Posts Tagged ‘Heavy Metal’

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Heavy Metal 2000

March 1, 2014

On a dreary afternoon, I was surfing the web, watching my favorite Youtube channels- Geek and Sundry’s TableTop hosted by Wil Wheaton, Co-Optitude with Felicia and Ryon Day, Awe Me’s Man-At-Arms, and many others. Somehow I stumbled upon someone’s posting of “Heavy Metal 2000.” I decided to give it a viewing. I was a little disappointed that it was a linear story, as the first “Heavy Metal” movie was an anthology of animation that had strange, crazy stories set in a science and fantasy world. There were multiple stories with different characters and designs, with a mix of music that made it like the progenitor of many music videos to come.

What I liked about “Heavy Metal” was that it told a story that was loosely connected by a tiny thread that linked each story. In a way, it was much like the magazine- a series of mature themed stories of fantasy and science fiction created by a cadre of genre artists and writers. Many mainstream comic book publishers would not print these stories as they would not fit within their company’s paradigm.

I did enjoy the story, as it reminded me of the often epic stories that graced those pages. The animation was crisp and solid, featuring character designs by Simon Bisley and Kevin Eastman of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame. The main character of Julie is modeled after model and actress Julie Strain, who was once married to Eastman. She also provides the voice of the character.  Strain is known for being a Penthouse Pet and a B-Movie actress, starring in many productions.

Also lending their voices are veteran actor Michael Ironside and rocker Billy Idol. Both provide interesting characterization to their animated counterparts. While Ironside give a good performance as the villain Tyler, it is the unusual casting of Idol as the mysterious Odin that makes for watching. I didn’t recognize Idol’s speaking voice and found it to fit the look and feel of the character of Odin.

The plot of the story was much like a pulp novel from the 1950’s. The animation lends itself to a more European style, and less ‘Anime’ style. It was rather slick with a mix of traditional looking animation and some computer generated effects. It was quite stylized.

In this story, a mining expedition uncovers what appeared to be an unusual crystal. The lead miner Tyler takes hold of this crystal and is immediately driven insane. He kills his colleagues and crewmates, taking over the ship to pursue the crystal’s home.

The crystal is the key to a lost temple that houses a fountain of youth. It was cast and hidden away never to be found again, as its creators had intended to hide the temple from others who would abuse the power of immortality.

Tyler’s madness leads him to the planet Eden, where he attacks and kills most of the inhabitants. Here pilots Julie and Kerrie along with their father protect their colony from outside hostiles. Their colony- much like a weight station for other space farers- serve as a rest stop to other colonies. Julie manages to escape the sudden attack, while her sister Kerrie is captured, along with other colonists who are used to supply the water of the fountain of youth. The water has trace amounts of this water to which the in habitants have within their system- and in Tyler’s madness is using the fluid from their bodies to heal himself, like an addict. Tyler and his crew leave to continue to search for the source.

Julie manages to survive and seeks him out at another port, where she attempts to kill him in revenge at a strip club. Tyler destroys the club, and is injured in the process, where he ingests his immortality serum to heal.  Julie teams up with Germain, one of the pilots of the mining ship that Tyler commandeered, to pursue Tyler.

They manage to follow him to the ship before entering into hyperspace. They attached their ship to Tyler’s. They are soon discovered and the resulting attack forces them to crash land on the planet of Oroborus, the home of the temple. Far from the temple’s location, Tyler sets up a base with the remains of his ship and sets off for the temple. He finds a race of humanoid lizards, whom he takes over by killing their leader in a gladiatorial fight for power. He uses this as an army to take on the temple and the guardians.

Julie manages to survive the crash and once again pursues Tyler. She meets the mysterious Odin and the rock creature Zeek along the way, who take her to find Tyler. She tries to assassinate him through seduction. Zeek intervenes saving her. They manage to find Kerrie and eliminate the mad doctor who was responsible for extracting the immortality fluid from Eden’s citizens. Julie, Kerrie, Odin and Zeek return to the citadel where the temple is hidden in.

Tyler rallies his army and prepares to take on the stronghold, while Julie takes the warrior rites of Odin’s people, preparing her for her final confrontation with Tyler. What ensues is a battle for control of an ancient power that could lead to a terrible era ruled by insane immortals.

“Heavy Metal 2000” is not quite the epic level of animation as I hoped it would have been. It is still a solid piece of entertainment that is engaging, sexy, with the right amount of science fiction and interesting characters. It is a fine fantasy story of revenge that seems to have some clichés in it, but there are some surprises that make it interesting.

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Cowboy Bebop

December 15, 2011

Spike Spiegel (below) confronts his nemesis Vicious in "Cowboy Bebop- Episode 5: Ballad of Fallen Angels."

Just when DVDs started coming out, a surge of Anime started to trickle into the US as Manga and Anime started to grow in popularity in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  DVDs were the next big thing after CDs, as they were the same size, but able to hold much more data, giving movies and TV shows even more clarity and resolution.

At this time I had bought my own DVD player at a closeout wholesaler. I knew what DVDs I wanted to start off my collection with that was readily available. It was an anime that I first watched at my friend Jeff’s apartment oh so many years ago. When I first saw it, my first reaction was “What a weird name.” As the episodes unfolded, I was hooked.

I am referring to “Cowboy Bebop.” It is a mash up of many genres, the main theme being blues and jazz music. Other influences included 1970’s movies and TV shows, philosophy, religion, science fiction, gambling, and action movies. While in many scenes it is set in modern day Hong Kong or New York, they are actually set in cities built on other planets in our Solar System.

The story revolves around our central cast of characters who live aboard the “Bebop,” a small space freighter/ tug/ fishing boat.  The ship travels between planets in search of work, in this case bounty hunting, through a network of hyperspace gates that connect colonies established on other planets. This was necessary as Earth became somewhat uninhabitable.

Spike Spiegel is the main lead, a tall, well dressed, laid back character. A former enforcer for a criminal syndicate, he now ekes out a living as a bounty hunter. He is a practitioner of Jeet Kun Do and follows the philosophy of Bruce Lee. His mysterious past is revealed throughout the series.

The Bebop’s owner is Jet Black, a former police officer who quit the force after finding so much corruption in the company that he kept. He lost his arm in an incident involving his investigation into corruption in his division. Turning to bounty hunting, he partnered with Spike to bring in the bounties.

Through the early episodes we are introduced to the rest of the Bebop crew. Ein is a Welsh Corgi genetically engineered to be an illegal data dog. Although cute and innocent looking, he is much smarter than he appears. Ed also appears and joins the crew as the hacker of the team. Androgynous in appearance, Ed is really a young girl who acts like a small child.

Making her appearance early on is the femme fatale Faye Valentine. A sexy gambler and con artist, she later joins the crew in search of her mysterious past and to settle her outrageous debts. She is deft in combat as well as with the cards.

The series explores many different themes, as each character has a rich past loaded with intrigue and mystery. Spike’s criminal past is one of the plot anchors as he tries to come to terms with it and later confronts it. Bits and pieces of the other’s pasts are revealed as episodes unfold. It explores the loneliness and isolation that each character experiences.

Each episode is dramatically different, spotlighting each of the characters. They are laced with wit, humor and drama. It showcases how well planned and thought out each character is and the settings they are in. References to all sorts of pop culture appear everywhere, including Bruce Lee movies, actors such as Antonio Banderas, PETA, the Space Shuttle program, and Hong Kong style action movies.

One of the many things that set this series above the rest is the musical influence. Each episode title refers to a form of music or a particular song. Musician and Composer Yoko Kanno is able to blend the different genres into original music. Blues, Jazz, Heavy Metal, Country, and Classical music appear throughout the series. Although performed by different artists, the majority of the compositions are of Kanno’s work. It works to become an unseen character throughout the series, adding more gravitas to scenes of intense drama, action, or comedy.

The series is finely crafted by director Shinichiro Watanabe, writer Keiko Nobumoto, and character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto. Each of their contributions made the stories come alive and set them apart from other typical science fiction stories. The depth of each character is not only influenced by their appearance, but by their written biographies. Director Watanabe sets the pace and has full command of the world Cowboy Bebop is set in and how to use the characters.

The most unsung part of the Anime is the voice acting. The Japanese voice cast led by Koichi Yamadera and Megumi Hayashibara gives their characters Spike and Faye true depth. Yamadera has a humorous tone as needed and can shift to a more dramatic somber sound that conveys sadness. Hayashibara has a raspy sexy tone that matches Faye’s character. The gruff voice of Jet Black as performed by Unsho Ishizuka is deep, stern, and full of authority. The child like Ed is sublimely performed by Aoi Tada.

What I believe makes this series arguably one of the best anime series is that it takes a blending of all sorts of genres and puts it together in a reality that isn’t far removed from ours; a possible future of humanity spreading its wings and making it out into the solar system. It has rich characters that go beyond the archetype of aimless hero, big hearted ex-cop, and sultry gambler. It’s all the influences, references, homage to action, western, crime, noir movies that is evenly set and paced to tell the stories of the main characters.  It shows us how these characters truly lived as they made their way in the solar system. It has a beginning and end that sums up the many themes that each character has.

Cowboy Bepop is one of the best anime series ever. It crosses over many genres and themes and blends them into a timeless story of a set of characters trying to make a living in the tough solar system of the future. It is a very human story of how a small group of people live in the future while dealing with their own pasts and personal demons.