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 some 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 came closer to being a vignette actually.

I actually would love to see more of the anthology format, 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’ but it did seem like it was no longer in fashion for quite a while there.

4 Stars

Vote for my 150th Review

I mean, you certainly don’t have to vote at all, since I’ll be sharing them all sooner or later 😀

But if you wanted to see one of these first just vote below and I’ll share the winner tomorrow/the next day.

So far, I have reviews ready for the following shows:

Dororo (2019)
Casshern Sins (キャシャーン SINS)
GunxSword (Gan Sōdo)
SoltyRei
The Vision of Escaflowne (Tenkū no Esukafurōne
)

I think I know which will win, but I could be wrong!

Ultimately, I haven’t put a long timespan on the voting window and it’s low-stakes, but if you were super-keen for one of the runner ups, I will of course share that sooner or later too!

Vote Here (via Google Forms)

The Great Passage (Fune o Amu)

The Great Passage (Fune o Amu) 2016

Firstly, thanks heaps to Aria for the recommendation!

On the surface, The Great Passage is kind of a gentle drama but the characters are just as passionate and committed as the heroes featured in any action anime.

And that was one of my favourite things about the series too; it’s easy to relate to someone who pursues a dream, who struggles.

If you decide to try The Great Passage one day, you’ll also get a bit of romance and small comedic moments throughout, along with classic bittersweet stuff common to a drama.

Not to undersell those elements, but the main draw for me was the story’s obsession with words and language – which is entirely natural, considering that it’s about a publishing department trying to create a dictionary.

Yeah, that’s right – the anime is about making a dictionary, seems niche, right? Again, something I loved about the show!

And while technical aspects – all things I loved – of the job definitely appear onscreen (such as how to chose and catalogue words, or print considerations like discussions of GSM) it’s probably just as accurate of me to say that the show is about the people who make a dictionary.

Certainly nothing jumped out for me as an issue*, though I was a little sad that the story followed the novel it was adapted from in one area, since that meant the anime included the same significant time jump.

I mean, obviously it had to happen, no arguments there, but I wanted more time with the characters and the felt that the skip ahead did lessen the impact of ending somewhat.

Having said that, I loved The Great Passage and would definitely watch it again one day.

4 Stars

* Well, just one issue. There was a slight fantastical element to the series – namely, the existence of a workplace actually that supportive, dedicated and intellectually challenging did seem a bit too good to be true, sadly 😀

Review Count: 149 (Still planning to mark my 150th review, so just continuing the countdown).

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 12)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Okay! Another series final – this time No Guns Life wraps up and I’m left kinda desperate for a further season one day.

I feel that mostly because all 24 episodes of No Guns Life seem to be set-ups for something that cannot possible happen within 24 episodes.

There’s just so much more story! And I fear I won’t get a chance to see it. (Especially because I don’t have the shelf space to start collecting the manga, and thus my hope is that Madhouse green lit more.)

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy this ending episode as much as I’d hoped – but that doesn’t mean I thought it was bad, not at all. (It was interesting to get some backstory on Pepper for instance).

And there was a bit of welcome focus on comedic stuff and the switch in colour palette was refreshing, but the finale wasn’t an explosive finish, even if I appreciated an important reveal in there.

Still, as I said before – I really do want more No Guns Life one day.

DECA-DENCE (12)

Deca-Dence 2020

Yay for a big finish!

So, whether some things were easy to predict in the finale doesn’t matter so much to me, since they were fun, and I got an upbeat ending too! Plus, my curiosity is high now, upon seeing the changes in the aftermath.

Interestingly, I enjoyed this ending more than that of the other show I’m currently writing about on an episode-by-episode basis, which is No Guns Life.

I am also (due to the length of time and repeat exposure perhaps) growing accustomed to the visuals of “Tanker + Cyborg within the one frame” now, so I guess I’m onboard fully, despite much initial resistance 😀

And, based on the ending, I can see room for more story and I wonder if – based on this interview that Lyn mentioned to me on twitter, maybe a film sequel in the future?

(It was fun to review a seasonal show as it streamed, but I don’t know if I could handle doing two this October. Maybe just one will be enough :D)

Abandoned #8 (.hack//sign, Black Cat, Buddy Complex)

Generally with these posts, I don’t rule out returning to the shows featured (unless I say so specifically for an individual title) so I’ll include my usual disclaimer, maybe I will return to these three, who knows? 🙂

It’s also just a short post this time around, after my previous monstrous list!

Black Cat

I’m actually 9 episodes in but I just sort of drifted away and haven’t returned yet. I was enjoying it, but basically, I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough Sven!

Buddy Complex

This seems bright and fun, and I like mecha a lot, so I probably could come back to this but somehow, despite an action-packed episode one, I wasn’t hooked. (Early signs of wonky charactarisation with Hina perhaps.)

.hack//sign

Long been aware of this classic isekai and I finally gave it a shot the other day. I like Noir from the same studio and loved the world and the set-up here, along with hints that the pacing would be a little different, but after a whole episode of the insufferable Tsukasa I just couldn’t go on.

But because it feels like he’ll have a good character arc, I think I could return to this one day for sure, but only when I have more energy for that kinda lead character.

Children of the Sea (Kaijū no Kodomo)

Children of the Sea (Kaijū no Kodomo) 2019

Kicking off this review with some useless trivia – I had actually arranged with my local cinema to maybe screen Children of the Sea back in January but the bushfires prevented that – and obviously, I didn’t want people to risk their lives on entertainment stuff at that point, but I was pretty excited to finally see the film last night.

And if I was rating Children of the Sea only on the visuals and animation, it’d be 5 stars no sweat, everything really is stunning.

However, the narrative lost enough of its momentum at one point, that I know I’ll end the review at 4 Stars. Does that matter? I mean, do star ratings (or even opinions) mean much? Not really – everyone has to decide whether they’ll watch something based on their own markers, but what I’m trying to say is that I loved the look of this movie, right down to the pencil-stroke aesthetic for the character faces.

I’m probably more familiar with earlier Studio 4°C works like Spriggan and Memories but I am now really looking forward to their next release, Poupelle of Chimney Town. However, to actually get back to Children of the Sea itself, I thought Ruka was a great leading character and I was quickly invested in her struggles, thanks to a clever opening. Umi is my second favourite of course, though the boundary-challenged Sora is kind of jerk 😀

Before a significant shift, and one that surprised me, the tone of the film strikes a balance between mystery, wonder and social isolation. It’s all brought together by the visuals, which are ultimately very realistic for most of the film, but can be more vividly presented, and even slightly magical.  

I won’t share the premise or too much of the plot here, because while on the surface Children of the Sea still looks like an aquatic-themed fantasy adventure film (mixed in with some coming-of-age stuff) there are two genres that are perhaps more apt when I think about the film now, because the preview certainly gave me one impression…

But I think that magical realism is more accurate than a general fantasy tag – and if I say too much about why I believe that to be the case, I might inadvertently spoil stuff. To circle back to what I mentioned re: that shift in tone, there’s a point where the movie becomes extremely metaphysical and it was there that, while the visuals remain entrancing, the storyline stalled.

Again, in the end I didn’t mind so much, and I look forward to watching Children of the Sea for a second time one day, but be prepared to go beyond the realms of what you might have first expected, if you choose to watch this!

4 Stars

(Review 148)

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad) Bekku

Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad) 2004

For a while there I was on a real supernatural binge but I soon shifted to quite the nostalgia trip, hurling myself down memory lane.

So far, that has involved watching a lot of 80s and 90s anime but more specifically, a lot of coming of age things. Last month that included Kids on the Slope and Almost Famous and more recently, I’ve finished Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad).

Here’s the premise from wikipedia:

[Beck] tells the story of a group of teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.

Poor Koyuki – that absolute joy, right before bitter misfortune.

And things for Koyuki definitely do get more interesting – he goes through all the classic coming-of-age storytelling markers; love, betrayal, doubt, loss, jobs and success. And because he’s a nice kid, the significant musical success he achieves doesn’t leave him with a monstrous ego. (There are also plenty of scenes showing Koyuki and the band putting the work in, which is great).

Beck uses a fair amount of serial storytelling, but it is all leading to something big – it’s more the sub-plots which have that feel. And there’s a good share of school drama on hand but the music and interpersonal relationships within the band take more of a front seat. Secondary, is probably the stop-start, romantic sub-plot, between Koyuki and Maho.

[Minor spoilers from here on in]: The episodes build really well to the big festival, where one of the more feel-good scenes happen, and it was interesting to see that uplifting conclusion undercut by the ‘break up’. Of course, there was time for another shift in the storyline but because I’d grown to care for the characters, I wished that the tour had been more ‘on screen’ rather than shown in montage, but I can see, since the anime only had one season, that the tour had to be compressed.

Time to switch to dot points:

  • I’ve seen a few complaints about the character design in my reading up on the series, but I think they’re distinctive, even if the animation doesn’t appear as seamless as in other shows.
  • Pretty much everything about the band feels spot on – players moving in and out of the group as ‘real life’ pressures kill dreams, the rivalry with other groups, the small steps with first gigs, the hard work that has to happen, it’s all there!
  • For those of you who dislike love triangles, Beck almost has one, but it’s more of a bittersweet realisation of change, and it gets ‘solved’ in a sensible way, which I liked.
  • Saitou provides most of the comedic moments – he’s hyperbolic, but has more than one dimension at least.
  • Since Sakuishi’s manga started in 1999 you’ll probably note a lot of references to 1990s rock and metal music throughout, and RATM fans will see more thanone clear homage too, all of which was fun to pick up on.
  • Koyuki might seem a little meek in some ways… and yet, he’s really not, especially if you consider the swimming pool and the Dying Breed gig for just two examples.
  • In terms of the sub vs dub, I think most folks will enjoy the songs more in the dub.
  • Related to this, I like the way that some of the English that Maho and her friends use (and her brother at times) isn’t always given subtitles in the sub. That way, if you don’t speak fluent English, just like Koyuki, then you’ll experience the same uncertainty he does, which is an important part of the romantic sub-plot.
  • While Leon is supposedly the film’s primary antagonist, I think the real villain just might be Ryusuke, whose secrets and tantrums often threaten band and even the lives of his friends. Seriously, he has redeeming qualities but oh boy.
  • And yeah, part of that last one is me wanting teens to act like well-adjusted adults, when it’s never that simple when you’re growing up; it’s hard work, and more, the mistakes the characters make fuel the story and the drama after all 🙂

Okay, I’ve likely missed some things I wanted to mention but I think that’s enough for now.

Ultimately, I doubt I can fully separate my memories and associated feelings around being young and playing in bands with the show itself – but even if you’ve never joined a rock band, Beck will probably still satisfy so long as you enjoy coming of age/teen dramas (and hard rock and certain metal sub-genres in general).

Thanks to Curtis for the reminder about this series too!

5 Stars

Review Count: 147 (I thought I might mark my 150th review, so I’m counting down at the moment).

Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti)

Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti) 2010

Before Hiromasa Yonebayashi became a founding member of Studio Ponoc, he was working at Ghibli on a lot of their blockbuster films. Arrietty was his debut as director, with a screenplay that Miyazaki adapted from The Borrowers. (Another example of his interest in storytelling from the UK).

This one is not in my top five Ghibli films, but I do prefer Arrietty to Yonebayashi’s other feature for the studio, When Marnie was There.

Ultimately, what keeps this one from climbing up the ranking in my mind, is the ending, which felt a little flat compared to the rest of the film… but I won’t try to claim that it’s a bad ending, because that’d be an exaggeration, I reckon.

What I loved most was the clear ‘world-within-a-world’ that existed in the film, with the borrowers having not only their own home and cast-off possessions, but that different perspective on human homes.

It’s a warm, intimate world where little is wasted and ‘simple’ tasks take on more epic dimensions – like that first quest for sugar. (Those scenes show the same beautiful attention to detail Ghibli is known for, mirrored in the natural world too, but for me I think of the house most whenever I remember Arrietty.)

I won’t ramble on much longer, but the tension between the Arriety and Sho’s storylines eventually meeting is great, and I always find it sad but sweet when he tries to switch the kitchen around. But of course – in the end, he cannot help Arrietty and her family, as the power of one small boy cannot fully stand up to the cruelty of the adult world.

Still, Arrietty isn’t a tragedy, so there’s an ultimately uplifting ending in store if you’ve never seen this one 🙂

4 Stars

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 11)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

After a fairly large recap for an intro, and a bit of recapping within that kinda impacted the pacing for me, the fight between Juzo and Seven kicks up a notch or two.

At the same time, there was a little widening of the focus to bring in other players too, and to give Pepper a chance to make a mess of things.

Maybe there are a few cracks in Seven’s resolve too, enough to weaken him – but I think the most important thing I picked up with episode was basically confirmation that those two have essentially gone rogue.

Not much else that I think needs highlighting for me, other than my feeling that the over-sized arms as weapons could be a touch comical… but then, is it really any more odd-ball than guns as heads?

Nope 😀

DECA-DENCE (11)

Deca-Dence 2020

Stakes are definitely getting higher – as they probably should, now that the season draws closer to its end.

And while the new Gadoll threat brings with it not just echoes of the God Warriors in Nausicaa, but also a horde of offspring to trouble the Tankers and Gears alike, I still found myself enjoying the comedic bits most.

Again, I’m hoping that next season there will be a chance for characters to explore a bit but for now, it feels like the episode is using the pause before the big showdown to offer a few light moments.

Kurenai’s drinking was one of course, and the mistaken identity moment, but I’m mostly thinking about Natsume and her reaction to seeing the cyborgs, plus her attempt to imagine what Kaburagi really looks like. I won’t spoil it here, but I definitely laughed.

(It was also satisfying to be offered a small resolution for he and Minato, and I remain very curious about Jill’s past. Ready to see how the gambit she and Kaburagi have come up with plays out too.)

However, I spent a bit of time after the episode thinking about stuff ‘behind the curtain’ as it were, re: the way both Natsume and the viewer are being eased into the eventual moment when she and Kabu finally meet face-to-face.

I still think the two art styles are not complimentary… but this interview with some of the Deca-Dence team explains nicely why the ‘cute’ choice was made, and intellectually I like the reasoning, but at a gut-level I feel the clash between the two styles.

Anyway, to finally get to the point – I like this episode’s approach to revealing the cyborgs for several reasons, one because we get to see Natsume process the idea of cyborgs in general first, and two, this implies that she won’t have to ‘waste’ time doing too much adjusting when she does see Kaburagi in the next episode, which I think will need to pack a lot in to set up the next season.

And finally, I liked it because this way, we didn’t have to rush her onscreen response to the cyborgs either, as might have happened if it was part of the final ep.

A little sad that next week is the final installment for now, but also feeling a touch relieved because I don’t know if I’m cut out for reviewing multiple seasonal shows at once 😀