Queens Blade Vol 1: Single Step

Fan Service: a vaguely defined term primarily used for anime and manga to refer to artificial or self-aware sensory elements that would operate to please a regular or target audience, material that is designed to amuse or excite the audience with sexually derived content. Excessive content is usually considered gratuitous regardless of its justification in relation to the narrative in which it takes place.

Any gratuitous content included in some form of entertainment primarily to please a core group of fans is fan service. The typical, but not only, variety of fan service is racy or sexual content used to titillate the viewer, such as nudity or other forms of eye candy.

The lengthy definition from Wikipedia placed above can and will tell you everything you need to know about the anime series to be discussed here today. It would also be wrong...albeit only technically. But I may be getting ahead of myself a bit.

The fantasy series takes place in a land where women from all over compete in the Queen’s Blade tournament, a competition of Strength and Beauty, to determine the next Queen.  All flourishes aside, the main plot is focused on girls in ever-more creatively designed outfits (that strictly conform to the rules of fantasy armor: The less it covers, the more it protects), fighting each other and frequently slashing off bits and pieces of each other’s armor in titillating ways.

Or to put it even more simply: It’s Boobs and Swords.

This is why this isn’t technically “fan service.” Fan service is a sideline distraction from the main goal of the story. Here, all the breast shots, panty shots, and other bits are the whole point. That said, it’s actually a mildly amusing show, with the plot taken straight out of a fighting game. Actually, the entire series is based on a series of game books, and was later translated to consoles as exactly that.

If you ever try to convince someone that either the sword and sorcery genre, or anime in general for that matter, are not the domain of immature adolescents and perverts, you would do well to stay far, far away from this series. However, the fight sequences are enjoyable, and I always enjoy being reminded of just how downright odd the Japanese culture can be. Seeing a bunch of ninjas melt and transform into a giant frog demon that’s several stories high is weird enough, seeing it caress another ninja’s breast with its several meter long tongue is downright bizarre.

All this after the previous episode featured a demon who lactated acid when squeezed by the hands that grew out of her hair.

This is the part where I’m compelled to tell you that this is not Hentai. This isn’t porn. Even further, it somehow got rated TV-14-and let me tell you: 14-year-old me is pleased as punch.

Haunted World of El Superbeasto, The

If you’ve seen any of Rob Zombie’s films and music videos, you have a good idea of what Zombie enjoys: violence, cars, the 70s, wrestling, monsters, and tits....Not necessarily in that order, mind you.  So, it should come as no surprise that when Zombie decided to make a feature length cartoon titled The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, it would have all of those things.  But, you know, in cartoon form.

Based on the comic book of the same name (which I own…SHAME!), El Superbeasto (Tom Papa) is a luchador (Mexican wrestler)/celebrity who only wants a nice plate of buffalo wings and the sweet, sweet ass of Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson).  Unfortunately, Von Black is the key to Dr. Satan’s (Paul Giamatti) plan to obtain world domination through the “sudsy powers” of HELL!  So, ‘Beasto recruits the help of his sister/international super spy Suzi X (she’s hot, she’s blonde, AND she has a squeaky voice. You guessed it: Sheri Moon Zombie).  What follows can only be described as "madcap", “For Mature Audiences Only,” and … "gooey".

Part of what makes this film a lot of fun is that it’s done in the style of the old Looney Tunes.  There’s an extended title sequence featuring single frames of art behind the titles and cast.  There are multiple cameos of horror film icons like Jack Torrance, Michael Myers, The Devils Rejects crew, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon among others in the same fashion of celebrity cameos in old Bugs Bunny and Tiny Toons cartoons.

And what was missing from those old Warner Bros. cartoons?  Gratuitous female nudity!  The film is strange because it’s not presented like an adult Japanese animated film, or even a Ralph Bakshi film.  It’s not presented as a pornographic film.  It’s a silly Scooby Doo-esque cartoon with full frontal nudity and butt hair...Lots of butt hair.

Providing music and a running commentary throughout the entire film is Chris Hardwick’s comedy band, Hard ‘n Phirm.  The songs elevate the film in that they make fun of it, including an extended indictment of a parody of the prom scene in Carrie (1976) .

Zombie’s animated epic runs only about 80 minutes but, oddly, it’s a long 80 minutes.  There are long stretches where jokes do not hit, and sight gags are few and far between.  However, if you liked Ren & Stimpy, you’re probably going to enjoy the trip into the “Haunted World.”

Oh, and if nothing else, there’s also a million Nazi zombies.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

This is precisely the sort of movie I would make if I wanted something kids could watch in awe, while the adults laugh themselves silly.

Starting out with some SETI-style researchers-who only took the job because they wouldn't have to do anything-end up having their plans foiled when they detect a U.F.O. It turns out to be a meteorite that crashes into Earth, specially on top of Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon), turning her into a 50-foot-tall woman.

Oh, and ruining her wedding.

In short order, the usual black helicopter goons show up and whisk Susan off to the secret government lab, where she meets all the great b-monsters of the 1950's. B.O.B the blob (Seth Rogan)-a lovable pile of sentient goo, Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie)-a not-too-subtle reference to The Fly, The Missing Link (Will Arnett)-who is more Creature from the Black Lagoon than walking ape, and Insectasaurous-the requisite giant monster that resembles nothing less than the product of an unholy union of a gerbil, a puffer fish, and a ladybug. These characters are wardened by the hysterically funny Gen. W.R. Monger, played with verve by Keifer Sutherland-who, quite frankly, sounds like he wrestled a bull by the horns, took said horns, and carved them into the microphone he used to record his voice over.

Apparently the Monster crew has been sequestered for some time, only to be released when the world is accosted by the (slightly) intelligent alien warlord, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson ). Their mission: Defeat Gallaxhar's terrifying probe robot, then his army of very stupid clones, and finally Gallaxhar himself. I'm not really spoiling anything when I tell you they win. It's a kids movie after all. That's not really the point, it's not that they win, but how.

Full of hysterical sight gags, clever bits of dialogue ("This place is an X-file, wrapped in a cover-up and deep-fried in a paranoid conspiracy!"), a dash of satire, and a surprising number of adult contemporary hits. Phrases like "Code Nimoy! Code Nimoy!" are frequently mixed-in with references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Beverly Hills Cop-nevermind the fact that the entire movie is a nod to Dr. Strangelove. Even so, there's a good balance between the referential pop-culture humor and jokes that stand on their own. It doesn't hurt that the supporting voice cast is top notch as well, with Stephen ColbertPaul Rudd, and Ed Helms all contributing.

The icing on the character cake is Susan, who does the full Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley Hero's Journey: going from delicate flower to destroyer of robots and stomper of alien ass. More importantly, she realizes she doesn't need a man to make her happy. You go, girl!

We don't do "family" movies on the Cavalcade often, but when one comes down the pike that has so many nods to the movies that inspired our love of schlocktacular cinema, we have to take a look. Fortunately, this movie's great on all levels. If you were to Cavalcade it, feel free to mix and match it with one of the fore-mentioned 50's romps, Monsters Inc., or Bolt-which has even more nods to Hollywood b-movies.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

In 1995 I sat down in the cruddy studio apartment I shared with my girlfriend with a shiny new videotape I picked up from the video store in the mall across the street. The Anime phenom was still a couple of years out,  and we were still only getting tidbits here and there from the one or two studios that would import the biggest titles over to our shores... Well, that and the Hentai which, for those of you who might not know, is animated porn. Horaay freaky tentacles! But that's getting off the subject, where was I?

Oh. Yes. The cyber-steampunk-western-horror story  that was the first Vampire Hunter D. It a mash-up story that was unlike anything I'd ever seen outside of the best comics of the 80's, which, as it turned out, was the time period the movie was originally released (1985, to be exact). The tale of the half-human/half-vampire (Damphir), hunter-for-hire, constantly battling his nature in a spaghetti-western themed post apocalyptic wasteland filled with vampires, demons, mutants, and other monsters, relying heavily on his trusty sword to mete out swift and bloody retribution. resonated even more loudly when large portions of it appeared a few years later in the Wesley Snipes vehicle, Blade, which was the story of a half-human/half-vampire hunter, constantly battling his own nature in a ultra-modern urban cityscape filled with vampires, demons, and mutants, relying heavily on his trusty sword to mete out swift and bloody retribution.

Oh sure, there were some huge differences. For instance: Blade didn't have a smartmouth symbiote living in his left hand or a bitchin' cybernetic horse, but the parallels are there to be drawn. However, this review isn't about Blade, this review is about my boy, D. As the years passed and anime grew in popularity, so too did the popularity of Vampire Hunter D. Eventually a sequel would be green-lighted, and that sequel would be one of the biggest little releases in Anime fandom.

The story of Charlotte, a young human girl, who is abducted by Count Meier Link, a vampire. Charlotte’s father hires D to find her and kill her humanely if she turns into a vampire. At the same time, her older brother also hires the notorious Marcus brothers for backup. The movie follows D's hunt of Meier, his run-ins with the Marcus brothers, and a confrontation with an ancient enemy.

Let's get the basics out of the way. This is a great movie. As it was a co-production with an American studio, the voice acting is far better than average and the dubbing quality is phenominal. A lot of American dubs sound like a person in a studio reading lines. No matter how well acted, the acoustics say "I'm in a room!" However, the mix here is amazingly well done. I know, not the first thing you notice, but this detail speaks well to the rest of the production. Great art, quality animation in key sequences, and amazing production. The story is convoluted and surreal, but that's the source material, and in all fairness, secondary. This is a worthwhile movie... But that's not why we're here.  We want to determine wether or not it's a worthy addition to the Cavalcade. Unfortunately... I have to say no.

While it's a great film, with some truly impressive set pieces, the pacing is too deliberate to satisfy a hungry audience. As a matter of fact, the quality of the acting makes the melodrama work. It's really not all that mockable. While the world of Anime is filled with opportunity for great party entertainment for the Cavalcade. As much as I love it, and highly recommend you watch it, I can't say it's a good pick for the Cavalcade.