Recent Viewing: Pacific Rim

I have had several friends tell me since the Pacific Rim hit theaters that I needed to go and see it. They said that if anime was ever made into a movie, it was going to be this flick. It was some big statement to make, but I finally gave in and decided to check it out.


If you watched the trailer, it basically summed up the premise of the movie. The giant monsters called Kaiju are wreaking havoc on cities and it is up to man to pilot giant robots called Jaegers to take them on. Each Jaeger is composed of 2 pilots that need to merge minds in order to operate the robot. So the plot follows some of you standard mecha series/films plot points.

One of the knocks on the film when it first came out, and one of the positives for some people, were that they felt the film followed Neon Genesis Evangelion too closely. I recall both points from social media when the movie was out, which was one of the reasons I stayed away for a bit. The bipolar effect of the film was astounding. It seemed as if it was a love or hate movie.

I fall into neither tent in regards to the film. I thought there was some good things about it and also some turn offs. Let’s start with the positives.

From an art standpoint, I thought the film was great. The CG was awesome and I felt the kaiju were interesting, even if they didn’t appear a little dark in terms of color, which is really only an issue if you want to see more detail. It was nice to see actual creatures instead of other robots or humanoid type opponent.

The cities and environments were bright and vivid. Areas with neon lights and scenes with bright skies and even the memory scene were all fun sets. The bright color added a lot and made the scenes more interesting overall as well as providing a sense of character. Conversely, some of the scenes that took place in the water were less entertaining to me since I didn’t feel like there was a good sense of where things were since they were out in the open.

I felt the pacing of Pacific Rim was fair. It followed the traditional action movie of starting off with a big action sequence and and filling in story as it progressed. I like stories that do this, in my opinion it jump starts the process of making the audience care for a character.

Now onto the things I felt were a little lacking in the film. In my opinion the acting left quite a bit to be desired. Several of the characters seemed to be too over the top and there were several characters that seemed a little more cold and uninteresting in terms of tone and overall character. I didn’t really feel anything in particular to the main characters. There was a lack of something (maybe charisma?) in the main character that I couldn’t get full behind him at times. His character seemed a little bit too formulaic and the performance was a little flat. The characters that were over the top, I felt should possibly have been more reserved and a couple of the heroes of the story should have been the larger than life and in your face characters.

My other negative point also feeds off of the bipolar emotion the film invokes and that is some of the storyline points. It seems as if the formulaic points of the characters also made their way into the story, but not all. The montage of kaiju attacks at the start of the film explaining their origin and such I thought was great. I also thought the end of the film was unique, but I feel that other things in the middle were as a result of a formula. Like they had a great start and end but highjacked the middle of a typical mecha or action story. The world and characters should have been more open to an unconventional line. I don’t want to spoil any of the story in case you want to check out the film, but I would be interested in others points of view if you thought the story and such suffered from that or not.

I don’t want to really touch the topic of if the film “stole or borrowed” too much stuff from Neon Genesis Evangelion. In my opinion I didn’t feel like it really did. For all the things I heard I was expecting more things inspired by Evangelion but I didn’t see anything too obvious. The kaiju have different origins than the Angels in Evangelion, the mechs are different, the characters in Pacific Rim don’t suffer from all of the mental disorders as the characters in Evangelion do as well. The main characters do not cross over, the ages aren’t the same, even some of the genders aren’t the same. I saw no Misato or Rei characters in Pacific Rim. The mech designs I would say are more inspired by a Gundam franchise. While there were some similarities, I didn’t feel as if anything was ripping anything off.

Overall it was a solid film that I am sure I will rematch here and there. I haven’t checked out the special features yet though either. A second film is rumored to be in the script writing phase so it is unknown yet if a second film will be out. The US release didn’t do that well, but it did well overseas.

Recent Viewing- PenguinDrum


This past week I had a chance to watch Penguindrum from Sentai Filmworks created by a studio I have never heard of before, Brains Base. Check out the opening above (disregard the red type in the first :15 seconds). For some reason Sentai Filmworks does not have it’s own youtube channel to display their shows and trailers don’t exist on their website either. So we went with the only video involving the opening to the series. Sentai Filmworks is releasing Penguindrum over 2 discs, so this is only about the first disc since disc 2 won’t be out until mid-March.

Penguindrum has a very interesting story. I had seen a few subtitled (subbed) episodes about a year or so ago while at a conference and instantly enjoyed watching the little blue penguins throughout the show cause chaos and act as the series comedic relief. However, the story does not revolve around the aforementioned penguins, it revolves around 2 brothers (Shoma and Kanba), their sister (Himari), a schoolgirl names Ringo, and a handful of other characters.

The story starts with Himari being sick/dead and when she dawns a magical penguin hat she returns to life and gains a split personality. The split personality is her reason for existence and she orders her 2 brothers to embark on a comedic journey to retrieve the penguindrum. With this hat, comes a group of 3 little blue penguins that each follow a character around and creates comedic relief in the series.

Before you disregard this series as a comedic and random series, hear me out. While it was the comedy that got me interested in the series, Penguindrum has a more darker side to it as well. There is a lot of fate/destiny vs choice in the series and certain characters trying to prove one or the other. There is a little bit of magic, and more. Towards the end of the first 12 episode set, the series starts to paint a darker picture involving the characters. I by saying this I will be setting a high standard, but, dare I say that the series may be heading down the path of Neon Genesis Evangelion where things get darker and more open to interpretation.

I am excited to see how the series plays out and look forward to seeing the conclusion in March to the first Brain Base anime series I have had the opportunity to watch.

From an animation standpoint, they tend to do some things that are par for the course in Japan. Some elements are animated in 3D, which if you watched the opening above you will see they use 3D for some secondary elements. They use particle effects in some scenes as well, for water and even to replicate dust caught in laser sites of some weaponry.

Personally, my favorite stylistic choice in Penguindrum is the use of flat 2D layers that I could easily see being done in Adobe After Effects. If you watch the opening above it would be all of the Penguin face logos, but the series uses those and also uses 2D cutouts for certain scenes too. The series is very focused on settings so when characters go to new scenes we see a 3D subway gate followed by 2D subway signs where the characters are. The signs are all done in 2D with very stylized backgrounds.

When the characters are in crowded areas, the background characters are people icons and not drawn people. The people icons are similar to what you would see on bathroom signs here in the U.S. but when I traveled to Japan last year, they use iconography in explaining many things. There was even a series called XXXHolic (Funimation) that used a similar technique in which all of their background characters were simply white pencil sketches.

Penguindrum provides a fun soundtrack as well. I am a sucker for comedic penguins and especially the amount of subway scenes that appear in Penguindrum as well. I still have to wait to see the last half of the series, but the first half is for sure worth checking out for a variety of reasons discussed above. Let’s hope the second half is at least as good as the first half. Monday will be a new production update and a special post for next Thursday as well.

Japan Adventure Recap

My apologies for being a day late again. I have a couple freelance projects that bottlenecked a bit, I am actually blogging while waiting for a render to finish up. An article I read last week from a friend actually inspired me to write one last entry about my trip to Japan, which seems long time ago already. Blogging about the trip and looking at pictures to post has really been a fun way to look back on my trip, I would strongly recommend it to anyone. Clearly, I would strongly recommend a trip to Japan as well as going through the agency I did.

I basically wanted to run down some of my favorite things, favorite foods, best experiences as well as share some pics of the haul of goodies I brought home and more.

Since there may be some foodies out there, lets go over that first. My friend and I had the intention of finding fugu, or pufferfish. Pufferfish is poisonous and will kill the consumer if the chef fails to prepare the food correctly. There are next to zero deaths a year of consumers dying from prepared food, most deaths come from fisherman that eat the fish in the wild. During all of our adventures we seemingly pushed this endeavor back each day until we basically ran out of time. This is on the list of things to do on our next trip.

My favorite food came from a ramen shop and the takoyaki from the street vendors. I would have to wayward an honorable mention to the squid I ate from a vendor as well, I am a little disappointed I didn’t get a chance to eat octopus. Again, next time.

Japan has a lot of lemon flavored drinks, which I miss greatly. A specific drink was CC Lemon, I have been looking for somewhere to get it from in the states, but to no success yet. It will only be a matter of time.

My favorite place that we visited would have to be the Ghibli museum. As an animator, it was the closest thing to heaven I could have imagined. I wish I could have taken pictures inside to post, but I settled for a book with pictures of the inside. If you haven’t seen any of the Studio Ghibli films, I strongly suggest you give a couple of them a chance. If you ever visit Japan, this is a must see site. They even show short films that you can only see at the museum.

This was also the first trip I was able to see the ocean. Some of the funnest moments I had was around the ocean. On one occasion I went seashell hunting and found some shells to take back to give to my sister. My second ocean experience was when we were in the country and we had a group of locals want their pictures taken with us. The people in the country were extremely nice, especially at the festival events.

My favorite experience was climbing Mt Fuji at night and witnessing the cities at the foot of the mountain’s fireworks. As I stated in a previous entry, climbing Fuji was one of the most mentally demanding things I have ever done, but it is also one of my proudest moments. I would like to climb the mountain again.

Probably the most unexpected awesome experience was the ryokan. I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. The breakfasts were amazing, we walked around in yukatas the majority of the time we were there, the hot spring was amazing and the customer service set a new standard. When I go back to Japan, staying at a ryokan is on the top of my list.

The arcades in Akihabara were super fun, you would be surprised at how far you can get in a game just based of user interface design and game animation without understanding the language. The card reader games blew my mind. Shibuya had some musicians playing, I would like to return and go listen to some music some night. Theres something very cool about walking down the street and seeing various musical acts and being able to stop and listen at will.

I had a pretty good toy and book haul on the trip. I ended up with a book about the art of Princess Mononoke and also a picture book about the Ghibli museum. I also ended up with 3 production art books from the series Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as some Asuka chopsticks that I eat my cup noodles with. I picked up a giant list of gachapons, from various stores in various areas. The coolest was a store that you could actually trade your gachapons in to and buy other people’s trade ins and complete your collection. My favorite toys were small figures from Neon Genesis Evangelion I picked up in sealed mystery boxes.

While in Japan, I wanted to pick up some anime cels. In early 2000 animation went into the digital realm, which meant that cels were no longer being used to make animation. For example, you can not find cels of newer series, you can only get them of older series. Studios sold cels to fans as a way to make money and provide fans with content that they didn’t have much of a use for. At the cel shop, I could’t read any of the names of the binders of series he had. I did stumble across some binders of Inu Yasha and bought 3 cels. 2 of one of my favorite characters, Miroku and also a cool cel of Koga from the same series. I found some binders of Dragonball Z, but most of the cels were missing backgrounds and I want my cels to have background art. On my next trip, I plan on taking more money to get more cels. It was cool when we found a small gallery displaying cels and art of Rouroni Kenshin.

As for me, I would like to return to Japan again. I am targeting the spring of 2014 for the spring festivals as my next trip. Hopefully the stars align and I am able to get the trip lined up. If you get the chance or are looking for a trip, I highly suggest Japan!

 *(Images of my anime cels and also of my toy haul from Japan. Makes you want to go doesn’t it?)

Japan Adventure Day 13

Our final day in Japan was a little bit of a lazy day. We hadn’t really had anything planned except for hitting up a few areas that we wanted to revisit. For the duration of our trip, we constantly saw signs pointing to a Pokemon Center nearby at the train station we used daily. We decided that we would check it out. We sadly discovered that it was basically just a store with a ton of Pokemon gear. We thought it was going to have a different layout than just being a store.

When we went to the Evangelion store earlier in the week we picked up a magazine that had other Evangelion sites we could visit and get stamps at. We didn’t do the stamp collecting but we did go check out a giant slide of one of the main characters, Rei Ayanami. We also stopped at the Evangelion store by the slide but it was a rather small one that had mostly the same content as the other store we went to. By the Ayanami slide, there was other stuff advertising for various series, old and new alike. In this area there was a giant steampunk clock.

We headed back to Akihabara for some ramen and we also went to spend the last of our loose coins. When exchanging Yen back in the states, they only take the paper bills. So we had 500 and 100 Yen coins we decided to deposit at the arcade. It was the cool seeing Neon Genesis Evangelion posters, billboards and such being advertised everywhere. We even found people sized figures of Asuka and Rei at arcades as well.

We made our way back to the area of Tokyo that we were staying at. We decided to go to the park that we saw when we first arrived in Tokyo. The park was very large and it was smack in the middle of the city. There were ponds of koi fish, turtles, and lots of flowers.

We found one turtle that was swimming and as we watched him he made his way towards us and actually got out of the water and walked up to us. We would hold our hand out and it would try to touch it with his nose. I haven’t seen anything like that before. We took some really good videos of the turtle before he worked his way back into the water.

We sat at a park table as it started to rain and we talked about our favorite aspects of the trip. We headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff before we headed to the airport to fly out that night. We landed back in the states safe and sound 🙂

*(First image is of the Rei Ayanami slide, next is the giant steampunk clock, the third is of a curious turtle that came out of the water to greet us, finally a close up of some flowers).

Japan Adventure Day 3

Day 3 in Japan was our last day in Tokyo before we departed to the countryside for a few days (we were returning to Tokyo afterwards). The goal of the morning was to head to Asakusa and find a yukata to wear to the festival we were heading to the next day. We found a nice street that was filled with vendors near the Kaminarimon Shrine. Fortunately we were able to find yukatas for taller people at an awesome little shop, the shop owners were super friendly and let me take a couple pictures of their shop (see below). It was along this street that I also found a vendor and was able to try takoyaki for the first time. Takoyaki is basically deep fried octopus in a dough ball with various condiments on top. My favorite was Japanese mayo and green onions, fantastic stuff 🙂

After Asakusa, we headed to Akihabara to check out all of the toys, electronics and anime we could ever imagine. I found a shop that sold nothing but gachapons, they are small toys you put together that come from a plastic ball machine. basically a quarter machine we have in the United States except these toys are a little bigger, you put them together and they generally cost between 200-400 Yen. I was able to score some cool Dragonball Z, Neon Genesis Evangelion and My-Hime figures. I didn’t recognize a lot of the other series they had machines for, and there was a lot of them.

We stopped at an amazing ramen shop before we journeyed to a store to buy some liquor for the festival days. Another cool thing in Japan is that there are storage lockers that you can put your stuff in and for 200 Yen or less you can store it in the locker as you continue to shop. We stored our liquor and kept an eye out for eye catching places to check out.

In Akihabara there were lots of maids handing out flyers for various maid cafes, so of course we checked one out. We ordered some desserts and they came out shaped as cute little animals. Of course I ordered a green tea turtle, he was tasty.

After the maid cafe, we roamed around a few more shops as night approached. I found a really cool store that sold all sorts of used toys, so I was able to score some more gachapons. This place would give you money if you brought in older gachapons and they would resell them. Since space is a premium in Japan, I assume people trade in older gachapons for newer ones allowing collectors to find ones they need to complete sets.

As night started to set in, we stopped at a place that served all sorts of fried foods that you could order. They had a rule that if you ordered food and didn’t eat it you actually had to pay more for it, it was to prevent wasting food. We were able to order such things as deep fried lotus root (my favorite), garlic, and asparagus. The food was amazing. We stopped by the locker and picked up our liquor and we headed back to our hotel to get some rest before departing on our countryside excursion the next morning. Stay tuned for day 4!

*(The first image is from the yukata shop in Asakusa, the second is in Akihabara which has 7 story arcades, the third is a glass case of Gundam gachapons in the gachapon shop and the final image is of my green tea turtle sundae at the maid cafe).

Japan Adventure Day 2

Day 2 of my trip to japan started off with a relaxing train ride down to Kamakura. The weather that day was overcast with some rain on and off. We were traveling to Kamakura to visit the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine to learn a little bit about the history but also to spend some time outside of Tokyo too. The shrine had lots of people visiting and taking pictures of all of the lanterns that were on posts next to the sidewalk up to the stairs of the shrine.

Along the way to the shrine, we discovered a lantern that the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion had made (picture below). There were so many lanterns to look at, some designed by kids and others by famous artists. While we walked around the temple grounds, we saw a group of artists that had settled in to draw and paint various vantage points of the shrine.

For lunch we stopped at a place that gave out big paper bibs to people that ordered curry or ramen. A few of the travelers ate lunch with the bibs and it allowed us to take some funny before and after pictures. It also allowed us to get out of the rain for a little while as well. After lunch we had a little bit of time to roam Kamakura a bit so my friend and I wandered away from the area we were at. In our small area we went to we discovered the shrine of one of Japan’s famous swordsmiths, Masamune.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, we headed to one of the giant Buddha statues in Japan. You could spend 20 Yen (which is probably in the neighborhood of a quarter) to go inside the Buddha and lean about some of the construction techniques. I found a few gifts to bring home for friends and family here as well.

We weren’t too far away from the beach so we decided to stop and check it out for a while before we headed back to Tokyo. We kept our stuff in a beach shack that was run by a group of party kids that had a DJ playing, they were cool with us keeping our stuff their for free. Since it was my first time to the ocean, I waded into the water a bit and looked for some interesting seashells.

To end the day we headed back to Tokyo and ate at an Izakaya. It was one of our fellow travelers 21st birthdays so we celebrated and ate a lot of delicious food. We had a private room that we ordered food from a touchscreen and someone would bring it in when it was done.

(The first picture is of Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion lantern, the second image is the giant buddha, the third is the ocean, and finally the aftermath of our party meal.)