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Anime Review

By Kokoro-chan

(Winner of the Best Original Video at the 2006 Tokyo Anime Award competition)
6 episodes

“Where there are cities, there are Karas. They will continue to watch over the cities. Just as they always have.” Yurine (pink), Episode 6

Make way for the new armoured avian superhero in town, because boy he kicks butt. Or in this case, slashes it. In a fictional modern Japan, cities are represented as entities whose wills are called 'Yurine', cute felines in humanoid form. Yurine are responsible for appointing the divine protectors of the city who go by the title of Karas, mighty warriors who help maintain balance between the inhabitants of the city: human beings and Youkai (demons). Humans can only see the Youkai when they believe in their existence. However, all order breaks apart when a former Karas betrays his city and attempts to 'reform' it under his rule, blaming his frustrations on the humans' indifference towards the Youkai. It's time to look for a new Karas and save the city from its old protector's maddening wrath.

“Just as New York City has Spider-Man, and Gotham City has Batman, it's about time for Japan to have its own local hero.” -Keiichi Sato, Director

And the Director's intentions actually show in the real thing. What better way to portray a Japanese superhero than giving him a mixed appearance of high-class technology (in all 'Justirizers' glory) and the signature flavour of Japanese culture? Karas literally means crow or raven, which also happens to be the animal representation for our superhero. Crows are thought to be pretty cool in Japanese folklore. This demonic-looking raven warrior, on top of that, wears a metallic samurai outfit and carries around a killer katana (sword). He also happens to have super-speed, teleportation techniques and the ability to transform into a high-class jet, a sleek motorbike and a deadly 'Karasmobile'. Batman ought to be jealous.

Sounds cheesy? Think again. You might want to ignore this apparently-sunny overview because Karas is anything but light. The series starts with a calm moonlit night and creepy background music…and then the whole screen goes crazy as an earth-shaking (literally) duel breaks out between two former Karas. The anime was pretty big when it first came out, stunning its audience (including media like the ANN) into awe by its experimental 2D-3D (hand-sketches and CG effects) fusion approach mainly used in the action-sequences which eventually rendered them…'unique', I guess. This reviewer has never seen anything like it before in regular anime. At least this particular style where one moment you feel you're looking at a pure 3D image and the very next you're not so sure about it anymore. In fact, Karas actually ended up giving me a headache, both in a good sense and a bad sense. The fight scenes are good enough to tease your optical senses with Final Fantasy (Advent Children)-level CGI brilliance and DBZ-level raw-clash excitement. The only problem is, they are extensively detailed and super-fast: you'll be left dozing off or scratching your head unless you watch the scenes again and again to know exactly what happened and how. Moreover, they may cause too much Matrix-déjà vu for some action-movie fans. But apart from the roughly-300-key-frames-per-episode action-scenes, Karas happens to have an interesting side story as well that takes a darker approach, portraying human-Youkai-Mikura(mechanised evil Youkai) relationships and depressions of urbanisation in a Satoshi Kon(Paprika, Perfect Blue) way of storytelling, complete with Animatrix-ish themes and artistic visual 'confusions'. There's even a healthy (erm) amount of blood and gore for the horror-lovers and, of course, some extremely creative character designs, especially the bad guys. Kudos to Hayama Kenji for that.

While there's possibility of mixed reactions (given different tastes), I don't think that should stop you from going ahead and giving the series a try. True, it will either make you feel at ease with its different-flavoured-approach or plainly annoy the hell out of you. But further judgment, I leave it all up to you.

Top 5 Bond-mobiles of all time

By Wahid T. Khan

If there is one good thing the English did after sausages, then would be having Ian Fleming as one of them. Fleming created, perhaps the greatest superspy of all time; Bond. James Bond. The man who did crazy stuff all over the world, which included dangling from buildings, saving extremely attractive members of the female persuasion, having cocktails (shaken, and not stirred, mind you), giving guys an inferiority complex AND using God-knows-what forms of gadgetry. But perhaps the best reason anyone could ever like Bond were his- wait for it- RIDES. Those cars that he used to perform aforementioned crazy stuff; they are the reasons your narrator would watch those movies for. So, here we give you the Greatest 5 Bond cars of all time.

1. Ford Mustang Mach 1- 1971- Diamonds are Forever
The second-generation Ford Mustang Mach 1 was among the total of 27 Ford cars that were featured in the Bond films; and undoubtedly this one was the most popular of the bunch. It was not the only specs that made it famous; you have got to see the Las Vegas car chase scene to understand the very ”awesomeness” of the car; when Tiffany Case balances the Mustang on two side wheels to get through the narrow valley. You do not see ladies and horses doing stuff like that every day.

There are four types of engines for this horse:
· 302 cu in (4.9 L) Windsor V8
· 351 cu in (5.8 L) Windsor- tall deck V8
· 351 cu in (5.8 L) Cleveland V8
· 429 cu in (7 L) SCJ/CJ V8

The Mach 1 started with the fastback "Sports Roof" body and added several visual and performance enhancing items such as matte black hood with hood pins, chrome gas cap and wheels, chrome exhaust tips (except 351W 2V), and dealer optional chin and rear deck spoilers, and louvers. Standard equipment was a 351W 2V Windsor motor with a 3 speed manual transmission, and a 9" 28 spline open rear axle. A 351W 4V was optional as was a 390 4V, and the huge 428 Cobra Jet or Super Cobra Jet. A 4 speed manual or 3 speed FMX (small block)/C6 (big block) automatic transmission was optional, and the 428SCJ added a cast iron tailshaft in place of the regular aluminum one to the C6. A "traction lock" rear axle was optional, and 428 CJ/SCJ added a "traction lock" with 31 spline axle shafts and a nodular case. Standard on Mach 1s was a fierce but cosmetic hood scoop that had integrated turn-signal lights

mounted in the back (sweet, that). A more functional option however, was the signature "Shaker hood", an air scoop mounted directly to the top of the motor, used to collect fresh air and so named for its tendency to "shake" above the rumbling V-8 below, increasing overall efficiency in fuel combustion. The interior came complete with teak wood grain details, full sound deadening material and high-back sport bucket seats. A car par excellence.

2. Ferrari F355- 1995- GoldenEye
The Ferrari F355 is a mid-engined, rear wheel drive V8-powered 2-seat coupe. One major difference between the V8 in the 348 and that in the F355, apart from the displacement increase from 3.4 to 3.5 L, is that the F355 features a 5-valve per cylinder head and that it was considerably more powerful, producing 380 PS (280 kW; 370 hp). The F355 is more common than other Ferraris with 11,273 units produced. And just have a look at the brilliant performance details here:
· 0-60 mph: 4.6 s
· 0-160 km/h: 10.8 s
· Quarter Mile: 12.8 s
· 0-1000 m: 23.7 s
· Top speed: 295 km/h (183 mph)

The Ferrari F335 is the only Ferrari to have starred in a Bond movie (yet curiously never driven by Bond himself), which makes listing it here even more of a priority, actually. Featured in GoldenEye. Xenia Onatopp playfully races James Bond in his Aston Martin DB5 by chance on the mountain roads behind Monte Carlo in this vehicle, which is later revealed to have false French registration plates, hinting that it may be stolen.

3. Toyota 2000GT- 1967- You Only Live Twice
It would be darn unfair if we did not include the first “Japanese Supercar” slash Bond car in this list. This was one car that not only would it be a joy to drive, but to just sit in as well; and we will tell you why.

The 2000GT was produced in a joint venture of Toyota and Yamaha. Where Toyota worked on body designing, interiors, etc., Yamaha had their engineers busy into creating its engine. The engine was a 2.0 L (121 in³) straight-6 based on the engine of the top-of-the-line Toyota Crown sedan. It was transformed by Yamaha with new double overhead camshaft heads into a 112 kW (150 hp) sports car engine. Carburation was through three two-barrel Solex 40 PHH units. Nine special MF-12 models were also built with the larger 2.3 L 2M engine. The car was available with three different final drives; optioned with the 4.375 ratio version, the car was said to be capable of reaching 135 mph (217 km/h).

The engine was mounted longitudinally and drove the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. A limited slip differential was fitted, and in a first for a Japanese car, all-round power-assisted disc brakes. The typical emergency brake gripped the rear disc directly.

The interior offered comfortable, if cramped, accommodation and luxury touches like a rosewood-veneer dashboard and an auto-seeking radio tuner.

The 2000GT was to be driven by 007 himself, but script changes meant that it ended up as the car of his Japanese contact Aki, although as actress Akiko Wakabayashi could not drive, all the actual driving was done by stuntmen in wigs, and all her close-up scenes were filmed while the car was stationary. Some of the close-ups were actually filmed using another white convertible as a stand-in, as in the finished film some shots of Bond and Aki driving clearly show the car's dashboard, and this looks totally different from that of a 2000GT. Budget cuts also meant that of the three planned car chases, only one eventually ended up on screen. Nevertheless, the 2000GT did get some memorable screentime, being used to evade villains in a Toyota Crown. The car had none of the defense mechanisms enjoyed by Bond's own vehicles, although it did feature a TV/radio communications device in the rear cabin.

4. BMW 750iL- 1997- Tomorrow Never Dies
Loaned to Bond by Q at an Avis rental station in Germany, the BMW 750iL is equipped with state-of-the-art missile launchers, caltrops, self-inflating tires and a near-impenetrable body. The BMW can be remotely controlled via a special Ericsson cell phone. During a chase inside a car park, Bond exits the car and remotely drives it to the rooftop, sending it flying off the car park before crash-landing into an Avis station across the street.

With that said, let's talk about the real stuff. The engine's a V12 5.4L M73B54, aiming with 322 horsepower and features that come with it could make any man look like Agent 007 any day. This includes central locking, front fog and xenon lamps and electric heated mirrors; rear head restraints and electric front seats; a sunroof; air-conditioning, cruise control and leather, front head airbags; automatic air-conditioning on 728i/735i; on-board computer on 728i; DSC III (Dynamic Stability Control). That was a mouthful. But, jokes aside, this Beemer was a true gem among all the others ever featured.

5. Mercedes W126- 1997- Tomorrow Never Dies
The W126 had a twelve-year production run between 1979 and 1991, the longest of any S-Class generation since the flagship models were first built in the mid-1950s.

The different body styles of the W126 S-Class achieved a combined sales total of 892,123 units (818,063 sedans and 74,060 coupés), making the W126 the most popular S-Class ever produced. Plus, it's a Bond car.

The W126 was initially offered in straight-6, V8, and turbo diesel sedan models. In September 1981, 2-door coupé versions of the W126 were introduced. Compared to its predecessor, the W126 was more aerodynamic, fuel efficient, capacious, and powerfully engined. The W126 S-Class debuted a new Mercedes-Benz design style which was subsequently used on other vehicles in the company's lineup. The W126 line also introduced many Mercedes-Benz safety innovations, including the first airbag supplemental restraint systems, seatbelt pretensioners, and traction control. However, what really makes it stand out apart from all the other Mercs Bond ever drove, were the oh-realistically-fake-but-cool gadgetry that it came with.

There you have it; the Top 5 Bond cars of all time. Sure, some of them are from the same Bond films; but that does not mean you cannot overlook them. Readers may object to the decision of why any Aston Martin did not make it to this list; the answer to this is simple; if we were to include just one Aston Martin (say the DB5), it would only be fair to list the other ones as well. In addition, the Aston Martins were popular, but when you come down to what's under the hood and defines “performance”, it's pretty evident that the cars featured here are clearly in a league higher than all the DBs that Bond could have ever driven.

Comments regarding this list are welcome to wtk369@gmail.com

Paranormal activity has pulled the wool over my eyes

By The Anarchist Kitten

The readers, if their senses serve them well, will notice several things about this week's movie review. But one thing that will definitely stand out is the word paranormal followed by the word activity in the title. Paranormal Activity has become synonymous with horror. You hear in softly uttered tones vicious warnings about skipping this movie, and the word has been spreading steadily. Why? Because it's just that scary. You don't want to lose sleep. But what's a better advertising campaign for a horror movie than that? One cannot leave a shiny red button reading 'launch' unattended, with only a warning about the possible outcome, without being very well aware of what's to come. With that said, does Paranormal Activity live up to its hype, and deserve the whispers and warnings it has garnered recently?

It does not. Paranormal Activity has pulled the wool over my eyes and hundreds of other viewers, and I will tell the few of you who are yet to watch the film how it has done so.

1) Extremely successful word-of-mouth advertising strategy calling the film 'The Scariest Movie of the Year' and 'Extremely Disturbing!' and 'You won't be able to sleep.'
2) Downright promising footage in the trailer.
3) Trailer featuring a hidden camera that recorded the reactions of a cinema audience, for added weight to the film's testimonial.
4) Glowing internet reviews (here's to hoping this review helps even one soul out there from making the same mistake this reviewer has made).
5) Intriguing camera work, ripped off from Blair Witch Project.

Paranormal Activity had all the usual features of the average Blair Witch Project rip-off: the giddying camera work, the grainy footage, the flashing lights and the bawling yelps of “Oh, my God!” and “Turn off that camera!” For a cost of $US 15,000 or so, it's already earned $US 100 million at the box office, riding high on an internet marketing campaign. Oren Peli, a young filmmaker who was inspired by the authentically scary experience of buying his first house is the latest addition to Hollywood's roster of Blair Witch Project follow up fan-artists, if that is not too harsh. In their new house in San Diego, he and his girlfriend moved in and started hearing mysterious noises. What to do? Make a film about it, of course. To play his leads, he found two cheap newcomers and shot the film in the house, editing it on his personal computer.

When the film aired in Slamdance festival, it attracted the attention of Paramount. They ran with it, hyping it via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, finally setting about monopolizing supply and demand so that the film's target audiences were eventually petitioning for it to be released across the US.

And by today, the hype matters more than the action on the screen, which turns out to be spectacularly banal, dwelling in that dead zone that opens up when a film can't decide what mood it wants to be in. Scary? Satirical? Naturalistic? Absurd? Maybe just go all out in the hopes of getting lucky. That's the spirit here and it produces long stretches that give the audience nothing to do but wait on the horrors that they hope will arrive sooner or later, because didn't everyone say it would be scary as hell?

Those of the YouTube-generation may have reason to support the film. If a young movie nerd could raise millions at the box office with a film shot in his own house and edited on his own computer, why couldn't they do it too? For most, Paranormal Activity's charm lies in the fact that it symbolizes the revenge of an amateur in the face of giants like Emmerich (2012) and Cameron (Avatar).

But when the hype turns out to be false and carefully cultivated, and the film a formulaic cash-cow, the whole exercise becomes just another Hollywood con job. As you've already been warned, skip this one. But for entirely different reasons than the ones you have thus far been given.

(The reviewer promises a positive film review in the next issue of the Rising Stars)


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