Tag Archives: manga

Movie Review: Stand By Me Doraemon (2014)

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Doraemon was probably the first manga and anime I was exposed to as a child, so it made sense for me to choose Stand By Me Doraemon — the first 3D computer animated Doraemon feature — as my three-year-old son’s first cinematic experience.

It’s a good choice, because unlike other Doraemon feature films that depict standalone adventures, Stand By Me Doraemon is an origins story that takes us right back to the beginning and features some of Doraemon’s best known gadgets. While there are original elements, many of the subplots, including the ending, are borrowed directly from the manga/anime, though due to time constraints some classic chapters were condensed into montages.

For those who don’t already know the story, it’s about a loser kid named Nobita who is in the very bottom percentile in terms of both intellectual and athletic ability. To change his fortunes, Nobita’s great-great-great-grandson from the 22nd century sends him Doraemon, a lovable robot cat with a pocket full of handy futuristic gadgets. With Doraemon’s help, Nobita sets out to alter his future and win the affections of Shizuka, the perfect girl-next-door, while also fending off his friends, the bully Gian and the show-off Suneo.

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It’s a good-looking movie, with smooth 3D computer animation that pays homage to the simplicity of the original anime. As such, there aren’t many eye-popping images, though old fans should be content with the faithful transition from 2D hand-drawn animation to 3D CGI.

As a cynical adult, I have a few problems with the story’s logic and its underlying messages, some of which could be construed as shallow. As a kid, however, all I cared about was how cool Doraemon’s gadgets are and how much I wish I had them, so I’m not too concerned about my son being led astray.

Ultimately, notwithstanding the complexity of all the time travelling, Stand By Me Doraemon is a story that’s easy to follow and like if you enjoy rooting for the underdog. I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia flooding back, but I was actually very moved by the movie in the end. The final message teaching kids to be independent and that having a kind heart is the best attribute of all is something even adults can appreciate.

My son loved the experience and I had a pretty good time too. We’re already counting down the days until the next Doraemon feature.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Astro Boy (2009)

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If you’re searching for the most disappointing movie of 2009, look no further than the much-anticipated American remake of the legendary Japanese manga/anime hero Astro Boy.

I ducked out of work early to catch an advanced screening of Astro Boy last night.  I have been a fan of the manga and anime (created by the Japanese ‘God of Manga’ Osamu Tezuka) since I could remember and was so excited to see it (in part due to the awesome posters), even if it was with modest expectations given the track record of American remake efforts.

Frankly, there is no other way to put it: Astro Boy sucked.  If you are a fan of the manga or anime, you will be particularly offended by it.  There’s almost none of the charm, excitement and heart that made Astro Boy such an iconic figure around Asia (and the world).  The plot resembles the original storyline but not enough attention and care was given to make it work.  Much of the devices used were pointless.  Apart from Astro, the characters were generally underdeveloped.  The villains were cardboard boxes.  There were a couple of amusing references but on the whole the jokes were flat and childish (my biggest gripe).  The action was no better than any ordinary episode of the anime.  It felt like a film made for young children without any regard to the now older original fans that made Astro Boy successful in the first place.

Even if you’ve never seen the original (or its later incarnations) before, you’ll still be shocked by how derivative it is.  Think AI.  Think Gladiator.  Sure, some of these things could be blamed on the original story, but they were certainly aspects the writers could have worked their way around.  They could have remained true to the spirit of the original while infusing some fresher elements to it.  Instead, it feels like the film failed on both counts.

On the plus side, the CGI was not groundbreaking, but I liked its simplicity and texture.  It was an obvious improvement on the old hand-drawn techniques but retained the smooth visual style of the original.  There was also a superb voice cast, led by Freddie Highmore and featuring the familiar voices of Nicholas Cage, Nathan Lane, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron, Eugene Levy and Samuel L Jackson.  They were all solid, though Highmore’s voice, which must have broken the last couple of years, made him sound older and more masculine than the Astro we’re used to.

If I had gone into Astro Boy having never heard of the series or character before, I’d probably give this film 2 stars, but because I was such a huge fan, I can only give it 1.5 stars out of 5!