meta: Fantasy

See in alphabetical order

2017


Patreon 'The Tatami Galaxy': Have I Been In This Room Before?
When the director of 'Mind Game' and the author of 'The Eccentric Family' got together, they created a comedic masterpiece that plays like 'Groundhog Day' fused with both of those visionary projects
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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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'Bungo Stray Dogs': Six (Or More) Authors In Search Of Some Character
'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' for the J-lit set; a show that has one great creative invention and then spends its entire runtime doing nothing of consequence with it
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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


'Neji-shiki'/'Screwed': A Peek Into The Pit
How to film Yoshiharu Tsuge's landmark work of surrealist comics? Leave it to master of weirdness Teruo Ishii, albeit with mixed results
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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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'Berserk' (2016): What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?
The return of Kentarō Miura's violent fantasy epic to the little screen brings with it a fidelity to its strong characterization and powerful story -- and a renewed appreciation of all that was problematic the first time
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Patreon 'Aoi Bungaku: Sakura No Mori No Mankai No Shita [In The Forest, Under Cherries In Full Bloom]': The Heart's Filthy Lesson
Ango Sakaguchi's classic story, a mix of 'farce, fable, and mystery' (and horror) is brought to life with outlandish style and color -- and always with one eye cocked towards its heart of darkness
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'Queen Emeraldas': Our Lady Of The Sea Of Stars
Leiji Matsumoto's pulp action / space opera stories are really a kind of SF-tingled mythology; his 'Captain Harlock' successor, now out in English, is a fine example
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'Empire of Corpses': Dead Man's Party
Label anything 'steampunk' and the label tends to take over, but this fantasy from the late lamented Project Itoh is about more than just clockworks and longcoats
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'The Boy And The Beast': You'll Be A Man, My Son!
Mamoru Hosoda's new film starts as a predictable story of irreconcilable opposites forced to work together, but becomes something more ambitious and challenging -- and worth sticking with despite its narrative bumps
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'A-JIN': Live, Die, Repeat
After 'Knights of Sidonia', Netflix and Polygon Pictures aim -- sucessfully -- for darker and harder-hitting territory
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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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'Concrete Revolutio': They Could Be Heroes
A sprawling anime answer to 'Watchmen', with all of the ambition -- and all of the shortcomings -- implied by such a thing
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'Giganto Maxia': A Future Gone 'Berserk'
This one-shot side project from Kentarō ('Berserk') Miura promised an entirely different universe from that magnum opus. It's a shame we probably won't ever seen any more of it
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Patreon 'Night On The Galactic Railroad': We Are All Made Of Starstuff
The animated version of Kenji Miyazawa's fable isn't just a Classics Illustrated; it finds a voice of its own with which to tell its story of eternity and afterlife
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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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'Kizumonogatari': Came Back Haunted
Freshly translated into English, Nisioisin's novel of vampires and hapless human thralls is catnip for fans of his 'Monogatari' series, but everyone else faces an uphill climb
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2015


'The Seven Deadly Sins': A Venture Into Familiar But Entertaining Territory
Netflix's next venture into anime territory is satisfyingly entertaining and sports a gamboling cast, but don't look for any envelope-pushing here
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'Oh My Goddess!': Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel
Lightweight and frivolous as 'Oh My Goddess!' may be, those qualities might well also be what guarantee it can be reissued across the years and find an audience
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'Attack on Titan: The Harsh Mistress of the City': Velvet Fist In Mailed Glove
A much better expansion of the 'Attack on Titan' universe than the 'Before the Fall' light novel, but it's still not without its own issues
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'Fullmetal Alchemist': The Road Not Taken
Placed side by side with its anime and manga brother incarnations, 'Fullmetal Alchemist' deserves more to be seen for where it rethinks and reinterprets, and less for how it deviates from the playbook
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'When Marnie Was There': My Girl
The last Studio Ghibli film, at least for now, aims for the good-hearted timelessness of all the studio's best films, and by and large achieves it
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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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'Inari Kon Kon': 21st-Century Fox
What could have been a dreary slog through a predictable plotline is instead made sweet, sincere, and unexpectedly thoughtful
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'Noragami': God For Hire. Cheap.
Having gods tussle with each other in the middle of the modern world isn't a new idea, but 'Noragami' finds ways to be enjoyable rather than shopworn
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'Soul Eater Not!': Not Soul Eater
A side-quel that only makes the audience long all the more for the original, instead of cutting its own path
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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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'The Eccentric Family': Tanuki & Sons
One of the very few shows that gets it all right: funny, dazzling, charming, thoughtful, and sporting a cast of characters that never fail to enlist our sympathy and fascination
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'The Tale of the Princess Kaguya': Her Life To Live
So much more than just a lavish Classics Illustrated story, Isao Takahata's brush-painted picture scroll of a movie asks where the real meaning of any of our lives lies
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'Pom Poko': An Imitation Of Life
It's easy to overlook how many layers of meaning there are in Studio Ghibli's bawdy, raucous tale of shapeshifting raccoons holding out against human encroachment -- especially when you're laughing this hard
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Let's Animate This: 'Dogura Magura'
Yumeno Kyusaku's masterpiece of surreal horror has been filmed, and even adapted to manga, but its dreamy evil makes it perfectly suited to an anime version
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Short Takes: 'Witchcraft Works Vol. 2'
Second verse of this fantasy-comedy, a bit less interesting than the first, as coincidence and contrivance take precedence over invention and storytelling
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'Opus': Satoshi Kon's Unfinished Symphony
Never finished and lost to time, Satoshi Kon's mini-epic about a manga artist caught in the interpenetration of reality and his imagination works both on its own terms as an adventure -- and as an unintentional metaphor for its creator's own career
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2014


'Princess Mononoke': The Blood Of Eden
Let's not shy away from calling this not only Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki's greatest achievement, but one of the finest of all films, animated or not
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Short Takes: 'Witchcraft Works Vol. 1'
Magical hijinks in high school are the jumping-off point for this enjoyable story with no small amount of potential, but also unnecessarily confusing visuals
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'Kiki's Delivery Service': Little Witch In The Big City
At the heart of Hayao Miyazaki's most effortlessly charming film is a character of equal charm, learning her magic alone isn't what is most important about her
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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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'Patema Inverted': The Gravity Of Love
Its story may be straight out of the tattered young-adult dystopia playbook, but 'Patema Inverted' boasts a central visual metaphor so dazzling it begs for IMAX
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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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'Shiki': Human Monsters, All-Too-Human Monsters
The horror at the heart of this horror story lies in how it toys so adeptly with our understanding of 'human' and 'monster'
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'A Letter To Momo': I'll Get By With A Little Help From My Ogres
Despite some pacing problems and a few fumbled story elements, the first film from Hiroyuki Okiura since 'Jin-roh' is a good-hearted treat
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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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'Berserk': War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning
Limited and fragmented as it is, this brutal fantasy still achieves wonders, thanks to the sheer strength of its storytelling and the force of its vision
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'Paranoia Agent': We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us
The real monster in Satoshi Kon's genre-defying black comedy of horrors is human nature itself
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'Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit': Have Spear, Will Travel
Unfairly overlooked by audiences, this engrossing and intelligent adventure fantasy deserves cherishing -- doubly so now thanks to its welcome re-release
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'Cardcaptor Sakura': (Re-) Release!
After a wave of successors and deconstructions, the sweetness and directness of one of anime's most-beloved magical-girl shows still holds up
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Let's Film This: 'Soul Eater'
It isn't just the Tim Burton-esque atmosphere that makes 'Soul Eater' ripe for a live-action version, but a lively and colorful cast of characters worthy of our attention
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'Short Peace': Genius In Miniature
Katsuhiro Otomo's involvement in this dazzling short-film anthology is reason enough to seek it out, but there's plenty more on top of that
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'Mononoke': To Extreme Sickness, Extreme Remedies
Long unavailable in anything but fansubs, this psychedelic horror-fantasy anthology is bewitching and intoxicating
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'Red Data Girl': A For Effort, B- For Content
Despite a meandering plotline, this mini-fantasia about one girl's spiritual powers is still worth the time
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'Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress': The Beauty Of The Beasts
A gorgeously-designed surface isn't all that's beautiful in this compelling reworking of elements from the classic tale of 'Hakkenden'
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'Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III: The Advent'
The third of the 'Berserk' films brings us to the long-awaited end of the beginning, and reminds us the TV series still did some things totally right
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Let's Film This: 'Claymore'
A massive budget wouldn't be needed to realize this most emotionally-powered of dark fantasies -- just proper attention to its story and characters
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'Attack On Titan': Titanic, In Every Sense
One of 2013's best shows, which manages to both shoot itself in the foot and not be limited by that
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'Brave 10': History, Repeating Itself
It's always fascinating how Japan does mutant fantasy versions of its own history, even if the results aren't always worth the effort
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2013


'Last Exile: Fam The Silver Wing': Fly Me To The Moon
Steampunk, science fiction, fantasy -- does everything need a singular label? This show freely spans all those things, somehow without contradiction
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'Wolf Children': A Mother's Work
Mamoru Hosoda's story about two of the greater agonies a mother and a wife could endure is impeccably observed and emotionally true
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