rather the placement of them. During sit-down dialogue or transitions we get music, and that’s great, yet during the hype of battle (which already suffers from lazy animation), sometimes nothing is playing!! That’s just outrageous considering the stakes! Besides the awesome techno opening “X.U.” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Gemie, there just wasn’t much going for the soundtrack.

Seraph of the End is by no means a bad show – heck no! I found enjoyment in the characters Yu, Mika and Shinoa (occasionally from Guren, a possibly back-stabbing adult . . .), the art and the music (wherever it was).From a reviewer’s point of view, the show is a terrible pile of plot holes and poor storytelling. The whole time I felt like I was being teased, much like Shinoa does to “baka Yu.” Samples of smooth animation and intense music are few and far between, enough to tie you over until the next quality moment.  Just from a casual watcher, however, I’d conclude that the show was fairly entertaining.

Thus, I will leave Seraph of the End with a “Coffee” rating (6 ish/10) and a recommendation to NOT watch it until the hopeful second season clears this mess up (Krul Tepes do something!). I will be following the second season which airs in the fall, but do note that my interest level is already scraping the damp cobblestones in front of young Yu and Mika’s home.

“I don’t ever wanna say I survived because I left someone else to die ever again!!”- Yuichiro Hyakuya

+ Sharp, bold characters against pastel backgrounds make for phenomenal art

+Shinoa’s youthful, sarcastic, easy-going yet witty personality is a new character type

+ Thrilling first episode; final episode leaves off on a good note, one refreshed and ready for a sequel

– Fine premise, very sloppy focus so far

– Most action scenes are flat and awkward

– Music not timed/placed as well – not as effective

What did you think of this spring’s Seraph of the End? It’s only the first cour, and hopefully the second is much better than this one. Still entertaining though ~ I hope my review was interesting! I appreciate all of the likes you guys leave me and the follows are also super helpful 😀 Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host