One of my duties at Streamline Pictures was to keep a scrapbook of the reviews that Streamline’s movies, videos, and books got in newspapers and magazines. Here is an alphabetical sampling of some of them.
“Few projects in the industry have grown to the proportions of Akira, managed by a committee, and released in a variety of video formats. The Voyager Company offers a bilingual laser disc, and Streamline Pictures fills the VHS slot with two cassettes, one dubbed, the other a long-awaited subtitled version.” “The character design and animation are, of course, the elements which earned Akira the label ‘tour de force.’ Otomo’s artwork style is faithfully reproduced in an amazingly clean manner, from start to finish. With a high total budget and equally high cel count, in addition to moves toward ac-curate lip synching, the result is more than satisfying. The mechanical design is brilliantly thought-out, adding to the feeling that at some time in the near future, this could all be real. Bikes, weapons, scanners, and structures all receive special attention. The background artwork is sharp and maintains a consistently high quality in regard to detail, color, and shading. Atop the backgrounds is found some astonishing effects animation, from flashing neon to pulverized concrete to various explosions. The attention to detail will send anime fans scurrying for the single-frame button. The music, on the other hand, will not leave you humming the main theme, but rather banging drums and heaving huge wheezing sighs. (…) All of the music works in context and, pumped through a stereo system, will help leave the viewer slightly drained by the film’s climax. The video reproduction quality of this film varies widely from product to product. As one might expect, Voyager’s laser disc wins hands down for clarity and color, as well as digital stereo sound reproduction, with English on the digital track and Japanese on the analog track (…) The VHS tape versions from Streamline Pictures, a full-frame dub and a recently re-leased letterboxed subtitle, will possibly be joined shortly by new dubbed releases in full frame and widescreen. The dub and subtitle copies are both watchable, although the sub presents a slightly muddier image, and is cropped in on the sides as well as on the top and bottom. If you measure clarity in terms of screen real estate, the full-frame dub may be your best bet. The sound quality is certainly evident in both tapes, and complements to the video.”
“Like a benzedrine hallucination, Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated future world explodes onto the screen with a rocket-fueled punch.” “From the sun-colored trails spitting out of motorcycle tailpipes to the apocalyptic finale, Mr. Otomo’s superfast action film packs quite a visual wallop.”
Eileen M. Drennen, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, May 11, 1990, pg. F-3
“The Apocalypse Now of anime, the feature film Akira is two-plus hours of horror and beauty that defines an aesthetic. Insanely ambitious, breathtakingly crafted, it both builds on and transcends the Japanese animation of our baby-boomer youth. Remember Speed Racer? Astro Boy? Kimba the White Lion? This is nothing remotely close.” “Otomo, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay, paints an eye-popping universe of vibrant colors, delicate shading, and sophisticated lighting effects. Using multiplane animation […] he achieves a nearly three-dimensional look in many scenes.” “Any way you play it, Akira leaves Speed Racer in the dust.”
Frank Lovece, Audio/Video Interiors, December 1993, pg. ?
“Now Americans can see Japanese comic artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 film adaptation of his acclaimed graphic novel Akira. It’s an animated feature that tries for the best of both the comic and film worlds and gets it most of the time.” “Otomo makes full use of the possibilities of hand-drawn animation […] to realize his imaginative and terrifying vision of technological apocalypse brought about by scientists indifferent to the moral consequences of their work and the leaders who exploit them. Thanks to unusually painstaking animation, the extras in Akira’s cast of thousands move as individuals. The film humanizes the masses into more than just part of the cartoon landscape.”
Gary Susman, Boston Phoenix, August 31, 1990, pg. ?
“The first videotape of ANIMALAND contains three adventures of Ginger Nutt and one MUSICAL PAINTBOX. As it is restored footage, the quality is pretty good for animation over 40 years old. The three Ginger episodes are good and well animated for the times. The quality is equivalent to Disney or to Bugs Bunny stories.” “The Musical Paintbox episode is nice though it is not really animation but an illustrated story. All this is quite interesting, but only if you are a great fan of the old animation.”
Claude J. Pelletier, Protoculture Addicts, #18, July-August 1992, pg. 22
[#1] “Another remake of a classic series […] has characters very much in the late 70s/early 80s idiom in a story which draws together psychics, charismatic cults, ancient history, United Nations incompetence and alien intervention. Japanese schoolboy Koichi is pulled into the web by Juju, a psychic girl who has been sending out telepathic signals to him because she has recognized his latent powers and hopes they will be of use to her sinister ‘Master’. Fellow cult member Wong is less welcoming, and almost kills Koichi before the boy’s remarkable powers manifest themselves in a massive explosion of energy which destroys the surrounding area. But Koichi has now seen enough to convince him that joining the cult would be a bad move, but they don’t take refusal lightly. Only the unexpected arrival of a huge dragon, a shape-shifting panther and a mighty amphibious robot enables him to get away from their headquarters, and as the dragon carries him over his former home he realises that his life has changed forever – because of the other voice in his head, the one which keeps calling him ‘Babel II’ and inviting him to fulfill his destiny and defend mankind from the forces of evil. Considering the level of action in this episode, the pace feels curiously slow, and the exaggeratedly retro designs are an acquired taste, but the story promises to develop in interesting directions.”
Helen McCarthy, Anime FX #6, September 1995, pg. 54
“Barefoot Gen […] is based on Keiji Nakazawa’s acclaimed series of graphic novels, which themselves were inspired by his horrific, childhood experience of the Hiroshima bombing. Directed by Mamoru Shinzaki and deftly adapted into English by Carl Macek, the film effectively recreates the nuclear nightmare in a manner no live-action version could conceivably match. And you wouldn’t want one to. Gen’s EC Comics depiction of the Bomb’s tortured victims is hard enough to take; anything more literal would just be too grotesque. […] As in the comics, unimaginable anger and sympathetic resilience prove an effective formula for survival. Gen remains a boy though he’s burdened with responsibilities few men could handle, and he never loses the natural compassion that becomes his greatest strength. The movie downplays the cruelty and intolerance of the pre-blast fascist society, but its unblinking, offhanded view of every appalling effect of the explosion is more than enough to indict the militarized madness that led to it. If any cartoon was ever a good argument against war, Barefoot Gen is it.”
Bob Strauss, Animation Magazine, December 1995, pg. 17
“This adaptation of Keiji Nakazawa’s semi-autobiographical comic-book series about the bombing of Hiroshima does a remarkable job of condensing a lengthy tale (four graphic novels have been released in the United States) while maintaining the tone and spirit of the original. When the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, six-year-old Gen is one of the lucky few to escape the worst of its effects. His family is not so lucky; only his pregnant mother survives the aftermath of the blast. Already malnourished because of wartime food shortages, Gen and his mother now face starvation in the chaos that follows. […] What I liked most about the original book of Barefoot Gen is that it begins well before the bomb is dropped — giving the reader an idea of what daily life was like in Japan towards the end of the war including the prevailing attitudes and beliefs in Japanese society. […] Gen’s experiences after the bombing are greatly condensed (by necessity) from the graphic novels. Most of the key events from the comics are still there; they just happen closer together. […] What the movie does preserve are the story’s basic themes of survival and per-severance. The animation itself is very well done. However, the graphic scenes of the bomb’s horrific effects on people may be too upsetting for younger viewers. (The package is labeled “Not for kids.”) The voice acting was also very well done (and I say this as a person who generally prefers subtitles.) This is not a comfortable movie to watch (I had to keep a box of tissues close at hand for many parts of it), but it is very well done and well worth seeing. Once you’ve seen it, however, I’d suggest that you go to your local comics retailer to get the graphic novels and read the full story.”
Joyce Greenholdt, Comics Buyer’s Guide, #1154, December 29, 1995, pg. 64
“Forget about other anime horror movies. This is the greatest movie ever drawn — because it’s real! Barefoot Gen is an autobiographical story of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima by cartoonist Keiji Nakazawa, who lived through the blast as a six-year-old boy. The first half establishes, through a child’s eyes, a summer-home life that seems almost idyllic, despite a state of hunger verging on starvation due to wartime rationing. Then the bomb is dropped, turning young Gen’s familiar neighborhood into a lurid hell. Gen survives by a freakish accident, and hurries home to watch his father, sister and younger brother burn to death in the ruins of their house. Walking corpses with half-melted flesh studded with shards of blast-driven glass stagger zombie-like about him. Gen’s pregnant mother gives premature birth due to the shock, and the six-year-old is the only one who can care for them. Despite an ambience of relentless, nauseating horror, Gen’s determination and dynamic spirit provide a thread of hope. The film covers about three months after the bombing, ending with the start of rebuilding and new seedlings whose appearance signify the return of life — an upbeat ending, if not a happy one. Barefoot Gen is rendered in cartoonist Nakazawa’s soft, almost cuddly art style, which makes his true depictions of the incredible effects of nuclear blast damage and radiation sickness all the more chilling. Devotees of demonic fantasy horror owe it to themselves to see what real horror is like! Good vocal emoting in this English-dubbed edition maintains the quality of the original.”
Walt James, The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope, v.3 no.17, Winter 1996, pg. 26
[#1] “A remake of a classic TV series is a common occurrence these days, with the trend for ‘retro’ anime still powerful and the realisation by many young animators that they can revisit their own childhood and make the shows they loved then with today’s technology. This four-part OAV revision of the TV series of the same name takes us to a world where robots have risen and crushed their former masters, and now rule a world as cruel and harsh as any human totalitarian government ever managed to create. Most humans are enslaved but there are isolated pockets of resistance, and the legend passes from group to group of the Robot Hunter, Casshan, who will one day return to save mankind from its oppressors. […] The pre-cyberpunk origins of the story show clearly in the hostile relationship of man to machine. Casshan has had to become part-robot to fight them, and in the TV series this was viewed as part of his tragedy; it will be interesting to see how the following three episodes handle this theme in a world in which a cyber-implant is a desirable fashion accessory. This is worth seeing; solid story values always stand the test of time. Don’t be put off by the ‘mature audiences’ line; no tentacles and demons here, just some ripped clothing and exposed flesh.”
Helen McCarthy, Anime FX #6, September 1995, pg. 54
“Streamline Pictures has released an English-dubbed version of Tatsunoko’s OVA Casshan. The new OVA is a remake of the 1973 anime teleseries; the original was created in the animation style of Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) and Mach Go Go Go (Speed Racer). The story involved a scientist creating robots to serve the human race – and, as you’d expect in a scenario like that, something has just got to go wrong. Lightning causes the robots to turn evil and run amok, and the doctor becomes a cyborg to defend mankind with the help of a robot dog. The original series mixed a simple story with lots of action and atmosphere. The OVA starts with the situation already in progress. […] This new version is a great improvement over the old one due to excellent animation and all-new eye-catching character designs. I’m looking forward to many more episodes to come. Streamline and Carl Macek have shown a knack for picking great properties and handling them correctly. The integrity of the original is maintained with good dubbed voices and an untouched sound-track suggests that you are looking at the original feature in its entirety.”
Roy Ware, Hero Illustrated, September 1995, Anime Action section (on line)
“Lupin III – The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) was Hayao Miyazaki’s first personal blockbuster hit. […] It was Cagliostro that established his name as a mark of animation quality to Japanese moviegoers.” “The Castle of Cagliostro retains much of the crazy humor of Monkey Punch’s original stories, but it also uses animation to present hairbreadth drama and suspense to a degree that would be impossible for any live stuntman. The auto chase along twisting mountain roads, the break-in through the castle’s water system, the rooftop pursuit by an army of assassins, and the escape in a flaming autogyro are just a few of the movie’s most popular scenes. Also, keep in mind that the climactic duel in the castle’s clock tower was made seven years before the similar scene in Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective — which was done with computers because the motion of so many gears and springs was too complex for Disney’s animators to do by hand!”
Frederick Patten, Animation Magazine, v.2 #3, Winter 1989, pg. 72
“‘Castle of Cagliostro’ […] is a hilarious mix of Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch a Thief’ and several Marx Brothers movies, with colors so crystal clear and dazzling that the images pop right off the screen.” “‘Castle of Cagliostro’ is a bright, non-stop film that will thrill the animation crowd. Even non-diehards will enjoy this fast and furious production. Boasting a lead character who is more memorable than many flesh-and-blood portrayals, and broad slapstick humor that, although animated, produces some very real howls of laughter, ‘Castle of Cagliostro’ is 100 minutes of joyful escapism.” “There are gun fights, air attacks, steel-plated mutant ninjas, incredible visual effects, classic lines and a terrific final showdown inside a giant clock. The impressive animation is sophisticated without seeming arty. Fine attention is paid to detail, particularly with shadows, and there are several depth-of-field shots that are startling and effective. But mostly it is the humorously involving storyline and the colorful Wolf that make ‘Castle of Cagliostro’ one of the most fun, and memorable, films out there — animated or otherwise.”
Jeff Menell, The Hollywood Reporter, April 9, 1991, pg. 10 & 76
“For those of you Japanese (or not) animation-lovers who never heard of Lupin III … shame on you. You are missing some great animation, broad slapstick humor, not to mention outstanding storytelling and some of the best non-stop action since Jackie Chan. Streamline has released (in English) one of the best Lupin films on video. Although in America Lupin has to be called Wolf, takes nothing away from the fun and action this film has to offer. If you are unaware of the Lupin series or the many movies … this is a great place to start.”
Michael Swanigan, TOON Magazine, v.1 #4, [August 1994]. pg. 3
“Clark Haas’ Clutch Cargo has to be one of the most revered (or reviled) cartoons in TV history, depending, I would guess, on where and when you first saw it, and perhaps ultimately on how much will you have to muster your suspension of disbelief. […] I first encountered “Clutch & Co.” as a child via the daily installments on Garfield Goose, and I have never had any trouble in accepting the one feature which often incites jeers at Clutch’s name, namely the live-action speaking lips superimposed on all of the characters (except, of course, Paddlefoot the dog) through the courtesy of Edwin Gillette and his patented “synchro-vox” system.” “Clutch Cargo holds up amazingly well as a well-drawn, well-acted, straightforward adventure series that takes its heroes to a wide variety of exotic locales populated by colorful characters of every description.” “Picture quality and color on both of these tapes are perfect, but I do have a quibble with how the episodes are packaged. Each tape contains one complete Clutch serial (5 chapters) plus three Clutch Cargo Cliffhangers (as the tapes call them). These latter are simply three isolated chapters from three other serials. Also, rather than including opening and closing titles/credits on the complete five chapter serial, they have edited it together as one seamless story with one opening and one closing. I presume the logic here is that showing titles five times is tedious, but I prefer it, not only for completeness, but also for the overly-dramatic “cliffhanger” narration at the end of each chapter and the beginning of the subsequent ones. Also, rather than adding three oddball chapters after the main serial (for a total of eight chapters per tape), it would’ve made a lot more sense to up the length to ten chapters consisting of two complete serials per tape. While this approach has its drawbacks, it should not discourage any Clutch Cargo fan from purchasing these volumes. What they may lack in titling, they make up for in quality.” [N.b.: The three “oddball” chapters after the serial are not tossed in randomly. Clutch Cargo #1 contains one complete five-chapter serial and the first chapters of three different serials. #2 contains a different complete serial, and the three chapter #2s of the same three serials begun on vol. #1. As planned, the first five tapes will comprise five adventures each edited into a “feature”, and three complete serials in their “cliffhanger” format.]
Mel Smetko, The Little Theatre Screen, v.1 #1, Summer 1994, pg. 40.
“Clutch is to animation what dinosaurs were to evolution — prehistoric.”
Kyle McCulloch, Wild Cartoon Kingdom, #3, March 1994, pg. 72
“Colonel Bleep is full of vintage adventures that blow away contemporary kiddie cartoons (except, of course, The Ren & Stimpy Show).”
Film Threat, #5, August 1992, pg. 8
“What happens when a Miami-based animation house specializing in brisk, low-budget television commercials heads for outer space? Colonel Bleep happens, and if you were a kid in 1957-58, you may have been glad the animators made the trip.” “…the Bleep cartoons have aggressive, quintessentially ’50s-style’ design; marvelous sound effects; and an enthusiastic narrator …” “In each of these noisy adventures, Bleep’s mission is to ‘fight to maintain justice in the vast galaxies of the world,’ which is pretty bad science, but a pretty good come-on for little kids.”
David J. Hogan, Outré, #1, December 1994, pg. 18
[#1] “In the Crying Freeman series, the protagonist’s eyes are frequently dripping tears. Freeman is an assassin by trade, and the appearance of a tear drop beneath his left eye is the sole sign of regret following each apparently cold-blooded killing. In a flashback, we learn he was once a happy potter until he fell under the control of a ruthless Chinese gangster-mystic. Now he’s a murderous tool in the gang war between Chinese and Japanese mafias. On the surface, Freeman is a cooly efficient, unstoppable killing machine but, underneath, he’s a nice guy who falls in love with the innocent young witness to one of his hits. Both she and Freeman realize he must kill her because she has seen his face. So the young woman, whose death has been foretold by a seer, waits fatalistically in her large home for her assassin’s arrival, and, when he appears, her last request is for Freeman to take her virginity before he takes her life. In the meantime, rival gangsters and corrupt cops gather around the house to spring a trap on the ill-fated hero. Both a tender romance and a blood-soaked shoot-’em-up, Crying Freeman is occasionally gushy in more ways than one, but surprisingly often it strikes a note of genuinely tragic poetry. Its theme of innocents trapped in a violent struggle between outside forces beyond their control is seen again and again in anime and suggests how Japanese creators continue to be haunted by the impact of World War II on Japanese culture.”
Michael Dean, Comics Buyer’s Guide, #1154, December 29, 1995, pg. 74
[#1] “The animated adaptation of the popular manga by Kazuo Koike […] and Ryoichi Ikegami […]. CRYING FREEMAN is very much the same as the comic.” “There are sexual situations in there, but it is presented in such a way as it is not offensive or exaggerated. What is really bothering, though, is the amount of violence. It is shown in a very realistic way and could shock some people. Get your little brother out of the room, this is not stuff for him. One really pleasing thing is the similarity between the manga and the animation. The story is nearly identical and the characters are extremely similar, a feat we applaud, as Ryoichi Ikegami’s style is probably hard to animate properly. The music is mostly unremarkable, but the serious, gangster movie atmosphere of the whole thing makes you forget about that. The animation itself is not bad, but it sometimes shows some limitations, like long freeze frames. Since these are used to give a dramatic atmosphere (like in old samurai movies), it is not a major drawback. Although not a masterpiece, CRYING FREEMAN is recommended to people who like ‘serious animations.'”
Martin Ouellette, Protoculture Addicts, #34, May-June 1995, pg. 45
Next week: More Streamline reviews.