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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Colorful vs. Colorful: Maybe Purapura Should Headbutt a Sexy Woman in the Breasts...

Merry Christmas to All...  And to all a Good Fight!

Ehrgeiz vs. Ehrgeiz may be one of the most infamous examples of two completely different titles having similar names, but for our "Main Event" I have a doozy, made all the more important because they are both being offered by the same exact company!  Normally, if a TV series & a theatrically-released movie share the same name it's because the movie is an extension/reboot/compilation/etc. of the TV series, but thinking this would be the situation for these two titles would result in your mind being blown.  Finally, the greatest question of all shall be answered: Fanservice vs. Story, which shall win?!

Logo Battle: The movie is classier, but the TV series is more notable

In 1998, in an attempt to enter the burgeoning late-night anime market, TBS (that's Tokyo Broadcasting System, not Turner Broadcasting System) debuted Wonderful, an short-lived anime block which showcased comedy anime that utilized 9-10 minute episodes rather than the usual 24-25 minute (21-22 without commercials) episodes.  It was the home of titles such as Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san (how this never got licensed astounds me), Di Gi Charat (which was recently re-released by Sentai Filmworks), Futari Kurashi, Iketeru Futari, Ippatsu Kiki Musume (another case of "Why wasn't this licensed?!"), Let's Dance with Papa (which ADV had licensed once, but never released), and Nippon-Ichi no Otoko no Tamashii, as well as some You're Under Arrest! TV specials & the non-comical Petshop of Horrors.  One of the titles from this block that did get licensed was 1999's Colorful, the anime adaptation of Torajiro Kishi's 1998-2000 Young Jump manga.  ADV wound up releasing it three times (in 2003, 2005, & 2009), & just a few days ago Sentai Filmworks started offering it on Hulu & confirmed that they indeed have licensed it.  One year after ADV's last release, though, things got complicated...  Or, at least, a potential old complication came back.

On August 21, 2010 Toho, Ascension, & Sunrise debuted an animated movie titled Colorful, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Eto Mori, which won the 46th Sankei Children's Publishing Culture Award in 1999.  Needless to say, Eto Mori & Torajiro Kishi's creations has no relation to each other, so when they both debuted in 1998 I would guess that there was some slight confusion between the books, no doubt made worse by the fact that (unlike the two Ehrgeiz's) the two titles had the same exact katakana spelling of "カラフル".  Anyway, Sentai Filmworks announced their license of the movie at the beginning of this year & released it on DVD & Blu-Ray this May; yes, Sentai literally licensed two titles titled Colorful in the same exact year.  What's even crazier is that the two productions have similar run times, with the TV series' 16 episodes totaling ~120 minutes, while the movie rounds out at 126 minutes.  Why would you not want to get these two titles confused, you ask?  Well, when recommending one to a friend you want to make sure that you don't confuse the perverted look at the male libido with a drama about a man who gets a (literal) second chance at life.  Still, when all is said & done, which would you want to recommend?

Tagline Battle: The movie has a traditional tagline, but you can't beat ADV's logic:
"Roses are red. Violets are blue.  This show is about panties."

Story:
On a normal basis, two anime productions would have an easy way to compare their stories, but when it comes to Colorful that becomes a little tricky.  The TV series is made up of 16 mini-episodes, and in each episode is a series of short vignettes which showcase men & their love of women's breasts, butts, panties, bras, etc.  That's really all there is to it in terms of an overall story.  It's a simplistic premise & the show knows it.  To its credit, though, the show does try to stretch out the possibilities of the joke by utilizing all sorts of situations & silliness.

The movie, on the other hand, is the complete opposite by being a character-driven drama.  The basic plot is that a random person who recently died, & has no recollection of the previous life, has been given a second chance at life via a "lottery"; the person will be inhabiting the body of a young boy named Makoto Kobayashi, who committed suicide via drug overdose.  While occasionally being helped by a spirit named Purapura "Makoto" has six months to find out not only why Makoto killed himself but also what his previous life's greatest sin was; in doing so the spirit will be granted a "rebirth".  It's honestly a neat premise & allows for a neat look at how someone can adjust quickly to a new life while also trying to find out the mysteries at hand.  As one can see, it's comparing a series of perverted comedy vignettes to a series character-drama...  How does one really say which anime has the better premise when they are so different in idea?  If anything, the movie has more meat to it, so I guess if I had to choose one I would consider that.
Winner: Movie

Characters:
Since the TV series is made up of nothing but short vignettes it's kind of tough for there to be a set cast of characters, but there are a few re-occurring "main" characters to note.  There are Hirokawa & Itani, two college students who both love finding ways to sneak a look at panties & "subtly" compete against each other at trying to get their English teacher to teach them how to properly pronounce their L's & R's, since she does them sexily.  Then there's Steve, an American exchange photography student who thinks of panty shots as viewing an "upside-down Mt. Fuji".  Finally, we have Aki Yamamoto, a high school track runner, who unknowingly is the target of her gym teacher/coach's visual affection.  Essentially, every single male in this show has no control over his libido when it comes to visual attraction, while the females are either oblivious to the voyeurism going on or are able to keep their staring psychos at bay.  Much like the "story" these characters are extremely simple but are generally entertaining, mostly due to how their actions work out in the end.

Similarly, the movie also has a small, focused cast, which works to its advantage.  The main character is "Makoto", who has to do a fair amount of things in a relatively short amount of time, and the character transitions into multiple stages of development, from unsurety of the past his "old life" was like to selfishly doing things his way to finally opening up & realizing the world around him.  The main theme of the story is that the world isn't monochromatic (i.e. it's "colorful"), & Makoto is a great character to showcase that off with.  The rest of the cast is simpler in their development, but still are worth paying attention to.  Hiroka is the seemingly popular girl that is friendly with Makoto, but after finding out about her lurid secret he wonders if she's only showing off a veil to everyone else.  Sano is your typical "nerdy" girl (i.e. she wears glasses & doesn't look beautiful), and is the only classmate to really notice the change in Makoto; she comes off as a little neurotic, but also comes off as the most honest character in the story.  Saotome isn't given focus until the second half, where he befriends Makoto, but much like Sano he comes off as a very honest & reliable shoulder for Makoto.  Finally, Makoto's family all have their flaws (the father doesn't speak out, the mother has a dark secret that Makoto found out before killing himself, & Mitsuru [the brother] is a bit of a jerk), but in the end they develop the most out of the supporting cast.  Both productions create memorable characters but via different executions; it's kind of hard to really pick one over the other, honestly.
Winner: Draw

Visuals:
As mentioned earlier, the TV series was made for TBS' Wonderful block, which was aired at late-night.  Though late-night anime had been around for about two years by the time this show debuted, the slot was still mainly used for smaller-budget titles, and it shows here.  While the show itself doesn't have any real mistakes or errors in it there is a lot of limited animation shown here, with lots of panning shots, repeat uses of short animation cycles, and as time has gone on it does show its age.  The character designs by Takahiro Kishida (Baccano!, Arjuna, Madoka Magica) fit the show nicely, with the men looking rough & "dirty", while the women are generally attractive from a simple visual perspective, if not sexually so.  One odd thing, though, if that sometimes the women are drawn without noses, no doubt due to certain perspectives, which is kind of weird.  Still, even though the animation is low-budget & the characters sometimes look "nose-less" the visuals work for what the show is focused on.  Nothing fancy, but nothing ugly.

The movie, on the other hand, is the complete opposite by being an excellent looking film with a lot of production value behind it (Sunrise, Aniplex, & Toho, after all).  I'm not even going to try to be "fair" here, though, and say that the TV series' limited animation can compare to a modern-day theatrical production when you consider their budgets...  The movie absolutely trounces the TV series visually.  With character designs by Atsushi Yamagata (Cybernetics Guardian, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Tower of Druaga: Sword of Uruk) the movie has a very approachable look to it, as in it's something you could show to someone that isn't an anime fan & they can still like how it looks.  The animation by Ascension (this being their first big work) is extremely well done & always looks great, though there are some outdoor shots where it looks pretty obvious that the studio simply took a background of real-life Japan and made it look animated (likely rotoscoping).  Admittedly, though, it's only for certain backdrops & it does mix in very well so I can't complain much.  Going off of the design styles the battle is a little more "fair", but when you consider the overall animation there's no contest...  Movie wins, hands down.
Winner: Movie

Music:
Since each episode in the TV series is so short, & made up of multiple vignettes, the music kind of falters a bit by being kind of forgettable.  It's not bad, per se, and Moka (Elfen Lied, Porfy no Nagai Tabi, Momo: The Girl God of Death) does create some nice music that fits the silliness inherent in the show, but it's one of those shows where once you're done watching it the music leaves your mind.  That in and of itself isn't a bad thing, since it happens to a lot of productions, but it is disappointing mainly because the first real piece of music you hear is so absolutely fun & memorable.  What I'm talking about is the opening theme, "Boku no Taion wa 37.5C" by Yuko Miyamura, the woman most well known as the voice of Asuka in Evangelion & Chun-Li in the Street Fighter Alpha series & first few Vs. Series entries.  Having also written the song, Miyamura simply delivers an excellent performance filled with emotion, craziness, & an absolute exuberance of "genki" energy.  It's almost a crime that it's only about a minute long & there isn't a longer, "full" version of the song, and it's a crime that the OST can't really match up with the quality of the opening theme.

Surprisingly, the movie doesn't really trounce the TV series like with animation.  The music by the legendary Ko Otani (Another, Gundam Wing, Hyouge Mono) isn't bad at all, it's extremely fitting for the movie, but it's honestly kind of forgettable.  Considering the pedigree behind this man I'm honestly amazed that none of the songs really stuck in my head until the end; even the TV series had one or two songs that stayed with me while watching it (before leaving my head afterwards).  It's a nice mix of slow songs as well as a couple of faster, rock-styled songs for running scenes, but none of it really stuck.  The insert song near the end, "Boku ga Boku de Aru Tame ni" by miwa, is a nice, fitting song that has a cool sound to it, but considering that it's mostly obscured by the conversation going on it kind of sabotages itself.  The ending theme, "Aozora" by miwa, is equally fitting for the movie as a whole but it didn't really grab me as a song I had to listen to again right away; it was certainly no "Ai to Tooi Hi no Mirai he" form Niji-Iro Hotaru, which was a movie with a somewhat similar premise (person gets thrown into a new life for a period of time & has to adjust).  Oddly enough, based on BGM alone the verdict is a draw, but for the wrong reason: Both are equally forgettable.  I could maybe give the TV series advantage simply by virtue of having an absolutely enjoyable opening theme, but I digress.
Winner: Draw

Voice Work:
When you consider the fact that the TV series is so rapid-fire in its execution it's easy to realize that the voice work probably can't be held up against more "traditional" anime productions.  Still, the recurring characters have a good cast behind them.  Nobutoshi Hayashi/Canna & Yasuhiko Kawazu pull off appropriately perverse performances as Hirokawa & Itani, respectively.  Yuuichi Nagashima (a.k.a. Cho) voices Steve, who pulls out a stereotypical "American who think Japan is 'sugoi' & can speak some Japanese" with enough emotion to make it work; almost appropriately enough Nagashima would go on to voice Great Britain/Cyborg 007 in the 2001 reboot of Cyborg 009.  Finally, Sayaka Ohara & Fumihiko Tachiki work well together as Yamamoto & her teacher/coach.  Again, it works very well for the type of show that this is.

The dub from ADV works well, too, though there is one name that might rub some anime fans the wrong way: Steven Foster.  Foster nowadays is probably considered the most hated ADR director in anime, mainly because he is used by Sentai extremely often & he has a habit of straying away from the script for no reason other than to stray away.  Luckily, Foster's style of dubbing generally works better with comedies & this show is proof of that.  While some cultural jokes have been altered to make them work for American fans, Foster knows how to make his actors sound raunchy, angry, & messed up, with some extra swearing thrown in for good measure.  The cast does a lot of multiple-role casting, but the main cast made up of the likes of David Matranga (Hirokawa), Tommy Drake (Itani), Hilary Haag (Yamamoto), & Rob Mungle (the coach) delivers a similary-perverse job as the original Japanese.  ADV's release also has an extra which does a "behind-the-scenes" look at the dubbing & the actors behind it, which obviously goes with the show's oddball humor.

Meawhile, the movie is very much a "traditional" production, but at least the voice work is well done.  Makoto is played by the still-young (he turned 17 this year) Kazato Tomizawa (V.V. in Code Geass), who definitely has the potential to be a very good seiyuu as he gets older if his performance in this movie is anything to go off of.  In fact, all of the child characters are voiced by pretty young people, the oldest being Aoi Miyazaki (Hana in Wolf Children; turned 28 just barely a month ago), who does a fittingly manic performance for Sano.  Akina Minami (24) does a likewise good job with Hiroka, Jingi Irie (his first anime role) does a fine Saotome, and Michael Masashi Murakami (a.k.a. just simply "Michael"; 15) surprisingly does a great job with the sarcastic Purapura.  If all of these people were to continue doing voice work this movie could end up doubling as a neat look at their early careers.  The rest of the cast is similarly not as versed in anime production, but Akiyoshi Nakao (Mitsuru; 25), Katsumi Takahashi (Makoto's Father; 52), & Kumiko Asou (Makoto's Mother; 35) round out a very well done (& surprisingly young) cast.

The dub by Seraphim Digital is also very well done and even differs from (seemingly) most Sentai dubs by having it be directed by Christopher Ayers, who also plays some bit roles.  Makoto is played by Ayers' brother Greg, who does a very nice job bringing his voice to a very nice higher pitch to keep in tone with the young boy he's voicing.  Luci Christian voices Purapura and does a similarly sarcastic performance that matches up well with Michael's original performance (imagine that, Luci Christian having to worry about being outdone by a child who hadn't even hit puberty yet).  The rest of the cast, featuring Brittney Karbowski (Sano), Clint Bickham (Saotome), Emily Neves (Hiroka), Chris Patton (Mitsuru), & David Wald and Carli Mosier (Makoto's Father & Mother, respectively) also certainly pull their weight.  If anything, the dub might come off a little "too traditional", though, especially when you consider that the Japanese went with a mostly young cast, while the dub had older, more versed actors acting younger.  Regardless, both language tracks do an excellent job.  When compared to the TV series, though, it's kind of a tie: Stephen Foster usually works best with comedies & delivers a truly fitting dub for what the show is, while Chris Ayers gives the movie a classy performance, and both shows have good Japanese performances, too.
Winner: Draw

Let's just say that he died after seeing those panties, okay?

Execution:
Considering how odd the TV series is, it might come off as a giant surprise to see that the director was the late Ryutaro Nakamura, the man behind cult-classics like Kino's Journey, Serial Experiments Lain, Sakura Wars TV, Ghost Hound, & was planning on doing his own creation Despera before passing away.  That being said, Nakamura did do some lighter material, such as REC, so maybe Colorful TV wasn't as much of an odd duck for this man.  The stories themselves are something that Nakamura was likely able to do without having to experiment much, but where Nakamura's style probably comes in the most is with something that one would normally think is innocuous: The vignette transitions.  These transitions are simply "out-there", ranging anywhere from fitting for the stories shown (anytime Yamamoto is shown there's a transition where a bunch of people continually state her name) to just outright bizarre (a wrestler giving another a clothesline while a woman says "I love you," or random appearances of the logo).  These transitions are sometimes more memorable than the actual vignettes themselves!

There is one main flaw with the TV series, though: It's nothing more than a one-note joke.  There's really nothing else to this show, honestly.  The characters don't develop in any way & by the second half of the show the joke does start to wear pretty thin; there are some very funny episodes in that second half, but it definitely starts feeling tired at that point.  Hell, the very last episode actually drops the ball a bit by delivering a very poor take on this joke.  Still, with it totaling around two hours, it does end before the joke falls apart completely.  If anything, I'd say watch this in two halves with some time between each watch; that way the show doesn't end up tiring you out.  Either that or you could rely on the Hulu streaming & maybe fit in an episode or two between other shows.  It can be really funny, but it can also be its own worst enemy.

The movie is very focused on the characters, which works perfectly for the story that's being told, but the "flaw" that comes about can be a rough one, depending on the viewer: It's extremely laid back.  It isn't "slow" in terms of pace, but rather the movie simply goes at its own pace, seemingly not caring what the viewer might want.  Instead of focusing on Makoto trying to adjust to his new life & solving the mysteries behind his second chance, which is what one would normally expect, the movie instead decides to simply showcase Makoto's new life: He goes to school, walks around town, & simply "lives".  Sure, the story does switch over to harder material, like the truth behind Makoto's mother, Hiroka, Makoto trying new things out, but in between those moments are a lot of "normal life" scenes.  Really, don't expect the movie to move to the pace you want; instead, just sit back & wallow in the "real world" it exists in.  Another "flaw" (i.e. it isn't an actual negative, but rather variable issue that depends on the viewer) is with the ending.  I really don't want to spoil the ending, but there's an aspect to it that might remind one slightly of a certain American director that likes to do a specific type of ending.  Granted, this movie handles this type of ending better than "Mr. American", but it still comes off like that.  On a positive note, the ending doesn't look likely to ruin repeat viewings, since the appeal comes from the characters & not the mystery.
Winner: Movie

So what's our final tally?  Well, including the two mini-fights at the beginning the result is 5-6 in favor of the movie!  Probably the most surprising thing about this fight, though, is how even it was.  In comparing these two productions, I'm actually reminded of a similar situation Serdar Yegulalp (of Genji Press, Anime.About.com, & a fellow Golden Ani-Versary contributor) went through when he compared Makoto Shinkai's Children Who Chase Lost Voices & Tekken: Blood Vengeance.  Going in Sedar was expecting to love Shinaki's work & hate the full-CG fighting game fanservice-fest simply because he felt he "had to"; Shinkai is a critical darling, while Tekken is a "stupid" movie based on a fighting game.  In the end he found Shinkai's movie to be droll & boring (what little I saw of the movie kind of agrees), while he found Tekken always entertaining, if a little "stupid".  While my experience isn't the same exact same thing as Serdar's I still had the same result: You can't put too much into preconceived expectations.

Essentially, when the Colorful movie beats out the Colorful TV series it does so very strongly, but when the movie falters it surprisingly allows the TV series a chance to catch up.  Now, yes, if you take away those two innocuous battles between logos & taglines then the movie wins in a more conclusive manner, but I do include those two battles mainly because they do matter in an overall sense.  In the end I do recommend the movie over the TV series, but that's not to say that the TV series is bad.  In fact, the TV series manages to out-do expectations & deliver some very good enjoyment; the movie just has fewer flaws.

So that's the end of the "Vs. Battles", showcasing that sometimes two completely different things can have the same title...  And, sometimes, it's just fun (& educational) to pit the two against each other.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, and I'll be back to look back at how this year has gone!

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