Superman’s Metropolis (1996) – Fritz Lang, Futurism and the Mother City

The city of Metropolis. A staple in the Superman mythos. The city is as iconic as Superman himself, they go hand in hand the same way as Batman and Gotham. You can’t have one without the other. Many Elseworld stories like to play around with the location Superman lands and the city he protects. A big example would by Superman: Red Son [Miller & Johnson.2003] which made Superman a protector of the USSR rather than the USA. However, Superman’s Metropolis [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996] plays with this relationship far more, by experimenting with the city itself. In this case, transforming this comic book Metropolis, into the film version of Metropolis.

Despite its strong ties with the Man of Steel. The city remained unnamed for over a year until Action Comics #16 [Seigel & Shuster.1939]. “On June 7, 1939, Clark Kent, while on assignment in ‘Boravia,’ sends his editor a telegram addressed to ‘Metropolis, NY.’ Meanwhile, in the September 1939 issue of Action Comics (Which would have been on newsstands in June), Clark Kent poses the question ‘How come gambling is permitted to flourish in the city of Metropolis?’ These concurrent instances represent the first time the Man of Steel’s home city is given a name.” [Weldon.2013:39]

The word ‘Metropolis’ comes from 1350 – 1400 Middle English, Late Latin. Meaning ‘Mother State’ or ‘Mother City’ referring to the parent state of a colony. In modern times, the phrase refers to the chief or sometimes capital city of a country or just a very large city. [Dictionary.com:2018] In the DC Comics universe, Metropolis itself fits this by taking the form of New York City, a trait it shares with Batman’s Gotham City. However, while the cities share an inspiration, both show a different side. As stated in The Many Lives of Batman, “The difference between Gotham and Metropolis succinctly summarizes the differences between the two superheroes. As current Batman editor Dennis O’Neil put it: ‘Gotham is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at 3am., November 28th in a cold year. Metropolis is Manhattan between Fourteenth and One Hundred and Tenth Streets on the brightest, sunniest July day of the year” [Pearson & Uricchio.1991:009]. This duality in a city can also be seen in 1927s Metropolis [Lang.1927].

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Superman’s Metropolis takes its lead and plot from Fritz Lang’s classic film. Which is in itself is adapted from the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou [von Harbou.1925]. The story is set in 2026, the city of Metropolis is ruled by the wealthy industrialists while the working and lower class operate the machinery underground, out of sight. The city is essentially run by Joh Fredersen, while his son Freder spends his days in the pleasure gardens. When a young working-class girl named Maria brings a group of children to visit the high-rise towers to see how the other half live, Freder is smitten before she is ushered away. Freder follows her back into the underground where he witnesses one of the machines explode, killing and injuring many. He hallucinates a worse incident, where a machine is powered by being fed the working class. As Freder retains his senses, he runs to his father to tell him the conditions the working class have to put up with, but upon seeing his father’s reaction, he vows a secret rebellion against him. Vowing to help the workers.

However, secret maps are found in the possession of some of the dead workers, and the foreman, Grot, brings them to Fredersen. Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor, Rotwang, a man who had once been in love with Fredersen’s now deceased wife, Hel and has created a robot in order to “resurrect” Hel. The maps show the catacombs under the city and as Rotwang and Fredersen investigate, finding a gathering of workers, including both Freder and Maria. Maria is addressing the group, prophesying the arrival of one who will unite the working and higher classes someday. Freder believes that it could be him, and declares his love for Maria while Rotwang and Fredersen watch on. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give his robot the Maria’s likeness in order to spread chaos through the underground and disrupt the rebellion. However, Rotwang plans to use the robot to kill Freder and take over the city as revenge for the death of the woman he loved. Maria is kidnapped and her likeness is given to the robot, being sent to Fredersen when the transfer is complete. Freder walks in on the robot Maria and Fredersen in an embrace and falls into a depression at the idea of losing his love, and the one he wants to fight for. During this time, Maria is unleashed into the world and using her charms and influence drives men to murder and causing dissent amongst the workers below.

Freder eventually returns to the catacombs below and finds the robot Maria encouraging the workers to destroy the machines and rise up. Freder accuses her of not being the same person he knew, but the workers don’t listen. Leaving their children behind, they destroy the machines, causing the worker city below to be flooded. The real Maria manages to escape and rescues the children just in time with Freder’s help. The workers are horrified at what they have done, fearing their children dead. They turn on the robot Maria and burn her at the stake. Freder watches on horrified, until the fire finally reveals to them all that the false Maria is a robot sent to trick them. Rotwang appears, delusional. Believing the real Maria to be the long dead Hel, chasing her to the roof as Freder runs after them. Rotwang and Freder fight on the cathedral roof, Fredersen and the workers watching from the streets, until Rotwang falls to his death and Maria is finally safe. Freder and Maria return to the others, linking the hands of both his father Fredersen and the foreman Grot, bringing them together, and proving that Freder is indeed the one prophesised.

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Superman’s Metropolis tells a very similar story, though takes the ‘saviour’ metaphor of Metropolis and makes a more direct connection with Superman himself. Freder is replaced with the character Clarc. The son of Jon-Kent, ruler of Metropolis. While talking with another high-born woman, Lana, it’s Lois who brings the children and tells them of how the better live. As she’s being escorted away, she turns and looks at Clarc. Commenting, “The one I’m searching for is here…. But he doesn’t know it yet” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:07]. Clarc follows, and finds and workers in the underground, chanting bitter hymns with his father’s name in place, as they work themselves to death. Clarc witnesses the fatal accident, before returning to his father, telling him of what happened, only to be turned away. The plot continues the same, the maps make their way to Jon-Kent who takes them to the inventor, Luthor. Now bitter over the death of Marta.

Clarc, taking his friend Olson with him, begins working underground, wanting to help those down below. He attends the gathering lead by Lois. A corrupted Superman logo on the wall behind her. She speaks out to the crowd. “My brothers. Today I will tell you the story of the new Tower of Babel! There were men who wished to build a tower whose summit would touch the skies. And on it they would inscribe: ‘Great is the world and its creator, and great is man!’ Those who conceived the idea of this tower could not have built it themselves – so they hired thousands of others to build it for them. But those toilers knew nothing of those who planned the tower. While those who conceived the tower did not concern themselves with the workers who built it. The hymns of the few became the muttered curses of the many. Babel! Between the brain that plans and the hands that build, there must be a mediator. A Super-Man! It is the heart that must bring about an understanding between brain and hand! That saviour will rise to bring goodness and peace and love. The Super-Man will come – to free men’s souls of their inhuman bondage!” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:22-23]

Luthor and Jon-Kent watch on as Clarc is enraptured. Luthor even comments on Lois’ resemblance to the late Marta. Clarc stands and asks if he could be that saviour, declaring his love for Lois. She gives him a small version of the Super-Man symbol, before promising to see each other again tomorrow. As Lois leaves, she is kidnapped by Luthor, and in a departure from the source material, we briefly cut to Jon-Kent removing a book with the same symbol from a vault in his office. Luthor shows Lois the artificial being in his chamber, revealing his plan for the robot to take a human’s likeness. Originally that of his lost love Marta, having died by Luthor’s hand as revenge. But instead, he chooses Lois in order to disrupt the underground. As the robot is taking Lois’ form, Clarc and Olson discover the vault and a mysterious capsule inside. A slot on the front seems to fit the symbol that Lois gave him. As he placed the symbol inside, Clarc’s origins are revealed to him. His abilities, his history, the fact that when Luthor murdered Marta, he couldn’t kill Clarc as much as he tried. That Luthor learned so much from the craft that brought the boy here, and used this knowledge to take over. Swaying the mind of Jon-Kent, and erasing Clarc’s memory of his abilities or the death of Marta. With this new knowledge in hand, and the clothes he finds within the capsule, Clarc declares himself THE Superman! [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:38]

Having now unleased the robot Lois into the underground, she used her sexuality and charm to sway the workers into an uprising. Smashing machines and destroying the underground. As the furnace is about to explode, Clarc flies down, complete in a new colourful garb and saves them. Asking Lois why she would encourage them to do such a thing. He tries to calm her, as he realises that she is not the woman he loves. As Superman and the robot battle, Luthor reveals that he has been experimenting on himself. Making himself part machine, and a possible equal to Superman, powered by Kryptonite. “I am more than human. Far more than just my hand was shattered on the night a projectile from space crashed near me. Even in my bed of pain. I supervised the doctors who replaced half my flesh with mechanisms I had previously created. Yet my crowning achievement was not those mechanisms – nor the robot in whose design I utilized many secrets I learned from that rocket. But this pulsing inorganic heart, held in its chromium cage – which makes my own still beat! I shaped it from the glowing metal fuselage of that star-spawned vessel – a last little piece of Clarc Kent-Son’s birth-world!” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:50].

As Clarc’s long battle with the robot ends, he flies to his father to learn that Luthor has Lois atop the cathedral. Clarc flies over and begins to fight the robotically enhanced Luther, but finds himself weak around his Kryptonite heart. As the fight continues on, Lois falls from the roof, only to be saved by Clarc. Revealing that despite his weakened state, he managed to remove the Kryptonite, killing Luthor in the process. In the light of a new day, Clarc stands with both his father, Olson and the people of the underground. Declaring that the day of the Super-Man has come and gone. That from now, “your hands and the city’s finest minds will work together to forge the destiny of Metropolis” [Lofficier, Thomas & McKeever.1996:64].

Superman’s Metropolis continues the film’s spirit in its use of art. The early German film heavily used both Cubism and Futurism imagery to further its futuristic feel. Both movements began in the early 1900s, “among modernist movements futurism was exceptionally vehement in its denunciation of the past.” “Futurist Painting used elements of neo-impressionism and cubism to create compositions that expressed the idea of the dynamism, the energy and movement of modern life” [Tate.2018]. The artist of Superman’s Metropolis, Ted McKeever, used elements of cubism and futurism in order to bring the same feel to the book. “By breaking objects and figures down into disctinct areas – or planes – the artists aimed to show different viewpoints at the same time and within the same space and so suggest their three-dimensional form. In doing so they also emphasized the two-dimensional flatness of the canvas instead of creating the illusion of depth.

The incorporation of Superman into the story of Metropolis works well. Both Freder and Clarc are versions of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero of a Thousand Faces’ [Campbell.1949]. However, Superman stands above them all regardless of this new-found equality. The Nietzschean Ubermensch that follows the idea posited by Nietche. A goal for humanity to set for itself. That human life would be given meaning by how it advances a new generation. [Nietche.1883]

  • Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero of a Thousand Faces. Pantheon Books, New York: USA.
  • Dictionary.com (2018) Metropolis. [Online] Dictionary.com, LLC. Available from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/metropolis [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • Kubista, B. (1912) Kiss of Death. [Oil on Canvas] Regional Art Gallery, Liberec.
  • Lofficier, R.J.M., Thomas, R. & McKeever, T. (1996) Superman’s Metropolis. DC Comics. Burbank: USA.
  • (1927) Film. Directed by Fritz Lang. [Blu-Ray] UFA: Germany.
  • Miller, M. & Johnson, D. (2003) Superman: Red Son. DC Comics, Burbank: USA.
  • Morrison, G. (2001) Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville can Teach Us about being Human. Spiegel & Grau, New York: USA.
  • Nietche, F. (1883) Thus Spoke Zarathustra. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, South Carolina: USA.
  • Pearson, R & Uricchio, W. (1991) The Many Lives of Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media. BFI Publishing, London: UK.
  • Poplik, B. (2008) Metropolis is New York by day; Gotham is New York by Night. [Online] March 29th. Barry Popik. Available from: https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/metropolis_is_new_york_by_day_gotham_city_is_new_york_by_night/ [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • Seigel, J. & Shuster, J. (1939) Action Comics #16: Superman and the Numbers Racket. DC Comics. Burbank: USA.
  • Stella, J. (1919 – 20) Brooklyn Bridge. [Oil on Canvas] Yale University Art Gallery, Yale.
  • (2018) Cubism. [Online] Tate.org. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/c/cubism [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • (2018) Futurism. [Online] Tate.org. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/futurism [Last Accessed: 27.03.2018]
  • Weldon, G. (2013) Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey:USA.
  • Von Harbou. T. (1925) Metropolis. Illustriertes Blatt, Dusseldorf: Germany.
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The Iron Spider Costume – Comics and Infinity War

Superhero costumes are incredible. They say so much about the character through various details. Some are flashy and make solid statements, while others have the soul purpose of concealing identity. See Superman: Earth One for a good example of how a mask isn’t always necessary to conceal identity.

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When it comes to iconic characters, it’s interesting to see how over time creators will play with their iconography to create all new designs and costume. Spider-Man is no exception. Famously the black costume in particular made such a big impact that it even led to the equally infamous character, Venom. However, one costume that also left its mark, though in a smaller way, is the Iron Spider costume. Created by Tony Stark for Peter after his resurrection from a battle to the death with villain Morlun. The costume works like a fusion between Spider-Man’s classic design and Tony’s armour. Complete with a red and gold colour scheme and mechanical spider arms to help him manoeuvre. The costume appeared heavily during the time of Civil War, before Peter gave it up when he went on the run. The costume has its fans, particularly due to the mechanical legs, and its practical applications.

However. The costume shown off in the Infinity War trailers look far better!

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Thanks to toy releases before the film, especially the Funko Pop and Cosbaby lines. The suit shown off in the trailers is confirmed to be the MCU’s interpretation of the Iron Spider costume. What makes this version feel so much better, is purely down to the colour scheme. While the red and gold of the original makes sense due to it’s origin as Iron Man’s design. The blue with the gold accents of the Infinity War costume suites the character far more. It adds a lot more personality and makes the gold just pop. Rather than the overly gaudy look of the original suit.

While the film doesn’t open for another month. The look of this costume is already a point in the films favour. Hopefully, the MCU will take some of these older costume designs in the future and add to them in the same vain as this.

A Day at the Flix – Pacific Rim: Uprising and A Wrinkle in Time

Two films on very different ends of the entertainment spectrum. Ones an action heavy, mech anime send up, the other is a whimsical journey to find a girl’s missing father. Yet both contained the line “[Insert Name]’s not here right now” spoken by a being inhabiting another body. Who knew?

Pacific Rim: Uprising:

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The follow up to 2013s Pacific Rim by director Guillermo del Toro. Uprising feels rather lacking in what the original film understood about the giant robot genre.

Set ten years after the events of the first film, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) the son of franchise hero General Stacker Pentecost, has been living in abandoned mansions and getting by well in a post Kaiju world. Until he is arrested after helping a young girl and illegal Jaeger engineer escape the police. To avoid prison, he is thrown back into service as a Jaeger Ranger, training new recruits. Despite the lack of Kaiju threat, recruits are still trained. Jaeger’s are still built, and the world is still on edge.

Overall, Pacific Rim: Uprising is lacking compared to the first film. Greatly missing that del Torro magic. This time directed by first time director, Steven S. DeKnight. While the first is a loving sed up to mech anime, Uprising feels more like someone was told the plot beats to shows such as Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Neon Genesis Evangelion and perhaps The Vision of Escaflowne, with only the vaguest hint of interest from the person explaining it. In particular, the film seems to pay homage to moments in Evangelion, with the notable idea of the Unit 03/13th Angel reveal in the show, only lacking the same emotional weight and drama that made that moment so pivotal.

John Boyega continues to do well in his career, but largely caries the film single-handedly. With a cast largely made up of teenagers, another nod to the tropes of giant robot anime. The kids are good, and carry their respected plot points reasonably well, but do not hold up to the same standards of the first film. Especially with how much they play into the final act of the film.

The films villain reveal and plan is somewhat logical given the threads left off from the first film. Though some thought into his plan’s early actions make little sense when you stop and think about how it fits in as a whole.

The pivotal fight choreography is strong, exactly what you would expect from this kind of film. Though the designs of the new Jaeger model’s feel like copies of existing Gundam models rather than ones that exist in this world. Something the films’ predecessor managed very well. With the noticeable exception of the new Gipsy model, the series flagship. One model however, bares a striking similarity to Unit 02 of Evangelion, with a few notes taken from Baymax’s armour in Big Hero 6. The Unit 02 influence is most noticeable in it’s use of knives and swords.

The films world feels very disconnected, even as a follow up to the first. Small details that were established in the original film, and handled well in several giant robot anime, such as civilian evacuation and protection were handled in a very haphazard manner. A lot of details about how this new, post-Kaiju war world works are largely swept under the rug. A nod is given hear or there, to acknowledge that it was considered, but only bring further questions. A lot of the film felt very unrealistic even from the world the film sets up, leading to an unsatisfying conclusion and inevitable sequel baiting.

Perhaps the films funniest moment was watching a Jaeger crash land next to the 1:1 scale Gundam statue in Tokyo. Which when you take into account it’s appearances in the Ready Player One trailers and posters, this won’t be the last time a Gundam makes it to the big screen this year.

Overall, a few good fights and a plot that feels very copy and pasted together. Predictable specially to existing giant robot fans. Worth catching on TV or at a cheap screening but does not stand up to the original.

A Wrinkle in Time:

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Based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time follows the young girl Meg as she, her brother, and friend Calvin, go on an adventure to recover her missing father. A scientist who suddenly disappeared from their house 4 years ago. The journey takes them through other worlds and across space as they try to understand what happened, and the universes impact on them all.

Directed by Ava DuVernay, and with an all star cast of Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and more. However, the true star of the film is the impressive CGI, followed closely by the three lead child actors, Storm Reid, Levi Miller, and Deric McCabe who all completely embody their characters and carry the film. The big Hollywood names feel as though they are only there to get attention for the film, especially in the cases of Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling. They feel more like the stars on screen, rather than actual characters.

The film carries with it a good message, talking to the target audience, in this cast children and teens, about depression and excepting their own faults. However, while the film is well meaning, it feels as though the book it’s adapting handled these far better even without having read the book. Multiple scenes that you would imagine having been written to invoke particular emotions and images that are deeply personal to the reader, are now being heavily filtered through someone else’s perspective. Granted the beautiful CGI does provide a fair amount of eye candy. The feeling that the intension was meant to be more personal is very hard to shake.

The films focus on darkness taking over the light, and the unnamed ‘it’ are very clear stand ins for the obvious. And while the talk of, but never named, depression can be very affective, it still feels lacking. Some of the flash back examples shown in the middle, attempting to explain the darkness’s affect on people are decent, though very cliché.

Overall, a standard Hero’s Journey story with an impressive young cast, but heavily hollow to it’s core. Eye catching, but all flash and no substance.

Conclusion:

Between the two, A Wrinkle in Time is certainly the stronger film. But neither are masterpieces. Both bring something to the table, either fight scenes, effective CGI, or promising child acting. But neither are satisfying as films and give of the impression that a better version already exists.

 

Can we just have a Gundam film already…!?

The Closer we get to Action Comics #1000, The More Nervous I feel

Like any Superman fan, I’m thrilled at the idea of celebrated not only his 80th birthday, but the landmark of a 1,000th issue. I feat not only impressive in the eyes of Superman fans, but an achievement for the comic book industry. Both my copy of the 1,000th issue and the Superman at 80 hardcover are happily pre-ordered. Now less than a month before the books release, I still carry many of the nerves I had at its announcement.

Action Comics #1000 will act as the start of a new era. A new creative lead and not to mention the much-celebrated return of the red trunks.

At the release of Action Comics #999 last week, Dan Jurgens has finished his latest run. And with only two issues left for Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason on the main series, the age of Bendis is dawning. And while he is a celebrated writer, one Marvel has sung the praises of for many years. DC has done little to inspire confidence in his upcoming take over. Instead relying on his name alone as a sign of quality. And while, yes, Bendis has certainly written some high-quality work in his time. His early Ultimate Spider-Man were a childhood favourite, House of M remains a sold event book even 13 years later, and his Guardians of the Galaxy run is heavily flawed but still enjoyable. But even die-hard fans of his work have admitted that his quality has been slipping in recent years. As well as his continues problems with pacing.

In the months since Bendis was announced to be the new writer, there has been ample opportunity for DC to show him off and provide more reassurance for fans that it is indeed a good fit, and not just a publicity stunt. Granted, Bendis’ recent hospital stay would have slowed him down. But the point still stands. Why should we care about Bendis taking the lead, when Tomasi, Gleason and Jurgens have been writing the character at the best he’s been in nearly a decade?

Another (2012)

Another is the Final Destination of anime. A blood bath for all those involved, that makes you wonder who and how the next person will die rather than who is the answer to the mystery.

Set in 1998, after moving in with his grandparents while his father is away on business. Koichi Sakakibara is enrolled in Yomiyama North Middle School, in class 3 – 3. Due to his own illness however, he is forced to start in May rather than the beginning of the term. He is briefly visited by students to give him some information, but after they leave, he stumbles across a girl in the same uniform. Pale skin, dark hair, an eye patch over her left eye and a sad expression on her face. The last time he sees her that day, she’s making her way down to the morgue. Upon starting school a few weeks later, he finds his classmates very friendly and begins to settle in well. However, the girl seems to be ignored by everyone, as though she doesn’t exist. As life goes on, Koichi is made aware of the curse that haunts class 3 – 3, that ever year the class takes measures to prevent the students and their loved ones from dying. That for the past 25 years an extra student always appears, one who had previously died, and once they show up, death follows. The question is, who is dead?

An interesting mystery and admittedly beautiful visuals are the true attraction to this series. Studio P.A. Works have certainly used their budget to great effect. In way of horror it does very little to scare the viewer. At most you may find yourself tugging at your collar during the first death 3 episodes in. The 12 episodes are adapted from a novel of the same name by Yukito Ayatsuji, and in many ways it feels as though the scares would work better in novel form. Allowing the reader to imagine all the gory details in their own way. The mystery itself is rather compelling, especially the more you learn, mixed with some rather clever casting choices in both the English and Japanese.

However, it feels as though an extra episode here or there to flesh out the world around Class 3 – 3 would have strengthened a defining point of the reveal. Allowing the viewer that extra opportunity to catch a point that was known to the lead, and not to us. Koichi is established to be a lover of horror fiction. Reading Stephen King in the first episode and Lovecraft a few episodes later. His visits to the hospital are also accompanied by the nurse referring to him as “Mr. Horror Lover”. This point is hammered in greatly in the early episodes and is largely forgotten by the end. Something that felt like a set up for a later point only to be dropped. While this does work to give Koichi some character, the more blatant and unnecessary references to it could have been used to flesh out the rest of the school and town.

The cast is very well defined. Each with their own distinct characteristic or quirk about them. Despite the blood bath that does ensue throughout, it’s made clear early on that despite Koichi due to main character immunity, anyone could die at any moment.

An enjoyable and eye-catching series despite the lack of true horror. It’s 12 episodes that nicely wraps up and leaves the viewer satisfied.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I – Initiation

As a young boy, Prince Lelouch Vi Britannia, 17th heir to the Royal Britannian Imperial throne, watches as his mother is killed before his eyes, and his younger sister is left disabled and blind. He argues with his father, the Emperor as to why he wasn’t there. For his arrogance and insolence, Lelouch and his younger sister Nannally are sent to Japan as political bargaining tools, a country stated to be neutral in the affairs of the Britannian empire. War brakes out, and Japan is conquered. Stripped of its name, the country is now known as ‘Area 11’. 7 years later, Lelouch, now going under the name Lelouch Lamperouge, lives as a high school student in the Tokyo district. Challenging noblemen to high stakes games of chess between classes. On one such occasion, on his way back to school he comes across a truck that runs off the road. In an attempt to help anyone stuck inside, Lelouch finds himself unwillingly brought into a terrorist rebellion. People of Japan wanting to take back their country, strip themselves of the derogatory name ‘elevens’, and reclaim their identity and culture.

Now confronted by the Britannian army, and a childhood friend, Suzaku, turned lapdog to the military, the contents of trucks cargo reveals itself. A green haired girl by the name of C.C. She bestows upon Lelouch an ability known as a Geass. The power to control others with a simple command. With this power in hand, Lelouch forms his own rebellion under the name Zero. A plan to free those under the Empire’s rule and overthrow the Emperor responsible for his mother’s death.

Announced as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I – Initiation begins the task of retelling the original 50 episodes in the first of three films. What Rebuild is the Evangelion, this is to Code Geass. Bringing us all up to speed before diving in with the upcoming release of the shows long awaited sequel. Code Geass: Resurrection.

Featuring the stunning character designs by renowned manga artist group CLAMP, originally responsible for creating the likes of Cardcaptor Sakura (1996 – 2000), Chobits (2001 – 2002) and X/1999 (1992 – 2003). Lelouch, C.C. and the rest of the cast leap off the screen with phenomenal and memorable designs. Surprisingly, Code Geass marked the first time CLAMP designed characters for an animated project and not their own manga series. Paired with the celebrated Studio Sunrise, the creators of the Mecha anime juggernaut that is the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. Code Geass has only the best talent working for it.

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Returning fans may wonder what this new film brings to the franchise. While recapping the first 17 episodes in a brilliantly constructed manner, new scenes and material are added to strengthen the already compelling story. Taking the helm as director is Noriaki Akitaniya who previously helmed Persona 3’s first film Spring of Birth, with the franchises original director, Goro Taniguchi, on hand as supervisor. With a fantastic cast, many of which reprising their roles, such as Jun Fukuyama (Persona 5) as Lelouch, Takahiro Sakurai (Recovery of an MMO Junkie) as Suzaku, Yukana (Dragon Ball Super) as C.C and Ami Koshimizu (Darling in the Franxx) as Kallen.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I – Initiation is in cinemas March 21st. A wonderful summery for returning fans, and an enthralling experience for those wondering what all the fuss is about. To see where the film is screening near you, go to: http://codegeassfilm.co.uk/

My Hero Academia: Season Two, Part One

11702453-8944561249026207In the near future, 80% of the population is born with super human abilities. In a world like this, becoming a superhero is more than just a fever dream. Superheroes are everywhere. Working everyday to keep the world safe. They are respected, and idolised, and none is more well-known than All-Might! The symbol of peace. Students all over Japan dream of getting into U.A. Academy, the number one high school for superheroes in training, none more so then Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Unfortunately for him, despite spending his entire life studying and trying to understand what it truly means to be a hero, Midoriya is one of the 20% born without abilities. Constantly ridiculed by his classmates and those around him for ever thinking he could be a hero, Midoriya still studies hard in hopes of being the first U.A. Academy student without abilities. It’s during a fateful encounter with his idol All-Might, and his own heroism trying to save a classmate, that Midoriya’s life is changed forever.

The first season of My Hero Academia took the anime community by storm on it’s release in 2016. Based on the manga by Kohei Horikoshi and published in the renowned Weekly Shonen Jump. The same magazine that gave us Dragon Ball, Death Note, Naruto and Haikyuu!!. My Hero Academia found it’s audience almost immediately, to the point that an anime adaptation was practically inevitable. It’s 13-episode first season exploded in popularity both in its native Japan and oversees thanks to Funimation’s simulcast. Now, Funimation is back with a physical release of Season two, Part One!

The first half of season two gives us something all Shonen fans know all too well. A tournament arc! And while tournament arcs can be fun, a lot of the time they end up being set ups to larger story points and major shifts. Such as the Chunin exams arc in Naruto leading to the one-tale encounter and Orochimaru. However, My Hero Academia embraces the fun and excitement that a tournament arc can be and uses it to flesh out not only main characters and side characters, but the world itself.

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After the events of season one, our main characters gear up for the U.A. Sports festival. A chance to show off their skills in a televised event. Go up against other class’s such as the previously unseen Class 1-B, the Support classes, Business course and General Studies. As well as try and get the attention of potential recruiters. Going through an obstacle course designed to test their skills, a cavalry battle that sees different combinations of strengths and skills, all leading up to a round robin style battle till only one stands. While there is no big stake on the line, the students will get to take part in these events two more times before they graduate. The 13-episode arc explores the characters in a wonderful way. Character motives and abilities are explored to a phenomenal degree, with the clear stand outs being both Uraraka and Todoroki. A girl who wants to make it big and earn a lot of money for the simple reason of helping out her parents, and a young man torn between his sense of self-worth, his family life, and the pressures put upon him by his father. My Hero Academia does so much justice to it’s characters in this 13-episode arc, that it works almost as a blue print to how to do tournament arcs as stories in themselves, and not just a means to an end.

While the animation in season one was already impressive, season two steps it up beautifully. Adding not only an extra punch to action scenes but in characterisation too. Small and subtle details are added to each of the characters movements that work well to give another dimension to them. Bakugo’s egotistical personality has a whole other level of flair to it with his casual movements. But no character benefits more from this than Iida. The slightly high strung and nervous class representative shows so much more personality in just his hand gestures. It’s a small thing but speaks volumes about the characters.

Both the English dub and the Japanese audio are incredibly impressive. All the actors give it there all throughout in both languages. However, if an all-star had to be chosen, it’s Ayane Sakura as Uraraka in the Japanese dub. Her phone call to her father mid-way through the tournament is sure to bring a tear to your eye.

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The show’s opening, ‘Peace Sign’ by Kenshi Yonezu is delightfully infectious and gets you excited for the episode to come. Partnered well with an opening animation of our heroes stretching in preparation, before exploding in a flurry of action as the tempo in the music picks up and explodes. The show’s ending theme, ‘Dakara, Hitori ja nai’ by Little Glee Monster, is rather poppy, and is a take it or leave it song that you’ll either love or tolerate, but it’s paired with a rather lovely sequence following the shows lead girls, highlighting just how well My Hero Academia characterises its female cast especially.

The Blu-ray release of My Hero Academia Season two, Part one also contains episode 13.5. A fantastic 23 minute summery of season one, that works very well for those wanting a bit of a reminder of the previous 13 episodes, or those just wanting to relive it one more time before diving into season 2. Also included are textless versions of the opening and ending credits. A set of 13 shorts presented by the American voice actors talking about their favourite charities in the ‘Be a Hero’ initiative, as well as a fantastic interview with Yoshihiko Umakoshi, the shows character designer and chief animation director for season two.

The first half of My Hero Academia’s second season is a wild ride of fun and excitement that leave you hungry for even more. A fantastic character exploration and intense action pact experience. My Hero Academia Season two, Part one is available for pre-order and due for release April 2nd on Blu-ray and DVD.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Hero-Academia-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B07B5X5NNH/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1521389862&sr=8-2&keywords=my+hero+academia

Zavvi: https://www.zavvi.com/blu-ray/my-hero-academia-season-02-part-1-funimation/11702453.html