Blame! (2017 Anime Film) Review

Thoughts on the anime film adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei’s manga.

Blame! is a marvel of stylish 3D animation. It hits all of the notes that I want a sci-fi film to hit–an interesting premise, a visual style that feels fitting and unique to the world, and spot-on music.

Blame! follows the story of Killy, a quiet badass with a single mission: find a human with the Net Terminal Gene. Cybernetic and synthetic life forms have taken over the city, which is ever expanding. Those life forms also exterminate all humans. Along Killy’s journey, he comes across a village that is on the verge of running out of food.

There are lots of pronouns (Net Terminal Gene, Safeguards, etc.), and the film doesn’t dive too deep into what they are, which is to its credit. I like that not everything is explained, as it builds this mythology and world that can be interpreted by each individual.

Polygon Pictures, the studio behind the film, has a knack for working within the visual aesthetic they’ve developed for 3D animation, and it works to great effect.

There’s not much that I can say to the fault of Blame! that isn’t nitpicking. It’s a great, concise adaptation of the manga. If you dig the movie, check out the manga by Tsutomu Nihei. Also, Knights of Sidonia is an anime series on Netflix based on a manga by the same author, which is worth watching.

I watched the movie with Japanese voices and English subtitles.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review

Brief thoughts on the live-action Ghost in the Shell.

Don’t send a rabbit to kill a fox.

Ghost in the Shell is on the cusp of being a good film, but it misses the mark in almost every way. Nothing feels impactful, from the action scenes to Way the Major struggles with her identity. There’s a lot of technically impressive CG, but it lost the visual aesthetic that makes the manga and anime shine. The story just isn’t that interesting, even though the premise is. It lacks the subtly and intrigue the anime film has.

A Ghost in the Shell live action adaptation has so much potential, but this doesn’t live up to it. Go watch the anime film and SAC series instead.

Woman in the Dunes Short Review

Brief thoughts on the 1964 film by Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Are you shoveling sand to live, or living to shovel sand?

Haunting and incredible. So much sand. Fitting sound design. Visually striking.

It’s slow to start, but worth it in the end. The second half picks up the pace a bit and goes places I didn’t expect it too.

I don’t think I’ll be going to the beach anytime soon.

A Beginner’s Guide to Twin Peaks

An exploration into what makes Twin Peaks so great, and what folks new to the show need to know—entirely spoiler-free.

I unabashedly love Twin Peaks. It’s my favorite television series, and it occupies a good chunk of my mental energy. I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s so special. While doing so, I thought it would be a fun idea to create this: a spoiler-free beginner’s guide to Twin Peaks.

If you’ve never watched the show and are interested in what all of the hubbub is about, this is for you. Heck, if you’re already a fan, then you may enjoy this too.

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Twin Peaks”

What Makes a Book Cover Great

Thoughts and analysis on what makes an appealing and beautiful book cover.

Collage of book covers pt 1 (1Q84, Uprooted, Morte, The Setting Sun, No Longer Human)

As I work on the book cover designs for my own books, I keep asking myself, What makes a book cover great? Over the last few months, I have been saving my favorites to try to answer that question. Here’s what I have come up with.

  • Abstraction — I enjoy more abstract cover images that represent something in the book but can be interpreted in a number of ways. It gives me space to think about what it means, and that meaning may change as I read the book and as time passes.
  • Setting the mood — The Uprooted cover does a really good job of communicating the atmosphere of the book. The golden colors, typography, and imagery screams fantasy, and it is done so well.
  • Simple & clean — I dislike covers that are cluttered with text and images. In general, the less there is on the cover the better.
  • Contrast — Looking at all of these covers together makes it clear to me why contrast matters. The eye focuses on the typography or the imagery first, and then it flips to the other. It there’s no contrast, it’s difficult to comprehend both the imagery and the text. When they both blur together, nothing is distinctive.
  • Clear title typography — I want the title to be parseable and understandable from a distance. I love it when a book shouts, “Here’s my name!”
  • Tasteful typography — Picking the right typeface goes a long way. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or stylized. It needs to fit the theme, be clear, and not clash with the rest of the design.

The difference between a great cover and a middling-to-bad cover is huge. What one sees when they pick up the book every time they go to read it is important. Plus, if the book is forward facing at the store, it’ll catch people’s eyes. On digital bookshelves, the cover is what sets a book apart among a sea of others. Cover design shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Here are some more of my favorites:

Collage of book covers pt 2 (The Face of Another, Factotum, The Castle, Reflections, Men Without Women, A Wizard of Earthsea, Spring Snow, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Silent Cry, Kafka on the Shore, Ico)

I also created a Pinterest board where I’ll be adding new ones as I come across them.