Tokyo Godfathers Review [Collaboration with Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews]

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.

To read the review jump over to Iridium Eye Reviews 🙂

Memories 1995

Featured

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

Millennium Actress (Sennen Joyū)

Millennium Actress (Sennen Joyū) 2002

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 one’s no stroll in the park either, as it’s quite reflective and sombre, even at times heartbreaking.

It’s 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 in 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.

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:

5 Stars

*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.

Paprika (Papurika)

If you’ve seen and enjoyed Inception, you’ll probably like the film that inspired it – Paprika, though obviously they both tackle themes and ideas that have been well-explored in the past.

Paprika (Papurika)
2006

I’ve enjoyed the other films directed by the late Satoshi Kon and this psychological thriller was no exception. As an adaption of the 1993 novel (that I did read but only after the film), I found the movie to be a much more consistent work from top to bottom.

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.

Again, as you’ll probably read from me often on this little blog, I like intertexual films and this is another great example of it, where allusions to a range of classic Hollywood cinema occur in the character’s dreams (and there’s a Monkey reference too!) but also to the art of cinema and film-making itself.

There’s more to the film than its allusions of course, from the themes of obsession, love, memory and the fear of technology – it’s also equal parts creepy and touching (at times) though expect a certain amount of anime tropes to appear, even as more than a few are subverted – especially with the supporting cast.

When compared to Perfect Blue (often regarded as Kon’s masterpiece) it’s not as relentlessly dark as there are light moments during the film but the R rating (M if you’re in Australia) is still fitting I feel.

4 Stars