Category Archives: Preview

Preview: “Under the Dog,” the latest anime to appear on Kickstarter

“Our enemy is the light of humanity”

The latest animation production to hit Kickstarter is “Under the Dog.” It needs $580,000 to reach its goals and they currently have $181,303 pledged. This goal trumps previous Kickstarters such as Masaaki Yuasa’s “Kick-Heart” goal of $150,000. On the “pledged” side, both “Kick-Heart” and the already-produced series “Time of EVE” had made over $200,000.

Set in the year 2025, the International School for Boys and Girls operates as a cover for recruiting minors into its “elite death squad,” as the “Under the Dog” Kickstarter page puts it.

The catalyst for the International School for Boys and Girls was a deadly terrorist attack on the 2020 Summer Olympics. Created by the United Nations, its intended purpose is to hunt down anyone with “special abilities.”

The Kickstarter page makes no mention of it, but my impression of it is that this story has some sort of “super powers” thing going on. They use terms such as “specially enhanced groups of terrorists” and “gifted high school students, each with their own special abilities.” The one that stands out, however, is “These troops are tasked with ferreting out and exterminating all individuals with powers like their own.” I read that, and I can only imagine something similar to X-Men. Except in this instance, we are given the perspective of the hunters. However, nothing about super powers was stated explicitly.

On the other hand, I am reminded of series such as “From the New World.” Here we have a society that heavily tries to trample out these “new humans.” In “From the New World,” we saw humans trying to control a specific group through mythology, folklore, culture, and illusion. Here, we are given murder. Further, “Under the Dog” establishes the hunters as not being ruthless killers, but reluctant heroes. The Kickstarter page offers us this definition for the phrase “under the dog”:

when one is in a situation so disagreeable that they would wish to rather be “under the dog,” a place of dishonor, misery, and filth, in order to escape their current state of affairs

While they are hunters, their situation is not rosy. Last, the recruits of the International School of Boys and Girls are forced into service by threat of their and their family’s lives. Failure means the death of the recruit and his/her family.

Is the fact that “Under the Dog” feature minors operating in a military combat capacity an oversight or social commentary about reactionary tendencies? They are high school students, after all. Let’s look at the official definitions for “child soldiers.” The United Nations (the creators of the International School for Boys and Girls in the setting) has stated that anyone over the age of 15 may enter military service. As stated on the UNICEF website,

The Convention also set 15 years as the minimum age at which an individual can be voluntarily recruited into or enlist in the armed forces

It goes further on to state,

States must also raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces from 15 years but does not require a minimum age of 18. The Protocol does, however, remind States that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards. It further bans compulsory recruitment below the age of 18.

“bans compulsory recruitment below the age of 18”? Of course, the UN does not pay attention to that part in this setting – possible social commentary? The catalyst was a terrorist attack, so the very fact that the UN is forcefully recruiting soldiers into its “elite death squads” could be a comment that organizations will change their attitudes because “terrorism.” Whether it’s a simple oversight or social commentary, one thing is for sure: we have another story about terrorists.

Let’s start with the production staff. Under the Dog actually features an international staff so far. On the Japanese side, we have Masahiro Ando as director, Yusuke Kozaki providing character and mechanical design, Hiroaki Yura as producer, the story provided by Jiro Ishii, Kinema Citrus as the main animation studio, and Orange Co. providing the 3d CGI. On the international side, we have Kevin Penkin providing the original score and John Kurlander as Mixing and Recording Engineer. Keiichi Momose, a Japanese, works with those two as Audio Director.

Masahiro Ando started as a key animator and has worked on series such as “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Jin-roh: The Wolf Brigade.” Pinpointing down exactly what he has animated in those works is a bit tricky, but fortunately for us he has been credited for animating the first “opening” for the series “Monster Rancher.”

As you might notice, his style has highly detailed body movements. Taking that, crediting Masahiro Ando at Sakugabooru for this scene in “Jin-roh: the Wolf Brigade” seems more believable to me:

 

Yusuke Kozaki is perhaps best known for providing the character designs for “No More Heroes” and “Fire Emblem: Awakening.” Here are the character designs that they have posted so far on the Kickstarter page:

underthedog1 underthedog2 underthedog3

He has also completed designs for the “Trike.” These are pretty cool.

trikeunderthedog1

There are a lot more images of the “Trike” design on the Kickstarter page.

Perhaps the strangest of the bunch is Hiroaki Yura. He brings with him very little animation production experience. He does, however, have a successful career as a musician. According to an interview of Hiroaki Yura by the Anime News Network, he was awarded a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the age of twelve, and he is one of the youngest recipients of an Associate Diploma from the Australian Music Examination Board. Nowadays, he is the founder and Artistic Director of the Eminence Symphony Orchestra in Sydney, Australia, and he is also the founder of Central Intelligence Arts, Inc. who created the Kickstarter page and most likely acts as the production company.

As producer, he is most likely responsible for bringing all of this talent together. Websites are unfortunately quite scarce on his professional history, however, the Kickstarter page claims that Hiroaki Yura has worked on anime such as “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “Steins;Gate Fuka Ryōiki no Déjà vu (movie)” (which Anime News Network confirmed as “Orchestra Conductor”). For Disappearance, no one has listed his contribution, however, he has stated on an AMA on reddit that he was “Music Director.” Here is what he had to say about that:

I worked on the two films as Music Director / Supervisor.

What I did was to direct music recordings to make sure it suited the story and the picture at specific times so I knew the story back to front and knew what we had to convey through the music.

I had great fun working on Haruhi as we spent a long time trying to hone in on the details of the emotion that the picture and the VAs were trying to convey.

Very interesting.

The story was originally produced by Jiro Ishii, director of the critically acclaimed video game 428: In a Blockaded Shibuya. He created the story back in 1997. That video game was also semi-adapted into the animated series CANAAN, which was incidentally directed by Masahiro Ando, director of this animated production. He has also worked for Chunsoft and currently works for LEVEL 5. Not much more information is available on Jiro Ishii, unfortunately.

Now, onto the sound crew. We have a very interesting team here so far – two foreigners, John Kurlander and Kevin Penkin.

John Kurlander is the more famous of the two, having worked on films such as Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. He is a “Balance Engineer / Remixer,” according to his website. Working on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy earned him three Grammy Awards.

Kevin Penkin is the younger of the two, but he is impressive in his own way. His first professional gig was at the age of 18 when he collaborated on a Japanese video game with Nobuo Uematsu (best known as the composer for the Final Fantasy series). He has worked with Jiro Ishii before on the video game “Phoenix Project.” He actually tweeted about “Under the Dog”  on August 8th:

He seems to be quite excited about this project.

Last but not least, we have the Audio Director, Keiichi Momose. He is primarily a sound director and has worked on series such as Mitsuo Iso’s “Dennou Coil,” Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Steamboy,” and Masaaki Yuasa’s “Kaiba.”

Now that we’ve gotten to this point – will you fund the project? I have not decided. I do think it could turn out to be a pretty decent anime. If they get enough money, they will produce movies as well, which I would watch as well. On the other hand, I am not too keen on being an “amateur investor.”

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Preview: Space Pirate Captain Harlock

[DeadFish] Captain Harlock (2013) v2 - Movie [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_00.06.15_[2014.04.27_00.30.33]

I’ll come clean – I have seen this movie already. Back in October 2013, I had the opportunity to see this film at the Honolulu International Film Festival being held over at Dole Cannery Theater. Now it is available on DVD and Blu-ray, which allows me to pay better attention to what I watch. In other words, I am going to be looking at it again more intently. At this stage, this is simply my first impressions (usually I only review things I have seen twice).

I was pretty darn hyped for this movie. If you have seen the trailers, you will know that this movie looks gorgeous – and it is. It is, quite frankly, one of the best looking CGI movie I have seen. Frozen probably takes #1. However, it is not perfect. When I saw it in the theater, I could not help but notice that everyone in this movie has very limited facial expressions. It was almost like their faces were frozen (no pun intended). So, for that reason, it is not the best CGI movie I have seen, because that irritates the heck out of me. But I digress.

I have no real prior experience with the Captain Harlock franchise, so I really had no expectations. I was just excited to see it. And, boy, let me say that I came out of that theater with mixed feelings. As I said before, the movie looks amazing – and that is it. Everything else is pretty average, except for one thing: the story. As I remember it, the story is absolute rubbish. It starts out OK, but it turns into a complete trainwreck by the end. I remember experiencing second-hand embarrassment, an experience that many would avoid like second-hand smoking. However harsh that may sound, it does not even begin to compare to films such as We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, which might even be its own level of mindless story-telling. This film reminds me of Blue Submarine No. 6, in that it creates an interesting premise and then it gets lost in whatever dope the writer’s might have been smoking. At least, that is how I remember Space Pirate Captain Harlock (and it lacks a crying shark, so at least it has that going for it). It is entirely possible that I am exaggerating – the second viewing will tell.

Here is the trailer:

Preview: Short Peace

Preview is a series about anime that I have not seen yet. They are full of speculation supported by facts. In this series, I talk about interesting anime that I have found and will  watch (assuming I can).

I thought this was pretty cool. Short Peace is an anthology film, which includes Katsura Otomo (Akira). In it, there are four films: Short PeaceCombustiblePossessions, and Gambo.

The first one is Short Peace. It seems to be set in roughly modern times. I might like this one the most. Short Peace is directed by Hajime Katoki. Unsurprisingly, Hajime has worked mostly in mechanical design and mecha. Interestingly, he has designed most of the mecha used in the Gundam franchise since Gundam Wing.

The second one is Combustible, which is about a fire in Edo. This one was directed by Katsuhiro Otome. I was surprised when I learned that, because I expected him to do Short Peace. You know, the military one. Of course, we all know Katsuhiro for creating Akira.

Tsukumo (Possessions) is the most famous of the four. Possessions actually got nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2014 (it lost to Mr. Hublot). The story is about a man that goes into a temple full of fantastic things. Possessions was directed by Shuhei Morita. His only previous work that I am familiar with is Freedom. According to Grumpy Jii-san, Freedom was not very good.

The last is Gambo. It looks like a supernatural film. I do enjoy supernatural stories, so I might like this one. Unfortunately, I cannot find much else. Gambo was directed by Hiroaka Ando. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with his previous works (or, at least, not at a level I can comment on).

Preview — Patema Inverted

sakasama-no-patema-anime-movie-poster-revealed

Many years ago, I remember watching an interesting short film on YouTube. It was called Aquatic Language. It did not make any bit of sense to me, but it did introduce me to what would become one of my favorite directors: Yasuhiro Yoshiura.

My favorite aspect of Aquatic Language was Yoshiura’s skillful usage of mixing traditional animation with 21st century 3D modeling techniques. It was present in Aquatic Language and he would use it even more in Time of Eve. In my experience, the blending of traditional animation with 3D modeling is a hit-or-miss; I thought it was well-done in Zipang, but when I watch Code Geass: Akito the Exiled I want to vomit. In both films, Yasuhiro blends them together in such a way that lets me enjoy the movie undisturbed. They do not look perfectly blended together, but it is easy on the eyes.

Patema Inverted would be Yasuhiro’s first full-length feature film (Time of EVE was originally an original net animation (ONA), and was broadcasted on the internet in 6 episodes; it was later made into a movie format and released in theater). The story of the movie was originally explored in two media formats: a series of animated shorts and a manga.

In short, the animated shorts are about a girl named Patema, who lives underground in a community of other humans. She enjoys exploring the underground tunnels, and what seems to be the vestiges of a much larger–and long gone–human society with great industrial power. She is forbidden by her elders to explore, however, and we quickly learn why when she is attacked by a humanoid (face is concealed) that is… walking on the ceiling.

Wait, what?

After being attacked, Patema falls down a giant hole that takes her to the surface of the “Earth.” Interestingly, she continues to fall upwards, into the sky, until she gets caught on a fence. If you do not understand what I am saying, then simply look at the movie poster above; Patema is falling upwards.

I have read interpretations about this story. One of the more likely ones, was that this is like Alice in Wonderland; that instead of falling into the rabbit hole, the protagonist falls out of it. A humorous analogy, but there is not much less to suggest that Patema Inverted takes any inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, as far as I can see.

The animated shorts explained, what I would assume is, is the beginning of the movie; that is, how Patema got to the surface of the “Earth.” The manga, on the other hand, explores the human society that Patema lives in and the history of it. Unfortunately, the translation of the manga was halted by the original translation group that picked it up. As far as I know, the entire manga remains untranslated into English.

Both the shorts and the manga hinted at a much bigger story, which I assume the movie will explore.

Studio Rikka

Studio Rikka’s official website

Yoshiura Yasuhiro

Yoshiura’s Twitter

Preview — Kaguya Hime no Monogatari

 

Directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday), this film is based upon the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. It will be Takahata’s first film since My Neighbors the Yamadas. It will be released in Japanese theaters on November 23, 2013.

Preview — Hinata no Aoshigure

hinata no aoshigure

Have you ever heard of Ishida Hiroyasu or Studio Colorido? In all likelihood, probably not. They are both incredibly new to the anime industry. Ishida Hiroyasu is 25 years old and recently graduated, and  Studio Colorido is a mere 2 years and 2 months old.

Well, I can tell you now that you have probably seen Ishida’s work. Have you ever seen a short animated film in which a girl confesses to a boy, is rejected, and then has an entertaining (and impressively well made) run down the hill? Well, even you have not, over 2 million other people have.

Four years later, Ishida Hiroyasu is about three weeks away from making his big directorial debut — and people are going in fast. In fact, the premeire for the movie has sold out already. Back in September, Studio Colorido released the preview for the film:

It will certainly be interested to watch. According to MyAnimeList.net, here is the synopsis for Hinata no aoshigure:

Hinata is very good at drawing and falls in love with his classmate, Shigure; however, Hinata is not good at talking to people, so he keeps his feelings in his imagination and drawings. Then, Shigure’s family decides to move to another town. On the day of their move, Hinata says to himself, “I must tell her my feelings!” and starts to chase after the train which is taking Shigure away.

Will I watch it? Most definitely. While I am not too fond of these types of stories, I think the visuals will make up for it.

Hinata no Aoshigure premeires November 9th. Incidentally, that is when Sakasama no Patema premeires…

Studio Colorido
Colorido’s Official Website
Colorido’s Official Twitter
Colorido’s Official Facebook
Colorido’s Official YouTube

Ishida Hiroyasu
Ishida Hiroyasu’s YouTube
Ishida Hiroyasu’s blog (You need a hatena account to view)