Last weekend, me, little brother Jeff and a good friend went to go see the Dragonball Evolution live action movie based on the Dragon Ball cartoon. Mainly because we wanted to see how terrible it really was (don’t worry, we went to the early bird showing so we only had to pay five bucks for tickets). The movie was hilariously awful, meaning it was so bad it was funny. But more on that later. Anyway, after that movie I decided that I would write a blog about my favorite Japanese anime cartoons. So here they are!
When I was little, I grew up on a lot of old anime cartoons like Speed Racer, Star Blazers, and Voltron. I didn’t like them particularly well (especially Speed Racer, ick). But I watched them anyway because there was nothing else on and back then we didn’t have several 24 hour cartoon channels, so whenever there was a cartoon on TV, you took what you could get. Luckily as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a more choosy viewer and have found good anime that I like.
Astro was originally a manga comic book created by Osamu Tezuka, who has been called the father of manga and anime. Astro Boy is pretty much a futuristic fairy tale, really. Astro is a boy humanoid robot with special powers and fights against injustice. For a typical superhero cartoon, it has some thought provoking messages about human rights, overuse of technology, etc. And Astro himself is a likable character, who always wants to do what’s right and without resorting to violence when possible.
There’s been three main TV series about Astro. The first one was back in the 50’s and 60’s and it was in black and white. They have the whole series on DVD but I don’t have it because it’s WAY too expensive. In the early 80’s, they made another Astro Boy series. I found the DVD set of that really cheap so I do have that one. It may not look it now, but for an early 80’s anime, it was actually pretty advanced. Speaking of which, back in like, 2003 or so there was another Astro Boy TV series (I have the DVD set of that also), and this one was REALLY good. I read that they used as many frames per second as animated movies use, except this was a Saturday morning cartoon so it looked really high quality.
I guess the main reason why I like Astro Boy is that video game character Mega Man was HEAVILY inspired by Astro Boy, and I really enjoy the Mega Man series of games. Speaking of video games, one of the best on the Game Boy Advance is actually the Astro Boy video game. It’s one of the few Treasure games that I like, and features just about every work of Tezuka’s all in one game! If you haven’t played it yet, I highly recommend getting Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the GBA. Don’t get the PS2 game from Sega and Sonic Team, though. It had a lot of good ideas, but none were executed very well (much like Sonic Team’s other games. I can’t wait for the upcoming Astro Boy CG movie. I hope it’s not going to be in 3-D like a lot of other CG movies have been lately (I’m blind in my left eye so I can’t see 3-D effects).
No, not Z, not GT, not ABCXYZ, but original Dragon Ball. VERY loosely based on the Chinese Monkey King fable. The reason why I like the original Dragon Ball better than the more popular Dragon Ball Z is because the original had a more lighthearted feel to it, and they did more than just fight all the time. I can understand why Dragon Ball Z was more ‘serious,’ they wanted the series to grow up with the fans. But I still think the first one was more enjoyable. Like Astro Boy, little Goku is a pretty likeable young character who always fights for good.
While there have been tons of Dragon Ball Z video games, I can only think of three original Dragon Ball games. The first one was on the NES, and named Dragon Power in the US. And it was pretty awful so the less said about that one, the better. The other two games are more recent and much better. Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure was on the GBA and played a lot like the Astro Boy game. It wasn’t near as good, but still fun.
The newest Dragon Ball game: Dragon Ball Origins, is on the DS. It’s a top down isometric action game where you play as Goku and must protect Bulma as you travel through different levels. Like Phantom Hourglass, gameplay is entirely stylus driven, as you use the touch screen to run around and draw lines to extend your power pole, for instance. Dragon Ball Origins is also made by Namco, so that’s doubly awesome. And you can find it in stores for only 20 bucks now. I haven’t played my copy much because shortly after I got it, I then bought the DS Legacy of Ys: Books 1 and 2 and REALLY got into that game. Now that I’ve beaten the Ys game, maybe I should go back to Dragon Ball Origins (I’ll have to remember the controls, though).
One thing I’ll say about the Dragon Ball Origins game is it’s definitely not for little kids. In the story scenes where you first meet Master Roshi and Bulma shows him her panties, that was the only time I was thankful for the gap between the two screens on the DS (they used that gap to cover the naughty stuff). That part was edited in the US cartoon, so I was surprised to see it unedited in the game!
Last weekend I went to see the live action Dragonball Evolution movie. I knew it was going to be bad, but I just had to see how Hollywood would mangle this anime favorite. Again, I only paid five bucks to go see it so don’t feel too bad. And while it was hideous, it was also so bad it was funny, and that made it enjoyable in a Mystery Science Theater sort of way. But I did cringe whenever a new character was introduced. Yamcha was a surfer dude, Bulma was a reject from the 80’s, and Piccolo looked like the Mask movie character (every time he came on screen I wanted to say “Sssssmokin’!”). And one of the actors in the movie was named Texas Battle, which is just about the most awesome name in the world. And he graduated from The University of Texas, apparently, and lots of cool people graduated from there! (ahem)
Too bad they didn’t have live action versions of some of my other favorite Dragon Ball characters. Puar would’ve been a very pissed off cat ‘flying’ on a wire, and Oolong would’ve been just an oinky pig talking. It would’ve been Babe all over again! I heard Namco actually made a PSP game based off of Dragonball Evolution (GamerDad, if you have it, I’ll gladly review that piece of trash for you). I will say that even though the Dragonball movie was bad, at least it was better than the new Street Fighter Chun-Li movie. The Chun-Li film was just depressing, at least this movie was fun to make fun of! Good thing, too, because NOBODY was in the theater when we saw it! I guess if you don’t mind Hollywood trashing up your favorite childhood memories, you can go see this Dragonball movie. Just don’t take it too seriously!
Tenshi Ni Narumon
This anime is a little more under the radar. I can never remember the name and I always have to ask my friend what it is. The English sub of this is called “I Want To Be An Angel” or something. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen this anime, but I’ll try to tell you about it anyway from what I can remember. So forgive me if it’s a bit spotty, and anyone’s name I forgot I just made up my own names.
Anyway, this anime is all about a high school boy with blue hair, but I can’t remember his name right now. One day while walking to school, he bumps into this ditzy weirdo girl who falls in love with him and vows to marry him and become an angel for him. Halo, wings, the whole nine yards. I think her name was Noel or something similar. So when blue hair kid comes home that afternoon after school, he finds that her family has moved into his house and is ready to welcome their new son-in-law. Aside from having unwanted guests in his house, the main problem with this is Noel’s family is like an anime version of The Addams Family or The Munsters. Part of the fun of this anime comes from the wacky family’s crazy escapades.
Here’s who’s in the family: Papa is like a cross between a werewolf and Frankenstein. He reminded me of Donkey Kong for some reason so I named him Daddy Kong. He may look like a monster, but he’s very caring and loves his family very much. Mama looks like your typical anime babe with pointy ears, but when you get her out on the volleyball court she turns into a demon! Well, not really, but she does get very fierce when playing volleyball, so I named her Mommy Volleyball. Noel has a few crazy siblings as well, including an older brother who is a vampire and an older sister who is supposed to be very pretty, except she’s invisible! Another sister is a crazy inventor who reminds me of Chrono Trigger’s Lucca (I think her name is Rucca, too). Finally, the family’s house maid is a catgirl who has a crush on the older brother vampire, but he’s always trying to avoid her because he’s allergic to cats! I don’t care what that blue haired high school guy says, that sounds like a fun set of in-laws to me, how about you?
This anime also had some bad guys, but I don’t remember what they were trying to do. I think they didn’t want ditzy girl to become an angel or something. At first you think the bad guy is this Kefka-like clown. He has a cute female prisoner named Milky or Silky or something and she has really neat grayish white hair. But in typical anime plot fashion, it turns out the girl is the real baddie and the clown was just a puppet she made to entertain her. I never saw the end of the series, so hopefully that girl learns her lesson and stops being bad.
There are other characters, too. The blue haired kid’s high school teacher, which I named Miss Watermelons (I’ll let you figure out why). And there’s another girl he likes but she’s all emo and boring and stuff. The only characters I didn’t like were a pair of Biblical angels who monitor Noel’s progress. As a Christian, I didn’t like how they were portrayed in the anime, but since it’s just a story and the Japanese probably don’t have a strong grasp on the Bible anyway, I let it slide.
And that’s pretty much all I remember about that crazy anime! I wish I would’ve gotten the DVDs of it when I had a chance. Now they’re hard to find and probably expensive. Oh well.
Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli stuff
I also like just about everything Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli have done. I especially like his older stuff. I like the 80’s charm of stuff like Nausicaa and you can tell this and others inspired pretty much every JRPG out there, even today. But my favorite Miyazaki film was done before Ghibli was even founded. It was Panda Go Panda. It looks like a cartoon that should be on Nick Jr., but it’s way more charming. It’s about a little girl who is left home alone when her grandmother has to go away (this was done back in the 70’s, so leaving kids home alone in cartoons wasn’t as frowned upon). Shortly after, a talking papa panda and his baby panda boy arrive at the girl’s house and they take care of each other like a family and go on all sorts of adventures, even saving a bunch of circus animals. You can tell that Totoro was modeled after Papa Panda. Again, it sounds like a childish anime, but it’s really silly and charming if you give it a chance. Only problem is I think the DVD of it is hard to find now. So if you see it, get it!
I think the only Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen but DIDN’T like was Pom Poko. I don’t think Miyazaki was in charge of it, though. Pom Poko is about the Tanuki as seen in Japanese myths and folklore. A tanuki is a raccoon like dog that lives in Japan, but in their myths and stories, they have special powers like shapeshifting. The thing I didn’t like about this cartoon is they also showed one of the tanuki’s other powers, mainly concerning male tanukis. I won’t go into that any further, but let’s just say it’s really gross. I’ll never look at Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook the same way again.
Guilty Pleasures: Kiddy Anime
I have a confession to make, and I hate to admit it. But some anime that I like is really meant for little kids. And most of it is video game related. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t watch stuff like Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon or anything like that. Well, when I was writing for the Dallas newspaper and was getting paid to know about Pokemon, back when it first came out, I DID watch the Pokemon cartoon in college! But I did like other video game related anime like Kirby and Mystical Ninja Goemon. Kirby was on Saturday mornings for a while, but you can only get the Goemon cartoon on DVD. Heck, even the Digimon cartoon was kind of fun at first.
There is one kiddy anime that I secretly liked that not based on a video game, but I think it would’ve made a fun video game anyway. It was called Flint the Time Detective. Flint was basically a caveman version of Goku: super strong and super brave. A group of Time Detectives from the future (who are mostly kids) bring Flint back from the past to help them fight evil. They also brought back Flint’s fossilized dad, but they messed up and turned him into a talking stone. So they made his father into a talking hammer for Flint to use! You can tell that this cartoon was made partially by Sanrio because of all the cute characters. In a way, it was a Pokemon rip off because in each episode they would go back in time in history and rescue a cute monster. Team Rocket wannabes would always come and evolve the cute monster into a bad one, so the Time Detectives would have to change it back into a good monster. It was dopey, but cute and entertaining.
And that’s pretty much all I like. I’ve seen lots of other anime, but most of it I don’t care much for. I find popular anime like Naruto and One Piece too loud and obnoxious. I liked the Blue Dragon video game, but when I tried to watch the anime of it, I quickly lost interest after they said, “You’ll have to undergo lots of training to use your shadow.” Which translates to, “We’re going to make a bunch of filler episodes about training.” Ugh.
A lot of the anime about giant robots WOULD be cool if they would ditch the complicated storylines and emo characters (Gundam and Evangelion, I’m looking at you). Really the only giant robot anime I remotely liked was Big-O, because it had no plot! The plot of each episode was basically, “Hey I’m a rich guy and I have a weird android maid and here comes a giant robot so I’ll get in my giant robot and fight it! The end!”
Anyway, that’s all I feel like typing about anime right now. In the comments section, tell me what your favorite anime cartoons are, and what you think of my choices. And if you can think of any anime cartoons you think I would like, let me know about those, too! Maybe I’ll give ‘em a chance someday.