Thursday, 21 February 2019

Guest Interview: Russell James

This week on the blog, I'm talking to my fellow Flame Tree Press author Russell James about his new release The Playing Card Killer, which looks something like this:


Brian Sheridan may be losing his mind. It’s getting hard to know what’s real.

He’s plagued by dreams of women strangled with a red velvet rope, their corpses left with a signature playing card. And while awake, he’s hallucinating a strange man who appears to be stalking him. Brian hopes all this is driven by his sudden withdrawal from a lifetime of anti-anxiety medications.

Then the victim from one of his nightmares shows up on the news. She’s been murdered and Brian immediately fears he may be the unwitting killer. Detective Eric Weissbard thinks the same thing, and starts to build a case to get Brian behind bars and stop the string of horrific murders by the man the press have dubbed The Playing Card Killer.

Can being proven innocent be worse than being found guilty? That may be the case as the truth about The Playing Card Killer sucks Brian into a whirlpool of kidnapping, torture, and death.

And without further ado, here's the interview...

- How much of yourself and your own life went into The Playing Card Killer? Do you like to draw on what you know or would you rather make it up from whole cloth?
I am proud to say that nothing about being a serial killer sprang from any real life experiences. And I’m going to stick to that story.

However I will admit to spending a lot of time in the story’s location, Tampa, Florida. It’s a great city and the varying locations make it a super background for the novel. Selecting the locations to wrap the story around grounded the tale in a level of reality and forced some of the storytelling into directions I hadn't specifically planned on. But I think that sparked more creativity, which probably gave a better result than if I’d just invented a convenient city from scratch.
- Do you have a favourite character in The Playing Card Killer? Who was most fun to write and are they the same person?
The killer (to be vague and avoid spoilers) was a fascinating character because of the twisted process that made him who he ended up being. But I really like Detective Weissbard. He’s a fish-out-of-water in his new job with the Tampa PD. Being a good detective, he’s dedicated to finding the truth, and follows the leads where they go. He gets to be almost as confused about the killer’s identity is as poor Brian is. I also got to give Weissbard more depth through his interactions with his wife, and that was fun.
- Did you have an elevator pitch, and would you be willing to share it?
Could discovering you aren't a serial killer be worse than discovering that you are?
- What most motivates you to hit the keyboard and get writing? If you had to pin your impulse to tell stories down to one thing, what would it be?
There’s always an itch to get a story down on paper. An idea I think is interesting or a certain storytelling twist that I want to incorporate into a novel. But the real kick-starter to writing it is getting some positive feedback from readers. Sometimes it’s a review, sometimes an email. The best is when I meet someone at a convention or signing who really enjoyed what I’d written.  Knowing that what I’d written made an impact on someone makes me want to stop whatever I’m doing and get back to work. 
A great example was when I got a note from a man who’d read my novel Sacrifice. In that novel, a bunch of high school friends get together after thirty tough years to vanquish a demon they thought they’d killed decades ago. He said it inspired him to look up all his old friends and get caught up. That made me very happy.
Q Island spawned a lot of other examples. I got a lot of positive feedback from parents of autistic children very satisfied with how I portrayed Aiden, the autistic child in that novel.
- You've worked across quite a range of genres. Was that a conscious decision or simply a case of telling the stories that came to you?
An idea tends to suggest a genre, and that’s the way the writing goes. I did specifically seek out a genre with the Grant Coleman adventure series through Severed Press. Some of my horror novels would earn a hard-R movie rating, and at conventions I would have to steer parents away from them when their kids asked them to buy it. But I had nothing to steer them to. So I decided that I wanted to write some monster books like the ones I loved as a kid, keep any sex out of them, and tame the language down to what can pass on network television. The writing style and plot twists aren't dumbed down, though. Severed Press has a fantastic fan base for giant creature books, and I specifically wrote one to try and crack that market. Lucky for me, and Professor Grant Coleman, I did.
- Do you have a dream project? Are there tales you've been itching to tell but not quite figured out a way into?
I have a story about  a teenager and an old priest who are battling demons across France and Italy to keep Lucifer from enslaving the world. The Exorcist meets The Da Vinci Code. Still trying to pull that one off.
- Of everything you've written, what would you most like to see made into a mega-budget Hollywood movie? And what are your thoughts on dream casting and an ideal director?
I’ll officially go on record and offer ANY of the stories I've written up as a movie or mini-series.
I’d really like Q Island to make it to the screen. In it a virus breaks out on Long Island, New York that turns people into crazed killers. The government quarantines the island. A woman is trapped there with her autistic son. He gets infected, but he does not get sick, and his autism gets better. She realizes he could be the cure to two things, if she can get him off the island. She had to get past the government, past the crazies, and past the gang leader who has his own plans for the miracle boy.
I think this would be a great miniseries with the big cast of characters, After seeing Bird Box, I cast Sandra Bullock as the hero mom. And put anyone who directed any Avengers movie in charge.
- You've written three books now following your paleontologist hero Professor Grant Coleman. Is that a profession that particularly interests you?
I've loved dinosaurs since I was a kid and thought it would be amazing to discover the fossils of ancient animals. When I needed a continuing character for my adventure tales from Severed Press, palaeontology seemed like the profession that could get wrapped up in a bunch of stories like that. So through Grant I could vicariously pursue a career that I could never do in real life.
- What’s up next? What are you working on and what’s in the pipeline that you’re allowed to talk about?
I have a short story coming out in March in the Flame Tree Publishing American Gothic anthology.  It’s wedged in there between Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce and a bunch of excellent contemporary authors. I feel like a weekend jogger suddenly running the hundred meter dash in the Olympics.
The next novel is about two National Park Service rangers at Fort Jefferson National Park, out west of the Florida Keys. They encounter rogue spies, a conspiracy dating back to the 1960s, and end up in the fight of their lives with giant crabs. It’s the start of a new series set in our wonderful National Park system. I also have a couple of novels and a novella out making the rounds, and we’ll see what happens with those.
-oOo-

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching late night horror. After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including horror thrillers Dark Inspiration, Q Island, and The Playing Card Killer. His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King. He resides in sunny Florida. His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Visit his website at http://www.russellrjames.com, follow on Twitter @RRJames14, or say hello at rrj@russellrjames.com.


THE PLAYING CARD KILLER is available at:


...and everywhere else!

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Film Ramble: Drowning in Nineties Anime Review Index (By Date)

21st August 2019

Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie ***1/2
Idol Project ***1/2
Kekko Kamen **
Cleopatra D.C. ***

8th August 2019

Spring and Chaos ****
Psychic Force *
The Weathering Continent ***1/2
Judge ***

24th July 2019

Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 1 ***
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 2: Soldiers of Sorrow **1/2
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 3: Encounters in Space ***1/2
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack ***

1st July 2019

Alien Defender Geo-Armor: Kishin Corps ***1/2
Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring ***1/2
Jungle De Ikou ***
Violence Jack 1/2

18th June 2019

Perfect Blue ****1/2
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise ****1/2
Ghost in the Shell *****
and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade ****

10th May 2019

Cybernetics Guardian ***
Kimera **
Spectral Force *1/2
Assemble Insert ****

3rd April 2019

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki ***1/2
Tenchi the Movie: Tenchi Muyo in Love ***
Tenchi the Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness **
Tenchi the Movie 3: Tenchi Forever ****

22nd March 2019

Gundress *1/2
Saber Marionette R ***
Detatoko Princess ***
Vampire Princess Miyu ****

14th February 2019

Eight Clouds Rising **1/2
Babel II **
Please Save My Earth ***1/2
My Dear Marie ****

23rd January 2019

Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket ****
GoShogun: The Time Étranger ****1/2
Lily C.A.T ***
Arcadia of My Youth ***1/2

6th January 2019

Ellcia **1/2
Super Atragon ***1/2
Robot Carnival ****1/2
Master of Mosquiton ***

9th December 2018

Agent Aika: Final Battle **
City Hunter: The Motion Picture ***1/2
Rei Rei ***
Kite ***1/2

11th November 2018

Photon: The Idiot Adventures ***1/2
Domain of Murder ***
Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture *1/2
Agent Aika: Naked Missions **1/2

28th September 2018

Queen Emeraldas ****
Samurai: Hunt For the Sword *1/2
Black Lion *1/2
Maze **1/2

2nd September 2018

Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back **
A Chinese Ghost Story ***1/2
Colorful *
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland **1/2

19th August 2018

City Hunter: Secret Service *1/2
Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie ***
The Cockpit ****1/2
The Dagger of Kamui **1/2

19th July 2018

Voogie's Angels **
Legend of Crystania: The Motion Picture ***1/2
Magic User's Club! ****
Battle Skipper **

27th June 2018

RG Veda *1/2
City Hunter: .357 Magnum *1/2
Urusei Yatsura: Inaba the Dreammaker ***
Adventure Duo: Yôjû Sensen **

11th June 2018

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma ***1/2
Ninja Resurrection **
Spirit Warrior: Castle of Illusion ***
Guardian of Darkness ***

17th May 2018

Samurai X: The Motion Picture ***
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge ****
M. D. Geist II: Death Force *1/2
Darkside Blues ****

9th April 2018

Ninja Cadets *1/2
Burn Up! ***1/2
Wild Cardz *1/2
Shinesman ***

19th March 2018

The Humanoid *
Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight ***
Harmagedon **1/2
They Were Eleven ***1/2

27th February 2018

3X3 Eyes: Legend of the Divine Demon ****
Phantom Quest Corp **1/2
Ys: Legacy (Book Two) **
Elf Princess Rane ***

10th February 2018

Gestalt **
Madara ***1/2
Urusei Yatsura: Ryoko's September Tea Party *1/2
Sol Bianca: The Legacy ***

18th January 2018

Geobreeders 2: Breakthrough ***1/2
Battle Arena Toshinden *1/2
Ys: Legacy (Book One) *1/2
Big Wars ***

18th December 2017

Iria: Zeiram ***
Silent Service ***1/2
Spirit Warrior: Festival of the Ogre's Revival **
Mask of Zeguy **1/2

17th November 2017

Lupin the Third: The Secret of Twilight Gemini *1/2
A.LI.CE *
Urusei Yatsura Movie 5: The Final Chapter ****
Knights of Ramune **1/2

21st August 2017

Green Legend Ran ****
Urusei Yatsura Movie 6: Always My Darling ***1/2
Moldiver **
Tokyo Babylon **1/2

11th July 2017

Urusei Yatsura Movie 4: Lum the Forever ***
Wizardry **
3X3 Eyes ***1/2
Otaku no Video ***

12th June 2017

Battle Angel ***1/2
Urusei Yatsura Movie 3: Remember My Love ***1/2
The Heroic Legend of Arslan **1/2
Venus Wars ****

15th May 2017

Shamanic Princess ****
Digital Devil *1/2
Virgin Fleet **
Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer ****1/2

27th April 2017

Black Magic M-66 **1/2
Urusei Yatsura Movie 1: Only You ****
Project A-Ko: Uncivil Wars **
M.D. Geist 1/2

23rd March 2017

Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms ***
The E.Y.E.S of Mars *
Legend of Lemnear ***
Project A-Ko 2: Love & Robots **1/2

10th March 2017

Sakura Wars: The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms ***
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie *****
Angel's Egg ***
Armageddon **

13th February 2017

Doomed Megalopolis ****
Slayers Gorgeous ***
Bubblegum Crisis ****
The Five Star Stories ***1/2

1st February 2017

Project A-Ko ***1/2
Psychic Wars 1/2
Golgo 13: Queen Bee 1/2
Slayers Great **1/2

1st December 2016

Slayers Return ***1/2
Cyber City Oedo 808 ****
Plastic Little: The Adventures of Captain Tita ***1/2
Ruin Explorers: Fam and Ihrie ****

10th November 2016

A Wind Named Amnesia ***1/2
Dirty Pair Flash: Random Angels ***
Slayers: The Motion Picture ***
Street Fighter Alpha: The Movie ***

23rd October 2016

Pet Shop of Horrors **1/2
AD Police ***
Demon City Shinjuku ***1/2
Riding Bean ***1/2

17th September 2016

Ranma 1/2: Nihao My Concubine **1/2
Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal ****
Sol Bianca ****
Silent Möbius **1/2

28th August 2016

Dirty Pair Flash: Angels at World's End **
Vampire Wars *
Gunsmith Cats ****
Ranma 1/2 The Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China **1/2

29th July 2016

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again ***
Dirty Pair Flash: Angels in Trouble ***
Red Hawk: Weapon of Death **1/2
Memories ***1/2

10th July 2016

Burn Up W **
Urotsukidôji II: Legend of the Demon Womb *1/2
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku ***
Tokyo Revelation **

26th June 2016

Dominion Tank Police ***
Twilight of the Dark Master **
You're Under Arrest: The Complete OVAs ****
Twin Signal **1/2

22nd May 2016

You're Under Arrest: The Movie ***1/2
Oh My Goddess! ***1/2
Wicked City ***1/2
Shadow Skill ***1/2

11th March 2016

Patlabor 2 *****
Madox-01 **
Zaion: I Wish You Were Here *1/2
Psycho Diver **

24th January 2016

Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend *
New Dominion Tank Police ***
Street Fighter 2: The Movie **1/2
Appleseed **

11th December 2015

Macross Plus (Movie Edition) ****
Armitage III: Polymatrix ***1/2
Bio Hunter **1/2
Gunbuster ****

30th August 2015

Adventures With Iczer 3 **1/2
Black Jack *1/2
Ghost Sweeper Mikami **1/2
Dragon Half ****

31st July 2015

Patlabor: The Movie ****1/2
Casshan: Robot Hunter **1/2
Geobreeders ***1/2
The Dark Myth ***1/2

28th June 2015

X: The Movie ****
Spriggan ****
New Gall Force ***
Zeoraima - Project Hades **

29th May 2015

Vampire Hunter D **1/2
Dangaoih *1/2
Orguss 02 ****
Roujin Z ***1/2

8th May 2015

Bubblegum Crash! **1/2
Virus Buster Serge **
Amon Saga **
Rayearth ***1/2

29th March 2015

Ninja Scroll ***1/2
Detonator Orgun **
Landlock ***
Macross Plus (OVA) ***


[Reviews arranged By Title / By Rating]

Film Ramble: Drowning in Nineties Anime Review Index (By Title)

1 - 10

3X3 Eyes ***1/2
3X3 Eyes: Legend of the Divine Demon ****

A

AD Police ***
Adventure Duo: Yôjû Sensen **
Adventures With Iczer 3 **1/2
Agent Aika: Final Battle **
Agent Aika: Naked Missions **1/2
A.LI.CE *
Alien Defender Geo-Armor: Kishin Corps ***1/2
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku ***
Amon Saga **
Angel's Egg ***
Appleseed **
Arcadia of My Youth ***1/2
Armageddon **
Armitage III: Polymatrix ***1/2
Assemble Insert ****

B

Babel II **
Battle Angel ***1/2
Battle Arena Toshinden *1/2
Battle Skipper **
Big Wars ***
Bio Hunter **1/2
Black Jack *1/2
Black Lion *1/2
Black Magic M-66 **1/2
Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma ***1/2
Bubblegum Crash! **1/2
Bubblegum Crisis ****
Burn Up! ***1/2
Burn Up W **

C

Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie ***1/2
Casshan: Robot Hunter **1/2
A Chinese Ghost Story ***1/2
City Hunter: .357 Magnum *1/2
City Hunter: Secret Service *1/2
City Hunter: The Motion Picture ***1/2
Cleopatra D.C. ***
The Cockpit ****1/2
Colorful *
Cyber City Oedo 808 ****
Cybernetics Guardian ***

D

The Dagger of Kamui **1/2
Dangaoih *1/2
The Dark Myth ***1/2
Darkside Blues ****
Demon City Shinjuku ***1/2
Detatoko Princess ***
Detonator Orgun **
Digital Devil *1/2
Dirty Pair Flash: Angels at World's End **
Dirty Pair Flash: Angels in Trouble ***
Dirty Pair Flash: Random Angels ***
Domain of Murder ***
Dominion Tank Police ***
Doomed Megalopolis ****
Dragon Half ****

E

Eight Clouds Rising **1/2
Elf Princess Rane ***
Ellcia **1/2
The E.Y.E.S of Mars *

F

Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture *1/2
The Five Star Stories ***1/2

G

Geobreeders ***1/2
Geobreeders 2: Breakthrough ***1/2
Gestalt **
Ghost in the Shell *****
Ghost Sweeper Mikami **1/2
Golgo 13: Queen Bee 1/2
GoShogun: The Time Étranger ****1/2
Green Legend Ran ****
Guardian of Darkness ***
Gunbuster ****
Gundress *1/2
Gunsmith Cats ****

H

Harmagedon **1/2
The Heroic Legend of Arslan **1/2
The Humanoid *

I

Idol Project ***
Iria: Zeiram ***

J


K

Kekko Kamen **
Kimera **
Kite ***1/2
Knights of Ramune **1/2

L

Landlock ***
Legend of Crystania: The Motion Picture ***1/2
Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring ***1/2
Legend of Lemnear ***
Lily C.A.T ***
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland **1/2
Lupin the Third: The Secret of Twilight Gemini *1/2

M

Macross Plus (Movie Edition) ****
Macross Plus (OVA) ***
Madara ***1/2
Madox-01 **
Magic User's Club! ****
Mask of Zeguy **1/2
Master of Mosquiton ***
Maze **1/2
M.D. Geist 1/2
M. D. Geist II: Death Force *1/2
Memories ***1/2
Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket ****
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack ***
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 1 ***
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 2: Soldiers of Sorrow **1/2
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 3: Encounters in Space ***1/2

Moldiver **
My Dear Marie ****

N

New Dominion Tank Police ***
New Gall Force ***
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge ****
Ninja Cadets *1/2
Ninja Resurrection **
Ninja Scroll ***1/2

O

Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight ***
Oh My Goddess! ***1/2
Orguss 02 ****
Otaku no Video ***

P

Patlabor: The Movie ****1/2
Patlabor 2 *****
Perfect Blue ****1/2
Pet Shop of Horrors **1/2
Phantom Quest Corp **1/2
Photon: The Idiot Adventures ***1/2
Plastic Little: The Adventures of Captain Tita ***1/2
Please Save My Earth ***1/2
Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back **
Project A-Ko ***1/2
Project A-Ko 2: Love & Robots **1/2
Project A-Ko: Uncivil Wars **
Psychic Force *
Psychic Wars 1/2
Psycho Diver **

Q

Queen Emeraldas ****

R

Ranma 1/2: Nihao My Concubine **1/2
Ranma 1/2 The Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China **1/2
Rayearth ***1/2
Red Hawk: Weapon of Death **1/2
Rei Rei ***
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie *****
RG Veda *1/2
Riding Bean ***1/2
Robot Carnival ****1/2
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise ****1/2
Roujin Z ***1/2
Ruin Explorers: Fam and Ihrie ****

S

Saber Marionette R ***
Sakura Wars: The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms ***
Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms ***
Samurai: Hunt For the Sword *1/2
Samurai X: The Motion Picture ***
Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal ****
Shadow Skill ***1/2
Shamanic Princess ****
Shinesman ***
Silent Möbius **1/2
Silent Service ***1/2
Slayers Gorgeous ***
Slayers Great **1/2
Slayers Return ***1/2
Slayers: The Motion Picture ***
Sol Bianca ****
Sol Bianca: The Legacy ***1/2
Spectral Force *1/2
Spirit Warrior: Castle of Illusion ***
Spirit Warrior: Festival of the Ogre's Revival **
Spriggan ****
Spring and Chaos ****
Street Fighter 2: The Movie **1/2
Street Fighter Alpha: The Movie ***
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again ***

T

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki ***1/2
Tenchi the Movie: Tenchi Muyo in Love ***
Tenchi the Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness **
Tenchi the Movie 3: Tenchi Forever ****
They Were Eleven ***1/2
Tokyo Babylon **1/2
Tokyo Revelation **
Twilight of the Dark Master **
Twin Signal **1/2

U

Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend *
Urotsukidôji II: Legend of the Demon Womb *1/2
Urusei Yatsura Movie 1: Only You ****
Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer ****1/2
Urusei Yatsura Movie 3: Remember My Love ***1/2
Urusei Yatsura Movie 4: Lum the Forever ***
Urusei Yatsura Movie 5: The Final Chapter ****
Urusei Yatsura Movie 6: Always My Darling ***1/2
Urusei Yatsura: Inaba the Dreammaker ***
Urusei Yatsura: Ryoko's September Tea Party *1/2

V

Vampire Hunter D **1/2
Vampire Princess Miyu ****
Vampire Wars *
Venus Wars ****
Violence Jack 1/2
Virgin Fleet **
Virus Buster Serge **
Voogie's Angels **

W

The Weathering Continent ***1/2
Wicked City ***1/2
Wild Cardz *1/2
A Wind Named Amnesia ***1/2
Wizardry **
Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie ***

X

X: The Movie ****

Y

You're Under Arrest: The Complete OVAs ****
You're Under Arrest: The Movie ***1/2
Ys: Legacy (Book One) *1/2
Ys: Legacy (Book Two) **

Z

Zaion: I Wish You Were Here *1/2
Zeoraima - Project Hades **


[Reviews arranged By Date / By Rating]

Film Ramble: Drowning in Nineties Anime Review Index (By Rating)

1/10 (Atrocious)


2/10 (Poor)

Colorful
A.LI.CE
The E.Y.E.S of Mars
The Humanoid
Psychic Force
Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend
Vampire Wars

3/10 (Watchable)

Battle Arena Toshinden
Black Jack
Black Lion
City Hunter: .357 Magnum
City Hunter: Secret Service
Dangaoih
Digital Devil
Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture
Gundress
Lupin the Third: The Secret of Twilight Gemini
M. D. Geist II: Death Force
Ninja Cadets
RG Veda
Samurai: Hunt For the Sword
Spectral Force
Urotsukidôji II: Legend of the Demon Womb
Urusei Yatsura: Ryoko's September Tea Party
Wild Cardz
Ys: Legacy (Book One)
Zaion: I Wish You Were Here

4/10 (Not Bad)

Burn Up W
Adventure Duo: Yôjû Sensen
Agent Aika: Final Battle
Amon Saga
Appleseed
Armageddon
Babel II
Battle Skipper
Detonator Orgun
Dirty Pair Flash: Angels at World's End
Gestalt
Kekko Kamen
Kimera
Madox-01
Moldiver
Ninja Resurrection
Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back
Project A-Ko: Uncivil Wars
Psycho Diver
Spirit Warrior: Festival of the Ogre's Revival
Tenchi the Movie 2: Daughter of Darkness
Tokyo Revelation
Twilight of the Dark Master
Virgin Fleet
Virus Buster Serge
Voogie's Angels
Ys: Legacy (Book Two)
Wizardry
Zeoraima - Project Hades

5/10 (Worth a Watch)

Adventures With Iczer 3
Agent Aika: Naked Missions
Bio Hunter
Black Magic M-66
The Dagger of Kamui
Bubblegum Crash!
Casshan: Robot Hunter
Eight Clouds Rising
Ellcia
Ghost Sweeper Mikami
Harmagedon
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Knights of Ramune
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
Mask of Zeguy
Maze
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 2: Soldiers of Sorrow
Pet Shop of Horrors
Phantom Quest Corp
Project A-Ko 2: Love & Robots
Ranma 1/2: Nihao My Concubine
Ranma 1/2 The Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China
Red Hawk: Weapon of Death
Silent Möbius
Slayers Great
Street Fighter 2: The Movie
Tokyo Babylon
Twin Signal
Vampire Hunter D

6/10 (Good)

AD Police
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
Angel's Egg
Big Wars
Cleopatra D.C.
Cybernetics Guardian
Detatoko Princess
Dirty Pair Flash: Angels in Trouble
Dirty Pair Flash: Random Angels
Domain of Murder
Dominion Tank Police
Elf Princess Rane
Guardian of Darkness
Iria: Zeiram
Judge
Jungle De Ikou
Landlock
Legend of Lemnear
Lily C.A.T
Macross Plus (OVA)
Master of Mosquiton
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 1
New Dominion Tank Police
New Gall Force
Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight
Otaku no Video
Rei Rei
Saber Marionette R
Sakura Wars: The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms
Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms
Samurai X: The Motion Picture
Shinesman
Slayers Gorgeous
Slayers: The Motion Picture
Sol Bianca: The Legacy
Spirit Warrior: Castle of Illusion
Street Fighter Alpha: The Movie
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again
Tenchi the Movie: Tenchi Muyo in Love
Urusei Yatsura Movie 4: Lum the Forever
Urusei Yatsura: Inaba the Dreammaker
Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie

7/10 (Very Good)

3X3 Eyes
Alien Defender Geo-Armor: Kishin Corps
Arcadia of My Youth
Armitage III: Polymatrix
Battle Angel
Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma
Burn Up!
A Chinese Ghost Story
Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie
City Hunter: The Motion Picture
The Dark Myth
Demon City Shinjuku
The Five Star Stories
Geobreeders
Geobreeders 2: Breakthrough
Idol Project
Kite
Legend of Crystania: The Motion Picture
Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring
Madara
Memories
Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 3: Encounters in Space
Ninja Scroll
Oh My Goddess!
Photon: The Idiot Adventures
Plastic Little: The Adventures of Captain Tita
Please Save My Earth
Project A-Ko
Rayearth
Roujin Z
Shadow Skill
Silent Service
Slayers Return
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki
They Were Eleven
Urusei Yatsura Movie 3: Remember My Love
Urusei Yatsura Movie 6: Always My Darling
The Weathering Continent
Wicked City
A Wind Named Amnesia
You're Under Arrest: The Movie

8/10 (Highly Recommended)

3X3 Eyes: Legend of the Divine Demon
Assemble Insert
Bubblegum Crisis
Cyber City Oedo 808
Darkside Blues
Doomed Megalopolis
Dragon Half
Green Legend Ran
Gunbuster
Gunsmith Cats
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Macross Plus (Movie Edition)
Magic User's Club!
Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
My Dear Marie
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge
Orguss 02
Queen Emeraldas
Ruin Explorers: Fam and Ihrie
Shamanic Princess
Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal
Sol Bianca
Spriggan
Spring and Chaos
Tenchi the Movie 3: Tenchi Forever
Urusei Yatsura Movie 1: Only You
Urusei Yatsura Movie 5: The Final Chapter
Vampire Princess Miyu
Venus Wars
X: The Movie
You're Under Arrest: The Complete OVAs

9/10 (Classic)

The Cockpit
GoShogun: The Time Étranger
Patlabor: The Movie
Perfect Blue
Robot Carnival
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise
Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer

10/10 (Unmissable)

Ghost in the Shell
Patlabor 2
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie


[Reviews arranged By Date / By Rating]

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Film Ramble: Drowning in Nineties Anime, Pt. 46

I've got behind on these posts again!  Honestly, I've so many of them on the go, and so much stuff to watch on the shelf, and the only real lesson I've taken away from all this is that you should never start collecting anything ever, even if it's awesome and provides you with deep and abiding joy and makes the world a better place and goddammit now I want to watch more nineties anime.  This is madness!  Send help!

This time: Eight Clouds Rising, Babel II, Please Save My Earth, and My Dear Marie...

Eight Clouds Rising, 1997, dir: Tomomi Mochizuki

My latest weird nineties anime obsession - should that be weird nineties anime sub-obsession? - is tracking down titles from Media Blasters subdivision Anime Works, out of all the major distributors of the time surely the one with least quality control or sense of shame.  And yes, that's really saying something: but if a title was released that was unfinished, or a tie-in web series, or the prologue to a video game not released outside of Japan, or just plain awful, there are good odds it would come out under their label.  Yet on the flip side, much like U. S. Manga Corps, their frequently weird choices also threw up plenty of minor gems that might never have made it to the West in more discriminating hands.

Case in point, Eight Clouds Rising, a Manga adaptation that leaves most of the story untold and instead serves as a two-episode prologue, establishing characters, conflict, and setting.  Which would suck were it not for the fact that they're very good characters navigating a well-developed conflict, and if the setting of a village in rural Japan is hardly one we've never seen before, it's at least brought to life with some distinctive artwork.  Really, that's Eight Clouds Rising all over: familiar in almost every detail and distinguished by being a little better than most similar titles and a little smarter and more adult in its approach.  That extends from the character designs to the interpersonal drama to the convoluted historical back story.  It felt to me a lot like an updating of Dark Myth, which I've a ton of time for even if no one else has, and also a Japanese take on The Wicker Man if the villagers were basically in the right.

Given the rather steady, meticulous approach, there isn't much space left in less than an hour for set pieces or lavish moments, but what we do get is striking.  The bloody familial ritual that opens the second episode is a grueling bit of horror made effective largely because we've had extra time to get to know the characters.  A clash in a nighttime forest immediately after works for largely the same reasons.  It's actually nice to see this kind of story told in a relatively intimate fashion: coming to it after the dreary apocalyptic drama of the X TV series, I have to admit that was a relief.  Yet the result remains something that probably only Anime Works would have bothered with: pleasant for what it is but too short to be the treat that another hour or two operating at the same level might have resulted in.  Like so much of their catalogue, it's the sort of title you might have picked up at a rental store and enjoyed despite its running time, but with copies tough to track down now, it's inevitably bound for total obscurity - and that's kind of a shame.

Babel II, 1992, dir: Yoshihisa Matsumoto

Normally I'm loathe to buy dub-only releases.  I'd always rather hear the original voice actors, and honestly it seems to me that there's something kind of wrong about wanting to enjoy the culture of another country without the language.  But mostly it's because I usually find American dubs pretty cheesy.  So I was all set to splash out on Discotek's recent blu-ray re-release of Babel II, until I read some less than positive reviews and watched the less than overwhelming trailer.  Plus, I tend to go for the original releases where I can, to add that bit of extra authenticity to my nineties anime experience or somesuch nonsense.  Point being, when a thoroughly ancient-looking "perfect"* collection appeared for not much money, I decided to bend my rules.

I needn't have worried.  Yes, the dub is cheesy, but so is the material; at worst I was grating a bit of Parmesan onto an already laden four cheese pizza.  Babel II is so goofy and of its time that it almost feels like parody at points: when our psychic hero's three guardians arrived and they were a giant robot, a black panther, and a dragon, I couldn't keep from chuckling.  What could sum up the fantasies of a teenage boy in the nineties better than that?  In fact, you can largely predict the plot by guessing what said teenage boy would want to happen next.  The only exception is the initial setup, which threatens to be something smarter: nearly inducted by a cult of super-powered individuals, young Koichi realises their leader's sinister intentions, only to discover in short order that he's the successor to the biblical Babel, who was really a space alien you see, and built his namesake tower as an antenna to reach out to his own kind, only to have it torn down by dumb earthlings.

I mean, okay, that's a ridiculous premise, but at least it's novel, and the first episode lays it out intriguingly, keying us in to the bigger picture only as Koichi himself discovers it.  So it's shocking that by the end of the second, the Babel stuff has vanished, never to return, and what replaces it is lots of punching and shouting and psychic attack volleyball, held together by nothing much beside one of anime's most tepid romance subplots.  Really, it's staggering how much Babel II squanders its better elements, even at the cost of narrative logic: Koichi routinely forgets he has basically unlimited superpowers and insists on fighting alone against overwhelming odds when he has a dragon, giant robot, and shadow-panther presumably just cooling their heels somewhere off camera.

At least it looks pretty good.  There's enthusiastic use of colour and the budget was obviously none too stingy.  However, even there, director Matsumoto leans too heavily into the sorts of animation shortcuts that were already old hat by 1992, so that many a solid shot has the life sucked out of it by being followed by a needlessly crummy one.  All told, Babel II is a title that just can't stop shooting itself in the foot.  And the worst of it is, there's a fun show crying to get out here; a cheesy, stupid, nineties-teenager-endorsed one to be sure, but still fun.  I was, after all, a teenager in the nineties, and a part of my soul responded with glee to the cool musical sting that played when the title came up each episode, not to mention those preposterous companions.  At half it's length, Babel II would have offered some solid entertainment, but with only a couple of good ideas that it mostly ignores, there's nowhere near enough here to fill two hours.

Please Save My Earth, 1993, dir: Kazuo Yamazaki

The first thing you notice about Please Save My Earth is that it's gorgeous.  And that should come as no real surprise: not only was this an adaptation of a monumentally popular manga, it was created by Production I.G., around the same time that studio were producing such visually extraordinary work as Patlabor 2 and Ghost in the Shell.  More than anything, no-one animates the human form better than I.G. do, and that's a huge boon for material more concerned with its characters than almost anything else, and which troubles itself with action only in brief spurts.  Though when it comes, it's a reminder that there's something else Production I.G. were in the top tier of: a clash between psychics toward the end is perhaps my favourite example of that overdone trope, genuinely capturing the sense of people with extraordinary powers trying to tear each other apart with their minds.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  What we have here is a six episode OVA with an appealingly grabby concept: a group of teens come to discover from their shared dreams of other lives that they are in fact the reincarnations of a bunch of alien scientists who until recently were monitoring the Earth from a base on the moon, until they were struck down by a tragedy that's only revealed in doled out snippets.  You might expect that mystery to be the focus, but rather the cast - including seven-year-old Rin, who's up to his second reincarnation - take centre stage.  In particular, the show concerns itself with the questions their predicament raises.  Confronted with a past life as real as your present one, do you let it own you?  Do you reject it?  Do you have the choice?  And young Rin, for reasons as close to a narrative spine as really exists, has more trouble letting go than anyone, due to the discovery that his neighbour was once the tragic love of his life.

There's a lot going on there, and it's fair to say that Please Save My Earth doesn't do an especially splendid job of juggling it.  Plot lines bob to the surface, characters take precedence for a while and then vanish, we never get quite enough flashbacks to the moon to fully appreciate the significance of events in the present, and what seems like the crux of the story ends up forgotten in favour of a final episode that doesn't wrap up much at all.  On the flip side, that last episode is a terrific character study full of exciting, difficult ideas, and really that's the show from top to bottom: as messy as any attempt to cherry-pick a narrative from a much-loved, twenty-two volume manga could hope to be and yet frequently excellent on a scene by scene basis.  I guess that's the influence of those terrific production values as much as anything, along with a haunting score from the great Hajime Mizoguchi and a closing track by the incomparable Yôko Kanno.  But as much so it's down to a script that's unafraid to wrestle with the concepts it raises, and manages to make them meaningful on a level beyond the somewhat batty sci-fi notion.

With all of that said, it's unfortunate that Please Save My Earth isn't easier to get hold of.  It was released by Viz, who from what I've picked up so far were exceptionally reliable on quality and exceptionally sucky at getting their products out into the world.  Hopefully they, or someone else, will eventually rescue their back catalogue, because this is the sort of anime that shouldn't be languishing in obscurity.  Its imperfections are numerous and mostly down to the fact that it was clearly intended as a companion piece rather than an alternative to the manga, but it's still smart, gorgeous, intriguing stuff, made by talented people at the peak of their considerable powers.

My Dear Marie, 1996, dir: Tomomi Mochizuki

Anime is unique in its ability to balance creepiness with cuteness in ways that really shouldn't work, and no release I've seen pulls off that unlikely balance better than My Dear Marie.  Within cringe-worthy seconds we're introduced to technological genius and socially inept nerd Hiroshi Karigari on the advent of his greatest triumph.  Not content with joining the college tennis club so that he can stalk Marie, the girl he's infatuated with, he's now built a robot double of her, exact in every detail except hair colour.  Only, things don't go quite to plan: to his surprise, if not ours, robot Marie wakes up on her own and it rapidly becomes apparent that she's not going to be content loitering around the house being letched over.  After she reveals her existence to Hiroshi's classmates, who insist on posing awkward questions about who this person who looks just like their Marie is, he's forced to pretend that the pink-haired, android version is his sister, a role she seems mostly content with.

That, mind you, is just the first ten minutes, and things soon get a good deal more complicated.  At first that's in the sort of ways you'd expect: the remainder of the first episode finds robot Marie trying to fix up human Marie with Hiroshi, while secretly wondering if she mightn't just keep him for herself.  But episode two goes off on a wild tangent, in which tough girl Hibiki falls instantly in love with Hiroshi and then blackmails him into dating her.  And by episode three we have robot Marie getting retrofitted with a subconscious and interrogating the nature of her existence through the surrealism of dreams, because where else would you take a three episode show about a guy building his perfect girlfriend than a mediation on sentience that explicitly references Philip K. Dick?

This works for a number of reasons, and the solid animation, with some unusually sketchy and very appealing character designs, is definitely among them, as is Hisaaki Hogari's playful score.  But honestly, all the nice animation and music couldn't have saved My Dear Marie had it decided to play up its seedier aspects.  Thank goodness it isn't that: it's infinitely sweeter, a good deal cleverer, and shockingly willing to indulge its better impulses.  Foremost of those is taking its cast seriously, even when reducing them to stereotypes might be funnier.  My Dear Marie really isn't that funny as comedies go, but there are grace notes that are more satisfying.  In that last episode, for example (one of my favourite episodes of anything in quite a while, by the way) there's a running gag in which robot Marie insists on waking up an unimpressed Hiroshi to narrate her weird dreams, until he finally snaps and points out in detail why other people's dreams are boring.  It's not laugh-out-loud hilarious, but Marie's glee at sharing the Freudian details of her mental landscape and Hiroshi disgruntled mix of geekish pride and awkwardness raise the sort of fond smile only familiarity can bring.

Honestly, maybe I'm giving credit where it's not entirely due.  Maybe My Dear Marie isn't problematicising gender roles and messing with preconceptions and prodding at the nature of existence half as much as I decided.  Maybe its repeated insistence on sexualising robot Marie one minute and reminding us of her inhumanity the next is purely coincidental.  Heck, maybe that third episode isn't the recursive Zen parable I took it for.  I suppose that if you stripped all of that away, you'd merely have an odd, charming, three episode OVA with unusually developed characters and not much of an ending.  But assuming for the moment that I'm right, the result is one of those rare shows that does something else only anime seems capable of: taking the dumbest, most hackneyed concepts and dredging fascinating treasures from their depths.

-oOo-

Given that it's ages since I watched these, I don't have anything very useful to say in conclusion.  I feel a bit bad for selling my copy of Eight Clouds Rising, but realistically was I ever going to watch it again?  Probably not.  Whereas I feel really good about selling my copy of Babel II.  Of the keepers, it's definitely My Dear Marie that's stuck with me, in part because the autotext on my phone seems obsessed with it.  And on the whole, I kind of feel this wasn't a great selection, probably because Please Save My Earth has refused to linger in my memory even slightly.

Ah well!  I'm sure the next lot will make everything okay!  Where there's nineties anime, there's hope.



[Other reviews in this series: By Date / By Title / By Rating]



* Given the lack of language options, extras, or anything else beside the thoughtful inclusion of chapter stops, I doubt the word perfect has ever been abused more thoroughly.