Monday, March 30, 2009

Blasts From the Past

Within the next week and a half the following events will take place:

- Cupid, a remake of the 1998 ABC series of the same name, will premiere (3/31)
- Slayers Evolution-R will air its final episode in Japan (episode 13 of 13 airs on 4/6, or if you include Slayers Revolution as it ought to be included, 26 of 26)
- Dragonball: Evolution will be released in the US (4/10)

These events seem to have little to no connection. Here's why I'm posting about them together.

I'm a huge fan of the original versions of all three of these series. I loved Cupid 1.0. I think Slayers (1996), Slayers Next (1997), and Slayers Try (1998) are some of the best written anime from the 90s, not to mention some of the most entertaining. And, well, Dragonball (and Z) was among the reasons I, as a teenager, learned to read and speak Japanese (a skill I, sadly, no longer have complete retention of). Of course the language skill eventually became unnecessary because translated versions of the manga and subtitled versions of the anime eventually made their way to America.


Cupid 2.0 premieres tomorrow. The pilot is shorter, bigger, faster, different from the Cupid 1.0 pilot. It takes getting used to, seeing Cannavale and Paulson in the Piven and Marshall characters... but it works. No idea about subsequent episodes, but the pilot works in some ways better than the original did, in some ways not as well. One of the interesting things about it is how you kind of grow more attached to the couple of the week than you do to some / all of the regular characters. I'm excited, though, for this series that ABC has, until the very last minute, basically seemed uninterested in publicizing.

Slayers is a seriocomic fantasy-adventure anime from the mid-to-late 90s. When I heard it was returning (the first half of the season, Slayers Revolution, premiered in September), I was overjoyed. I feel like this is how people who watched Sex and the City from the beginning felt about the movie coming out last summer. Dear friends were returning with fresh stories (and better animation!) And, well, then I saw the episodes (all but the finale). And, let me tell you, I wish the series had stayed "dead" instead of being resurrected, like Cupid, ten years after its death. The characters are all there (even if Lina Inverse has barely threatened use of her Dragon Slave spell and there haven't been many occasions where she and Gourry Gabriev fight over who gets the last morsel of food), but the stories are not. Why bring something (that I, at least) cherished back if you have nothing new to say? And if the way you say what you have to say is so inferior? Seriously, I rewatched the best of the series (Slayers Next... go rent it!) this weekend and the storytelling is still SO good, the season's arc so delicately placed and expertly laid in, even the bulk of the "stand-alone" episodes are on-theme and eventually have something to do with the main plot. Not so much Slayers Revolution/Evolution-R.

Which brings me to the Dragonball motion picture. This was never going to be "adult" entertainment. While it's true that, especially in the middle of its run, Dragonball Z left the silly kids jokes aside and intermixed some very dark themes with the oh-so-extended episode-upon-episode of the same martial arts sequence and energy explosion being fired between opponents... Dragonball was a kids show. Especially at the start. So my expectations were not "high" when I screened this (in fact, they were quite low). But I think there's barely one single thing went truly "right" with this motion picture adaptation. Obviously, things had to change and things that work in animation don't work in live action. Dragonball starts with a seven year-old protagonist (Goku). The really young characters were aged up 10 years and put into, um, high school (to be played by 20-somethings). Whatever. That's the business. But, seriously, folks, this "movie" doesn't even approach the kind of "fun for kids and kinda sorta the family" that, say, Spy Kids, provided. Mainly because even the altered backstory the movie uses instead of the manga/anime one DOESN'T MAKE SENSE and THINGS DON'T GET EXPLAINED. Not even remotely. Why mention how Piccolo was imprisoned 2000 years prior if you're not going to explain how he got out? Everything, and I mean everything, is paced wrong. The one thing that the movie gets right is the "capsule" technology (that, instead of the manga-ized cloud puff, uses Transformers-esque special effects to expand from a tiny capsule a, say, motorbike). And the movie almost gets Goku's hair right (which, um, kudos for getting close!) and the blue string in Bulma's hair is appreciated. But so many things are wrong. So many. And while it always was going to be silly and kid-targeted, this property could have been good, too. Dragonball: Evolution, in fact, should be the prime example that writers /directors / producers look at when thinking of adapting comic book or video game material for how not to do it (take that, Super Mario Brothers the Movie).

Sigh. Rant over. It's such a weird coincidence to, almost simultaneously, have new versions of these old favorites back in my life. Here's hoping the best of them, Cupid, manages to overcome the promotion shortfall and pull decent numbers.

1 comment:

Ted said...

Thanks for the shoutout to CUPID Travis. As you know I completely agree and I see in the last 5 days ABC has started to promote CUPID well. You know how they can spend a whole Summer promoting a show and it flops. I am hoping a weeks worth of good promotion and a show that fits ABC perfectly, plus a hopeful wonderful feel good show will somehow break out. One can dream, right. I give them credit for redeveloping it again, because the first one was a love of mine as well and that one had no shot airing on Sat and against Seinfeld. At least this is on a night and place it has a shot to succeed.