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It wouldn't be a film night without films, and this year's Anime Allnighter certainly had a strong selection.  Here's a brief review of the films shown...
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Ghost in the Shell 2.0

It was the headline title at this year's Allnighter, a classic film remastered with all-new sound and improved visuals.  Ghost in the Shell, for those who don't know, is a tale of a future society where cybernetic implants and computer-enhanced brains are the norm.  Government agency Section 9 is tasked with policing cybernetic crime and dealing with threats to public security, but their investigations into a series of computer attacks uncover a far bigger conspiracy.  A mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master seems to be behind the attacks, but who is he, and what is his goal?  Section 9 agent Motoko Kusanagi is determined to find out the truth, but the mission begins to make her question her own humanity.  Is she truly human when pretty much her entire body and brain are artificial?  The original Ghost in the Shell is an absolute classic, and even though Ghost in the Shell 2.0 is the original film with some visual tweaks it poses the same questions as any movie remake - is there any point?  Ghost in the Shell featured some of anime's most

stunning art and animation in the first place and the addition of some CGI scenes in 2.0 feels both unnecessary and jarring, even if they are impressively animated.  The new soundtrack is pretty much the same as the original, but with more audio channels, and the remastered visuals don't seem that different from before.  The only real noticeable difference, apart from the CGI, is that they appear to have made Kusanagi look more like she does in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series.  Still Ghost in the Shell is a great film, and presented here on the big screen in high definition and with full surround sound it was certainly a great way to start the evening.  You can't shake the feeling that it's an unnecessary remake though.

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Origin, Spirits of the Past

Bit of a change next as the technologically advanced future of Ghost in the Shell gave way to a post-apocalyptic future for Gonzo's eco-fantasy.  Origin has been out in the UK for quite a while, and probably didn't get the attention it deserved on its initial release.  The story is set 300 years after genetic experiments on plant life caused a sentient forest to invade the Earth, causing an apocalyptic holocaust.  Agito is a young citizen of Neutral City, which sits in between the forest and the military nation of Ragna, ensuring an uneasy peace.  However, Agito's exploration of the ruins of the old world awakens a sleeping girl from the past, a girl who holds the key to an ancient technology that could shift the balance of power forever.  Ragna's leaders want her power and will stop at nothing to get it, but Agito just wants her to stay with him in Neutral City.  With Ragna closing in he is left with a stark choice, does he use the power of the forest - a power that will slowly kill him as it did with his father - or let the girl go and risk seeing everything he knows destroyed?  Origin


is more or less a modern take on Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind, a film and manga series that posed similar questions about the balance between technology and nature back over twenty years before this one.  Both films also feature a natural threat encroaching on humanity and a hawkish nation wanting to use military force and lost technology to destroy it.  Both also feature a neutral country and a lead character who wants peace and co-existence.  It may not be hugely original but that doesn't stop Origin from being an impressive anime film which boasted superb animation and breathtaking art and design.  There was plenty of action to back up the philosophising too, making it a fitting follow up to Ghost in the Shell 2.0 on the night.

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Naruto 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom

There's always a bit of a bum note in the Allnighter that generally falls into the 'so bad it's good' category.  This time it was the third Naruto movie, which does little except make you wonder where the dynamic and gripping manga storylines went.  This time Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee and Kakashi are dispatched to escort a wealthy, overweight prince and his haughty son back to their kingdom.  Yawn as Naruto clashes with the prince's son!  Hang your head in despair as the prince buys a circus and his son befriends a vicious tiger!  Gag as the prince realises that money can't buy you happiness!  Yes, it was pants.  Our heroes escort the prince to his kingdom only to find that the king's advisor Shabadaba (this raised a laugh every time a character said it, look it was late ok?) had hired some ninjas and staged a coup d'etat.  Cue a few vaguely enjoyable fights between our heroes and the rival ninja, a predictable use for the circus, a pointlessly convoluted execution technique that would make a Bond villain proud, and the inevitable realisation of WHAT 

IS REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE.  It wasn't completely awful, as there were a few surprises and some decent enough fights, but the fact that it was set during the universally panned Naruto filler arcs should tell you everything you need to know.  This is where a few people grabbed a bit of sleep, but for the rest of us there was enjoyment enough to be had ripping the film apart and laughing at Shabadaba's name.

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Afro Samurai Resurrection

More high-definition action was next on the schedule, with this sequel to the Samuel L Jackson anime vehicle Afro Samurai.  The story revolves around two mystical headbands, the number 1 headband marks you as the best, with almost god-like authority.  Only the owner of the number 2 headband can challenge for the number 1, but anyone can challenge for the number 2.  In the last series the titular Afro Samurai took on the number 1 in revenge for his father's death, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.  This time round he has abandoned fighting and broken the cycle of death and destruction that surrounds the headbands.  Unfortunately this action has thrown the world in chaos, and some figures from his past aren't going to let him gave a quiet retirement.  They have devised a plan to cause him as much pain as possible, using twisted science to revive Afro's dead father and pit them against each other.  Determined to stop this desecration Afro once again takes up his sword and returns to the fray, but has time dulled his edge?  The series is


edited into a single film and you can feel the massive budget oozing from every scene.  It features a stellar cast, awesome music and some superb animation, and boasts some of the most impressive swordfights in anime.  It's visceral and gory, and the voice acting is as good as you would expect, particularly Lucy Liu's menacingly sexy turn as Lady Sio.  It's slick and super-cool stuff, and the only problem it really has is that it's not a great deal different from the first Afro Samurai.  Still, plenty of slicing and dicing and some really cool face-offs and music is just what was needed to bring people out of their post-Naruto stupor.

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Panda! Go Panda!

This was probably the most bizarre thing on the bill, a two-part kid's anime from the 1970s playing to a cinema full of knackered adults in 2009.  Strangely though it was the undisputed highlight of the evening.  The story follows the cheerful young girl Mimiko who is left home alone when her grandmother goes on a trip.  She takes it all in her stride though and before long she's formed a surrogate family with a baby panda and its father.  Over the two episodes Mimiko teaches the daddy panda how to be a proper father, they deal with burglars, zoo keepers, circus animals and flash flooding, all whilst remaining insufferably cheerful.  You may wonder why this was a hit at the Allnighter, and the answer is the English dub.  The father panda sounds like a Jamaican Borat, which adds a new level of bizarreness to proceedings, and made everything that was happening a hell of a lot funnier.  It was weird enough anyway to be honest, Mimiko shows happiness by doing handstands and exposing her pants, the baby panda is inexplicably strong and, err, bouncy,

and their play family has the big panda as dad to both Mimiko and the little panda, but has the little panda as Mimiko's son too.  Nothing like imaginary incestuous family relations for adding a bit of spice to your children's shows...  For the sleep deprived audience dosed up to the eyeballs with free Red Bull this kind of unintentional dodginess made the series a source of endless hilarity.  To be fair though Panda Go Panda was a decent enough kid's show, and the added comedy value of the voice acting and sheer Japanese randomness was just what the doctor ordered! 

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