Archive for the ‘video’ Category

Blame! Is a 2017 anime film released by Netflix, directed by Hiroyuki Seshita and written by Tsutomu Nihei and Sadayuki Murai (based on Nihei’s manga of the same name). [Spoiler alert!] The film opens with a small group of humans in high-tech exosuits exploring deep within a strange and ominous cityscape as they search for food—if food is defined as organic sludge coming out of a pipeline. They move stealthily to avoid the attention of something they call Safeguard and wear “helmettals”, helmets that hide their human features, a kind of camouflage from Safeguard and its watchtowers, while providing them with data-augmented vision (the kind of virtual overlay, or heads-up display, that Google glass aspired to). It’s not long until Safeguard detects their intrusion and sends exterminators after them—bizarre machines that run on four legs and wear Noh-like masks. In full retreat, the humans are quickly cut off, but a dark stranger named Killy appears to rescue them.

Unafraid of the killer machines, Killy wears no mask and wields superior weapons. He returns with the survivors to their village where we learn they are Electro-Fishers, a lone group of humans surviving in a sanctuary zone but on the brink of starvation. The Electro-Fishers are led by an older man named Pops who questions Killy. We learn a little—Killy is searching for humans who still possess the Net Terminal Gene, a gene which grants its possessor authority over the City, Safeguard, and the Builders.

Other than that, we never learn much about Killy. At first, I thought—Killy—this guy’s gonna do lots of killin’, and he does, sort of. One of the things I liked about Killy is he seemed like a standard protagonist, and I wanted to place him in the good guy category, but I was never quite sure as the story progressed—was he really helping the Electro-Fishers? Or just using them, or perhaps just allying with them as long as it serves his purpose. In that sense, his mysterious origin persists throughout the film adding a nice touch of anticipation.

The animation really stands out in terms of quality—it’s very well drawn with a beautiful sense of motion during action scenes. You really feel the dread as the exterminators scuttle towards the characters at an inhuman pace. The city itself is impressive for the overwhelming sense of unknowable machine complexity it conveys—a fully enclosed environment created by machines who lost or escaped the control of their human masters and now continue building, expanding the city for reasons only they understand. In terms of style, the film replicates the visuals, linework, and faces of Nihei’s anime series, Knights of Sidonia, also released on Netflix.

Watching this made me remember some past books and films. It bore a slight resemblance to Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three, although with a completely different setting, of course. Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson, also comes to mind. The obvious film comparison is to the Terminator series, although the feeling here is very different despite the shared killer-robot elements. In a way, it reminds me of an animated short, the Transcendent City, by Richard Hardy—a city created by machines for machines conveying an feeling of on-going processes we’ll never understand.

One gripe I have to get out is I still don’t know why the film is called Blame! Who’s to blame for losing the Net Terminal Gene? (how does one lose a gene anyway other than by going extinct?) Who’s to blame for getting everyone killed? I suspect I won’t know until I start reading the manga—always a recommended step for anime you love.

Overall, Blame! provides an hour and 46 minutes of excellent sci-fi adventure. While not the most complex storyline (especially compared to anime released in series), it has a fast pace and a satisfying conclusion (while leaving plenty of room for a sequel(s)). I commend Netflix for making this quality of anime available to wide audiences—keep it coming!

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The Boy and the Beast is a 2015 anime fantasy film written and directed by Mamoru Hosada. [Spoiler alert!] I really enjoyed this film, and I suspect anyone who appreciated Spirited Away will as well. The protagonist, a young boy named Kyūta, runs away from his mother’s family after her untimely death. Angry at his family, and especially his absent father, Kyūta ends up on the streets until he accepts an unusual offer and ends up in the world of the beasts, Jūtengai.

Kyūta’s rebelliousness is matched by the rough and tumble attitude of Kumatetsu, a maverick beast who takes him on as his apprentice. At first, Kumatetsu  is a horrible master and teacher. Together, it’s next to impossible either of them will succeed—but with the right encouragement and perseverance, they both begin to improve. Later, when Kyūta rediscovers the human world, he becomes torn between his need to learn new things and grow while coming to grips with the loose threads and old wounds of his past.

tenor

I found the characters delightful—rich and various—with a simplicity and innocence similar to those in Hayao Miyazaki’s works. The animation quality is superb, and the story moves quickly, interspersing action with humor, introduction of new characters, and plenty of unexpected directions. The film delivers entertainment with lessons about growing up, forgiveness, selflessness and caring.

While I normally prefer the Japanese audio, for those watching with younger kids who can’t keep up with subtitles, the English-dubbed version was nicely done (as a side note: there is one scene with graphic violence that may disturb some younger children). Overall, highly recommended for anime fans and families!

These three music videos are a lot of fun, and you should watch them now!

Welcome guest—I’d like to start you off with Flicker by Porter Robinson from his album Worlds. What starts out as a seemingly normal view from a train passing through Japan quickly evolves into an augmented reality of psychedelic digital reality overlaid on top of an otherwise mundane view of the countryside, residential neighborhoods, and

cityscapes. I might call this Anime Electronica. The digital music accompanies flying dragons, crazy-colored skies, explosions, color-shifting rivers, and geometric spheres destroying houses with lasers, all rendered in a delightful 80s-style digital aesthetic. The

music is high energy, fun, and fits this acid-trip of a video perfectly. Directed by Adam Goodall, produced by Targa Sahyoun, with VFX by Adam Petke @ Coyote Post.

The second video is Earth by Dream Koala (from his 2014 EP Earth. Home. Destroyed.) which follows the voyage of a lone space traveler from an unknown location in space, through our solar system, to ultimately crash land on Earth. The video was directed by FABULOUS (Adrien Peze and Albin Merle) and created by Les Gentils Garçons. Beautiful visuals show the astronaut (Dream Koala) in the interior of the ship, suited up, and bpeering into the rainbow-lit aurora of what might be the way ahead as seen from a faster-than-light velocity or possibly just really cool light effects. The ship follows a winding trajectory, threading its way through Saturn’s rings, past the ISS, and through Earth’s atmosphere. Juxtaposed against the space images are environmental symbols: oil derricks, power lines, and open pit mines. Yet the music and lyrics are never preachy.

Lyrics:

Have you ever seen the lights
Of a thousand exploding suns?
Kingdoms and cathedrals under the ocean
Because no god can save us from ourselves
No god can save me from myself
So I will remember the earth as it was
And let my dead body floating in space
When my time will come
We can’t escape from here
Our time has come
As we see the world collapsing so close from the end
Our time has come

cThe music blends well with this unexplained journey, but the video never explains why the traveler is going to Earth or what happens on arrival. Does he survive? From the lyrics, maybe not, but I can empathize with his perspective. More and more, human civilization seems to me like it’s on autopilot regardless of our best efforts to steer away from danger.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with Easy by Mat Zo & Porter Robinson (taken from Mat Zo’s new album Damage Control). Another anime-inspired music video, this one follows a young starlet dissatisfied with her media-saturated life. Naturally, she abandons her

mega-scraper pad via Akira-style motorcycle, but not before triggering  a device that explodes releasing  an expanding sphere of Wankershim-like alternate reality through which our young heroine finally arrives in the peaceful dreamscape she’s been wanting. The music has almost an inspirational vibe–this is a nice video to watch if you need cheering up. Directed by: Louis & McCourt, studio: The Line, production Company: Bullion Productions.

I may be late to the Lorn party, but I’m glad I found them. In the same vein as Gunship but mostly without vocals, both groups fall into a genre I’m calling retro/sci-fi electronica. Just like Gunship, Lorn has put up some amazing videos. My favorite so far is their song Anvil, a pleasingly electronic track with a good beat and post-apocalyptic vibes. It melds perfectly with animation by Antoine Caëcke & Hélène Jeudy (aka Geriko) (character animation by Anthony Lejeune & Manddy Wyckens).

As the music rolls along, we enter an animated urbanscape of hovercars and airships and cyberpunk architecture all rendered in beautifully spare black and white, as if a comic book had been inked by an angel. One airship deposits a stoic young woman at a facility that appears to be part crypt, part Matrix-style mind-uploading machine. I’ve had similar ideas about the future of death in that I suspect as we increase human lifespan and continue to conquer more diseases, perhaps aging itself, death will become something more intentional than accidental. I’m more skeptical about the possibility of uploading minds and therefore no Singularity fan, but this video imagines the process with impressive creativity and leaves us with a gorgeous aesthetic (although I could do without the unsurprisingly porn-worthy mammaries).

Another video worth watching is Lorn’s Acid Rain. Live action rather than animated, it still manages to deliver an attention-grabbing sequence involving cheerleaders, dancing, and a surprising (or not) ending.

Turbo Killer is a science fiction music video written and directed by Seth Ickerman and produced by Carpenter Brut and (if I have this right) No Quarter Prod(uctions?). The music is by Carpenter Brut. I tweeted about this video not long ago, but as I’ve kept watching it and thinking about it, I decided to jot down some of the thoughts buzzing around in my skull. TK_8

[Spoiler alert!] The video starts with a cross-shaped spaceship approaching Earth. Inside the ship are two passengers, a woman who I’ll call Corvette girl for reasons to be revealed shortly (played by Noémie Stevens), and a mysterious hero wearing a gas mask and cloak 1(Guillaume Faure). The video cuts to the villain, played by Marc-Antoine Frédéric, watching another woman, who I’ll call Pyramid-Dancer Girl (Joëlle Berckmans), whom he holds captive in a force pyramid. The villain triggers a purple gas inside the pyramid which corrupts/contaminates/stimulates Pyramid-Dancer Girl who begins dancing in a fairly provocative way (the villain seems to appreciate this, and perhaps this is what he was after to begin with- he even creepily nods to the beat at one point).

At this point, I should mention that Corvette girl and Pyramid-Dancer girl both have glowing, upside-down crosses etched on their foreheads. Once exposed to the gas, Pyramid-Dancer Girl’s cross goes dark (not a good sign, right?). This seems important, although I haven’t figured out its full significance other than being similar to the aforementioned cross-shaped ship. TK_6Meanwhile, as the villain gloats, the hero and Corvette girl bond/merge so that the hero is now driving a Corvette that somehow is Corvette girl such that he steers by holding her hands and jerking her in the desired direction. After driving (and somehow soaring over) the villain, despite his blasting them with a shotgun, the hero and Corvette girl rescue Pyramid-Dancer girl by driving through her. They then continue driving towards the ship with the villain and his henchmen in hot pursuit all driving various sports cars.

Pyramid-Dancer girl is now inside the Corvette with our gas-mask wearing hero. They drive off a cliff, as do the villain and henchmen, all landing while still driving inside the ship. As the ship begins to ascend, the villain tries to ram the Corvette, but it evades him and is absorbed into the ship’s rose-heart interior. The henchmTK_7ens’ cars are peeled off of the ship, succumbing to gravity. Pyramid-Dancer girl seems to replace Corvette girl at this point, then she collapses into the hero’s arms, apparently unconscious but presumed safe. The villain’s car falls off and plunges back towards Earth from space (he is not presumed safe since his Lamborghini Countach is probably not designed for atmospheric  re-entry). The video concludes with the hero carrying Pyramid-Dancer girl into the ship’s glowing heart as the ship itself departs from Earth into a glowing, rose-like energy distortion.

Now that I’ve summarized the plot, I’d like to make some random observations:

  • The ship has a rose-shaped, chapel-like “heart” chamber which contains crimson, phallic (or possibly vaginal?), organ-like, moving structures in the background while the hero and Corvette girl are somehow simultaneously there holding hands and also on Earth driving and being a Corvette, respectively. Coupled with the ship’s interior, the hero’s driving of Corvette girl seems to hint of sexual symbolism. Do you agree?
  • This also begs the question: does a 1970s Corvette require a sentient being aside from the driver to operate? No, so perhaps Corvette girl really is the Corvette projected materially onto Earth’s surface by the ship.
  • Why project a Corvette so far from where the villain and Pyramid-Dancer girl are located? The ship itself can be seen in the distance settling to Earth’s surface in the direction the Corvette is driving and much closer to Pyramid-Dancer girl. My guess is this probably allows for cool driving shots through which we learn how the hero “drives” Corvette girl and get to see the Corvette driving furiously with a fiery wake and awesome music.3
  • Why is the villain able to imprison Pyramid-Dancer girl in a force pyramid, but his only weapon is a shotgun? Is the purple gas “sexy gas”?
  • Who is Pyramid-Dancer girl? A captured ship spirit/AI? The hero’s girlfriend? His daughter? And why does she try to wrench the steering wheel away from the hero at one point? Maybe she’s really his escaped dancer slave (sort of a Jabba-Princess Leia thing).
  • I assumed the hero was male, but perhaps not. Being completely masked and cloaked, as he/she/it is, the hero could be a woman, android, or even an alien for all I know.
  • What is the moral of the story? Don’t date unshaven Earth men with aggressive driving habits? That good will prevail over evil? That Christianity (or its upside-down cosmic religion equivalent) is best practiced while exceeding the speed limit and entering orbit?

These questions will probably remain unanswered, but that’s okay. More importantly, will there be a sequel? A full length theatrical feature? No matter what happens next, this is my kind of scifi sexy crazy! More please.