Memories 1995

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Memories (1995)

Katsuhiro Otomo had been involved with two other anthologies (and one afterwards) prior to Memories, and while I’m still hunting down Neo Tokyo, I’m pretty confident in saying that Memories will remain my favourite.

And maybe there’s a certain amount of nostalgia in that – some of the stuff we see as teenagers seems to cling to us for decades after, right? Well, this is one of those titles but I think most anime fans would enjoy at least two out of the three shorts in this anthology regardless of the production context or their age.

Actually – let me re-phrase, if you like science-fiction and a bit of light horror, maybe some dark comedy or allegory, then Memories has you covered.

The anthology is made up of three pieces – all based on Katsuhiro Otomo’s short manga works, and features three directors.

For me (and for most folks it seems) the stand out is Magnetic Rose (dir. Kōji Morimoto), which is as haunting as it is beautiful. Everything about it is top notch and I’d recommend seeing Magnetic Rose if you had to choose just one.

Now, I’m definitely biased as there’s a lot of involvement from some of my favourite industry figures – there’s the Otomo source material and a screenplay by Satoshi Kon and music by Yoko Kanno, but the nightmarish search of the ruined ship and its decaying memories really is mesmerising.

The other two stories, Stink Bomb (dir. Tensai Okamura) and Cannon Fodder (dir. Katsuhiro Otomo) are just as well put-together but for me not quite as good as the opener – Stink Bomb has some moments of dark comedy but it’s closer to a tragedy in the end, and features such great animation too.

The final short is easily the more distinctive when it comes to art style, but perhaps due to its allegorical nature the message seemed stronger than the story; it feels closer to being a vignette actually.

I actually would love to see more of the anthology format today, as it seems to have resurface only occasionally across the last twenty years.

Or maybe it’s more that I’ve missed them? Obviously I remember Short Peace from 2013 and I was also excited to see that Studio Ponoc’s second work is also an anthology (Modest Heroes) so the anthology approach isn’t ‘gone’ at all but it did seem like it was no longer in fashion for quite a while there.

4 Stars

Gunbuster Review [Collaboration with Ashley from The Review Heap]

Morning/afternoon/evening!

Here’s a new collab, me and Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews tackle ‘Gunbuster’ this time 🙂

Iridium Eye Reviews

AKA: Gunbuster: Top O Nerae!, Gunbuster: Aim for the Top!
Genre: Mecha/Action/War Drama
Year Released: 1988-1989
Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally available by Bandai Visual USA/Honneamise)
Origin: Japan
Running Time: OVA, 6 episodes, 27-31 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 16+
Related Films/Series: Diebuster, Gunbuster vs. Diebuster
For Fans Of: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam series, RahXephon, Saikano, Pacific Rim, Divergence Eve, Galaxy Express 999, Noein, Voices of a Distant Star
Notes:
-Please check out Ashley’s blog The Review Heap.
Fun Facts:
-Gunbuster is the directorial debut of noted animator Hideaki Anno. Before there was Nadia: Secret of Blue Water, His and Her Circumstances, or even Neon Genesis Evangelion, there was this little OVA in Gainax’s early days.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: Noriko Hidaka and Rei Sakuma voice Noriko Takaya (note the first name) and Kazumi Amano respectively, so it’s as if Akane and Shampoo from Ranma ½ became mecha pilots…

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Vote on What I Should Watch Next (April 2021 edition)

Of course, I do have a few things on the go right now and plenty of stuff from the past that I could review, but I thought I’d open a vote for a film this time around (last post like this I think I listed four or five series instead).

So, here’s some options – hopefully something catches your eye!

Some of these I’ve seen (some years ago) and two I’ve not had the chance to watch at all just yet.

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando) Season 2

Well, I don’t want to add too much to the vitriol out there and I doubt I’d have anything new to contribute to some of the… discourse (such as it is) either.

But this season certainly didn’t feel quite right.

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando) Season 2 (2021)

And rather than go over each and every issue, I think I could just suggest “see what your fav blogger has to say” since they’ve probably covered it, and better than I could. Having said that, there will be spoilers below – and in a way, half the pics are too.

I left this season feeling sad – I’m kinda worried that the production team were dangerously overworked and also not given enough time? Were they producing a flawed adaptation from the start, or did something else go wrong somewhere along the way?

And on top of those possibilities, I worry that some great things in season 2 will be simply obliterated by the negatives.

Due to that, I’ll try to confine myself to just 6 observations here – 3 for bits I really liked, and 3 which I did not.

But I want to finish on some positives and so I’m starting with the aspects I didn’t enjoy so much.

1. Compression

Without having read the manga I could still feel how fast the second season was, how often it skipped over or abandoned the stuff I was excited to see more of.

I wanted extra time in the shelter for one, more time to explore and deal with the demons in town, more time to see the leads struggle with certain decisions, more time on Norman’s return.

2. Character

This time around, it felt like Emma maybe softened without enough of her change occurring onscreen for the audience to witness.

Norman and his crew seemed to come around from their positions too fast too – a scene or up to half an episode is all it seemed to be, instead of what could have been explored across entire arcs or seasons, I guess.

3. Conclusion

Montage is very appropriate for the compression of time and events… but I guess I didn’t want so many of them here.

For me, again, without having read the manga, a fair few things that were shown in the end were empty referents. It felt like somewhere, someone had decided that season two would serve as a way to nail down the lid on any possibility of future seasons.


Switching now to things I enjoyed:

1. Exploration

After the tension in the house, the barriers both physical and psychological, it was exciting to see the kids explore a bit of the world.

To see creatures, plants and tunnels, trees and plains – I was pretty thrilled. It also allowed the story to include a bit of action, which was fun (not just via Sonju) and of course, the mystery of Minerva became a bit of a quest too.

2. Ethics

There were plenty of ethical dilemmas in season two and while I wanted more time spent on each of them, it was still nice to see it onscreen.

The kids are all pretty smart to say the least, but they’re not immune to doubt or to a deadly rage – I guess I’m thinking mostly of Norman and Emma here and their struggle with/over genocide.

3. Exultation

Finally! After watching the poor kids go through so much suffering in that first season, it was great to see success, joy, happiness and reunions etc.

Obviously not just between the main heroes, but even good old Phil (whose scenes border on treacle I guess, but I didn’t care) – I wanted to see them all happy 😀 (Even the ending didn’t mar that feeling for me, for the most part).


Okay, and there we go – after this, I’ll wrap things up with a few shots or pieces of background art that I really enjoyed, I think.

It’s a shame this season doesn’t compare well to the first one, but if you have zero plans to ever read the manga, then I guess try season two one day but perhaps don’t expect things to be as consistent as the first.

3 Stars

(Oh, and I love the closing sequence – watched it every time).

Kokkoku

Kokkoku (2018)

This time, I want to start the review by saying that I wish there had been a bit of extra foreshadowing leading up to the ending to Kokkoku

….but that’s about it when it comes to aspects I remember feeling disappointed over.

Kokkoku: Moment by Moment is a mix of mystery, science-fiction and maybe even supernatural suspense, and is one that plays out in a relatively small setting; just a few homes and streets, really.

And that narrowing of place and space adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere that quickly builds as each episode raises the stakes for the Yukawa family. To contrast this sense of the ‘small’ is a somewhat large cast, with the intersecting goals of a fair few characters meeting and clashing in a supernatural cage of disturbing stillness.

But I’m jumping around a bit I think – to finally maybe give context to what I’ve said above, I’ll share a blurb adapted from Wikipedia:

The anime tells the story of Juri Yukawa, who during a kidnapping of her nephew and brother, discovers that her grandfather can stop time using a mysterious stone and more, that he can move freely when time is standing still.

It’s a premise that suggests the kind of child-like fantasy of youth – ‘what if I could go anywhere or do anything without anyone seeing me?’ etc etc but Kokkoku shows a far more lonely and troubling place at times.

And from that rescue attempt mentioned in the blurb, the audience gets to learn a lot about Juri and her grandfather especially. I wouldn’t say the show is a character study though, as there’s plenty of plot-based tension when the Yukawa family discovers that other, more unsavory people hold the same ability.

It was nice to see a range of faces and character designs too, compared to say the generic choice of only having young, flawless heroes (as in a lot of anime over the decades) but the thing I liked the most here was probably the uncertainty. I was rarely confident about exactly what would happen next, which was fun. 

Due to all the time the characters spend in stasis, I guess calling Kokkoku a ‘time-travel’ story isn’t quite right, but the principle is the same – the anime is exploring time and our relation to it.

Kokkoku also felt like it made room for a few moral questions but the speculative elements are the main focus. I also liked the kinda muted colour-scheme Geno Studio* used too, which added to the sense of realism within the unreal.

But I think I’ve rambled long enough – maybe I won’t watch this every year like some other favourites, but I’m glad I’ve seen it 🙂

4 Stars

* Perhaps best known for Golden Kamuy.

Mirai

Mirai (2018)

This film was kinda hard work.

It’s a family drama with a few fantastical elements but I felt mostly like I was locked inside the tantrum of one small boy for most* of the movie.

Having said that, there are a few wonderful forays into other places and times that expand the setting and add whimsy and also pack emotional weight as well… but for too much of the running time I found myself sitting through scenes of Kun’s jealous whining. (And yeah, he is just a little kid struggling with change, as is the whole family, but I didn’t enjoy it much).

Elsewhere the gender stereotypes are perhaps a little dull and I didn’t finish the movie feeling particularly uplifted, which is something I’ve come to expect from Mamoru Hosoda films. (Having said that, quite obviously not every single film he or any other creator makes has to be uplifting at all.)

Mirai is still visually beautiful and I really enjoyed the variety in the sort of single setting of the home, but the highlights for me were the scenes where Kun meets and learns about his grandfather – I’d watch a whole anime about that in a flash.

Not my favourite Mamoru Hosoda film by any stretch but it certainly might be your thing.

2 Stars

(Cool to hear Tatsuro Yamashita in the opening though).

* Of course, I am exaggerating when I say ‘most’ but it was too much for me.

Trigun (Toraigan) – Gallery Post

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

So, I took a fair few screenshots and wanted to share some that I didn’t include before… just because, I guess 😀

Hopefully I don’t accidentally double up, but these are just meant to be shots or moments I found interesting in one way or another – if I have the energy I might add a few captions or comments here and there too.

Below, a shot from episode 4 which is actually where the manga starts, from memory.

Lots of dramatic, deep red and orange sunsets in Trigun.

Kuroneko Sama here appearing as she sometimes does, on a poster or a label etc, instead of in-person.

Below that, green, headless birds? 😀

Here is another (somewhat) rare shot of a city-scape that suggests the level of technology in the past/some parts of Gunsmoke is a fair bit more developed than most of what we see during the series.

Feels like the smoke below could almost read “SOS”.

Switch between power being the thing that hides clear view of Vash’s eyes and then his glasses:


Another costume/hair change for Vash.

For the two above, sometimes I forget the twin suns, obviously having some impact on how arid the setting can be.

I’ve always wondered who wrote this – sinister as it is, I can’t recall if Knives is supposed to be out and about at this point?

And done!

In the future, I might like to do this sorta thing again – have a series of posts for one show – and see how many I can build up. They tend to take a really long time though, so it might be a while.

Next time it could be Cowboy Bebop, or FMA or Neon Genesis or Samurai Champloo perhaps… not sure yet!

Trigun (Toraigan) – The Final Shoot Out Arc, Episodes 24-26

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

The final shoot-out!

While hardly so divisive as the ending to Neon Genesis, there are a fair few disappointed folks out there when it comes to Trigun’s conclusion.

It’s not an unfinished series, and it’s not the discontent from “it’s not like the manga” that I’m throwing out here in this post either, but something I guess somewhat different… but more on that below.

[Spoilers of varying degrees from this point onward]

So, the leading episodes first.

Wolfwood is quite the scene-stealer and I think you could argue that he does this in the final arc, as his exit during the previous episode hits pretty hard. It’s a bitter end to Vash and Wolfwood’s friendship, to the influence they have on each other too, and the ramifications continue into this arc.

You could certainly argue that his death is in service to Vash’s character development but it certainly functions within his own storyline too.

I say that because, like many other deaths or injustices in the series, they seem to operate (not only) as justification for Vash to finally, directly take a life. Legato and Knives have pushed Vash so close to the edge that, when he must chose to save Meryl and Milly by killing, he does so – and the pain that act causes is a neat, cruel time-bomb left by Knives.

But again, I think of it as necessary in order for the audience to accept Vash’s action, after all the pain he bore to save lives and prevent death in the preceding 20-odd episodes.

Okay, to the ending itself finally.

As I said before, I think the conclusion to Trigun is inevitable and it’s also very clearly set up. That doesn’t mean I found it entirely satisfying, but I don’t think the anime could have ended any other way – Vash was always going to save Knives, rather than take revenge.

Here’s why I think that:

  1. Vash is shown to be a pacifist, often and convincingly.
  2. Rem is kind of Angel-like and her memory functions as a paragon, and one Vash has been striving to live up to for over one hundred years.
  3. Rem charged him with “taking care” of Knives, which doubtless means not just protecting, but redeeming his brother somehow.
  4. When Vash kills Legato, we see that even killing an enemy has quite the impact on him (and the storyline paused to show us that with episode 25) making it clear that he’d never be able to do something similar to his own brother.

Okay, so, having made that list, I definitely wish that Knives had experienced a different consequence for his sociopathic reign.

It did not feel to me that he’d earned forgiveness, nor Vash’s almost infinite patience, and so the final shoot out between them, while impressive, had less of a visceral impact for me. In fact, I think the final flashback (of their years together after the crash) ended up being more compelling.

And I’ve always wondered, actually, what would the final episode be like if we saw the shoot-out first and then the long stretch of their past together?

… and there it is, six posts on one of my favourites 🙂 If you’ve never seen Trigun and it’s already on your list then I think you’re in for a fun ride. It’s one of those shows that feels like it has stood the test of time pretty well – and coming up on 25 years old soon!

But before I finish up (for now) I’ll quickly mention a few quick things like usual:

  • I’ve always wondered whether the narrative ‘punishes’ Wolfwood and rewards Vash for their respective lifestyles.
  • Poor Milly!
  • (I forgot this last post, but ‘Empty Smile’ guitar piece from the OST seems usually to be directed at Vash but its obviously aimed at Wolfwood instead during #23).
  • Animation quality goes up here in the last few eps.
  • Of course, as with many villains, Knives is deeply hypocritical – he still uses Plants himself for example.
  • …and finally, Milly’s laugh after the boulder is pretty great.

I think I will do a gallery/extra bits and pieces post tomorrow for fun – so one more Trigun post coming tomorrow sometime!

Trigun (Toraigan) – The ‘Doubts’ Arc, Episodes 18-23

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Post number five for Trigun – this time it’s a span of episodes that I’ve called something simple, just ‘Doubts’ as I reckon it suits fairly well.

To contrast with the excitement at seeing everyone together again (not right away), there’s an undercurrent of unease here, of impending doom. Part of that feeling for me is fed by the ongoing tension between Vash and Wolfwood’s respective approaches to life.

Opening up with ‘Eriks’ I’m always struck by the sadness that’s pushing forward now – Vash is doing his best to protect everyone by hiding away, but of course he can’t help but form bonds with the people he meets, bonds which we all know are going to be broken. (The use of ‘Not An Angel’ in the OST here always gets me too).

And more, while Wolfwood sort of brings the gang back together there’s a cost – once again, to those Vash loves.

Especially in the ‘Flying Ship/Out of Time’ episodes, as more Gung-Ho Guns attack and interrupt those important memories connected to Vash’s past. To me, it feels like a few bits might even be overplayed but on the other hand, it’s all building to something. The narrative really, really wrings Vash out here, forcing him to absorb more grief on behalf of the promise he’s trying to keep for Rem.

Of course, even the fearsome Vash the Stampede has a limit. And while we don’t see him reach it in these episodes, he gets plenty of trauma to nudge him further toward Wolfwood’s way of life. It’s trauma the narrative needs to show the audience, I reckon, in order to have them accept something that’s due to happen later.

And Nicholas himself is still pushing Vash too. Maybe he can’t accept that someone could ‘permit’ the suffering of many by a refusal to commit violence, while clearly also wanting to prevent it. I guess it’s another facet of the tension between Vash and his world view and so many others upon Gunsmoke. (Actually, maybe that’s a bit simplistic of me).

I guess you could argue that it’s an extension of the ‘outsider’ trope, a classic one that Vash fits really well, not just via his character design with the red coat and blonde hair, but of course his pacifism. Which kinda sets him up as an underdog too, which is another way to manipulate an audience… but I’m always happy to go along with it.

And Vash has the contradiction of being a gunslinger but one who doesn’t want to draw blood – at times he’s covered in the imagery, poses, props and conventions of violence as equivalent to ‘cool’, but the goofy side, the gentle side both add that internal tension to his character.

So, getting back to the arc itself again, toward the end of this stretch of episodes is where Wolfwood confronts his own reluctance to commit a certain act (that I won’t spoil just in case). And I’ve always found it striking that he tells Vash “don’t tell me your dream in a place like this” here, another quote that always leaps out at me.

Some more quick observations:

  • Milly being late to work 20 times, I think it was
  • The rare costume change in ‘Hang Fire’ (#19) for Vash
  • I always thought the puppet master/dolls are creepy designs that double as good ‘fodder’ for Vash and Wolfwood – allowing the heroes to do some damage, and give the audience that outlet, without murdering
  • Chapel is a pretty memorable character, maybe a bit under-utilized perhaps
  • Finally we get to learn the sad truth about Plants

Well, it seems that the next and final* post is suddenly right around the corner – the ‘Final Shootout‘ with episodes 24 – 26!

(yep, I had to use a Western trope for the title of this arc).

*Well, there might be a gallery style post too 😀