Kaze, Ghost Warrior
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Kaze, Ghost Warrior is an independent, computer animated film featuring anthropomorphic animals as the inhabitants of a distant world. The 22-minute pilot episode, created entirely by Timothy Albee, is intended to be viewed as both the first episode of a projected series, and as a Lightwave technology demo. The film was released in late 2004 on DVD and is available through a private distributor. It has also traversed the globe within numerous film festivals winning awards and recognition along the way and is currently touring the U.K. The second episode of the series is currently in development. A touched-up re-release of the pilot is also planned and would include such polishing touches as tails for the characters, a voice for Utsukushii, and "an in-depth scene between Kaze and his father talking about Kaze's disappearance and return."
The movie starts with Itsua (an anthropomorphic German shepherd) talking about one royal family killed a long time ago. He also mentions 'Bay, Kaze's love, who was also killed, and tells the story of Kaze, a masterless samurai warrior who, driven by honor, transcends mortal life to avenge the murders of a royal family in a distant world’s feudal past. After tracking a band of villains to a nearby tavern, Kaze confronts the troublemakers when they harass a helpless “server” offering patrons companionship. Proving to be no match for Kaze, the group flees, but not before their ringleader Yashin (an anthropomorphic ferret) reveals the identity of their boss, the feudal lord Soshi, a person Kaze knows well. Later, in a tranquil forest, more of Soshi’s henchmen surround Kaze, mistakenly believing they now had him outnumbered and overpowered. Despite his distaste for killing, Kaze easily kills or scares off the fiends, leaving Yashin facing him alone. Kaze dispenses lethal justice to Yashin, albeit compassionately, wishing Yashin safety and comfort in his next life free of any anger that might lead him down the same path again. When the warrior finally locates Soshi, it becomes obvious that the former soldier Soshi has benefitted greatly from the royals’ deaths. But rather than kill Soshi, Kaze instructs him to warn “the others” that he is coming for them.
All characters who had lines in the pilot were voiced by creator Timothy Albee himself.
- 'Bay (anthropomorphic cheetah?) whose gender was not identified in Kaze, Ghost Warrior (and Timothy Albee has stated he does not know 'Bay's gender)
- Hanekaeru (anthropomorphic canine)
- Itsua (anthropomorphic male German shepherd) A tavern and innkeeper secretly loyal to the murdered and deposed royal family, a loyalty he knows may bring death to his family.
- Kaze (anthropomorphic male tiger) A heroic swordsman who was in love with Bay and supposedly died but returned from the grave. Before his "death," he was captain of the elite House Guard.
- Koten (anthropomorphic male fox) One of Lord Soshi's Enforcers serving under Yashin, he is a swordsmen who wisely resheathes his sword and bows to Kaze in forfeit in the brawl in Itsua's tavern.
- Miuchi One of Itsua's employees who helps see Yasashii safely home after his being taken hostage.
- Naosu (anthropomorphic female rabbit) Itsua's wife.
- Soshi (anthropomorphic male raccoon) Not yet seen "on-camera," Soshi is an old foe of Kaze and has acquired a title (Lord) and power since the demise of the royal family, and sends thugs to force business owners to pay hefty taxes or face the wrath of his Enforcers.
- Tessoh (anthropomorphic wolf) Kaze's adoptive father, to debut in a re-release of the pilot episode slated for Summer 2007 release
- Toge (anthropomorphic dingo)
- Utsukushii (anthropomorphic snow tigress) One of Itsua's employees who provides drinks and companionship to his customers. She offers Kaze more than a drink, but he very politely refuses, leading Yashin to uncivilly accuse Kaze of being gay.
- Yasashii (anthropomorphic husky) One of Itsua's employees at his tavern, Yasashii is grabbed by Yashin and held hostage to get a rise out of Kaze. While it succeeds in getting a rise out of Kaze, Yasashii is quickly freed by the warrior and Itsua, generous and kindhearted, sends Yasashii home under Miuchi's care for several nights—with full pay.
- Yasei (anthropomorphic male lynx) One of Yashin's henchmen, Yasei wields dual blades he swipes quickly through the air, but his attack against Kaze in Itsua's tavern (like everyone else's) fails and Kaze non-fatally disables him.
- Yashin (anthropomorphic male ferret) Yashin runs a gang of Enforcers for Soshi, threatening to tear up businesses if they don't make hefty payments.
Awards and Reviews
"...an incredible animation piece... I give this dvd our top rating a 5 out of 5 " - Steven Owens :Entertainment World
"...a real piece of art in which substance and style - for once - transcend technology." - Alain Bielek :VFX World
"... bad accents, pretentious dialogue... It is pleasant to watch with the sound off (it comes with subtitles), and fans of plushies will love it." - Taylor Jessen :Animation World Magazine
Winner of "Willies Spirit Award" :Pencil-Head's Dusk Til Dawn Film Festival, Houston TX. " This award is presented to a film of exceptional vision and independence, that break [sic?] barriers, and furthers the are [sic?] of independent film as a whole." - Michael J. Garcia, Festival Director.
Reception of the film was mixed. Many critics sided that the plot was hard to follow and the action was boring. The voice acting was also criticised and the animation was called good considering how the film was made. Overall the atmosphere and setting along with the characters was well received. It currently holds a 6.9 at IMDB.
There is a book about the creation of the film: CGI Filmmaking, The Creation Of Ghost Warrior.
Written alongside the creation of Kaze Ghost Warrior, every aspect of the production process, from Ideation to Distribution is laid-out clearly and understandably. Everything of the filmmaking process is described in lots of details, with rises and falls of production.
The book has lots of tips about the filmmaking and also about soundtracks, dialogue, animation, storyboarding etc. It has over 300 pages (312 to be exact) and is black and white. Except details about the filmmaking process there are also small sides where the author talks about his life in Alaska.
It is described as incredibly detailed and recommended as a guide to CGI animation. Except the description of production of the film there are plates from the film, character designs, storyboards, and imagery created for this book.
Two Kaze movies are planned (one of them is a prequel), a full series and a game. Kaze, Ghost Warrior is just a pilot episode of this series; the second episode of the series is currently in production. There are also plans to release an enhanced version of this pilot (that this article describes), including additional voice talents, an additional scene involving Kaze's father, and CGI enhancements to the characters made possible with an upgrade to the software used to make Kaze, Ghost Warrior.
Work on the series has been announced continued as of 2012. 'Bay's gender has finally been revealed as female, as she had been based on Timothy Albee herself, who since 2009 has been Amadhia Albee, a trans woman.