Modest Heroes (Chīsana Eiyū: Kani to Tamago to Tōmei Ningen) 2018
I hope interest in Studio Ponoc stays high as we’re now nearly three years out from their first feature and a year on from Modest Heroes, the first in a series of shorts. And while I’m personally a bit wary of commissions from giant corporations, I’m kinda excited about the IOC asking Ponoc to work on a short for the 2020 Olympics.
Part of that excitement does come from how much I enjoyed Modest Heroes – three shorts unified by the theme of smaller, perhaps more intimate victories. And aside from what seem like small stakes compared to say, an epic, there’s still plenty of drama and tension in Modest Heroes.
Since each story is quite brief I won’t ruin the plots, other than to say another common link appears to be family, though the final story Invisible focuses more on missing connections – and I thought it was really bittersweet, actually. It used a soft, even sombre look to the backgrounds really well and animating an invisible character must have been tough – it was handled so nicely I thought – like the striking of the keyboard in one scene. None of the shorts are dialogue-heavy either, which becomes a feature, though the second story has more than the others.
While Invisible is probably my favourite of the three I also really enjoyed the first, Kanini & Kanino, the underwater story with the amazing trout sequence and the fantastic use of purple light (that’s actually echoed in Invisible). And while Life Ain’t Gonna Lose is just as good I think what I enjoyed most about that one was the simple fact that it was essentially about Anaphylaxis – as a teacher I see a lot of students struggle with that really unfair set of circumstances.
If you like Ponoc’s work or the Ghiblies then you’ll doubtless enjoy Modest Heroes.