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GU Movie Reviews: Ghost in the Shell (PSP/UMD), Street Fighter Alpha:Generations (DVD)
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: November 7th 2005

Time to take a step back and take a look at a few things you might have seen available, but not paid much attention to. These both come courtesy of Manga Video.

Ghost in the Shell (PSP/UMD)

First off for this week, I've got Ghost in the Shell, the UMD version (that's PSP only). If you're a fan of anime, you can't have avoided hearing of GitS, especially since the new spin-off series Stand Alone Complex has been running on Cartoon Network. For those who've missed it, GitS is one of the earliest "blockbuster" anime that made its way to North America; along with Akira and the Dragonball series, this is one of the stereotypical anime that just about all fans and even non-fans have probably heard of.

For those who somehow missed out, GitS's story follows a futuristic world; in 2029, a female cyborg from "Section 9" works to fight terrorists, and the underlying plotline examines the question of a cyborg's humanity while the overarching story involves hunting down a mysterious hacker called the "Puppet Master." The movie, and the later series, have alternatingly been compared both to the Matrix and Blade Runner, and there's a little of each to be seen if you look closely.

But this is a review of the UMD movie, not the movie as a whole. For the record, I've seen GitS several times, in both formats (original Japanese with subtitles, and English dub), and I have no particular hold to either. After viewing plenty of anime on my PSP, converted myself from the divx fan-subtitled releases, I'm sure that subtitles work fine. Therefore I'm sure many fans will be disappointed to hear that the UMD has only the english dub for sound, and if you're intending to really watch it, you're going to need headphones better than the little studphones that came with your PSP.

Graphically, it's a pretty faithful conversion, fully utilizing the capabilities of the PSP. There's an underlying gripe I have here that the PSP doesn't have some form of TV-out capabilities, even an external add-on, because paying $12+ for a UMD video like this seems to be a bit much. Until such an adapter or a video player capable of reading UMD's comes out,

Also, on the UMD version, there are no extras - there were plenty on the special edition DVD released earlier this year, and even a "making of" documentary on the 1998 original DVD release, so the lack of any special extras on the UMD is a sad thing.

If you really enjoy GitS and don't own it in any other format, AND want it to stay mobile, this might be for you. For your money, you're almost better buying the DVD and using a utility to convert that over to memory stick-capable video instead.

Street Fighter Alpha: Generations (DVD)

Fans of the fighting series have been facing a serious gaming crisis recently - the fighting game genre has been stagnant for some time, tournaments still revolve around Street Fighter Alpha3 or Street Fighter 3 because nothing better has come out (SNK vs Capcom, face it, haven't been as good as these classics), and fans of beatdown-style titles have been stymied ever since the Marvel VS Capcom line of games died out. In the 3D realm it hasn't been all that much better - Tekken stagnated, and the only major line keeping the genre afloat is the admittedly excellent Soul Calibur line.

Of course, Capcom have always had interested fans willing to take their work and make it into anime. The latest - following after some good and some bad movies - is Street Fighter Alpha: Generations.

Generations isn't a sequel to anything, but a storyline prequel set before either the Street Fighter Alpha (video game) storyline or the generally reviled Street Fighter Alpha movie: take your pick. As far as being a prequel, it does a good job for what it is, even if it's relatively short (run time ~45 minutes).

Short plot synopsis: nearing the anniversary of Gouken's death at the hands of Gouki (Akuma to english audience), Ryu has returned to the dojo to pay his respects. He meets up with an elderly man who also knows the Shotokan style, who offers him a "lesson" and lets him stay at his house while waiting for something. After finding his reason to fight in a challenge from Sakura (yes, she shows up) he returns again to the dojo, and faces off with Gouki, the student who was taken over by the "Dark Hadou." There are also some odd generational parallels, and lots of backstory to absorb, some of which makes sense and some of which makes very little sense; it also seems very off compared to the storyline of other Street Fighter games/series, which has always been one of Capcom's problems - they can't seem to keep their stories self-consistent.

The upsides: A relatively cool fight between Sakura and Ryu, and a decent animation style that works for most of the movie, but gets a bit odd when faces are too close to the camera - almost as if certain things had been rotoscoped.

The downsides: a storyline that doesn't quite seem to fit the characters, one secondary character who quite possibly shouldn't even be alive, and a revelation about Ryu's parentage that fits in with about half of SF canon... maybe. The final fight between Gouki and his master? Not even shown on screen, and certainly not given the time it deserves. Likewise for the fight between Gouken and Gouki, which should have been a starting point to explain, at some time, where all Ryu's rage was coming from.

If you're a die hard Street Fighter fan, the type who insist on owning the entire fighting game series / video series, you might go for this one. The rest of people will probably watch it once, probably on rental from your local anime shop, and let that be that. It's about a 2.5 of 5 stars at best; had it been longer and a bit more involved, it could really have been something.

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Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!






Movies: Ghost in the Shell, Street Fighter Alpha:Generations

Added:  Monday, November 07, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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