Sunday, May 22, 2016

Comic Book review: Tokyo Ghost, Volume One: The Atomic Garden

Despite cover art that might evoke thoughts of Akira and Mad Max, Tokyo Ghost falls nearer to the themes explored in Ghost in the Shell, with a presentation that teeters towards Tank Girl and Robocop. It is an extremist vision of a future controlled by one corporation, a world run into the ground with pollution and technological addictions. At the center of this story are Debbie, one of the few citizens of mega-city Los Angeles who has remained clean, and her boyfriend, constable Led Dent, a tech junkie who is known as feared as the most effective of enforcers in L.A.

Led Dent frequently tracks down those who have tried to cheat his employer out of money, or those who seek to upset the twisted dystopian order of the city. And Led carries out many of his jobs with extreme prejudice, destroying mechanical and organic obstacles alike. Debbie, meanwhile, does not think so highly of L.A., nor does she care much for Led’s employer, but she sees the jobs as a necessary evil, a means of escape from this world drowning in its own addictions and misery. While Led’s hulking form and beast of a motorbike play into much of the series visual ‘pop’, Debbie’s bright pink and purple color scheme denotes her livelihood, her hopes for a better tomorrow, and the fact that – even in such a rotten city – her soul is still filled with love for Led.

The series explains that, many years prior, Led Dent was a kid named Teddy. Debbie and Teddy fell in love, but as the world went to hell in a hand basket around them, Teddy felt weak, unable to protect Debbie, or himself, for that matter. Teddy subjected himself to a number of implants in order to become the gargantuan and fearsome Led Dent, but in doing so, sacrificed his soul and much of his free will. Seeing Led constantly jacked in to a series of radio and television feeds as he carries out his missions, Debbie is determined to get him clean, to bring back the boy she fell in love with, by escaping to Japan, rumored to be the last country on the planet devoid of technology.

The environments in Tokyo Ghost display and absurd attention to detail. Many signs and company names can be picked out from any single one of Tokyo Ghost’s cityscape panoramas, while the lush greenery, tranquil waterfalls, and feudal buildings of Japan present a stark contrast. It is a series that rides on the wilder side, with the gore and sex often being gratuitous to further drive home the notion that this future is controlled by selfish individuals whose concerns are not with the common folk. For those who grew up during the boom of cyberpunk anime and films, Tokyo Ghost may be worth a look. This first volume ends on a note that may leave readers a tad puzzled, even caught off guard. With that in mind, I feel it is worth stating that this is but the first act of Tokyo Ghost, and there is plentiful opportunity for the story to be elaborated upon in later volumes.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anime review: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

In similar vein to Gundam OVAs 0080: War in the Pocket and 08th MS Team, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt presents a small scaled conflict that is but a sample of a widespread war. It spends ample time detailing the life and struggles facing both Federation and Zeon soldiers, with the former hoping that a prototype Gundam and one hotshot, self-absorbed pilot will grant them victory over a ravaged sector of space marked by the debris of abandoned space colonies. The main Zeon forces, meanwhile, stand out from the pack as being almost exclusively amputees, with their main pilot out to prove his worth in beating back the Federation forces, while also looking out for his friends and comrades-in-arms.

Gundam Thunderbolt is a very short watch. Four episodes clock in at less than twenty-five minutes a piece. But the series does not lack polish – following in the footsteps of Unicorn and The Origin, the digital animation nears movie quality, with a decidedly darker atmosphere to many environments, further playing up the desperate measures taken during the One Year War. This visual style is strikingly appropriate, given that Thunderbolt explores the motivations of the two lead pilots in great detail, as well as explores the horrible atrocities both factions carried out in hopes of securing their victory over what is essentially a mole hill compared to the ‘mountains’ of Zeon strongholds like Solomon and A Baoa Qu. If there was ever any doubt that both the Federation and the Zeons could be responsible for some morally questionable, unsettling tactics, you need look no further than Gundam Thunderbolt.

And that’s a large part of what makes Thunderbolt such a worthwhile watch; it packs a hard punch, with mature themes and few real ‘heroes’ in the mix. It also boasts an incredibly catchy, upbeat soundtrack that samples jazz, funk, and love ballads, all of which presents an eerie, yet wonderful contrast to the narrative themes at play. If nothing else, Thunderbolt is worth giving a shot for its Cowboy Bebop-flavored tunes, and worth sticking around for the escalation of power and subsequent devolution of humanity.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)
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