Episode One-derland: Mister Ajikko

Plot: Youichi has a great passion for cooking, and is the beloved chef at his mother’s diner. The emperor of the culinary world, Aijou, visits his restaurant with his secretary, Tareme. Youichi had a previous bad run-in with Tareme before and he scoffs at the idea that this child can create any food worthy or Aijou’s palette or any good food period.

Youichi, known as ‘Ajikko’ or ‘child who makes good food’, accepts the challenge of making a good tasting dish for Aijou, even without knowing who he really is. As a testament to his faith in his craft, he puts up the restaurant’s sign as a wager if he loses, subsequently also putting the restaurant’s honor at stake. He makes Aijou his newest dish, a super thick Katsudon.

Though Aijou and Tareme both think this is impossible to make since either of the traditional cooking styles results in either undercooking or burning the meat, Youichi manages to make a delicious and properly cooked super thick katsudon, much to the delight of Aijou who leaves him with his business card and invites him to the Aijou building, a place filled with culinary knowledge and techniques and where only the best chefs are invited.

Breakdown: Ah, yet another ‘Child prodigy’ story. And really that’s pretty much all this is so far. Apparently this series was so influential that it inspired the creation of Iron Chef and helped spawn the whole competitive cooking craze, but this episode is pretty cut and dry ‘kid is insanely awesome at (enter topic here)’

Aijou is a pretty good character. He comes off as extremely abrasive and strict at first, but he’s also very fair, gives credit for anything he likes about a chef’s technique or abilities, fully recognizes and encourages talent that he sees and respects anyone with a true passion for cooking—Holy shit, it’s Gordon Ramsey’s Japanese fictional grandpa.

Tareme is annoying, but then again he’s meant to be.

Youichi is very much typical at this point. He has a great love of cooking, and obtained his skills my imitating his father, a great chef who passed away at some point. He also seems to have plenty of imagination in his cooking and has a great pride in anything he makes. Interesting, despite being honored by Aijou’s invitation, he doesn’t seem to be compelled to leave his family diner and try to be ‘the best (enter profession here)’ like many other child prodigy stories. He’s perfectly fine cooking what he likes to cook at his mother’s restaurant.

However, in the next episode he goes to Aijou’s place anyway so how much of that sticks, I don’t know.

This episode does a pretty good job at laying the ground work for our characters and setting up the bare bones of the plot. Even moderate side characters like Mitsuko, seeming romantic interest, and Shigeru, Mitsuko’s annoying little brother.

The art is a classic style, which I adore, and the animation is surprisingly pretty darn good for such an old title. The music is also very catchy, though slightly stuck in the 80s.

All in all,

cbxcz0k

If you have a passion for cooking or just appreciate watching someone explore their own passions, this seems like a pretty good watch so far. Be warned, though, that this show debuted in 1987 so if you’re not into older titles you may be a bit put off by this. It really shouldn’t be a deciding factor, though.

At 99 episodes, I may end up reviewing this one episode by episode. We’ll see.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable. E for everyone!

Exploring Disney’s Castle: Snow White (1937)

4kqgl9r

Rating: 9/10

Plot: Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Snow White. Her evil step mother, the evil queen, was incredibly jealous of her beauty to the point where she demanded that she be killed. Her assassin wasn’t able to kill her and instead prompted her to run away into the woods. While wandering in the forest, she stumbles upon a house obviously owned by seven dwarfs and because she’s a girl in a fairy tale she just busts in like she owns the place. The dwarfs return from their precious gem mine and find the girl, allowing her to stay there as long as she cooks and cleans for them. However, the queen has learned that she is still alive and decides to go kill Snow White on her own.

=========================

I was prompted by some friends to go back and watch old Disney classics, and here I am. Please note, though, I am not going to watch every Disney movie ever. Animated ones, probably, but not live action. When it comes to the live action ones, I’m probably just going to pick and choose and not go in any particular order.

I’m glad I decided to do this. It’s a welcome break from constantly harping on shitty Disney sequels, though hopefully I’ll be done with that whole series soon enough. There’s just something about classic Disney that warms my heart. And it’s usually not even nostalgia either. There’s something legitimately enchanting about old Disney movies, especially the animated ones. It’s the style, the tone, the way the movies connect with its audiences – it’s just great.

Disney hasn’t completely gone off the deep end. While much of their latest stuff in terms of TV shows has been crap, I’ve been able to stomach a good portion of it. I even watch some of their stuff on and off.

They do well with their theatrically released movies. Hell, they dug themselves out a few hundred feet with the release of Frozen.

I believe many of their staff still have a good deal of heart. It’s the higher ups behind it all that tend to make their products the overly manufactured BS we tend to expect from Disney nowadays.

But what of our first feature for this venture? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? How well does it hold up in dear old Twix’s opinion?

Very well, actually. I have a great fondness of movies that, even if they do have issues that I could go off about, I like it so much that I don’t want to. This movie is very obviously one meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. Sure Snow White’s 14 years old and pining for a boyfriend like she’s an old spinster. Sure one who clearly looks to be in his 20’s just happens upon her and falls in love instantly. Sure it seems odd that despite it being the dwarfs’ house and they’re just letting her live there that Snow White acts like a mother around the house and has the authority to give them orders. Sure it’s questionable that a 15 year old girl is living with seven small men. Sure it’s unsanitary as hell to have birds making decorative imprints in pies with their feet, but who cares? Just enjoy the show! And that’s what I did.

The animation is lovely. While rotoscoping was used for some scenes, it’s still one of the best examples of Disney animation in my opinion, and I am just a sucker for great animation. The faces on Snow White, the prince and the queen look off sometimes, but it’s nothing the normal non-nitpicker would point out.

The story is decent enough. All of the characters are likable. You even start to like Grumpy after a bit. The prince is just barely there. He has a love-at-first-sight thing going on with Snow White and shares one scene with her before leaving the movie and coming back at the end to wake her up with love’s first kiss. This was supposedly because he was the hardest character to animate, but I don’t see how he was more complicated to animate over the queen.

The songs stand up amazingly well, and so many of them I still hum randomly to this day.

I have my qualms with the ending, but it’s a Disney fairy tale movie from 1937. Nitpicking a ‘happily ever after’ ending just seems moot.

In regards to production, Snow White was a huge risk and accomplishment in animation history. It was the first ever feature length cel-shaded animated movie in history, and it came with a hefty price tag. So much so that many people around Walt Disney, including his wife, Lillian, and brother, Roy, tried numerous times to talk him out of the production. He went on with it anyway, mortgaging his house to fund the project.

 

In the end, it cost 1.4 million dollars or 25 million dollars today – more than five times the estimated budget of $250,000. His risk paid off. Snow White was a huge critical and financial success, and it even inspired the production of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. It has long since become one of Disney’s most treasured classics, and I can’t help but get caught up in it.

 

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable, unless you think about things too hard. They even ‘censor’ Snow White’s ‘death’. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland – Mado King Granzort

bxcdli0

Plot: In the year 2050, astronauts uncovered an odd dark being that, when revealed, suddenly gave the moon an atmosphere, air and earth-like gravity levels. 50 years later, a boy named Daichi goes on a trip to the moon to spend the summer. He hears of sightings of a strange rabbit man and believes he’s found the being when he finds a little girl with rabbit ears and the ability to teleport called Guri Guri. He accidentally falls into Guri Guri’s house where he sees all sorts of magical items and meets Guri Guri’s aunt, V-Mei, who claims they’re of the long ear race.

He assembles three weapons for them and V-Mei reveals that the weapons are magical weapons used to combat the evil monsters threatening their land. When she senses magical power within Daichi, she sees one of the weapons, a magical gun, react to his presence. Utilizing the power of the magical weapon, Daichi calls upon the mech, Granzort, the mado king of earth, to fight black mats, evil robots, who suddenly appear.

Breakdown: The first part of this episode puts it on real shaky ground for me. There are so many things that either don’t make sense, are annoying or are annoyingly weird. First off, giving the moon an atmosphere, air and earth-like gravity makes it basically a clone of earth? Lush landscapes, clouds, blue skies, bodies of water etc. And people live and travel there willy nilly? Especially given only a fifty year time frame? Sure.

Second, Guri Guri is bound to get insanely irritating. And her face….It’s like someone injected a baby’s face with panda hugs and candy kisses. She’s way too cute, and not in a good way. It’s doesn’t help that she’s a little too young to really be endearing. Usually young cutesy characters are like six or seven. She’s like two or three.

Third, the entire process of the mech thing is just nonsensical, and it basically boils down every magical gir—boy plot and mixes it with a mech design. Main character’s a good guy with hidden magical abilities, obviously gets red as his color, and finds he’s destined to be a hero against evil. He’s an inquisitive, smart, excitable, slightly clumsy, heroic young lad, because of course he is.

This intro gives both a good yet a terrible introduction to the series as a whole. It introduces Daichi, Guri Guri and V-Mei just fine and it kinda establishes the mech thing, but where the hell did it come from? Why is it called from a magic gun? Why does the magic gun only shoot a badge? Why are the three magical weapons a gun, bow and a top? The top just seems really out of place. I don’t care if it’s a legit weapon – one of these things is not like the others.

Who are the evil guys? Why are they evil? What do they want? Why did they wait 50 years before doing anything? Did they wait until the main character arrived? What are long-ears? Have they been living on the moon this whole time? Why? How has no one really caught a decent glimpse of them or caught them considering Guri Guri is roaming public areas and teleporting like nothing? They have carrots? How? The soil on the moon can’t even grow weeds. Why does the music from Daichi’s music box make the weapon pieces turn colors? What does music have to do with weapons and mechs?

All that aside….yeah, it’s tickling that soft spot on my heart. Old series about magical g—boys and mechs? Sign me up! I don’t care if nothing’s making sense, you’re having fun with it and I am too.

Art and animation-wise, it’s old and it’s odd. It’s clunky in the animation department sometimes, but nothing too bad. The art has that dated 90’s feel, though Daichi’s head is just way too friggin’ big.

In the music department, it’s pretty good. I especially like the OP. It’s some catchy stuff.

Final Verdict:

cbxcz0k

I can’t help it. It’s not a masterpiece of writing by any means, but dammit if you like mechs, magical girl boy shows and nostalgic anime, then this is a fine watch. If not, feel free to walk away after episode one. I don’t think you’d be missing anything.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable so far. E for everyone!

They Were 11 Review

pvckldw

Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Several hundred years in the future, earth has ventured out into the reaches of space and successfully colonized. In the meantime, earthlings have met with beings from many other planets and star systems, and after time they have reached an age of widespread peace amongst all species. Out in space is a prestigious academy called Cosmo Academy, and those few who are able to pass their final tests will be guaranteed positions of power in basically any field that they choose. Graduating from this place is viewed as one of the highest honors and achievements. Tada has made it to the final exam, which consists of being teamed with nine other individuals and left on a ship, completely on their own, for 60 days. If one person fails in their duties on board, they all fail. If they call for help, they all fail.

However, there’s one problem. Their team was supposed to consist of ten people, yet there are eleven people when they arrive. Someone’s not meant to be on the ship. At best, they’re a stowaway mooching a free ride or trying to sneak into the test. At worst, they mean to do great harm to the students. Can they survive until the exam ends?

Breakdown:

Warning – All sorts of spoilers

Another feature I caught onto from reading THEM anime reviews, and they didn’t really like it, even in spite of the three star rating. In fact, they said it’d probably be good MST3K material. Well, ouch.

However, as I was watching it, I thought it was perfectly fine. Definitely not without its flaws, mostly in the plot holes, but it wasn’t bad in my opinion, nor was it laughably bad.

The premise is really interesting to me. While not the most original story in the world, they do manage to do some interesting things with it. The characters, barring one, are all pretty likable and even the ones who get on your nerves really only do so with understandable circumstances. They redeem themselves several times so that’s not much to gripe about.

While I’m talking about the characters, let’s go through them.

Toto Ni – I’ll be starting out with the least seen/least important characters. Obviously in an hour and a half long movie, eleven characters are difficult to flesh out. Not to say they didn’t all have their moments, but some we learn little to nothing about. Toto ni seems to be the youngest of the group. An alien from the Sava group, the best I can figure from the prologue is that he wants to learn about plant life. Toto ni is a wimpy little kid who doesn’t say or do much. In fact, I was pretty much wondering how he got so far into the test to begin with.

Chaco Kacka – A Terran (basically their new fancy name for ‘earthling’) Chaco…exists. He gets more screen time than Toto ni, but he has no real personality. He apparently starts a small trading company….Dunno why you’d go to such lengths for a small trading company but whatever.

Dolph Tasta – Another Terran, Dolph is….something else. He’s our resident doofy looking fat guy with an equally doofy voice (by Steve Blum, yay!) And I swear to god, if Chumlee from YGOGX had an ancestor in the distant future, Dolph would be it. They look so much alike, barring the hair, it’s scary. And oh yeah, he has a big red nose…..and his name is DOLPH…..and his nickname is literally ‘red nose’…..Uh huh. He wants to be a judge of the interstellar court.

Vidmenir Knume – From a non-aligned nation called Vidnu, Knu, as he’s called, is one of the only aliens here who actually looks like a damned alien. He’s a scaly very tall….human-like creature. I take what I can get. Knu is always extremely calm, and is commonly the voice of reason in the group. He also seems very knowledgeable on several subjects. Knu apparently went on to be a poet……a poet….you went through all this to be a poet. Not really too surprised, but come on. When you’re guaranteed basically any job you want by passing this insanely long and difficult test, why aspire to be a poet?

Ganigus Gagtos – Nicknamed Ganga, where he is from is never explained, but he’s definitely not from earth. On his planet, a terrible disease plagues basically every person, and no one has an expected life span past the age of 30 because of it. He’s an experimental subject in that his blood was replaced with some kind of algae that is meant to combat this disease. Ganga is a very mature, smart and responsible person who is one of Tada’s loyalest allies. He’s taking the test in order to gain the knowledge and resources to rid his people of this disease forever.

Doricas Soldam IV – Another alien who looks exactly like a damn human, except his weird orange and blue jumpsuit, Doricas is one of the irritating ones in that he is constantly pointing fingers accusing people of being ‘the eleventh’, insulting people and just being unpleasant. He doesn’t tend to let his irritating behavior and attitude get in the way of their jobs, but he does get pretty grating. He aspires to be an administrator of his planet.

Amazon Carnias – Another Terran, though where on earth he’s from I don’t know. Would it be too obvious to think it’s the Amazon? He’s from some place where hunting is a huge part of their lives, and has numerous scars covering his body from fierce hunting trips. He’s not very mature and tends to goof off a lot, but he’s also one of the group who seems to fly off the handle with accusations very quickly. Despite this, he can keep a level head when needed and seems very skilled. He ends up becoming a….musician? Seriously? Didn’t he say earlier that he wanted to be a space engineer? How’d he go from that to musician? I know he showed he loved music, but he specifically stated that his goal was space engineering.

King Mayan Baceska – Mayan is simply taking the test as a challenge since he’s already the king of a nation/planet. As such, he’s pretty much immediately set as the leader of the group. Mayan does carry himself like a king. He’s very refined and logical, and he tries to make decisions for the better of the group as a whole and not just himself. While he is the most suspicious one of the group, he tries not to point fingers and instead backs his suspicions with evidence. He also doesn’t work as a dictatorship. He utilizes voting and respects the opinions of all of the other group members. Despite this, he can still fly off the handle and act irrationally.

Glenn Groff – The only other semi-alien-looking alien here, Glenn’s basically human looking barring the bump on his head and red pupils. Glenn’s a very respectful and kind individual who does his best to help. You know how I mentioned there was an epilogue? Well it’s one of those epilogues that shows still frames of the characters followed but a short excerpt of what happened to them after the movie.

Glenn died. Yeah, he died while trying to protect one of his students during training. Thanks movie. He was a really likable character to just kill off for no reason. What is this? Stand by Me?

Frolbericheri Frol – Oh dear God….I watched this movie for ten minutes and thought ‘well, this actually seems like a good movie. What are the complaints about?’ and then she opened her mouth. My god, what a grating sack of crap. From the second she’s on screen, she’s yelling and screaming and getting into fights. Granted, she has a bit of a reason. She looks exactly like a girl (I’ll get to that in a minute) and the group is flabbergasted when they discover a WOMAN on board.

Let me put this into perspective. When Knu, scaly giant, took off his helmet and revealed his face, the group was slightly taken aback. When Glenn, bumpy headed demon eyes, did the same, they also were slightly perturbed. Frol takes off her helmet and they all audibly GASP and look like she just ate her own face. How is it that this takes place in a universe where basically galaxy-wide peace and acceptance has been established yet sexism is still alive and well? Hell, it seems like it’s gotten much worse.

From her outburst at their assumptions, I just thought that she didn’t like being treated like a woman, especially in a group of guys, but much later on we’re under the impression that her outburst of being insulted at being called a woman insinuated that she wasn’t one, and that she was just a really feminine guy and has been treated as such the whole time. I don’t recall them ever addressing her as ‘he’ so it threw me for a loop when the big reveal comes later on.

The big reveal in question is when she goes to take a shower. That’s when we see that she’s completely flatchested and has the physique of a guy, basically. The fact that Amazon doesn’t react to her taking off her shirt is what first indicated that she was being treated as a he. Later, when an incident occurs in the shower, Amazon sees her full-frontal and realizes that her basement has neither a box nor a joystick.

Frol has no genitalia, and she’s I guess a reverse hermaphrodite…Right? Hermaphrodites have both male and female genitals so having neither would be a reverse? On her planet, everyone’s born as a hermaphrodite, but treated as a girl. When a person reaches adulthood, they are given hormone injections to allow them to become either a man or woman. Under government law, only first borns have the choice of becoming male or female. Everyone else is forced to become a woman. Because of this, females greatly outnumber males, but men basically have it made. They have the freedom to do whatever they want, and due to the greatly uneven ratio of men to women, they commonly practice polygamy.

Women are basically forced to be housewives and pop out children. Frol made an agreement with her government. If she passes the test at Cosmo Academy, she can become a man and live a cushy misogynist life bangin’ all the chicks. If not, she has to become a woman. A prospect so awful she cries about it several times. Eek.

Frol may have the most fleshed out story, even in deep competition to our actual main character, but she’s so unlikable and annoying. She has a Southern accent, however the hell that works considering she’s from another damn planet, and all she does is complain and yell and scream and bitch and moan and act pushy and urhghghgh.

Wanna know something else? She’s voiced by Wendee Lee. Yeah, one of the few female VA’s with a huge range from guy to girl and an equally large range between great and grating, provides the super annoying hick voice of this chick. You make me sad.

What’s even worse is how her story ends. She contracts an illness which forces the crew to call for a rescue, which is grounds for failure. She’s devastated because she can’t wait three years for the next test before she’ll be forced to become a girl and Tada offers to have her come to his planet, as a woman, and marry him, another thing I’ll get to in a minute. Their romance has been a bit forced, mostly because Tada seems awkward when he’s in romantic or flirty situations, Frol is too annoying to root for and their chemistry is kinda off, but whatever. However, we reveal later on that because they made such good decisions during their test and made the right decision in saving Frol, they actually come out first in their class and pass with flying colors.

So yay she gets to be a guy now and live a good life, right? Nope, she decides to be a woman and live as a housewife with Tada. Yeah, she despised and feared the thought of being a woman and a housewife so much that she went though all of these trials, tribulations and red tape to get the chance at being made into a man and cried over the fear of possibly not getting her wish yet in the end she chooses to be a woman and a housewife because pbbbbttt love? Why can’t she be a man and marry Tada? If this truly is a universe of peace and acceptance, I can’t see how they’d have an issue with a gay couple. Isn’t she committing a bigger sin by being the bane of all galazy-wide existence IE a woman?

They don’t even say she does anything else in the epilogue. She and Tada graduated and got married was their little excerpt. Great use of that Cosmo Academy degree or whatever it is.

Tadatos Lane – Tada is our main character. He’s an empath who slowly starts learning things about his past while on the ship. I don’t understand how he can be as insanely smart as he is and have such a good ‘intuition’ yet he doesn’t remember incredibly scarring and impacting moments from when he was four.

Tada’s very likable, but he’s pretty bland. They don’t really explain what he wants to do once he passes his test. He just wants to achieve the high honor and score a great job. They don’t even explain what he did after the events of the movie besides marry Frol.

His backstory is pretty interesting, but like I said it’s a little confusing that he’s so smart and intuitive yet he can’t remember very important events from when he was four. Including his mother dying before his eyes. I get that four is a very young age, but some people can remember stuff from when they were as young as two. I can kinda remember some stuff from four years old. Why does he seem to suffer from amnesia about this?

Now that the characters are out of the way, let’s address the plot holes and issues with the script.

They specifically state that Tada just has ‘a very good intuition’ and isn’t psychic, yet mere seconds later he’s touching palms to get a clear ‘reading’ on whether on not people are lying and it’s solidified that his talents are indeed ESP.

Why were all those bombs on the ship? I find it hard to believe that all of those bombs were put there by the instructors.

Why did Tada turn down the cooler thing if he wasn’t influenced or ‘the eleventh?

What was the purpose of influencing Tada to turn the circuit back on if not to injure Ganga?

Why is Ganga not punished for sneaking on board the ship? How does sneaking on board even help him in regards to the test? Surely they’d find out what he did and disqualify him.

And probably the biggest plot hole….How was Glenn the eleventh if Ganga ADMITTED he was the eleventh? Both of them weren’t meant to be there, and Glenn was purposely planted to throw the count off to create a situation to test the team. Wouldn’t that mean that there should’ve been twelve people in that team? Why were they even asking ‘but who was the eleventh?’ at the rescue ship when, like I said, Ganga admitted it earlier? Granted, I never would’ve guessed that either Ganga or Glenn were the eleventh. Well, maybe Ganga a little because of the fact that he kept getting injured and making Tada look guilty, but not Glenn. He was just relevant enough to be a valid surprise yet kept hidden enough to not be obvious. Still, the reveal kinda doesn’t work when you already had an eleventh established.

Art: The art and animation aren’t great, but they’re perfectly fine for the year. There’s much worse that has come out of 1986. The character designs are decent enough even if Chaco, Dolph and Tada have dumb hair styles and some of the color choices are kinda weird.

Music: The music’s forgettable, but pretty nice.

Voice Acting: English dub by the now defunct Central Park Media – The acting on some of the characters such as Tada, voiced by Curtis Jones are a little hokey. Hell, even Steve Blum himself delivers some lame dialogue. I can’t really fault him on those few lines though. Not even his dulcet vocal cords could save some of these lines.

Speaking of Mr. Blum, he actually voices three characters here; Dolph, Amazon and Mayan, and he exercises quite a bit of range here. However, it should be noted that he uses a different pseudonym for each credit. He’s credited as David Lucas for Mayan, Steven Jay for Dolph and David Jeremy for Amazon. Hell, David Jeremy isn’t even listed on his Wiki as one of his pseudonyms. Steve Jay is the biggest clue as his full name is Steven Jay Blum, but why use that credit on Dolph when the best work in this feature was as Mayan?

Other than Frol, everyone else was decent.

Additional Information and Notes: They were 11 was produced by Kitty Film. It was directed by Satoshi Dezaki and Tsuneo Tobinaga. The film was based on a manga by Moto Hagio.

Runtime: 91 minutes

Year: 1986

Bottomline: Yes, there are glaring plotholes and inconsistencies with the story. Yes, it’s very dated. Yes, some of the epilogue entries are just dumb. However, I don’t find it bad at all. The situations are tense, the characters can be fun when they have time to relax, and you do care for most of them even if you don’t learn a great deal about some of them. The premise is pretty interesting and they do bring enough to the table in terms of twists and other parts of the story such as Tada’s connection to the ship to spice things up a bit more. You could probably make a riff on this, but it would never be my first choice of MST3K material. It’s just not that bad and there is so much worse out there. I’d gladly watch it again, and anyone who’s up for that warm old animation style, some interesting situations and maybe some cheesiness, I’d gladly recommend it. It’s not perfect, but I had fun.

Recommended Audience: No blood, some incredibly minor violence, no nudity, no sex, hell they’re even too shy to talk about genitalia in the proper terms. E for everyone.