The Latest Anime Excursion: ‘Sword of the Stranger, Summer Wars, Detective Conan, Monster


The sheer amount of animation that runs through our household on a regular basis is astonishing at times, but in a good way. Nothing quite like catching a samurai epic, a suspenseful medical drama, a detective serial, and a family feature all within the same two weeks. Sword of the Stranger, even after some years, remains a classic. Monster is a tale of one doctor’s struggle to remain true to his heart. Whether Dr. Tenma is facing the ethical and political pressure of his fellow peers, or dealing with the consequences of his past, Monster is truly an engaging series to watch. If you don’t know me by now you never will: Detective Conan gets played more than any other series in our collection. Why? Because it’s a clever, silly little series about a genius detective who doesn’t allow his shortcomings to slow him down. Shinichi Kudo has been poisoned and shrunk down into a kid and yet he still spends his time solving crimes. So what if he’s a little arrogant, right? And lastly, Summer Wars deals with a family as one of it’s members brings home a young friend. And by friend I mean her future husband. Well, at least that’s what she tells her folks. Anyhow, the story let’s us sit with these people and see how they live. How they interact with their highly technologically advanced society and the risks that come with that. They also deal with death in the family, and it is interesting to see how the different members of the family “grieve”. Some mourn the loss, and lose touch with reality while others lash out at society as a way to somehow avenge the fallen. All in all, there wasn’t a single animated endeavor that I regret here within the last couple of weeks. And that’s something that I, nor Saki take for granted–especially in the world of Japanese animation.

Take Out (2008)


You ever wonder about the lives of the people you see out and about? You ever wondered if the patrolman is 3 months late in paying the rent or if the drive-thru lady has bad credit? If you’re anything like me you probably don’t. I certainly don’t think about whether or not the Chinese food delivery guy is an illegal alien. Or whether he’s been smuggled into the country and now owes someone a ridiculous amount of money.

“No English, okay!?”

The special message Take Out is trying to send reads loud in clear in my eyes. There are a lot of people who live in the heavily populated areas in the East Coast who have arrived there illegally. They’ve been smuggled across by people in exchange for what equates to modernized form of indentured servitude. They end up working low wage jobs, sending some money home to their families and paying the rest over to the evil people who brought them over originally. Do these immigrants play a part in the “illegal transaction” of immigrant smuggling? Yes, they do. No one forced them over here, and to some degree many of them bought way too much into the “American Dream” analogy. You know, the American Dream, right? A house with white picket fences stretched out over a nice sized lawn. A husband who brings in the dough. A wife who takes care of the kids and maintains the household? Yeah that old, outdated dream.

At any rate, Take Out itself does only an okay job of conveying the struggle of the Asian Americans being indebted to loan sharks and such. The lead is convincing enough as a run-ragged young man wanting to provide for his family even with one proverbial hand tied behind his back. However, the film decides to play out the mundane, dreary work day of a desperate individual work toward earning at least $300 in tips. It’s exciting for like, fifteen minutes and I feel like I gave it a lot of leeway. Its insane how much action there was in this movie and how bored I still ended up feeling about three-fourths of the way through the film. We could’ve got to see the loan shark himself, evil and ruthless. Instead we see his two lackeys who while brutish in their own right, are only on screen at the beginning of the film. I did worry for the main character but never did the stakes of the film raise anywhere higher than, “Uh oh, he has to earn enough tips so his debt doesn’t get raised any higher.” The premise isn’t a bad one but for all the critics (there are several) who praise the film for being able to do all these different things; I honestly feel like you got your check in the mail the next day. Granted this film was made on a poultry budget (around 3 grand, I think) so what it is able to accomplish is somewhat impressive. I just think that everyone involved got so caught up in trying to add this chasm of realism to the picture and the story itself got neglected a little bit. It’s mediocre at best. Not what they filmmakers were trying to convey, mind you—but the execution of this message with its story and characters left a lot to be desired in my opinion. I do like the fact that there were special features about the film included on the DVD, but they were (unfortunately) filled with the staff and crew speaking more about the idea the film was trying to convey and how “real” they wanted everything to be. Sure the guy had a bad time delivering food to people during a bad rain storm. Yeah, some of the people didn’t tip him. Heck, what happened at the end even got me to gasp a little, but I never really felt like the main character was in any real danger. And you know why? It stems from something one of the characters made clear early on in the film. If the main character doesn’t come up with $800 by the end of the movie, he’ll end up owing the loan shark even more money. But shortly after, he’s able to borrow 500 dollars from a woman and her friends making the amount he needs to have by nightfall 300 dollars. They lowered the stakes of their own picture, and that bothered me for some reason. Please writers and directors—never lower the stakes in the main character’s plight. It makes things stale, safe, and boring. We don’t pay 10 bucks a ticket to go see someone kind of struggle and face hardships. Go big or go home. This movie shied away from the lure of true conflict, in my opinion, and stayed towing the line. Why play it safe?