Other than vague knowledge of the famous story of Journey To the West novel I know absolutely nothing about Chinese mythology, yet I don’t need to in order to be completely absorbed in Big Fish & Begonia. Embodying one of my favorite aspect of animation is it unique ability for visual storytelling. Some nuances might be lost in translation unless you’re well verse into that country’s culture, but what is never lost are the limitless possibilities of what you can experience through animation.
Big Fish & Begonia is set in in the realm of The Others, a sort of parallel dimension that controls the seasons and tides on Earth and is where the souls of humans go after they past. Our leading lady Chun, a 16-year-old girl, travels to the human world in the form of a dolphin and forms a connection with a human boy. The first thing this movie gets out of it way is it world building. Setting up the important pieces of how souls are handle in this world, and later on expanding on them to fuel it main conflict. All the important details involving the world function is fleshed out while leaving enough unanswered to give it world a mysterious allure.
One of my ongoing issues about fantasies is the quick fix magic becomes in their stories. You’ll get that quick magic fix here, but there’s an effort to express consequences for one’s action I feel don’t come across as strongly in other fantasy stories. There’s a comment made by a character how the newer generation doesn’t value life when he frequently sees them throwing it away so easily. The whole film is dedicated to characters making sacrifices for another love one in multiple situations. Doing so in a way that paints the subject with some manner of complexity. Detailing it in a way where the reasoning behind it makes sense, but the action taken is unreasonable with drastic results.
No other character embodies this better than Qiu. He has the most tragic arch out of any character in the film. Through Qiu, the film tackles the theme of unrequited love while adding to the already well explored theme of sacrifices, and consequences. Everything revolving around Qiu is fully realize becoming the heavier emotional core of the film. It’s nearly impossible not to sympathize with Qiu wanting to protect his childhood best friend Chun as the world crumbles around him. While the film still get its happy ending, there’s a mid-credit scene that ensures you don’t forget about the significance of these characters sacrifices.
The story is structured nearly flawlessly. Allowing plenty of room be taken under it spell through a sense of wonder when Chun briefly explores the human world, and realm of The Others. Through Chun the viewer will be able to see a harsher side of The Others realm like Chun never witness before. Doing a magnificent job getting across how hard hitting it is for Chun to see everything around her crumble for the value of another life.
Preventing itself from becoming heavy handed the film also has some nice subtlety to its storytelling. None of the characters action are over explained. Instead the film drops some subtle visual reminders in certain scenes to help viewers make the connection easier. One area I’m most happy with is handling the discussion on the worth of human life. From Chun perspective her experience make her value human life a lot more than the adults of The Other realm that simply sees the existence of Kun (a human reincarnated into a Dolphin) as anything more a harm to the balance of the worlds. This plot point nicely sits in the shades of grey having it a strength.
There’s a rat woman character in the movie who goes into the human world who gets forgotten about. Providing a false villain for no reason considering she didn’t add much to the overarching story besides adding a plot hole. Another issue is how Chun affection for Kun is handle. It feels like Chun falls in love with Kun over the fact that he just saved her life, and is willing to sacrifice everything for him. This is salvaged by the fact that through montages it gets across the bond they build over time. There’s also the absent of dialogue shared between Chun, and Kun unable to build the bond to a point where it easy to accept Chun goes as far she does to rescue Kun’s life.
When looking at the sums of it parts there’s some oversights on the storytelling front. On the whole, in its effort to create vast sweeping emotion it makes it possible to be lost in the moment. By pacing itself just right it narrative shortcomings aren’t lingered on for long. Going head first with beautiful visuals, and big emotions expressed by it characters. I’m not excusing the story’s shortcomings, but when I got swept up in the moment those shortcomings were the furthest thing from my mind. Well, except maybe the 3, or 4 times it had the someone got pooped on jokes. Those jokes took me out of its majesty temporarily.
Animated by B&T studio the animation is richly detailed with a mixture of digital animation, and some light usage of 3D. My biggest surprise is the 3D in Big Fish & Begonia blends nicely with the 2D art. It is very noticeable, but good enough that it doesn’t take you out of the moment. There’s plenty of times where the animation shine creating dreamy like imagery like a scene involving Chun getting a ferry ride through the clouds, and giving off a oceanic like effect when riding roaring through the clouds. All the while maintaining high detail with so much moving on screen. Like a scene involving a giant stuffed rat that houses a vast array of real rats that leave it to forage before sewing themselves back up inside has much details to marvel at.
In particular the finale has plenty of chaos incurring in the background of the world brought to life by stunning details, and smooth movement sparring no details on its particle effects. At night the ocean reflects the sky, it’s stars and the sublime hues present; while during the day it is almost invisible and many objects look like they are floating through air to create a dreamy mood. It’s beautiful movie to look at with its lush color palette creating one very colorful movie. Sometimes giving off the visual finesse comparable to a Miyazaki movie.
The English dub is great, especially with Stephanie Sheh, and Johnny Yong Bosch in the leading roles. Johnny Yong Bosch in particular as Qiu is gut wrenching, and a emotional powerhouse. It’s easily one of his best performances as a voice actor. He steals the show with ease. Then Stephanie Sheh who is also good manages to pull a convincing performance. She’s able make you believe what her character believes in a short amount of time. One downside to the English dub are the mouth movement are mistimed with the English dialogue. So you’ll characters speak while their mouths don’t move for a bit early on. It doesn’t happen constantly, but is noticeable.
The music is composed by Kiyoshi Yoshida. It’s sweeping, and epic doing justice every scene it’s used. Offering a peaceful quality during calmer moments, and a feeling of other worldly dread when things escalate. Finally, the ending theme “Jiao Xi Ru Feng” by Xu Jiaying appropriately ends the movie with a epic ballad that’s somber, and warm.
In a 24 minute documentary about the making of this movie it started life as a short film through a group of very passionate individuals in 2004. Through the course of 12 years B&T Studio would hone their skills doing various commercials, and short films, but would lack funding to complete the feature film. The studio goes into a failed endeavor making a game which dug them into a bigger financial hole than before. People leave the project, and it seems hopeless. Much like the movie itself, the trails to finished the movie required plenty of sacrifices. Every product has their share of setbacks, but few of those works have their passion seep through every frame on screen. One thing that is vividly expressed in everything about the movie, even without knowing it’s production history is the passion is strongly felt from watching it.
Big Fish & Begonia is an monumental achievement for Chinese animation. It’s visually absorbing from beginning to end, with a highly imaginative world it takes advantage off, and a story that’s easy to get become lost in makes one wonderful experience. The sums of it parts are muddle, but the whole thing is nothing short of amazing. I highly recommended Big Fish & Begonia for any fans of animation, and movie fans in general.
Another day, another direct to video action movie, another Scott Adkin movie, and another dull experience. For me, one of the few things that can match watching a unfunny comedy movie is watching a dull action movie. Generally speaking action movies strive to deliver thrills to the viewers no matter how serious they can take themselves. A good action movie isn’t restricted by budget, and typically those behind the camera if capable can make something exciting out of very little. First time director Eric Zaragoza making his feature length directorial debut is not one of those individuals. Instead of coming up with ways to overcome his budgetary constraints he becomes a victim to them, although with everything negative surrounding the movie a good direction wouldn’t have been able to save it.
Incoming script is nonsensical, and so poorly conceived I’m convince whoever wrote this probably never finished school. Basically the premise is there’s a space prison created by a joint effort between several countries, three people (a doctor, a CIA Agent, a pilot) go onto that space prison for an inspection, and things go wrong when the prisoners take over. During the movie it’s very evident through the bad dialogue it’s trying to explain away lap in logics due to its obvious budget constraints. Kingsley (Lukas Loughran) the main man in charge in this space prison explains to everyone the lack of personnel to the viewers, the lack of proper equipment in emergencies if prisoners break out, and in another scene specifically mentions the fact if the cameras weren’t analog the people inspecting it would have known to bring a part to fix the cameras. When you get the gold mine that is “The Geneva Convention doesn’t apply in space” line that’s the highest peak the writing reaches. Throwing expository dialogue after expository dialogue without much of a break. None of this would be an issue if the way characters spoke weren’t so artificial.
The movie obviously tries to infuse comedy failing because the actors are uncharmastic to make the comedic lines work. Not helping matters are recurring jokes that weren’t funny the first time being used multiple times with even more diminishing returns. If you remove the performances you’ll still get face with the issues of characters regurgitating the same bits dialogue several times. There’s no need to explain to the viewer where specifically someone graduated in piloting a spacecraft, why the spaceships are automatic, and definitely do not need repeating the terrorists are bad. Further adding to that last part, the terrorists aren’t threatening so building them up, and pretending they’re a threat contrary to what is actually shown makes it worse.
Then there’s dangerous the terrorists group known as the Wolf Pack. One of the least creative name for any terrorist group I’ve seen in any action movie made even worse by the fact you’re meant to take it seriously. The villain, simply referred to as Alpha, has his top men captured, and torture in space. The keyword being top men, so you naturally would assume the heroes would have to struggle, and outsmart their enemies. That doesn’t happen since nearly every encounter the heroes come out on top without consequences. If the movie didn’t establish the six captured prisoners are the best members in the Wolf Pack it would have been easier to believe our heroes beating them at every turn.
While I’m still on topic about the villains, the identity of Alpha is treated as a plot twist. Early in the movie it’s establish Kingsley has been trying to learn the identity of Alpha for five years. Half an hour later the identity of Alpha is revealed in a unintentionally funny manner. When CIA Agent Reiser (Scott Adkins) tells Kingsley people in high position knew one of the prisoners he was holding was Alpha for three, and a half years. The reason this information was withheld is because surveillance technology wasn’t developed enough to where politicians, and the government’s wanted it to be at. Further making you question if prison is supported by several countries you would think one of them would ensure something like an escape wouldn’t happen!
Having mentioned the fact this space prison is a creation by several nations I would imply it’s trying to make some kind of political statement. Although, saying that would be as inaccurate as claiming there’s an intelligent life form in Incoming. Anything related to politics within context has little ground to make a good statement. Simply bringing up The Geneva Convention, and not delving into it any further doesn’t equate to good commentary. So when head honcho Alpha eventually makes the “we’re dying for a great purpose” speech it feels out place. When you have a scene dedicated to how a character came up with the idea for deadly grenades made out of piss, but not touch on The Geneva Convention beyond torture is bad. Go back to your draft, make notes, and get your priorities straight.
Then we finally come to our heroes who are pretty stupid. There’s doctor Stone (Michelle Lehane) whom after hearing one sob story goes into a prisoner cell, and thus is reason the prisoners take over. Of course the prisoners wouldn’t have easily taken over the space prison if Kingsley, or anyone else that know about this prison bother hiring more personal. The dumbest thing in this movie is easily the fact you have a boardroom meeting scene of important people discussing how they should deal with the space prison having been taken over. This specifically is further exacerbated by the fact all the heroes involve signed a death clause that states the program (who really cares to be honest) will not take responsibility for their death, and implies they will take any measure to ensure the prisoners don’t escape. So why security doesn’t launch a missile as soon as they (whoever is in charge on Earth) learn it been taken over by prisoners makes no sense if it established some sort of death clause for its workers.
There’s plenty of other stupid things like Kingsley into the control room knowing full well it’s taken over the prisoners, and he’s outnumber. Can’t forget the villains not trying to lock, or barricade any doors to ensure no one enters. Finally, there’s Reiser who is the worst written character in the movie. He’s just a amalgamation of nonsense. His turn to being evil comes during the climax has no context for it. I was scratching my head at this evil turn since nothing about it made any sense. Trying to made sense of it would require more work than the three credited writers Nigel Thomas, Rick Benattar, and Jorge Saralegui gave to the screenplay.
Mentioned in the beginning this is a direct to video action movie starring Scott Adkins. A very reliable man in this field who regardless of what movie he’s in is able to elevate it through his presence. Unfortunately this movie misuses Adkins. If you want to see him deliver a good performance that won’t happen since he’s stuck in tough guy mode for the whole movie. Saying every line with anger in it to get across he’s serious. Unlike the rest of the actors, his character is the easiest to believe, and physically fits the role well. When it comes to his action scene he has to fight on everyone else’s level so no one will see his martial arts skills.
Oh right, the other actors who do surprisingly worse than Scott Adkins. Aaron McCusker in particular lacks the charisma to be a character worth cheering for, and his comedy relief is grating. He also lacks chemistry with Michelle Lehane who he shares many scenes with. Lehane can at least emote a little bit of emotion whereas McCusker cannot. The only other actor worth mentioning because I won’t bash him like everyone else is James MacCallum who just plays a desk worker. He’s charismatic in the very few scenes he’s in making me scratch my head he didn’t get more screen time. As for the villains they aren’t intimidating, nor do anything they say comes off as believable. I normally go into more details on the cast performances, but man, almost everyone did very poorly, and that best summarizes my thoughts of their acting in a nutshell.
In the entire film you’ll primarily see three sets; the control room, the hallway, and the prison cell room all of which are just a couple dozen feet away from each other. With the limited budget Incoming had is made very apparent the longer it goes on. Creating a fatigue in seeing the same sets being used for over an hour. There’s a evident absent of scale as everything gets reused. The poor set designs from a dark room with wobbly chairs and a bunch of TVs with CG LED monitors displaying sci-fi mumbo jumbo, to the cramp prison cells that all look a like, and a dirty hallway lack personality. Seeing these sets bring to mind that it’s a cheap movie instead of a hard sci-fi action flick.
Now we come to the action sequences which is bad as everything else. Since the one cramped hallway is used for a majority of the movie the action sequences don’t allow room for movement. Limiting what the fight choreography could resulting in the shaky cam, bad editing, and bad cinematography during these scenes. Adkins suffers the most from this since he’s unable to do his usual high flying kicks he’s known for. You’ll get a series of attacks, and retreat for the action which gets repetitive very quickly. Add on to the fact that Adkins easily fights his way through everyone you not only get bad action, but boredom along with them.
Early on in the movie you get to see Big Ben (Great Bell clock in London) getting blown up with a badly composited explosion over it while in the stock footage people don’t react to it. This makes an immediate bad impression which instead of being a single bad spot in the movie is a indicator for the entire product. Incoming is a dull action movie even by direct to video action movies standards. If you’re a Scott Adkins competitionist go for it, though it won’t offer the goods in any area. Otherwise, I recommend passing up on this whatever chance you get.
Direct to video action movies is an odd beast. You’ll get the familiar faces pass their heyday in Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Dolph Lundgren being regulars in this market to moderate success. It also seems to be a marketplace where if anyone wants to be an action star, even for a single movie they’ll get one, including Miley Cyrus in So Undercover (2012). It’s also a place where plenty of competent directors are unable to make it to the big leagues. One such director is Isaac Florentine, a man who has a strong eye for action scenes regardless of budget. In particular his fight scenes tend to be the standouts of his action movies. Much like Antonio Banderas who stars in this movie, Isaac Florentine is capable of more, but both become a victim of limitations.
Acts of Vengeance centers around fast talking attorney Frank Valera (Antonio Banderas) bringing justice into his own hands when his wife, and daughter are murdered. Starting with a quote from Marcus Aurelius Meditation before showing us Frank fight in the kitchen of a restaurant is a flash forward. When you see Frank strangling someone he asks the audience “Do you think I’m crazy”, and goes back to the beginning. Immediately you’re told factoids about the average amount of words people say in a say a day; women speak 23,000 words, men 17,000 words, and Frank Valera speaks 80,000 words in a single day. Doing the math that means Frank speaks on average for 22 hours, 13 minutes, and 20 seconds in a 24 hour day every single day according to him. Unless Frank talks in his sleep that factoid feels just slapped on without much thought given to it. All just to simply get across there’s only three meaningful words he uses every day, and yes the words are I love you.
That’s just a hint of the very blunt characterization in this movie ignoring the rule of show don’t tell. After the death of his love ones you’ll get Frank moping around before he miraculously picks up Meditation by Marcus Aurelius when trying to cover his stab wound. Despite all the blood it is covered in, he decides to read the book, and it changes him 36 minutes in the movie by taking a vow to remain stoic until he avenges his love ones. The transformation is where the film begins to fall apart, mostly because Frank’s narration would tell you what he’s feeling instead of showing it. More baffling with the fact you’ll have quotes from the book on screen whenever it goes into a new chapter. These quotes are clear in their meaning, yet are undermined by the narration as well.
A majority of the movie remains grounded which is why you’ll hardly see Frank fight anyone in the movie. Frank does become proficient in martial arts, but doesn’t get into trouble frequently. This comes at the cost of logic in several places of the story. Some of them including how the nurse who fixes up Frank doesn’t call the police, and according to Frank shutting up gave him super hearing. An ability use sparingly in the movie. Unlike Frank’s apparent telepathy because without saying a word everyone knows what Frank wants out of them. In terms of logic that’s easily the biggest leap this movie takes.
Other than Frank, the other characters just feel like plot devices to advance the story. There a few minor characters in the movie both of which are underdeveloped. Alma (Paz Vega) has a conflict about the Russian mafia wanting her to steal drugs for them, and not letting her go. This plot point is left unresolved since the closest thing to a solution that comes from this plotline is Alma staying with Frank at his house. She inexplicably decides to be very helpful to Frank even though they barely met, and why she didn’t call the police after fixing up Frank wound is never explained. There’s Strode (Karl Urban) who hardly appears in the movie, and has just little characterization. He’s only in the movie to be a plot twist that could have been shocking if he was developed.
Lacking on the characterization to make it more than a character drama, and there’s too little action to satisfy action fans. Ensuring viewers will experience a very conflicting movie. It understands its limitation so it succeeds in its simplistic storytelling. Things are clear cut, properly explained even if not resolved, develops in a good manner, and moves along in a nice pace never overstaying it welcome.
On the philosophy side of things this is not done correctly either. After reading Aurelius’s Meditation, Frank becomes motivated to take revenge. The last two lines from the book (well, going by the movie) are “The best revenge is to be unlike your enemy”, and “Accept the things to which fate binds you”. If Frank properly followed the words of Marcus Aurelius to heart Frank should have developed discipline for forgiveness, and accepts what fate has taken away from him. Being unlike your enemy would be forgiveness in this instance, and accepting your fate, but going that route wouldn’t make for an eventful action movie, although would have work fine for a character drama.
Before moving to everything else, there’s the expected funeral scene where Frank is mourning the loss of his wife, and daughter. In the only scene he appears in, Eric Alli who plays the grandfather just delivers the most in your face dialogue written in the movie. He just verbally gives a beating to Banaderas shoving it in his face another attorney like him would make sure if the criminal is ever found he’ll get off scot free. He also reminds Banderas he lost a daughter, and granddaughter because of him. This scene last around a minute, but it simply stood out because everything about it is so questionable to me, especially the performance of Alli. Oh yeah, there’s also the classic punching the mirror scene to display an outburst of inner turmoil, and a montage of Banderas getting training.
Antonio Banderas takes the lead with a passable performance. He’s a more capable actor than he actually displays in the movie. Having difficulty trying to portray the complexity of his character without the usage of words. Leaving Banderas to nod his head mostly either approvingly, or disapprovingly which isn’t exactly impressive. Even when Banderas does talk all his line delivery sound the same without much emotion express in them. Something odd to witness when he gives the proper facial expression, but unable to express it in his words.
Karl Urban who is hardly in the film is also passable. He plays his part in a straightforward manner leaving little room for him to do anything. Hardly appearing in the movie is also to blame for that. Paz Vega who appears in the second half is also passable. There’s not plenty of meat to her character so she just goes with the flow. The rest of the cast is passable. No one in the movie gets to shine because their time is either too brief, or just aren’t used properly.
Now we come to the action which is hardly here. You’ll get three decently length fight scenes, and that’s about it. One in the beginning, one in the middle, and finally one in the climax. With there being an average wait about 30, or so minutes making the action unevenly spaced out. This film isn’t a good showcase for Isaac Florentine eye for action, but there are two decent fight scenes in the movie. None of which are worth sitting through since they’re pretty basic fights with their choreography.
The climatic fight between Antonio Banderas, and Karl Urban is slightly spiced up because the environment they fight in gets used when Banderas takes a serious beating. Both should be commended for performing the fight sequence convincingly with Florentine expertly shooting the scene, and allowing for long takes for viewers to clearly see the actors performing the fight. There’s a little unnecessary usage of slow motion during half of the fights, but that’s a minor complaint. When it comes to storytelling his touch to the story occasionally come off overblown with the bombastic music not helping matters. It’s the only thing he could think off to do when limited by the fact his lead character doesn’t speak. With the narrations breaking the rule of show don’t tell in a negative way it’s overall just clumsily told.
It’s the same old song, and dance action fans have seen before. I just don’t have any strong feeling towards it one way or the other. Acts of Vengeance has more effort put into its story than your average direct to video action movies, but that comes off as a backhanded compliment. If it wasn’t for the needless narrations than it could have remedy some of my issues with the movie, but it also would have created new problems since Banderas didn’t overcome the stoic limitation. Neither did Isaac Florentine who wasn’t confident in how to tell his story. While certainly better than your typical direct to video action movie average is still average.
Producer Noritaka Kawaguchi whose name is attached to such projects like Garden of Words, Your Name, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices brings you an anime film about life in China. It might seem odd at first a Japanese producer making this movie until you remember Japan isn’t new to outsourcing their animation to China. In this case specifically it’s a co-production between Chinese animation company Haoliners Animation League, and CoMix Wave Film from Japan. The later of which is best know for animating Your Name, and several of Makoto Shinkai other works. Under the helm of three directors Flavors of Youth takes a gamble on it talents ability that doesn’t payoff. On a technical level it shows China is capable of matching the visuals of Japan best animated movies, but other than that this anothology has nothing else to show for it.
Sunny Breakfast (Hidamari no Choushoku)
The first anthology film is also the weakest without question. This short film marks the debut of internet-based filmmaker Yi Xiaoxing, and his inexperience shows. This short movie is about Xiaomin reminiscing about his youth, but mostly monologuing poetically about his love of noodles like its the only reason life is worth living. He expresses his excessive love for noodles to a point it becomes hilarious. Credit to Crispin Freeman who managed to properly portray his character despite the dialogue he was given to work with.
Here’s a few of those lines:
“Your tongue go numb. Little by little it forgets the sensation of its home town. That flavor I lost. Now seems to haunt me.”
“The mushroom were always strong, and fresh. The kukurage with its firm texture. Each added their own unique layer to the thick broth that crater them. Creating a flavor that made my heart soar.”
“The eggs soft, and fluffy that made the noodles richer as they slid down your throat. That light amber soup, that brought out the flavor of every ingredient.”
Why this short movie is the worst in this anthology is that it tries too hard to be dramatic in a short amount of time, and pretty badly while I’m at it. It tries to pull at the heart strings by having Xiaomin’s grandmother die towards the end. Something that could have worked if Xiaomin monologue about spending time with his grandma instead of describing how good his noodle tasted, or how inferior noodles now taste compare to when he was a child.
Going as far as describing the texture, and the warmth it gives him as a child versus the cold, and heartless taste when he’s an adult. It’s difficult to take Xiaomin seriously about what he lost in his youth, and having to move on from it when more time is spend on him passionately describing what he eats than showing what he experienced.
This story also suffers the most the difference in culture. Apparently in China food is a big deal since it’s the basis for family bonding, and socializing. Although, the short film itself failed to establish this clearly to the viewer so its failure is it own undoing assuming everyone knows about the importance of food in Chinese culture.
Sunny Breakfast gets a 2 out of 10. Only positive is that it’s unintentionally funny hearing the dialogue in the English dub, and is the shortest in the anthology. The animation is lovely to look at.
A Small Fashion Show (Chiisana Fashion Show)
This one is a bit better, but suffers from feeling shoehorn in its storytelling, and a forced happy ending. It’s about a woman who is a fashion model who feels she’s getting replace by younger models. Oh, there’s also a storyline about finding yourself, and being a family. The simplistic story is at odds with itself. On one hand it displays the toll the modeling career as taken on her health, and how badly it treats her since the modeling business will quickly forget about her. Then on the other hand there’s family drama she faces with a sister she hardly spend time with, and the most meaningful conversation they is arguing with each other. These conflicts are quickly resolve by the main character simply believing in herself which somehow fixes everything.
Unlike the first film, you’ll see the main character interact with the people around her instead of being told what’s happening. It struggles to develop characters since their conflicts is a lot more layered than it can explore in its run time. The rival model that appears in the story amounts to nothing more a tool to progress the story. Add on top of the fact the rival malicious intent isn’t even explained, nor is that conflict properly resolved. Another thing I find issue in this film is whatever commentary it wanted to have about the fashion industry is clumsily handled. There is a scene where the model has to soak in the world moving on quickly from her when looking at a billboard with a younger model. The idea behind this scene is good, but given the force happy ending it makes this scene, and other feel redundant.
One thing that is consistent among these short movies is they are all pretty to look to look at. The voice acting in this short film is the best since the actors have a lot more to work with, and the progression of events is more natural so the voice actors won’t overact. This film was directed by directed by CoMiX Wave 3DCG chief Yoshitaka Takeuchi whose lack of experience also shows. On the animation front he knows what he’s doing, but storytelling he has no clue what he’s doing.
A Small Fashion Show gets a 3 out 10. In wanting a happy ending it rushes its conflict ending up shallow in its attempt to give its two cent on the fashion industry, and the importance of family.
Shanghai Love (Shanghai Koi)
The best short film in the anthology, though not by much. It’s biggest strength is feeling like a condense Makoto Shinkai film. You’ll get the lovely animation, the tragic romance story, and you’ll sadly get teenagers acting very stupid. Unlike the previous films, this one is less in your face about it message. Sorta, it combines the failed attempt at tear jerking of Sunny Breakfast with the under written characters of A Small Fashion Show. It also contains the dumbest characters in this anthology when you look at the finer details.
The main character of this story is Li Mo (not a vehicle who wished to be a real boy as far as I know) an angry high school guy who has crush on Xiao Yu, a girl who is implied to be his childhood friend. So the girl’s parent want her to apply to a prestige high school, and the boy wants to go to said prestige high school since he likes her a lot. That’s seems stupid, but pretty harmless until you realize the Li Mo doesn’t want Xiao Yu to know he’s applying to the same school. On top of that, he also says to the one friend he tells about this plan that he’ll denounce their friendship if he tells Xiao Yu about the plan. This contrived conflict makes it impossible to sympathize with any of its characters. All Li Mo has to do is tell Xiao Yu he’s planning on going to the same school as she is, and problem solve, and of course that doesn’t happen.
None of the characters are fleshed out to care about them. Xiao Yu suffers the most from this since she’s meant to be Li Mo love interest, and the only way the film develops her is by mentioning she got physically abused by her parents. It just feels like a cheap manipulative ploy than it does a characteristic. As Li Mo there’s not much to like either. The writing didn’t know how to depicts friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time so it simply has Li Mo acting like a jerk to her for no reason. He’s a victim of the dumb writing since he, and Xaio Yu communicate through messages recorded on a cassette tape. The movie uses the excuse he’s studying so he won’t listen to a certain tape resulting in his heartache, though again, he did bring this on himself.
Li Mo character arc is somewhat competently handle. Exploring a character who lives with regrets is decently explored. Giving you a good idea how much regret he feels about this certain event in his past. Same with it touching on parents being hard in pushing their kids towards a good education. It’s only mentioned without delving into it theme, but doesn’t get drown out by all the melodrama on screen. Another one of its positive is being written in a way where it tries to make you forget about the logical, and be caught in the moment of the story. It sometimes succeed in that until logic rolls in its head.
We now come to the ending that negates the whole experience of the story, and sweeps it under the rug. If it wanted to get across the whole point Li Mo lost out on a experience of his life because of his action it would have hit home a lot more with a sad ending. The happy ending is fine, but with the direction it was heading it undermines what came before it.
This short film is visually the most outstanding with its detail background of a populated China from simple things like oncoming traffic to the urban streets of Shanghai. Everything move very smoothly without much of the 3D standing out in the movie in general. The music here is okay. It’s melodramatic for sure, but actually noticeable where in the previous short films the music wasn’t a presence. The one downside to this short film is Ross Butler performance as Li Mo. He doesn’t deliver any of his dialogue with any emotion, and simply sounds bore about everything he talks about.
Shanghai Love is directed by Li Haoling who unlike the previous two director actually has some experience under his belt. While he still has room for improvement he shows promise in being able to replicate the spirit of a Makoto Shinkai movie through his own style. Out of all the directors who worked on this, Li Haoling easily shows the most promise.
Shanghai Love gets a 6 out of 10. The characters are pretty stupid, but it manages to capture the feel of a Shinkai movie pretty well. It’s the best simply because it’s direction is clear, and direct in its simple ambitions.
There’s a post credit scene, though it doesn’t help much as the characters basically say they’ll move forward. A good message for certain, but not delivered in the way intended. It assumes anyone will become lost in its visuals to overlook the haphazard writing. If there was an overarching theme it gets lost underneath the one dimensional characters, the forced happy endings, and a general lack of proper storytelling from two of the directors involved. It wants to pull at the heartstrings, but ironically feels artificial, and soulless like the very thing it tried, and failed to criticize.
Rating: 3/10 (10/30 all short films added together)
Doppelganger follows research scientist Hayasaki (Koji Yakusho) encountering an exact double whose true intention he’s uncertain off. A title like Doppelganger leaves little to the imagination if this was a horror movie. Doing things you would expect a horror movie to do like setting up the rumor if you see a your doppelganger you’ll die, and the doppelganger having devious intentions. Having the classical scenes where the doppelganger causes trouble, and the original taking the blame for his double misdeeds. Such scenes are typical for stories of this nature before revealing it’s true intention to use doppelganger as a metaphor. Using the doppelganger to have characters do some soul searching over building up scares. Opting more for a psychological, and black comedy approach turning a otherwise mundane story into a more interesting, but very messy movie.
One twist to the doppelganger concept is bluntly stating that people who see their doppleganger regularly kill themselves being unable to accept a physical manestification of everything they wish to be. There’s Yuka (Hiromi Nagasaku) who expresses a dislike for her brother doppelganger despite him being everything she wanted her brother to be. Instead of building the movie around these kind of ideas they just remain interesting points to think about. Missing out on the opportunity to create more dynamic characters than just our protagonist. Hayasaki, and his doppelganger regularly bicker with each other revealing bits about Hayasaki as a person. There’s nothing subtle about what you’re meant to take away from the conversations when things are bluntly laid out. For instance, Hayasaki doppelganger telling Hayasaki his flaws, and how he should simply embrace his darker aspect. Leaving little to imagination to work out it themes.
Same thing applies with characters in the movie. Hayasaki assistants in the first half get replace by new characters he barely meets in the second half. A pointless choice since these new characters in the second half basically act the same as Hayasaki assistants in the first half. Their roles are simple from being the love interest to the greedy assistant who wants more recognition, and profit. The third act in particular goes from subtle character development into being more blunt caricatures of their personalities. While the transformation of the main characters are subtle what is not laid out as subtly is how they changed, especially when some dialogue just plainly explain a lesson they learned.
As for the doppelgangers the film is not interested in discussing their origin. As mentioned before they’re simply use as a metaphor. Much like the invention of the Artificial Body (more accurately mechanical chair with arms) Hayasaki must accept, and move on from his own limitations. There conversations about hinting at the group, or the machine oppressing the individual, but these ideas aren’t fleshed out as clearly. Hayasaki spends over half of the movie away from any oppressing outside force. By removing his own shackles the outside forces don’t bother him until the third act. The company Hayasaki formerly worked for just lets him be with basically no qualms about their professional relationship. Making any commentary it has to say about the shackles in society just seem vaguely there, but not realized.
On the comedy side of things it’s hit or miss. The humor is typically deadpan with jokes spread out sparsely throughout the movie. Like a moment where Hayasaki is trying to get his Artificial Body, an assistant asks if she could help him, Hayasaki says yes she can, and lets her do all the work. Generally I ended up wondering if something was meant to be a joke, or taken seriously since both type of scenes are given the same treatment. The final act of the movie is where it takes a turn for the ridiculous. For instance, Hayasaki, and Yuka being able to keep up pace with speeding van that gets stolen from them. Another goofy moment is Hayasaki somehow surviving getting run over by a van. This is also where most of the lingering plot points are finally resolved, and sadly it’s also in the most spoonfed way it could think off. Once it finally gets to the ending the whole journey feels oddly satisfying despite the occasional clumsiness.
The main reason I checked out this movie is none other than the man himself Koji Yakusho. His performance in Doppelganger proves to me once again he’s true talent to keep an eye out for. Playing two different characters with different personality is not a difficult task. What is difficult is portraying a subtle change in those two characters in a way where it confuses the viewer on whether or not they’re following Hayasaki, or the double. By slowly changing the direction of both the characters he portrayed he’s able to send the viewer for a loop. Most of the film he’s mostly subdue in his shyness, and on the other hand also confident, and free spirited. Further making it difficult to distinguish who he’s portraying exactly in any given scene, and in a positive way no less.
With two Koji Yakusho on screen the trickery to getting this done is pretty simple. Through the uses of green screen, CGI, and body double this task is accomplished. Given it’s relatively low budget it’s odd thinking a film that’s very simplistic required a lot of special effect work for around half of it. There’s nothing impressive about the special effects work in the movie, but considering I was surprise to learn it even had any special effect work done means it’ll probably unnoticed for other who see it. Kiyoshi Kurosawa writer/director attempts to give the film style in a few scenes. Most of the time it’s simply a wide shot of actors talking, but whenever there’s two Koji Yakusho on screen he’ll use a split screen effect to throw viewer off on who is who. This split screen effect it the most visually interesting it gets since it’s the only times Kurosawa tries to be visually bold in any form.
The other actors in the movie do fine in their roles. Hiromi Nagasaki gets a decent size role without complexity in her character. She’s unsure for half of the movie, and the other half she remains optimistic. Akira Emoto who doesn’t appear much in the movie playing Yakusho best friend provides Yakusho best onscreen chemistry. Whenever Emoto, and Yakusho share a scene a lot of their characters history gets vividly just through their performance. Yusuke Santamaria plays his part like a slacker until the final act where his performance is mildly crazy. Becoming more eccentric in his delivery resulting to a silly character being made. As for the rest of the small cast, that’s about it since actors in the first half are forgotten about. With this small cast it’s a good thing they’re good actors because they help make even the uneventful portions feel important.
Doppelganger is an odd film with interesting ideas, hit or miss humor, and a messy execution. All the ideas are here to create something with more depth than it ended up doing. Thankfully, Koji Yakusho performance makes the writing shortcomings easier to forgive thanks to his subtle performance in changing his persona is done flawlessly. It won’t leave you pondering on its themes, and ideas as much as writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa would like, but if you’re looking for a different take on the doppelganger types of story this one will entertain, and provide some mild intrigue in it themes.
Normally how I would prefer writing about any anime series I’ve completed is finishing it first, and spending who knows giving my general thoughts on it. This time I’m going to change it up because Black Clover has given me so much I want to express in just 10 episodes so far. This will obviously include spoilers so if you don’t want to be spoiled, even on minor stuff, I recommend you skip this post.
So yes I’m watching Black Clover. Yes I know it’s constantly bashed by the anime community. Yes I know how generic it is, and yet that didn’t deterred me from watching it. I was in the mood to watch a shonen, and given the fact I tend to be evenly split with agreeing with the general public on anime why not give Black Clover a shot. I guess to further add context I’ve also been told by one elitist on Discord that Black Clover is the worst shonen of all time. Going out of his way to tell me I would hate it more than My Hero Academia which I constantly claim to be the worst shonen I’ve ever seen.
So the ever alluring negativity around Black Clover made it inevitable I would get around to seeing it when it got an English dub. I typically watch my shonen anime with the English dubbed since it’s easier for me to get into. Okay, except for My Hero Academia since Deku voice actor was annoying, and Assassination Classroom dropped the ball on Kuro’s voice actor in the English dub. Well enough about that, time to get into Cringe Clover.
To preface my actual thoughts, Black Clover is set in a world where magic is everything. Orphans Asta, and his rival/friend Yuno live in this world; Yuno is exception at using magic, and our protagonist Asta has no magic powers at all. Both dreaming to become the Wizard King, the world’s most powerful Wizard. So I’m going to ignore the fact that Black Clover does everything you would expect a fighting shonen to do. Not because it’s a detriment to the anime, but even without the shonen tropes there’s still the high fantasy aesthetics to the series. I don’t like high fantasy in general since too many of them feel the same in aesthetics so it already has that going against it.
Where to begin when it comes to episode one. Well, for two minutes the anime starts of okay showing Asta, and Yuno being dropped off at a church as babies. The only thing to comment on this scene is baby Asta is apparently strong enough to kick a grown man in the face, and make blood come out of his nose. I’m not even sure if that’s remotely possible, and frankly my dear, I ain’t going to ponder too much on it. After that it skips to fifteen years later.
By the time you get to the two minutes mark is where it takes a nose dive into, yep, cringe territory. It does just about everything in its power to ensure the viewer dislikes Asta from the beginning. A character who is constantly shouting at the top of his lungs, and don’t even get started on his “SISTER LILLY WILL YOU MARRY ME!” fatuation. For starter, Sister Lilly is a nun, and no matter how many times Asta get told she can’t married because she’s a woman of the church Asta keeps on doing it. The first minute you see Asta as a 15 year old teenager he shouts at a nun to marry him, and continues to shout for the rest of the episode.
During the first five minutes, there’s a orphaned kid named Nash who just bluntly info dumps aspect of the world onto Asta. You know, a character who lived in this world for 15 years, and would know that everyone in the world has magic except for him. That was clumsy exposition delivery. Asta than quickly does crunches leading to more shouting. Unlike future episodes, episode 1 oddly has strange of zany character movements. Guessing they thought it would be hilarious to introduce the characters in this manner. Spoiler, it’s not.
After a bit of comedic banter the viewer gets told Yuno, and Asta use to get along well. One thing the episode is not good at is exposition. It feels too much like the characters are directly speaking to the audience watching the anime instead of to other characters. Episode 1 would also introduce the first of many royal wizards who hate commoners. In ten episodes you’ll get about 4 characters Asta encounter that simply hate commoners. Just in case you don’t get the point, the dialogue they spout is what you would expect from one dimensional baddies. So you can look forward to many “Filthy commoners! You should be happy I’m even acknowledging your wasteful existence” type of dialogue.
Another thing the first episode shoves in the viewer face is Asta is the underdog, and Yuno is a prodigy. Given the notion the anime writing is far from subtle stuff like this become par for the course. It is worth complaining about, but every single time it happens not so much. There’s a scene where all the children whom reached 15 years of age go to a ceremony to get their Grimoire; basically a book whose length, and thickness is filled with various degrees of magic, and different capabilities. At Grimoire Tower, for somebody who has no magic ability of any kind Asta obviously doesn’t get his. It is absolutely laughable, and painful witnessing such a pathetic character saying he’ll be the wizard king when everything is against him. If the anime didn’t give me such a poor first impression of Asta I would probably would feel sorry for him.
After the ceremony is over, deep in the forest, Asta shouts (yay!) that he ain’t giving up. Then we Yuno getting picked on by two royal wizards who don’t like the fact they got overshadowed when Yuno got picked by the four leaf clover grimoire. A legendary grimoire that was bestowed on the first wizard king which basically means its very powerful, and is lucky. This leads to the episode’s villain attacking the teens, and attempting to take the four leaf clover grimoire from Yuno. This is where Asta gets the bright idea to help Yuno, and the two teens picking on him. Things obviously go disastrously, and through the philosophy of believe it Asta gets the Black Clover when on the verged of death. He gets beaten up by 3D chains, but that ain’t important. What is important is the first episode ends on a pointless cliffhanger since the episode villain is quickly beaten in episode 2.
Once I saw the credits roll for episode one I realize one thing, I fucked up, and yet I looked forward to this mess of anime. Everything about episode one was so questionable, so messy, so clueless, and all in the right ways I enjoy a trainwreck. It was incompetent in all fronts, and the people behind it are clearly trying to make something special. I doubt it’ll reach the likes of so bad it’s good anime like Brain Powerd, and Mad Bull 34, but I can tell 12 episodes in I have no qualms about continuing it.
Sadly episode 2 is basically filler. All it does is needlessly expand on a plot point quickly establish in the first episode regarding Asta, and Yuno’s past. If the anime was going to have episode 2 set in the past it would be better to just switch the order of the episodes, and slightly edit them to play out better in the long run. Instead Studio Pierrot thought it was better to do this for some unknown reason. Also, even when beaten up Asta still asks Sister Lilly to marry him.
One noteworthy thing about episode 2 is a grown man tries to take the necklace of a young Yuno so he can buy beer. Once Asta goes out searching for Yuno, and sees someone took his necklace Asta tries to retrieve it. A young Asta gets beaten by the grown man, and the grown eventually gives the necklace back because Asta won’t give up. Upon seeing this I was baffled this grown man beating up on a kid for minutes just gave up so easily after pummeling Asta for minutes. It’s not like Asta hurt the grown man in any way. Oh yeah, episode 2 also forgets to show the well being of the two royal wizards picking on Yuno in episode 1 that episode 3 had to fix that.
So Asta obviously beats the first major foe in the series, and finally gets his grimoire. You would think this is when the story is finally going to kick off, but episode 3 ends with Asta, and Yuno making it to the capital to take their Magic Knight Entrance Exams. In hindsight, the anime taking it time to flesh out the characters is fine. Seeing Asta trying to achieve his goal to become the wizard king, and prove to a orphan he shouldn’t stop dreaming because of his status is worth cheering for. However, it feels like a drag when Black Clover bound the mold of fighting shonens, and does exactly those things without deviating from it. Becoming a double edge sword to commit to what it wants to be shamelessly.
While editing this, I completely forgot about the scene where Nash tells Asta to stop dreaming because their orphans. In this moment when Nash is down, Asta decides to go up him, his right hand on Nash shoulder, and yell in his ears that he can dream. So your earbuds ain’t the only ones that’s getting destroyed.
Episode 4 has Asta, and Yuno entering the capital, and spending the entire episode on taking exams. For someone who has no magic power Asta obviously fails them. Some of the supporting cast are introduced here like the captains of the different guild of the Magic Knights, but aren’t important for now. This episode is noteworthy because it’s the introduction of currently my favorite character know as Nero, the anti bird. The anti-birds are basically birds that flock to people who have little to no mana ability. Since Asta uses Black Clover which negates magic, anti-birds are attracted to Asta naturally. Nero simply stays around on Asta head seeming unimpress with his adventures. His stoic impression is worthy enough to have captured my attention.
From this point onward I now finally generalize my issues with Black Clover. For starter, a majority of the royal wizards are written to be one dimensional villains. In episode 4 you get two examples of this; the obvious being being Sekke, a wizard Asta befriends while taking the exam. For the final exam, all wizards have to pair up with a partner, and do battle with them. Sekke pairs up with Asta since he has no magic ability, and shows his true character by boasting how much he simply chose to partner up with Asta for a easy victory. Obviously that doesn’t happen, and Asta win in one hit! The other example is when Noelle Silva (first seen, but not properly introduced) get told by her brother that her existence is unnecessary. Twelve episodes in, and Black Clover been proven so far to be incapable of writing a villain who’s motivation isn’t to simply pick on commoners!
The series attempts in humor tends to be cringey for a lack of a better term. You’ll wince at Black Clover attempts at comedy either missing the mark because of the punchline, or questionable to the point you’ll have no choice but to laugh. Like in episode 5, when Yami (Captain of the Black Bull Magic Knight) asks Asta how long it takes for him to take a shit, and Asta attempts to give him a precise calculation of how long his turd is.
Moving on, episode 4 introduces Clover Clip which are basically shorts at the end of an episode animated in a chibi style. These Clover Clip tend to better in telling jokes, and are there to be silly. In episode 5 you just basically get the results of the exams, and Yuno gets accepted no problem. In fact, all five captains raise their hands when he get called up since he proved himself a very capable wizard. Also, it helped in the same episode Yuno fights a royal who despises, and thinks poorly on commoners. Of course given past events this means the heroes will come out on top.
When Asta gets called up none of the captains raise their hands. It’s only after Asta make the bold proclamation that he’s going to be the wizard king that Yami, captain of the Black Bull, shows Asta his huge mana powers. Once Asta refuses to back down he officially joins the worst of the Magic Knights. Where is Yuno you might ask? He’s with the Golden Dawn whom he believes will be the surest way to achieve his goal. Episode 5 finally ends when Asta gets a rude first impression of the Black Bulls by getting a fireball to the face. Not forget in the background our fellow Nero, the anti-bird, isn’t far behind from making his classic stoic impression.
Episode 6 basically introduces Asta, and the viewer to the member of the Black Bulls. Consisting of Yami Sukehiro the laid back captain who shows his subordinates tough love by giving them tough missions. Magna Swing who is the (not actually) cool dude with the glasses who’s just as hyperactive as Asta, comes from small village like Asta, and his grimoire allows him to throw fireballs. Hence, his last name being Swing expect his baseball gimmick to be more balant later on…I’m predicting that’ll be the case at least. Vanessa Enoteca who is a pink hair wizard who so far mostly appears in her lingerie (not I’m going to complain with everything else in Black Clover pick on) who is relaxed, an alcoholic, caring, lazy, and doesn’t mind flirting around with the other squad members.
Gauche Adlai who’s only defining trait is that he is a siscon, and yes his nose bleeds thinking about his younger sister (because casually imply incest is exactly what I need in my anime). Gordon Agrippa who speaks so quietly you can’t hear him, or read his subtitles. Can’t forget he’s a pale man who dresses like a depress clown version of a Gestapo. Luck Voltia who hasn’t done anything yet 10 episodes in, Grey who is just a monstrosity for now, Charmy Pappitson who loves stuffing her face with sweets, and Finral Roulacase who just teleport.
Now that you’re introduced to the group of outcast the rest of the episode is simply Asta proving his worth to the other Magic Knights, and passing a test to get accepted. He passes, and becomes an official member of the Black Bulls. After that is episode 7 where Asta meets the other new member of the Black Bull; Noelle Silva earlier seen all the way back in episode 4, and in the opening animation. Before that though, I have a issue with Funimation using the word dank in the English dub. It feels completely out of place, and upon hearing that word I paused the episode, and did something else for a bit because of how irksome it was. Seriously, don’t ever use the word dank in your English dub! It’ll sound dated years from now.
Episode 7 is basically Noelle overcoming her “I’m royalty. Don’t look at me peasants” snobbishness (sorta), and accepts she’s officially one of the Black Bulls. Her backstory of being mocked for not being able to use her magic ability correctly is a good one. However, the presentation of it is over the top that it comes across as a petty issue. Noelle over reacts when Asta discover her not being able to use her magic she nearly gets herself killed. Best part of all no one in the Black Bulls cares because that’s the whole of being a Magic Knight. Learning to use your magic.
Okay, now I generalize my issues again. The cast of characters aren’t sympathetic at this point in the series. They are just wacky, and tend to overreact to every situation. Black Clover is an expert in making sure the first impressions you get on its characters be negative. Another is making nearly every high class, or royal character be out to be one dimensional ass holes. Just in case the point that royalty look down on commoner wasn’t clearly gotten across it’ll do it until it gets tire of it.
Another thing I’m going to comment on is the animation is cheap looking. In movement there’s nothing much to complain about, but when it comes to the characters faces there numerous instances where Asta face is just off. It either be Asta design is that terrible he doesn’t look good in many angles, or Studio Pierrot rushed this production. Either, the animation side doesn’t impress so far. Especially the action which lacks choreography in favor of flashy looking battles which don’t have any flare to them.
We get to episode 8 where all that happens is Yami, and Magna loose at a poker game. They loose their clothes, and have to do a favor for an old friend of Magna. Seyhe is an old man who basically helps Magna indirectly become the man he is currently. This backstory is actually done well, and fleshes out Magna decently. It’s surprising given how badly it can handle character development that Manga backstory turns out to be decent. As you would expect, they go to a village to kill wild boars disturbing the peace in Sosshi Village (Magna home village), and face greater trouble than they expected. While I’m on episode 8, there’s no way I’m buying the thing below is a broom.
Episode 8 – 10 is Asta, and Noelle first mission, and takes place in Sosshi Village. As you might guess the village get taken over by a group of wizards looking for a stone, and yes, they hate those damn filthy commoners! Again, Black Clover the “We hate filthy commons” archetype again. I would stop caring, but at the same time it’s infuriating it keeps using this! One thing I would like to comment on is in Episode 9; towards the end of the episode Noelle monologues how much she doesn’t want to die in a backwater hick village. However, mere seconds later a little begs for her help, and just like that turns around to help protect the village. This happens in the matter of seconds making Noelle look pretty bad.
After a magical fight between the evil wizards they end up killing themselves before offering up any answers. Oh yeah, Seyhe is dead, and Magna says his final words to him at his tombstone. Can’t forget Nero finds a stone, and the ladies thinks he’s cute. Can’t blame them if Asta, and the other male members of the Black Bulls is what they got to look at every day. With that, I’m going to conclude my expected long run impression on Black Clover so far. Still, this turned out even longer than I expected.
Despite my many issues with Black Clover from the questionable world building, messy character writing, and repetitive villain motivations it doesn’t stray off much from what I would expect from a shonen. It’s uninspired for sure, but unlike other shonens I’ve seen, it simply accepts that fact, and revels in it all the way. For me, that alone wouldn’t make it the worst shonen I’ve seen because it understands what it is, and does just that. So to that person who thought I was going to hate Black Clover more than My Hero Academia on Discord, you gotta do better than that seriously. If this is the worst shonen you’ve seen I envy you!
So what would I give Black Clover so far? I guess a 6 out of 10. I complained nonstop about it sure, but it’s easy to watch, doesn’t give me a headache with it bad writing like many bad shonen anime, embraces openly what it is, attempts to flesh out characters even through its bad pacing, and I find enjoyment in it, even in the none ironic ways at points. It’s a typical shonen with the aesthetics of a typical high fantasy. I expected a lot worst, and didn’t get that. I don’t like much of what I see, but I ca say for certain I don’t mind watching it. Even if it’s writing is grating at points.
My predictions for future episodes.
Asta gets a harem. There’s already Noelle, a tsundere who likes him for being nice to her, and a grown woman who teases him. Of course he would get one because Japan for some reason loves putting harems in anything with a high-fantasy setting recently.
Asta is going to fight more royal wizards, or magic knights that despise commoners.
Because it has a high fantasy setting there will either be a prophecy of a great evil returning to cause chaos in the land, or Asta, and company will have to collect a specific amount of a certain object (typically 3 pieces), and ensures they don’t get in the wrong hand.
Just like in Assassination Classroom, the group with the worst reputation starts showing up every other group in a number of challenges.
Asta will shout “SISTER LILLY WILL YOU MARRY ME”.
Asta will shout.
Hey since it’s being compared to the Naruto series. I predict Asta, and Yuno will not be bumping ugly anytime soon leaving its fujoshi fanbase disappointed.
I’m not sure if I’ll make another installment of Cringe Clover since who knows if the rest of the series will inspired me to write even more posts on it. If I do, I’ll call the next installment Cringe Clover 2: Electric Boogaloo. Sayonara until the next post.
I have a spot for Merantau since it was one of the first movies I’ve ever reviewed. It’s an odd feeling for me to check out some of my old stuff from seven years ago, and seeing what changed over the years. In some areas I felt I got better, like better explaining positives, and drawbacks when it comes to a film’s writing. Other areas I can see what part of myself got lost over the years. The biggest one to me easily being how my offline activities affected my personality in my writing. Rarely doing the offshoot reviews where I simply poke fun of something while providing actual criticism in a entertaining manner. Reviews which actually got me to know some readers on a more personal level. What has remained through seven years of writing about movies on, and off again is my admiration for martial art movies has not changed.
Merantau centers around a young idealistic man named Yuda (Iko Uwais) from the countryside trying to survive in a big city. The opening sequence further provides details on the importance of Yuda’s journey called Merantau; essentially a rite of passage where a young man leaves one’s place of origin, and find their place in the world. Trying to be like a coming of age story Merantau sounds like a guaranteed great story until you see the actual film. Very little is talked about on the philosophy of silat making the spiritual journey of Yuda get lost in translation. This is sloppily elaborated on through the character of Eric (Yayan Ruhian) implying his merantau changed him into a worse person. Eric hardly appears on screen, added with the absent of philosophy discussed in silat teachings all you have left is making ambiguous connection on Yuda not using silat to kill people.
Paired up with the simplistic storyline, and character arcs you’ll have the groundwork of a great story that never comes into fullizitation. Usually having three type of scenes for its heroes; the introduction, the conflict, and the eventual resolution they’ve worked for. Opting to incorporate as many fight sequences as possible you’ll get the bare minimum require for a story like this to work fine. The good guys are good guys, and the bad guys are bad guys. Streamlined to the point where even if you’re not paying attention you’ll know everything that’s going on. On the downside, the movie does try to generate some sympathy for it heroes. Little time is spend on fleshing them out beyond one scene so that part of the story’s writing falls flat.
One element I can be positive about is the film’s ending. Building on the opening scene the significance of merantau to Yuda’s homeland is also established early on. Spending a brief time touching on Yuda’s brother who failed merantau, and the social impact it had on him in the community. By getting across these simple things the ending actually provides something worth reflecting on. Being conflicting in a positive way since Yuda is doing his best to uphold his tradition while the environment endangers his life. Overcoming Yuda lack of depth as a character by inadvertently adding meaning to the journey makes a story that works fine end on a good note.
Iko Uwais in his first leading role has a natural screen presence about him. Before the movie gets to any fighting, Iko holds himself decently in the acting department. The role doesn’t require Iko Uwais to speak for long stretches cleverly hiding Iko lack of acting experience. Requiring for half of the movie for Iko to simply provide the appropriate facial expressions in a given scene before getting into fighting. Once Iko does get into the fighting he impresses with his athleticism, and graceful skill in performing his fight sequences. Another plus to Iko is him doing his own stunts, even if they aren’t that dangerous compare to other martial art movies.
Iko other co-stars despite having more experience than himself they do fine. Actors like Christine Hakim, and Donny Alamsyah only appear in the beginning of the movie, and than are gone until they appear again in the ending. There’s also Chika Jessica, and Yusuf Aulia simply acting as the poor child later gets written out of the movie for a large portion of it. Chika is simply in the movie to appear as sympathetic as possible. She only gets one scene to deliver a dramatically heavy scene, and after that just becomes a damsel in distress. There’s also Alex Abbad (who surprisingly plays the main villain in The Raid 2) essentially playing a punching bag. His line delivery in English is really slow, but when speaking in his native language he sounds natural, though doesn’t do anything to stand out in his portrayal.
With the actors getting shoved in the background brings us to the martial artists. One of them being Yayan Ruhian who yes has a fight with Iko Uwais in a elevator. Luckily the little dialogue Yayan has is delivered well, but doesn’t have much screen time in the movie. Then we get to the villains Mads Koudal, and Laurent Buson whom are the weakest actors in the movie. Despite Laurent being French, and Koudal being Danish both sound come off stilted everytime they talk. Thankfully both Koudal, and Buson perform in a 2 on 1 fight against Iko that makes putting up with their bad acting worth it to some degree.
Gareth H. Evans in first martial art movie showed a lot potential to help craft great action sequences. Something that’s apparent throughout the movie in spite of it budgetary shortcomings Evans tries to add some visual flairs. Some of these are simple like a tracking shot following Iko from a telephone booth; the camera goes over the telephone booth, and then proceeds to follow Iko into an alley. To more complex shots like multiple single takes during fight sequences almost all requiring Iko to fight against multiple people. A nice touch in the movie is Evan usage of music to help elevate sequences to make them more exciting. Knowing exactly when music should start, and stop playing in creating a mood. Something he would later on perfect in The Raid.
The fight sequences are nicely choreographed, well shot, and edited to flow nicely. With as minimum cuts as possible Evan fight scenes never feel overly edited. With this being Gareth Evans, and Iko Uwais first martial art film the fight sequences performance varies with some parts of a fight being performed more slowly than others. There’s also spots within the fight scenes where an actor has to stay, or go in place before the fight could progress. An example of this is when Iko throws a bottle at a fighter face, the fighter has his face cover for seconds, and stays like that before Iko gets close enough to pick him up, and toss him through a table. Instances like this are thankfully rare throughout. Offering plenty of good fight scenes also helps alleviate the problem.
Merantau is simplistic on the story front, but decides to make up for its shortcoming by including as many fight sequences as it possibly can. Once you get the first serious fight scene in the movie you’ll never have to wait too long for the next one to pop on. It’s missed the opportunity to make it’s story feel grander than it actually is, but any fan of martial arts movies will definitely leave entertained.
A majority of the time I watch anime alone, but on the off chance that I don’t have led to some, um, interesting experiences. Most of these happened on a Discord server that I use to visit frequently. Nowadays I make the occasional drop in, but not as frequently as I use too. I might expand on this down the line with something more coherent, but for now I shall ramble on about something related to anime.
I can’t remember exactly how the four of us came into this agreement, but me the lord of evil Lucifer, Gintoki the New Yorker, Josuke the Australian, and I’ll refer to the last person as Chill. Our obligatory female character who wouldn’t talk agreed to watch Rainbow by Madhouse together. Before the discovery of a site called Rabbit where it’s basically a site where you can watch things in group on a single screen. Me, and the other three folks had to find the episodes of Rainbow on our own, and then all start it at the same time. I saw it on my laptop so for me to check the Discord chat I would have to quickly go into another window to read what Chill said in the text chat said, and then quickly go back to the video player to make sure I read the subtitles quickly enough. Eventually I found an easier to do both.
So during our viewing of Rainbow I, and Josuke were in the indifferent party, and we had Gintoki, and Chill who enjoyed the first episode of Rainbow. So as we continued viewing Rainbow, we became more relaxed with each other, and openly mocked some things in the series. Like in episode 2 making fun of the fact of how easy it was for the prisoners to escape from prison. Me, and Josuke also gave silly reaction when seeing this one elderly character at an orphanage. She had the face that would turn a broken mirror into dust. Gintoki then told us a bit about his background, and how he could relate to the character living in a orphanage. Something like that, can’t remember to be honest. While he’s opening up to the entire group, in the back of my mind I’m thinking “Where did this come from! I thought we were just watching anime”.
What got me, Josuke, and Gintoki the most was in a later episode of Rainbow reading the line “I’ll rape the fuck out of her”, and the three of us burst out laughing! We still quote that line whenever we bring up terrible writing in anime. Despite all this negativity surrounding her, Chill acted like the fan girl, and loved every minute of Rainbow. Yes, even the “I’ll rape the fuck out of her” line made her hate the character Ishihara (who says that line) that much more. Also during that episode, we had Naruto (his nickname) pop in one day to see what we were watching even though he had no idea what was going on. He liked the episode enough to check out the series, and it become one of his favorites. Something I still poke fun of, alongside everyone constantly bringing up a certain anime I hate.
For the first half of the anime it would basically be 50/50 in terms of what we thought. It wouldn’t be until the second half where I warmed up a little bit to it. We started not making fun of Rainbow as much for a little bit. It was strange going from poking fun of it, to taking it seriously, and then all of us, except Chill, being bored with it. Another thing we sometime did after each episode is talk about what we saw, and than babble on about random stuff. It didn’t matter how serious the anime was since the group was pretty casual with each other.
When we finally finished Rainbow, two of us didn’t like it (one of them being me), the other one thought it was alright, and finally Chill thought it was amazing. 11/10, better than water material we’re talking about here. Something this group watch provided for me is the discussion part of it. Instead of waiting for someone to eventually talk about an anime I watched either searching on a forum post, or a comment section. It was instantly there in the watchalong group, and the conversations typically ended up being more enjoyable than watching the anime themselves at times.
The watchalongs, as they were called, eventually got bigger on the Discord server, and suddenly many others wanted to join. It got messy so instead of their being one massive watchalong group there’s a couple smaller ones. I would occasionally join on some of them before everyone got busy with their personal lives. Gintoki is still busy doing New York stuff, and Josuke is finding his inner artist learning the finest painting technique to paint a mural of Australia greatest person, Crocodile Dundee. As for Chill, she’s getting some kind of degree. It would be like a few months I think before I joined in on another watchalong group because my job didn’t want to give me a day off. They love working me 8 days a week.
The next series I saw with a group was Serial Experiment Lain. In the first episode of Serial Experiment Lain, in a Rabbit group watch there was a viewer, who I’ll refer to as Naruto (he likes it a lot). Naruto had to close his eyes, and stare away from the scream because he didn’t want to see a fictional character jumping off a roof. Needless to say it trigger hims seeing that. I would have asked Naruto if he was sure if he wanted to watch the anime, but the group just continued on with it. The experience was different since everyone was talking during the damn English dub! Making it impossible to catch important details when constantly hearing “This is boring” in a chat room.
The Serial Experiment Lain watchalong wasn’t quite as fun as Rainbow, but there were a few highlights. I decided to get the series on blu-ray, and watch it at home with my bro so I knew what was going to happen before anyone else. I took joy in seeing the group’s reaction to a number of things that transpire in the series. Especially Chill shocked reaction when hearing one of the characters played with herself.
Another highlight in that watchalong would be someone who I’ll refer to as Diamond Guy who makes the comment that Lain Iwakura was ugly out of nowhere. So I blurted, or typed out the first thing that came to mind that he was checking out a little girl. I, along with some other, picked on him for that as long as we kept watching Serial Experiment Lain. The reaction, as you would expect with a group who just talked over the English dub of an anime, is that they didn’t like it, or understood it. There was a also a discussion, and the rating we would give the series afterwards. There was this one elitist wannabe who just tried too hard to trash it by having little to back himself with. Granted, I did prefer the discussion I had with my brother after watching Lain since we went pretty deep into it themes, but the discussion was fun regardless.
Another thing I saw with this same group was King of Thorn. It’s an anime movie from 2009 by studio Sunrise, and it’s about something. The story was told in a confusing manner, and what better way to experience a sloppily told story than having people talk over it. Once again, we had that one guy trying to be an elitist, and saying things aren’t making sense when he talked over dialogue explaining things he was complaining about. Like barely realizing around 20 something minutes into the movie the main character has a sister.
This viewing stands out to me all because Naruto made a brief serious remark when I said I liked a character name Katherine because she was crazy, and slapped a kid. It started with him saying “Dude, that ain’t cool”. The only response I had to that was the kid was being annoying, and that woman made him silent through that slap. It brought me great joy. However, later on in the movie when Katherine started to become more crazy I referred to her as Psycho Bitch. I jokingly kept calling her Psycho Bitch, and saying she was my favorite character in the movie for being crazy. Long story short, Naruto says “Dude, making fun of people with mental disorder ain’t cool” in a serious tone. All I could think of is “You’re taking my comment way too seriously”.
Luckily that didn’t kill the mood, and everything went back to normal. Especially me referring to Katherine as Psycho Bitch. When the movie ended everyone came to the agreement that it was a pretty mad movie, especially the clusterfuck of the climax that threw a bunch of nonsense at you. Like before, the group talked about the anime, and than simply had fun on talking about whatever came to mind. These watchalongs helped me make closer connection to these online friends I wouldn’t have otherwise. Of course it did cost me plenty of hours I could have spent sleeping, but then again I’m good enough at my job that even on a sick day I still perform better than a majority of my co-workers.
I would continue watching anime in different groups, and eventually learning more about the people who joined in. Finally receiving character development beyond one trait I recognize them for. So, where am I going with all this rambling about watching anime with other people? I really can’t say I just babbled on about random things that happened. Things at a certain point just all became a blur for me after a whilw. Maybe thinking about it in hindsight it’s anime that brought me, and other people on that Discord server together, regardless were we stand on anime.
Where did it lead me now exactly? Well, whenever possible I still chat, and check in on several people on that Discord server from time to time. Being more like a group of friends who know each other pretty well besides the fact we all like anime. My interactions in the Discord servers also led me to get invited into like over 10 Discord servers, only two of which I actually bother keeping up with. It also led me to appear in an episode of a friend’s podcast (I’m the dude with the jacket) on the Channel Gyre Media. Speaking of which, go check out his channel. He’s a pretty cool guy, with a cooler beard. He loves his My Hero Academia body pillow.
Talking, and watching anime was the introduction to meeting several of these people on Discord, and it got to a point where we can talk about anything now with each other, sometimes not even bringing up anime. It also led me to having a voice chat that went on for about 8 hours with dozens of people coming in, and leaving because of how chaotic it got. Anime, like any other form of medium, can be more than just a piece of entertainment you consume. It could be a way to make some good friends online, and offline.
Well, I guess that’s all I have to say in this series of jumble thoughts. I discarded this post three previous times because no matter what I did it didn’t come on out right to me. Felt too impersonal in a way. This post has no organization to it, but it’s more to true to how I would about talk about this with someone. I should actually end this before I go even further. So, um, keep watching anime, and talking about it. Especially that bad line of dialogue in Rainbow. Always remember that!
I wanted to take part in this tag, so instead of waiting to get tag I decided to start work on my own story two weeks ago, and take it from there. Little did I know this was going to be a lot more difficult than I thought. That was until during my lunch break at work I was listening to the song “Photobooth” by Death Cab For Cutie, and for some reason hearing the last verse on that song it suddenly clicked for me. It got me thinking about mine, and a friend experience when it comes to love over the past decade. Obviously I can’t fit all that happen to us in less than 1000 words, but that word limit got me instead to pinpoint certain events, and go crazy with expressing the feelings in them.
So the rules. Here they are.
You pick your first word, your setting, and your story genre from the list below. As individuals, your brand of creativity is unique to yours, so we want to highlight that by letting you choose from a bunch of words and creating something beautiful out of it.
The short story will have a limit of 1000 words. You do not need to write a story with 1000 words exactly. It could be 300, or 500 as long as it doesn’t surpass a thousand.
YOU HAVE TWO WEEKS TO ANSWER THE TAG.
You must tag three people to participate.
Don’t forget to link back to Keiko (use her latest post for now) so she can collect all the stories. You can’t just link back to her WordPress, since she won’t be alerted of the pingback. You need to link back to a post or a page, because WordPress works like this.
Use the Create-A-Story picture in the post.
Copy and paste the rules in your tag post as well, so others can be clued in to the Create-A-Story rules.
So I chose the words Rain + School + Romance. Well, technically the last word I just took liberty on, and went all over the place with it. Thankfully, the rules flexiable. So, enjoy!
I guess all I’m trying to say is….
“You’ll be lucky to live to your 30s”. Those words will remain carved in me. In this messy, dark locked room with the window closed. I lay down on this dirty bed filled with empty bottles, and cigarettes pack failing to enrapture me. Staring at the ceiling fan, I begin losing myself in spiraling thoughts again.
Some like me take pills, but other take chances. Finding my inner peace with my limited time I took a chance. Three years ago, waiting on that school rooftop on that first raining day. Holding an umbrella, as the rain kept pouring on waiting for her to come. The sound of rain got me every time. On that very day, I screamed inside at being broken in unerasable memories penetrating my mind, and darkness flowing into my very own eyes.
Two years ago, in a hallway. It started with a kiss. That one little moment set this whole thing in motion. Confessing what I wanted to hear, but not to me. Chaos went in motion among my thoughts. Seconds away from being in love, but alone lingering on every moment I wasted. Guess that’s another bottle to empty, and the rain embracing me outside as usual.
A year ago, slow dancing our prom night away. Feeling less like two love birds in lock cages. I felt us being complete holding each other. At midnight, she told me all her flaws, and asked me who would ever love her. “I will love you” I said to her. “You can’t make my heart feel something it won’t” pierced my heart harder than my illness. The rain came in time to help me laugh off my true feelings. Great, another chapter to add in the biography of heartbreak.
A few months ago. She was packing her bags without telling me anything. Moving more than just a couple miles away. Gazing into her eyes one last time. “If you can’t see yourself with me what there’s left to say”. Leaving each other in uncertainty about our time together. All I remember afterwards is waking up drenched in a back alley in my remorseful past.
A few weeks ago. I felt it for a moment. My heart stopped only to take another beating. Only to wake up to bad news I couldn’t shake. The echoes of “She’s dead” eventually became a reality to my own distraught. Her plane fell 20,000 feet from the air, along with the never ending rain. “We’re on our own now” was the last thing I said to her before she got buried. Maybe I’m just meant to be alone.
Now, I’m locked up in my dark room. I embraced the solitude of my crumbling heart. Wasn’t that way a few days before. “You told me you wanted to be the kind of person who lived with emotions, and desires written in his heart. What happened to that person?”. Those words of empathy didn’t encourage me. “You see the place outside these walls! It just filled with dreams, and friends that all have died! I can’t take this ANYMORE!”. Those were my last words to her before falling back into my cycles of empty bottles, and cigarettes. I’m not giving it up until it’s no longer real.
If I had to listen you, I wouldn’t be lingering on in my mind like the pouring rain that won’t stop. What’s the point of searching for reconciliation when I have less time than did three years ago left in my life. I see the crescent of death I haven’t dispose of on the floor. Pointing the crosshair fate on the side of my head long ago. I try to follow script, but not I’m sure what I’m about. Constantly drowning myself inerasable memory. Living like a love sick fool before remembering real bullets won’t be fired in a fake. Time comes in. Rolls on out. You’re all I can think about. Why can’t I forget about all the time we spend together. Continuing to lose sleep in the mess I made.
“What you would do if you could see me right here from the start? I’ve watched you shape your life away. Always prepared to pass the blame. I’m gone, and missing you so much. Don’t lose all the years of love you spend with everyone. I’m sorry I can’t stay as long as you want me too”.
Feeling her cold touch I woke up crying all alone. Reminded of my friends who are far apart. Without the rain, I could see them above shining a light in my darkness. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I got up, open the closed curtain, finding the rain still pouring washing, and covering the path I didn’t lay. There’s nowhere to run from it. I’ll let it collect me instead of waiting for good things to come. Without any bills, I finally sleep without emptying a bottle, or a packet cigarettes in forever.
“Time, and life only goes one way! Everybody is going to die. So come on, don’t waste your time. It’s going to get better. Just don’t look back.” I remember her saying amending my broken spirits once.
And then I finally found the morning I’ve been searching for. No clear skies, but endless amount of rain as usual. I always felt the rain picking on me. Pouring to strain my body because I have no way to escape my fate. Being stuck in its cold for so long in my own darkness. I wonder if it knows to stop. If not, I’ll grab umbrella. I won’t lose myself in the rain. I guess all I’m trying to say is……. it’s time to move on. And face the warmth after the rain. Pouring down on me a new light.
That concludes my story. I guess the hardest part was doing a story that made sense out of random events. Offline I sometime helped a friend write music lyrics for his band, and it’s basically a lot of back, and forth. Mostly tossing away papers, and mutually agreeing we both just like wasting each time by not agreeing on anything. So I took that approach, while listening to one of my favorite bands I The Migthy, and if you’re a fan of them too you’ll notice plenty of references to their album Connector. Structurally I think it’s a bit a clunky, but if I spend more time on it I’ll go over the time limit.
I did have another story that I didn’t finish drafting out. Basically it would have been a singer, singing a message to the world to open their eyes, and fight back against their imperfect world they live in. Obviously, that’s daunting to get across in a limit of 1000 words so I went with something just as hard. What can I say, I guess I’m a bit too ambition when creating my own stories.
Oh right, which three am I going to pick on? I mean, gift them this wonderful tag…hmmmmm…….
Alex’s Anime Arena – Consider this your late welcome back present from me truly! Listen to Hands on Houses for hours if you have to for a spark of inspiration!
#moe404 – I saw you back on Twitter, so consider this a welcome back present as part of your comeback wordpress world tour! So, I went into another dimension, told the me of that dimension to specially tag Rodrovich properly. Good luck to you, and if you already got tagged. Well, double you’ve been double/triple/whatever tagged!
Sakura Galleria – I know your kinda new, so what better way to make you one of us than by picking on you. Here’s your tagging present.
If any of you already been tag no worries. We double/triple/quadruple/whatever team you on purpose.
Ain’t I just generous handing out these tags. I’m starting to feel like Satan Claus. I should take a break from being nice, and go back to my evil ways of eating endangered Pandas. If I run out of Panadas to eat, I can always mix a black bear with a polar bear to make a Panda. Yeah, I’m sure that’s how it works. If any of you got any spare Pandas, tell me so I shall eat them!
Hm, anything else? Oh yeah, be creative, share your thoughts, and lights out!
During the mid 90s there was a series of Hong Kong movies by the name of Young, and Dangerous that were released. This series of movies focused on a group of young triad members, detailing their adventures, dangers, and growth in Hong Kong triad society. Aside from the fact it has some Hong Kong actors I like (they even got Simon Yam) I can’t really say anything else on the series since I haven’t seen them. However, it’s during this craze of goo wak jai (asian gangsters/triad members) that inspired many imitators to duplicate it success. Streets of Fury (1996) happens to be one those movie starring one of my favorite Hong Kong actor Louis Koo. In the same vein of Simon Yam, Louis Koo is also an actor who regardless of what he’s in I’ll watch it because I like him that much. Even in his first major film role, Koo striking on screen presence shines through in this horribly misguided movie.
Streets of Fury starts out by introducing the viewer to down-and-out teens Hu (Michael Tse Tin-wah) and Yu-long (Louis Koo Tin-lok) who are repeatedly victimized by local gang leader Short-Sighted (Simon Lui Yu-yueng) and his buddies. From here the movie gives out simple characteristics to our protagonists. Hu loses his temper easily, and gets into fights frequently whereas Yu-Long is more laid back, and caring. Through these defining features the movie does little to expand on them. One of the movie major issues is Hu, and the film attempt at trying to make him sympathetic. It’s impossible to feel any remorse towards Hu when he mistreats his girlfriend, is shown easily sleeping with women despite being in a relationship, and gives his girlfriend money, and tells her to get an abortion as soon as he hears she is pregnant. Not only that, but it’s implied during a timeskip he never went back, and reconcile with his ex-girlfriend after participating in a violent gang fight.
Hu is the antithesis of Yu-long in every way, yet doesn’t commit to making this character entirely unlikable. There’s a point in the story where Hu feels some semblance of remorse for everything he put his ex-girlfriend before the movie ditches that idea to follow Yu-long who’s a more rounded character. When the movie doesn’t need a conflict to push things forward Hu gets written out of the movie. He doesn’t have much of a personality contributing to his static nature, and after a while you’ll easily forget he was originally the main character.
Another major issue is the film’s pacing. Either escalating events to quickly, or meanders around in its attempts to flesh out Yu-long relationship with Shan (Teresa Mak). When it rush it resorts to easy tricks to make you dislike the film’s villain Short-Sighted. He doesn’t just rape Hu’s girlfriend, along with his entire gang, but does it again to Yu-long girlfriend later on in the movie even after Hu chopped up one of his hands! In general, characters don’t learn anything, and if there is a change in them it occurs off screen.
On the meandering side you have Shan, an old schoolmate of Yu-long who immediately falls in love with him. Leading to a relationship where Shan gets decently developed while Yu-long receives a minor character arc. Unfortunately, the writing decides to basically rehash the first act, and this time have film villain Short-Sighted rape Yu-long girlfriend resulting in the same events playing out like act one. You have another gang fight between our leads, and Short-Sighted with the only difference being how the confrontation ends the second time. I honestly can’t recall another movie I’ve ever seen rehashing events of the first act of its story for its conclusion.
The writing is on the nose at times being unintentionally funny; like a brief exchange between Hu, and Yu-long where Hu talks about Hu dead parents. These two grew up under the same household so Hu basically saying “Yu-long, we’re brothers, even if not blood related, or from the same parents” comes off unnatural during their exchange. What the movie is trying go for is uncertain since in a coming of age movie growth is necessary, and our lead characters have little time to reflect on their life. Only two minor characters in the movie actually reflect about the hand life dealt with them, but they’re hardly in the movie. Any thematic exploration there could have been is lost in its jumbled mess of a story. Being incapable of crafting a balance between a coming of age story, and triad crime drama.
By far the most likable actor in Streets of Fury is Louis Koo. His on screen presence is simply natural. He doesn’t try make himself look tough like his co star Michael Tse attempts to do. Making Koo more believable in his portrayal. Another thing Koo does is not dialing up the less favorable aspects of his character. Understanding that his character while misguided should still be sympathetic. Completely the opposite of Michael Tse who goes overboard in making his character unlikable. Whenever Michael Tse has to portray a more gentler side of his character it’s tough pill to swallow because of how unlikable he is in general. Dragging the movie down when he’s the focus.
Tsui Kam-Kong who plays the dreadlock triad leader King. He simply hams up his role being the most laid back triad member in the entire movie. Through his silly mannerism he carefully makes a comedic character who’s also capable of acting tough. Pulling off the difficult task of making a comedy relief convincingly look tough. Ben Lam Kwok Bun who plays brother beast also balances the delicate side with the tough side as Brother Beast. It’s a shame he wasn’t in the movie more since he’s pretty good. Of course there’s also Alan Chui Chung-San as another mobster whose only memorable because he typically carries a miniature fan around with him because it’s always too hot.
Simon Lui pulls in an unlikable performance just like Michael Tse, but this time in the film favors. His character is written to be pathetic, and despicable in every sense of the words. Buying him as a teenager is a bit tough with a receding hairline, and five o’clock shadow, but other than that he’s fine. There’s also the two ladies Gigi Lai, and Teresa Mak whom only act as romantic interest. Teresa Mak gets a bit more to do since she has more screen time. Also, I have to address Jerry Lamb being on the cover of the DVD I own since his only purpose is getting killed. His contribution is minuscule, and considering there’s three other actors who have more screen time than him that’s just baffling he’s on the cover.
Directed by Hin Sing ‘Billy’ Tang he does an incompetent job on filming the fight scenes. Going for a documentary look to it the fight sequences are clearly shot on a hand held camera. This is an issue since the camera shakes a lot making 90% of the fights unwatchable. Considering the movie are simple, large brawls it’s baffling how Billy Tang couldn’t maintain a clear image. The 10% where it is visible the choreography is unimpressive, and needed to be rehearse more to appear more natural than it did. Other than the lackluster music, and okay editing there’s pretty much nothing left to cover. Okay, there’s a magazine Michael Tse reads that had an image of Young, and Dangerous 3 on the cover for all intent, and purposes is a unsubtle hint at what it ripping off poorly.
Streets of Fury is a movie not made for artistic expressions, but to simply latch of the success of a popular movie, and make a quick buck out of it. Movies like Streets of Fury get made in droves not only in Hong Kong, but every film industry you can think of has at least one of these movies. They usually get forgotten about fairly quickly, and even when an actor becomes a superstar in their country film industry like Louis Koo eventually did. Very few of their fans even bother digging up movies like these as they continue to collect dust.