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2017


Netflix's 'BLAME!': Killy Walk With Me 
Recast into a two-hour movie, Tsutomu Nihei's metamorphic cyberpunk hellscape manga emerges all the more as a graduate of the 'Mad Max'/Man With No Name school of drifter/loner heroes
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Patreon 'Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran': Crouching Tigress, Nitwit Dragon 
It looks at first to be a mere genderswapped spoof of the samurai genre, but underneath it's actually a loving and observant homage to all the great things about those stories of lone wolves vs. corrupt power
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'Attack On Titan: The Movie': A Dead-Action Film 
Misguided, tone-deaf, ugly, and erratically paced, this is one of the rare occasions where a promised Western remake might actually be just the response we deserve
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'Blade Of The Immortal': But That's The Way I Like It, Baby, I Don't Want To Live Forever 
With the first of the three-in-one reissues of Hiroaki Samura's epic fantasy about a nigh-unkillable assassin, there's never been a better time to rediscover one of manga's high points
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'Izetta: The Last Witch': All This And World War II 
A promising opening, an intriguing spin on an alternate version of recent history, a classy-looking production -- but it all crumbles no thanks to abysmal characterization and storytelling decisions
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2016


'Lone Wolf And Cub': The Boy And The Beast 
Kazuo Koike's perennial manga classic was adapted for the big screen in this cycle of six pop-pulp masterpieces, where father and son slash, stab, shoot, and slice their way through hell
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'Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV': The State Of One Of The Arts 
As an introduction to the newest FF universe, it's perfectly adequate; as drama and storytelling, it's serviceable; as a technology demo, it's a triumph - much like the other FF films before it
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'Thunderbolt Fantasy': Master Of Puppets 
This wild, stylish marriage of Gerry Anderson-style marionettes, wuxia cinema, and gnarly anime plotting may be tough to take in at first, but we all complained about big eyes and small mouths once upon a time
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Tsutomu Nihei's 'Blame!': Sisyphus In The Labyrinth 
Tsutomu Nihei's debut manga is all industrial hellscapes, sudden violence, and science-fiction gloom -- and in those few things it's everything it needs to be
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'Tokyo Tribe': Last Night A DJ Kicked My Ass 
Sion Sono's freeform rap-stravaganza adaptation of the hip-hop turf-war manga splits down the middle between being silly fun and being too mindless for its own good
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'Ghost In The Shell: The New Movie': Only New On The Outside 
In the end, all the 'Ghost in the Shell: ARISE' continuity has done is lead us right back where we started
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'Dimension W': One-Dimensional 
Competent but ultimately tame, 'Dimension W' squanders an intriguing premise on a story that's more off-the-shelf than off-the-rails
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'Garm Wars: The Last Druid': History, And Oshii, Repeating Themselves 
Mamoru Oshii's live-action project is a sad misfire -- ponderous, pretentious, and worst of all, nothing he hasn't done before (and done better, too)
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'Astro-Boy': The Kid With The 100,000 Horsepower Heart 
Osamu Tezuka's beloved creation was more than just kid's stuff; it was machine-age mythology for young and old alike
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'Lady Snowblood': Revenge, Best Served Cold 
A pivotal inspiration for Tarantino's 'Kill Bill', this violent revenge tale brings us an anti-heroine who's as much of an outsider for being a woman as she is for being an assassin
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2015


Patreon 'Rurouni Kenshin': For The New Age, A New Man 
When the first film in this live-action trilogy is among the very best adaptations yet of an manga/anime property, we can forgive any weaknesses in the whole
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'Tokyo Ghoul': The Inhuman Condition 
It's tough sledding at first due to its focus on a hapless protagonist, but the way 'Tokyo Ghoul' picks up steam to redeem itself is impressive
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Patreon 'Kill la Kill': The Empress's New Clothes 
Studio Trigger's rip-roaring follow-up to 'Gurren Lagann' embodied its intentions, by wearing a suit of style as gaudy and theatrical as the ideas it entertains
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'Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust': Beyond The Pale 
Adapted from the third novel in the 'D' series, 'Bloodlust' tops its source material, the earlier animated 'D' film, and a good deal of the competition that's come along since
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'Vampire Hunter D': Wanted, Undead Or Alive 
There's little question 'D' helped open anime to the West, but its status as an artifact of its moment in time has only become more stark over the years
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'009 Re: Cyborg': Parts On Order 
The latest attempt to revamp a classic anime/manga property along modern-day sensibilities is a fizzle, no thanks to a mismatch of material and director
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'Knights of Sidonia', Season 2: Once More Into The Breach, Dear Pilots 
The best parts of 'Sidonia' remain its visuals and its gut-wrenching combat sequences; it's a shame its human elements aren't quite as strong
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'Darker Than Black': What They Do In The Shadows 
With pieces borrowed smartly from across other entertainments, the 'X-Men meets X-Files' 'Darker Than Black' holds up well after nearly ten years
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'Nobunagun': Shooting Blanks 
Trippy visuals and a throw-it-all-in-the-pot storytelling style fall victim to incurious storytelling in this oddity
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'Ninja Scroll': Faster, Shinobi! Kill! Kill! 
Sleek, stylish, violent, and sleazy, the visual flair of this '90s gateway title remains unmatched -- but it's a child of its time in ways that aren't all positive
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Return To The 'Black Lagoon' 
After five years, volume 10 of 'Black Lagoon' -- but was all that made this series great only an artifact of its moment in time?
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'Noir': Killing At Their Own Pace 
The deliberate pacing of this fantasy thriller is both its most important attribute -- and the one thing about it most likely to give pause to today's viewers
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'Tokyo Ravens': Of Magic And The Mundane 
Shouldn't a show that entertains the idea that Japan's mystical past is an integral part of its present-day world not be so ... well, mundane?
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'Porco Rosso': A Red Pig On The Wing 
With this pre-WWII adventure, Hayao Miyazaki gave audiences young and old both a rollicking romp and a thoughtful drama, both in complement and not conflict
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2014


'REDLINE': Faster Than The Speed Of Love 
Even if the story's little more than a placeholder, 'REDLINE' seethes with visuals so propulsive and uninhibited, they alone guarantee it a place in anime history
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'Kite': A Girl, A Gun, A Remake 
The live-action remake of the infamous 1998 anime OVA is nowhere nearly as repellent as its source material, but don't take that as a recommendation
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'Hellsing Ultimate': Or, The Dracula-Vs.-Nazi-Vampire-Burning-London-To-The-Ground Blues 
Looking back over this legendary and now-concluded OVA series, it's striking to realize how it all amounted to a great deal less than it might have seemed
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'Welcome To The Space Show': The Kid-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy 
When five kids get whisked away on an interplanetary adventure, the splashy and spectacular results walk a line between a movie about kids, a movie for kids, and perhaps even a movie by kids
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'Chaika: The Coffin Princess': Carry That Weight 
An endearing cast, a creatively elaborated setting, and a strongly character-driven story combine to make 'Chaika' many cuts above the run of the mill
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'Bayonetta: Bloody Fate': Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 
It's as ridiculous, preposterous, and outlandish as the source material demanded, but there are side effects to being slavish to the very attributes that made 'Bayonetta' enjoyable as a game
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'Claymore': The Beautiful And The Damned 
Rare these days is the series with an all-female cast where character, story, and drama are the goals, not titillation or eye candy
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'Knights of Sidonia': For The World Is Hollow And He Has Touched The Sky 
The first anime to be distributed exclusively on Netflix is dazzling and enjoyable enough to feel new, but plays it safe enough to go mainstream
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Let's Film This: 'Black Lagoon' 
How is it that a live-action 'Black Lagoon' -- itself a loving homage to John Woo and Jerry Bruckheimer alike -- hasn't yet been put on the slate?
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'Jormungand': A Bullet In The Head, Or Two In The Feet? 
This poor man's 'Black Lagoon' embodies many of the problems inherent in a show about antiheroes and gray areas
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