Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko Review

Based on the novel of the same name, Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is another indie feather in the cap of GKIDS and Shout! Factory.

“Brash single mother Nikuko is well-known for her bold spirit, much to the embarrassment of Kikuko, her pensive yet imaginative daughter. In contrast to her mother, Kikuko wants nothing more than to fit in as she navigates the everyday social dramas of middle school. Life in the harbor is peaceful until a shocking revelation from the past threatens to uproot the pair’s tender relationship.”

Yet again, eastern creators show up just how stale and predictable American filmmaking has become and while Disney’s latest critical success is trumpeted from the rooftops, fantastic films like this continue to find favor with critics and viewers alike. Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is a quirky film that tells a story and is a refreshing change from films that merely document a quest. Centre stage is of course, Nikuko herself. A somewhat tragic, yet irrepressible character; her boundless optimism in the face of adversity contrasts starkly with her daughter Kikuko who is neither as jovial, or as optimistic, yet is perhaps the real adult in the relationship. Their bifurcated relationship is nonetheless strong made with a unique mother-daughter bond.

The story meanders and at one point I was left wondering where things were going but by the end I realised that it’s less about where things are going and more about where they’ve been.

The animation is lively, and watching this film on a full stomach is required lest the stunning depictions of food overwhelm your experience. Pixar spent however many millions in an attempt to create appealing CGI food in Ratatouille and a traditionally animated film like this comes along and proves it was all in vain.

The only shortcoming is to be found in the writing; it’s serviceable but doesn’t do the story or the characters the justice they deserve.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is primarily a retrospective film and how the various episodes and choices in life invariably lead us to places we never anticipated. One wishes that more western animated films could be as bold.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is available on Blu-Ray DVD combo from Shout! Factory now.

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Out Now! Coraline and Boxtrolls on Bluray DVD combo

New from Shout! Factory are Bluray editions of Laika’s films. Up first are Coraline and The Boxtrolls!

It’s hard to believe that Laika’s fantastic stop-motion films have been coming out for over a decade with very few imitators. Yet that’s positive, because those films retain their uniqueness amongst a vast array of superhero films and by-the-numbers animated comedies.

Now, with advances in HD media and so on, four of the studio’s films are getting proper BluRay releases with lots of lovely features. Up first are Coraline and The Boxtrolls which are out today (August 31st) with ParaNorman and Kubo of the Two Strings to follow on September 14th). Instead of pondering the films themselves, this review will be for the features that are completely new for both films.

However, it would be remiss to not mention how good both films look in HD. The level of detail that’s visible, which adds more to the viewing experience than you’d think, is incredible and if you haven’t seen both films in a while, be prepared for a few surprises. Returning to Laika’s early films after such a long time makes for a breath of fresh air all over again. They hold up exceptionally well and it is a credit to the artists and crew that they exhibit a truly timeless quality compared to such contemporaries as ‘Monsters Vs. Aliens’ and even ‘Up’.

Both boxsets are similarly styled and you get DVD and Bluray versions of the film along with a glossy booklet on each film. The extra features revisiting the puppets and their test footage are all new for home media. For students and fans, they are a true in-depth look behind the scenes that in conjunction with the other features from previous releases, are the kind of things that Netflix simply doesn’t offer. If you have any appreciation for stop-motion, you will want to check them out.

Both Coraline and Boxtrolls are out now on DVD/Bluray from Shout! Factory.

NOTE: I’ll get some images up as soon as WordPress cooperates.

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‘Dreambuilders’ Review

Just about out now from Shout! Factory, ‘Dreambuilders’ is definitely one for the kids, but that’s actually OK.

Minna’s life is turned upside-down when her dad’s new fiancée and her daughter move in. Her new stepsister, Jenny, turns out to be horrible and Minna is very frustrated. She wants her gone! One night, Minna discovers a world behind her dreams, where the whimsical dreambuilders create every fantasy and nightmare we endure nightly on their theater stages! Minna also finds out how to manipulate Jenny’s dreams. But interfering with dreams has dire consequences … and when Minna goes too far one night, Jenny can’t wake up anymore. Minna must enter the dream world one more time to face the nightmare she has created in order to save Jenny and her new family.

‘Dreambuilders’ will struggle to hold adults’ attentions but it’s the kind of film that kids will love because they’ll focus on what’s important. Two half-sisters who are more like chalk and cheese can stand in for any sibling relationship with its ups and downs. The animation isn’t Pixar-quality but then which kid ever notices that, let alone complains about it? The story is engaging and although the first half of the film trots along at a leisurely place, it gradually quickens towards the climax. Only the dialogue seemed to be lacking with characters struggling to get their feelings across without sounding mealymouthed. The cast of characters is diverse and for Jenny in particular, touches on a very real factor in many kids’ lives that is rarely if ever shown in children’s films.

Overall ‘Dreambuilders’ is an interesting take on some well-trodden ideas that will keep younger viewers entertained with its daring adventure. ‘Dreambuilder’s is available from Shout! Factory on August 24.

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Copyright is Killing Comedy!

Copyright plays a large role in legacy entertainment business models and animation is no exception. Thanks to the existence of the Mickey Mouse Copyright Act, very little American animation has made it into the public domain, and with recent rumblings about yet another extension, we’re unlikely to see any new ones entering for the foreseeable future. So we know it’s killing the completed package, but how is it killing the actual animation itself? For that we turn to a joke that was nixed for copyright reasons alone.

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Week Links 27-2013

Six crazy weeks of school are finally over, and after taking 6 credits (that’s two classes or four nights a week) you better believe I’m completely and utterly exhausted. That said, posting should resume on a more regular basis with a post a day. In the meantime, here’s a few week links for you to peruse.

Report from SAS 25: “Redefining Animation”

Harvey Deneroff gives a full account of the recent Society for Animation Studies conference in Los Angeles. By all accounts, it’s a great event for anyone interested in the more academic side of animation.

The decline of Disney

The title is slightly misleading because we all know that Disney (the company) is doing great. What Jaime Weinman at Macleans is concerned about in this piece is Disney (the studio) and the rapid decline of its output and the resulting sidelining of its impact on the overall Disney company. You don’t have to be blind to see that Disney is relying more and more on either acquisitions or outside partners to produce its films, but you might inadvertently miss the shift in style that has occurred over the last 20 years.

Olly Moss’ Studio Ghibli Posters

Via: Olly Moss
Via: Olly Moss

Need I say any more? Click through for the Howl’s Moving Castle one.

A Simple Thought: Go Big. (And Stay Simple.)

Ken Fountain has this great post that looks at the ‘cartoony’ style of animation and how best to achieve it. Lots of great points and yes, the key is to go big and to stay simple.

SpyVibe: Shane Glines Interview

Glines Retro

How could you not read this? Glines discusses his style and many classic influences in this sizeable interview.

Tweets of the Week

A lot of great and prolific tweeting this week!








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Week Links 26-2013

Some post-Independence Day and food poisoning week links for you today.

Don’t Go To Art School

Noah Bradley points out the fallacy of an art degree with this post:

Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.

He’s right. In class this week our group had to present on the topic of higher education and I was tasked with the rather difficult job of pointing out that institutions rarely co-ordinate with industry in regards to job supply or demand. The end result is that a degree is no guarantee of a job let alone a good one.

Unfortunately many companies and studios are demanding degrees for entry level positions and are exacerbating the situation. Noah puts it best:

Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.

Bryan Konitezko Discusses Ethnicity and Colour Theory in the Avatar Universe

konietzko avatar skin solour

Co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra, Bryan Konietzko has a long but comprehensive analysis of ehtnicity, colour theory and character genetics in this post over on his tumblelog.

He highlights two important things:

  1. It’s all to easy to jump to conclusions if you’re not involved in a production
  2. Colour plays an incredibly important role

The post is a great read, especially if you are curious about the Avatar universe and family lines within it. On one hand, it’s nice to see this level of detail being put into a show, but on the other, it’s kind of disheartening that Bryan had to clarify things.

That plays into the first point above. Fans sometimes do unnecessarily jump to conclusions and can unintentionally cause a ruckus or make a mountain out of a molehill. There’s little one can do about it save being open and honest about things; just like Bryan was.

Secondly, the saga highlights just how much of an influence colour can have on a show (or film). This makes now as good a time as any to plug Oswald Iten’s superb blog Colorful Animated Expressions which features just about all you ever wanted to know about the role that colour plays in filmmaking.

This Could Have Been Frozen


Coincidentally there was another article about ethnicity in animation this week. Coming from the Daily Mail (with my sincere apologies) is the news that a few fans, unhappy about the supposed ethnic homogeny of the upcoming Disney film, Frozen, have taken matters into their own hands and have come up with a few ideas of what a more diverse alternative could have looked like.


There is of course the obligatory tumblelog where people can submit their own ideas.

All I can say about this is that Disney has a long history of augmenting traditional tales in order to make them more convenient or marketable; complete historical accuracy has never been one of their strong points (remember, the original Aladdin story was set in China.)

Tweets of the Week


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