Greetings! Today I wanted to share my first collaboration post – Curtis and I have teamed up to review and discuss Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers 🙂
It was heaps of fun to work together on this and I hope you’ve got a few mins to take a look – and if you’ve never seen the film, I do recommend hunting it down, something that should be easy enough with a new dub on the way I hope.
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.
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 Peacefrom 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.
I still feel sad that fans will never see another Satoshi Kon film – but at least I can always re-watch the ones he made.
Millennium Actress is one that’s sometimes described as a mirror of Kon’s far darker Perfect Blue, but this film is not really a stroll in the park either, as it’s quite sombre, even at times heartbreaking.
Millennium Actress is a drama that doubles as a sort of love-note to cinema itself (and especially Japanese cinema).
It has love, jealousy, bitterness and desperation mixed together, presented via a blend of reality and a seamless integration of clips from films that feature actress (and main character) Chiyoko, whose search for a lost love spans decades across the course of the film.
The way her recollections and stories bleed into the present and then in turn incorporate the interviewers as well, is awesome.
If you enjoyed the uncertainty of ‘what is real’ from Kon’s later film Paprika then you’ll probably like Millennium Actress too, though it’s not science-fiction/thriller.
In fact, if you don’t like dramas/films that have a deep focus on character/are heavily intertextual*, then you might not like this at all, now that I’ve started on the comparisons 😀
This is also the first to feature Susumu Hirasawa on the OST of a Satoshi Kon film (a relationship that continued for several collaborations) and introduced me to his work. One of my favs from the film is below:
*Heaps of the references were well beyond me, but if you’re a student of the film history of Japan, you’ll probably recognise some parallels with the lives of actresses Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine.
If you’ve seen and enjoyed Inception, you’ll probably like the film that inspired it in so many ways – Paprika, though obviously both movies tackle themes and ideas that have been well-explored in the past.
Paprika (Papurika) 2006
And while Paprika is an adaptation, I think you could almost call Inception the same thing, though between the two, one text adapts a novel and the other kinda adapts the aesthetic and some central concerns of Kon’s movie.
All the films directed by the late Satoshi Kon are superb, I reckon – and yep, I’m obviously a fan – and Paprika is no exception.
I tend to think that this one, a surreal psychological thriller, is maybe his peak as a director, even if Millenium Actress is perhaps more heartfelt and I personally enjoy Perfect Blue the most.
But as an adaption of the 1993 novel (a novel I did read but only after seeing the film), I found the movie to be a much more consistent work from top to bottom. I’m unfairly comparing the two mediums here, but sometimes surrealism works better in the visual.
Here’s a synopsis:
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called dream therapy has been invented. A device called the “DC Mini” allows the user to view people’s dreams.The head of the team working on this treatment, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, begins using the machine illegally to help psychiatric patients outside the research facility, using her alter-ego “Paprika”, a sentient persona that she assumes in the dream world.
Generally, the use and mis-use of the DC Minis are the crimes that the Doc (and my fav character, Detective Konakawa) must investigate. And because reality and dream is blended so often in the story, they certainly have a tough time of it – stumbling after uncertain clues and unclear adversaries.
But I was hooked for every moment, never quite sure what the characters would face next. And due to that uncertainty around reality, there was heaps of room to bring in something you’ll probably notice me mention more than once on the blog, Intertextuality.
Since Konakawa studied film-making, and his recurring dream relates to that, there are plenty of allusions to classic Hollywood cinema and other texts throughout the film. (And there’s a Monkeyreference too!) but I it was also fun to see the art of cinema and film-making itself referenced too.
There’s more to Paprika than its allusions of course, from the themes of identity, obsession, love, memory and the fear of technology – it’s also equal parts creepy and touching (at times).
While you can expect a certain amount of classic anime tropes to appear here, just as many are subverted really well – especially via the supporting cast.
When compared to Perfect Blue (which most folks consider, probably rightly, as Kon’s masterpiece) I think Paprika is not so relentlessly dark. There are more than a few light moments during the film, especially thanks to Paprika herself, but also in part due to the surrealism, which can be equal parts comedic and disturbing.
In terms of a recommendation, I think the R rating (or ‘M’ if you’re in Australia) is still fitting even if they tend to change over the years, so Paprika is not one for the youngest of teens but should impress if you’re into psychological thrillers.
Now, I feel that I haven’t spoken too often about specifics for this review, but that’s quite on purpose – as I don’t want to spoil one of my fav movies too much!