You only have to look at the box office to see that there’s no shortage of Western adaptations of (much better) anime properties. Ghost in the Shell is just the latest anime classic to get brought to Western shores. While that movie was a disappointing (but visually appealing) mess that doesn’t hold a candle to the original, it still got us thinking about the times when Japan flipped the script and tried their own hands at popular Western franchises. Here are five times it happened—and the results were actually pretty good.

The Animatrix

The sole non-comic adaptation on this list, The Animatrix brought some of the biggest names in animation together at the absolute peak of the Matrix’s popularity for an anthology film that still remains impressive today. The film featured direction by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), Mahiro Maeda (Gankutsuou: The Counte of Monte Cristo), Peter Chung (Aeon Flux), Takashi Koike (Redline), and Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll). With such an all-star team behind it, it’s no surprise that the film was a success and helped to lay the foundation for many of these director’s future works, notably Koike and Kawajiri. The two Second Renaissance films in particular do a great job of expanding the Matrix mythos and further explain the circumstances that led to the rise of the robots and creation of the Matrix.Continue reading

As much fun as it is to go to the Anime Expo®, you still need a place at the end of the day to store your swag and get a hot shower and maybe even cop some Zs. I mean, you can’t live on Starbucks and Red Bull for four plus days (well, you can try, but you could die). So, you have to think about accommodations.

One the plus side, the convention is of such a size and import that they can negotiate room deals with a variety of hotels in the area. On the down side, it may still be a bit costly to go.

As of the present date, there are seventeen hotels tethered into this Good Neighbor Program. The two closest ones to the Convention Center, the Ritz-Carlton and the J W Marriot (a mere 1/10 mile away) START at $224 a night. Yes, I know, if you get a bunch of pals to come together and are willing to bunk up, you can drive your personal cost down, but that means having to sleep with people who have differing diurnal/nocturnal schedules and what if you get a person who takes two hour showers and gobbles up all the hot water and clean towels? That’s the kind of guy you smother in their sleep and drop down the elevator shaft.Continue reading

Do not let the title of this show fool or throw you. Snow White with the Red Hair” (“Akagami no Shirayukihime”) only has the lead character share the name (and not really that); beyond this vague reference, she is her own woman. Shirayuki is a normal citizen of the kingdom of Tanbarun. Well, if you consider an herbalist ‘normal’; it is a rather rarified vocation. She has another unique feature: her red hair…which we already mentioned. When the first prince of Tanbarun, Raji Shenazard, orders her to become his concubine, rather than agreeing to this, she cuts her hair and escapes to the neighboring kingdom of Clarines. On her way there, she meets and befriends Prince Zen Wistalia and his two aides, Mitsuhide Lowen and Kiki Seiran (but obviously does not know this when they first meet).Continue reading

I did not know that this was part of a larger grouping of stories, referred to as the “Monogatari” (“Story”) series. I came in on Series #9 “Hanamonogatari” with a concurrent viewing of #11 “Owarimonogatari” (review on that later. Maybe). It’s just that they are very annoying both in presentation and content.

If I had watched them from the beginning, a lot of what transpires in this one would potentially make better sense, but it suffers the same problem as “Mekakucity Actors” or parts of “Penguin Drum”. But I get ahead of myself. The plot contends itself with Suruga Kanbaru (left), as she begins her third year in high school. She deals with her left hand that had been turned monstrous through the use of her mother’s monkey paw charm. After hearing rumors from Ougi Oshino of a Devil that can solve one’s problems, Suruga sets out to find this person. She secretly fears that this person is her. However, she soon discovers that the Devil is her former basketball rival from junior high, Rouka Numachi (right).Continue reading

Another of those off the hook shows, the capaciously titled “Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist” (“Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai) also really takes the concept of an alternate universe to…uh…an alternate universe. In future Japan (in trying to puzzle together the timeline, it could be, like, 2056), the Morality Police have cracked down on any and all things prurient and immoral, so no hentai, no ecchi, no eroge games, not even certain words are allowed in this squeaky clean and spiritually pure society.

Everyone wears a ‘morality collar’ (for wont of a better term), which is called a Peace Maker, that analyzes every spoken word for any action that could break the law. A new high-school student named Tanukichi Okuma (Mr. Shocked back there to the right) enters the country’s leading elite “public morals school” to reunite with his crush and student council President, Anna Nishikinomiya (Ms. Distraught Blue Eyes). However, Tanukichi quickly finds himself entwined with the perverted terrorist “Tundra Blue” when she kidnaps and forces him to join her organization, “SOX,” in creating and spreading pornographic material across the city.Continue reading

What you need to understand right out of the blocks for Prison School” (“Purizun Sukūru) is that this is the blackest comedy you will ever see. Your first clue is the guy at the right end, who reminds one of Little Face from the “Dick Tracy” movie. And, yes, what you see behind them is a barely-covered, completely massive bust line, but more on that later.

The plot: Hachimitsu Academy, one of the strictest girls’ academies in Tokyo (potentially worse than some dictatorial nations), has decided to admit boys into their system. To ‘integrate’ and have a kind of pilot program, five boys are selected to be among the 1000 girls. However, there are severe, yes, draconian, laws in place which punishes even the most minor infractions with a stay in the school’s prison. You betcha; in the center of the school commons is a cinderblock prison. Our cast of troublemakers (left to right): Jouji “Joe” Nezu, Shingo Wakamoto, Kiyoshi Fujino (the hero), Takehito “Gakuto” Morokuzu and Reiji “Andre” Andou are involved in an attempt to peep in the girl’s shower room, completely unaware that their actions are not welcome. Hell, they are not welcome. Well, it goes awry (naturally) and this causes the five boys to be “arrested” and receive an ultimatum: either stay a month in the school’s Prison Block or be expelled.Continue reading

Well, it’s that time of the season again, making plans to see one of the three biggest anime conventions in the world, The LA Anime Expo® (or ‘AX’). This year promises to be different than in seasons past, but much is still fraught with peril and uncertainty. Getting “Hamilton” tickets wasn’t this bad, but it was bad. I will gladly explain, as that is what I do best.

You have to make the commitment to this well in advance, as you need to be prepared in November to make the first sortie and then, you have to stay on top of things, lest it gets out of hand. This was the year that the daughter was going to be a vendor, but things got away from her (as is usually the case). It is rather intimidating to do this, as you have to mentally prepare for it and have the supplies on hand, so I don’t blame her for uncertainty and doubt. I have a hard enough time selling stuff on eBay, much less the intensity of four days of being in Artist’s Alley (and surviving on Subway sandwiches) while seeing tons of people who mostly glance and walk past or worse, make some kind of snarky comment. (“You’re an artist? You can’t even draw flies!”) So, she’ll be attending as a regular person. I am the one with the interesting tale.Continue reading

The problem with formulas is that, sooner or later, you are going to have to try ALL permutations, even if on the surface it sounds rather hard to accept or take in. With the harem high-school comedy Jitsu wa Watashi wa” (Actually, I am…”), we see a caliber of weird science.

This is a hard show to review, as you don’t want to tip things. I can safely say that all the ladies up there have a secret, but it works best if you left the show reveal it to you, rather than have me tell you that, like Kevin Spacey is Kaiser Sose (you haven’t seen “The Usual Suspects”? Ooops.)

We start off with Asahi Kuromine, a normal high school student who supposedly cannot keep a secret. His nickname is the Leaky Sieve. He finds his demeanor quickly challenged when he spots his classmate, Yōko Shiragami (green hair), in a classroom when school is over and done with. Ahh, but she has a secret (I have to tell this one, but I’ll leave the others intact, OK?)Continue reading

I sometimes have a problem with shows involving people with ‘special abilities’, as it seems to be a free license for them to either be major league perverts or major league megalomaniacs. Although this one does suffer from that conjecture, it is reined in to make for an involving show with some unforeseen consequences. Welcome to the world of Charlotte” (“Shārotto”).

We are in an alternative universe (although that explanation is not all that necessary, as you will soon see). We focus in on Yuu Otosaka (far left). He has an ‘ability’, which allows him to possess people for about 10 or so seconds. He uses this power to cheat on his exams and it gives the impression that he is Wile E. Coyote (“Super genius”). He transfers into Hinomori High School, where he does well, but falls under the suspicion of Nao Tomori (camera at right) and is forced to take a spot test in the office or risk expulsion. Upon discovering his talent, he is compelled to transfer into a new school (and just when he was putting the moves on Yumi Shirayanagi. the best girl in THIS school! Dangski!) However, Hoshinoumi Academy is no ordinary institute of education; it has gathered numerous ‘ability wielders’ to give them a shot at life.Continue reading

wakakozake-review

This is a very odd food series, almost like a food review segment in a news broadcast than a real show, but it certainly has less baggage with it than “Toriko” or “Shokugeki no Soma”. “Wakakozake” (“Wakako Sake”) tells the very brief tale of Wakako, who goes around to eating establishments after work to try and find something to eat that is (a) tasty and (b) inexpensive that (c) goes well with beer or sake. Wherever it is she works, there are loads and loads of places to eat around, so she drops in to dine on one food, like deep-fried asparagus skewers or steamed clams or yakitori.

Now, she has never had a bad dish of anything, but there is a tinge of sadness as she always dines alone. She feasts well, as the food fills her physical and most emotional needs. Or perhaps I am reading too much into this. In any case, it does help explain a variety of Japanese foods and what really goes into them to make it more than a squat ‘n’ gobble kind of place. The artwork is off, as she is very cartoony, but everyone else is more or less normal.Continue reading