Akira: The Movie Review by Eugene Alejandro

Akira is a post apocalyptic, science fiction, and Japanese animated feature film directed and written by Katsuhiro Otomo, made by TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsa), and originally released theatrically in Japan in the year 1988. The movie is also adapted from Katsuhiro Otomo’s own manga series of the same name.

The setting of Akira is that it is the year 2019, and Japan (more specifically, Neo Tokyo) is going through a massive economic crisis due to them trying to recover from the aftermath of World War 3, and spending most of their money for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Sports Olympics (the reason for why World War 3 happened in the movie is explained, but no spoiler about that will be said in this review). The movie’s basic plot is about a boy named Kaneda Shotaro who gets worried for one of his best friends named Tetsuo Shima after Tetsuo is taken by the Japanese military after an incident in which the biker gang that Kandea and Tetsuo are members of were fighting another biker gang (to clarify, this isn’t the very start of the movie. This only happens during the beginning of it).

The reason why Tetsuo was taken by the military is because when he got injured in the incident, he ended up getting physic powers (I recommend watching the movie for more details as to how and why he got the powers). Because of these powers he’s gotten, Tetsuo falls into madness, and is determined into re-awaking a character named Akira (who he keeps hearing about in his head) even if it means destroying the world just to do so (and yes, the movie is actually named after that character). Later on in the story, Kaneda finds out about Tetsuo’s powers and goal, and is determined into stopping one of his best friends in order to save the world.

When Akira was released in 1988, not only was it met with high critical praise and financial success, it also served as a landmark in Japanese animation (or Anime to say it more simply), and is also one of many animated products from Japan that helped introduce Anime into the West (with the others being the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie, and Ninja Scroll from 1993). So with all that info about Akira said, does the movie live up to all of that recognition? Indeed it does, and I’m going to try talk about all the aspects of the film so that you can know why I think it is a spectacular movie (also, there will be NO spoilers in what I’m going to say, so you don’t have to worry about that).

-The Story and Writing: While the story of Akira (for the most part) ain’t anything new (even for the time that it was originally released), the story is greatly supported by a strong script that contains solid pacing, excellent character development, and just overall all the aspects good film writing needs. All the important characters are each well-written, and entire movie in general just has an epic feel to it thanks to how the script was written into allowing that. I must also include that the movie also has a satisfying ending to it (and ending I won’t go into detail about for the sake of this review). Earlier in this review, I did mention that Akira is a movie adaption of a manga of the same name by same person who directed and written the movie adaption of it (Katsuhiro Otomo). I bring this up because to anyone who’s read the manga, would know very well that there are a lot of changes made for the film adaptation in regards to some of the characters and the ending of the story (stuff I will not spoil). For how the movie adaptation of Akira was made, the changes work very well, and help the movie maintain its legendary status without alienating people who read the manga. Before I forget now I’ve just remembered, while the story and writing in Akira are very good, the film is (at times) a very dark plot that contains a lot of scenes of violence, so I certainly CAN’T recommend watching this movie if you are under 18 years of age (trust me. The movie is rated R for a reason).

-The Animation: For a animated theatrical released movie from Japan that came out in 1988, It felt more like a movie that came out in 1998. The animation in this movie truly is revolutionary as for the time, this film utilized backgrounds and character designs with strong amounts of detail put into them. All the characters have excellent facial expressions for whenever they are happy, mad, sad, etc. This a good for the animation because it helps the characters feel alive. The animation regarding the movements is also very impressive, and helps make the animation in the entire film work. I should also talk about this movie’s use of colors as I’m sure that even the colors used in the animation for this film were also revolutionary. I say this because there is just so much detail put into this movie’s colors that helped make the animation look even better.

-The Music/Score/Soundtrack: The soundtrack in Akira was made and provided by Geino Yamashirogumi, and Tsutomu Ohashi. This movie’s music is without a doubt one of the greatest movie scores of all time thanks to all the instruments, notes, and how it fits the tone of the film very well. The music is also another novelty as (at least to my knowledge anyways) I don’t think any other Anime film at the time of its release (or possibly even before that time) had music this epic. So overall, Akira’s music is great, and definitely worth listening to.

-The Voice Acting: I must state that for this review that I am going to talk about both the original Japanese language and English Dub. While I myself don’t speak Japanese, I have watched numerous movies made in Japan to the point that I am able to notice how the performances are. With that said, the Japanese voice acting in Akira is great with each voice actor and actress fitting the character they are voicing very well. The English Dub by Pioneer/Geneon is also excellent with each voice actor to voice their characters in English fitting the roles perfectly without a single one standing out. In conclusion, the voice acting in general in Akira is good.

-The Subtitles: Originally, I didn’t feel like talking about the subtitles for this movie that were included in the Pioner/Geneon DVD that I own, but to those who are reading this review, and are interested in watching this movie with the original Japanese speaking language with English subtitles, the good news about that is that the subtitles for this movie are solid. The subtitles for the DVD that I have are colored yellow, and the way that all the words are presented whenever a character is speaking look well enough for the watcher to easily see them. The words also stay on screen for a good amount of time for the watcher to see them without them having to pause the movie just to read the subtitles. So if you are looking for good English subtitles when watching Akira in Japanese, expect the subtitles to do their job just fine.

Now that I have said and pointed out all my reasons for why I believe Akira is a fantastic movie, I can certainly recommend giving it a watch as the film truly is a legendary groundbreaking work of cinematic art that has helped introduce Japanese animation to Western audiences thanks to its very strong story and writing, fabulous animation, and epic soundtrack.

I give Akira: The Movie 5/5 Stars, and Two Thumbs Up.

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Mother Russia Review by Eugene Alejandro

Jeff McComsey’s Mother Russia is a zombie graphic novel that takes place in an alternate time in history (the 1940s) in which Soviet Russia has become victim to the Zombie apocalypse (there really isn’t an explanation for it either). The story mostly focuses on a female sniper in Russia who is trying to survive from the zombies, and she ends up rescuing a little boy only to also be saved by a former German soldier along with his pet German Shepard dog.

As far as zombie survival stories go, Mother Russia surely is an entertaining read with interesting characters and a nice concept. I most certainly recommend getting the graphic novel collection as after the main story ends, the collected edition includes bonus stories giving origins to all the main characters. They are all written by Jeff McComsey, but each one is illustrated by a different artist.

Speaking of the artwork, not only did Jeff McComsey create and write Mother Russia, he also drew it as well. His artwork in the interior pages are in black and white, and it is decent to look at, and fits the tone of the story very well. The bonus stories (like I said earlier in this review) are each illustrated by different artists. While each artist has a different style of penciling and inking, each one works for the respective stories they worked on, and doesn’t really distract from the fact that they are each a huge contrast to the main story’s art.

The only nitpick I have with Mother Russia is the ending. I won’t spoil how the ending goes, but I will warn that is does give the reader a “really? That quick?” vibe. It wasn’t a terrible ending, but I felt it could’ve been better.

While Mother Russia may not be something new, ground breaking, and mind blowing, it’s certainly a good enough read if you are someone who enjoys zombies and horror.

I give Mother Russia Two Thumbs Up, and 4/5 Stars.

King: The Graphic Novel Review by Eugene Alejandro

Created by Joshua Hale Fialkov (the writer), Bernard Chang (the penciler and inker), and Marcelo Maiolo (the colorist), and published by Amazon’s comic book publishing imprint Jet City Comics, King is about a character literally named King who believes that he is the last human on Earth as the world he is currently living in is a post-apocalyptic mess inhabited by many strange animal-human hybrids, a religious robot cult, and many other weird looking people and animals. He is given a mission to look for and retrieve “The Life Seed”, only to discover there is much more to his mission than expected and realized.

In my opinion, King is the comic book equivalent of the 2015 short film Kung Fury in regards to its tone because King’s story is very fun with a lot of good humor, ridiculous ideas that work, and a good balance of comedy, fantasy, and sci-fi for a post-apocalyptic story that are all mixed together well thanks to Joshua Hale Fialkov’s awesome writing. For the story that is only 5 issues long (the King Graphic Novel is a collection of the 5 issues of the same name), all the characters major and minor are all very likeable and memorable, and each one has a very unique and creative design to them (another thanks to that goes to the great writing by Joshua Hale Fialkov).

Bernard Chang’s artwork is a joy to the eyes because all the characters and backgrounds are illustrated with huge amounts of great detail, they all appear very creative, unique, and original, and a lot of the scenes that involve action are also fun to look at as Bernard Chang’s artwork is the perfect fit for a story like this. The animals are also impressive to look at thanks to his art.

The coloring by Marcelo Maiolo is some of the greatest comic book coloring I have ever seen. The colors are very vibrant, clear, and match perfectly with Bernard Chang’s pencils and inks. Marcelo Mailo’s coloring is also a very good example of how colors can affect the artwork (and make it look good).

The only nitpick that I have with King (and I do mean the only nitpick) is that it’s too short of a story (with it only being 5 issues). I really loved the universe that it presented, and I hope more stories set in it happen as it’s very creative, new, and unique for comic book storytelling that also has a good sense of humor.

Joshua Hale Fialkov, Bernard Chang, and Marcelo Maiolo have accomplished what a comic book creative team should always do and that is create a new story set in a very fascinating universe with awesome characters, awesome writing, awesome artwork, and awesome colors that not only grace the post-apocalyptic genre, but the rest of the genres it has, and I’ll even go as far as to say that because of all that, it deserves all the Eisner Awards it can possibly earn.

I give King 5/5 Stars, and Two Thumbs Up.

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters Review by Eugene Alejandro

For Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters to be the first Godzilla comic IDW Publishing has made, it’s a very weak start to their line of Godzilla comics. I don’t absolutely hate Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters, but there is just a lot of flaws that keep it from being a good series to me.

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters is a 12 issue series with issues #1-8 written by Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh, while issues #9-12 are written by Jason Ciaramella. The artwork for issues #1-4 are by Phil Hester, while issues #5-12 are drawn by Victor Santos.

To start off, Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters has a very good premise in which Godzilla and other Kaiju are causing the world to go through an apocalypse. What ruins the concept though is the use of satire in it. The story makes fun of real life figures most famously Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, and the Jeresy Shore, and it tries to make fun of (sometimes) the governments failed attempts at stopping the Kaiju, and while some of the jokes do work in the way they allow chuckles to happen, it detracts greatly from the dark tone that the series is suppose to have, and feels completely out of place in a Godzilla story.

The writing also has some problems with out of place comedy, and parts of the story that foreshadow something, but never get fulfilled once the series ends. The character development is also poor as there is no explanation for why Godzilla (and the other Kaiju) appear, and the villians of this story who are twin sisters with psychic powers who want to control and the Kaiju and rule the world is never given a good reason to be there.

The dialogue, actions scenes, and the times the story tries to be serious to work, but are overshadowed by the rest of the writing flaws. The comedy isn’t bad, it just feels out of place for this series.

The artwork by both Phil Hester and Victor Santos is another huge flaw with this series as the way the Kaiju and human characters look, it feels way too cartoonish and looks rushed sometimes. There is also an inconsistency with the art as the Kaiju’s eyes in some panels are completely pale, while in other panels their irises can be seen. I don’t want to make it sound like both Phil Hester and Victor Santos are bad artists because they are not. I have seen good work from them. It’s just that their art in Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters just looked very rushed and poor with even the backgrounds looking dull (the coloring and inking are very solid though).

One thing that I was really upset with his story is the origin they give to Godzilla. Instead of being a giant reptilian monster that was created by nuclear weapons, he is instead a giant monster that randomly appears in the world causing destruction for no reason and explanation, that only gets his nuclear powers because a nuclear missile was launched at him with the hopes of killing him (only for him to absorb the radiation and get more powers from it). This is an insult as it goes against Godzilla’s metaphor of being the consequences of using nuclear weapons, and is bound to offend any true and hardcore Godzilla fan.

Even though I said that this series has way too many storytelling and artwork flaws, I won’t say it’s awful because it had a good concept, good giant monster fighting action, and good lettering. It’s just that if if hadn’t felt so rushed, it would’ve been a much better story for sure, and a better start for IDW Publishing’s Godzilla line.

I give Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters 2/5 Stars.

Low Volume 1 Review by Eugene Alejandro

Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Greg Tocchini, and published by Image Comics, Low is about mankind living in the ocean because the Earth’s sun has expanded so much, the surface has been uninhabitable. Low Volume 1 is specifically about the Caine family trying to use their technology to search for other planets in the hopes of helping mankind. However, while they do this, their ship get’s attacked by pirates, the father of the family (Johl Caine) gets killed, the two daughters get kidnapped, and the mother (Stel Caine) and the son (Marik Caine) are the only ones who survived the pirate attack and didn’t get kidnapped. Years later after the incident, Stel discovers where the man who killed her husband and kidnapped her daughters is (that man’s name is Roln), and decides that she and her son will go that location to save their remaining family, and get their revenge on Roln.

Low has a very unique and creative premise for a post-apocalyptic story, and Rick Remender’s writing helps with that as the world is explained enough so that the readers can understand it, and the characters are well-written and developed perfectly.

The artwork by Greg Tocchini is really interesting to look at as the way the characters, animals, and settings are illustrated don’t contradict with Low’s tone at all, and are also nice to look at.

There are some nitpicks with Low Volume 1 that want to mention. The first one being that not a lot of things are explained such as whenever Roln gets stabbed in the chest more than once, he survives as opposed to dying. I would have liked to see a reason for why that was the case. Another part of the story that has no explanation is that besides humans, there are what resembles a cross between humans and sea animals, and some of the animals look very alien-like as opposed to a normal sea animal on Earth (there is even what resembles a mix between a fish and a lion). I’m fully aware that Low is set in the future, but it still seemed weird to me to have that in the story just because (hopefully it all will be explained in Low Volume 2). The second nitpick of mine for Low Volume 1 is that I feel that it would’ve been even better had it only be a six issue mini series (Volume 1 collects Low issues 1-6) because the way the story is written prior to issue six (the first 5 issues to be specific) to me have the pacing of a mini series, and the way issue 6 ended felt as excuse for there to be more issues to this series, and should’ve just ended the whole story altogether (that is just my opinion).

Excluding my nitpicks, Low is an ongoing comic book series with very good writing and art, and is a solid addition to the post-apocalyptic genre. Low Volume 1 is also a very well-made first story arc.

I give Low Volume 1 2 Thumbs Up, and 4/5 Stars.

Squarriors Volume 1: Spring Review by Eugene Alejandro

The entire Squarriors series takes place in a setting in which all the humans on Earth have become extinct, and the animals (at least the ones we see in Rural Illinois) have gained enough intelligence to speak like humans, craft weapons, make clothing, and live in tribal societies. This story arc is set in the season of Spring in the year 1996, and the it’s about 4 clans called the Tin Kin, the Sursha, the Maw, and the Amoni (while the Tin Kin, Sursha, and Maw are primarily ruled by Squirrels, the Amoni are completely ruled by Domestic Cats). While the Sursha, and Tin Kin tribes get along with each other, the Maw, and the Amoni are not only at war with each other, but are at war with the Tin Kin, and Sursha tribes because of their differences on how they choose to live their lives (essentially, this story is all about the the Tin Kin, and Sursha fighting against the Maw, in which the Amoni decide to want to kill all 3 of them so that they may rule the forest without another tribe being in their way).

While this idea for a comic book may sound utterly ridiculous to some people at first, Squarriors succeeds in executing it because the creators “Team Ash” (Ash Maczko the writer and Ashley Marie Witter the artist) did a fantastic job at making Squarriors a fun series that has very good writing and awesome art, and Squarriors Volume 1: Spring is a brilliant introduction.

Ash Maczko’s storytelling is top-notch as he is able to create a very new and unique world with interesting characters that works well in a post-apocalyptic story about animals without it misfiring.

The artwork by Ashley Marie Witter is without a doubt some of the greatest comic book art of all time. All the characters and backgrounds have lots of good detail to them to the point where they look real (especially in one panel that has a bunch of Cats from the Amoni tribe leaping out to attack a bunch of Squirrels. The cats look like ordinary Cats you’d see in real life), and the way that the gore is illustrated is great enough to help show the story’s dark tone.

An important thing to note about Squarriors Volume 1: Spring is that it’s a 4 issue mini series, and each issue begins with short stories that are set in the years 1985-1986 (ten and eleven years before the current story), and focus on human characters. The reason why this exists in the beginning of each issue is because it’s meant to foreshadow what led mankind to become extinct. My opinion on these short stories is that while they don’t explain too much about how and why all the humans are dead in the current story of Squarriors, they work very well as foreshadowing to the answer.

After all that I have just said about Squarriors Volume 1: Spring, it is a very entertaining creator-owned comic with a good story and outstanding artwork that graces the independent comic book market that no fan of comics should miss.

I give Squarriors Volume 1: Spring Two Thumbs Up, and 4/5 Stars.