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Editorial

Personal opinions and commentary.

9 Muses of Star Empire

The Future is Here, The Future is K-Pop: 9 Muses of Star Empire (2012)

I am not a fan of K-Pop. As a former expat, living and working in South Korea for almost five years, I tried to like the genre, but it all seemed too bubblegum to be taken seriously. The knowledge that everything: the songs, the performances, the very image presented were mere inventions of a committee rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, no matter how much I disliked K-Pop it was impossible to escape its grasp. You couldn’t ride a bus, wait for a subway, go to a department store, or even go out to eat without being inundated by the multitude of products, screens, and speakers peddling some new girl group or well-established boy band.

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Dracula Sucks! Vampires on VRV!

Before you get too excited, this is not a comprehensive critical dissection of Dracula Sucks, the 1978 X-rated adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic, starring “The Elliott Gould of Porn” Jamie Gillis as Count Dracula. But since you’ve already got me talking about it, I need to air the one gripe I have with that movie. You can’t just title your film Dracula Sucks, and then not deliver. I get the intended double entendre, and on the surface it’s clever. But at the end of the day it’s nothing more than an empty promise, and a broken dream.

Now that that’s off my chest, it’s time to move on to the actual topic of the day: Vampires. And not just any vampires. No, this is about vampires who aren’t musty old Dracula, because frankly Dracula sucks —except of course in the movie that’s literally called Dracula Sucks.

Let the Bullets Fly

A Wonton Western: Let the Bullets Fly (2010)

Beginning his career as an actor for Fifth Generation luminaries Zhang Yimou and Xie Fei, Jiang Wen’s move to the director’s chair would happen in 1994 with In the Heat of the Sun, a nostalgic tale about a group of adolescent males set during the Cultural Revolution. His subsequent directorial projects continued to mine China’s recent past, films full of pathos and irony, that were willing to not merely propagate state sponsored propaganda but attacking preconceived prejudices. And as a testament to Jiang’s skills behind the camera, critics and audiences alike have rightly lauded each film for their visual inventiveness and narrative sensibilities.

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The ’80s Anime Classic You Probably Haven’t Seen

If you’ve watched anime for a while, you know not to judge a show by its title. Cowboy Bebop doesn’t sound like it’s going to be about intergalactic bounty hunters, and Tiger & Bunny doesn’t bring to mind superheroes with corporate sponsorships. So it’s understandable that an anime called Bubblegum Crisis isn’t immediately going to sound like a love letter to 80s sci-fi films, packaged with hard-suited biker girls and an awesome soundtrack.

If you are good with context clues, you are probably picking up by now that yes, that is exactly what Bubblegum Crisis is: eight episodes of the best of the 80s, done up in a rough, neon cyberpunk setting.

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The Story of Anime’s First Blockbuster

A city of the future then, and of the “now” today. An oppressive metropolis lined with flashing neon. Relentlessly tough streets ravaged by teenagers consumed in a cycle of violence and debauchery intrinsic to their dystopian society, an ethos of cataclysmic revolution seeping up through the sewer grates and into the street.

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Holiday Hack’em Ups on VRV!

It’s that time of the year again when there isn’t a single holiday worth a damn in sight. July 4th is a distant memory, the fall and winter festivities are a dot on the horizon, and does anybody really care about Labor Day? But hey, it’s always a murder holiday in our hearts, and in the realm of horror, the holidays have long played host to murder…

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Expectations Vs. Reality: Hunter x Hunter

In a world where anime is bigger than ever… one woman hasn’t actually seen much of it.

Can she successfully piece together the premise of a popular series based on knowledge she’s absorbed from being online? Or will she endure the shame of believing that there is a talking dog which merely turns out to be an extremely hairy man?

Placing a poll on Twitter dot com, she puts her fate in the hands of the many. Whatever show they choose, she is honor-bound to describe what she thinks she knows, watch several episodes, and compare her knowledge to the cold truth.

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My Brother, My Brother, and My Original Character, Do Not Steal: MBMBaM’s Top Ten OCs

My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBaM for short) is an “advice show for the modern era.” But that doesn’t quite get across the charm, hilarity, and heart of the podcast run by the three McElroy brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin—or its television counterpart, which is available in its entirety right here!

Of all the gags and goofs MBMBaM has generated over its long run, my favorites are the characters the McElroys happen to develop in totally unexpected ways. Some of them are recurring, while most are one-offs. There are too many to count, so in a celebration of comic creativity, I give you my highly scientific top ten McElroy original characters.

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The Must-See Anime That Inspired Countless Creators

1991’s Otaku no Video is a two-part OVA that serves multiple purposes. It’s a wildly fictionalized parallel to the history of anime studio Gainax, a loving but harsh portrait of what it means to be an otaku, and a severe cautionary tale to those who walk the thin line between normal citizen and all-out maniac. It also sits firmly on the Itano Circus ground zero of a bunch of heavyweight careers, from Hideaki Anno to film director Shinji Higuchi. The former had just wrapped Gunbuster a few years prior, was smack dab in the middle of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, and just four years away from sending ripples throughout the otaku community with Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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Barf Bags Not Included: Italian Zombies Invade VRV!

Zombies: I’m sick of them, you’re sick of them. The only thing that could possibly make me cringe harder than a zombie is a pirate — and if you make a zombie pirate joke, I will stand up and walk away. But it’s not just a mere case of overexposure. They’ve become too safe; they’ve become Sunday night TV with the fam. And zombie movies should be like porn: you watch them alone or with a group of like-minded companions, but never with your family.

Frankly, they belong in the gutter. I like the gutter, you like the gutter. The Italians, they LOVE the gutter. Pick any disreputable film genre, and the Italians have not only dragged it down into the gutter, but tossed a bucket of maggots on top and bathed it in an overturned port-a-potty. They’re a beautiful people.

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No Matter Where You Go, Everyone’s Connected…Serial Experiments Lain (1998)

Made during the sci-fi anime renaissance, Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is a hodgepodge of 90’s tropes that, even 20 years later, is still relevant.  The first of Yoshitoshi ABe’s cyberpunk projects and directed by Ryūtarō Nakamura, the series revolves around Lain Iwakura, a typical middle school girl living in suburbia. Representative of most 90’s thrillers and sci-fi dystopias, Lain slowly starts to become undone as a shadow organization working for something called the “Wired”, a Matrix-esque version of the internet, that is slowly bleeding into the real world.

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Hope, Change, and Monsters: The Legacy of Digimon Adventure

I’ll be honest—when I first encountered Digimon Adventure during its original US broadcast, I had the same response as a lot of kids: “what a ripoff!” While the animation was eye-catching, it seemed like a much slower-paced story than I was used to, you had to follow it closely to know what was happening, and the monster designs weren’t always cute—sometimes they were downright scary. But I gave it a chance, because back then we didn’t have Crunchyroll or Cartoon Hangover. We didn’t have much choice—we just hunkered down in front of the TV every Saturday morning, scarfing down a bowl of sugary cereal and dutifully watched whatever cartoons happened to be on the air.

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Midnight Void: I Drink Your Blood

Hippies, man, with their crummy homemade deodorants and annoying bongos and jam bands with songs that never end (and don’t even get me started on the various hemp products). You know what happens to hippies in The Midnight Void? They get rabies. That’s right, and if you’ve never seen a hippy with rabies, well then that means you’ve never seen…

I Drink Your Blood

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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Haibane Renmei (2002)

Beginning life as a short-lived dōjinshi before being adapted into an anime, Haibane Renmei (2002) is a story about loss, pain, and redemption couched in Christian symbolism and a complex mythology. Set in the walled off town of Glie, the world is populated by humans who live in the town proper, the Haibane, angel-like humans with wings and a halo, and from outside the walls, the Toga, a group of mute traders who is the only group that can move in and out of the town freely. For bookworms the show is replete with references to the work of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. From the concept of a walled off city, animals as guides towards epiphany or transformation, the site of a well being an important setting, and the magical realist aesthetic all make Haibane Renmei a cousin to Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

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Freakazoid! A Lesson in Internet History

Way way back in the 1990s, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created a cartoon about a superhero. No, not that one. In contrast to the Caped Crusader’s brooding pathos, this was to be an off-the-wall comedy. While Timm and Dini wanted a straight superhero show, Steven Spielberg—coming off the success of Warner Brothers’ Animaniacs—wanted another comedy. Thus was born Freakazoid!

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Birth of the Cool: An Appreciation for the Cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville

With the birth of the gangster genre during the early part of the twentieth century, the figure of the gangster protagonist has suffered the same fate in countless pictures, good and bad: to die an ignominious death or be locked up forever removed from society’s purview, yet even though the template for the gangster genre hasn’t changed since the time of Griffith. The genre’s adoption and re-appropriation by filmmakers from all over the world has led to several unique strains of the gangster archetype. Whereas the American gangster follows a rise-and-fall narrative, usually employing an immigrant or minority protagonist, the Japanese yakuza is torn between the contradictory values of duty and personal loyalty, while the Gallic version of the gangster archetype was a blend of American genre tropes and existentialist angst. Our French cousins injected Camus and Sartre into characters that wouldn’t be too far off from the early Warner Bros. gangster pictures of the 1930’s. And while there have been many contributors to the Gallic strain of crime pictures the most important of these is French auteur Jean-Pierre Melville. A man that not only dabbled in making gangster pictures he invented the image of the hip, cool, laconic gangster. An image appropriated by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann, John Woo, Wong Kar-Wai, Johnnie To, and Jim Jarmusch.