Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grave of the Fireflies

Don't know if you have realized by reading my blog but I'm a animation fanatic, anything animated I'll watch, even if is targeted for kids. I am also always looking for a more mature animation, often looking into anime because at their end, animation is a equal media as movies, at least that's what I perceive. I exactly found that with Grave of the Fireflies a mature look on World War II, more specifically a social history look all done in animation?! The animation and history geek inside me are both dancing!

Context of the film is that it's in the middle of the War, and two young kids are escaping to the shelter when a firebombing is about to arrive. Firebombing isn't exactly a devastating war technique but at those regions of japan, with most wood house it can be, in essence they're simple tin can filled with oil. Their mother is quickly injured in this first firebombing of their hometown and they are forced to fend on their own since their father is in the Navy. Two kids, one fourteen year old boy and a four year old girl, living in a context of war. After their cruel aunt keeps hassling them they decide to permanently live in the shelter alone.

The art style still holds up for today, nothing to complicated simply what they needed to push trough their message. Sometimes it can be downright gruesome, a few scenes really depict the burn victim eerily. Even sometimes the subtle changes in the kids physique when starvation takes toll on their bodies. Coupled with some great animation, really makes the film incredible. A simple scene were they are taking bath and a simple air bubble with a towel and its eventual pop, made it permanently stick in my mind and gave me a dumb grin on my face for no reason.

There are so many simple nuance that I love about the film. For instance it doesn't focus on the glorious battles of a country, in fact Japan loses the war. There isn't one single "action" scene if you know what I mean, no gunshot or battles, just the simple struggle of two individuals. Maybe I'm being brainwashed by one of my university professor and his constant preaching on the important of social history as opposed to event-driven history, but this really was an amazing look on other aspects of the effects of war. Lastly, there are these simple pauses, when I say simple pauses I mean it. These extra two second look on a particular action makes you really realize what going on and makes you think about it that much more.

I could talk about a lot of other things but I'm scared of spoiling anything for the people who haven't watched. There just something about it that's hard to explain, this unexplainable fear of the safety of those kids each time the sirens run. It isn't for everyone, I know people who would just shrug it off and say its too depressing. Still in my opinion a must see.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Something that keeps reminiscing into my childhood oddly enough is Godzilla, I think I might one of the only people of my age who actually watched a lot of old Godzilla movies as a kid. I think it all began with the American release of the simply titled Godzilla, back then my simple mind loved the film. I even shed a simple tear when they got Godzilla got killed, I still do today but for a whole different reason mostly being such a horrible film and all. The huge success of the film (financially anyways...) gave the producers enough reason to milk it even more I suppose, so Godzilla the Animated series was born! I don't remember much from it apart that it was pretty horrible, it had all the super cliché characters you could imagine in the 90's animated series. For some reason Godzilla was adopted by a human because Godzilla considered him his father or something ludicrous like that...

Still I thank those American counter parts for at least making me interested in other Godzilla related stuff. So I searched around for anything Godzilla related I was still extremely limited because of my age at the time, which was like 10-12 or something like that. I started buying all the toys (action figure for the sensitive ones, I still think they're toys), I still have few I might be able to find if I would go in the attic looking. If I remember correctly I have a Mecha-Ghidorah, Godzilla 2000 and a Megalon with the broken horn, most of them found in yard sales and other weird places. I can't seem to find them I though that at least one of them would of been in my closet but no. If I do ever find them I'll be sure to post them, but sadly they might of been lost when I moved. I did manage to find a baby Godzilla from the American movie but that's not cool in any way.

Not only that but I needed to watch some of the films and I did, mostly found on late night television, they were announcing it days before which only hyped my experience. I found myself really lucky to find an actual Godzilla movie on cable TV, heck I only had 12 channels at the time! Still remember how I snuck out of bed just to watch a Godzilla movie at 2 in the morning. So my first Godzilla movie outside the American version was Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Still today I consider it my favorite and the best, don't know if I'm being bias or not, but the cheesy dialogue mixed with weird time traveling and equally cheesy action scenes really did it for me. Since then I watched a bunch more, anything I could get my eyes on, I know that there are a bunch more movies that I haven't seen but maybe that's a good thing.

My small Godzilla obsession faded through time, but still today I'll catch some films from time to time. I also got interested in monster movies in general. I think without Godzilla I wouldn't of watched great movies like the old 50's movies like Tarantula and It Came From Beneath The Sea or the 80's movies like the Blob, Tremors, The Fly and even might not of seen Alien. Sure they weren't massive destructoids like Godzilla nonetheless no doubt there was a influence behind me wanting to watch those films.

After that seemed dry for awhile there just wasn't any monsters for a long time, people got bored and started making nature kill everything, like volcanoes and tornadoes; you might remember the whole resurgence of the disaster movies. Then there was Cloverfield that I was super hyped for, ever since there was the cryptic preview. First watch, I completely hated the film the camera work annoyed the hell of me the plot was simply dull and uninteresting. My second watch I learned to appreciate it, I was looking for a long awaited monster movie and that just wasn't it. If anything it was ok, nothing special nor is it anything bad. I especially like the subway scene. I still think the monster looks like an anorexic zombie clown, haven't decided if that bad or not yet.

I did found an extremely surprising monster film from South Korea named The Host. I was blown away by this film I loved everything about it, one of my favorite monster films. It is a must see for any monster film fan, I highly recommend it to anyone. Sad news is that they are making a sequel, now I'm not very fond of sequels, often seems like they are trying to milk it in some way. Even more devastating news, they making an American remake...Dear god no. I know I`ll be the first guy to see it in theaters but still...haven`t you learned anything for Godzilla already!?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Change Already.

I consider myself more of an old school gamer, I don't exactly like the term but that's what I am. I haven't jumped into the newer consoles that much yet I own a single Xbox 360 game which is the mindless destructive fun of Mercenaries 2, an impulsive yet enjoyable buy. A large factor that keeps me into older games is that there are still a huge amount of games from the old generation that I haven't played yet, it would be a shame to skip out on some of the greats from the last generation. Also it is useful to add that, it's not that I don't like the new games that continually come out, there are some brilliant and innovative games out that explore more than a simple rehash and sequels, heck some of the sequels seem really to place some incredible effort into making their experience worthwhile even if they have a safe fanbase already established with their series. I also don't believe the whole bullcrap that people are spewing that developers are taking too much effort into graphics over gameplay. Some games have amazing graphics as well as amazing gameplay.

There's just one game genre that keeps confusing me they don't seem to want to change, not only the company but the fans either don't want to change. Both sides seem to be in a full nostalgic mode, unwilling to accept the fact they the gameplay is dated. Even me, I've been avoiding it because it doesn't change or innovated in something new, yet I still hypocritically enjoy the older titles even sometimes I go and pay some of the games just because of that nostalgic feel in a new game. I'm specifically talking about RPGs, from Final Fantasy, Tales of ______ or to the newer Blue Dragon and Eternal Sonata.

Turn based action seems horribly dated to me, we've been using since forever and even today it's a major game mechanic for almost every RPG. Seems also that every time I mention that I find turn based RPGs dated, there always the same response “Alright go play you Western RPGs then!”. What!? No way, most of western RPG are horrible by themselves and can't even substitute for anything. Adding a few RPG elements into a mediocre action/adventure game isn't fun or innovative, you simply added two mediocre experiences together and got an even more mediocre gaming experience. Even worst is when and japanese company tries to makes and american RPG (see Super Paper Mario). Also, this whole region deciding the type of game needs to change, same thing with animation, come on people Teen Titans and Avatar are anime even if they were made in america get over it, now back on topic. Nobody seems to have been able to find a perfect mix of both, apart from Oblivion and Fallout 3, yet the eastern audience still doesn't appreciate it. The huge problem is that I don't even know what I want seems I'm looking for a sublime RPG experience mixed with a more modern gaming feel, but what is that exactly? I have no fucking clue.

I Might be sounding a little harsh while at the same thing don't know what I want but when Final Fantasy the flagship of RPGs innovated their gameplay and aren't even using the turn based gameplay, there's something deeply wrong. It's FINAL FANTASY they could simply market the same bland game with the same story over and over dumping them out each year like they used to, but now they are making some genuine effort (yet they are still milking FF7). A whole new position and command non-turnbased was supremely refreshing to see in final fantasy, its fast paced and really forces you to make the right decision quickly. You know what was pretty awesome too? No random encounters either, there no more excuse for random encounters, we have the technology. Yet Dragon Quest 8 was surprisingly refreshing, it was nothing innovative, turnbased, random encounters it had it all. It had all of the old school mechanic and this huge nostalgic feel to it, sure it had a few new mechanics like alchemy and monster battles but all of that is borrowed from other games.

There are a few games that amazed me and some I haven't played but from what I'm seeing and reading they're are innovating. First example is Valkyria Chronicles, a tactical RPG with live action positioning. I absolutely have to mention Tales of Symphonia, which I found amazing. The story is really horrible but it's the gameplay that shines, outside combat even. You have a ring that can do various things so you need to unlock puzzles and other stuff to progress, ala Breath of Fire. Plus the combat isn't turn based you have control of your character, you equip the spells and weapons before match each is unique and you see the difference. The one major factor I love is that it is multiplayer, yes a multiplayer RPG, it is only in battle sequences but for me it did the game.

I love to hate on Final Fantasy 7, the reaction is always priceless. I personally think it is a great game I didn't finish it back when because even then I found it boring turnbased game, but last month I finished it completely and it was good. Not amazing, I don't know if everyone knows this but FF7 is said to be the best Final Fantasy made. I completely disagree, it is only fueled but pure nostalgia and timing. The people who didn't played it when it came out won't enjoy it as much. There nothing really innovative, simple turnbased combat but cut down to 3 characters instead of 4 and a clunky materia system (materia is the poor man's esper). Even the story line disappointed, most of the time it was “because I said so” elements kinda like anything from Kojima from the Metal Gear fame. Again pure nostalgia exactly like this right here :

The simple fact is that games made 12 years ago were innovated in the most simple way, Chrono Trigger is a perfect example, you have positioning to think about, combining moves, which character would be better for the situation, semi-turned based, aesthetic changes in weapons and no random encounters. That was 12 years ago! Even now modern games still hold on the old RPG crutch. I always feel hypocritical when talking about this, I always supported simple fun games, you don't always need to innovated, but for RPGs I feel like they need to do something fast.

SIDE NOTE: Now that my school is done for the summer an my weekend decompression is over I have a full week until work so I'll try to post twice a day this week to compensate for lack of effort. I don't promise anything, I'm not good with commitments. Actually I'll be busy tonight so one post for today...