Okay, so Doamayger-D fooled me for a moment at first, because I thought I was watching a show produced in the ‘70s but which had been released with extra notes onscreen for modern audiences 😀
But it was made only a few years ago of course and it’s clearly a loving tribute to (and parody of) 1970s mecha.
Everything from the ‘scratchy’ look to the character and robot designs and the battle scenes, down to the acting and narration, it all has that feel. It’s incredibly compact storytelling too, with each episode being about 2 minutes long, with the perfectly on brand ending theme stretching the overall running time a bit.
ILCA maybe wanted to make something truly regional, since aside from the ‘70s mech tropes, the show features baking and sweets common to Kyoto, and it makes me think the episodes are tv spots, or at least able to function as fun little promos for tourism?
Anyway, if you’re curious this won’t take long to check out and if you’re familiar with the tropes and aesthetic of older mech, then you might enjoy Doamayger-D.
Note: Doamayger-D is definitely fun and easy to digest, but I’d try to watch it via disc if possible, since even short load times between 3 minute episodes can feel like a bit much (but that’s no deal-breaker precisely).
The most recent anthology-style project from Katsuhiro Otomo is Short Peace. It was released a few years back now and it’s conceptually a little different from previous ones (like Robot Carnival or Memories) in that it includes a PS3 game released in conjunction. But since I’ve never played Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day I’ll have to stick with the short films here.
Okay, so this collection is made up of four shorts and again, not every piece will suit every viewer but generally speaking most critical response has focused on the excellent Possessions and Combustible. That doesn’t mean that the remaining two are bad however. I’ll quickly talk about each but drop a little warning now that I’ll have a spoiler in regard to the final short: A Farewell to Weapons.
Opener Possessions was nominated for an academy award and I can see why – heavy with atmosphere but not without humour, it has fantastic use of colour and the CGI is generally super-cohesive. The lead character is a traveller caught in a storm and the empty shop he takes refuge in is kinda infested with tsukumogami. Yet the way he solves the problem is interesting, as it’s not a typical response to fear. At times, I wasn’t sure he moved through the setting in a wholly integrated way but this is still my favourite of the four.
Next up is Combustible which continues with the historical settings via a story that is probably a smaller-scale view of the Great fire of Meireki. The visual style evokes woodblock printing too and appears perhaps muted at first… but doesn’t stay that way. I think you could argue that this one is also an abbreviated love story though I think what interested me most was the way fire-fighters were represented: I hadn’t realised that tattoos were common for the era when it came to labourers and fire-fighters. And while my country burns as I type this now, I realise Combustible hit home a bit more. (I was aware that tattoos in Japan have not always been welcome but I found this link explored some specifics, and I thought it was really interesting).
Now to the final two (latter para has the spoiler) starting with Gambo, which also uses a historical setting. Gambo explores a classic samurai trope – that of the terrorised village in need of help. Yet the hero is not a swordsman, and beyond that tweak, there are some other surprises too. It’s also the far more graphic and disturbing of the four.
Finally, A Farewell to Weapons which is a detailed, tense war-story that visually made me think of Western warfare in the Middle East. But it is a futuristic setting in terms of the robotics and so that aspect kinda puts the last short at odds with the rest of the anthology. For me, the only real downside to it was that within a few moments I knew exactly how it would play out and how it would end – with all the characters dead, of course (I think some of the team even talk about retirement in the beginning and if that’s not a narrative invitation to death then I don’t know what is), but I wouldn’t skip this one, that’s for sure.
I’ve definitely said this a few times before here but my vote is always for Memories as the stronger anthology helmed by Otomo, though I probably prefer this over Robot Carnival.
Note: I shouldn’t overlook the fact that Hajime Katoki directed A Farewell to Weapons actually, as he is one of the key mecha designers in the Gundam universe 🙂