Kitaro (2007)

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After the heart stone is stolen from the evil Fox by the bumbling, flatulent Ratboy, it finds it’s way into the hands of a young boy, Kenta. First Kenta’s father and then Kitaro and his motley band of monsters are accused of stealing the stone, as the Fox fights to have it returned. This sparks a chain of confrontations as the parties fight to find the stone(which Kenta is keeping hidden after promising his father). The seemingly convoluted plot, involving quite a cast of characters and numerous twists and turns, is told straightforwardly and moves quickly from scene to scene. And despite it’s flimsy nature the plot is relatively gripping.
The special effects vary between low-budget costumes and make-up and digital effects. While nothing special, they don’t detract from the innovative characters, of the likes of Catgirl, The Sand-Hag, Ratboy, and Uncle Eyeball The style of the film is light considering the subject is ghouls and monsters, having the feel of a children’s Halloween party, rather than a more sinister atmosphere as in some of the manga.

The film is aimed squarely at children and contains enough physical humour and excitement to keep them entertained. At it’s heart it’s a film about the bond between a father and his son, and the transitions between the comedic moments and family drama, in particular a moving scene towards the end involving Kenta and his father, are done well.

Based on the Manga and subsequent Anime series by Shigeru Mizuki.

 

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One Piece: Strong World (2009)

 

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The Mugiwara pirates are tricked by the powerful Shiki (The Gold Lion) and dropped on an archipelago of floating islands where the fauna has mutated to incredible size and strength. Captain Luffy and his crew must race against time to uncover and foil Shiki’s terrible scheme. A simple story, but well-paced and with ample interactions and confrontations between the hero’s and villains.

With the characters taken from the popular, long-running manga and anime series, the film wastes no time with introductions. But the plot is tangential to the main narrative arc so first time viewers can follow along with ease. The colourful characters, such as Shiki’s henchmen Indigo and Scarlet are amusing and the plot moves swiftly between characters. The film looks fantastic, especially the sunset and snowfall scenes, with crisp animation and a definite filmic quality to the framing of shots and stylish set-pieces.

The story touches on themes of environmentalism and the destruction of nature. The camaraderie of the crew is well-done and the emphasis on friendship, bravery and overcoming great odds to protect the helpless will not be unfamiliar to fans of the series. An enjoyable film for newcomers and aficionados alike.