Sunday 21 February 2010

Anime REVIEW: Detroit Metal City

A relatively short OVA series comprising of 12 15-minute episodes, Detroit Metal City tells the story of Soichi Negishi, a shy and gentle young man who dreams of a career as a pop musician. Dreams don't pay the bills, so he ends up as the lead singer and lead guitarist of a death metal band called “Detroit Metal City.” In stage costume he is Johannes Krauser II, rumored to be a terrorist demon from hell, to have killed and raped his parents, to wield his giant death penis with abandon, etc. etc. Negishi despises DMC and all that it stands for, but so help him, he's a terrific performer and can't walk away from that. As DMC's star rises Negishi tries to satisfy both worlds, but can't. On top of this he has to deal with a love interest who loves Negishi's (failing) solo work, and dislikes DMC and his alter ego Krauser, and a foul mouthed record company president who constantly keeps him in his place.

It's extremely foul mouthed, some of its implied content is very explicit, but by god is it brilliant. In DMC we have a fantastic tongue-in-cheek look at the world of death metal and its musicians, and the feeling that not all the legendary "monsters of metal" are what they are cracked up to be. The split personality style of Negishi is played very well, and sometimes its easy to forget that he and Krauser are actually the same person.

My only two complaints about the series are these. Firstly, the episodes do become rather repetitive and formulaic quickly. Each episode is split into 2, making the series in reality 24 7-minute (approx.) shorts, and the majority of them follow the pattern of Negishi trying to quit DMC, something happening to make him angry and return, making Krauser more popular than ever or something to that effect. However sprinkled in are some GEMS of episodes like DMC's battle against a femenist punk band, or the series conclusion where American metal god Jack Ill Dark comes to Japan to "destroy" DMC. The second of my complaints in that while this final episode is probably the best of the series, it fails to provide any closure on anything. Maybe this is because the manga is still ongoing and there's a chance for new episodes in the future, but right now I was certainly left wanting more.

If you don't mind a bit of terrible sounding (in a good way I promise!) Japanese death metal and A LOT of swearing, then the wholly original DMC is something I certainly think you should check out. However if you're not so keen on these things, I think you'd better avoid this, or you'll spend alot of time covering your ears (or shutting your eyes since it appears on subtitles!)

Monday 8 February 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Revoltech Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann

Finally, after missing its initial release due to lack of funding and having to scour the aftermarket in hopes of finding one, I've finally bought a reasonably priced (£30) Revoltech Super Galaxy (or Chouginga if you prefer) Gurren Lagann from ebay, thus completing my collection by owning all 5 original TV iterations of the mech. Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann is the robot mode of the giant space battleship Super Galaxy Dai-Gurren, making its first appearance in episode 25's epic conclusion.

As per usual Kaiyodo really come through when it comes to sculpt and paint detail, with the figure being covered in small windows from the spaceship mode. Its a nice blend of black, red and gold with some great neon green hints in certain places (would have been fantastic if these were glow in the dark, but I feel that might be a bit TOO much wishful thinking).

After the disappointing lack of accessories with the Arch Gurren Lagann figure, its nice to see to return to form for this figure. Included are multiple sets of hands (including my personal favourite, the "drill fingertips of awesomness" left hand as seen in the beginning of episode 26 and the Lagann-hen movie), a "Super Galaxy Boomerang" shades weapon and an additional set of shoulder spikes. The beauty of these spikes is that they can be placed on the shoulders of the figure when the gold drills are removed for accuracy, and then the 2 drills can be connected to create the DOUBLE DRILL SUPER GALAXY GIGA DRILL BREAK!!!! (sadly lacking from Lagann-hen). Another little extra I quite like is the easily removable 2-part shades piece for the torso, which is far easier to take off than the 1-piece shade plates on the Gurren and Gurren Lagann figures. The only downside to this is they can seem a little lop sided when not positioned properly.

All in all this is one of Revoltech's best Gurren Lagann figures (second only to the ever so mighty Gurren/Lagann combo) and I'm glad it was the last one I bought so that my collection could end on a high. Now I'm considering picking up the Enkidu figure to fill the void that completing this little collection has left behind.....

.......until Kaiyodo decide to make a Revoltech Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.....

.....come on Kaiyodo, you know you want to.

Toybox REVIEW: Revoltech Triple Transformation VF-1A Hikaru Ichijo custom

As promised here are a few shots of the new Revoltech VF-1A which arrived in the post today. While pretty much the same as the VF-1S, this version of the Macross DYRL valkyrie sports red markings rather than yellow and a different head sculpt. Unlike my VF-1S the head fitted on with relative ease (much to my relief!). However the arms of the figure are incredibly floppy and struggle to pull off any decent poses holding the gunpod (which adds alot of weight to the arm). It's easier to pose in battroid (robot) mode, but since I plan to display it in gerwalk mode alongside the VF-1S it's a little disappointing. As you'd expect, the same overall rating applies.

And here are the rest of the pics!

Thursday 4 February 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Revoltech Triple Transformation VF-1S Roy Focker custom

From what I can gather, Macross is a very expensive hobby. Looking at the Yamato range of Macross figures (which from what I can tell are the really good ones) you'd be looking to spend £40 and up plus shipping just for one figure. There are smaller ones available, but then the question is raised whether they're transformable or not. Thankfully revoltech have finally gone and made their own transforming valkyries from both Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Do You Remember Love? at an affordable rate (I paid just over £25 for one), have minimal partsforming AND in scale with most of my other robot/mecha figures. But are they any good? Time to find out...

The obvious place to start would be the jet mode, which the figure is packaged in. Despite seeming small once you're holding it, there's nothing really I can fault with it. A jet is a jet, and this is a perfect representation of Roy's signature transformation. Gerwalk mode is much the same, although I'd recommend swapping out the smaller hands fixed to the figure for the more dynamic posed ones so it can be posed holding the gunpod. To top it off, battroid mode is also great, boasting far better proportions that Revoltech's original non-transforming versions.

With 3 great modes, you'd think this was the perfect figure wouldn't you? Well, I'm sorry to say that it isn't. The problem isn't the 3 modes themselves, its getting between them. The transformation is the fiddliest thing I've ever seen in my life, and I buy alot of Transformers. The ROTF guys have nothing on this baby. Parts will fall off, especially the wings which are merely held on by a clip and drop off if you just TOUCH them. Another point of contention on my figure (not sure if this is a problem on the whole though) was putting the head on, which is separate from the main figure in the package. The hole was far too small for me to place it on the main body, making it a huge struggle which felt like I was going to break the figure on several occasions. The VF-1S REALLY doesn't feel like its meant to be played with, so if you were looking for an afforable DURABLE Macross figure this really isn't for you. However if you're more of a collector like me and are just looking for something to pose and display, you can get the transformation over once and then not have to look back for a while. For those interested in the transformation (I coudn't be bothered to take pictures during that much frustration), check it out here.

I've been waiting for this figure for a long time, and I REALLY wanted to give it 5 out of 5, but the issues with the transformation and the wings stand out far too much to make that rating a reality. What I will say is though is that the figure LOOKS badass and I don't regret having ordered the VF-1A Hikaru Ichijo (will probably get the VF-1J Hikaru, Max and Milia customs when they're released too). Its the transforming that I'm really not looking forward to...

PS. Part b of this review will be up once I receive the VF-1A, but it will mostly be images as the figure is more or less the same as the VF-1S, albeit with a different head and colourscheme.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Movie REVIEW: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the Movie: Lagann-Hen

FINALLY released on DVD in Japan, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the Movie: Lagann-Hen is the direct follow on from the previous movie Guren-Hen and covers episodes 15 to 27 of the Gurren Lagann series, thus concluding the story arc. It chronicles the Dai Gurren Dan's defeat of the Spiral King Lordgenome and his ominous warning, then moves onto the 7 year timeskip when the team must reunite and travel the depths of space to battle the Anti-Spirals and rescue Nia, who became the enemy's messenger of destruction.

While Guren-Hen followed the plot of the first half of the series fairly faithfully (until Kamina's death that is), Lagann-Hen, while following the same basic premise, contains far more divergences, meaning that it is almost entirely made up of new footage and has a far more unique feel than its predecessor. Most of these (ie the ones that I can remember/stood out the most) new movie version changes are listed below.

* The movie opens with the concluding fistfight between Lagann and Lordgenome, with the Lazengann battle being shown quickly through a black and white flashback sequence. This scene takes up all of 5 minutes, which is a pity because it is such a prominent moment in the tv series. This is one of my few faults with Lagann-Hen. Oh, and Lordgenome's prophecy is slightly different, its now when the monkeys reach the moon that the Anti-Spirals will appear, rather than when 1000000 inhabit the surface.
* Following this, we are treated to a great montage of the building of Kamina city, and Simon singlehandedly building its monumental statue.
* Nia opens the main movie writing a letter to Kamina, bringing the audience up to the speed with events. The proposal scene has also been slightly altered, with a touching conversation between Simon and Nia in a ganmen memorial park. Nia also becomes the anti spiral messenger in front of Simon.
* The prison is now underground rather than on an island, and there are some great exchanges between Simon and Viral. Viral even gets into a fistfight with anti spiral Nia.
* The moon now becomes the Cathedral Lazengann to destroy the Earth, with Lordgenome (humourously) hacking into its systems to locate how the huge mecha can be reclaimed. This results in Arc Gurren Lagann feeling far more prominent than it did in the series.
* Rossiu's struggle is far more condensed, and it is now Kinon that snaps him out of his sucidal tendencies rather than Simon.
* Kittan is brought more centre stage, and his relationship with Yoko feels more fleshed out. This is especially shown in a great scene with the Gurren-dan drinking in preparation for their final battle. In the movie he is the only member to die in battle, making his sacrifice all the more important. It is also concluded with his sisters mourning his loss on the team's return to Earth.
* The final battle lasts around 30 minutes, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is no longer the star of the show. This time, we are treated to all the member's ganmen going "Tengen Toppa" (say hello to TT Lagann, TT Enkidulga, TT Yoko W Tank, TT Dai-Gurren and a whole lot more) and Nia FINALLY being given her own mecha (the TT Solvernia). The climax cultivates in the formation of the Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, a collossal giant who's more a Kamina-esque being of pure energy rather than a mech.
* This leads into an epic fist fight between Simon and the Anti-Spiral with Simon TURNING HIS OWN BLOOD into a drill. Yes, Gainax took the epic finale of the TV series and blatently jacked it up to 11.
* The after credits "20 years later" scene has been changed to see Simon carrying out Nia's wish for the world. AWWWW....

The pacing is a bit rushed admittedly, but anyone who's looking for a more in depth version of events would be better off watching the TV series. What I went in expecting was to see the action scenes jacked up to monumental proportions, and I was far from disappointed. Nia, my favourite anime character period, is by far the standout character of the movie, Yukari Fukui's voicework is astounding, especially as Anti-Spiral Nia. The movie is far more about the relationship between Simon and Nia, and its tragic end really tugs at your heartstrings.

I really hope this isn't the end of Gurren Lagann (well, Parallel Works 2 is still coming, but I meant main storywise) but if it is, its gone out with one HELL of a bang.