For day 11 in the 12 Days of Anime I have some quick thoughts on Serial Experiments Lain. An anime I had on my plan to watch for years, and finally made time for it this year. Twice in fact. I saw it with my bro since it was something he also wanted to watch. Needless to say we both are huge fans of it. The second time I completed the anime was in a group with other anime watching pals on that good old Discord I keep bringing up. The group watch wasn’t unanimous in loving Lain, though it wasn’t the worst thing they’ve seen by their reaction.
There’s a lot I like about Serial Experiment Lain worth talking about that it’s daunting figuring out what to talk about, and what not to talk about. I’ll touch about how it subtle storytelling was a lot to my liking. Never feeling like it talked down to it viewers when giving them information, especially during some of those long exposition scenes. A nice touch I enjoyed about it subtle storytelling is the change Lain Iwakura room undergoes. Slowly becoming more mechanical as the series progresses. Becoming an entirely different creation of its original intent.
Serial Experiment Lain was ahead of its time depicting the psychological, and social impact the internet can have on a person. Treating the Wire (which is basically the internet) almost as if it’s some kind of drug to Lain Iwakura. Showing a gradual progression of simply being fascinated with the Wire to becoming obsessive with it. To the point she eventually surpasses her own father knowledge on what’s possible with the Wire. Losing herself between two realities she has difficulty telling apart.
Lain Iwakura also lives in a world where she feels isolated in. She becomes very philosophical dissecting many issues on plenty of subjects. The most memorable one for me is when she has a long discussion about oneself, and if such a thing is real. With the advancement, and better understanding of the internet it further muddies what is real, and what’s not. In a way, making it even easier than it was during the creation of Serial Experiment Lain to create your own world on the web. Feeding yourself into a dangerous mindset with even greater possibilities. Further making it easier to create an alter ego that you loose yourself into, and become impossible to separate from.
Another aspect to Lain herself is her limited interaction in the real world. It eventually comes back to affect her negatively being caught up on the Wire. Usually through her discovering of the shadier sides of people, and the Wire itself. Through her simplistic characteristic the anime is able to present a complex storyline that is basically like The Matrix, but more subtle in its delivery. Also, significantly easier to comprehend as a whole. Making up the lack of flashy animations with deep theme explorations, and characters to dissect.
The last thing I would probably about Serial Experiment Lain before I go into spoiler territory is the handling of Lain in the series. There was a balance of her dealing with her own issues, and what the environment around her created for her. Showing her struggle to commit to social interaction in the world when the Wire is so much easier to express herself. Almost as if saying a complete stranger on the web is easier to talk too than someone you don’t know in person. There’s also some family drama in their she deals with, alongside what makes her human, but that would require spoilers. Plus, it been months since I’ve last seen it so I wouldn’t feel like I would be doing it justice if I left something out.
That wraps up day 11 in the 12 Days of Anime. You can expect one more post tomorrow since I forgot my time in real life & WordPress are different. Whoops! I should look into that eventually, but in the mean times I’ve got the holidays to celebrate. So, expect the conclusion in my 12 Days of Anime post a bit late because of that. See ya later, and happy holidays wherever you are!
On Day 9 in the 12 Days of Anime I shall write about an anime that did something important for me. Got me back into watching shonen anime. First thing though, I know Shonen is actually a demographic of young men between 12 – 18 in Japan, but the purpose of this post I’m just going to refer to anime based around Shonen Jump manga as just Shonen. A lot in of anime fans in the anime community already do so let’s get to it.
I think my fatigue with Shonen anime started with a little know vampire anime called Seraph of the End. During this time I was also getting fed up with 100 episodes of Fairy Tail power of friendship nonsense. So any Shonen I saw that wasn’t Fairy Tail at the time was an immediate improvement. Well half of it was true. From the first minute of Seraph of the End I knew it wasn’t going to be something I would I like. Once episode 1 was over I knew it certainly wasn’t going to be anything for me. You can chalk it up the fact that it reveals over 90 % of the human population has died, and yet still have students go to school. Way to eliminate urgency by acting everything is normal.
Seraph of the End also had similarities to Attack On Titan, but saying that Attack On Titan also had a lot of similarities to Knights of Sidonia. Only Attack On Titan I ended up like because it’s over the top presentation, and fantastically animated sequences kept me entertain. The writing was spotty, but how it told it story ensured I was hooked. Seraph of the End didn’t have the polish of Attack On Titan, but it did have the spotty writing so I didn’t find it as entertaining. However, even when I first finished I still thought for its intended demographic it might be enjoyable.
Than we come to Assassination Classroom which I started earlier than Seraph of the End, but got fed up reading subtitles to an anime I didn’t like so I waited for the English dub. Initially I did enjoy episodes from season 1. It was the longevity of the premise that ruined any semblance of suspense. There only two ways Assassination Classroom could have ended; Earth time-bomb Korosensei would either die, or he wouldn’t. I know that same logic can be applied to practically every single story ever made. That didn’t stop me from using that as a defense for calling the ending predictable whenever my Discord pals want to argue with me on it.
Season 1 of Assassination Classroom wasn’t to my liking, but I felt they tried to make something special. Season 2 of Assassination Classroom on the other hand completely phoned in! Ramp up the “we’ve come so far”, and “you’re such a great person” speeches you’ll have a inspirational anime that grates on me. It became so repetitive to a point I took days off from watching episodes just to build up my tolerance for it again. I hated it a lot, and don’t even get me started on the last three episodes which were the worst written episodes of the entire series!
Now we arrive with My Hero Academia season 1, and this is were all the damn Shonen tropes came together badly for me just to hate on it! I was unfortunate enough to watch season 1 dubbed so my first introduction to Deku was me wanting to choke the damn character. Episode, after episode it did things to aggregate me so much. Before season 1 was over I was dead set on the mindset this is the worst Shonen I’ve ever seen. It’s not MHA fault its mangaka is force to use these tropes. Considering I have some vague understanding how Shonen Jump Weekly is run I wouldn’t blame the mangaka for phoning it so he can make something he wants later on in his career.
We finally arrive at Black Clover, and MHA season 2. In the case of Black Clover everyone I knew was hyping Black Clover as the absolute worst Shonen ever made. Everyone I knew told me they despite it, and told me it would be the new low bar surpassing MHA. Watching a couple episodes of Black Clover I was disappointed my friends that watch anime overhyped how bad Black Clover actually. In the same way MHA is a collection of Shonen trope so was Black Clover. The difference why I can enjoy Black Clover moderately is that it plays it straight without deviation. MHA wants to deviate from the Shonen tropes into something better, but always goes back to them suffering as a result.
Around the time MHA season 3 was finishing concluding plenty of anime fans I talk too on different Discord servers started disliking more. They weren’t on the same level of me in terms of seething hatred for MHA, but slowly they were getting there. So as you would expect, when I sat to watch a few episodes of MHA season 2 I absolutely found season 2 a marginal improvement. Ironic considering the tournament arc is also a point some of MHA fans weren’t quite feeling it. Including some of the small Anitubbers I know that say season 2 tournament arc slow things to a crawl, and was worse overall. Me, I was happy I found it tolerable to a point where if I wanted I could watch multiple episodes of MHA, and not feel like my brain would explode.
Long introduction to basically say watching all these Shonen over the years I fatigue by it. None of the ones I’ve mentioned didn’t stand out in any way. Maybe I was simply too told in my 20s to appreciate anime aimed at 12 – 18 year old males. I was more than ready to check myself into a retirement home until one day me, and my brother recently finished watching the OVA Wounded Man. You already know how I feel about that OVA, and my brother hates it even more than me. So when we were deciding what exactly we should try to watch next in my anime collection I randomly chose Ushio & Tora on a whim. I’ve been wanting to watching it for a while, and after the travesty that was Wounded Man anything would be better.
I popped in the blu ray disc, saw the first episode, and it was actually enjoyable. From than on we just kept watching Ushio & Tora enjoy ourself. Before getting to a point in the middle of season 1 were episodes were starting to end on cliffhangers. We just kept binging episode after episode. It was a significant event since I can’t tell you the last time I binge a Shonen that wasn’t FMA related, or Death Note. This was due to the fact the plot was kept generally simple, the objective already set so it was a matter of going to it, and wasn’t bogged down by superficial drama.
Simplicity is what Ushio & Tora first season was good at, and also a why it would be hard to get into. It has a monster of the week formula to it, and depending on how you like the two constantly bickering leads will determine where it falls for you. I enjoyed the bickering chemistry between Ushio & Tora so I always found it entertaining. While the action wasn’t exactly impressive it didn’t drag out. Something modern Shonen seems to be getting better at as a observation.
Ushio & Tora also fell on my good graces by not having a tournament arc! So whenever season 1 as unfocus as it was didn’t feel like it was making significant progress never did it feel like it was prolonging something from concluded. Things kept progressing which I like seeing in my Shonen, and here’s looking at you Yu Yu Hakusho for having a longer than necessary tournament arc.
With this praise towards it being fun, and seemingly cutting out the fluff from your average Shonen what about the characters. Well, that wouldn’t be capitalize on until the much more focused, and refined season 2 of Ushio & Tora. I kinda feel like season 1 of Ushio & Tora tried to emulate how Noragami first season perfectly setup the groundwork for everything to be expanded on in later seasons, but not quite as good. Season 1 changes objective from fighting monsters weekly to going to a location to find out more information to getting stronger until the big baddie comes. Enjoyable as it was it sure was messy getting to season 2.
An immediate improvement over season 1 is getting straight to the point of its story. With everything already set up it can conclude lingering plot points from season 1. Leading to plenty of great character moments, in particular for the duo the anime is named after. The interaction between Ushio & Tora doesn’t change one bit, but the meaning behind their interaction does. It’s done in a subtle way that it was refreshing to witness in a Shonen.
Surprisingly, Ushio & Tora got me to be invested in its cast. Nowhere near emotional, but I cared about their well being. Something I consider a great accomplishment since Tora is a dickhead to everyone for practically the entire series. So imagine when in season 2 he’s a given a dramatic moment with a friend of Ushio, and it settle in ultimate cost this final battle will potentially have. It was a surprisingly sad moment that I felt was rightfully earned as Tora grows, and seeing him fall to his lowest point.
Contrast this to Assassination Classroom for Korosensei where the character was presented as this great individual, and that wouldn’t be sad if something bad happened to him. 40 plus episodes of scenes like this eventually made me not care for the finale during season 2 of AssClass as I sighed in relief it was going to be over soon. Meanwhile, multiple characters tell Tora how they would like to just beat him up, or kill him. So when Tora gets this specific dramatic moment with Ushio friend in season 2 it feels more impactful. It didn’t create a series of good deeds for Tora to perform, point to it as a good thing, and told me what to feel. I naturally came to the conclusion this is surprisingly sad.
While not without it flaws aside from the messy structure of season 1. It does feel the need to make every character Ushio & Tora come across seems significant. Not a problem to solve if the anime was wasn’t a 39 episode long. Numerous character will disappear, and appear out nowhere at random points in the series. If they had more screen time than the final arc would have felt even more eventful than it already did.
Generally though, Ushio & Tora provided me something previous shonens I’ve mentioned couldn’t provide me consistently. All I ask for any form of media in general to do is either be entertaining, or engage me in the story it’s telling. Ushio & Tora manages to do both consistently throughout the series no matter how messy it gets. The lack of filler means the buildup to the final confrontation feels like a significant event instead of just another power scaling breaker. Most important of all, it’s likable characters, good drama in season 2, and overall just entertainment of watching Ushio & Tora made want to watch Shonen anime again. Reminding me of why I enjoy watching Shonen so much when they are done right.
This post came out twice as long as I expected. That what happens when I do things on a whim instead of plan them out. Either way, I celebrated Ushio & Tora for getting me back into watching Shonen anime. Even if I don’t something as good as it for a while. The viewing experience of it will stick with me for a long time. Tomorrow though, I’ll probably take another departure from the praises I’m handing for some criticism. Until that fateful day of tomorrow, sayanora!
On day 7, in the 12 Days of Anime I’m doing something unprecedented. I’m praising something in the fantasy genre for the second straight day in a row. Lets just overlook that I’m also picking on one major issue I had with Hosoda’s The Boy, and the Beast that I felt Big Fish & Begonia tackle significantly better. Given what I have to reveal, ah, this post will include major spoilers for both Big Fish & Begonia, and The Boy and the Beast. I highly recommend Big Fish & Begonia as it’s truly a landmark in Chinese animation. The Hosoda film I say you can skip, but if you don’t care about either, or already seen them continue on. There’s no take backs pass this point! Good? Lets continue!
So both movies take place in a fantastical world. The differences is immediate as Big Fish starts out in a fantasy world called The Others, and the Hosoda film starts out in the real world. Ren, the protagonist of The Boy, and the Beast is introduced as recently having lost his mother. At his age, he of course doesn’t take kindly to the idea of living with new people, and runs away. Eventually coming across beast Kumatetsu, following him out of curiosity. Leading Ren into the Beast Kingdom unable to return to the human world. This in stark contrast to Big Fish, and Begonia which introduces 16 year old Chun on a trip into another world as a rite of passage. Chun has the opportunity to stuck in the human world, but that’s more of a matter of time, and her being responsible.
From these two setups I should have given Ren more sympathy since he’s younger, and is unable to return home. However, it’s how the Beast Kingdom is used developed, and used that bothers. Specially how it hardly attempts to distinguish the Beast Kingdom from the human world much. The setting offers the storyteller plenty of opportunity to show more than a few shops, and Kumatetsu house, but rarely do they do that. Turning the possibly fantastical into the mundane.
Big Fish & Begonia meanwhile takes place primarily in The Others. Besides the rite of passage, the rest of movie is comfortable with showing the audience fantastical vistas, and setting it apart from the mundane everyday world. This is further looked into when Chun wants to resurrect a life. Receiving a lecture about throwing it the natural order out of balance, and if she does desire so much to resurrect a soul she must offer something of equal value. Knowing full well what this entails Chun still agrees to this contract.
In Boy, and the Beast no such contract is made. Ren has nowhere else to go, and simply sticks around with Kumatetsu. Becoming his student while learning things related to his training. Here lies the issue in The Boy, and the Beast. When Ren eventually becomes a teenager only suddenly does he realize the Beast Kingdom can’t offer him everything. Due to the timeskip in the movie, I’m meant to believe that for several years Ren had no issues living in the Beast Kingdom. When Ren has a desire to go back into the human world it barely even much of conflict. Ren has no problem interacting with other people, settling back into society, and even managing to get himself into a school.
Ren issues just feel to brushed off to feel the true weight to them. As a kid, he was able to run away from his issues in the real world, settle into the Beast Kingdom easily, and more or less found people to take care of him. However, the movie fails to get that feeling of being torn up between two worlds.In Big Fish & Begonia, the conflict is simple; Chun was saved by a human, feels guilty it cost Kun his life, and sets out to correct what she feels is right. She believes she return Kun (the Big Fish) back into the human world once it’s fully grown to make everything right. Chun changes as she sees the ever growing consequences to the world of The Others caused by her action. Seeing its people, and landscape in chaos hurts her.
In the case of Ren he was more than happy not think about the human world during his time in the Beast Kingdom. Due to the timeskip, it ignores the uncertainty that could have built up in Ren over his time in the Beast Kingdom. With Chun, we know she lived in The Other her entire life. She has memories, friends, and dreams cemented in The Others. While she was enamored with the beauty of the human world she did ultimately want to return to her own home.There’s the argument to be made that Chun is a teenage girl with a loving family waiting for her while Ren is a irrational kid who’s having trouble dealing with the passing of his mother. Ren acting irrationally I could forgive easily because what kind the likelihood of a kid making good choices when their parent just died is low. However, the death of Ren mother felt inconsequential as a result. Maybe during his time in the Beast Kingdom Ren learned to overcome it, but it’s not shown.
Big Fish & Begonia other than showing the consequences of Chun action doesn’t simply skip pass the bigger picture. There’s a subtle moment where a little girl is crying out for her sibling, and Chun is reminded of the little sister of Kun when he died saving her. Chun is willing to throw her life so easily to make things right it blinds her. It’s only through help of those close to her is she barely able to keep her own life, and even then she has to live with the fact her action resulted in more people getting hurt for a single human life.Ren ultimately decides to live with his father in the human world learning to carry his home in his heart. Unfortunately the conflict that arose was unrelated to him. In the Beast Kingdom, raising humans is as bad as resurrecting the dead in The Others. The consequences aren’t as drastic to the world itself, but the single person who has a void in their heart. Being consumed to the darkness. Ren overcomes his darkness earlier in the movie so his part in the climax just feels weightless. He had no trouble adjusting back to human society, and manage to make a good life for himself in a world where humans aren’t well received. The lack consequences is what made The Boy, and the Beast so dreadful for me to watch.
The Boy, and The Beast I have no clue I’m suppose to take away from it. Maybe home is carried in your heart, except Ren is only show dissatisfied with the Beast Kingdom once he returns to the human world for the first time in almost a decade.In the opposite, Big Fish & Begonia Chun’s action carry consequences to her, the world, and her best friend Qiu. Teaching the lesson that the path to the right answer can be muddle with good intentions. Simply throwing your life away to do the right things can have equally negative effect. Nor does it make the blanket statement that throwing your life won’t solve everything. Understanding that in some cases it’ll actually do some good like the case with Qiu. He was able to save the girl he loved so much, and gave up so much for her. Consequences that truly settle once you see a brief post credit sequence.
It’s the empathize of showing consequences that other serious fantasy often failed to establish in their own story. Magic always feel like to me an easy fix for everything. Big Fish & Begonia, and so with yesterday anime Little Witch Academia there’s more needed than just magic to do the right thing. Ironically, both are about balance in different ways. With Big Fish & Begonia, it’s the value of life including your own, and the natural balance it carries.
That concludes Day 7 in the 12 Days of Anime. Though I use this opportunity to pick on a beloved movie like The Boy, and the Beast. I did so in order to celebrate the immense joy Big Fish & Begonia brought to me. See ya next time with another 12 Days of Anime post.
On the sixth day, on the sixth night, in the sixth celebration of the 12 Days of Anime I discovered some real magic. The magic of believing in magic. More accurately, Akko believing in herself being her own source of magic in the Little Witch Academia anime series. Cheesy as that might sound I ended up liking Akko because of this.
In My Little Witch Academia, Akko is taken aback by a magic show she sees as a kid perform by Shiny Chariot. This magic show captures the imagination of a young Akko. Transporting her to a realm of endless possibility which she wants to become a part off. Beginning her lifelong dream to become a witch like Shiny Chariot.At a young age, I too was wrapped up in the “magic” shown to me by magicians. Making things appear, and disappear out of thin air. It was almost like witchcraft. Unfortunately the more I looked into how to do “magic” tricks the more the allure faded from my young eyes. No longer was anything possible as a magician, but became more about carefully tricking the audience. That’s how I ended up seeing magic before I stopped caring for it entirely.
Magic might not exist in the real world, but it does in Little Witch Academia. A world where less, and less people start believing in magic. A brief tangent, I’m so happy a story of some kind of story bothered to do this. I can’t recall the last time a fantasy of any kind had people be critical of magic within its own world. It’s a breath of fresh air seeing that not everyone is onboard with magic instead preferring the advancement in technology. Very nice touch being a subtle way to tackle the theme of tradition versus the changing tides.
Back on track, Akko doesn’t stop believing in magic even with her countless failures. Could be because she’s excitable, impulsive, short tempered, and reckless. It’s also these traits that consistently gets her in trouble that makes up for her equally great determination to improve herself. Throughout the anime, Akko isn’t afraid to do things her own way. Outside of the strict rules, and bound to tradition that the head witches of Luna Nova are so dead set on. I would like to go over specific examples, but that would involve spoilers, and I don’t want to do that for a great anime like this.
Another aspect that made Akko an endearing character for me, other than her happy go lucky personality, is she grows without necessarily changing herself. A oxymoron when written like that, but it’s true. As short tempered, and impulsive as she gets she does care for the people around her. Going out of her way multiple times to help other she knows at Luna Nova. Akko will occasionally have moments of grandeur that far exceeds her actual skills as a witch. Choosing to accept that it’s okay to doubt yourself, and your beliefs from time to time. Pushing herself, and sometime those around her reluctantly forward.
Bringing me to lastly mention, as vaguely as possible, the Seven Words of Arcturus. Obviously I’m not going to say what the seven words are. They are direct in their meaning as these seven simple words are easy to understand, but witches Luna Nova easily take them for granted. Akko isn’t excluded from this as through trail, and tribulation does she truly end up grasping their meaning wholeheartedly. Following Akko on her journey to become a witch like Shiny Chariot she constantly shines as a character, and a witch. Doing some magical things both with, and without magic by believing in herself, and believing magic itself.
That concludes day six of the 12 Days of Anime. I know! Shocking this one is actually brief. Unlike my post on Kiyoi Mizushima from WIXOSS where the story around her wasn’t as good. Akko does have a good story surrounding her in Little Witch Academia, and seeing it for yourself where it goes is part of the magic of it. Now if only I could find someone infectiously happy as Akko where I live at. I too would further start believing in magic like I once did as a kid. Sayonara, and you tomorrow for day 7 folks!
On the fifth day of Christmas, my house’s lock gets frozen, and I can’t get in. Over the top cold days like this makes me fantasize about visiting a warmer place. Something where I can see the beauty of nature, a naval sea port, and do some farm work. You know, a far more simpler time than taking a blowtorch, and trying to melt a huge block of ice preventing me from opening my door. This got me to think about In This Corner of the World, and how it manages to convey the beauty of Hiroshima that I can’t recall anything else doing the same way. Funny what you’ll think about when melting ice.
Whenever I see a film depicting the city of Hiroshima in Japan. Often times it felt like an afterthought to tell some kind of anti-war story, or for the writer to vent out their frustration at the bombing of Hiroshima. I’m going to generalize why In This Corner of the World is so special as a drama, and a film about Hiroshima.
First up is the 2005 obscure anime movie Glass Rabbit (Glass no Usagi) which bares a bit of similarity too In This Corner of the World. Both focus on the family of the youth protagonist rather than a singular character. However, Glass Rabbit eventually becomes less about the family struggling through difficult times half through. Placing more importance on the message that war is bad. The reason I lacked any empathy towards the characters in Glass Rabbit is how it all felt artificial. I knew the good times where going to end eventually since the story is based in facts. Falling victim to expectations as the harsh times experience Toshiko (Glass Rabbit heroine) just kept piling on, and on.
It’s not like Glass Rabbit just tumble downward in the middle as the framing device is awkward. Toshiko granddaughter asks her mother where a glass rabbit came from, and tells her grandma life story. Not exactly riveting making this starting point unintentionally funny. There’s a mother telling her daughter the horror war when all her daughter asked about is where a glass rabbit came from.
Meanwhile In This Corner of the World, it starts out with Suzu doing her daily routine, and interacting with everyone in the city. Setting the atmosphere of a lovely town that is whimsical, and filled with beauty in Suzu eyes. Treating Hiroshima like a character of its own. Seeing it through different stages over the years. Changing alongside the characters as the city, and the people become torn up through the escalation of the war. Hiroshima isn’t simply a just a place where the story just happens to be in. It’s more like an extension of Suzu; maintaining a beautiful front front while being ravaged by US air raids for years.
If you were to watch both Glass Rabbit, and In This Corner of the World back to back it’s easy to see which one treats Hiroshima better. Glass Rabbit shows you a bit of it before the war, during the war, and briefly after the war. All this is expected in a film that tackles the bombing of Hiroshima so the checkbox development makes it detached from being emotional. I understand the sentiment of war is bad in this context, but a statement like that is meaningless without earnest emotion poured into it. Coming off disingenuous with the anti-war, love is peace message message.
The other film on Hiroshima I’ll compare it to is the even more obscure anime flick Beaten By Black Rain from 1984. Unlike the previous two movies, Beaten By Black Rain is more angry unleashing its pent up frustration. Being dreary, dark, and hateful in its themes. What makes this one difficult to criticize is even though it makes Americans cartoonishly evil. There’s a scene where a prostitute refuses to sleep with an American sex tourist because of the atomic bombings. The American than rapes her while screaming “America Strong! America always win!”. It does provide a different perspective on to view the aftermath of the bombing in Hiroshima. The hateful emotion feels real.
Where Beaten By Black Rain falls apart is simply drowning in its misery. It has a variety of characters some of which you’re meant to sympathize with, and other you’re clearly meant to dislike. The sympathetic ones only development is being unable to move past their own tragic incidents. Not exactly the kind of thing that’ll attract more viewers to check out the film. However, I feel that has more to do with the flat characters than the hateful intent in it.
In This Corner of the World takes a different of approach of having likable characters, and blind patriotism that changes over time. The characters have a lot more to them than simply being the victim of a greater force. This is best exemplified with how they developed the child character in their respective story. Beaten By Black Rain just hammers in the point a little kid has had a miserable life. There lies the problem of seeing, or not learning anything more about his life other than that. Making it feel like par for the course.
Contrast that with In This Corner of the World, Suzu takes care of a child, plays with her, and the viewer see a bond form. When living becomes more difficult we see Suzu struggle to make ends meet for the entire family. By understanding her struggle to remain optimistic during harsh times. It’s easier to sympathize with a child character who doesn’t grasp the entire situation at hand. It’s not just happy moments than darkness, but the progression in seeing their life take a turn for the worse.
I think the ending also contributes to why neither Beaten By Black Rain, and Glass Rabbit are remembered by many. In particular Beaten By Black Rain that was created by Keiji Nakazawa who did the manga to Barefoot Gen. Speaking of which, the film adaptation of Barefoot Gen came out in 1983, and Beaten By Black Rain came out a year later so that says a lot. Back on point, the lasting impression both of these movies leave is emptiness. Glass Rabbit feels like it was a soulless advertisement for world peace, and Beaten By Black Rain was just concentrated hatred not refine enough to turn into a good story. They just feel patronizing instead of hopeful like In This Corner of the Wolrd ends up being.
The approach taken by director Sunao Katabuchi is one of great understanding, and warmth. MAPPA went the extra mile bringing Hiroshima to animation in a new light. Striving for accuracy to the point a single shot needed to be modify 20 times. Along with the subtle characters there’s the immense of amount of work recreate a Hiroshima before the atomic bomb was dropped. Seeing it, and remembering it a light that made it special for those who lived during this time. Showing the beauty of Hiroshima the way Suzu sees it. Attaching more to it than just a single tragedy.
This probably won’t be the last time I write about In This Corner of the World since there was a cut half an hour longer set to be released next year. If that cut ever gets released you bet I’m covering it in some capacity. Who knows, it might bump that 9 I gave it into a 10 if the new material is that good.
Bringing us to the end of Day 5 in the 12 Days of Anime. In all honesty, I feel like this wasn’t very focus. I would be stupid to let this opportunity let me pass to express some more thoughts on a anime I found great. If you haven’t already, do go check out In This Corner of the World. It certainly was one the best animes I’ve seen this year, and I look forward to the longer cut. Sayonora, and see on day 6 which I also haven’t planned.
In line with heroine Otome of The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl I chose to participate in the 12 Days of Anime on a whim. Chalk it up to the fact I haven’t felt motivated to do much writing due to some offline drama. However, knowing myself if I let this opportunity to participate in 12 Days of Anime pass me by I won’t get back into this blogging thing regularly again. So, just like how Senpai just jumps into whatever crazy shenanigans in the hopes of winning Otome heart. I too shall take note of his efforts, and just jump into this 12 Days of Anime to see how I come out in the end.
Months after I’ve first seen The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl the movie remains with me. I mentioned it in my review that there’s a lot to take away from it amidst the beautiful animated chaos. Out of everything from it discussion on believing in preordain love over love based on life experience, judging things by their own merits, Senpai preventing himself from going into stalker territory when trying to win the heart of his affection, and so much more. What drives these topics, among the rest of the movie, is the simple theme of that awkward transition from teenager into adulthood. It been years since I got out of that phase, but do recall it not being pretty at all.
My experience in becoming an adult I feel is wonderfully presented by this movie many crazy antics. Just like my first time I was watching this movie. I had no clue where I was going to end up at, but I was along for the ride. Seeing myself in both Otome, and Senpai is what makes it easily noteworthy out of the animes I’ve seen this year.
Otome rushes through one event after the other experience without a desire to see anyone in particular of all the people she makes friends with. This sort of thing I don’t see touch on often in media. Usually the message would be live in the moment assuming everything else is going well for you. Sometime I find myself at the mercy at life just longing for the moment of tedium to be over. I find neither an ideal way to approach life, but then again when I reflect on this idea it’s something very common with me.
As a teenager I moved around the United States living in California, than moving to Georgia, and then finally remaining in Kansas finishing up high school. Years later I’m still moving around these same places, but add Washington on that list, and (possibly) Florida around next year. Moving around so much so frequently, sometimes multiple times within the same year doesn’t let me soak in my environment, and the people I’m surrounded by. It’s typically the thought of not wanting to be homeless over taking my mind over seeing my friends, and family. This still fluctuate even today with it being at a stand still in managing my social life, and my responsibilities.
When it comes to Senpai my relation to him is more, or less getting the girl of his dream. Before I enter my 20s, I use to think if I did a certain amount of things I’ll eventually get the girl of my dream just like Senpai would. I grew out of that mindset when I decided it was too much leaving it up to chance. It was later on in high school that eventually I gave up on that silly stuff, and figured out it’s more, or less the effort I put into dating. Of course, when it comes to the crazy things I did in the name of love Senpai is more entertaining to watch with his reaction. In my corner I’ll just passively mention that one time I kiss a dude at a gay club so my friend would introduce to a girl I liked at the time. Instead of letting my whoever is listening to my story process what I told I just on the conversation quickly.
Senpai also never takes his obsession into something creepily questionable. There’s a brief moment in the movie where he is offer a file on Otome with plenty of information about her, but he refuses to look into it. It seems like a insignificant action in the grand scheme of things, but with the way social media is anyone on the vast world of the web. Anyone can find something about me if they look hard enough. I see so many people put so much of themselves on social media that I always have to remind myself to never share everything in one place. Under wrong hands, this can lead to something you would hope never happens. Take it from me, you don’t to know one day you have a green hair stalker with a black belt in taekwondo who is infatuated with you, and knows where you live. True story by the way.
Another thing I share in common with Senpai is overthinking my situations constantly. Today for instance I questioned whether, or not I should take part in 12 Days of Anime by blogging. I kept overthinking things like my posts won’t be as interesting as other bloggers, my heart won’t be entirely in it, I might rush a few just to stay track, and whatnot. Looking at my laptop multiple time in a situation I became too familiar with. Simply thinking, not acting on my desire to write no matter how it turns out. Out of all the thoughts I had in my head what won out in the end is just go for it. For once, just stop with the methodical thinking, and brainstorm ideas like I did when I was younger.
Quickly, getting back on topic to provide a good closing for this post. With everything I can take away from The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl. What will always stick with me from it is adulthood is never going to make complete sense to me. There’ll always be something I’m confused about, there will always be some reason I get myself in some strange situations like finding frozen sea monkeys in the freezer at my job, yearning for that affection of someone significant, and finally constantly balancing myself into a better person each day.
That’ll conclude my first day in the 12 Days of Anime. I have no clue what I intend to do for the remaining 11 days. I’ve heard rumors if I don’t my best to uphold my side on this that Santa Claus himself would come at my door. Do some kicks, flips, and jump kicks for partially destroying some of the balance in the Holiday spirits. Rumors are rumors so I won’t let that scare me. Next time I don’t know what I’ll have for you all. However, seeing the aniblogging community come together to take part in this made me want to join. My alter ego is telling the tire me offline who has currently been working seven days a week at his crummy job to be festive in the community, have fun, do your best, and let’s do this!
“I’m prepared to protect my world. A world where I can order a jalapeno pizza, and pay for it with my ID thumbprint! Where I can throw away half my Big Mac just because I’m full, and I want too!” – Williams from Genocidal Organ (I thought this line was hilarious both in, and out context. Best reflects this movie in a nutshell)
Politics, conspiracy theories, theology, psychology, and man’s morality are all tricky subject matter to tackle. Let alone all together into a single movie like Genocidal Organ attempts to do. Presenting itself as this intellectually deep film while providing some over the top blood & gore to attract casual viewers. It’s a animated film that requires all your attention to stay awake while watching. If the long talkative scenes that over explain things don’t bore you than the lack of engaging characters will.
Set in a time when Sarajevo was obliterated by a homemade nuclear device, Genocidal Organ story reflects a world inundated with genocide. An American by the name of John Paul seems to be responsible for all of this, and intelligence agent Clavis Shepherd treks across the wasteland of the world to find him and the eponymous “genocidal organ”. The setting of Genocidal Organ is nicely realize painting broad a picture of a semi-dystopia US. Creating the world by going into detail what led the country down the path it did. You’ll get a good grasp at the type of world this movie takes place in, and how exactly characters feel about living under a heavily surveillance country.
Too bad the way it’s set up is through jargon dialogue going out of it way to over explain things for the audience. Some of this is reasonable like explaining why there’s a difference in surveillance security in different countries, and how the US adapted to combat terrorists attacks. When it tries to go into the more philosophical it drones on. Theology, politics, linguistics, and so much more will be the subject of a single conversation clunkily moving across these topics. These type of conversations consist throughout the movie making it unnatural sounding to listen too. Heck, the movie has a difficult time keeping mundane talk mundane when injecting these kind of subjects into them needlessly.
Amidst all these ideas are a cast of boring characters. The story dictates the characters we follow don’t feel emotion due to their military training. Our lead Clavis Shepherd slowly starts questioning that over time in the film. This plot point would work if the film presented itself better. There’s a sequence where Clavis, and his team storm into a building to killing a group of children guerrilla fighters. By removing his emotion what one should take away from this moment is difficult to pinpoint. Clavis is a blank slate just coming across as a mouthpiece for the writer to spout his belief making him uninteresting. Conflicting interests clashes with long diatribes against society with brief moments of hyper violence spread across it. Instead of leaving an impression it just fades into the background with seemingly nothing of value added to the story.
Characters spend more time discussing ideals they forget to have personalities. Only Williams in the cast shows any personality cracking jokes every one in a while, and bringing up how much he loves his family. He feels human in a story that otherwise dehumanizes it characters down to just mere ideals. Sadly, Williams is not our main character so instead of seeing a amoral conflict developed in the story. We have instead the already amoral Clavis Shepherd becoming infatuated with a woman he barely met. If not for the blank slate that he was Clavis seeing his world in a different would have had a impact. There isn’t enough know about Clavis to make the transition easy to get behind either in his romantic fling, or his world views.
John Paul is sadly generic as one can get for a villain. Spouting the usual humanity is evil dialogue. What takes the cake with this character is his explanation that genocide has a grammar to it. The science behind it makes sense in the film’s context since there are silly sci-fi elements to accept it’s possible. This still doesn’t make for compelling dialogue though. However, he’s a slightly better written character because his motivation is explained, even if questionable how one thing lead to another.
What is not questionable is the fact the film uses John Paul stance against the government to prove a point that sacrificing freedom is a bad thing. If the film accepted the fact John Paul actions to prove his point is equally just as bad it would have been thought provoking. If there’s someone like John Paul capable of causing genocide through mere words would I want sacrifice my freedom to ensure he doesn’t cause harm to me? Instead of thinking about that I wonder why the movie thought justifying mass genocides was a thing it needed to do. There’s no grey area on this topic because all it does is make John Paul the embodiment of a hypocrite. Either change the tragic backstory, or make John Paul a straight up delusional villain to prevent an imbalance between the message of the story, and the film’s villain.
The Japanese voices take a lost on this one for their performances. All the dialogue is western based, and it simply feels like the Japanese did a literal translation of everything of Western phrases. So the Japanese cast has to awkwardly pause, or speed their delivery to match the lip flap. Instead of localizing certain phrases to sound natural in Japanese the literal translation creates an even more unnatural flow to the dialogue. Plus, the Japanese cast ain’t able to capture, or in some cases attempt to mimic the accent of their characters.
Josh Grelle plays Clavis Shepherd coming off monotone for the entire film. The point of Grelle character is be emotionless, but over time he’s meant to be cracking through the monotonous shell with emotion. Unless Grelle screams, it’s nearly indistinguishable to tell apart when his character changes. Overtime this lack of enunciating his emotions eventually just comes off as stoic.
Ian Sinclair is the most enjoyable actor in the English dub. He gets to show personality unlike the rest of the actors. Being allowed to be funny, serious, and anything in between. Providing the film levity, and dramatic weight it desperately needed where it’s regularly lacking.
The film’s was originally animated by Manglobe, and once Manglobe closed down it changed production to Geno Studio. It’s obvious to tell that the film had a rocky production history since details, animations, and background quality shift around. Hair details for example is inconsistent; sometimes the hair is detailed with different shading changing depending on the lighting, and other times it remains the same despite the lighting in a scene. There’s some usage of CG that sticks out, but are used sparingly. One of the highlight is animated sequence done in first person which looks pretty good.
Animation is fluid when it moves, but noticeably drop in quality when characters still down, and stand still in a scene. Typically using a panning shots from far away to cut down on details on the characters. Environments are very detailed, and since takes place in countries all over the world the change in locale is appreciated. Character designs are hit and miss. Sometimes they look fine, and other times like during the action scenes their faces, or body structure just seem off. Lastly, the film does have a few over the top action sequence that bump up the blood, and gore, but they rarely happen in the movie. In line with the dialogue the music itself feels like an afterthought. There’s nothing remarkable about it. Just being loud, and noisy to fill the scene.
Genocidal Organ is the last film Manglobe had in production before it went into bankruptcy in 2015 before getting finished by Geno Studio. Instead of leaving the anime world on a good note this movie best summarizes Manglobe existence in a nutshell. You have a series of great ideas in Genocidal Organ, but with a less than stellar execution. Sharing its ideas before providing a good story to go along side with it. Manglobe name might be behind some fondly remembered animes, but Genocidal Organ ain’t going to be one of them.
In the late 1980s Viz Media released Area 88 in comic book form in the US. Offering readers cartoonish-looking characters struggling in war, and touching on their struggles to fit back into society. Due to poor sales, one thing the comic book shares with it OVA counterpart is leaving readers/viewers hanging. While talks about the comic book seemingly vanished the OVA is still fondly remembered for its story, and animation during its action sequences.
Being tricked into joining a foreign military by his best friend, Shin Kazama must either survive 3 years in the battlefields of Aslan, or earn money from missions to pay a debt of 1.5 million dollars in order to return home. Taking a grounded approach for its storytelling the OVA chooses to tackle the psychological effects war can have on a soldier. In doing so, it removes any fantastical elements present in other war stories in animes like fighting over ideologies, or having a singular advance piece of technology that puts the odd in a faction favors. Residing in a simple world where politics, and money drives the conflict around Shin Kazama being powerless against these forces.
The OVA is wonky in its pacing. Within 3 episodes each averaging about an hour in length. Two of the three episodes portray Shin as someone out of his element. Not hiding how much he hates the sense of war, and what it’s doing to him. These moments where Shin is confronted about his feelings toward fighting is where the characterization shines best. Showing stages of when he’s a pacifist, and refusing to accept what he has become as the result of the war. Not only will you get a picture of who Shin Kazama is from himself, but also what other around Shin feel about him. Making the human drama the centerpiece of the OVA.
When you do eventually get to the famous ariel fights Area 88 is famous for they have more weight attach to them. Spending time developing a bit of the supporting cast, and the history behind the base the anime is named after. Delving into the supporting cast mindset to explore how the stench of war has changed them forever. Showing the strong bonds between the comrades of Area 88 through some humorous exchanges. Highlighting the team sense of comradery with each other despite their tormented souls, and views on morality.
This OVA does have a villain in Shin Kazama best friend Satoru Kanazaki who betrays Shin to get everything he desires. Sleazily presented as he might be the OVA offers moments where he shows some humanity. Showing some level of remorse for betraying Shin adding food for thought in a otherwise simple character. Rokyo Tsugumo who is the center of a unwanted love triangle is given other things to do in the story than just waiting for Shin. She tries to deal with things sensibly, and is given her own moral dilemma which is handle well in the OVA.
The OVA biggest weakness is the weak romance. While watching the OVA I didn’t get a sense of a romantic connection between Shin Kazama, and his love interest Ryoko much. In a ironic turn, everything else revolving around that romance is actually handled better. One of those being a scene where Shin gets asked if he still believes Ryoko is waiting him. It’s a good scene since it gets across Shin affection for Ryoko. As individual characters Shin, and Ryoko are better than expected, but as a couple their romance storyline lacks any sparks, and chemistry to be on par with everything else the anime offers.
The Japanese voice acting wins by a long shot. While the English dub isn’t bad in any significant sense the voice work is notably weaker. In the English dub you have Chris Patton who voices Shin Kazama easily being the best voice actor in the English dub. He’s able to masterfully hide the jarring shift in Shin Kazama character going from a fish out of water to a cold blooded killer within the span of a single episode. However, Kaneto Shizawa who also voices Shin Kazama provides much more of a punch. Coming across more distraught, and cold compare to Chris Patton who withhold himself a bit in the more emotional scenes.
My biggest problem with the English dub is the supporting aren’t emotive enough. Doesn’t help they mostly play one note characters. Hilary Haag for example who plays Ryoko just sounds helplessly shy in every scene she’s in. In contrast to Sakiko Tamagawa who provides the Japanese voice for Ryoko sounds more concerning than shy in her performance. While the English dub is technically more accurate in portraying the different ethnicities of its cast. English voices are generally subdue better fitting the overall tone the OVA is going for. Whereas the Japanese voices can be over the top in places. However, the Japanese voice acting captures the emotions the best in their portrayals because they aren’t holding back like in the English dub.
Area 88 is hand-drawn by Studio Pierrot whom painstakingly go out of their way to animate the most realistic ariel fights possible. Changing up the scenarios to keep things interesting be it flying through a very narrow canyon opening to avoid radar detection, or trying not to crash into a giant steel wall during an assault on a enemy base. Going all out in showing airplanes being pierce apart in combat, tanks getting blown up, and at times showing pilots getting shot inside the plane. Putting on display a variety of different aircrafts. Through masterfully done camerawork you can easily see no shortcuts were taken during the action sequences in the OVA. Character designs are a bit cartoonish with their hairstyle, and wide arrange of colors. Thankfully it’s not distracting enough to take away from the drama.
The soundtrack in Area 88 is both awesome, and datedly cheesy in some of its choices. During the aerial fights the music is able to add a bit of tension to the proceedings. Thankfully director Hisayuki Toriumi knows when to use music so the soundtrack doesn’t come off as intrusive. While in the dramatic scenes it music can sound very hokey. Biggest standout in the soundtrack are both the opening, and themes. In both the English dub, and English sub version you’ll still get the opening theme “How Far To Paradise” in English sung by Derek Jackson which is pretty awesome rock song. “Kanashimi no Destiny” by Mio is the opposite being a slow, piano piece with some emotional vocals from Mio.
Another track, Sabaku no Illusion by Shima Kitahara is similar to “How Far To Paradise” in pumping you up to see the OVA, but lacks the same energy to match “How Far To Paradise”. “So Long My Love” also sung by Shima Kitahara is the second ending theme, and is a perfectly mellow tune to end the OVA on. Capturing the pleasant, and soft nature of the protagonist underscored by it sadden vocals.
Area 88 offers compelling characters, great aerial combat sequences, and theme exploration that’ll make you think about the various side effect of war long after its over. The ending will leave some conflicted, but it’s an appropriate end with everything wrapping up nicely, and the character arcs are completed. It’s an OVA I would highly recommend anyone checking out whether they want some good aerial fights, good drama, or both. Area 88 can deliver those things in stride in three episodes.
Originally I just wanted to watch some old anime, but apparently they turned out to be lost. This snowball into me trying to find other pieces of animation only to have similar results. So instead of being disappointed I went with researching, and putting a few lost anime titles together into a single post. Hope you enjoy a light history lesson on anime!
1917 & 1918 Animes: A Series of Lost FirstThe idea of seeing the earliest pieces of Japanese animation I’ve been told is a novel idea. I don’t think so since I like seeing how far any country’s filmmaking techniques have advanced either in live action, or in the realm of animation. Often time that’s difficult to do since film preservation wasn’t a priority during the early 20Th century, and old film reels weren’t properly cared for. Importance pieces of history are lost, like Vigathakumaran which is considered to be Malayalam first feature film, and King Kong Appears In Edo considered to be the first lost Kaiju film. So you want to know why I was unable to see a lot of these early animes?
One noteworthy lost anime title is one that premiered in January 1917 in Japan. No information, not even a title of it exist anywhere. Simply some sources whose credibility are questionable suggesting a anime premiered earlier than any other known at the time. This pdf file about 1917 anime would suggest the existence of something older than Dekobō shingachō ‒ Meian no shippai premiered beforehand. Given the fact the short film Katsudo Shashin has no confirm evidence suggesting it’s the oldest piece of animation according to author Jonathan Clements. This unknown film, assuming it actually still exist, could be the earliest known piece of Japanese animation. Discounting Katsudo Shashin that is.
The World of Power and Women (1933 Anime): First Animated Film Featuring Voiceovers
So early 20Th century anime history is lost to time. It’s a shame, but there’s no helping it. In doing so, I went ahead to try to find another important piece of anime history I could witness. Leading to into the discovery of this entry. Animation during the 1920s incorporated Benshi; Japanese performers whom provided live narration for silent films. It’s because of this that animes from the 1920s are difficult to follow when viewed today. In 1927, America released its first feature length talkie film titled The Jazz Singer, and somehow this encouraged Japanese film companies to start making them too. I wasn’t able to find any information, or article going into detail on how The Jazz Singer influence Japan other than that broad statement.
In 1931, Japanese film studio Shochiku released Madamu to Nyobo credited for being Japan first talkie. With the finical success of that movie famed anime director Kenzo Masaoka was commissioned to work on talkie film in anime. Working on the film for a little over a year, and since the profession of voice actors didn’t exist. Masoka casted well known actors at the time to help make the film a success. Thus, Kenzo Masaoka is credited for making the first anime talkie.
Just like the previous entry there are no known prints to have survive of this film. Other the one still which I can’t find any information on how it was discovered. There’s no information on how it could have possibly been lost to time. Considering the atomic bombs incident in Nagasaki, and Hiroshima it’s safe to say it’s probably due to that. So yes, the first anime talkie, and technically performances from the the first Seiyuus are lost to time as well.
Makunouchi Ippo Vs Joe Yabuki Simulation
So Ashita no Joe is one of my favorite manga of all times so you can imagine how the discovery of this peaked my interest. Bad news being it was a 3D animation only being shown to the mangaka of Ashita no Joe, and Hajime no Ippo along with a few other people. There’s some untranslated trivia on chapter 818 of Hajime no Ippo that shows Ippo winning. That’s about as much as I could gather about this since there’s not much information on it other than what’s on the Hajime no Ippo wiki. There were other blogs I found that talk about this, but almost all regurgitated the same information. From the stills, the 3D looks pretty poor, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it as a a huge Ashita no Joe fan. Why it hasn’t been release is up in the air.
Once again, little information on this one. Other than the fact there’s a teaser trailer for the movie I wasn’t able to find any other information on it. Not even any official promotional material has been made available assuming it went into production. Toei Animation was apparently handling the animation since in a 2007 pdf file La Rose de Versailles Toei had plans to release it that year. The file is in Japanese so I basically went to Wikipedia, copy the Japanese title of Rose of Versailles, and search for it in the file which it did come up in. So I don’t know Japanese, or how know to read it at best I’m guessing what the information actually says.
No information on why it was cancel either just leaving me to speculate out of thin air. The last confirm information I could find in English was from Anime News Network where it basically said it was still in pre-production. I’ve also read in the comment section on Odoruna.com where user ferichan claims that Riyoko Ikdea did an interview at a Italian convention talking about the movie. Unfortunately they provided no links to it so I can’t confirm if that’s true either. I never seen the original Rose of Versailles anime, but if this movie came out it would have likely made me want to check out the original series that much more.
Chingo Muchabei (1971 Anime Series): The Last Black & White Anime
Here’s a particular anime series that is significant for the sole fact it was the last anime to be aired on Japanese television in black & white. Chingo Muchabei was based on the manga of the same name by Kenji Morita which is a gag comedy following a Ronin who fights with a Umbrella. While the series was in production during the late 1960s at a time the anime industry made the switched to color animation. Resulting in it airing 4 years after it finished it production. Being broadcasted as quickly as possible since fewer, and fewer people were watching black & white anime at this time.
Would you believe Chingo Muchabei was originally conceived as a standard anime series before it was broken up into smaller chunks because it was ahead of its production schedule. This makes the mindset behind it’s scheduled released puzzling as well as other things surrounded it. If it was ahead production of its schedule why was it released 4 years later after it was completed. Questions like this will probably remain a mystery for Western anime fans. As for a DVD release of this series is listed on YesAsia for the low price of 200 dollars without English subtitles. One can hope some kind soul can fan sub the series since I wouldn’t mind seeing it. It’s my inner enthusiast for old animation that seeks it!
This entry owes a big thank you to Cartoon Research for providing me the material for this entry. They not only provided the most in depth piece on it I could find, but they also have a page dedicated to lost pieces of anime media. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in reading more about lost pieces of anime media.
I would say the research was the hardest part, but honestly it was trying to find more information on these lost animes that was harder. If not for the fact there were sites, and bloggers covering it I would have been defeated, scrapped this post, and called it a day. A lot of information I found on different sites regurgitated the same information so attempting to add my own spin on things was also a challenge.
Not only that, but there also other entries I had to scrapped because they weren’t technically lost. Some of the animes I learned about I did discovered were released on DVD, but not officially subtitled in English so they technically aren’t lost. I only included Chingo Muchabei for the reasons I stated already, and that’s pretty significant I feel to share. I am amaze at the amount of lost media there is. Not just in anime, but in just about all forms in media you can expect. Doraemon for instance has enough missing media that anyone can make an entire blog post dedicated to it if they did the research.
I’ll call it here for now. I also owe a huge thanks to all the sources I used in this post, and their hard work in gathering this information. Without them these animes would have definitely lost to time. Sayonora folks, and see you in the next one!
A Letter To Momo is about the title character Momo recovering from her father’s death, and her mother’s decision to move their family from Tokyo to a remote island. That’s about it to be honest. Well, there is also the whole thing revolving around three Yokai/goblins who are tasked to help Momo cope with her lost. If you’re expecting a drama to tackle the themes of lost, and death you’ll be disappointed. It’s leisure pace makes it more of a relaxing slice of a life than a reflection on hard hitting themes. At the cost depth, the movie remains simple with little added to the premise.
Anything supernatural is given the bare minimum development. It’s good enough to make sense within the story, but lacking in the way that it has little importance in the story overall. The three yokai/goblins in the movie primarily joke around causing mischief to Momo dislike. Each of the three yokai/goblins have distinct personalities with an interesting backstory that is touched on. Their responsibilities on the other hand isn’t touched on quite as much. The methods the yokai use to help Momo cope are a mixed in results; one making a point to have fun, and the other mischievous deed feel pointless. There’s also the supporting characters that hardly influence the movie other than Momo having to become brave. Fine for Momo character since she is a properly developed character by the end, but everyone surrounding her feels more like tools in Momo growth.
Being character driven resulted in a story that has the basics down from setting up the conflict, slowly working towards the protagonist improving herself, and eventually overcoming that problem. It’s just the steps of getting from one point to the other feel disconnected. One sequence involves Momo taking two Yokai to look for food resulting in a chase scene of the three running away from wild boars after the Yokai stole their babies. This chase last a long time adding little to the overarching story. Scenes like these are commonplace in A Letter To Momo. While they are amusing they add up to give an overall feeling the film doesn’t much to offer in theme exploration.
The climax is something of a anomaly since the main conflict is Momo having to accept her father death. Everything before it no matter how sloppily done was intended to be part of her growth. An illness pops up irregularly in the movie, and a expectation that Momo will finally be strong enough to move on if someone else important to her dies. That doesn’t happen opting for a happy that kinda makes sense, and on the other hand is confusing. It felt like writer/director Hiroyuki Okiura wanted to be make a light hearted movie while tackling a serious subject matter, but somewhere in the process he lost his clear direction. Hence the fade to black in the climax that comes out of nowhere, and leaves some questions unanswered. That moment best describe the movie in a nutshell; it has an interest in touching on death, and dealing with it, but not directly dancing around the idea occasionally.
The voice acting from both the Japanese, and English dub cast are wonderful. From the two, I would say go with the English subs. I prefer the English voice of Momo played by Amanda Pace perfectly capturing Momo awkwardness, and inner turmoil. However, where the English dub misses where it counts the most are the voices for the three yokais. In the Japanese cast, Cho (yes, that’s his full name), Koichi Yamadera, and Toshiyuki Nishida whom voice the three main yokai enunciate their characters eccentricities. Their performances, much like their characters, feel exaggerated, and out of this world like they should. While in the English dub, the voice actors downplay the yokais in their performance removing their otherworldly personality. Subduing the supernatural beings did the English dub no favors in the long run since what made them stand out from humans was gone.
Animated by Production I.G. the animation leans more on the more realistic side. Sparingly using 3D, the cel animation has a nice, clean, smooth movement throughout. The lack of background characters is noticeable whenever Momo walks outside in broad daylight on the island, but other than that the animation has little faults to it. This doesn’t mean it’s a spectacle either since most of the activity in the film are mundane. The few times where the fluid animation gets to shine is either during a chase sequence, or when multiple characters are being hyperactive.
Hiroyuki Okiura shines through more as a director than he does a writer. One instance being his usage of cinematography. There’s a scene early on in the movie perfectly establishing how shy Momo is with her remaining silent for several minutes as family around her joyously talk to each other. Okiura doesn’t draw attentions to his character more subtle traits through dialogue which is appreciated. Characters subtly grow, and change without it being told to you directly. His eye for details creates a realistic backdrop through soft, and dim colors in his environments. Providing lovely scenery shots of the ocean, and the small island town. Also, seeing our characters have a change of clothes throughout the movie, a detail that is ignored by a lot animation, is a nice a touch, even if it’ll go largely unnoticed.
In terms of animation the standout sequence is easily in the climax with dozen upon dozen of different yokais being animated, meshing together to basically form one giant umbrella, and with multiple moving parts. My description of the sequence can’t do it justice since there’s more to it like the flowing hair in the wind, the raindrops splitting apart when hitting a monster, the different individuals monsters moving around frequently, and other small details that would be difficult to capture through mere text. No other sequence in the entire movie comes close matching this impressive feat of animation. The music is composed by Mina Kubota comprising tracks that are soothing, whimsical, and calm. It’s a nice soundtrack to play with the nice visuals.
If half an hour was cut from A Letter To Momo I would have favored it a bit more. By lingering around too much the intended effect it wanted to have become lost to me. Sure it’s a solid movie with amusing moments, and good character growth, but there’s also not enough meat to the overarching story that made it feel it was worth it’s two hour run time. The final result of the movie isn’t what it could have been. I came out confuse by it execution even though the intent was clear. In the end A Letter To Momo is a solid anime.