They are by far the best anime! We counts down the best anime to come out all the time, including the likes of Anime Sanjuushi: Aramis no Bouken, Glass no Usagi, Kamui no Ken, and more!
50: Anime Sanjuushi: Aramis no Bouken
English: The Three Musketeers: Aramis the Adventure
Japanese: アニメ三銃士 アラミスの冒険
MAL Score: 6.59
Aramis fell off her horse and received the aid of a man named Francois. They fell in love with each other at first sight and spent their time happily for a while. Francois was killed by Manson and the Ironmask’s people, so Aramis swore revenge. Then she went to Paris to be a musketeer.
1 year after the end of TV series, D’Artagnan had a drink with 3 musketeers and found that Jussac and the Cardinal’s Guards harrassed a woman in a tavern in Paris. Of couse, they fought Jussac and the Cardinal’s guards and won. On his way to home, D’Artagnan witnessed the woman whom he rescued from Jussac about to jump into the river, and rescued her again. D’Artagnan brought her to home but she disappeared soon. After a day, D’Artagnan heard that the woman was killed last night and Rochefort and Cardinal’s guards arrested him for murder because his hat was found by the woman’s body. Aramis discovers that the story has a link with Catherine de Médicis, and launches out an investigation. This one will bring back her to the castle of her beloved where she will have to face Pizzaro to protect a dangerous document.
49: Glass no Usagi
English: Glass Rabbit
MAL Score: 6.62
Toshiko Ei and her family are residents of Tokyo. Her father is a respected and skilled glass craftsmen so the family makes a good living. However, the Ei family soon finds itself having to suffer through many tragic hardships as a result of World War II.
Constructing a story is what “The Glass Rabbit” has tried as well. Sadly, it did not really succeed.
The movie is about Toshiko, the daughter of a skillful guy who runs a glass factory. He is doing quite well, the family is obviously happy, but war is already present in their lives. And when it finally breaks out, Toshiko is thrown into a series of trials she has to overcome – or, well, a series of deaths and betrayals.
The sad thing is, the first half of the movie is actually quite decent. It’s not so much about Toshiko but rather about the whole family trying to cope with the harsh reality of war and persevering somehow. The have to cut expenses, they have to move around, they have to separate a few times, they have to continue their life just like before – all that has made me somehow interested in what would happen next and there are only a few things to complain about, but then the movie starts to get worse.
It does so right at the point where the focus shifts from the family in general to Toshiko in particular and her long path of “suffering”. With each death you notice more how it’s all about shock value, as if there wasn’t enough suffering before. There are some points in the movie where it basically says “Look, it’s war, we need to be as cruel as we can get”. Near the end the movie seems to forget all that made it watchable (much like it forgot the titular glass rabbit) and when the war finally comes to an end it’s not only a sign of relief for the characters but for the viewers as well.
There isn’t much to say otherwise. This is neither a new nor a big productoin, so you won’t notice both the animation (which there isn’t much of) and the sound. The characters are pretty one-dimensional for the most part, as you may have already guessed. Many of them are background characters anyway, serving either the purpose of dying or bullying Toshiko. Really, the only thing of actual worth in this movie is its historical value. Which there isn’t much of, unfortunately. Oh, and the movie gets the message of “war is super bad, never think otherwise” across.
To sum things up, this is not a good movie. Your time is better spent with things like “Grave of the Fireflies” which may be not a good movie as well, but at least it’s of actual value, since the movie and the novel it was based on were born of survivor’s guilt. Or you can even watch “Chocchan’s Story” instead which is not good as well, but at least it shows people who were relatively well-off during the war and didn’t suffer horrible tragedies. This fact alone is pretty refreshing.
Basically, the story’s about Toshiko Ei who lives in Tokyo with her mother, father, older brothers, and two little sisters. Her father works in a glass factory and makes her a rabbit made out of glass (which is pretty much a MacGuffin used to symbolize the happy memories they had before the war went out of control). Soon, her brothers are drafted to work as soldiers in the war and once the destruction comes sneaking up on them, they have to evacuate in case they get hit by firebombs. Not everyone in her family is happy about the sudden changes in their lives, however. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter, as Toshiko loses the majority of her family members one by one, and wonders how she’ll be able to survive in a war torn country with little to no infrastructure.
Sound familiar? Yeah, one reviewer I know who also saw this movie accused it of being a blatant rip-off of Who’s Left Behind (and really, you can see the similarities). While I wouldn’t accuse it of being this, as there are probably a lot of people who suffered the same tragedies as Toshiko did, the presentation of this movie is rather mediocre. It really doesn’t have much personality or charm or themes other than the usual war is bad scenario. The animation isn’t much to write home about, and some of the characters looked a bit off model at points. While I did like the music, it was rather dull. However, I definitely appreciated some details in this anime. For one thing, I learned in my Modern Japan class that after World War II, Japan made a new constitution preventing them from ever entering any wars, along with never having an Army, Navy, or any other military-related government. This movie reminds us of exactly that, and they at least get those details right, which definitely gives me the right to give the movie some credit. I also liked the little twist where a little baby saw the airplanes about to fire at them before they actually attacked. That was pretty cool.
Admittedly though, some of the things that happened in this movie really baffled me, especially since this is based on a real person’s life. For one thing, Toshiko’s little sisters, unhappy with living with their relatives, suddenly decide to GO BACK TO THEIR HOUSE ALL ON THEIR OWN and choose to stay there, even though it’s practically a death sentence. Questions: how did they manage to get back? Did they take a train? And if they did, how did they get the money for it in a country where it’s impossible to receive any kind of monetary income amongst internal turmoil? Are they even old enough to even know how to travel a long distance by foot and with the proper means? What? Yeah, I’m completely flummoxed. That was a pretty stupid decision on their part, and I have to wonder if kids in Japan are trained to be really self-sufficient, way before they even get put in situations where they should be self-sufficient. Also, did people really build makeshift houses like that back then? I don’t remember my Modern Japan class talking about how people pitched in and built houses like that (though I know people made makeshift houses, cars, and even restaurants during an earthquake that hit Mexico in 1985 when the police and government decided to hide under a rock instead of help the citizens). Speaking of characters, admittedly they’re rather one dimensional. We’re constantly being reminded that Toshiko is strong, but we don’t see her grow or develop, even though she does show some weakness, which I can appreciate. I did like the slice of life moments, especially the scenes where she befriends a goat and receives a lot of support from her friends after tragedy strikes. I liked those little moments, as things like that really do happen in real life. But no, I didn’t cry at this. This movie’s a bit too cheesy for me.
If you’re not into sad movies, war movies, or generic melodrama, give it a miss. If you want something to kill some time with, this’ll give you some solid entertainment.
48: Kamui no Ken
MAL Score: 6.63
A young boy named Jiro finds his mother and sister murdered in his home. Falsely accused of the crime, he flees from his village and meets a priest named Tenkai, who has him kill a rogue ninja named Tarouza. After fulfilling that task, Jiro undergoes training to become a master assassin. Many years later, Jiro finds out that he was an orphan and his real father was Tarouza, who had worked for Tenkai until he aborted his mission when he fell in love with an Ainu woman. The young ninja discovers that the Shogunate was to retrieve the lost treasure of Captain Kidd and use it to once again isolate Japan from the rest of the world. Using the clues that Tarouza had kept secret, Jiro—along with the female ninja Oyuki and a slave named Sam—travels to Russia and America to search for the treasure in hopes of using it to extract revenge from Tenkai.
The first thing of note is the outstanding soundtrack. It’s a unique mixture of electro rock and funky synth tunes, merged with traditional instruments and spoken sound effects. If you’ve seen Miyazaki’s highly acclaimed The Wind Rises, you’ll remember the amazing train scene with spoken sound effects. Kamui uses a lot of that and it sounds cool. The music also blends in perfectly – when Jiro is with the Native Americans there’s even a pan flute in there.
The second thing that woos the viewer is the animation. There are a number of impressive scenes, but arguably the best ones are the ones where characters and objects dissipate into colorful particles that fly around and glitter like in a kaleidoscope. All of this is not that surprising when we look at the production list. Made by Madhouse – one of the oldest studios that constantly puts out high quality content. Directed by Rintaro, also behind jaw dropping visual masterpieces like the Adieu Galaxy Express 999. Key animation by Kawajiri and Takashi Nakamura, whose hands touched a number of extremely cool and stylish animated works.
The third thing is historical accuracy and here we get to the part that seasoned viewers might appreciate a bit more. By no means is Kamui hardcore accurate, but the environments of 19th century Japan and America are pretty believable. The Ainu and Native American tribes are a bit romanticized of course, but it’s quite pleasant to observe their habits and attires and compare them to the Japanese.
Another interesting thing to observe is the clash of ideology, culture and religion of the time. The main clash is obviously between the Shogunate and the rising imperial forces that happened during the Boshin war. A more subtle one is between the Japanese and the indigenous Ainu tribes. This being portrayed at all is kind of a big deal, because the Japanese are a bit shy and embarrassed when it comes to depicting their native tribes, because of the complicated ways in which they were “assimilated” (unlike Americans who like to flash around with the heritage of their natives).
The religious clash is kinda connected to the cultural one – Buddhism VS the worship of local deities. It’s a common theme, often present in anime and manga too. If you look closely you can draw the following parallels: Tenkai’s face = Buddha = the Devil’s incarnate. It’s not uncommon to see in Japanese literature the tales of Buddhism spreading from Korea or China and violently trying to phase out the local deities. One of the most fascinating depictions of this clash can be found in the Sun chapter of Phoenix, a most influential manga by Osamu Tezuka.
The Dagger of Kamui is a pretty interesting work indeed, although it’s not as well defined and polished as let’s say Princess Mononoke, on which Miyazaki worked meticulously to atone himself for Nausicaa (which he was forced to do a quick adaptation when the original manga was just starting out). Neither is it as striking as works like Ninja Scroll, but even action fans shouldn’t be disappointed as there is enough slashing and slicing to go around.
He’s framed for the murder of his mother and sister and forced to flee from his village and is taken in by a monk named Tenkai whom gives Jiro the task of training to become a ninja.
The art style is very well suited for the anime and the ninja fight scenes are done quite well. The musical score is truly something else, it’s something like a fusion of 80s rock and traditional Japanese music and in a lot of scenes it does a really good job of setting the mood.
Over the duration of the story, Jiro learns about the (then) small world of feudal Japan and the remainder of the modern world. He even meets some significant historical figures along the way.
One of the themes touched on by this movie is the question that the Japanese likely asked themselves during this era.. that is, “If we become a modern nation, will we lose something in the process of doing so?”
If you’re into action anime, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re into historical drama, you’ll enjoy this one.
47: Chocchan Monogatari
MAL Score: 6.65
This feature length film is based on autobiography of Cho “Chocchan” Kuroyanagi, who is better known as the mother of an actress Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.
The story starts in pre-World War 2 Japan when Chocchan marries violinist despite the objection of both of their families. They live in poverty, have three children and are happy together. Any misfortune they face with a smile. But new obstacle for their happiness comes when the war breaks out and Chocchan’s husband must leave for the front…
Anime is gorgeous. Beautiful and sad story about the war, about the hope, about the mother’s love. I used to cry when I saw all power of woman’s feelings.
Though the theme is serious, however, to watch this story will be interesting both for children and teenagers and adults.
46: Akage no Anne: Green Gables e no Michi
Japanese: 赤毛のアン グリーンゲーブルズへの道
MAL Score: 6.67
A recap film of the first 6 episodes of the TV series.
Anne is an orphan full of imagination. When she arrives at her new home she learns that sometimes you have to be a sensible person too; at the same time her unique character changes, or at least attracts, the people around her. The story covers Anne’s growth from about eleven to seventeen years old as she makes friends, goes to school and studies. At a difficult point in her life, Anne will have to make a hard choice and perhaps find a new dream.
MAL Score: 6.67
One night during the 18th century, deep in the mountains, a man loses his way and comes across a small shrine. As he enters, the space transforms into a room of a different world.
Writing and Direction by Shuhei Morita |
Plot of the short film revolves around a lone traveler is confronted by unusual spirits in an abandoned shrine where he seeks shelter in the stormy night amidst a silent forest. The humility and the humbleness of an honest human heart are depicted vividly in this short film, despite the hardships. The artwork and animation belong to a bit of different category. The CGI Graphic animation and the special effects in this short anime film are praiseworthy.
Genre (s) – Comedy | A Happy Ending | Runtime – 24 minutes approximately (fractions excluded)
Seen via english sub
Part 2 of the 5 part Short Peace package
Ahcha Gahcha I love that catchy little song!
Aside from the little song you got to love the c.p.u. animation. It is more digital then regular animation. A 3d outlook if you will. Another aspect of love is you never know what will happen.
Normally i don’t like japanese audio… this time i loved it!
However, one draw back is the intro is not quite related to this.
sincerely your reviewer,
would have appreciated this to be mini series. Something with more of those catchy songs and animation style. This anime certainly wasn’t ‘broken’ (inside joke)
44: Bakumatsu no Spasibo
MAL Score: 6.69
Based on the real life events around Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin, a Russian admiral noted for his diplomatic missions to Japan and China, and the signing of the Treaty of Shimoda in 1855.
43: Furusato Japan
English: Japan, Our Homeland
MAL Score: 6.75
It was the spring of 1956, roughly 10 years after the end of the Pacific War. A new teacher named Rieko Sakamoto is assigned to an elementary school in Kiba, downtown Tokyo. At the same time, Shizu Miyanaga, a transfer student from Kobe, joins the class #4 of the 6th grade. Shizu is a bright, pretty girl who dreams to become a singer. Blessed with both athletic and academic abilities, Shizu quickly becomes the center of everyone’s attention in the class. Akira, the son of a joiner and also the class president, starts to develop a special feeling for Shizu…
Those who are least responsible: the children. Those generations which were either too young to influence what was happening, and those who had yet to be born. They may have escaped the fighting and bloodshed, but they have still been left with nothing. Furusato Japan is a film about a group of children living ten years after the Second World War in an impoverished district of Tokyo. Still toddlers by the time of the Pacific Victory, one cannot place any of the blame with them for Japan’s crimes during the war yet it becomes clear that the struggle to rebuild the country will be their cross to bear.
Though the main cast are all children, for them childhood is only part-time; all of them must assist their parents with their work. Whether it is lead character Akira helping his father by transporting wood around town in a trolley, to Gonzo serving drinks and clearing away bottles in his father’s bar, no-one seems to be getting away easy. That is until a new girl arrives in town. Shizu is originally from Kobe and the daughter of a wealthy family. While many of the boys find her pretty to look at they are shy to admit it in front of each other and poke fun at her strange accent and wealthy background. However, all are moved by her wonderful singing voice. Her singing is so good that the new class music teacher considers her a shoe-in for the school choir, which she plans to run in a national event for the first time.
All that seems like such a co-incidence, one might expect there would be something in it. Particularly when the music teacher is introduced as a “singer who could have been a professional vocalist” and Shizu says her dream is to become a singer. However there is nothing in it and it is a mere co-incidence. It’s the first of a few incidences of sloppy writing in Furusato Japan. Particularly because it could easily have been worked around without creating any problems with the rest of the story; but because they don’t even mention that fact it is a co-incidence it feels more than a tad awkward.
Other examples of sloppy writing come in various plot twists which occur without any foreshadowing and feel derailing. In one instance the lack of any hints about it is justifiable, but in the other it is completely unreasonable. Attempts are made to get away with it by characters offering some explanations but these seem like token gestures put in place as an excuse for something the writers knew wouldn’t sit with the audience.
Another sign of weakness in the Furusato’s writing is the script, which is pedestrian at its best and clichéd and obvious at its worst. The fault for this may lie with those who wrote the subtitles (Medgirl) but whoever is responsible should be ashamed of themselves; characters never say anything original or clever; they respond to what happens by either stating it plainly (and not bluntly). On other occasions they insert unnecessary exposition into the dialogue, which attempts to explain what the audience would know already if they had only been paying attention. This gets quite irritating after a while and leaves one with the feeling that if only they had tried just a little bit harder, this film could have been so much better.
Because for all the faults I have described here, there is plenty to show that the writers gave this project quite a bit of thought. On the surface this film has a rather ordinary storyline and a terrible script, but what lies beneath is a complex ecosystem of symbolism dealing with a subject far more interesting than the lives of a few teenagers- a picture of Japan’s economic development during the post-war period. Indeed there is much that is remarkable about this subject, given that in the space of only forty years (which means that these characters would be starting to reach retirement age) the country was transformed from a war torn wreck into the second most powerful economy in the World. Much effort has been made to capture the post-war feeling in the characters. For example, two boys –Akira and Hiroshi- are said to be capable of entering a state High School, even though a small percentage of students get high enough grades to do so. Hiroshi is eager to try it out, representing Japan’s desire to strive and improve through hard work, but Akira wants to go to the local school, because he does not want to abandon his roots.
These two desires, which at times conflict with each other, are the two key themes in the film. The desire to rebuild and develop to become prosperous; and the sometimes desire to retain a national identity and the traditions of the past. Furusato Japan concludes that the second is important on an intellectual level while clearly portraying the necessity of the first. Another example of this is Akira’s family heirloom, a sword which identifies them as the direct descendents of a Samurai Warrior. Akira’s family do not own a telephone- they must instead use their landlords phone, even for business calls. This causes both the landlord and the customers some irritation and it is decided that they must buy a new phone. The problem is they need money to do it- and so the prospect is raised of selling the family heirloom. The solution to the problem makes the films position quite clear.
It could be argued that this is a rather simplistic story and that does not show this film to have much depth, but to include every example would be an exercise in futility. There are some who would say that one can see links like these if one wants to see them. That claim I refute; the sheer abundance of these allusions and metaphors is not the result of wishful thinking or coincidence. It is clearly something quite deliberate. Having said that, if one is unwilling to look beyond the narrative then there is little I can recommend you about this film. The dialogue is weak and the story is not particularly original either.
The characters are not particularly special either; the only member of the cast who stands out is Gon. His difficult family background and anti-social behaviour seem like rare qualities in an anime character and there is something about him which is complicated and real. One development of his character is poorly explained and this leaves us with a rather muddled picture of him, but this is quite refreshing when the other characters are so straightforward and predictable.
The film does not score well for presentation either, and in many respects is weak. The studio responsible for the production, WAO World, is not particularly well known. In fact only two items in its back catalogue stand out: Speed Grapher, which was largely the work of Studio Gonzo, and the rather infamous Mars of Destruction. History aside, the art and animation in this film is typical of what one normally gets from a studio that isn’t well established: generic character designs, not terribly well animated and predictable cinematography. It does the job, and manages to avoid looking awful but there are plenty of things out there that are prettier and more exciting. One quality which is worthy of praise is the use of 3D visuals. In particular there is one scene early on in the film where a bridge is depicted in accelerated time, illustrating the way society has changed since the Second World War.
While the visuals are functional, the audio is largely painful. As discussed the script was weak to begin with, but the delivery is utterly flat. Whether the characters encounter happiness or tragedy, whether they are with friends or with their teachers, everything line is delivered in the same one size fits all packaging. Even if one cannot understand what is said, one can still hear the apathy (or the absence of talent) in the voice actors. However, much like the visuals it is something which can be overcome. The soundtrack on the other hand is absolutely dreadful, which is rather problematic given its importance in the story. The film features many renditions of songs performed by the same Children’s orchestra in quick succession, which leaves the impression of stalling for time- particularly as those sequences featured random images with limited animation.
Indeed there is much about Furusato Japan which is done poorly or is unremarkable, yet simply because it has some substance behind it, you cannot bring yourself to hate it. Daring to be different goes a long way in a medium which at times seems so formulaic it is mathematical. Furusato Japan on the other hand is art. Not a great masterpiece from the past which thousands of people queue up to see; rather a slightly ugly modern art piece which a few people in turtlenecks and odd hats will gather to talk about in a cafe over coffee.
Or to put it another way, the film is much like the period it presents. It is a bit scruffy round the edges, and a bit impoverished. The production has a lot of faults and there isn’t much in it yet. ‘yet’. Because there is something intriguing beneath the textbook plot, the ugly character drawings, and awful soundtrack. There is something here that can be salvaged. Think of it like this- money can fix the second two. Writing improves with experience and with time. But artistic vision is something you either got or you don’t got. And Furusato Japan has definitely got it.
42: Anne no Nikki
English: The Diary of Anne Frank
MAL Score: 6.80
Amsterdam, June 12, 1942. Anne celebrates her 13th birthday and begins her diary, which she calls “Kitty”. Hiding for two years from the German threat, the young girl writes about her idealistic views on the world, her ambitions, her fears and her first love, Peter.
It was surprising to learn that an anime of Anne Frank’s diary had been made—by Madhouse, no less, one of my favorite studios. I’d known about Anne’s story for a while, but I avoided it because I feared that it might be too depressing for me to handle. Regardless, my curiosity for this especially unique adaptation eventually got the best of me, and I relented.
As expected, this story was difficult to watch. Even seemingly peaceful moments are underpinned by anxiety and melancholy that keeps you from ever feeling at ease. The presence of the Nazis encroaching the lives of Anne and her family are always felt even when they’re not seen. And Anne and her family weren’t the only victims of this time. There were countless other families and individuals across central-Europe who were made to endure similar struggles. It all ultimately begs the questions: Why did this have to happen? How could such paranoid hatred develop?
A lot of care was put into the production of Anne no Nikki. The character designs matched their real-life counterparts, and the animation was often inbetweened on twos, resulting in a lifelike fluidity atypical of anime animation. The soundtrack was minimalist, lightly enhancing the atmosphere of particular moments without being a distraction.
Furthermore, I appreciated the subtlety of the directing. People are portrayed as historical figures rather than as characters. A naturalistic approach is taken that resists the temptation to exaggerate for the sake of dramatic effect. The sedate pacing might be trying for less patient viewers, but a more energetic portrayal wouldn’t have rung true to the actual events that this adaptation drew from.
If I had to dig deep for a flaw, I’d say that there was an occasional tinge of sentimentality, which, considering the strong emotions that were already present, didn’t feel necessary. Despite this, the heart and salient moral lesson that Anne no Nikki paints more than compensates for any apparent flaws.
The story doesn’t seem to be great at all- big parts of te diary are missing- and somehow, I dont think these parts coul be replaced. No, these Anime is not good enough with these parts missing.
The art was just awful, no other way to explain it.
Wow. I was definitely surprised here. I didn’t think an anime about Anne Frank could have such a beautiful soundtrack, a soundtrack that comes just in the right moment, and shows some hidden feelings that you cannot just explain.
I think here’s the best thing in this anime. They managed showing the life of a teenage girl breaking out to pieces. They managed showing the way she felt, the way she thought. They made it all just, wonderful.
Anyway, I think Its a good anime to watch- but can’t replace her original diary, though.
Okay, first off the story! Wow! So much is wrong! And a lot of things are downplayed way too much. Like Anne’s and Petter’s romance, Anne’s friends, Anne’s problems with her mother, the friction between the van Daan’s and the Franks, also that they all knew each other before coming! The helpers are also really downplayed, that really bothered me. They only showed Meip doing things for them, even when Meip comes over she came with Bep. I feel like I’m really disliking this for how much I know, but it’s a problem, there’s just so much that’s wrong and it’s really hard to get into to boot! I’m going to give the story a soiled three.
The art… it was better with the pictures on the wall than on the characters. The best was with the Franks, but even with them, I kept getting confused who was who when they weren’t talking. The van Daan’s could’ve been better, Mr. van Daan was a bit too fat, and Mrs. van Daan was too skinny, she’s a bit of a plump woman. Petter is alright though, I guess. Mr. Dussel, okay side track moment! Fun fact, Dussel in German means Nincompoop! Okay, back to the review! He was way too fat and looked nothing like his real-life counterpart. With Meip, she looked a bit too much like the Franks, only thing different is basically the hair color. The art was very underwhelming, considering I’ve seen movies that are older than this one with better art. I’m giving this a 2.
Sound, there isn’t much to say I guess. I felt like the voice actors were really lacking though. Also, the ost isn’t anything I would listen too, it’s really meh and forgettable. Although it wasn’t horrible so I’ll give this a 4.
Character… I wasn’t impressed, especially with the Anne Frank. She was a normal girl! She loved movies, she loved to travel, she loved ice skating, and she loved the outdoors. She was very hot-headed and very sweet, she loved romance! And she came out as a very bland character, which is really disappointing to me. Margot, they didn’t do much about her, even going to hiding was really downplayed with how much in danger she was in. Everyone else is basically just there. At least they did attempt to show how close Anne and Otto were. I’m giving this a 1.
My enjoyment… well it took me two days to finish this movie, that’s pretty bad. It was really hard for me to get into, and I wish I could like this, but I just can’t. I’m giving it a 3 and an overall 3.
With all this said, I am happy this was made, as it shows that they tried to do something. It’s very rare to see Jews in anime at all, which kinda makes me sad. Cause I like to be included, I’m not religious I am Jewish by blood. So I hope that Japan tries to bring in more things like this I guess. Thank you for reading, I hope this helps and have a wonderful day.
MAL Score: 6.80
A short puppet animation movie by Kazuhiko Watanabe.
The animation itself has a rustic feel to it, thanks to the use of the paper puppets and layout. I think this gave a nice aura to the story and felt visually pleasing while at the same time it felt like being thrown into a time machine viewing such, what would now be considered, a simple method of animation. Though when thinking about it, an anime of this quality being made back then would have taken up a lot of work and time. So if anything it adds to the value of this short movie.
The characters were all there, from the Bamboo cutter to the three princes…? (not too sure what to call them) and they all played their part well, staying true to the story. So I had no fault there. The voice acting fit very well for each of the characters as well.
The music used was very “classical”. Only a few moments went without music. Majority of the adoption contained ongoing music piece which would change in tune and tempo to help set the mood.
The only “fault” that I could find is my lack in knowledge of the Japanese language. Thankfully, I know the tale quite well, so I knew what was going on. But it wouldn’t hurt to find a version with subtitles – maybe in a couple of years one will pop up.
Overall I enjoyed this short little movie. I’m glad after so many years it is up for viewing. You’ll really feel like you’re back in your childhood watching really old school Disney shorts that would play before the actual movie. With a vibe of a children’s puppet show. If you have 26 minutes to spare I suggest giving this a watch, it’s an enjoyable view even with the lack of subtitles. Though I do suggest to watch one of the other adaptions first so you can grasp what is going on.
40: Hi no Tori: Houou-hen
English: Phoenix: Karma Chapter
Japanese: 火の鳥 鳳凰編
MAL Score: 6.85
Akanemaru, a skilled sculptor, sets out to find the muse for his masterpiece, the legendary immortal bird Phoenix. However, on his journey, he encounters unexpected trouble when he runs into Gaou, a one-eyed, one-armed bandit. Despite Akanemaru’s friendly demeanor, Gaou, who harbors animosity toward the world as a ruthless man, attacks and robs him.
As they go their separate ways, the unfortunate incident fades into oblivion. Years later, Akanemaru is forced to accept a new assignment and abandon his dream, while Gaou is stricken with sudden misfortune—a twist of fate that will change both their lives forever. But little do they know that these new circumstances will eventually lead them to cross paths once more: this time as rivals.
Set in Japan’s Nara period, Hi no Tori: Houou-hen explores the fragile balance between action and consequence as it follows the lives of two men who must inevitably confront the responsibilities of their choices.
কিছুদিন ধরে আমাকে এক নেশায় পেয়েছে। ৮০-৯০ দশকের Madhouse এর OVA দেখছি। তখন খুজতে গিয়ে এই OVA সিরিজটার সন্ধান পাই। এটি বিখ্যাত মাঙ্গাকা Osamu Tezuka রচিত মাঙ্গার আডাপ্টেসন। মাঙ্গাটির প্রতি ভলুমে একটি করে গল্প আছে। একেকটি গল্পের সেটিং সম্পূর্ণ আলাদা। তবে গল্পগুলোর মধ্যে যোগসূত্র স্থাপন করেছে “Hi no Tori” বা “Immortal Phoenix” এর আবির্ভাব।
এর আগেও অবশ্য এইটার খোঁজ পেয়েছিলাম, তখন ম্যাল এ লো স্কোর দেখে আর আগাই নি। এবার সাহস করে দেখলাম। ভাগ্যিস দেখলাম!! এটার স্কোর এত কম হতেই পারে না। কেন?? কারন এতে আছে দৃষ্টিনন্দন আর্ট, সুথিং মিউসিক, আর সর্বোপরি চিন্তা উদ্রেককারী ম্যাচিওর গল্প। একেকটি OVA শেষ করার পর আপনি অবশ্যই কিছুক্ষণ গভীর চিন্তায় ডুবে যাবেন, গল্পের পিছনের অন্তর্নিহিত দর্শনের খোঁজে।
OVA 1 [Houou-hen (Karma Chapter)]: সারাজীবন দুষ্কর্ম করেও একটিমাত্র ভালো কাজের সুফল যেমন পাওয়া যায়, তেমনি একটিমাত্র অমার্জনীয় অপরাধের সাজা থেকেও মানুষ মুক্তি পায় না। এই শিক্ষাটি আপনি এই OVA থেকে পাবেন। ৩টির মধ্যে এইটা সবচেয়ে বেশি Thought provoking।
OVA 2 [Yamato-hen (Chapter of Yamato)]: রোমান্টিক ফ্যান্টাসির আড়ালে পাবেন আরেকটি অসাধারন দর্শন। এটার এন্ডিংটা আমার খুব পছন্দের।
OVA 3 [Uchuu-hen (Space Chapter)]: স্পেস ড্রামা। ৩টার মধ্যে আমার সবচেয়ে প্রিয়। অসাধারণ সাসপেন্স আর এন্ডিং আছে এটাতে।
যারা হাল্কা স্বাদের আনিমের খোঁজ করেন, এই জিনিস তাদের জন্য নয়। বাকি সবাইকে আমি এই ৩টি OVA দেখার অনুরোধ করব।
এই ৩টি OVA ছাড়াও TV series আছে, মুভিও আছে। টিভি সিরিজটা Tezuka Productions এর বানানো, আর্ট কোয়ালিটি অত ভালো নয়।
For a while I’ve got an addiction. I’m looking for OVAs of Madhouse in the 80s-90s era. Then I came across this OVA series. It is an adaptation of the manga composed by the famous mangaka Osamu Tezuka. There is a story in each volume of the manga. The setting of each story is completely different. However, the stories are linked up by the advent of “Hi no Tori” or “Immortal Phoenix”.
Actually I came across these before. Then I dared not to try these out, looking at the low scores. This time I dared. Thank God I did!! The score cannot be so low. Why ?? Because it has wonderful art, soothing music, and above all, thought provoking and mature story. After completing one of the OVAs, you will surely be in deep ponder for some time, looking for the underlying philosophy behind the story.
OVA 1 [Houou-hen (Karma Chapter)]: A single good deed may save a human immersed in a lifetime of evil deeds. On the other hand, humans can’t escape from the punishment of a single unforgivable crime. This is the lesson you will get from this OVA. This is the most thought provoking of the 3.
OVA 2 [Yamato-hen (Chapter of Yamato)]: Behind romantic fantasy lies a spectacular philosophy. The ending is my favorite.
OVA 3 [Uchuu-hen (Space Chapter)]: Space Drama. This one is my favorite of the 3. It has excellent suspense and ending.
This is not for those who seek light anime. To everyone else, I would request to see these 3 OVAs.
Apart from these 3 OVAs, there are TV series and movies. But the art quality of the TV series made by Tezuka Productions is not that good.
Check this eargasmic ending theme 😀
Just some context: Hi no Tori is a manga by the great Osamu Tezuka, who is unfortunately primarily known as the creator of Astro Boy. I say “unfortunately” because although Astro Boy may be a seminal work and an important stepping stone in the history of anime & manga, it does not come even close to rivaling the sheer brilliance and philosophical depth of Hi no Tori, which I would class as one of the ten greatest works of fiction I have come across. Anyway 2 adaptations had been tried before Hi no Tori: Houou-hen: the live action film Hi no Tori: Daybreak Chapter, and the loose anime adaptation Hi no Tori 2772: Ai no CosmoZone, both of which I have had the misfortune of watching. Daybreak Chapter was directed by the usually fantastic Japanese auteur Kon Ichikawa in the low period of his career, the film itself being his nadir, for its cringeworthy effects and unconvincing performances. Ai no CosmoZone is just a pathetic attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the manga which is not worth discussing any further. After these two failed attempts, the sometimes great Rintaro stepped onto the scene and delivered what would be, to this day, the best adaptation of Hi no Tori.
Hi no Tori: Houou-hen itself near-perfectly captures every element that made the manga so awesome. It recreates the wonderment of the original story as well and the intense feeling you get deep in your gut as you get to the end of this particular part of the manga.
The characters are fantastic, though I would add this caveat: other than the two leads, characters should be considered merely foils or ways to advance the plot. That said, the two leads, Gaou and Akanemaru, are some of the most interesting characters I have come across in years of watching anime and other media. Gaou’s transformation in particular fascinates me (but I won’t talk about it to avoid spoilers).
The art is amazing, although this is perhaps the one part of the movie that does not capture the greatness of the manga, which boasts drawings of the highest quality. One potential reason for me having this problem (other than Rintaro’s slightly worse art direction) was that the only quality I was able to access this relatively obscure film in was quite low in both frame rate and resolution.
Oh boy that synth heavy soundtrack/score really makes the movie. It perfectly captures the atmosphere of the manga and adds elements of mystery, wonder and suspense.
It’s Hi no Tori. of course the story is mindblowing.
Overall a masterpiece for the ages.
39: Haikara-san ga Tooru Movie 2: Hana no Tokyo Dai Roman
Japanese: 劇場版 はいからさんが通る 後編 ～花の東京大ロマン～
MAL Score: 6.86
The story follows Benio “Haikara-san” Hanamura, who lost her mother when she was very young and has been raised by her father, a high-ranking official in the Japanese army. As a result, she has grown into a tomboy. Contrary to traditional Japanese notions of femininity, she studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in often outlandish-looking Western fashions instead of the traditional kimono, and is not as interested in housework as she is in literature. She also rejects the idea of arranged marriages and believes in a woman’s right to a career and to marry for love.
As the truth behind Shinobu’s disappearance was revealed, the plot became extremely predictable and got tiring quickly. The pacing was way too slow in the middle portion of this film. Every prediction I made ended up happening, even the ones I was really hoping wouldn’t.
Benio isn’t the only one who loses her agency. Things just happen to Shinobu and he’s constantly tied up in worry. He’s only spurned into action by the words of others. The only two characters that actively caused things to happen in the plot were destined to fail by the laws of shoujo. Obstacles were written out too conveniently. The ending did not feel earned.
Is it predictable? Yes.
Is it less exciting than the first one? Of course, the beginning is always the best part.
Are its characters’ actions frustrating? Frustrating as hell.
But you know what? That’s just how it should be.
I believe that most of the low scores are due to an incorrect point of view: these questions make this movie sound like crap, but only if taken out of context.
Here, we are talking about a super romantic love story, one of the most scrambled ones, with lots of love, pain, regrets and guilt.
Everything in this film follows the classical love story, but it’s still a good content, that’s why it is possible to accept all the issues above.
If you are able to predict what is going to happen during the film, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you should just keep enjoying it for what it is.
It’s obvious that the plot can’t be as fresh as the first part, we already know the story, so we can’t expect extraordinary changes.
Plus, you’ll need to bear all the “exhausting” parts (which anyway, are led by excellent characters), to finally see the happy ending we were all hoping for.
So, I agree, it’s predicable and all, but it’s still worth to watch. 🙂
I really liked the 1st movie storyline. It showed great exploration of culture and how that can unify between our main characters who come from different backgrounds. It’s a very sweet romance to watch that encompasses culture and the main character’s modern values that challenge the traditionalist ideals of the cast. BUT THIS MOVIE THREW ALL OF THAT OUT OF THE WINDOW. I WAS SO ANGRY I WAS LEGIT SCREAMING AT THE SCREEN.
They were doing so well and now THE MOVIE GOES DOWN SOME CLICHE CRINGE STORY. THINK OF ANY CLICHE ROMANCE AND THIS MOVIE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU, MY GOD. WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE THINGS THE 1ST MOVIE DEVELOPED?
This movie was consistent with that of the 1st movie. The art is decent enough and very nice to look at. I was kind of sad with the appearance change because I loved the main character’s original outfit, it was so nicely designed. The characters are all very attractive either way, so there’s some eye-candy for you all.
I don’t remember this aspect very well but the voices are decent for each character — it suits them very well. Music suits the movie’s atmosphere too.
THIS ONE REALLY WENT DOWNHILL. I really respected the main character’s personalities in the 1st movie BUT WHY WHY THIS HAD TO HAPPEN. SOME ACTIONS THE MAIN CHARACTER DID IN THE 2ND MOVIE REALLY MADE ME ANGRY. I liked these characters in the first movie but I HATE EVERYONE NOW.
From this review, DOES IT SOUND LIKE I ENJOYED IT? This movie put me through physical and emotional pain.
I DON’T recommend watching this movie. JUST WATCH THE FIRST ONE AND IMAGINE SOME BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN FANFIC STORY AFTERWARDS. I’M SURE IT’S BETTER THAN WHAT THIS MOVIE HAD TO OFFER.
38: Hashire Melos (Movie)
English: Run Melos!
MAL Score: 6.87
Melos is a good boy from Messina and has come to Syracuse, the magnificent city of temples, to buy a ritual sword for his sister’s marriage ceremony. He meets a very talented sculptor and they become friends. Later, the King’s guards arrest Melos while he was having a walk in the castle’s gardens and Syracuse’s King, obsessed by the idea of assassins out to kill him, sentences him to death. Melos is desperate, but most of all he wants to be present at his sister’s marriage, so he asks the King for three days to go to Messina for the celebration and then return to Syracuse where he will accept the death penalty. The King does not trust Melos, but, trying to demonstrate that nobody could trust him, asks him to find a volunteer substitute in case he breaks his promise. The sculptor accepts to be Melos’ substitute in this case…
Let’s draw together a parallel. Imagine you’re on your way to go to the “Starlite” nightclub. Or the “Dusk Lounge”. Or “Thermopylae”, if you’re gay. Lol. Whatever. You go there, sure that your neat attire is going to give you access to a wild night with loud BPM galore… Suddenly, before passing by the bouncer, one steals your phone! Thankfully, a helpful soul arrest the thief and give you back your personal effect. Afterwards, you enter the club as his recommendation as well regarded regular. You end up spending the whole night drinking with him. That was nice and all… But between you and I, Would you give your kidney to that guy the day after, if circumstances called it ? I doubt you would. Don’t lie. As good-natured as that individual would be, you’re not going to sacrifice one organ for the barely known him. You’d live too tediously without it. Pain, and even dialysis routine if you have malfunctioning kidney, would remind you it for the rest of your life.
See, that’s my beef against HM! (let’s call that title this way from now on). It tries to force its message on you, even though it’s demagogically put on. To quote two cues from the movie:
– Lysa: So, did you come out to the city hoping to be a stonemason, too ?
– Melos: Nah, I was just lost on the street and was invited for a drink.
That’s the core of problem. The friendship between Melos and Celinunsius has no believability. It is merely a vehicle to demonstrate you how much trust is important in life. It has no chemistry, because all they previously shared in common prior to Melos’ ordeal is a goatskin flask of bad wine. Therefore, build up was swept under the carpet despite its capital importance. You want an example of fictive and yet lifellike friendship ? Read the epic of Gilgamesh. After Gilgamesh and Enkidu killed the Bull of Heaven, major Gods sentenced the latter guy to go to hell. There’s no doubt the king of Uruk would have given his life to save his companion, even though he’s a simple man-beast. Because they faced so many perils together.
Back to the matter, it’s hard to take Melos as a role model, let alone get attached to him. Not only because HM!’s plotline is contrived, but mostly because he’s so damn dull-witted. He’s stupid enough to not put Celine in charge of his sword while he pays visit to Dionysus’ castle. And mostly, he couldn’t tell the difference between a fake sword and an iron-made one. 358 BC is the third Iron age period. I’ll spare you my knowledge about Antique technology, just saying that when you get a hand over such elaborated weapon, you immediately notice it even if you’re a humble shepherd.
This characterization loophole isn’t peculiar to the main cast. Dionysus himself was poorly written too. To illustrate my argument, just pay attention to that ultimate day moment. It could have been a major highlight of the movie, mind it: the cynical point of view from Syracuse’s king confronting Celine’s, the idealistic stonemason artist. To say the least, whole dialogue baffled me, because it was that perfunctory even though we’re talking about a key-scene. Dionysus looked like clueless from the start to the end. That just wasn’t coherent with the protrayal of a tyrant, who put at odds his subjects life for the mere pleasure to prove his knowledge of human nature…
I could go on and on until the supporting cast, but you copied it, I think.
If you don’t watch HM! for its flawlessly constructed plotline, then is there anything else worthwhile ? Chara-design is a tad on the dull side. Art direction knows how put in value objects as statues and bas-reliefs, on the other hand. It’s too bad this level of attention wasn’t applied with the rest, technically. Music is… Here. It’s neither haunting nor annoying. It’s just sound grooming not especially memorable.
..| Enjoyment |.. 3/10
All in all, HM! had the misfortune to be adapted into a wrong format. I’m sure it could have been way better, released as an OAV series. Without competent scripts, it remains what it is… I tried hard to like it, but I just can’t ignore these heaps of flaws that make for an underwhelming tale. To its credit, historical field is so undercovered. I guess you ought to watch this title once at least, whether you’re a History nerd as me or you simply like the genre.
..| Content indications / Buzzwords |..
Ketchup meter: While the on-screen suffering is rendered in a striking way, one really got to be sensitive to be shocked by it. G-rating was fair.
Ecchi meter: 0
Fishing scene(s): I doubt that Melos had any time to stop by Syracuse’s port to catch groupers. So none :/
+ Antique setting (bloody underutilized, Fantasy genre put aside)
+ Nice premise brought by an eponymous fable
+ Federative message
+ Pleasant background art
– Contrived plot
– Plot holes likely caused by blue-pencil
– Lackluster characterization
– Forgettable sound
The story of of Hashire Melos is based on a book by Osamu Dazai. Despite being anime and Japan-written, this Greek legend captures the style and telling techniques of mythology, sans the tragic ending(this is not a spoiler because the beginning of the movie shows that they’re alive in the end). For example, Hashire Melos features a flawed protagonist who faces a tragic fate out of his control. It seems like the city of Syracuse really takes advantage of Melos in the beginning. In Homeric fashion, a series of trials presents themselves to Melos, whether predetermined or driven by the fates themselves. Man, I don’t remember Greek literature. I read Homer’s Odyssey in 12th grade. I took Latin. I know things.
The sound design is pretty good, dude. I’m a sucker for good footstep sound effects such as Ocarina of Time and Mario 64, and let me tell you: the sandals slap in this one. People got swords and junk, and they swing them, and these swords sound so distinct, especially for anime. The swords sound heavy and blunt and inelegant, which is what swords were like back then. Swords in the BC era, yeah, they’re sharp, but they resembled big, metal sticks, and their bluntness was just as likely to strike down armored foes than cut them. But, yeah, the sword swings were good. The soundtrack is very understated but effective. In the 1990s, midi became a potentially cheap replacement for full-blown orchestra. This gives a certain gravitas to the story’s emotional framework while retaining a certain degree of nostalgic, endearing educational tape vibe. There are leitmotifs at play that accent the scene’s themes well and are so subtle that it’s entirely possible you’ll miss the recurring theme on your first viewing.
Aforementioned weightiness of the swords is courtesy of Iso Mitsuo and Utsunomiya Satoru. Iso is famously responsible for the End of Evangelion fight in which Asuka lumberingly swung a huge, blunt weapon. It seems to be a subject Iso returned to often in his career. Utsunomiya is from a similarly weighty, realistic, and detailed school of movement, a legend in his own right as well. Years before Kon Satoshi, of Perfect Blue and Paprika fame, would bloom as a director, he was credited along with many other talents as a key animator on this film. From Inoue Toshiyuki, to Takahashi Shinya, and Itou Kouji, there’s a real wealth of unique talent brought to this film. Oono Hiroshi brings a pleasantly soft background art direction that evokes the beauty of the Grecian landscapes, sunsets whose warmth bursts from the screen, moody rains, and cool, shady forests with beautiful lighting. This movie exudes emotions of melancholy and hope visually through effective color use, lighting, and texture. All backed by the shot compositions of the rarely appreciated but extraordinarily talented director Oosumi Masaaki. Reportedly, he approached the film by verbally describing the scenes to his storyboard artists. Masaaki’s method allows for a beautifully ornate look bound together by an experienced sense of editing flow and punctual portrayal of its emotional highs. I love how dusty and brown everything was, yet the city is still lively. The environments looked very lived in.
I really liked the character designs in this movie, as well as the way faces were drawn. Careful attention to angle and definition were considered in shots of a character’s reflection. I like how a lot of characters have big, round noses; they really anchor their faces in the lineart. My friend used the words “character acting” to describe the Emperor, and I strongly agree, his face is well sculpted to be old and slightly drooping, yet with a solid jawline and very readable, complex emotional expression. There’s also a moment in the beginning, when two characters back-and-forth without words but with gestures, which is great characterization for both main characters and throwaways.
Character is basically the same section as story, but here I’ll write about how the characters tie into the story and the self-declared theme of trust. Selinuntius trusts Melos, and despite the emperor’s efforts to instil doubt in him, he remains calmly confident in Melos’ follow-through. Selinuntius is inspired to feel trust again due to something in his past, which I won’t spoil. Dionysius, the emperor, wishes to teach his people a lesson about the dangers of trust, as the safety of his city is kept by caution toward strangers. Melos himself doesn’t earn much trust in his life due to his clumsiness, but he craves it and strives to nurture his sudden hope from Selinuntius. Melos is very naturally trusting, himself, which is what throws him into this scenario in the first place, getting tricked by slick city salesmen into entering a big, bad misunderstanding. It’s a heartwarming sentimentality, which the movie earns through trials which Melos endures.
I do an all-or-nothing review structure, of “smell my Gak! Is it good, or is it gross??”, and this movie is good. Hashire Melos is a good movie, and I like it.
37: Versailles no Bara: Seimei Aru Kagiri Aishite
Japanese: ベルサイユのばら 生命あるかぎり愛して
MAL Score: 6.89
A theatrical re-edit/summary of the TV series. Some of the voice actors were changed (eg. Oscar is played by Keiko Toda instead of re-using the original audio by Reiko Tajima).
36: Crayon Shin-chan Movie 03: Unkokusai no Yabou
Japanese: クレヨンしんちゃん 雲黒斎の野望
MAL Score: 6.89
A member of the Time Patrol finds out that there is a disturbance in Japan, 1570. While heading to that particular time and location to investigate, she is attacked and ends up stuck underground the Nohara residence at the end of the 20th century Japan. Having limited resources at hand, she is forced to ask for the help of the Nohara family. Together they go back in time and meet with a samurai named Fubuki-maru who believes that they are the legendary three persons and dog whom someone from her family would eventually meet in a crucial moment. The lonely samurai asks for their assistance in defeating the man that possesses strange magical powers, the sinister Unkokusai lord.
In this movie, Shinchan and his family have to go back in time to help Fubukimaru save his (her?) sister from a deviant time traveler. Because of this, the movie deviates early on from the usual scatological humor of the tv show into an epic samurai action flick, with Shinchan mostly along for the ride.
Don’t be turned off by the art style. The lack of details in the characters allows for a fluidity of animation that is rarely seen in anime movies.The movie starts off slow, but the middle of the movie in particular is one extended castle-raid, which is one of the best action scene I’ve ever seen in anime.
And just as you think everything is over, a twist reveals that time travel is much more complicated than you think. The future scenes have zany architecture reminiscent of Tekkon Kinkreet. The sight of a fuedal castle turning into a battle robot is wacky and awesome at the same time.
The movie drags on rather long, and ShinChan’s juvenile humour never did make me laugh that much (then again, I am not the target audience) , but if you liked Castle of Cagliostro, or Samurai swordfights, check out this movie. You will be pleasantly surprised.
35: Alps no Shoujo Heidi (1979)
English: The Story of Heidi
Japanese: アルプスの少女ハイジ (1979)
MAL Score: 6.89
Condensed version of the entire TV series where all the voice actors, except for Heidi and the grandfather, were replaced.
34: Tezuka Osamu no Buddha: Owarinaki Tabi
English: Buddha 2: The Endless Journey
MAL Score: 6.89
2500 years ago, in India, Siddhartha was born as a prince of the Shakya clan, but he gives up his position as a prince to see the world. While he travels he meets a strange boy named Assaji, who can predict the future and a monk with only one eye. Overwhelmed by the sufferings he witnesses around him, Siddhartha strives to restore peace. Meanwhile, Prince Ruri of Kosara begins his attack on the Shakya clan.
MAL Score: 7.04
Asura is an unrelentingly dark drama that follows the struggles of a young boy who did whatever it took to survive during a time of war and famine in medieval Japan.
Perhaps what struck me most about this film was a clever sequence in which Asura struggles to crawl out from a pit of corpses. His clawed gnarled hands reach up to the light in the cracks of the rock and the animation breaks to see Wakasa in the river shortly before she discovers the wounded Asura. This scene clearly paralleled a certain journey for Asura. He crawled from the depths of Hell to catch a glimpse of Heaven and that’s when he truly learns about human kindness from Wakasa. This scene was so poetic that it made the rest of the film all the more tragic.
This film was beautifully done. At times it is difficult to watch, but that is the point. I will not soon forget this film and I do not think anyone else who sees it will either.
To be fair to the producers of Asura, there probably was a time in history when the outlook for society really was this grim. There probably was a time when a child would stumble while pushing a log and a guard would order his father to throw his feeble son into the ravine. There indeed probably was a time when haggard housewives would stumble along a road, gossiping about how their next door neighbour ate her baby. Maybe it’s just my fault that I can’t take such a bleak world at face value. But it would really help if the show didn’t keep undermining itself.
For one, there’s no context given for how the world ended up in this state. People are poor and there’s no food, that’s just how life is. It never gives any idea that an alternative would ever exist. It’s just grim decay from start to finish, and it really likes to beat us over the head with this, to the point that it flips around and becomes unintentional comedy. The spurts of blood that would shoot out of someone the cannibal kid attacked looked completely ridiculous. It also has real issues with continuity sometimes. The cannibal kid suddenly jumped from having a vocabulary of about 10 words to being able to philosophise the pain of existence.
Then there was the CG, which had the usual problems CG has. Characters do that thing where they sway in motion for a few seconds before coming to a standstill, like a video game character returning to their neutral stance. Hair seems to be made out of flat pieces of paper glued onto the top of their head like a wig. I know the movie is supposed to look ugly, but I don’t think these were the kinds of ugly it was going for. Sometimes I wonder whether my dislike of fully CG anime comes from me being used to 2D animation and having a gut dislike of anime designs in 3D, but then I see a shot where someone’s standing still but their feet are mysteriously hovering a few centimetres above the ground and dismiss that thought.
It’s has some incredibly dumb scenes too. I’m going to spoil a big plot twist here, but you shouldn’t watch the movie anyway so who cares. The kid occasionally meets this monk who tries to teach him not to become a killer. During one of his attempts to teach the kid, the monk pulls out a sword and then swings at his own arm. I thought this about making the kid realise he cared for someone and would stop the monk from swinging the sword. But I was under the mistaken assumption that the movie was leading to some sort of hopeful narrative conclusion. Instead the monk chops his arm clean off and tells the kid to eat it. The kid runs away, so the monk just stands there are cries for a bit, probably at the realisation of how bloody thick he was for chopping off his own arm. I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time.
And you know what this was all leading up to (spoiler warning for the end, but again who cares because it’s a rubbish film)? The kid has an entire village chase after him to kill him, only to fall into a ravine. The kid doesn’t die, which might at least give some narrative finality to his actions where we learn the damning life of being a monster that is beyond saving. Instead he becomes a monk with his life lesson being that people die because I don’t know, life sucks I guess. It’s such a frustratingly pointless end to a movie that would have been unpleasant even if it wasn’t so badly made. With that end though, it makes me wonder what the point of the whole thing was. Even if you like unrelenting grimness, which makes for a bad story anyway the same way unrelenting calm and peacefulness would, there’s anime far better made than this crap.
can you keep that light shining?
i never thought that ‘asura’ would bring me down to my knees.. in a brief winking moment my eyes witnessed all the blood and gore, the crescent carnage and madness surrounding. but in a subtle and suspended animation you can feel the beauty embracing you. a big round of applause for this timeless masterpiece..
and in the end if you can’t feel any kind of compassion towards asura, i say you’re the beast!
32: Ohoshi-sama no Rail
English: Rail of the Star: A True Story of Children
MAL Score: 7.06
This is the autobiographic tale of Kobayashi Chitose, a young Japanese girl growing up in a Japanese-occupied North Korea. As World War II progresses, Chitose begins to realize that her family will not be able to escape the effects of the conflict. From the simple disappointment of not being able to get the type of backpack she wants for school, to her father’s recruitment as a soldier, the war begins to impact her life in a very real manner. But the end of the war does not mean the end of hardship for her. The Koreans, fed up with years of Japanese rule and persecution, have joined forces with a Chinese-backed communist government and are systematically making life a living horror for the Japanese left in North Korea. Fearing reprisal since he was a Japanese veteran, Chitose’s father risks everything to get his family out of the north and to the US-occupied area south of the 38th parallel.
• The story begins, with the protagonist (a little girl named Chitose) experiencing life as a normal child, but as the war gets more intense, she begins to notice that all isn’t right in the world. She notices a male student getting bullied for refusing to change his name to a Japanese surname*. He talks about how horrible the Japanese are, Chitose is shocked by this since she has no idea (as a Japanese child in elementary school) how terribly mistreated the Koreans are by Japanese troops. Her Korean classmate then joins the Korean Liberation Army and gets murdered by Japanese troops, when he tries to fight them off at the border. Another instance of this is when Koreans are cheering in the street, after Japanese has lost the war, and Chitose can’t comprehend it. Her father has to explain to her that it’s because ‘their prisoners are being set free.’
* The sōshi-kaimei (name-changing) edict is later turned on its head toward the end of the film, when Chitose’s family has to hide that they are Japanese and speak only Korean—while they’re fleeing the country.
• Later, the Korean housekeeper (a teenage girl, named Ohana) is sewing a patch into Chitose’s Shōwa-era set of trousers and she accidentally leaves the needle in, Chitose carelessly slips them on and the needle gets lodged really deep in her body. After surgery, the doctor says that the accident could have been fatal and after Chitose’s younger sister had already passed away, Ohana is abruptly fired. Later, Chitose is out walking with her mother and she sees Ohana working at a brothel. In her childhood, she obviously had no idea about sex work but the atmosphere in the film is so dense that it implies that Chitose can somehow sense that her former babysitter was in a bad situation. I teared up at this scene because the implications of a kind girl, like Ohana, being forced to work as a comfort woman was so cruel. At the end of the film, Chitose is an adult but stilly harbors guilt for what happened to Ohana—after receiving flowers, following her live theater performance as an adult, Chitose suspects that they are from Ohana and screams her name outside, in a crowded Tokyo street.
• Ohana’s fate correlates to the entire theme of the film: unpredictable circumstances can lead us to ruin. As citizens, we are often punished by our government’s decisions to go to war and persecute other innocent civilians. Chitose’s father was a solider for the Imperial Japanese army, but the film brings up the question of ‘was that really his choice?’ Ohana is punished for something that was an accident and then has to live in a tortuous situation for years, until the Japanese troops are driven out of the country. Chitose and her family lose their home in Korea because Japanese forces stole that land—far before Chitose’s family was ever stationed there (Korean land was usurped in 1906 and Chitose’s story begins in 1941), so they are yet again having to suffer for an ‘original sin’ that was committed decades ago.
• Japanese families, that include Japanese children and the elderly, were forced to flee the country on foot, or else be killed by Russian troops. After the Japanese pilgrimage, a Korean man offers to help them. The elder of the village, then asks the man, ‘Are you sure? They took your son and you don’t know if he’s even still alive.’ The man still agrees to help, understanding that a group’s evils shouldn’t mean that individuals should have to suffer. That man’s kindness and understanding made him an exemplar, in this film’s cruel premise.
• This story has a unique perspective. Before I completed the movie, I had never thought about what it would be like to occupy another country, after your homeland had lost the war. Not mention the guilt you would have to bear, knowing your people are the oppressors. Truly, a powerful movie!
• The animation wasn’t the greatest and the film had pacing issues during the scenes that involved the forced immigration of the Japanese characters, but I really liked the character designs. They are like a blend of Chibi Maruko-chan and Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday, Chibi Maruko-chan is a successor to this film, so it’s probable that it was influenced by the designs (round, mochi-like faces with rosy cheeks). Some of the facial expressions that Chitose made during this film were heart-breaking, not to mention the feeling of resignation that was conveyed through her parents’ emotional articulations.
• This film is ground-breaking! I recommend this to anyone who has an interest in history, particularly Shōwa-era Japanese and Korean history. It’s a touching film, from an objective child’s perspective, it allows for more understanding in the controversial topic of Japanese-Korean relations. I give this film a solid 6.5/10!
1. In the beginning of the film, Chitose’s family were able to procure a home because after Japan conquered Korea—Japanese troops required all citizens of Korea to provide deeds and documentation, proof of their land ownership. During that period, many Korean land owners had procured their estates through word of mouth, so many people lost their homes.
2. During one of the classroom scenes, Japanese students are bullying a Korean kid for keeping his given name, instead of switching to a Japanese surname. The film doesn’t directly talk about this, but this is a reference to sōshi-kaimei—an ordinance of law, put into place by Imperialist Japan, that pressured all Koreans to legally change their names.
3. When Korean deserters attempted to escape in the movie, many of them—including Chitose’s classmate, was shot down by Japanese troops when they attempted to escape to China. Korea’s exiled resistance was called the Korean Liberation Army (formed December 10th, 1941) and the escapees, who made it to China, would go on to form the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—this providence is now referred to as North Korea.
4. Ohana was forced to become a comfort women, after losing her job working for the family. Comfort women were impoverished Korean women who were forced into prostitution and sex slavery, and specifically were formed to serve Imperialist troops.
5. Korean citizens were cheering at the end of World War II because many Koreans had been taken to mainland Japan for forced labor, and would subsequently be returned after the war.
6. Russian troops were mentioned as co-occupants during the last arc because before Japan predominantly took control of Korean resources; in February 11th, 1896, the tsar of Russia had governed Korea for a year after (Queen Min, a high profile leader in Korea) was assassinated by Japanese troops. During Russia’s occupation, the Independence Club (a group of Korean activists) attempted to gain more Western influence, particularly through Russia, to counterbalance the growing influence of Japan in their country. This led to the Russo-Japanese war. At the end of the film, when Japan loses World War II, Russia helps Korean drive the remaining Japanese occupants out. This is emblematic of Korea’s eventual independence through Western assistance.
About the story: We got a few main protagonists, but the most screentime I guess was spend on chiko a young girl whos father leads a coal mine in Korean( propably to support the war). Chiko also got a younger sister and a mother. The start of the show focused more on the time during the war and wanted to show the suffering of the Korean and the torture the Japanese inflicted onto them, but since its on the one had a movie for children and on the other hand on the Japanese side the whole “toture” part is limited to a few Japanese kids beating up a Korean kid. So the start was rather showing the kids play to create a emotional connection to the audience, which wasnt made that bad, but aslo not very suprisingly in any way.
Later on we see the end of the war (Korean celebrating) and the gloomy Japanese which know that they should go back to their homeland as soon as possible. It’s a typical for such a show to let the Russian military appeal to the audience as the “bad guys” and the Japanese refugees appeal cute (chiko) innocent and “good”. For me this representation is pretty naïve but like I said before since that movies target group seemed to be children it’s kinda logical to go that way.
The characters itself were a pretty poor part of the anime as well. There wasn’t any depth to any of the characters. Chiko was maybe the only one with a bit more depth, but she was just a plain kid, not much to go into anyways. The other characters where shallow, shown with only the typical character interaction between them for such a show.
The art wasn’t much outstanding but it wasn’t bad. It looks like a children movie with cute characters and it’s a bit older as well.
Soundtrack was ordinary, not much to say about it. There were some nice dramaparts followed by fitting music but that’s just normal.
So over all this movie isn’t very special. The premise was quite interesting but the movie overall was filled with only very few consequences, no mature storytelling and no depth into characters. If you are completely into these war dramas it is watchable, but it’s not recommended for getting into these kinds of movies.
31: Crayon Shin-chan Movie 12: Arashi wo Yobu! Yuuhi no Kasukabe Boys
Japanese: 映画 クレヨンしんちゃん 嵐を呼ぶ！夕陽のカスカベボーイズ
MAL Score: 7.06
A fantasy action set in a world of Western films. One day the Nohara family, Kasukabe Defense Forces (Shinnosuke Nohara and his mates: Kazama-kun, Nene-chan, Masao-kun and Bo-chan), and other people living in Kasukabe City get lost in a world within a Wild West film, which is a city ruled by an evil governor named Justice. The time progression has been stopped there because the film is unfinished but people are losing their memories about the past little by little. To go back to their former world, the Kasukabe Defense Forces tries to defeat Governor Justice and finish the film before everyone loses their memories.
(Source: Manabu Tsuribe)
30: Raiyantsuuri no Uta
MAL Score: 7.08
An indentured Chinese laborer, brought to Japan to work in a coal mine during WWII, manages to escape his captors. He hides out in the Japanese countryside, so far from human habitation that he does not realize when the war ends, with ultimately tragic results. Based on a story by Yoichi Takashi.
29: Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo!
English: Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow
Japanese: 劇場版 NARUTO 大活劇！雪姫忍法帖だってばよ!!
MAL Score: 7.10
Naruto Uzumaki and his squadmates, Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, are sent on a mission to escort a movie crew on its way to film in the Land of Snow. They soon find out that they are accompanying a famous actress, Yukie Fujikaze, who persistently refuses to travel there, making the trip far more difficult than originally intended. After a surprising encounter with ninjas from the Land of Snow, Naruto discovers that there is more to Yukie than meets the eye.
Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo! follows the group as they attempt to overcome the obstacles in the Land of Snow and unveil Yukie’s true purpose there as well.
It was good because it was a combiantion of seriousness and comedy so you dont get weighed down by either.
It includes the characters Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura and Kakashi from the actual series, and you get to see all of them kick some butt!
First off, I found the story to be slow, although this could be because of my mindframe at the time. By no means should you base choices on my review; I’m not a huge fan of this kind of anime. The quality of the story was somewhat like that of the InuYasha movies, only even slower imo.
The art was as good as any other basic anime really. I won’t mark it down simply ’cause I disliked Naruto’s character design. All else was good, and there were some decent flashback shots.
Sound worked well, but Naruto’s voice sucked more than I thought it would; he sounded like a girl! Other than that, the voices were well cast and the music all worked quite well. Okay, it’s not my kinda music, but considering what it is, it was good. Perfect for the genre.
The characters were fairly decent; what I saw of them. I might have liked them more had I watched the series, but the only one I disliked at all was Naruto because he was a total stalker! All the other characters were nice enough, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone else watch this movie without watching some of the series first. I lacked a lot of background knowledge and so, evidently, felt nothing for anyone.
Enjoyment…well, take it for what it is. Since it’s not my kind of anime, I found it slow, dull, monotonous and simply did not like it. But for those who enjoy this kind of anime, with lots of action and not a huge, complex plot: go for it.
Ahhh Naruto, I used to be the biggest fanboy of the anime. I would buy all the action figures, video games, and pretty much all the merchandise but ever since I was able to view anime in a more critical perspective I started to notice that it had so many flaws and this is also including Naruto: Shippuden. The anime has a huge amount plot holes, the pacing in it is terrible, the setting doesn’t know what it wants to be, there is gigantic amounts of filler, deus ex machinas, contains many underdeveloped one dimensional characters, and the whole idea of being ninjas is thrown out the window with the absurd amount of power the characters obtain. So whenever I look back at all the Naruto stuff I have, all I can do is cringe. Does this movie in any way help the anime? Nope. Will this movie convince anybody to see the anime? Not at all.
The story of Naruto Movie 1 begins with Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura watching a movie at a movie theater with Naruto starting to really like the lead actress of the movie. Kakashi then assigns them to go on a mission to escort the lead actress named Kazehana Koyuki to the land of the snow to film a new movie but at the land of snow old enemies start to rise and cause problems. From the get go I already found the story to be very predictable. Naruto and his team meet new enemies and fight them, main character of the movie gets kidnapped, the team then goes to rescue her, and finally Naruto is able to beat the main villain by using the power of not giving up and friendship. I have seen this type of thing happen all the time in the anime and the creators could of at least put a spin on it to make it seem different but that did not happen. There were many moments in the movie that didn’t make any sense and were always answered by using the power of not giving up. Another problem I had with the story was how it would show modern things like a movie theater, a film studio and filming supplies, and as well as a blimp which doesn’t make any sense to have in the type of setting that the anime establishes.
Art and Animation: (5/10)
The art in this movie is fine at best. The backgrounds are okay, the character designs are okay but would look off model at times, and the special attack visuals are good. The animation in the movie is good and is much better than the animation in the anime.
The soundtrack in the movie is very generic and forgettable with only the ending song of the movie being good. The voice actors did a fine job with the characters but no one stood out.
The characters are definitely the worst part of the movie. Naruto is still his stupid self that is the typical main character that is able to defeat every villain through nakama power even though he is the second weakest member of his team. Sasuke is still his not caring about anything self and he is barely in the movie with him only being in scenes whenever the group needs to fight. Sakura is still the character that does not contribute anything to the story and she is in the movie even less than Sasuke was. Koyuki, the main character, is not likable at all. All she does in the movie is be angry and whiny at what anybody says to her and suddenly changes her personality at the end of the movie. The villains in the movie are all very underdeveloped and one dimensional and this just makes them look like their whole purpose of being villains is to be villains.
The only enjoyment I got out of the movie is how the action scenes were animated.
Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo! is a movie that would only be found decent by the fans of the anime and anybody else looking to watch it should stay far away from it.
28: Kanashimi no Belladonna
English: Belladonna of Sadness
MAL Score: 7.12
The beautiful Jeanne marries a man named Jean, and the happy newlyweds make their way to the Lord’s castle with a cow’s worth of money for his blessings. However, the demonic Lord is unmoved by their offering, ignoring their desperate, impoverished pleas. The Lord’s wife offers an alternative: Jeanne must become the Lord’s conquest for the night in a ritual deflowering.
Scarred by the experience, the shaken Jeanne receives no sympathy from her husband. Instead, she is neglected. But as Jeanne drifts off to sleep, she is met by a strange spirit that encourages her to deliver retribution to those who wronged her. And with a mysterious surge of pleasure and an unquenching libido, Jeanne agrees.
Kanashimi no Belladonna is a captivating, psychosexual adventure that tells a story of cunning witchcraft and deceitful superstition in a poor, rural village of medieval France.
And in this moment of weakness, desperate and defeated, whispers of vengeance caress her ear, the temptation of which becomes far too alluring to ignore. These sweet whispers are made by a demon, one conjured up by the smoldering embers of spite ignited in place of the self-pity that occupied her idle mind. A chance to strike back at the ones that robbed her is offered. A doleful plea made in the stillness of night, she succumbs to the opportunity, accepting the help of the phallic spirit that appears before her. A decision this trickster demon revels in, as he obtains another fresh prey to sink his fangs into. Her future regret providing a source of nourishment for his mischief, as the slow grooming process begins. A pact was now made with the Devil, signed with the ink of atrocities yet to come and regrets yet to manifest.
This is the world stage that Belladonna of Sadness creates, the means in which it’s brought to life sharing equal importance. Watercolor brushstrokes wisp across the curvature of Jeanne’s delicate frame, her fair skin left bare, absent of pigmentation. Color pencil outlines contort around landscapes, containing greenery, houses, citizens and wildlife alike; everything encased in its perimeters. Even abstract expressions aren’t forgotten; moments of doubt, corruption, depravity, and envy illustrated by ink bleeding in all directions across the canvas. Brittle charcoal lines trailing right behind it to further emphasize the spread of these ideas and emotions.
Oil pastels, watercolor paint, charcoal, color pencils, graphite pencils, stencil outlines; all these utensils used for expression cascades towards a singular vision, harmoniously melding together to bring the story to life. Influenced by the art styles of Harry Clarke, Gustav Klimt, and many others, Belladonna is given a gothic-like expressionistic visual portrayal. Lengthy body postures with spindly limbs. Decorated clothing that hugs their bodies like a second skin. Every bit of it giving birth to a timeless look. Something like a rediscovered tapestry that was lost to the Dark Ages.
Even the namesake of Belladonna helps define the film. Belladonna, a toxic berry also referred to as deadly nightshade, or “bella donna” as derived from the Italian phrase meaning “beautiful woman”—essentially, a deadly beauty—was a plant used throughout history as either a cosmetic accessory or an instrument of death. The film doesn’t shy away from this as well, as the Black Plague parallels are just as self-evident here as it is in films like 1957’s The Seventh Seal. The biggest difference between the two being the person that serves as arbiter of judgment. Instead of Death himself casting a shadow on all those he encounters, the role is personally taken on by the Devil. He brandishes death in one hand while dangling false hope in the other. That false hope coming in the form of his future mistress-to-be, Jeanne; something we’re made privy to as the story slowly unfolds. It’s a fate unwillingly bestowed onto her but one she will come to embrace, for better or for worse. It’s the birth of a deadly beauty, of belladonna itself.
Tasting the forbidden fruit, what started out as an earnest plea for help quickly spirals into madness, as the payment levied for her request is paid by body and soul. Jeanne gets her vengeance but at a cost that far exceeds what she had expected. Everything is brought to ruin. Her head rests in the crook of her arm, smeared tears coagulate, glistening off her cheek as she reminisces about a simpler time before her decision. But despite her best attempts to return to the beginning, her repentance falls on deaf ears. The outcome only worsens. And so she accepts her role.
We see the depravity of mankind depicted as social tact is abandoned. When people are stripped naked of society’s robes and gives into their deepest, darkest desires. Jeanne becomes their catalyst to indulge. Her soul no longer in her possession. Her flesh, an instrument of pleasure. She loses all fabric of her being, and in the process, becomes a force much greater than herself. Like mother nature, she takes her seat among urban legend. A succubus. A pariah. An enchantress of the night. She is lust. A wielded weapon in Lucifer’s arsenal.
She sought out revenge from those that used her only to gain the power to harm them through the act of being used. A cruel irony—God isn’t the only one with a sense of humor.
It all culminates in the throws of a hedonistic free-for-all. Sex partners made of noblemen and street peasants alike. A ceaseless indulgence as bodies melts into each other, creating an ungodly form, no trace of decency surviving the transmutation. A distorted representation of sin incarnate. Sodom and Gomorrah birthed anew. The Devil’s latest atrocity. He sits their satisfied, looking on at the banquet hall of the finest assortment of human perversion. And positioned squarely at the other end of the table sits his finest creation. A mother of scorn. Jeanne joins him hand-in-hand, unafraid of the consequences anymore. The road towards humanity has long been lost in the shadows as she steps closer to the realm of Gods and Demons. Female empowerment has never had a more terrifying representative. Her wrath is as unwavering as her seduction is lethal. And this is what we’re left with.
There isn’t a happy ending here. Just another chapter where mankind loses. Whether it serves as a sobering reminder of humanity’s inevitable self-destruction or just a matter-of-fact depiction of death and sin with parallels of the Great Plague, it’s up to you to take what you will from it. As for me, it’s a fascinating film that I always find myself revisiting. Each recounter rekindling my love for it or gleaning something new to cherish. It may not have been a commercial success, but as an artistic statement, its efforts were admirable, sustaining a legacy for all those it has gone on to influence.
Nonetheless every artifice, every duality inherits a line that exists to challenge it. A tempo-spatial blip where white melds into the black – where Angels mingle with Demons, where grotesqueness is beauty, where tragedy births empowerment, where witches ARE women – explodes with a forgotten force. That coalescing blip takes form in Belladonna of Sadness (Kanashimi no Belladonna): a powerful visual enigma that mesmerizes with bizarre aestheticism and erotic storytelling (one that many will probably write off as a “deep” hentai and in the process, dismiss the work so passionately fueled by the revolutionary spirit that drives all provocative art).
Belladonna is the third and final installment in the Animerama series (adult-themed films) conceptualized by Osamu Tezuka, but due to his early abandonment of the project, it was sought through (in 1973) by Eiichi Yamamoto and produced by Mushi Production. Adapted loosely from the non-fictional musings in La Sorcière by Jules Michelet, Belladonna follows the vicious downfall of a young girl named Jeanne, and thus, her metamorphosis. Even though Belladonna takes influence from Michelet’s book, it is not a literal re-telling. The novelty of Michelet’s work, however, should be noted. La Sorciere attempted to trace the rebellions against feudalism and Medieval practices that subjugated women and peasants. Riddled with folklore, fairy tales, and religious theory, the book opened a new sympathetic vision towards the oppressed, and what eventually manifested into “witchcraft”. Belladonna is a tale about oppression, but also about revolution. What starts off as a fatalistic chain of events steeped in sexual violence and tradition, morphs into a darkly, disturbing tale of empowerment (featuring Satan symbolized as an ever-growing penis, lots and lots of other phallic imagery, and intense psychedelics visuals).
The aesthetical direction in Belladonna is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Sequences of stylistically-independent paintings that are tied by motion. Styles include Klimt-influenced artworks where the female body is the everlasting focus. The only place where precision in detail matters is on Jeanne, and partly her husband and abusers. Following in the symbolist tradition, many embodied the elements of Decadence. These paintings were full of lurid, exploitative objects that were flourishing with mystical context. Decadent art called for transgression and taboo and expressed them through dreamlike visual poetics. Belladonna adapts this with acuity. Abstract, expressionistic paintings also take hold here. The use of placement, distance, object and how they come alive, both with color and shape all reveal this. There are scenes that are built entirely on geometric progression. The painting starts at one point, transforming into a set of shapes that blooms into the eventual scenery. Kaleidoscopic backgrounds and mural-stoned-faces swell up the screen, while continuous mutations and distortions keep the atmosphere full of psychedelic vigor. It’s like a never-ending party in the 60s. The art-style is intensely experimental and frequently disorienting. The styles and influences here are endless: watercolor paintings, ink-stencil portraits, sketchbook graphics, bubbly cartoons, and the list goes on – of all the various art-styles contained in this film. Even though the film ranges in the kind of techniques it employs – many of them being direct contrasts to one another – it never hiccups, not even once. The continual change in style becomes equally as important for the story. It’s a story with centuries of sociopolitical turmoil, unveiled through centuries of art evolution on canvas. And the best part is that it’s always fluid and always flowing.
Consequently, Belladonna’s art is demanding, bold, highly erotic, often-etched-imminently, and absolutely unforgiving. The shots move ever-so emphatically; scenes feel as if being drawn out right then and there. The horror here transposes itself not just as a genre, but a state, an endless feeling that seduces the senses while suffocating the mind. There are scenes comprised of simple shapes, lines intersecting, and splashes of unending red and black that are more horrific than most horror films attempting to be anything more than a gore-fest nowadays. The film functions in directional panning waves that slide from painting to painting, with minimal movement and sparse dialogue. One of the most laudable aspects was the use of motion. Films, at a very fundamental level, need to master the skill of motion; to be able to capture the mobility of ideas in a visual format. In the same way that sometimes silence speaks louder than sound, stasis expresses visual ideas more potently than systematic movement. It’s animation revised: unbridled by traditional sequential movement, materialized through motion on canvas. Stasis then becomes as important as motion. Belladonna proves this with its delicate and deliberate staging and execution.
Now really, what is Belladonna about? The aesthetics tell it all. The “how” is infinitely more valuable than the “what”. Even then, there is still plenty to bask in, narratively. Belladonna is a purely visual experience, but isolating the narrative is worthwhile. Reconnecting with the earlier synopsis, Belladonna tells the seemingly unfortunate tale of Jeanne. On her wedding night, as custom dictates, Jeanne and her husband Jean must receive the okay from the baron (through paying ridiculous monetary “gifts”). As they cannot meet the high demands set by the Baron, Jeanne is subjected to ritualistic rape by the Baron and his house of ghastly courtiers. From then onward, Jeanne continues to suffer at the hands of her time, repeatedly violated by those in power and by circumstance, she finds herself in an old-fashioned predicament: compromising her humanity. It’s not original in its premise. Tales of religious persecution, power, and transformation almost always follow a similar formula: striking a deal with the devil. Therefore, the story unfolds on a two-fold: first, on the degradation of humanity and second, on the revival of it.
What sets Belladonna apart is its perspective and thematic subversion. The apparent importance of religion, tradition, and all these concepts that arise from scripture of society all take a backseat for Jeanne’s place in the world. She becomes the singular point of relevance amongst cosmic indifference, where she comes before the judgments of the world. This is crucial for the second half of the story and the ultimate, conclusion. The perspective here is refreshing, in the ways many modern fairy tales are, especially those with a female focus. The one that immediately comes to mind is a collection of short stories by Angela Carter titled The Bloody Chamber. These tales are of the revolutionaries — the nontraditional, and those unaligned with the religious depiction of “woman”–, where through the crevices of preordained evil and sacrilegious, arises positivity in the form of empowerment and transformation. These are far more important than redemption or “survival”. It’s history, art, and humanity revisited but with the scales tipping the other way. Thus, the devil becomes a tool. Evil becomes a means to an end. The deal becomes a means to an end. The body is shown to be purely material and the spirit/soul as mere propaganda. Things that held the greatest amounts of meaning become empty remnants in the face of ultimate transformation. The most important point is that woman and witch remain synonymous. This isn’t a movement to destroy humanity, but to revolutionize it.
Jeanne makes the deal and becomes a witch. Yet, she doesn’t seek revenge in the old-testament sort of horrific way. She sets the way for the townspeople and all those that violated her to find hell in their own manner, whether it’s through hedonism, paganism, or partaking in 24/7 orgies. The Black Plague is also a thing, here (and the origins are hilarious but terrifying). Jeanne helps those struck by the plague (using various plants and concoctions) and becomes their savior. With her “help”, the villagers willingly walk on their personalized road to perdition. (Belladonna is a nightshade plant. The root was used to make medicine, but the leaves and berries are deadly. It’s named after Venetian ladies who used it to dilate pupils for striking appearances). Jeanne assumes her rightly place as the Belladonna who in the wrong doses, proves to be lethal and insurmountable. As Angela Carter reformulates the heroine/woman in modern fairy tales, “Like the wild beasts, she lives without a future. She inhabits only the present tense, a fugue of the continuous, a world of sensual immediacy as without hope as it is without despair,” we find ourselves seeing Jeanne reflected in the very same words. Jeanne descends into –what we perceive as– madness, a form of clinical hysteria from any angle. Despite that, there is something far deeper settling in her reverie: “The girl burst out laughing; she knew she was nobody’s meat.” And that very Carter-ian depiction becomes the absolute state of Jeanne.
Even with the inevitable “end” of Jeanne, the story holds true to what actualized empowerment entails: continuation. It doesn’t end with the body.
Experiencing Belladonna is very much like falling down a bottomless rabbit hole. A visceral drop where one experiences each grain of the twisted earth, swallowing wholly, their entire state of being. The dive isn’t measured. It’s freefall so fast, one almost feels like they are suspended in air, motionless. During those moments, every sensory receptor is attuned to an unknown, unearthly frequency. It’s a film designed to enthrall the senses and heighten all temporality. The kind of thing people do drugs for. Spectacularly, it achieves this for every second of its runtime. Enter this with an open mind. Belladonna knows for she is woman and witch, and both exist here simultaneously.
My city’s only arthouse theater decided to play this 1973 anime movie recently. I went with a couple buddies and it was…an experience. I will now try explain my mixed feelings on this rather unique film.
This movie is sometimes called “the lost Tezuka masterpiece” although Osamu Tezuka actually left the project quite early in production. Kanashimi no Belladonna or “Belladonna of Sadness” was written and directed by Tezuka’s longtime friend and collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto. Yamamoto worked with Tezuka on Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, as well as writing Space Battleship Yamato, the first Space Opera anime.
Belladonna of Sadness is an X-rated avant garde telling of a Faustian melodrama set in medieval France. The anime is loosely based on a 19th century non-fiction book called “Satanism and Witchcraft” that posits that ritual witchcraft and Wicca were created to rebel against the patriarchal rule of the Church and Monarchy. The book also prominently featured erotic art by a French artist who went by the pseudonym Martin van Maële. The anime follows the book’s example by having a LOT of trippy, psychedelic eroticism that frankly detracts more often than it adds to the film.
A poor farming couple named Jean and Jeanne are married in medieval France. However, they can’t afford to pay the outrageously high “wedding tax” of their feudal lord, so the lord demands the right to gangbang Jeanne with his friends on her wedding night. As an aside, this practice was called “Droit du seigneur” and was alleged to have happened in real medieval France, although no hard evidence can be found and many historians believe it was a myth created hundreds of years later. Jeanne is emotionally devastated and her distress summons the Devil, who offers her power and revenge in exchange for her soul. Jeanne agrees at first to give the Devil her body, but not her soul. Satan accepts the offer after some truly bizarre sex and Jeanne gains the ability to spin beautiful fabric.
Jeanne is able to make enough money with her fabric to pay their lord’s outrageous tax, so he makes her husband his official tax collector. However, this increase in wealth and power does nothing to improve their happiness. Jean isn’t able to collect enough taxes from the peasants, so the lord cuts off his hand. Jean then becomes a miserable drunk. Jeanne is able to use her new gained powers to bewitch a greedy moneylender into giving her a large sum. She is able to give the evil lord the money he demands, but the evil lord’s wife is jealous of Jeanne and plots revenge. The countess’s Page slashes Jeanne’s dress and the townsfolk all immediately decide to try rape her. Jean locks her out of the house and watches while the whole town rapes his wife! After Jean collected his award for “Cuck of the Year”, Jeanne gets thrown in the dungeon to rot. She escapes the dungeon with the help of Satan and after reaching her breaking point, she finally agrees to give him her soul in exchange for revenge.
A plague ravages the town and many are killed. Jeanne returns to the town looking beautiful and offers a magical cure for the disease. She convinces the townspeople to rebel against the evil feudal lord and God. Jeanne even gets revenge on the Countess by charming her page into sleeping with the Countess and getting them both murdered by the lord. The lord offers to give her land and power, but she rejects these offers and says she wants “everything”. The lord then has her burned at the stake in a scene reminiscent of French heroine Joan d’Arc. The worthless husband Jean finally rises against the lord, but is killed by his soldiers. The rest of the townsfolk cower in fear and Jeanne’s rebellion is crushed at least for now. The story ends with French women leading the March on Versailles and stating that in France it is the women that lead revolutions. The End.
You will immediately notice that the art is NOTHING like most anime. The art in this 1973 anime actually seems to be inspired by 1960s European cartoons like Yellow Submarine from the UK and Bremen Town Musicians from the USSR. Eiichi Yamamoto is the one guy that left the theater after watching those movies and said, “This would be WAY better if everyone started fucking!” The animation is quite good for its time though and the surreal art can be quite impressive at points.
The music is often chaotic Bebop jazz. This unfortunately reminds me of Kite, the only other anime with wild saxophone solos while people bang. Occasionally though an ocarina will play accompanied by guitar and reminds me a LOT of the theme “Lonely Shepard” from Kill Bill. I spent at least 1/4th of this movie expecting a Tarantino bloodbath to occur at any minute.
While this movie certainly had strengths like strong animation, a solid soundtrack, and a unique premise…it falls a bit short of being a masterpiece in my opinion. The trippy sex scenes generally seemed like a desperate grab for attention instead of adding to the themes of the story. If this was a minor detail I would let it slide, but they take up around half the entire movie! If you want an elitist arthouse anime with tons of porno that will kick Europeans right in the childhood…this is your anime.
27: Hi no Ame ga Furu
MAL Score: 7.16
An anti-war anime based on a book containing contemporary accounts of the fire-bombing of the city of Fukuoka on the evening of June 19, 1945.
26: Harukanaru Toki no Naka de: Maihitoyo
Japanese: 劇場版 遙かなる時空（とき）の中で 舞一夜（まいひとよ）
MAL Score: 7.17
One rainy day, Akane crosses path with a kind young man who tacitly offers to her his coat. On their second encounter, he confesses that he has no recollection of who he is, his name or his past, but feels contented by just being with her. Besotted, Akane sets out to find his name, and to unravel his enigmatic connection with a famous cursed dance rumoured to kill anyone who attempts to perform it.
However, I liked this movie much better than the series. In my opinion, the Hachiyou Shou TV series was rather average, there was some good moments but overall there was nothing special. Too cliche, too shoujo, not enough character depth, predictable plot devices etc.
The movie can be watched as a stand alone movie (would still make sense), but since it follows the TV series (is a sequal) it may make more sense to have a better understanding before watching the movie. The plot isn’t different from the series (can be seen as an episode of the tv series), but the character depth of Akane and her relationship with the other main character made the movie good in my opinion.
As mention above, it fits the general plot line of meet enemy, fight enemy, defeat enemy. However, it was the intricacies beyond the plot events that really captivates. A coincidental meeting brings two unlikely people together, a meaningful and fragile friendship forms, but in the end was never allowed to blossom. There is hope and heartbreak. What is really great about the story lies in the portrayal of the main character Akane, and in how cruel fate can be. I will talk more regarding this in character section. I should mention here that Akuram and the oni clan are not involved in this story and does not appear at all.
Beautifully rendered art. If you have seen the series, the movie has much better art. The background was given a lot of detail and textures.
I was especially drawn to the opening music (which is the music for the dance that the movie is about) which probably biased my opinion. The music within the movie (not much) was alright, but the song for the dance really got to me. I also find it beautiful to come in a full circle, and the movie ended in a foil of how it started.
The plot of the story isn’t anything special, but what the story is really about, is the characters in it. Specifically, it is about Akane. It is a story about a miko who was being suffocated by her overprotective hachiyou guardians and by the duties pushed on her, a miko who is losing herself and confused about who she is and what she should do, a miko who is putting on a fake front for everyone but secretly breaking inside. Mostly, it focuses on the miko’s inner struggle, her guardians being unable to understand her (and her trying to appear strong for them), and how a chance meeting with a new friend changes everything.
For the character depth and development, and beauty of fate/chance meetings, I really like this movie. I would say more but I don’t want to spoil anything about the story.
Enjoyment and Overall 9/10
Because of all the emotional depth that was portrayed for Akane (and to a lesser degree, the dancer) and the character development (they’re facing a personal crisis, they go through emotional turmoil, and eventually finds some sort of solution to regain peace and become a stronger character for it), and the fact that it’s not another “nothing serious happens, nothing really changes” episode of Hachiyou shou, I find it very enjoyable overall. I also like the bittersweet ending, which has a much bigger impact than a sparkly rainbow happy ending.
If you’re not interested in seeing some character development in Akane then the movie is probably not that great for you. The whole movie revolves around Akane and her inner turmoils, everyone else takes a very minor role.
The plot was plain and frankly there is nothing much to write about. And while it is uncomplicated and easy to understand, it doesn’t captivate the audience.
Probably the only salvageable part of this ova. Peppered with bishounens (pretty boys), there is a depth of research of the traditional japanese living ways seen in its art.
The soundtrack is pleasant to ears, however while it tries hard to capture the mood of the ova, it fails short in certain parts.
Having enjoyed the set of characters in the anime series, I had looked forward to seeing them again. This ova, has tried to put in enough screen time for each of their characters, but because of this, it becomes messy. It tries too much and ends up making several characters to the point of annoyance.
In whole, while I enjoyed the appearance of more bishounens, I found the ova severely lacking to the point of annoyance. I do not recommend it to anyone except the die hard fans.
25: Ihatov Gensou: Kenji no Haru
English: Spring and Chaos
Japanese: イーハトーブ幻想 Kenjiの春
MAL Score: 7.19
A unique biographical sketch of the life of the great modern Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa, Spring and Chaos is a highly stylized and intense film that draws on Miyazawa’s writing techniques to tell his life story. Miyazawa often used animals as the main characters in his stories and poems, and it is this technique that allows director Shoji Kawamori to recreate Miyazawa’s fanciful land of Ihatov and use it as the backdrop for Miyazawa’s life. Beautiful and affecting, Spring and Chaos is a fitting tribute to one of Japan’s greatest writers.
(Source: Rotten Tomatoes)
Spring and Chaos is a short parable on Kenji Miyazawa’s life as an adult, directed by Shoji Kawamori of Macross and Escaflowne fame. Of course, one cannot expect a comprehensive life account in less than an hour’s time—thankfully, the movie doesn’t attempt that. Colorful and deliberately surreal, it instead relays the atmosphere of Miyazawa’s works and the circumstances of their creation, the physical and emotional turmoil he was going through in his short life, and his unique and vivid vision of the world around him, doing so in short and poignant glimpses that tell us exactly as much as we need to know to understand his personality. Surrounded by misfortune, sadness, and misunderstanding, Miyazawa’s soul shone through in his unrelenting dedication to comprehending the world and enriching the lives of others back when almost nobody—including most of his family members—could realize the extent of his talent, strength of character, and self-sacrifice.
The movie quite fittingly gives us a good taste of Miyazawa’s writing and worldview by presenting his life as a visual poem where characters are portrayed as cats—and does so by capturing the very essence of poetry in all of its splendor without focusing too much on the worldly details; in a sense, taking an approach almost exactly inverse of the over-represented slice-of-life genre. Call it an “essence of life”: the genre where you say little to tell a lot. And yes, in its relatively short runtime it tells quite enough to emotionally overwhelm—just like good poetry should.
Many of you know how it feels to rewatch something you first saw many years ago. More often than not you fail to recapture that first-time experience. But Spring and Chaos is one of those very rare pieces of art that doesn’t only stand the test of time—it actually becomes better on a subsequent watch. I was just under 20 when I first saw it, and while it certainly did seem inspired and engaging at the time, I couldn’t say I was moved very much. But now I’m 30, and it completely wrecks me. Perhaps, it’s just that it’s easier to empathize as you grow older, or maybe it’s because I’ve grown to appreciate poetry more since my teenage years. I don’t know, but it’s hard to even write this simple review without choking up. So many scenes in Spring and Chaos are unbelievably powerful despite the narrative subtlety. This is especially prominent in the second half, considering the movie has very little actual dialogue and relies predominantly on visual storytelling. All in all a mark of an outstanding work that transcends its medium and succeeds at its ultimate task: to introduce the viewer to the marvelous world of Kenji Miyazawa. The lamp is lost, its light forever preserved. Sleep well, Kenji-san.
This movie really isn’t for everyone, the whole idea of the story is somewhat vague if you try to really understand it. But, in no less does that take away from the whole experience. I truly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a Miyazaki film or a Otomo film.
I do say though with heart, the main character, Kenji, left me to wonder a lot of things about life and its surroundings. This movie can teach you something.
The main character Kenji Miyazawa is a bit of an oddball,his idealistic view of life and carefree attitude is a point of contention between him and his father and a source of amusement among children.He’s immature while at the same time convincing in his lead role.
I really like the animation,the drawing was done with great detail,the like of which is rarely seen among today CGI animation.
Overall not an anime everyone will be able to appreciate but i found it enjoyable non the less.
24: Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai
Japanese: 百日紅～Miss HOKUSAI～
MAL Score: 7.19
The time: 1814. The place: Edo, now known as Tokyo.
One of the highest populated cities in the world, teeming with peasants, samurai, townsmen, merchants, nobles, artists, courtesans, and perhaps even supernatural things.
A much accomplished artist of his time and now in his mid-fifties, Tetsuzo can boast clients from all over Japan, and tirelessly works in the garbage-loaded chaos of his house-atelier. He spends his days creating astounding pieces of art, from a giant-size Bodhidharma portrayed on a 180 square meter-wide sheet of paper, to a pair of sparrows painted on a tiny rice grain. Short-tempered, utterly sarcastic, with no passion for sake or money, he would charge a fortune for any job he is not really interested in.
Third of Tetsuzo’s four daughters and born out of his second marriage, outspoken 23-year-old O-Ei has inherited her father’s talent and stubbornness, and very often she would paint instead of him, though uncredited. Her art is so powerful that sometimes leads to trouble. “We’re father and daughter; with two brushes and four chopsticks, I guess we can always manage, in a way or another.”
Decades later, Europe was going to discover the immense talent of Tetsuzo. He was to become best known by one of his many names: Katsushika Hokusai. He would mesmerize Renoir and van Gogh, Monet and Klimt.
However, very few today are even aware of the woman who assisted him all his life, and greatly contributed to his art while remaining uncredited. This is the untold story of O-Ei, Master Hokusai’s daughter: a lively portrayal of a free-spirited woman overshadowed by her larger-than-life father, unfolding through the changing seasons.
(Source: Production I.G)
Sarusuberi has neither a main conflict nor a linear narrative, instead made up of a handful of shorter stories that are loosely held together by O-Ei, the film’s central character. It is difficult to asses the story’s effectiveness, because there isn’t really a particular “goal” that it tries to achieve, thus no tangible criteria to judge it against. I did think, however, that each section of the movie had something of interest in it, was well-paced, and never felt pointless.
The format also leads to the overall tone of the completed film being very subdued, with virtually none of the melodrama one would expect out of an anime. Where the movie gets its flair from are, in my opinion, the art, as well as the masterfully done sequences of magical realism woven throughout. There aren’t many, but when they do appear these sequences are breathtaking, effectively adding some variation in what could have easily become a monotonous film.
Due to the lack of a real plot, it’s also difficult to asses the film’s characters. While there is little development for most of them (though O-Ei does receive some, subtly but powerfully so,) it can also be said that they aren’t really meant to undergo much development in the first place. All I can say is that I believe the film is meant to be experienced with the characters rather than following them as they try to get from Point A to Point B, and for this purpose most of the characters are interesting and unique (though not always likeable, which in my opinion is a good thing), even though some appear only briefly.
The animation, art, and sound in this film are all exceptional. Perhaps due to the presence of O-Nao, O-Ei’s blind sister, this film is truly a sensory experience. So much attention is paid to the details in the scenes where she appears – everything from footsteps, the crackling of woven grass, the creaking of a great wooden bridge – that it adds a touch of realism to the animation. A number of scenes delightfully weave some of Hokusai’s actual art into the visuals, creating some of the most potent scenes of the film. Edo period Japan is crafted so immersively that it would be a joy to watch the film even for just that purpose.
The only thing about this movie I’m not sure that I loved was the music. The film makes use of a more traditional orchestral soundtrack, with sections using traditional Japanese music, and, strangely, in a couple of scenes, electric guitar riffs. While I understand what the film could have been going for – perhaps showing O-Ei’s character at odds with the norms of her time, I found it rather jarring to hear.
Not all will have the patience for or the interest in this kind of film, but I would recommend Sarusuberi to fans of historical anime, animation, and subdued slice-of-life shows of the non-moe variety. It is a beautiful, subtle, intelligent film that doesn’t try too hard to be any of those three, which is what, I believe, makes it so excellent.
So, maybe now you are interested in knowing the life of this mysterious unknown woman? Maybe you want to see the movie to find the truth and discover her life from her young age to her death…well, if that’s the case, you might end up to be a little disappointed by this movie ^^ .
But here, I’ll try to tell you why you should watch it nonetheless and what is in fact the qualities (and the little minor default) of this movie:
See, Miss Hokusai, while being centered around the figure of O-Ei, isn’t about her life, instead the movie take the gamble to opt for a slice of life aspect, developing around little separated scenes involving the little crew of marginal painter composed of Tetsuzo (more known by the name of Hokusai) the monolithic eccentric artist, and his disciples, including O-Ei.
The movie also didn’t chose to make the relationship daughter-father into a central aspect, and the hint about the link of the two character is discreetly spread through the movie instead.
Then about those different scenes I’m talking about, they can mostly be divided into two categories:
First the one including Hokusai, one of his slightly drunken disciple (provider of some of the comical aspect of the movie) and O-Ei. These moments follow the crew involved in problems and mystery that they will solve with painting. In them, some supernatural and fantastic aspect are surprisingly very present, would it be a menacing dragon lurking in the dark clouds of the sky, or the spirit of a geisha coming out of her body at night.
These moments, while being creative and unexpected, are not the best in the movie, instead, the real highlight of this movie come from the second type of scene:
In them, we discover O-nao, the younger sister of O-Ei, who had the misfortune to be born blind. These moments, with O-Ei walking around, “showing” O-nao the living life of the people traveling a pond, or listening to the silent in a snowy day, are very meaningful and powerful moments.
In fact, those moments reveal one of the best quality of this movie: the emotion is never expressed directly in a frontal way, with heavy talk and shows of tears, but by little touch, when O-Ei warmly touched her sisters little hands or when the screen simply took the time to show us her face, slightly smiling looking at her younger sister playing in the snow, discovering the discreet wonders of everyday life.
The relation between O-nao and her father, never showing up to her, is also a very impactful aspect of the movie, even if never addressed frontally.
But what about the music? Well it might be the weakest point of the movie. The movie take the bet on using rock instrumental music and sound, surely to try to emphasis on the modernity and strong whiled feminism of O-Ei…and while the intention is visible, the result don’t match and feel out of place. Other than that, the sound and music are quite rare and most of the time the scene will be composed of the character talking without ambient music or much sound, which accentuate the slow pacing of the movie (while it’s not really a default, it should be mentioned for those reluctant to watch a movie without action like this, that they might find boring).
I didn’t talked much about O-Ei in herself, but even if I might have made clear that the movie is not really about developing her character or make us enter in her life completely, she stays a very refreshing and free woman, a type of character that is not that often seen in anime, and it’s also one of the good points of this movie.
To summarize: if you like slice of life anime, if you want to take a look and feel what life in the end of the Edo periodeperiod was like, then you should watch this movie and will surely enjoy it.
Thank you for reading this review to the end.
Despite its focus on traditional Japanese arts, the art was mediocre. The style wasn’t something I liked, nor was it overly complicated or pretty. Several times some scenes were lacking too much in detail for it to be a movie made in 2015. The animation has way too many still scenes, often very confusing as I have to check if there was anything wrong with my computer while watching it. Had they chosen a different art style – perhaps one that has a watercolour feeling similar to Legend of Kaguya, it would have been much preferable to this bland mix.
The soundtrack can only be described as terrible. As a story set in 1800’s Japan, someone would expect a more traditional soundtrack with minimal electrical sounds. However, we are introduced to the opening scene with an electric guitar as a background. During one of the last climatic scenes featuring Oei running, the electrical guitar played, creating a somewhat ridiculous effect. The soundtrack wasn’t just bad, it was disorienting. It takes the viewer out of the setting of the story back into our lives in the modern world. When any good movie should let the viewer forget about their life, the soundtrack choice for this movie was more than appalling. However, there are very rare moments when the soundtrack sounded nice, preventing it from getting a simple “1” for its score.
Overall, it wasn’t a good movie. The soundtrack was terrible, the animation was mediocre, the story lacked focus, the characters didn’t get properly developed, and the art style just might not be your cup of tea.
4/10. And that’s being generous because it almost made me cry.
23: Donten ni Warau Gaiden: Ouka, Tenbou no Kakehashi
English: Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds – Gaiden: Chapter 3 – Conspiracy of the Military
Japanese: 曇天に笑う＜外伝＞ ～桜華、天望の架橋～
MAL Score: 7.20
The three brothers discover that the human experiment banned after destroying the “Orochi”, is still going on to secretly revive the evil snake. They also find out that some ex-members of the Yamainu (the Japanese military unit formed to kill the snake) are behind this conspiracy. The brothers fight together again in a battle against the military.
(Source: Amazon Prime Video)
22: Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru
English: Night on the Galactic Railroad
MAL Score: 7.28
Giovanni is a young boy who lives on the outskirts of a small rustic village. His mother is bedridden and his father has not returned home since leaving to work on a fishing boat. An outcast at school, Giovanni has only one friend: Campanella, the mayor’s son. During the town’s Festival of Stars, Giovanni starts to daydream atop a hill and looks up to find a steam engine train floating in the air. He boards the train only to find his friend Campanella already there. And so, the two begin their journey through the stars where they come across unusual people and visit many beautiful and haunting places.
Night on the galactic Railroad is quite the ride… to say the least. Before beginning this movie I had been given fair warning, yet I still proceeded giving it the benefit of the doubt.
Have you ever smoked acid? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure this story is something that might pop into your head if you did. Get ready for the ride of your life as you follow two cardboard cutouts into a cluster of strange and meaningless scenes. Usually stories have linear plots and character developments with a twist at the end that makes everything make sense. Gisaburou Sugii throws all of that out the windows. Night on the Galactic Railroad is a tale that will leave you shocked at the fact that you just spent over an hour of your life watching nothing.
Bambi was made in 1942 and the animation still hold up to this day. Night on the Galactic Railroad was made in the mid 1980’s (38 years later) and the animation was terrible. This is a slideshow of a movie. Almost every shot is either a panning shot or a series of recycled animation.
Never has there been a more disturbing sound track in anime. For 113 minutes I squirmed in my seat out of discomfort. The soundtrack consists of nothing but scary, creepy, and unsettling music. Even if the characters are going through something heartfelt or loving the music would cut in and ruin everything. The quality of the music is also a problem. This static music not only sounds bad but it breaks all illusion of immersion, destroying the atmosphere, which in all honesty is a breath of fresh air.
Have you ever sat down and looked at a piece of cardboard covered in crayon scribble. That’s basically the experience of watching these characters on the screen. There has never been a more cold hearted character as Giovanni. This ice cold cat stares without compassion as children drown before his eyes. The only other being that is as heartless as Giovanni is his prick friend Campanella. This couple stares poker-faced as they see horrific sights and atrocities committed in front of them. It does not matter what these characters go through, their facial expressions will not change in the slightest.
The sound scraped against my ears, the animation scraped against my eyes, and the story scraped against my soul. This movie was uncomfortable, horribly written, and everything about it made me want to turn it off. This was a train-wreck of a movie.
I would not recommend this movie to anyone and neither should you.
21: Doraemon Movie 21: Nobita no Taiyou Ou Densetsu
English: Doraemon the Movie: Nobita’s the Legend of the Sun King
Japanese: 映画 ドラえもん のび太の太陽王伝説
MAL Score: 7.28
Doraemon and its friends open a hole in the time and they’re travel to the Country of Mayana, a lost Mayan civilization in the jungle. There, Nobita will know its perfect double, prince Thio, heir to the throne. Both will decide to interchange papers to try to save to the Country of Mayana of the claws of the infernal Ledina witch and her evil forces.
The soundtrack was so amazing overall and was probably the best soundtrack from a doraemon movie that i have seen.
The story honestly was not boring and i usually complain about the unrealistic scenes but this one was so good and totally worth it.
Although i only gave it an 8 it still great because some of the other ones were below average and rlly boring in the end and felt like they were desperately trying to drag the movie on.
Im so glad that Tio (who is like nobita) wasnt a non athletic dumb character. Thats one of the strong points of the movie that i love.
Its great how Tio was a kinda rude but nice person that was athletic was the “ancestor” of Nobita and proves that its not the generation that makes nobita so dumb but the fact that he just doesnt want to study.
There was a lot of comedy that I loved throughout the movie and most moments didnt feel like absolute filler.
Overall an 8 for the amazing soundtrack, plot, art, characters.
I found this movie to be a great and spectacular movie that I recommend and I rlly hope this gets remade (with the old soundtrack)
English: The Portrait Studio
MAL Score: 7.31
The story takes place before WWII at a photo studio on top of a hill. Many people visit this studio to have their photos taken. One day, a couple comes, but the wife is so shy that she always lowers her head. The owner of the studio tries all kinds of tricks to get her to smile and eventually succeeds.
One year later, the couple comes again, but this time they bring their daughter along. She always looks grumpy, and again, the owner has to try everything to get her to smile. Thus starts a long-running relationship between the girl and the owner, and time passes to years and then decades…
The art in this anime is definetly amazing. Fair enough characters don’t look particularly anime-ish but when you look at them you can feel all the emotions running through their heads. Backrounds are exceptionaly well drawn and their vivid colours can undoubtedly be called “an eye candy”.
There is not much I can write about the story or characters as the movie was too short to highly develop either of them. However makers of this masterpiece have done a great job of making an admirable and likeable main character (photographer).
My favourite aspect of this movie is the soundtrack. 16 minutes of magnificent, well-fitting classical music will definetly be hard to forget.
To conclude i recommend Shashinkan to every lover of bitter sweet love stories. If you have quarter an hour and a supply of tissues to spare, you are ready to watch it!
As a film that is bereft of dialogue, its music was an important narration device. The story’s mood is guided through friendly arpeggios, seamless key changes, and befitting subtle dynamics. Using only a piano, the piece stays true to its semi-minimalist nature. This adds on to the beautiful, and sincere tone that “Shashinkan” exhibits.
Its visual expression is very unique and stylistic. The characters have a simple and soft color pallette, and is contrasted by the detailed background, complimented with gorgeous patterns. All the colors are very harmonious, and creates a strong sense of ‘togetherness’ as a piece. The character design is very charming, and allows the viewer to empathize with them. I noticed myself smiling and tearing up while watching this short film.
I highly recommend “Shashinkan” for sentimental viewers that enjoy visually pleasing short films.
The whole animation has an elegantly layered evolution to it. The story is delivered in several segments, or snapshots, where we watch as a photographer struggles to bring the smile out of a young child. Photography plays a major role in this anime.
The whole movie is void of any speech or talking. There are sublet background noises such as moans, laughs, and ones of nature. But this is all layered over with a classical soundtrack which if anything compliments the piece.
The styling reminds of the Professor Layton Games, especially with the coloring. As we are presented with a new snapshot, the time frame skips forwards a few years and we watch as the child grows up. The layering comes into play here as well. For instance, as the family descends the stairs to the photographers home, the landscape of neighboring houses is layered on top.
The setting was placed during the first world war, though that was more layered to the background. If you were to see family photos from that time, you’d have hinted that war was taking place but there would be nothing overwhelming nor obvious as to how bad it was. This is nothing short of genius as overall, the whole story is presented to us as a family album. If you were to flick through one of your parent’s albums, you’d see years skip by before your eyes. You’ll see a story play out as how family members come and go. This whole concept was clearly taken into consideration and folded into this nice little 16 minute short.
As it is short, it is well worth the watch and the story itself is heartwarming, to say the least. So if you have a few minutes to spare, if you need to take a little break. I suggest this is a nice way to do it.
19: Fuse: Teppou Musume no Torimonochou
English: Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress
Japanese: 伏 鉄砲娘の捕物帳
MAL Score: 7.34
In Kyokutei Bakin’s classic Japanese epic novel Nansou Satomi Hakkenden, eight samurai serve the Satomi clan during Japan’s tumultuous Sengoku (Warring States) era. The Edo-era samurai are the reincarnations of the spirits that Princess Fuse mothered with a dog named Yatsufusa. In Fuse Gansaku: Satomi Hakkenden, the female hunter Hamaji comes to her brother in order to hunt Fuse. Thus, the karmic cycle of retribution that began long ago with the Satomi family begins anew.
They are cute, intelligent, affectionate, and loyal until the very end. Now what does that have to do with the movie Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunter Girl?
Fuse (pronounced “foo say”) is the story of an energetic hunter girl named Hamaji who moves from the mountains to the bustling city of Edo after the death of her grandfather. Hamaji is taken in by her older brother, who is also a hunter himself. Shortly after arriving, Hamaji is greeted with a rather gruesome site of bleeding dog’s heads put out on display for the entire town to see. Taken aback by the display, she lashes out in horror. The citizens tease her a bit and then explain that they are fuse; half dog and half human menaces that terrorize and murder the human residents of Edo. A hefty bounty is put on the heads of these fuse, so every third rate samurai across the city is after their heads for the money and the glory.
Well gee, so much for being man’s best friend.
Hamaji’s brother wants to hunt down the remaining two fuse. Little does he know that Hamaji had already met and befriended a fuse named Shino on her way to his humble adobe.
The thing that stands out the most in this movie is most definitely its art, animation, and sound. The movie has a highly detailed, colorful, and polished world. Backgrounds are bursting with life and vibrant color. Beautiful Edo will amaze you with its sights and sounds, from the chaotic red light district, to the elaborate feudal castles, to the beautiful foliage. The character designs themselves are also quite interesting, vaguely resembling the characters from a Ghibli film or perhaps an older anime from the 90s. The soundtrack is also given equal treatment, with a traditional flair pulsing from its chords.
The movie’s story is an interesting yet rather simplistic tale. It’s an engrossing, character driven story from beginning to end, though it is not without its flaws. Character development is rather minimal, aside from what’s given to the two main characters, and the ending to the movie felt rather abrupt. Which was a shame, because it had such an epic buildup. The pacing for most of this movie was just right, with no scene feeling like filler, nor were any of the scenes dripping with an overabundance of cheesy melodrama. And thankfully that is the case, considering the movie’s focus on romance. Now the romance of the movie could have been handled better as well. Like the ending, it is given a rather unsatisfying conclusion. Throughout the movie, it’s built up in a rather subtle way, not feeling as if it were awkwardly shoehorned in.
The relationships of the characters were the main focus of the movie, though it does have its moments of brutal and bloody actions scenes. These scenes are rather fluid and detailed, down to every drop of blood, every bullet, every swift swing of a sword.
However, the characters, not the action, are what make this movie so interesting. The main character Hamaji is a country bumpkin at heart, illiterate and quite ignorant of city life due to her upbringing that took place exclusively in the mountains. This gives the viewers a convenient window to learn about the city of Edo and its culture. Her relationship with the fuse Shino is the main focus of the movie. Shino is revealed to be somewhat of a tormented and deeply troubled character later on. They grow closer and closer as the movie progresses despite the people of their respective races being bitter enemies out for each other’s blood.
The other characters include a cast of lively and fun individuals. There is Hamaji’s older brother Dousetsu, a somewhat childish bachelor that appears to be far less responsible and much less humble than his little sister. There are also Dousetsu’s neighbors, a young man and his son, and a round heavyset man with a not so subtle crush on Hamaji. There is Dousetsu’s love interest Funamushi. There’s also Meido, a talented artist and writer. She is the grandchild of a famous author who attempted to paint the fuse as something more than the monsters they were made out to be through his revered novels.
In a way, perhaps the movie was trying to convey a message of acceptance and understanding. The humans would mercilessly hunt down fuse without a second thought, all for the sake of protecting their own people. Although it’s also clear that some were only hunting fuse simply for the money and fame. Likewise, the fuse hid amongst the humans and ate soul after soul, like animals making no effort to restrain themselves. Neither side made much of an effort to call a truce. Neither side tried to come to understand each other. Instead, a vicious cycle of killing turned without any hope of stopping. It presents an interesting “chicken or egg” argument. Did the Fuse start eating human souls because the humans were killing them? Or did the humans start killing Fuse because they started eating human souls?
Of course, that conclusion was drawn up with a generous amount of personal interpretation. There was far more room for them to convey their message a lot more cleanly.
Fuse is an interesting little feudal fantasy tale that comes together as a wonderful experience bursting with life. It has its obvious flaws, but it’s a great little lighthearted watch.
It has a very feel good vibe to it and is definitely worth your time.
Going into the film, i really really wanted to like it – I really did. And that’s likely why i felt a bit disappointed. The simple plot of the story sees our lone heroine move into edo to live with her brother and to help him hunt down the fuse (human/dog hybrids). Her search leads her to meet with Shino.
My unbiased review would have me say that the story is fairly simplistic (no major plot twist) and maybe even enjoyable. In other words, if i were to take it at face value, there’s nothing really wrong with it. However, a personal review would have me say that something about it just irked me. One of the genre listed with this film is “drama” but it didn’t really feel as dramatic as it could have been. I blame this on execution. I personally think they could have focused more screen time on the fuse and their situation/circumstances instead of the heroine who hunts them down.
The character development was almost none existent imo. I wont hold it strongly against the film, cause it IS a film but im suppose to feel inclined towards Hamaji and Shino when they only meet up 4 times in the movie? About the fuse, particularly Shino, I just never got around to really liking him. I cant really describe why i feel this way without spoiling so lets just say i felt he doesn’t get enough screen time/explanation for a character of his importance.
As for the art, i have no real complaints per se, but i personally don’t think it really matched the theme(s) of the film. The art is variant and almost colorful but that doesn’t really match with the theme(s) found in the film, etc:’we’re gonna hunt down these fuse, cut off their heads, and display it for the public.’ This is just a personal opinion and most people are hardly going to have much issues with the art.
There’s nothing really wrong with the film, it has decent plot and action but i found that it suffers from its inability to make me want to try and connect with the characters. I think the story would have had a much stronger impact had they choose Shino as the main lead instead of Hamaji. Anyways, as another reviewer said, it does kinda have a Princess Mononoke feel to it except that its more action orientated and slightly less developed characters.
So, do i regret watch the movie? kinda, but not really. Would i recommend it? As long as you go in not expecting anything great. It has a “meh” fell about it.
(Read the actual plot on MAL for more info)
Hamaji, a young girl hunter living alone, gets a letter from her brother living in edo, to come and help him with hunting, Hamaji goes to edo to help her brother out and ends up meeting Shino, a very beautiful guy with shiny silver hair, and she runs into him a few more times later on trough out the story. In this movie there are ‘Fuse’ part human, part dog creatures that eat the orbs from humans, when beheaded they die. (Okay, I suck at explaing things and I don’t want to just copy and paste the plot from MAL because that would be stupid.) but anyways, the story dose sound a little cliche, sure. You probably think ‘Oh, another InuYasha wannabe or something.’ But it’s actually pretty good and heartwarming. Makes you feel all fuzzy inside after it ends. Like you feel after you finish a good Ghibli movie. 🙂
They art was very good and eye pleasing with much detail to the background and scenery, Not really focusing on the people, they they where nicely done too. Another part that reminded me of Ghibli.
Also, they where not scared to use lots of Blood, another plus side imo. 😉
The characters wheren’t cliche, they where funny and I didn’t feel like ripping my hair out watching any of them. I fell in love with Hamaji, she was such a strong, brave, beautiful and passionate girl.
Shino was hot, mysterious and interesting. He ate people orbs, and he wanted to eat Hamaji’s too, but he tried very hard to fight his hunger, and not harm her.
It was funny, I laughed, cried a little and smiled like crazy while watching this movie. It was very exciting and I can’t wait to own it on DVD. ^_^
It’s def one of those ‘feel good’ movies and I recommend it to people who enjoy movies like that.
(Okay, now I can take my sleepy self to bed. //yawn)
18: Oushitsu Kyoushi Heine Movie
English: The Royal Tutor Movie
Japanese: 劇場 王室教師ハイネ
MAL Score: 7.34
The four princes of Grannzreich—Kai, Bruno, Leonhard, and Licht— continue to compete for the right to their kingdom’s throne under the guidance of their beloved royal tutor, the competent yet childlike Heine Wittgenstein.
One day, during a political visit to Grannzreich, the king of the neighboring Romano Kingdom arrives at the royal palace with his twin sons, Ivan and Eugene. In the hopes of befriending the twins, Heine and the four princes meet their visitors, but their efforts are thwarted instantly when the two twin princes declare that they refuse to address those who will never reach the throne. Dispersing the tension between the boys, Heine reveals that he, upon their father King Victor von Grannzreich’s request, will be tutoring the Romano princes alongside the Grannzreichs for the duration of their stay, in hopes of strengthening the future relations between the two kingdoms.
If you’re new, then it is best to watch the anime first before the movie or you’re not gonna care much about these characters. If you didn’t like the anime or someone who’s looking for something grand to happen in the movie, then you might be disappointed.
This review will be spoiler free!
One way to describe this movie is that it felt like I just watched one long episode of The Royal Tutor but with two new pretty boys. So nothing new really happens story wise if you’re familiar with the anime. If you’re hoping to learn something about Heine or see more of the princes and their story, then this movie might be a letdown.
Like always, this anime just loves to make hair seem as amazing as possible. But for real about the art, it’s pretty much similar to the anime, so nothing breathtaking. Though, I do notice the increase of 3D animation and it can be very distracting once you notice. It does not really mesh well and can look a little wonky.
The soundtrack is enjoyable and a good one for this movie, so I don’t have any complaints. The ending song is pretty cute too and loved listening to it.
Again the characters will seem meh if you never seen the anime before. So if you’re familiar with them, you’ll still love these guys. Though, the focus of the movie will be these two new princes. And they’re pretty decent characters and would like to see more of them if the anime does get a season two. Heine did not get that much focus as I hoped. The four princes have an even amount of screen time, though Licht and Leo get shining moments on their own. Sadly, Eins doesn’t get much screen time. The interactions between the characters are just as enjoyable as the anime and a lot of fun to watch.
As someone who loved and enjoyed the anime, this movie was a lot of fun and made me want a season 2. One of my fav things of the movie was the ending where it was time for a dance and we get to see certain characters dance with each other which I won’t reveal too much. It’s just cute~
While I did enjoy this movie, I gotta say that it’s nothing too special since it pretty much is like one big episode. If you enjoyed the anime and don’t mind that it’s like watching an episode then I recommend it! If you’re someone that wasn’t a fan of the anime, then I would say skip the movie.
1) nothing too ugly but not too pretty to look at either
2) useless and ugly CGI at the end
1) there were some moments where the dialog and the animation were not properly synced
2) some characters only sound good singing if auto-tuned
Story and characters:
1) the plot is simple and that works for this type of series but it got dragged out to the point that I wasn’t entertained by the movie anymore
2) The inclusion of (SPOILER!!!) this King that is against anything that does not involve violence and everything else that happened afterwards was ridiculous. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the guy but if he’s the King, obviously their sons would have to obey so that entire sequence was ridiculous. And when the princes returned to perform, the King would know about them going against his orders because it’s really hard to believe that the heirs to the throne would go home without an escort.
All things considered this movie is a 4/10 for me.
It was, overall, a feel-good, mood-lifting movie that’s worth the watch 🙂 Loved the characters, including the new ones. The plot is not complex, yet I found myself relating and enjoying each scene. If you liked the Royal Tutor anime series then you’ll definitely enjoy this one too.
17: Hadashi no Gen 2
English: Barefoot Gen 2
Japanese: はだしのゲン ２
MAL Score: 7.35
Three years have passed since the bombing of Hiroshima and Gen is now a fourth-grader. Hiroshima is still a ruin, and Gen must scrounge for scrap metal to help keep himself and his remaining family fed, but at least commerce has returned to the land. As his mother gradually grows ill from radiation sickness, Gen and Ryuta befriend a group of orphans led by a tough-nosed older child and including a girl who still bears ugly burn scars from the day of the bomb. An old man suffering from depression is also drawn into the group as they come together to support each other and form a makeshift family. Reality is still harsh, however, as many orphans still die lonely deaths and the grim reminders of what happened linger everywhere.
Barefoot Gen talked about the bombing in Hiroshima, but in Barefoot Gen 2, it talks about the effects of the bombing known as “pika”, in which it causes that person to have cancer, getting intestines broken and die. It also gives a message of hope to the audience through the eyes of Gen in this movie and the scene where he learns the words that his dad taught him 3 years ago is incredibly heartfelt in the end of the movie.
The animation and music in Barefoot Gen 2 is much more improved. Madhouse gave it a nice colorful upgrade to the art style and it shows with better fluid character models and better background art than the original. Music is less corny and more subtle in the film with tracks ranging from happy to sad to just depressing as hell. The Japanese voice acting is improved and the new voice actor that plays Gen was excellent in his performance and also, no sh*tty dub to ruin this film unlike the original Barefoot Gen English dub that almost ruined the film for me.
Overall, while not as good as the orignal, Barefoot Gen 2 still manages to be a damn good sequel, with all the heartbreaking emotions that the original had in this sequel.
Overall an enjoyable sequel with similar levels of tension to that of the predecessor but lacks some originaility and had some reused elements.
16: Donten ni Warau Gaiden: Ketsubetsu, Yamainu no Chikai
English: Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds – Gaiden: Chapter 1 – One Year After the Battle
Japanese: 曇天に笑う＜外伝＞ ～決別、犲の誓い～
MAL Score: 7.41
One year has passed after the great battle against the “Orochi” (gigantic snake). Tenka had been paralyzed from the final battle and he took part of the government’s human experiment before the battle. Tenka withdrew himself from society, but his younger brothers, Soramaru and Chuutaro, find out the secret past about their older brother.
(Source: Amazon Prime Video)
15: Haikara-san ga Tooru Movie 1: Benio, Hana no 17-sai
Japanese: 劇場版 はいからさんが通る 前編 ～紅緒、花の17歳～
MAL Score: 7.49
The story follows Benio “Haikara-san” Hanamura, who lost her mother when she was very young and has been raised by her father, a high-ranking official in the Japanese army. As a result, she has grown into a tomboy—contrary to traditional Japanese notions of femininity, she studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in often outlandish-looking Western fashions instead of the traditional kimono, and is not as interested in housework as she is in literature. She also rejects the idea of arranged marriages and believes in a woman’s right to a career and to marry for love.
This is like when you fall in love with a girl, dated, but then before you fucked her you somehow realized that she has aids.
It’s also quite a bit of a surprise that this strikes a resemblance to Violet Evergarden. It is set in a historical war, there’s the “lost the one you loved” cliche, and so forth. The fact that this movie messed up triggers me so bad, I had to imagine that it didn’t even exist.
If you’re looking for a historical Shoujo “Drama” then this might be just for you. It’s good but you must be prepared for the second movie because that one is dogshit.
p.s. I gave this 10/10 because I’m assuming that the second movie doesn’t exist.
The story is put-together enjoyable and the art of storytelling has been made in a very lovely way. The transition between different scenes was often in such a smooth way that you just had to smile at how it was done. As the genre allocation of this anime says Comedy, Historical, Romance, and Shoujo, you get exactly that. I laughed or smiled a lot, while I was watching this movie and as I experienced it at the cinema I was surely not the only one with this expression aka impression of this movie. The historical aspects are also depicted quite well and one or the other scene reminded me of pictures I’ve seen before (in preparation for a presentation I made) about this era. Also, I haven’t seen such a pure romance shoujo for a while, which means some scenes have been worked out almost unrealistically perfect or smooth. But still very enjoyable and sweet. For sure something recommendable for romanticists.
The art was clean, consistent and very lovely. I wouldn’t describe it as the most artistic outstanding work ever, but it really was enjoyable. As I’ve seen this movie only once yet, I cannot further go into detail with this point.
The creators have taken great care of this production. The character design and composition also make it very enjoyable.
As it is Part 1 out of two movies, the story is not yet concluded but the first movie is in its own a great work and is not only the introduction to a bigger following story.
(Like some other multi-part movies have been created.)
OR WAS IT?!
Apparently, someone decided this story deserved a second chance, rightfully so, and decided to make a bold move: Revive the series! But instead of making it into another TV series, they decided to adapt it into two movies. Not only that, they completely changed the art style to make it appeal to modern anime audiences, with a new look and coat of paint. Having seen the first movie myself now that I have the first Blu-Ray, I can wholeheartedly say that whoever decided this anime deserved a second chance did an awesome job of bringing it back to life, even with its flaws. Because this movie is awesome and I absolutely can’t wait for the second movie to come out!
The story takes place in the 1910s-1920s, during the Taisho era, focusing on Benio Hanamura, a happy-go-lucky, ambitious young woman and the daughter of a high ranking military officer in the Japanese Army. She lost her mother when she was young, and as a result, has become quite the stubborn, individualistic tomboy, in stark contrast to the strict idea of the “good wife, wise mother” ideal of womanhood. She studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in Western clothes, and ardently believes that a woman should be free to choose who they themselves want to marry instead of being forced to accept arranged marriages. When she finds she’s been betrothed to a man she knows nothing about, a handsome, sweet natured man named Shinobu Ijuuin, Benio tries everything she can to get out of it, from deliberately messing up her chores and housework (Which isn’t hard, since she sucks at housework anyway) to trying to set him up with her best friend, who actually likes him. But things don’t always go the way she wants them to, and circumstances might just make her realize that things might be better than she thinks.
Now, the original manga is eight volumes long, so it can be hard to try and cram so much material into two movies, much less one. Many movies have tried this and failed miserably. As of this writing, I haven’t seen the second movie yet (Though I do want to, and I’m definitely getting the Blu-Ray once it comes out!), so the review will focus solely on the first one for now. But even with the movie’s overly condensed, compressed nature, there’s a lot of things that it manages to do really well. One of those things is the animation and the character designs. As you can see, both the original manga and the anime from the 70s have VERY dated designs, with washed out colors, exaggerated sparkly eyes, huge lips, and some weird-looking, gonky faces sometimes. The producers for the new movies radically updated the character designs, making them sharper, cleaner, and more modern but still keeping it true to the shoujo aesthestic, with huge doe eyes, large eyelashes, and the men having some feminized features. The animation is beautiful, with smooth movement, lovely backgrounds and backdrops that really enhance the mood of various scenes, and it even has the characters make comedic, goofy faces like in the original Sailor Moon anime, and it works really well here.
I’m kind of biased when it comes to the soundtrack, as it’s done by one of my favorite anime composers, Michiru Oshima, who’s worked on a lot of my favorite anime such as Nabari no Ou, My Sister Momoko, Fancy Lala, Snow White with the Red Hair, the live-action Sailor Moon series, and many others. But you probably know her for her work on the original Fullmetal Alchemist, Little Witch Academia, Tatami Galaxy, and more recently, Bloom Into You. Yet again, she hits a home run with the soundtrack here, with oboes and violins that perfectly fit the quaint, romantic feel of the movie, but never to the point of getting obnoxious or overbearing, something that few soundtracks can boast.
I do have some mixed feelings about the characters, which is inevitable considering this manga tries to cram several volumes of manga into one/two movies. I will say that Benio is a relatively good lead character: She has a lot of character flaws, such as being a little too stubborn and argumentative, which can make her come across as bratty at first, but the movie never takes these traits too far to the point of making her come off as obnoxious or a bitch. Plus, while she does eventually fall in love with Shinobu, she still keeps her self-sufficient, independent personality, taking charge of her own fate. She’s an intriguing, three-dimensional character with plenty of strengths, weaknesses, and perfectly carries the movie, something which is sorely needed in the anime industry as of right now. The other characters, on the other hand, aren’t as lucky in this department. They’re all decent enough, and I love the whole ensemble, but because the movie rushes through everything, they don’t get fleshed out like Benio does, so every scene they’re in lacks emotional impact. Shinobu in particular comes off as way too perfect. His patience for Benio is saintly, he’s always nice and kind, never pressures Benio into doing anything she doesn’t want to, supports her in everything, and there isn’t a bad bone in his body. Now, don’t get me wrong, normally I love these kinds of characters, and considering that most shoujo manga/anime tend to give those kinds of characters the shaft in favor of portraying people who IRL would be considered domestic abusers in a romantic, sympathetic light, we need more characters like Shinobu. But the problem with him here is that he doesn’t have any flaws. You can’t make a character that audiences will like if you don’t give him any flaws or traits that he needs to deal with or overcome, and the only time we see him have to deal with a character flaw is at the very end, so it winds up coming way too late. Eh, maybe the next movie will rectify this. I hope it does, because as much as I like Shinobu, you can’t deny that he’s rather vanilla and too perfect for his own good.
But none of these things detract from my enjoyment of the movie as a whole. Many scenes had me on the floor laughing a lot of the time, and in a really good way. The animation is luscious, the music is great, I love all the characters despite the movie being unable to develop them and flesh them out, and I’m really excited to see the next movie. I guess all of the movie’s problems can be attributed to its format: Movies are typically better suited for standalone stories, and trying to cram 10 volumes of manga into two movies won’t yield very good results if you want to tell a whole story. Scenes have to be cut out and you have to compress other parts in order to tell the story you want to tell. As far as Haikara-san is concerned, despite its initial missteps, I think the producers did extremely well with what they had and did the best they could to do what they needed to do here. It’s a sweet, heartwarming romantic comedy that’s sure to get a laugh out of you and take you to a time long past.
All in all, while made missteps in its presentation, Haikara-san part one is definitely one of the better romances I’ve seen this year, and I normally tend to dislike romance. Now to (impatiently)eagerly wait for the next movie to come out on Blu-Ray!
14: Ojiisan no Lamp
MAL Score: 7.54
When a young boy named Tooichi stumbles upon an old lamp in his grandfather’s shed, he mistakes it for a toy and takes it outside to play. When his grandfather discovers this, he reprimands the boy and begins recounting the story behind the artifact—of how a small, traditional Japanese town became Westernized.
In his youth, Tooichi’s grandfather, Minosuke, made a living by doing errands and chores for the townspeople. After one errand takes him to a nearby town, he witnesses Western lamps—a technology unfamiliar to him—light up the streets, igniting a spark in the young boy. From that moment on, lamps became Minosuke’s passion and profession, changing his and the townspeople’s lives forever.
Second of the four anime shorts from this great collection i’ve watched is Ojisan no Lamp, produced by Telecom Animation Film, the same guys who brought us Mujin Wakusei SURVIVE and the unique bacteria-comedy, Moyashimon. An old-timer, after seeing again his long-lost old floor lamp, tells his grandson a story about a certain lamp peddler who beginning from his childhood, through hard work and perseverance slowly built his business of assembling and selling oil lamps from the city to folks living in the countryside. Simply put, he was greatly inspired at the advancement of technology after seeing wonderful lights of oil lamps in the city when he was still a child and wanted the same for his village by the countryside. Also, he is bothered by having to bear with old technology (e.g. flint), despite the availability of new technology (e.g. matches) that undeniably makes things a lot easier. Although westernization and the advancement of technology in lamps became a reliable friend to him throughout the years, from his childhood until he became a family man, life seemed to have taken a sudden turn and he was thrown off as technology taught him a lesson he learned the hard way.
This story in particular really makes me wish I still had my grandparents around to tell me such amazing stories taken from their real life experiences. The show totally has great storytelling, the plot and storyline was consistent, despite the timeskips, albeit brief, and the emotions were well portrayed through the characters giving it perfect points for being a touching show in the drama genre. The story’s message was also clear and delivered very well and being set in historical Japan, the evident elements of history were pretty accurate also giving the viewers a good show of Japan’s cultural history.
Among the four anime, this show, to me, has the best artwork. Although the backgrounds were quite simple and drawn with just enough detail, the portrayal of the countryside, the city, nature and other sceneries were good and the animation and amount of lighting used on scenes perfectly fits, improves and sets the right mood on each, particularly on the most climactic parts. Character movement was also pretty smooth and particularly, I love how the characters were drawn in this one.
Like what I’ve mentioned earlier, the music for this anime is certainly spot on, suiting, even improving every scene it plays along to, especially the dramatic ones. Whether it be planting on rice fields, a cultural festival, plodding along a natural road on a summer day, losing heart on disappointments or feelings of desperation, the music certainly gives a perfect feel of the moment. Also, the OP and ED theme that plays along with the story itself are something you can’t just ignore.
This one, in my opinion, is definitely the best among the four anime shows in the 2010 YATP. Perfectly lighthearted, yet the ensuing drama is totally spot on. Consistent storyline, Great art and animation, Soothing and absolutely dramatic music, heck, I daresay, it’s like watching a Ghibli movie!
My quest to review the entries of the 2011 Future Animator Contest continues with the one shot anime that won the contest and was widely considered the best. That anime is Grandfather’s Lamp.
The story starts in 1930s Japan when a young boy comes across an old oil lamp and is quick to discard it. This displeases the boy’s grandfather, who proceeds to tell the young boy the importance that the lamp played in his life. When he was his grandson’s age, the grandpa worked in a rice field rather than attend school and had to use flint and tinder to start fires. When the Western technology of the oil lamp was introduced to his rural farming village, he was enthralled with this revolutionary technology and decided to become a lamp salesman. His grandmother saw the oil lamps as demonic and frightening at first, but gradually grew to accept them. For the first 20 years, the Grandpa’s business did very well and he married a beautiful wife and had 2 children. Then to his utter horror, his business was rendered obsolete overnight when electricity was introduced to the town. He tried to scare the other villagers and told them that electricity was evil magic and basically reacted the same way his grandmother had to the oil lamp. Although he was initially furious and emotionally crushed, he realized that he couldn’t be left behind and had to change his livelihood. He was then able to move on with a new dream.
The theme of this anime is the passage of time and how we can’t stop change. We must learn to accept that things change and adapt along with them. This particular example uses the astonishingly rapid modernization of Japan in the late 1800s and its transformation from a technologically backwards agrarian nation to a modern industrial nation in just a single lifetime. History has seen a number of great jumps like this, but Japan’s post Meiji Revolution jump is often viewed as one of the most dramatic and definitive examples. The anime wisely avoids the pitfalls of nostalgia and saying one time period is better than another. It instead looks passively and objectively at the fast flow of time and just how much the world can change in a single human lifetime. This anime is well animated, artful, and fairly thought provoking. Compared to the other entries in this contest, I can certainly see why this won.
The only real flaw I could see as a critic was that it could be accused of getting a tad sentimental at times. I find it amusing that this entry was clearly trying SO hard to win the contest, while the other entries are just playful and goofy. This was competing against a folktale parody about a spider-demon loli! Imagine a film contest in which “Boyhood” was up against “Freddy Got Fingered”. It doesn’t even seem fair, but rather like bringing a grenade launcher to a fist fight! Was Grandfather’s Lamp guilty of being “award bait”?
The answer to that last question is difficult to answer because what constitutes “award bait” actually depends entirely on the specific contest and what its judges are like. For example, “Oscar Bait” is NOT the same as “Cannes bait”. What do I mean by that? A good example of something that would be great for Cannes, but have no prayer at the Oscars is Mushishi. The major American film critics all called the live action version of Mushishi “boring, pretentious, garbage!” In the world of cinema, American film critics are notorious for being what anime snobs on MAL and 4chan call “filthy casuals”. The most respected film critics in the world are people like Sights and Sound Magazine in the UK. If you look at their top 100 films of all time, you will notice that the vast majority weren’t even nominated for the academy awards. Mushishi is an attempt to create an anime version of a very specific style of Euro art film in which plot and characters don’t really matter and it is ALL about surrealist imagery and existential artsyness. An example of the type of film that Mushishi clearly wanted to be like is “Stalker” from 1979. European film critics went NUTS over it and proclaimed it a masterpiece while American critics called it boring and pretentious and snubbed it in every category of the 1979 Oscars. Instead the Americans nominated several mediocre films like “Unmarried Woman”, “Coming Home”, and “Midnight Express”. Of course the French and British laughed their asses off at how profoundly stupid and uncultured the Oscar judges were and said that Stalker should have easily won: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Camera Editing hands down! My point is that I don’t know what the 2011 Future Animator judges were like and if this was indeed guilty of being award bait. It does kind of seem like it though.
Being one of the 2010 Young Animators’ Training Project, the artwork has a simplistic beauty about it and seems to have been done with great care. The shading of the eyes is a little weird – they have these dull colourings that are often used in other anime to indicate a lack of consciousness or control. The background music is also very good, gently supporting the quieter moments and weighing in and enhancing the key ones. Judging technical aspects of an anime really isn’t my forte though, so I’m gonna quickly move onto the other stuff. 😛
The first part of “Grandfather’s Lamp” is about how Minosuke, as a boy, came across lamps being sold at a shop in a time when such things are a rarity in Japan. Fascinated by this new technology, Minosuke decided to start selling them in his village, eventually growing up and expanding his enterprises into the city. For a long time, life was great; his business thrived and he started a family with his childhood crush. So far so good. This part of “Grandfather’s Lamp” is mostly calm and peaceful, a part that highlights Minosuke’s delightful enthusiasm for the lamp, and how it was the foundation to all that was good in his life.
The second part of the tale shows Minosuke’s lamp business becoming obsolete; electric lighting started to appear as Japan continued to modernise. Even though Minosuke embraced the technology that was the lamp, he was reluctant to show the same attitude towards electric lights, and did not want to abandon the lamp business his life was built upon. On paper, this had superb potential. It could have been a great story about Japan’s modernisation and Minosuke clinging on to the past. Instead, “Grandfather’s Lamp” fell on its face in this second part, as it went for impact and drama with a subject that should have been treated slowly and with subtlety. After all, it’s not like the adoption of new technology happens over night, and the point where it was treated as such, when Minosuke somehow only discovered electric lights when he was surrounded by them, is the point where the story started to fall apart.
It gets worse. Minosuke’s resentment eventually drives him to ridiculous actions that were made more ridiculous by the “Higurashi”-esq dramatisation, and his eventual enlightenment was delivered with all the finesse of an elephant burglar. It seems almost surreal when compared with the quiet, slice of life nature of the first half. Towards the end, as Minosuke finally came to terms with the inevitable and went about preparing for it, there was one breathtaking moment when the gorgeous visuals combined with the swelling music to form a beautiful, poetic scene, but even that was quickly marred by more silliness.
In the end, with its vast potential and solid technical aspects, “Grandfather’s Lamp” turned out to be only decent. With better screen writing and direction, it could have been so much more. It just feels like the effort that’s obviously been put into the animation is lacking elsewhere.
13: Princess Principal: Crown Handler Movie 1
English: Princess Principal Crown Handler
Japanese: プリンセス プリンシパル Crown Handler
MAL Score: 7.54
The film is set in London at the end of the 19th century and after the attempted assassination of the Imperial princess in the television anime. The Empire is increasing counter-spy actions in the wake of the incident, and finds Control, the Commonwealth group in charge of covert operations against the Empire, at unease and suspecting its spy within the royal family as a double agent. Control assigns their spy ring Dove with a new mission to extract a secondhand bookstore owner and deliver him to Commonwealth hands. Ange, Dorothy, and Chise successfully spring the bookstore owner from an Imperial prison. Control also assigns Dove to make contact with Bishop, their spy within the royal family, to ascertain their loyalties.
The story seems to involve another regular mission for the commonwealth spies, they are attempting to stop a major disaster from occurring and give their side an edge again. Nothing about the plot is particularly deep but its executed decently enough, don’t have any complaints, the character growth in the first movie isn’t really there but it is just the first movie and it should get better later on.
Visuals and soundtrack were the strong suits of the first season and this movie continues to deliver, from an aesthetic and catchy opening to a very detailed steampunk world, Crown Handlers continues to build on what the original series gave us. Characters, as expected, looked cute and attractive, while the fights were fluidly animated and chisato’s swordplay is an impress as ever, though not to the level of the train scene in the original season.
Character wise, it’s the same adorable cast, nothing particularly new with them or any notable growth, but its great getting to see them again and they certainly felt done right similar to the first season with no significant out of character behavior or decline in quality.
In short, this movie is worth watching if you liked the first princess principal and want to see more of their world and watch the other movies in the future. As it’s the first movie and nothing to notable occurred, I will have to give it a lower rating than the first season at an 8, but its still a good watch if you enjoyed this series.
Now, if you’re reading this I’m assuming it’s because you want to know if the movie is worth watching and the answer is, it depends.
Now since I don’t know what you particularly liked/disliked from the anime I’ll just tell you what I liked and disliked about the film.
Things I liked:
+ Same epic, steampunk, espionage action from the anime
+ The soundtrack (I relistened to LIES & TIES like 8 times now)
+ Some of the expressions in certain scenes are priceless
+ The art is just as good if not better than the anime (Definitely making some wallpapers out of a couple scenes)
Things I disliked:
– It’s kinda short at almost an hour long
– Nothing TOO exciting happens. There were moments that had me on edge for sure but, the threats just didn’t feel that threatening to me
Random note: Ange does have a different voice actor if anyone feels like she sounds off.
Overall, if you liked the anime, you’ll probably enjoy this movie… but not as much as the anime. It’s only an hour so you don’t have much to lose by watching it.
Maybe my expectations were higher since the release was delayed due to the pandemic, making a long wait even longer, but they did a pretty great job all things considered.
The answer to all of these is “No”. But it’s still a pretty fun CGDCT show.
It’s effectively the first two episodes of a hypothetical season 2 to Pripri, with relatively low stakes and a simple enough thread to follow through the however many years this film series will take.
Plotwise it’s pretty basic, but I’m a sucker for Twin Switches in plots and Part 1 certainly utilizes this aspect more than the original series did. It’s nice to see the main cast back in action, though Beato was surprisingly absent for most of the runtime. The few action sequences in this were fun and accompanied by the same-ish score from Kajiura from S1. The shift to a feature length production doesn’t result in necessarily better animated or directed action sequences compared to S1, but they’re still fine.
So long as you temper your expectations and come into this knowing it’s the first two episodes of a CGDCT series and not a spy thriller, you’ll enjoy the film. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the film series will live up to the foreshadowing and the expectations set by part 1.
And let’s hope it’s a one/more films per year kind of deal and not a GuP-style one film per two years kind of thing.
12: Donten ni Warau Gaiden: Shukumei, Soutou no Fuuma
English: Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds – Gaiden: Chapter 2 – The Tragedy of Fuuma Ninja Tribe
Japanese: 曇天に笑う＜外伝＞ ～宿命、双頭の風魔～
MAL Score: 7.57
Fuuma ninja clan is a secret ninja tribe that is waiting for the “Orochi” (gigantic snake) to resurrect for generations. Shirasu and his twin brother Ichiu grew up in this viscous environment and this tells how they become the leaders of the clan.
(Source: Amazon Prime Video)
Story: This film is completely in Shirasu’s perspective, after he fell from the cliff. All Shirasu’s warm memories with the Kumo brothers flash through his mind (including the ones that were not in the 12-episode TV anime), and he recalls his upbringing prior to meeting the trio. This film is bittersweet, as we witness Shirasu lose his family twice: his Fuuma family and the Kumo family that adopted him for the past ten years. Like Shirasu expressed in the drama CD, happiness to him is having a place to go home to. I would recommend this film to folks, whether they love him or not, to understand him better. This movie gives a closer insight to Shirasu’s feelings and really explains his devotion to the Fuuma clan, as well as why -as reasoned by his twin brother in both the manga and 12-episode TV anime- his plan failed.
Characters: I appreciate the diversity of the characters’ emotions, including the supporting casts’ feelings. We feel the grief they experienced after killing their kin, such as Nishiki’s experience prior to fleeing the village. This film makes it clear that death not only impacts close relatives, but also dear friends – an entire community. I appreciate seeing that although the ninjas were treated as tools, they still had autonomy in their own way. I felt their frustration at the head of their clan, as well as their own turmoil at not wanting to kill their kin and feel grief after loved ones die. They felt helpless as the head of the clan refused to listen to their concerns.
-Isuke (Shirasu): I appreciate his persistence and honesty. He is someone who keeps to his word and he does his best for his loved ones. It’s almost easy to forget that he was 14 at the oldest, because he was incredibly mature. He knew what to prioritize and he was someone who followed his intuition. He also didn’t blame others, but rather, he chose to understand the circumstances. I felt sorry for him because of the numerous deaths he witnessed, which contributed to his responsibilities. It reinforced to me that the only time in his life, when he was able to live for himself -laugh wholeheartedly and live without fear- was when he was with the Kumo brothers. This then highlights how the love Shirasu had for the Kumo family, made it much harder for him to enact the plan to revive the Orochi.
-Isame (Kotarou): As the younger twin who grew up being hidden, I saw him as slightly sheltered. I had sympathy for him, as someone who wanted to develop his skills and become a full-fledged Fuuma in their village. However, it is unfortunate that due to the superstition of twins being a calamity, he lived his entire life in hiding. I wish circumstances were different for him to live freely and contently. Like the rest of the family, he was caring and considerate of their safety. Indeed, a good person but society worked against him.
-Rikka: I liked her honesty with her feelings. This side of her reminds me of Shirasu, as they’re both very in touch with their emotions. As much as the two characters can be understanding of circumstances, they don’t ever deny their feelings. I applaud her strength, not only physically, but her vulnerability as well. It’s very easy for one to bottle up their emotions, so it was healthy for her to express how she was feeling in her own way, even if she couldn’t be very explicit about it.
-Eishirou: He was courageous and capable. I admire his selflessness. It’s clear that he was empathetic, as he pays attention to his surroundings. He was noble to me, as he acted and took risks without regrets. It’s clear both of his children inherited his traits. He was also doting to his family, which is shown through his body language.
Art: This movie was produced by Wit Studio, while the 12-episode TV anime was produced by Doga Kobo. So, there was a different art style this time. I liked Wit Studio’s art, but I preferred the art done by Doga Kobo. In this film, I felt that the bubbles could have been shiner. I do appreciate the eyes though! The emotions were clearly expressed through the eyes. And I did like the scenery, like how green the bushes were, which was a pleasant contrast to the dark rocks as the sun set.
Sound: With experienced voice actors on board, the sound was pleasant. The concern Rikka and Eishirou had for their children; the heavy breathing when characters ran; the anguish cry when a loved one passed away; Shirasu’s desire to be with his biological family and his longing for his past with the Kumo brothers, are examples that come to my mind. The song that played during the ending credits was gentle, which gave me the space to gather my thoughts.
Enjoyment: I enjoyed this movie as questions were answered. We learn where the mask that Isame/Kotarou (Shirasu’s twin) wore came from. We witness what Nishiki and her family lived through, which lets us see why she ran away from the village. We learn what happened to Shirasu following his departure from the Kumo brothers. Notably, we learn what were the circumstances that led Shirasu and Isame to be the co-heads of the clan.
Overall: I left this film feeling grateful to have watched it. But it was bittersweet to see how unfair life was to the characters. I’m glad that after the ending credits, there were moments of the next movie being shown. It gave me something to look forward to. – One word that comes to my mind right now is acceptance. To accept the past for what it is and to keep it in our hearts, while we continue living.
11: Nezha Zhi Mo Tong Jiang Shi
English: Ne Zha
MAL Score: 7.65
From the heavenly object known as the Chaos Pearl, two elements are extracted: the Spirit Pearl and the Demon Orb. In an attempt to suppress their power, the Lord of Heaven sends the Spirit Pearl to Earth to reincarnate as Ne Zha, the third son of Li Jing, while the Demon Orb is scheduled to be destroyed by a lightning strike. However, because of a conspiracy by the Dragon King to steal the Spirit Pearl for his own son, Ne Zha is instead reincarnated with the Demon Orb.
With no way to remove the cursed effects of the Demon Orb, Ne Zha is raised under the belief that he will become the great demon hunter the Spirit Pearl destined for him to be. Fighting against his chaotic and mischievous nature, Ne Zha must decide whether to accept his evil fate or repel against it to prove he is worthy of the future his parents foretold.
Being a devout supporter of Chinese animation, I took the first opportunity I got to watch this film, if only to experience renewed pride for my home country. As someone who grew up with Chinese legends and folk tales, this film brought an overwhelming surge of nostalgia. I have to acknowledge my potentially biased standpoint on the quality of this film, as my excitement over its mere existence is enough for me to give it 10s all around. However, having watched it twice now (once emotionally and once more analytically), I believe I am capable of enough rational thought to give a fairly balanced review.
Story (9/10) – The film tells the tale of Nezha, a child originally destined for greatness who becomes victim to a scheme that drastically alters his fate. Having inherited a monstrous power, Nezha becomes ostracized by the people in his home community. In an attempt to save Nezha from his demonic nature, his parents and master/teacher train him to do good deeds through fighting monsters. Unfortunately, a series of misunderstandings make their plans unsuccessful, and even Nezha’s only friend is forced to turn against him. Nezha also learns that he is destined to die via a calamity spell on this third birthday, a secret that had been purposefully kept secret from him so he could live a fulfilling life.
I enjoyed the story not because of its plot but because of the powerful messages that it conveyed. Despite all of the problems that he faces, Nezha chooses to fight – against fate, against prejudice, and against anything that stands in his way. He teaches the audience that anything is possible, and that regardless of what anyone else says, one’s own actions are the ones that count.
Art (8/10) – I was initially very put-off by Nezha’s design, as it was so contrary to all of the other depictions of him, traditional or modern (possibly with the exception of Shi Wan Ge Leng Xiao Hua). But about 30 minutes into the film this quirky unconventional design became my favorite, as I fell in love with his expressive face and adorable mannerisms.
The character of Nezha was super well animated, and definitely a highlight to the art. While there are a few characters that I didn’t like much, the overall art style was surprisingly pleasant. In terms of the special effects and background art, I feel that they may have been excessive at times, especially with the water animations. However, I am of the opinion that having too much is better than not having enough, and at this stage in Chinese animation I’m more than satisfied with what was produced.
Sound (8/10) – The voice acting for Nezha, his parents, Ao Bing, and most of the side characters was superb. I hold mixed feelings about Taiyi’s Szechuan accent, and there’s this one muscular villager whose high pitched screams I honestly cannot stand. But overall I really enjoyed the voice acting, enough that I actually looked up the main voice actors since I loved their performance so much.
The weakest point of the movie, though, is the background music. There is a main theme that plays pretty much every time Nezha is on screen (which is frequent considering how he’s the protagonist), and at some point it just got really repetitive. The emotionally moving scenes also could have benefited from better sound.
Character (10/10) – I don’t think there’s a single character I hated in the entire movie, which is pretty unusual since I’m not one to love people easily. I adored the way that both of Nezha’s parents were portrayed, which consisted of a slightly more modern twist on more traditional characterizations. For instance, I expected his father to be a very stern man. While he was strict in the film, he also had a caring side that moved me to tears near the movie’s climax.
I also loved how none of the characters were truly good or evil. Even those who played an antagonistic role had justifiable reasons for doing so, which strengthened the thematic complexity of the movie. Nezha, especially, is the epitome of this, as his edgy/punk/tsundere exterior is really just the armor used to hide a soft, caring, cinnamon roll. While he smiles like an arsonist and speaks with words sharper than knives, all he desires is companionship and belonging. (My inner Bakugou Katsuki fan was squealing so hard when I saw Nezha on screen. I think he’s my new favorite character.)
Additionally, I really loved the beautiful and unlikely friendship that blossomed in this film. It was equal parts magically adorable and heart-wrenchingly depressing. My inner fujoshi may have enjoyed it a little more than necessary.
Enjoyment (9/10) – I’m going to borrow a phrase from our lovely Chinese internet buddies for this section, because it summarizes the movie so nicely: “魔童降世将笑点最后都化为燃点和泪点”. The movie has so many humorous moments, some of which require a decent understanding of the Chinese language to get, but most of which can be enjoyed by all audiences (though westerners may find it strange that there are so many jokes about peeing, drinking, and farting). But what makes the film truly special is how it revisits many of those initially humorous moments later in the story, and deviously twists them to hit the audience with the feels train. And you’d really have to be a brick to not feel the passion and the sadness.
Overall I rate the movie 9/10. I admit that it’s far from perfect, but I also believe it’s one of those films that’s really worth watching if you get the chance. Hopefully my review has convinced you to at least consider giving it a try.
At the end of this review, I just wanted to say thank you to all the 1000+ people who worked on this film for 5 years to make it a reality. Because it was truly a masterpiece that reminded me of all of those childhood days spent obsessing over that 52 episode Nezha kids cartoon, waving around a red Christmas ribbon and shouting at invisible enemies. It was a indescribably profound experience to watch the same story, 15 years later, reimagined as something even greater than it was before. Somehow, Ne Zha Zhi Mo Tong Jiang Shi retained all of the key features of the Nezha films that came before it, and yet synthesized them together in fresh and engaging ways. I left the theatre feeling empowered and inspired.
This is a truly gorgeously animated film. The fight scenes are wonderfully made. The environments are breathtaking and beautifully detailed, with bright colors and fantastical landscapes and hyper-detailed towns that we really get to explore. The characters are for the most part really well designed and the humans are pretty diverse in design, too.
The biggest drawback is probably Nezha’s regular human form. I just don’t… find that appealing. At all. He’s not cute. He’s not funny. He’s honestly kind of just cringe in a way that just grates at the back of your mind the entire film. Maybe if I liked animated features starring very young children more I would have been okay with this, but I just watched “The Legend of Hei” and that featured a very young child protagonist who I didn’t mind at all, and found rather endearing.
That being said, it is Nezha in this form that made me cry, so it wasn’t the sole thing that broke the camel’s back for me in this film.
This is probably piggybacking on the overall story, which is “spoiled child terrorizes townsfolk”. We get backstory that actually there are reasons he’s the way he is – and it’s not because he’s a reincarnated evil spirit – and they are very sympathetic, and if you’re watching the scenes where he’s terrorizing people, he isn’t actually don’t that much that’s really “awful”, outside of one instance where he’s using a giant wooden mallet to hit people poking their heads out of a carriage, and one instance where he nearly murders a group of children with a boulder. Mostly people just drive themselves into a panic and he gets close to them and they make things worse for themselves through self-injury.
That all being said, I don’t really enjoy the story. It’s not compelling. Particularly given that a good chunk of the story is just Nezha being a spoiled brat. Sure, he has reasons for how he is, and like I said, his story is sympathetic, but that’s not… enough. I guess you have to remember this is a literal 2-3 year old who just wants friends, despite how mature he acts, and people are mean to him. But that’s not a thrilling story for me. Yes, children shouldn’t be bullied or ostracized, particularly because of their birth. And water is wet.
There are some very good messages at the core of this story. Messages about loving your family, giving people a chance, being a good neighbor, avoiding stereotypes and prejudgment, making time for the people you love, and I think that core message of making your own destiny, of choosing to do what’s right, even if no one cares, even if it doesn’t change how other people perceive you, even if you don’t win accolades, even if you don’t get to see that better tomorrow, is a very good message. It’s painful, but it’s a good message. I think. It’s kind of just sad, really. And it’s nice to see a story about parents with a cursed kid where the parents don’t just kick the bucket before the principal story starts, or they’re not incredibly abusive towards said child. And hey, Nezha’s mom has lines! Multiple lines! In different scenes! And a story arc! And she fights AND cooks well! That’s all a bit out of the ordinary. Usually that character is dead, abusive, or either cooks well or fights, not both at the same time! And dialogue lines on top of it all, jeez! Although it’s more of an indictment on other writers/companies than praise for this, since the bar is so low.
I didn’t find the fart and dick jokes and general gross humor all that funny, but that’s par for the course, and they’re not as bad as they often get in similar media. Although they are a bit more disturbing than usual when you consider that one party is a 2-3 year old. I didn’t find the alcoholism interesting. The pig jokes… had their moments. Mostly the remote control nose thing. I even generally liked Taiya, but the gross humor frequently featured him, so he was really an eh character overall. His scenes also tended to turn flat really fast, and he does some of the more blah things in the story, so… Eh.
Ao Bing’s cute. And apparently smart but completely oblivious to the entire reason for his existence, but okay, he’s the info dump character I guess.
The music was pretty good, or at least it was used well. Probably the best two jokes in this are around the music and they’re amazing. The other good jokes I can recall are also repeated, but used quite well, and these are all rather minor jokes. But good on that.
Overall I just… find this film kind of okay at best. I wish I liked it more. I wish I wanted to rewatch it, or watch a sequel, or watch a story in the same universe. But I don’t.
If you want to watch a Chinese animated film about spirits with good fighting and gorgeous animation, if you can find it, watch “The Legend of Hei”. That’s pretty great. Or if you want something that’s got spirits and stars an ostracized child who’s working on changing his destiny, watch “Natsume Yuujincho”. Or if you want a fantasy story about changing your fate with the central theme, watch “Revolutionary Girl Utena”.
(I’ve already posted my review on IMDb, and I’d like to share my in-theater experience of Nezha on this site as well, if that is allowed by the policy.)
After months of rolling my eyes at the social media buzz about this supposedly “great Chinese animation”, I finally found the one Regal theater in town that actually shows this Chinese-made movie. And oh boy, I’m so glad I did.
Initially, I was so turned off by this movie’s trailer, since it had all the worst stereotypes of a Chinese-made films, with all the cheesy expositions, cringey dialogues, and awkward voice acting. I was so sure that “Nezha” was just another piece of garbage coming out of my home country’s money-grabbing film industry that had become so shamelessly greedy in recent years. But my low expectations were pleasantly subverted.
After some struggling of finding a parking spot, I found myself in a relatively small-sized IMAX theater packed with young Chinese people, and a handful of white Americans, and one nice black lady that very much stood out in this crowd. And I’m almost certain that all of us enjoyed the two hours of fun and entertainment this film offered us, albeit on different levels.
Almost immediately after the movie started playing, I found myself already irritated by the unnecessarily long opening credits of all the production companies associated with “Nezha”. This is one of the many shady industry practices in China, where all the entities involved in the film’s production process shamelessly tried to promote their brands, regardless of how much actual contribution they’ve made. But shortly after the actual film began to show on the screen, I was easily won over by the opening scene where the famous Daoist immortal “Taiyi Zhenren” was revealed to be an obese and seemingly incompetent idiot. This scene was surprising to me for several reasons. It was a subversion of the genre trope. When it comes to the genre of Chinese mythology films, Daoist immortals were almost always portrayed as wise old men whose wisdom and authority are not to be questioned. And here in “Nezha”, one of the most powerful and respected Daoist deities was portrayed as a buffoon who actually had real human personality. I know this small characterization would probably be unnoticeable and meaningless to non-Chinese audience. But me being a fantasy nerd who grew up in China and lives in US, I know how brave the filmmakers of “Nezha” must be to make the decision to actually make a powerful Daoist deity feel like a living and breathing human. I consider this as a successful subversion of the genre trope without being disrespectful to the original source material. And it’s definitely an ingenious adaptation of the ancient Chinese folklore without being offensive to the actual real-life Daoist religion.
And at the same time, I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud like a child and ACTUALLY enjoying the jokes and humors of the film, which I think is very rare in Chinese films. Even though I haven’t watched any Chinese film for many years, I’m aware of the awfulness and cringiness of the typical attempts at comedy by trying to crack an awkward joke between scenes in Chinese films. But here in “Nezha”, I enjoyed all of the comedy in it, even though I can see how goofy it is. I consider goofiness in film as a good thing if it is done right.
There are more turns and twists than I expected throughout the film, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole ride. However, I have to point out, there are one or two very brief moments in the film, which I didn’t appreciate as much. I know the filmmakers were being serious in those brief moments, trying to evoke a certain emotion from audience. But it didn’t work on me because of the imperfect voice acting in those scenes which took me right out of the film. Don’t get me wrong, the voice acting was absolutely awesome in “Nezha”, much better than most films. But in certain brief moments, it just didn’t work for me.
Now comes the only possible issue of “Nezha”, which might be an impediment to non-Chinese audience’s enjoyment of this otherwise flawless animation film. That is the English subtitles. I have to acknowledge that I myself could not do a better job than they did, at translating the Ancient Chinese mythological concepts into modern-day English while trying to make sense to an audience unfamiliar with Chinese culture at large. But I’d like to argue perhaps transliteration might be a better approach than imprecise translation. Also I have to point out, as with almost all foreign language films, the humors and multi-layered emotions of most dialogues in “Nezha” were inevitably lost in translation.
Overall, “Nezha” was one of the best Chinese entertainment I’ve experienced in recent years, even though I haven’t really watched that many real Chinese films. I’m glad that “Nezha” got a huge box office success in China which it so very much deserves. I’m not so sure “Nezha” would be a hit elsewhere. It might get popular to a certain degree on some streaming platforms. But I doubt it will get mainstream popularity in US, since most American media’s portrayal of everything remotely related to China has been so negative lately ever since the Trade War.
Anyway, for me, a fantasy-loving nerd who grew up in China and lives in US, I thoroughly enjoyed “Nezha”. But I don’t know the experience would be the same for everyone, since you have to have a certain willingness to put up with imprecise translation while at the same time trying to be culturally open-minded.
P.S. Sorry about my rambling in this long-ass review. But I can’t believe I actually enjoyed a Chinese animation film so I have to take the time to write my genuine feelings about it.
(Additional comments: CHINA was a nation that had once gave the world the absolutely worst garbage film series ever produced by mankind. I’m talking about, of course, the infamous “Tiny Times” series by the famed gay novelist Guo Jingming. Ever since my great suffering by Guo Jingming’s garbage films, I had never ever given any Chinese-made films any sort of serious interest until the year 2019. At the beginning of this year, there was the surprise box office success, the “Wandering Earth”, which I also enjoyed. And now I’m thoroughly won over by “Nezha”. I think it’s been a good year for the Chinese film-making and we shall see if it will last.)
10: Giovanni no Shima
English: Giovanni’s Island
MAL Score: 7.69
In the aftermath of the most devastating conflict mankind had ever experienced, the tiny island of Shikotan became part of the Sakhalin Oblast… and on the unhealed border in this remote corner of the world, friendship among children from two different countries timidly blossomed, striving to overcome language barriers and the waves of history. Inspired by true events.
On August 15th, they told us we had lost the war. At that time, we did not really understand. Then one day, everything changed. Many soldiers, wearing uniforms we had never seen before, arrived on the island. That was the day I met Tanya.
(Source: Production I.G)
Siblings Junpei and Kanta are very young when the Red Army comes and takes control of their dear home island. But even on the hard times, when food is scarce and scary armed men watch every move they take, the two have something they can always rely on: their imagination. ‘The Galactic Railroad’ is their way to escape difficult situations, taking them far away where ever they dream to, even if it’s only for a moment.
Soon they come to think that everything’s not that helpless after all. The culture the Russians brought with them is interesting, so different. As time passes the language sounds less and less strange in their ears. The fair-skinned kids they go to school with have become their friends. Maybe it’s possible to live along like that, in peace. Or is that only naivety of the youth? There are far bigger things happening and waiting to happen, things invisible, yet incomprehensible for Junpei and Kanta.
Giovanni no shima relies on simple character design but interesting enough for everyone to look clearly different and recognizable. The colours and views of the island are beautiful, but a little plain. However, the ‘Galactic Railroad’ colours up not only Junpei and Kanta’s life, but the film’s looks too. Like the film overall, those dreams of Junpei and Kanta are beautifully animated.
The voice acting is great. The children are really played by children, and the Russian characters by native speakers. We also hear some Korean in the film. All nationalities are shown to have both good sides and bad sides. The soundtrack is also beautiful, especially those few songs we hear sung by the children.
The story told in Giovanni no shima is heartwarming, but also tragic. It’s an epic story of survival and loss, but also love, family and friends. Even though the story is fictional, it teaches you a lot about history you might not have heard about before, and makes you think. This interesting piece is definitely worth watching.
Miyazawa Kenji’s words and reveries play a major role in the story, thus Junpei and Kanta are named Giovanni and Campanella, two main characters of Miyazawa’s “Night on the Galactic Railroad” book. Some quotes are often taking part in the narrative with Junpei’s soliloquies. A tangible imagination guides us in yet, another lovely Production I.G; the art is well conceived, although one might refer to it as a bit kiddy and dull, but remember, this is a movie for the whole family, therefore, you will find its funny moments with chibi expressions and scribbled backgrounds. Nonetheless, i believe it to be of a very delicate caliber. One fascinating aspect is the voice actors, and i have to say that is extremely well exerted. Not only we hear new exquisite Japanese talent, but, as well, Russians voicing the Russian characters, like Tanya. You may also enjoy the coalescence of Russian songs with the Japanese ones, it gives a profound and unique ambience, i think.
Overall, “Giovanni no Shima” is a beautiful and powerful movie that should’ve earn the appreciation of everybody, and such will makes realize that the errors we committed in the past, cannot be repeated now, as well as in the future.
This review of Joban’ni no Shima (2014) contains spoilers! You have been warned!
The story begins with two brothers, Junpei and Kanta, who live on the island of Shikotan, weeks before the end of World War II, on August 15, 1945, *Soviet soldiers land on Shikotan and occupy the island. Junpei and Kanta, who live with their grandfather, a fisherman, and their father, the head of the firefighting force of the village, are forced to move to the stables while the Russian commander’s family, among them the commander’s daughter Tanya, move into the main house. At school, Russian children occupy half the building, and Tanya and the other Russian kids begin to mingle with the Japanese children at recess. After a playground jostle makes Junpei bump into Tanya, they become friends and the two brothers are subsequently invited to Tanya’s house for dinner. The brothers’ uncle, Hideo, asks Junpei to light signal fires at night so that he can make trips to the main island for rations as they are running low on rice. Meanwhile, their father, Tatsuo, with the help of their school teacher, Sawako, secretly supplies the rest of the village with food supplies from the Dawn Corps’ emergency stores. When Hideo finds out about this, he tries to smuggle the food to sell outside the island, but gets caught instead. Tatsuo rushes to the cave where the Dawn Corps’ supplies are kept and gets arrested.
*For more information about this event, read about the Kuril Islands dispute. The dispute stemmed from a dispute in which Russia had claimed sovereignty over the Kuril Islands but islands, such as Shikotan were technically not part of the treaty. Therefore, Russian troops forced the islanders off of their land.
On September 25, 1947, the Japanese on the island are made to assemble at the harbor sent back to the mainland. Junpei and Kanta set out with Sawako, while their grandfather chooses to stay behind, determined to spend his last moments on the sea. The three are reunited with Hideo while boarding the ship, and arrive at an internment camp at Maoka, in western Karafuto, a few days later, where they wait for the ship that will take them back to Japan. Hideo finds out that Tatsuo is alive and at another internment camp on the other side of the mountains ‘just a stone’s throw away.’ Kanta, taking his words literally, sets out to meet his father, aided by Junpei. Sawako and Hideo track the two down the next day, and to Hideo’s surprise, Sawako decides to visit Tatsuo’s camp as well. The four of them drive to a pillbox where they spend the night, but in the morning they spot Soviet soldiers who’ve managed to track them down, and Hideo runs ahead as a decoy while Sawako and the children make their escape.
The trio are able to make their way to the internment camp holding Tatsuo, where they have a tearful farewell, with Tatsuo promising he’ll find a way to reunite with them no matter what. However, as they try to return, Kanta suddenly falls extremely ill and they are caught by the camp guards. The warden arranges for the trio to be sent back to the harbor by truck, but Kanta succumbs to his illness en route. Junpei and Sawako reunite with Hideo at the harbor where they line up to board the ship back to Japan. Junpei keeps talking to Kanta about the story of the ‘Night on the Galactic Railroad’ to fool the guards into thinking Kanta is still alive so they won’t dispose of his body. As he talks, Junpei has a vision of Kanta’s spirit riding a ghostly train up into the stars.
56 years later, Sawako and Junpei return to Shikotan and pay their respects at Tatsuo and Kanta’s graves. Junpei’s school holds a graduation ceremony for those who never managed to have it, and a blonde girl, Tanya’s granddaughter, approaches Junpei at dinner. She hands him a notebook, containing one of Junpei’s sketches of Tanya, and Junpei gives her his old copy of ‘Night on the Galactic Railroad’ in return. Junpei is saddened to learn that Tanya had died a year earlier. The Russian hosts then begin to play music and the partygoers, both Russian and Japanese, begin to dance. Tanya’s granddaughter invites Junpei to dance with her, and the scene morphs to the spirits of Shikotan’s original residents dancing with each other among the stars. The end.
The story of Giovanni’s Island was greatly ruined for me because of my familiarity with Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad. When I found out that Junpei was named after Giovanni and Kanta was named after Campanella, I was like ‘oh no, the younger brother is going to die!’ It’s one of the many cursed names, like Ophelia from Hamlet, where the mere mention of them harkens in a premonition of death.
While the visuals for Joban’ni no Shima were beautiful, I had difficulty feeling an emotional connection to the characters. Especially the relationships with the older characters—Tatsuo, Hideo, and Sawako—felt rushed. I know that the perspective was a telling of Junpei’s recollection from that time, but I feel like there could have been more clues that hinted that (1) Hideo was in love with Sawako and (2) more about Sawako’s relationship with Tatsuo. When they’re at the interment camps in Russia and Hideo begins flirting with Sawako, it came out of left field. Hideo could have mentioned Sawako’s favorite color or a memory that they shared in childhood to anchor the audience in on their familiarity with each other.
Another big discrepancy that I had was the adults complying with the children’s demands to see their father in the prison camp. It led to Kanta’s death and their uncle, Hideo, getting maimed. It is lightly implied that the kids were never going to see their father again because of his detainment in Russia but Tatsuo promised the kids that he would be released. Is it a lie? The film never hints at the truth, and because of it, Kanta dies and Junpei has to carry his little brother’s corpse on a freight ship; all the way to Japan! The whole plot digression just feels like misery fuel that could have easily been avoided.
Joban’ni no Shima was a lovely visual spectacle but the character writing left me feeling empty. I really wanted to like it more than for its historically accurate portrayal of the Kuril Islands, circa 1951, or the stunning sakuga that Production I.G. always manages bring to the table. With how poor and predictable the scripting was, I would have probably rated it a couple of notches lower if the visuals weren’t up to par.
Note: The only two scenes that emotionally moved me was (1) when Tatsuo is taken to a prison camp in Russia and (2) when Tatsuo reaches out and touches his children’s hands through the barbed wire, in the freezing cold winter. I attribute that flood of emotions to Masachika Ichimura’s incredible performance as Tatsuo Senō! This guy is so talented that he was able to make every scene with Mewtwo, in the Pokémon films, emotionally riveting!
Mizuho Nishikubo is credited as the chief director for Giovanni’s Island—while more obscure in the western hemisphere, Mr. Nishikubo is a seasoned veteran, responsible for directing: Akai Kōdan Zillion, Bakuen Campus Guardress, California Crisis: Tsuigeki no Jūkai, Otogizōshi, Video Girl Ai, and the 30th anniversary film for Tokyo’s Disney Resort—Yume ga Kanau Basho.
Note: The stylization in Giovanni’s Island is different than Nishikubo’s usual animation style, it resembles Kemonozume and Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei so much that I could have sworn that Yuasa Masaaki had a hand in it… if he did work on key animation and character designs, he’s not credited for it!
The seiyū in this production are atypical. First of all, the voices of the child characters: Junpei and Kanta Senō, are voiced by ACTUAL child actors. This shocked the hell out of me because, while not directly a war story, covers very dark areas of *Russia’s occupation of Japan’s Kuril Islands AFTER World War II—I didn’t expect children to be able to act well in those kinds of scenarios! The rest of the cast is full of well-renowned Japanese actors, a musical theater performer, an enka musician, and a former gravure idol!
*The film conveys a sense of dread when the Russian navy raids an elementary school and holds up the school with military-grade rifles. Another instance of this is when Junpei and Kanta’s father, Tatsuo, is taken to Russia to be held in a labor camp.
Junpei Senō, the adult iteration of the protagonist, is Tatsuya Nakadai. Though Mr. Nakadai hasn’t starred in many anime features, he is a VERY famous actor. He has acted in five Akira Kurosawa films, as well as in some of Japan’s most highly regarded films: Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Face of Another, Mikio Naruse’s When a Woman Ascends The Stairs, Kihachi Okamoto’s The Sword of Doom, Hideo Gosha’s Goyōkin, Shirō Toyoda’s Portrait of Hell, Kon Ichikawa’s Enjō, and many other classics! In 2015, Nakadai received the Order of Culture (Bunka-Kunshō) award from the Japanese government. This award is given for contributions to Japan’s art, literature, science, or anything related to its culture. Recipients of the order also receive annuity for life. His notable anime roles include:
• Sumiyaki no Rōjin, Kaguya-hime no Monogatari
• Devil, Kanashimi no Belladonna
• Narrator, Uchū Senkan Yamato: Kanketsu-hen
Hideo, Junpei and Kanta’s uncle, is Yūsuke Santamaria. Mr. Santamaria is an award-winning actor and singer. His noteworthy roles are in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Doppelgänger, Katsuyuki Motohiro’s Negotiator, and Kiyoshi Sasabe’s The Legacy of the Sun.
Sawako, Junpei and Kanta’s homeroom teacher, is Yukie Nakama. Ms. Nakama is a Japanese actress, singer, and former gravure idol. She has dabbled in just about every performative field including—dramas, films, anime, video games, and dubbing for foreign films, such as Jurassic World. Nakama’s noteworthy acting roles are in *Gokusen, Love & Pop, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, Ring 0: Birthday, Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, Oh! Ōoku, The Big Bee, and many others! Her notable anime roles include:
*Gokusen is a live-action manga adaptation, based off of Kozueko Morimoto’s original story that has an anime adaptation with the same name.
• Asahina Mutsuki, Haunted Junction
• Lapis Lazuli, Kidō Senkan Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness
Genzō Senō, Junpei and Kanta’s grandfather, is Saburō Kitajima. Mr. Kitajima is an internationally famous *enka singer, lyricist, and composer. He has had no acting credits prior to this film.
*Enka is a style of music that resembles traditional Japanese music stylistically. The term enka was first used to refer to political texts set to music which were sung and distributed by opposition activists belonging to the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement during the Meiji period (1868–1912) as a means of bypassing government curbs on speeches of political dissent—and in this sense the word is derived from “enzetsu no uta” (演説の歌), meaning “speech song.”
Tatsuo Senō, Junpei and Kanta’s father, is Masachika Ichimura. Mr. Ichimura is mostly known for his role in stage plays, particularly musical theater. He has performed in Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story, Equus, Cats, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, and many more! He famously played the role of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and was Macbeth in Yukio Ninagawa’s adaptation. He has also acted in films and television dramas, as well as dabbling in video games, anime, dubbing, and puppetry. Ichimura is Jack Skellington in both Kingdom Hearts and the official Japanese dub of the The Nightmare Before Christmas. His notable anime roles include:
• Red XIII, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
• Mewtwo, Pokémon
Giovanni’s Island has won ten awards:
• Jury Distinction, 38th Annecy Animation Film Festival (2014)
• Satoshi Kon Award, 18th Fantasia Film Festival (2014)
• Audience Award, 18th Fantasia Film Festival (2014)
• Jury Special Mention, 13th Nueva Mirada (2014)
• Jury Award, 5th Scotland Loves Animation (2014)
• Children’s Jury Prize, 31st Chicago Int’l Children’s Film Festival (2014)
• Adult Jury Prize, 31st Chicago Int’l Children’s Film Festival (2014)
• Excellence Award, 18th Japan Media Arts Festival (2014)
• Best Animation Film, 69th Mainichi Film Awards (2014)
• Jury Award, 13th Imaginaria Film Festival (2015)
Conclusively, Joban’ni no Shima could have been much better. The script seems like it needed to be doctored more before publication and the scenes during the internment camp slogged on a bit too long. Fictional writing can be metaphorically compared to walking on a tightrope. You can either say too much or too little in a narrative—the perfect balance being the middle: implying a lot, while showing enough visually to create a sense of intrigue. Giovanni’s Island showered us with flashy visuals, but forgot to leave a trail of breadcrumbs along the way!
9: Ushiro no Shoumen Daare
English: Who’s Left Behind
MAL Score: 7.77
Kayoko is a young girl in 1940, just starting first grade. She’s a bit of a crybaby, which is no secret to those around her. She loves playing with friends and singing cute schoolyard chants, and occasionally having fun with her three older brothers. Her mother is pregnant, and so she looks forward to being a big sister, only partially understanding the responsibility that might bring. Meanwhile, the war effort is growing, and it`s only the natural thing to do to be patriotic and support the country…
Kayoko goes so far as to contribute her favorite dolly, whose materials could help build explosives. Time passes, and as she grows older, Kayoko sees how the war has affected her life and those around her. Nothing can prepare her for 1945, however, and the bleak times that are soon to come. Based on original creator Kayoko Ebina’s real life experience during World War 2 on Showa era.
Unlike most war movies which throw you into the destruction and death right off, said elements don’t come until MUCH later, and are very few and far in between, which I feel really worked in the film’s favor considering how much time it devotes to showing the life of a young girl and her family before and after the war. Basically, our main character is Kayoko, a typical little girl who’d much rather have fun and play games with her friends at school and cries a lot whenever things don’t go her way. She lives with her mother, father, grandmother, and three brothers, along with another sibling on the way. The war seems so far away to them, even though they hope for their country to succeed. Kayoko doesn’t care about the war, nor does it have anything to do with her life here, so she doesn’t bat an eye to it. But the war grows closer and closer, and Kayoko realizes that she’s really going to have to grow up fast once things get bad.
The animation, while nice, does make the characters, mostly the kids, come off as a bit too cartoony for their own good, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everything else looks absolutely stunning to look at. Backgrounds are drawn and painted nicely, and character movements are quite fluid considering how old this movie is (1991). In a way it kinds of reminds me of Porphy’s Long Journey (Man I really need to review that!) in that it purposefully makes the characters look more simplistic than the things around them and their environment, which is effective here because as the film gets closer to the dark times, things look more gritty and the backgrounds have a more washed out edge to them that sold the war-like environment to me. The music, while also not having much to write home about, is nice, simple, and fits the mood perfectly. It’s nothing special, but since I’m a huge fan of soft, classical music, it fits the movie like a glove, and didn’t need to be anything more than it was.
The characters are where the movie really shines. This is MUCH more of a slice of life movie than anything else. I wasn’t kidding when I said the action and actual destruction scenes are VERY few and far in between. There’s very little death, but it’s there, and almost always offscreen, and actual death scenes DO happen, but they’re not explicit, which I feel worked in the movie’s favor. The movie is just simply about Kayoko, her life, and her family, and the movie really goes out of its way to portray them as just a normal Japanese family, not a bunch of victims or aggressors. They do whatever they can to support their country, whether it’s from cheering their soldiers on to giving materials away so they can be made into weapons and explosives, and so much detail goes into their daily lives that you really feel immersed in the characters and really get to know them from their little quirks to their fatal flaws and everything else, along with being treated to excellent character development in the form of seeing the characters grow and change over the course of the coming years of the war. The extreme focus on just the characters and not the actual conflict actually works in favor of the movie, because if you get to know the characters really well, then you’ll be able to feel more sympathetic toward them when the conflict DOES sneak up on them. Since the movie is much more about the emotional losses that come from the war rather than the actual war itself, having engaging and good characters helps in this endeavor. Another detail I found interesting is the use of all of those Japanese nursery rhymes throughout the movie. Heck, one final stanza of one song is the title of the movie itself, and in a way its pretty symbolic if you think of the children’s singing the songs as a way of conveying the fact that they’re blissfully unaware of how badly things are going to turn out later on, and by stopping all the fun, they have to grow up fast if they want to get by. This is pretty much what Kayoko does in the final quarter of the movie. Kayoko herself is a pretty interesting character, though she starts off as a bratty little girl who’d much rather have fun than pay attention to the war and cries whenever something goes wrong or is forced to do something she doesn’t want to. But she really does grow into a strong character later on, and in a very believable way while not losing one of her defining character traits. Her family is also very well developed as well.
Because of this, when bad things DO happen to the characters, you really feel sad for them and feel angry that they have to suffer like this when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. Yes, I admit begrudgingly, I cried near the end of this movie, and so did a lot of other people. See? You don’t need lots of death or destruction or a bunch of bad things happening all over the place in order for us to cry for the characters who suffer. if you don’t feel for the characters or relate to them, or if they’re not in any way engaging or interesting, then it comes off as boring and forced. Nowadays, we have really forgotten what makes a story good. We try really hard to jazz things up to make a super creative story that we fail to realize that even small, simple stories that have been done over and over again can be good, and sometimes, it’s the old stories we’ve seen that are so full of life and make us feel emotions like empathy or joy or sadness. Going back to the simplicity is what makes Who’s Left Behind special, because it isn’t trying too hard to be something it isn’t. It’s just a nice albeit sad story about a girl and her family living their lives before the war. It isn’t alienating, it’s very informative, it’s simple, it’s charming, it’s simplistic in the best of ways, it’s enthralling, it’s engaging, and there’s no cliche victim vs villain plot anywhere. The best part is that the death scenes are very few and far in between, often not seen at all, but they’re not overdone or overemphasized to the point of excessive melodrama. They’re exactly what they’re supposed to be: chilling.
Don’t expect a tear fest or a gore fest in this movie. It’s just a sweet but sad tale of a girl and her family trying to support their country even in the midst of turmoil. I would love to show this to my friends, family, and especially my kids one day, if I ever have any.
The story for the first half of the movie is just a slice-of-life glimpse into the everyday of a normal Japanese family. It gets more suspenseful as you know what’s bound to happen any day and that their peace will be interrupted. This is when you really get to bond with the family members. Then it slowly starts to get darker and darker. History unfolds. It never gets too graphic. I think this movie would be safe to watch with a child.
The art is wonderful. I wasn’t able to watch it in a very high resolution, but I think that suited it just fine and didn’t distract too much from the beautiful backgrounds and character animation.
I didn’t notice much music during most of the movie but when you do hear it it’s beautiful. Especially the song that plays during the end credits.
The characters really shine in this movie. It’s very entertaining to just watch this family live their lives together. You develop a connection with each of them. That’s what makes the sad moments of this movie really hit. When the characters remember the times when life used to be normal, you remember too, and you wish with them that they could go back. I definitely had to hold back tears while watching this.
Overall, I liked this movie a lot. I think it’s atypical even among anime war films, because of how much time is dedicated to the normal, instead of jumping right into the war. I would say it’s under recognized for sure, and can hold its own very well against other great anime war films such as Grave of the Fireflies and Hadashi no Gen (two others I also greatly enjoyed and reccommend).
This is a movie you won’t forget and you won’t regret.
8: Hadashi no Gen
English: Barefoot Gen
MAL Score: 7.78
It’s the summer of 1945. 3 years have elapsed since the war between Japan and USA began. Gen is a young boy living a struggling yet satisfying life in the city of Hiroshima, that has been strangely spared by the bombing taken in almost every other Japanese City. Food is scarce, and Gen’s family is suffering from severe malnutrition, which endangers his pregnant mother. There isn’t much spare time as Gen and his little brother Shinji help their father and mother at work and try to make sure their family survives the tough times. Little do they know, what the Americans have in store for the city of Hiroshima and as of the 6th of August 1945, their lives are about to change dramatically.
(Taken from an interview with Nakazawa Keiji by Jonathan Clements.)
On Moday, August 6th, 1945, the US bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The explosion killed around 70,000 people immediately, with almost as many again dead from the resulting radiation by the end of 1945.
Nakazawa Keiji, the author of Barefoot Gen, was 6 years old at the time of the bombing, and is one of the survivors of the destruction of Hiroshima. The bomb was responsible for the death of his father, his sister, and his brother. At the age of 6 he and his mother dug their remains out of the ruins of their home. In 1963 Nakazawa moved to Tokyo to become a manga artist, but returned to Hiroshima in 1966 to attend his mothers funeral. It was his discovery of the true impact of the radiation from the bomb that inspired him to risk becoming a social pariah by openly discussing his experience of the bomb with the first of his “Black” series, Beneath the Black Rain.
Barefoot Gen is the autobiographical account of his experience of the bomb and radiation. The manga was fraught with problems because of it’s nature and content, and was effectively sidelined by mainstream publications. In 1976 however, a volunteer group called Project Gen was formed, and they took on the task of producing english translations of the manga. In truth, Barefoot Gen was the first manga to be translated and published in english.
The story was later adapted into three live action movies, two animated features, and a TV series, however the first anime movie adaptation remains, to this day, one of the most harrowing versions because of its counterintuitive nature.
As the story in Barefoot Gen is predominantly autobiographical it is difficult to consider it in terms of a normal story. The anime loses out to the manga in certain repects because sections had to be left out, however this in no way takes away from the story which remains an reasonably accurate, if abbreviated, account of Nakazawa’s sof the bomb and its aftermath.
The art style is unusual in that it adopts a more “cartoony” approach compared to other anime, however the movie manages to attain a certain ethereal quality that the manga cannot match, especially in its depiction of the results of radiation sickness. The atomic blast is rendered with shocking clarity, and the transformation of people into “monsters” (from Gen’s perspective), is horrifyingly realised.
Althought production values may be dated (the anime is over 25 years old now), the movie should not be marginalised on the basis of “poor” animation. The cartoon like quality of the characters only adds to the emotional impact, as it is a stark contrast to how “normal” cartoon characters are depicted.
Sound is another area where the movie shows its age. The effects, although well used, can sometimes be overwhelming for the viewer, while at other times the various noises are relegated to the background. This can give the movie a slightly “off-kilter” feeling for some viewers, but for the most part the sound and visuals work well together.
The music is generally good throughout the movie. The various pieces used to enhance the impact of a given scene are generally appropriate and fairly well choregraphed, especially during the more foreboding scenes. The variety of tracks complement the pervading atmosphere of the film, and most surprising are the scenes where music, noise and visuals combine to give the viewer a truly visceral experience.
The characters are a bit of a tricky subject in Barefoot Gen, as they are generally taken from the people that nakazawa met before, during and after the bombing, whilst Gen himself is Nakazawa as a child. Granted, there is obviously a degree of artisitic license with both the design and the portrayal, however this in no way diminishes their impact of the overall movie. Because of this things like character developmentand interaction are difficult to consider, especially given the fact that this is mainly a factual account, and in the absence of of evidence to the contrary, I prefer to think of the characters as “real” – at least, for this movie.
Watching this movie is a truly harrowing experience. There is no real way to “enjoy” this in normal terms, especially given its history and content. Very few movies, especially animated ones, are able to convey the level of emotional impact that Barefoot Gen achieves, and only Grave of the Fireflies or Ushiro no Shoumen Daare can be considered equal in terms of content and viewing experience (although the former deals with the aftermath of the firebombing of Kobe, and is semi-autobiographical in nature, and the latter is more of a historical fiction).
Although there are similarities between those two movies and Barefoot Gen, there are major differences as well. It is extremely difficult to compare any other anime or manga to Barefoot Gen as no other work is taken directly from real life. If you decide to watch Barefoot Gen then you cannot compare it in any way to shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Death Note, Akira, Code Geass, or any other popular movie or series. You cannot use normal standards to judge this movie.
In all honesty, Barefoot Gen isn’t something to enjoy, even though it ends on a hopfeul note. This is a movie to be experienced, as it is the story of a boy who has literally seen hell. It is both a lesson and a warning for future generations of the true horror of nuclear and atomic weapons, and I urge everyone, whether you’re a fan of anime and manga or not, to read the books and watch the movie.
The movie opens up on a bright note, beginning with a father and his two boys, Gen, the protagonist of the movie, and Shinji, his younger brother. The opening of this movie is so positive to the point where I was bobbing my head to the catchy opening song, and thinking “Yup, this is definitely going downhill from here.”
It begins off by showing us just how loyal some of the Japanese are to their country, they scream and shout “Banzai” before sending their fellow comrades off to fight the enemy, and then singing what is supposed to be the national anthem. It shows us how loyal the Japanese were to their country, to the point where they just aimlessly take orders, shouting and screaming, and then going off to face a bigger enemy where they could die at any given moment.
Gen and his little brother, like the children that they are, start singing the anthem as well when they hear it, hoping to also be heroes and contribute to their country too. Just like how typical children would act, not knowing of the dangers that await them beyond the horizon of their imaginations. They then become hungry after five seconds of singing and complain about how their bellies are void of delicious sweet potatoes. This shows us how kids have dreams and aspirations they want to fulfill, yet are too weak and immature to understand the hardships that come with life, and how heavy the weight of those aspirations really is.
We see how war brings so many struggles with it, the lack of water and food being a major one. It shows us how two strangers will hurt each other for a bowl of soup, and how even blood related brothers like Gen and Shinji wouldn’t mind doing the same as well, just to shut their hunger up for a while.
This movie has a wonderful cast, and some heart warming scenes. A pregnant woman hugging her two kids, showing us how family is the best thing to have when a person is struggling during very hard times. Things start to go dark after the first alarm in the movie goes off though, as the movie starts to show us how everyone is equal in the eyes of the enemy. From small children to the elderly, nobody is safe from a bullet or two. The scene of a little girl dying serves to show two things: The first being how cruel war can be, even killing an innocent little girl who didn’t do anything wrong. The second being to show the contrast between Gen and the others like his mother, and how immature Gen is compared to the rest of his elder family members. Here is where we start to see Gen’s influence on the main character of Grave of the Fireflies, as Gen suggests to his mother that the enemy is just playing jokes on them, while the mother scolds him for such an ignorant statement, mentioning the little girl’s death to show him how war is everything but a joke. Gen is very naive and does not want to be serious for once, he prefers to think lightly of his situation while everyone else is working hard. Though he actually does learn a lesson or two a couple scenes later, and he actually helps for once by bringing his mother some food, he is still naive, but he’s helpful and willing to go to great lengths for his sick mother.
We get a scene showing us the father’s perspective on why he hates the government. He hates them due to them being madmen and not stopping the war, and honestly I would not blame him, a guy who has children to feed, working all day to provide for them, I feel sad for him because he just wants what is right for his kids and other families that are suffering as well. After that scene, we see a plane start showing itself over the top of the city. When Gen sees the plane, he starts to joke about it, saying how it is a spy plane and is nothing to worry about. Oh boy was he wrong!!! We finally arrive at what I would say is one of the best scenes ever put to animation. How good was this scene… my God. How good it was at showing us how truly disturbing the Hiroshima bombing was. After the plane drops the nuclear bomb, we see some of the most bloody scenes ever put to animation, it’s all the more terrifying when you realize this actually happened and was a real event that went down in history.
It’s mind blowing how five seconds before this we had a happy family, where the sun was shining over normal looking, healthy people, and then we immediately turn 180 degrees. The family is no more, most of the citizens suffered extreme burns all over the body and died, and everything burned down to ashes. Literally the only positive thing was Gen’s change in personality from a naive and immature boy to a man. He’s amazing. The war does not affect him mentally like it did his mother and some other people. He is truly amazing. After seeing his beacon of hope die in front of his eyes, Gen finally realizes that he has to do everything in his power to fill his father’s shoes.
We get to see Gen make relationships after the war, helping other people to earn some money for his mother and his new siblings. Listen, when I say every character gets development, I mean every one of them gets development, even a maggot infested brat does. The thing that kept me happy during all of this depressing movie was Gen’s determination and strong will to help those around him, and how he matures throughout the movie.
This movie is an underrated masterpiece. After comparing this with Grave of the Fireflies, this wins in almost every category. The depiction of war in Barefoot Gen is much better and more terrifying than that of Grave of the Fireflies. The characters are all around way, way better than any of the characters in Grave of the Fireflies could imagine to be, an example being Gen getting much more development than the main character of Grave of the Fireflies. It ends on a good note even though it was very depressing, delivers not just one good message, but many (Never give up even when a nuclear bomb destroys your whole city, think about others who are also in need instead of just selfishly thinking about yourself, question the higher ups and don’t aimlessly follow everything they say, never look back and always keep moving forward etc.)
It did everything right, it impressed me and exceeded my expectations by a long shot.
Barefoot Gen is in my opinion one of the most underrated anime on this site. In the West, it is completely overshadowed by Grave of the Firefly, which is unfortunate because in many ways Gen is actually the superior film! In this review I will be not only looking at Gen, but comparing it to its much more famous and critically lauded brother Grave of the Firefly (Hotaru no Haka).
Pacing and characters:
Barefoot Gen opens by showing the main character, a little boy named Gen, along with his family. Gen has a little brother named Shinji, an elder sister Eiko, a father, and a mother who is currently in the late stages of pregnancy. Barefoot Gen shows the family trying to keep their chins up and appreciate the small joys left in life despite the food shortages and the looming danger of air raids. By spending more time showing happiness and cheerful character interactions than Firefly, it makes the impact of the tragedy even greater when it inevitably occurs. Barefoot Gen is roughly the same length as Firefly, but it feels much shorter, even though it is far more brutal in its portrayal of war. Even people that prefer Firefly over Gen would have to concede that Gen is a better paced film. It is long enough to feel for the characters and connect with them so that the tragedy is painful and horrible, but not so long that it overextends its narrative and drags.
The character Gen is based off the writer of the original Gen manga, who survived Hiroshima as a young boy. Some people criticize the realism of the characters because Gen stays so upbeat in the face of unimaginable tragedy, but that is exactly what he needed to do in order to survive. He wasn’t able to stop and fully process the loss of his family when he was desperately looking for food to keep himself and his mother alive. This isn’t unrealistic, but rather the human survival instinct kicking in. If Gen had pulled a Shinji Ikari, he wouldn’t have lived to later tell this story to us! Gen’s father is based loosely off the author’s real father and is unique in that he dares to criticize the Japanese government for not surrendering when in 1945, it was clear Japan couldn’t possibly win. The father character is strongly against the war, which reflects the attitude of both the author and his real life father. Later Gen meets another little boy named Ryota who I admit brings some tone jarring slapstick out of nowhere. The only area where haters of this film may have a point is that Barefoot Gen does suffer from some SERIOUS mood whiplash. It shows one of the most brutal sequences ever animated in one scene, but has Ryota and Gen roughhousing and laughing about 10 minutes later.
Animation is a visual medium of storytelling, so it is better to show than to tell. Barefoot Gen shows the horrors of nuclear war better than perhaps any other movie ever made be it animated or no. I’m serious! The horrible brutality of melting eyeballs, scorched flesh, maggot infested wounds, and all the stages of radiation poisoning are captured accurately and with an unflinching eye. Barefoot Gen is NOT a good movie to show little kids. The art style is curiously juvenile in order to create a sharp contrast between Gen’s innocence and the horrors of war. Although I see what Barefoot Gen was trying to do, this art style choice may not work for everyone to portray such scenes of carnage. Grave of the Fireflies is a much more polished, larger budget, and better animated film. However, I give Gen the edge here for daring to show in full detail just why nuclear weapons are so horrible and morally unacceptable.
Themes and Politics:
Roger Ebert said that Grave of the Fireflies was one of the greatest anti-war films ever made, and since then American critics have viewed it in that light. However, the writer of Firefly explicitly stated it is NOT an anti-war film saying war in general is bad. He merely wished to show Japanese children the suffering and injustice that Americans did to Japan. He also wished Firefly to act as an Aesop’s fable to tell the unruly Japanese youth of the 1980s to obey and tolerate adults. Japanese audiences were supposed to take away the message that if Seta had put up with his bitchy aunt, he and his sister would have lived. That was the main moral of the movie! Rather than an “anti war” masterpiece, Firefly is a preachy “Obey adults you little brats” film that is extremely anti-American and perpetuates the narrative that Japan was entirely a victim during WW2 to a new generation of Japanese youth. Barefoot Gen on the other hand actually IS an anti-war film that wishes to show that war is suffering, death, and evil. Barefoot Gen shows a balanced view of the war and shows both the innocence of Japanese civilians and the callous cruelty of the Japanese WW2 government, who is just as criticized in the film as the Americans. The reason Firefly lays all blame on the Americans and never says a word of condemnation for the WW2 Japan government is because the writer of Firefly had no qualms with the WW2 Japanese government, unlike the writer of Gen. In terms of themes and politics, it was GEN that deserved our praise all along, NOT Firefly!
The last major difference between Gen and Firefly is how they choose to end. Firefly ends with soul crushing depression and all the characters dying. The beautiful Japanese Empire has been crushed and all good is gone from the world. The characters are all dead, so they don’t have to learn how to move on and rebuild towards a better future. Gen despite the film’s extreme brutality ends with a note of optimism. Wheat is shown growing even though American scientists predicted that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 70 years. The character Gen must learn like all those who survived the war to deal with the extreme loss and tragedy, as well as build a better Japan from the ashes. Gen doesn’t just lament the beauty that was lost, but asks for such carnage to not be repeated again while working to build a better world. The endings are different because the 2 films have VASTLY different messages, but I must say I strongly prefer Gen’s ending.
Gen may have a few minor flaws, such as a juvenile animation style that some may feel clashes with its explicit portrayal of brutality. Others may dislike the tone shift between the lighthearted scenes and tragic scenes that occur very shortly one after another. I however, think that Gen is an overlooked gem that deserves FAR more praise than it receives in the West. All the praise that was showered on Grave of the Firefly in my opinion should rightfully go to Gen, the superior film!
7: Flanders no Inu (Movie)
English: The Dog of Flanders
Japanese: フランダースの犬 (1997)
MAL Score: 7.86
Set in 19th-century Belgium, this classic tale, based on the Flemish novel by Oui’da, celebrates the affectionate bond between an innocent boy and his faithful dog. The stunning animation, a masterful combination of traditional and computer-aided animation, captures the natural splendor of the Flanders countryside and recreates the spirit of this classic story that has captivated audiences world wide for more than 130 years. In fact, the popularity of The Dog Of Flanders led the local Belgian government of Flanders to dedicate a statue to Nello and Patrash in 1985, immortalizing their devotion to each other.
Where Flanders no Inu (or, to give it it’s correct moniker, A Dog of Flanders), differs from those stories though, is that it’s all been done before…
For those of you who don’t know, the story known as “A Dog of Flanders” was originally written by Ouida (the pen name of English novelist Maria Louise de la Ramé), and was first published in 1872. For over 135 years the tale has captivated the hearts and minds of audiences the world over, and has been adapted for TV and movies no less than 8 times. The anime movie itself is an adaptation, not only of the novel, but of the TV series as well, with both the TV anime and this movie having the same director (Kuroda Yoshio).
The tale, for those of you who don’t already know the story, is set in a small town called Hoboken, near the city of Antwerp in Belgium, and is about a young boy named Nello, who has lost his mother, and comes to the town to live with his Grandfather. One day, Nello finds a dog that has been almost beaten to death. He decides to care for it, and calls it Patrasche.
The story is very much in keeping with the novel and, although it’s far more abridged than the TV series, it still maintains the essence of the tale. A Dog of Flanders is not simply about love and friendship against the world, it’s also a social commentary on how the rights of man seem to work against a scale called money – something which isn’t really an uncommon theme, but there’s a reason this story is called a classic. The plot makes for pretty powerful reading, however the transfer to anime has served to enhance the story in several ways, the most obvious being accessibility. Like Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies, Flanders no Inu makes the inequities and personal trials, triumphs and tragedies that little bit harsher than normal by giving them a “cartoon” setting.
Animation is, on the whole, very good for the movie. The character have a distinctly European flavour about them, and the animation is very smooth overall, however both can look dated compared to more recent anime. There are some blips, however these are easily overlooked as there is often enough going on to keep your attention. The backgrounds are delightfully rendered, with much of the rural setting possesing a quaint charm which adds to the movie as a whole. There are, again, some minor inconsistencies in how things look, however these do no impact on the movie in any way (so don’t worry about them).
One thing I did like about the movie was how much more representative the changing seasons were to the events in Nello’s life, something which is often missed when reading the book.
Sound is extremely good throughout the movie. The voice actors are very good in the Japanese dub, however this movie is actually better in English, especially as the original story is English so nothing is lost in translation. The English seiyuu have been chosen very well on the whole, however there is a bit of woodenness about some of the characters at certain points (unfortunately the same can be said of the Japanese dub as well).
The music has a generally pastoral feel to it, and is very much in keeping with the rural setting of the story. There are some scenes where the music not only adds to the impact, but acts like a punch to the stomach, the most memorable tracks being the tragic yet triumphant score during the scene with Patrasche and Nello in the church, and the ED “When I Cry” (sung by Dianne Reeves), an original piece that was written specifically for the movie.
As far as characters go, the movie isn’t a patch on the book (so let’s get that out the way right now), nor is it a rival for the TV series (which is 52 episodes long and part of the World Masterpiece Theater. This movie, like others before it, is very much an abridged version of the story, and as such it loses something in terms of it’s characters. However, even with this disadvantage the characters are still as lovable, joyous, hateful, spiteful, proud, envious, sad, etc, as they are in the other versions, and this comes across to the viewer in a very direct manner, with very little melodrama needed (thankfully). Others may not see it that way, however it’s important to remember that the story comes from another age altogether, and that life was much harder then, with societal lines far more definite and rigid, and above all, enforced.
Anyone who’s read and “enjoyed” A Dog of Flanders knows there’s no real way to for me to give the story a nice spin, and truth be told, I shouldn’t. This is a very sweet, but also very cruel tale, and whilst it’s easy to make light of it because it’s a story, the same thing happens every day somewhere in the world – even now. Like I said, the novel is also a social commentary, with money and status being the enemies of one’s basic humanity.
I loved the book, and I really do like this movie. It’s a far better adaptation than some of the live-action efforts I’ve seen, even though it has it’s own flaws. That doesn’t mean that anyone who likes the novel will love the movie though, as you may find that your favourite bits have been removed.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants a good cry. There are those who claim that nothing will move them to tears, yet I have proof that this movie is enough to turn hard-nosed, world weary, 30+ year old rugby players (my old team mates), into blubbering heaps, and nobody I’ve ever shown the movie to has managed to maintain a dry eye come the end. It’s up to you if you want to try it, although it is said that a good cry can work wonders.
Also, if you’re a dog lover then you may want to keep those tissues handy. You have been warned.
This is nothing like Barefoot Gen, GotF, or Ushiro no Shoumen Daare. There are no wars in this tale, no armies bent on world domination, no bombs, no guns. This is more horrific than those movies in a certain sense, as this is an example of what was occuring during peacetime. For that reason alone it stands apart from these and many other anime, especially as the concept of one being outcast is, in this tale, not a cue for god-like superpowers, or for multiple girl/women to fall out of the sky, etc, etc.
Over the decades the story has been referenced and parodied by so many shows, anime and otherwise, a testament to it’s influence in both Eastern and Western media, as well as to it’s enduring appeal worldwide. There are many reasons why this story is called a classic, and has been a beloved work of fiction for well over a century (there’s even a statue to Nello and Patrasche in the town of Hoboken, Antwerp).
What really brought it home to me though, was the fact that this is simply a tale about a boy and his dog, and of the loyalty they had to each other.
I’ve watched many movies throughout my childhood. Namely the Pokemon movies, some Disney movies (namely Aladdin), and others. But none of them have really made a huge impact on me because of the limited time they have to get made. Characters aren’t always developed, plots are too narrow, and some just turn out plain terrible…that is, until I stumbled upon THIS. I read about it on a blog and I thought “This looks interesting. Maybe I’ll watch it.” And right when I did…I WAS BAWLING LIKE A BABY AT THE END!!! I FOUND MY NUMBER ONE MOVIE EVER!!! Movies I’ve watched in my lifetime never really made an impact on me, and I read good reviews about this one…and I’m glad to say, I never expected it to be THIS awesome and…THIS ONE MOST CERTAINLY HAS!!! This movie has left me an emotional wreck, and I am glad to say that this is my all-time favorite movie ever made!
So the story’s about Nello, a good-hearted young boy in 19th century Belgium who lives a poor but happy life with his grandfather Jehan. He saves a dog, Patrasche, from a cruel and abusive owner and keeps him as his own. They develop a VERY strong brotherly bond. Nello also has Alois (pronounced Ah-Lou-Ah in Flemish), a young girl from a rich family whose father doesn’t like Nello for his poor upbringing. Nello wants to become an artist just like Peter Paul Reubens, but tragedy strikes Nello one after another and his bond with Patrasche is put to the test. Simple enough, yes? Let me tell you this: This isn’t some cheesy Disney movie with a cheesy happy ending! This movie will leave you crying buckets at the end!
Unlike most movie characters who don’t always get explored, everyone in this movie feels complete, even the side characters who all have their own personality and contribution to the story. All of them have subtle backgrounds that you can easily figure out just by looking at them. All of them have their own personality and they’re never incomplete. The soundtrack is also wonderful, always knowing when to be joyful and sweet and sad and heartbreaking. The music at the end left me broken to tears. The movie itself is just one big tearfest. When one grievingly heartbreaking scene ends, yet ANOTHER one comes right after! When will it end!? The end of course!
The only things that aren’t all that are the visuals and some of the voices in the Japanese version. But hey, the movie was made in 1997 so of course they’re not gonna be pretty and sparkly all the time. But they do, however, do an awesome job at making the capital of Belgium come to life in animated form, more specifically the city hall with all the flags on it. And I will say this: When it comes to the voices and casting, I think I prefer the English dubbed version over the Japanese because some of them sound a bit shaky, like Mrs. Nulette. In the Japanese version she sounds like she has strep throat. Jehan sounded like he had a sinus infection. The only Japanese voices I liked in the movie were Alois, George, and Paul. They were perfect. But I hear that the Japanese version has scenes that were cut out of the dub, so in respect to that, I’ll prefer the Japanese over the English version.
Despite the slightly old visuals and slightly shaky Japanese voice acting, these should be NO reasons to NOT watch this adorable, beautiful, heartbreaking, and awesome movie! This movie shows that life is fragile and not eternal, and it deals with serious issues such as death, poverty, and classism. It also emphasizes the benefits of honesty, friendship, work ethic, creativity, and knowledge, and how the ignorance of various people’s actions and thoughts can really shape the person. All of you MUST see this wonderful movie! I would love to own it myself, but it’s both out of print and appallingly expensive! It’s the best movie I ever saw, and the best movie ever made!
Flanders no Inu (Dog of Flanders) is based on the book by Marie Louise de la Ramée, it has been widely read and also adapted into several films and anime (MAL actually lists two series). This film is pretty much a compacted version of said series.
I found the story very… honest. It addresses poverty issues that occurred back in those days and it really doesn’t beat about the bush.
The film was quite a downer, to be honest. His best friend’s father keeps stopping his daughter from seeing him, Patrasche’s old abusive owner tries to reclaim him, forcing Jehan to pay him off with their rent money. Jehan dies, Nello is accused of starting a fire, he loses an art competition for money that will save his life, no one wants his milk delivery business anymore, he gets kicked out of his home, he walks around in the snow with no shoes on and in the end he freezes to death in front of paintings that he has forever longed to see in a church with Patrasche.
The art was very good, although it did get a bit sloppy in some areas, as is wont with many anime films and series.
I found the sound very moving, it certainly made the ending scenes more hard-hitting.
I feel that there could have been more character development with Aloise and her father, especially as to why he dislikes Nello so much. I think it would’ve been nice to see more of Nello’s two other friends as well. But considering this had the time limit of a film, I’m sure there simply wasn’t enough time. I haven’t seen the series, so I’m also sure that there’s more character development in there.
It was a good film, yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes and no. I enjoyed it for its honesty. But overall… no. I’m not saying that I wanted a happy ending… but it could’ve been less… pathetic, to be honest. Not pathetic as in crap, but pathetic as in… let this poor kid go with some dignity, eh?!
Overall, it’s definitely one to watch if you can stomach VERY unhappy endings. But it’s also nice to watch for those playful and fun scenes when things are still going right for our Nello. :]
6: Kaze Tachinu
English: The Wind Rises
MAL Score: 8.10
Although Jirou Horikoshi’s nearsightedness prevents him from ever becoming a pilot, he leaves his hometown to study aeronautical engineering at Tokyo Imperial University for one simple purpose: to design and build planes just like his hero, Italian aircraft pioneer Giovanni Battista Caproni. His arrival in the capital coincides with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, during which he saves a maid serving the family of a young girl named Naoko Satomi; this disastrous event marks the beginning of over two decades of social unrest and malaise leading up to Japan’s eventual surrender in World War II.
For Jirou, the years leading up to the production of his infamous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter aircraft will test every fiber of his being. His many travels and life experiences only urge him onward?—even as he realizes both the role of his creations in the war and the harsh realities of his personal life. As time marches on, he must confront an impossible question: at what cost does he chase his beautiful dream?
The film is based on a true story, that of Jirou Horikoshi. He was a japanese aeronautical engineer in charge of the design of the Mitsubishi Zero, the fighter plane used in World War II – specifically during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The movie begins by following Jirou at a young age and his dream to become a pilot. This is not the case because Jirou is nearsighted; nevertheless, we see Jirou’s great interest in the Italian aeronautical pioneer, Count Caproni, as he becomes inspired to become an aeronautical engineer.
The story doesn’t just focus on Jirou and aviation, but it develops into a love story between Jirou and Naoko. Hayao Miyazaki was able to produce a beautiful love story that did not interfere with the work focus surrounding Jirou. Both Jirou’s love for airplanes and Naoko were able to coexist and have the same equal amount of passion throughout the film.
Like any other Miyazaki and Ghibli film, the art is memorable and breathtaking. The watercolor style backgrounds are drawn with so much care and detail that the animation alone is able to bring the movie to life.
For those of you who have seen Miyazaki’s films, you will definitely have déjà vu moments as you see the similarities between the artwork and music. You will see the animation and music that made: Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and his other movies so distinctive from one another all coming together and producing that unique tone for The Wind Rises. We can clearly see all of Miyazaki’s accomplishments in the industry pouring out into this film and piecing itself together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle.
I believe that the characters are what drive this film to its fullest potential. I have only watched the english dubbed, but the casting was great. Each voice fit the different role remarkably. Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserve nothing but praise as they did an outstanding job voicing Naoko and Jirou. All of the relationships developed in this movie are a beautiful portrayal of every day life friendships and interactions. There are no “bad” guys. The suspense built is not from an external race trying to cause havoc, but rather a more personal suspense built within Jirou. Overall, the characters are very charismatic and enjoyable.
The pacing of the movie was very steady. It never felt as if it were too rushed or was dragging. Much of the film is spent in and out of Jirou’s dreams. Some people believed that it was hard to decipher when he is actually dreaming versus when he is not. The introduction of Caproni makes it very obvious, or should, to whether or not he is dreaming.
There have been many complaints about how this movie doesn’t live up to Miyazaki and his other films, but I think otherwise. Each of his movies are uniquely set in their own world of a dream-like fantasy. The Wind Rises joins them as a masterpiece, but in its own category.
By the end of the movie, all of your questions will be answered. Your overall understanding of the events that have just taken place will hit you straight in the heart – let those tears of joy and sadness run down your cheeks! The finale of Miyazaki’s movies has ended. Go with the wind as you take away the two hours of complete sublimity. My words alone cannot even describe the amount of emotion and beauty seen in this film, you will have to see it for yourself!
Of course, it would have been even better if he did it before Wind Rises came into existence, because my god was this one fucking dull movie.
The genre that Miyazaki tackles with his latest flying extravaganza is the biographical one. Whilst it’s true that stuff like Porco Rosso and Kiki were films centered around one protagonist’s life, Wind Rises goes a step further by detailing the life of our main hero, Jiro, as he grows from a boy to university to adult to irresponsible fuckwad. We see that he’s acrophobic but still wants to build planes as inspired by his dream friend and famous plane designer Caproni. As such he grows into a man who builds planes that are eventually used for war – who didn’t see that coming? – and eventually gets to marry a girl he knew when she was only twelve or so whilst he was in college. More things happen later, but it’s not really my place to spoil that stuff, so I’ll just go into “complaining mode” now.
Okay animation guys, I’m going to establish a new rule. You know those slice-of-life stories where we follow a dude as he learns about new things and the charm apparently relies on how much you like the focus character whilst throwing in a few comedic scenes that make up the crux of anime like Silver Spoon or Uchouten without any real conflict that can’t be solved through a counselor on Skype? You’re NOT allowed to do that anymore! You can still have them as downtime or whatever, but you have to have something else, even if you have to hire the Kanon car or introduce a sick mum who’s not really that sick, Totoro-style. Why? Because it’s boring! It doesn’t allow the audience to learn about the subject matter you’re probably trying to teach. And it’s #1 on my most hated anime cliche list for a reason.
Even if I was into Jiro as a character, I still wouldn’t find following him for two hours all that interesting because there is no real personal conflict that happens to him throughout the majority of his life. He likes planes. Some plane-related/war-related incidents happen that have fuck-all tension and don’t really affect him all that much. He meets the girl he’s going to marry and we get a few playful scenes before they decide they want to be together. He goes through a bunch of timeskips that have no subtitles to indicate when they’re happening and come off as jarring when they occur without incident because after he stops being a kid, he looks the same in his thirties as he does in his twenties.
And to make it worse, the finale of the film is that the story just ends. No real big scene. No big climax. It’s just a revelation where the message overrides the story and then it just ends without a second thought. That’s got to be the most sudden “okay we’re done” ending I’ve seen since that godawful Steins;Gate movie.
I won’t say the film isn’t without merits. The stretch of time where Jiro gets married and has to care for his wife is decent, if only because it actually introduced a personal conflict to his life. The way it all ends up is sad, even though the finale became a little manipulative in that Up sort of fashion. Unfortunately, that only takes up about twenty minutes of the film at most and it only happens in the last act.
I suppose Wind Rises is worth watching if you’re a plane geek who’s into all the “many” historically accurate details that are peppered through the film’s early 90s setting, or if you’re a die-hard Miyazaki fan (despite the fact that I didn’t like this film, I’ll probably still buy it just to complete the collection), or if you’re into “feels”, whatever the fuck that means. But dude, that’s a lot of hype and talent to use up on what comes across like a nature documentary with a plane dude as the main subject. Personally, I want to free up time to watch Castle in the Sky again. Whilst eating Papa John’s pizza.
So, The Wind Rises is a movie that focuses on a man named Jirou Horikoshi, the designer of the A6M Zero fighter plane of World War II, notoriously known for its use in the kamikaze, or suicide, missions back in the war.
That said, this is far from a biographical movie. It’s a fictional work loosely based around the historical figure known as Jirou Horikoshi. Wikipedia classifies this movie as an “animated historical fantasy film” and I think that classification fits the bill perfectly.
The story focuses on the life of Jirou Horikoshi and the romantic relationship between him and a woman named Setsuko, who suffers from tuberculosis. Overall, I felt the pacing of the movie was pretty well done, starting from childhood and slowly progressing through different stages of his life in a very fluid manner, although there were moments that felt rushed from time to time (the romantic relationship between Setsuko and Jirou for example).
The animation was of course amazingly detailed and well done (I loved how they paid attention to giving the animation depth; little mannerisms like a guy habitually shaking his legs under the desk while he’s working or the main character’s suit crumpling up when he sat down on a stool). One other thing I loved were the “dream sequences”, basically portraying Jirou’s dreams in a very surrealistic manner, as they were very vibrant and made for perfect transitions between different parts of the movie. These things, combined with an amazing soundtrack that fit perfectly with the mood (as expected of Hisaisi Joe), made some scenes truly amazing. Well, I had expected nothing less from Ghibli and Miyazaki Hayao, but even with that in mind, it blows you away.
The characters are overall unique and likeable. We also have some glimpses of other historical figures such as aeronautical engineers Giovanni Batista Caproni (who serves as a role model of sorts in Jirou[‘s dreams] in the movie), and Hugo Junkers. And of course there’s Setsuko, the lover of our man, Jirou. The romance in this movie of course tugs right at your heartstrings. It’s not burningly flamboyant nor overly exciting; rather it is one of those faint, calm romances that makes you feel calm and happy inside. It makes you shed a few tears (and be on the brink of shedding more on other occasions) for the romance for it was absolutely beautiful and heart-wrenching.
(Fun fact: Giovanni Batista Caproni’s aircraft manufacturing company, Caproni, manufactured a plane called the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli, which served as the inspiration to Ghibli’s name)
On a side note, the voice acting by Anno Hideaki (famous for being the chief director of Evangelion TV and movie series) I thought was quite amusing; it fit the out-of-it character of the main character pretty well, although at the more emotional moments of the movie, it lacked depth.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable 2 hours. It made me laugh, it made me cry at the right moments, it made me stare at the screen with a slack jawed expression because some scenes were just too beautiful.
Finally, I found the criticism and controversy it’s generating (especially in Korea) was a bit overblown. If anything, I found it to be quite critical of war and Japan attacking other nations (at several points in the movie, the characters say that Japan is going down a path of ruin [along with Germany] ).
I think it’s best to enjoy this as a piece, a work of art, rather than read too deep into it. I advise you to watch it just as a story of the life and love of a man who simply loved aircrafts.
5: Kaguya-hime no Monogatari
English: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
MAL Score: 8.21
Deep in the countryside, a man named Okina works as a bamboo cutter in a forest, chopping away at the hollow plants day after day. One day, he discovers a small baby inside a glowing shoot. He immediately takes her home, convinced that she is a princess sent to Earth as a divine blessing from heaven. Okina and his wife Ouna take it upon themselves to raise the infant as their own, watching over her as she quickly grows into an energetic young girl. Given the name Kaguya, she fits right in with the village she has come to call home, going on adventures with the other children and enjoying what youth has to offer.
But when Okina finds a large fortune of gold and treasure in the forest, Kaguya’s life is completely changed. Believing this to be yet another gift from heaven, he takes it upon himself to turn his daughter into a real princess using the wealth he has just obtained, relocating the family to a mansion in the capital. As she leaves her friends behind to enter into an unwanted life of royalty, Kaguya’s origins and purpose slowly come to light.
**This “review” is SPOILER-HEAVY and is recommended for those who have already seen the film**
**This “review” is also FAR from complete and I will be continually updating it in the future as I better collect more of my thoughts.**
This analysis may be somewhat messily written or seem to lack any sort of overarching structure. It is merely my personal thoughts and things I’ve realized while watching the film.
As one of the more recent additions, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” may not be the first title to come up with when you think of Studio Ghibli, yet I’m convinced that it is among said studio’s greatest works becoming my personal favorite in such a short amount of time. First off, it goes to say that the film is a mostly faithful adaptation of the legendary piece of Japanese literature, “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” dating back to 1592. The story has had innumerable adaptations over the years, but I think Studio Ghibli helps breathe life into the tale. Supposedly, Takahata longed to work on such a project for over 50 years, and anyhow ended up churning out an amazing piece of work. I found it to be far more than just a simple coming of age story touching upon subjects such as life’s duality, materialism, genuineness and enlightenment.
The film depicts Kaguya from her birth from the bamboo on Earth and solid amount of corresponding development throughout the years. I honestly think that she may be anime’s greatest female protagonist since Kemono no Souja Erin, fleshed out in far more detail than most of the protagonists of other Ghibli films, with few exceptions of course that could come close. Once born, she is found by an old woodcutter who takes her in to raise into a princess and from there on, Kaguya grows extremely fast, from the size of a thumb to the size of a normal newborn child, quickly learning to crawl and walk at a pace far faster than a baby generally should. The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” comes to mind in regards to her rapid growth as Kaguya seemed rather happy during this period, roaming free, discovering new things and hanging out with the other children. With this, it can also play into how children grow up so fast and how the perception of time seems to fly for her parents. Parents in the real world watch their children grow up at what seems to be an unbelievable rate. Kaguya is naïve as can be and is convinced that her life would remain this way. It is here where she begins to enjoy the daily toils of life, in one case learning to steal and in another learning to hunt. This demonstrates that even despite being princess, she is unafraid to dirty her own hands and this plays a major role in her characterization rejecting customs imposed upon her later. “A meal tastes better after working for it.” This is one core motif that runs throughout the film.
It can be important to take note that Kaguya was sent to Earth initially as a form of punishment. The gold and robes that the old woodcutter receives can play into making her life miserable and could very well be a plan on part of the celestials, the woodcutter convinced in his heart that making her a true princess would bring her ultimate happiness. In the context of punishment, it could also be said that her rapid growth and moving away could also very well play into her misery. In this case, it’s similar to giving candy to a child and then immediately taking it away, Kaguya gets a taste of what a happy childhood can be before it shatters all too easily. Out in the wilderness, she is free to express how she feels running wild, but when she awakens in the palace, the first thing that she does is prance around and explore, and this serves to demonstrate her current emotional capacity before it is suppressed. The people around her attempt to shape her into a regal princess, at Kaguya’s dismay and she rejects these customs because they inhibit her emotional expression. As a princess, she is not allowed to laugh, she is not allowed to cry. She cannot run and to ever move or pick anything up, she must do it gracefully. She must always be polite and act nobly. Kaguya rejects these customs in many instances, commonly running off in the middle of lessons and giving her instructor much difficulty. It is not that she is incapable of acting “proper,” as in one scenario, she demonstrates how she can perfectly play the song she was trying to learn, but rather she purposefully decides to act the way she wants. She disguises her true nature from her “father” to some degree, yet occasionally it slips out, such as when she crawls around on her knees and tries to play with a cat, something that a princess would not be approved of doing in such a context.
As time passes, Kaguya begins to recognize that she is simply given everything. She does not have to work and she does not have to struggle. The robes that she was once happy to have as well as magnificent palace she is allowed to live within, lose their value and become worthless to her. She later speaks less frequently to others and brushes aside the gifts and letters she receives. It is here that she recognizes that much more lies beyond material wealth. Inside, she wants to truly express how she feels uninhibited, yet sacrifices said expression to please her “father” and others around her. Her “mother” in this case serves to be much more understanding and notices that Kaguya is unhappy with her life as a princess, towards the end to a much greater degree. She is allowed to use a piece of the garden to plant and tend to whatever she wants and to some degree, she ends up recreating the bamboo grove where she grew up, signifying how she still misses her childhood days. A scene where she once again encounters Sutemaru also serves to support such, tearing up as she remains powerless, unable to express her want to save him. At one point, she undertakes a celebration in which she receives the name “Kaguya,” as prior she was simply referred to as “the Princess,” yet at this celebration, she begins to start growing more jaded. She simply sits completely behind a small curtain while everyone else enjoys the celebration. In this state, she is unable to engage with mostly anyone as the princess is not supposed to be seen by others during the ceremony. She questions whether she even needed to be there and this highlights her anxiety surrounding her place in the world. It is precisely this moment where Kaguya takes on another change, in that she finally realizes that she is sick of it all.
It is perhaps this scene that completely sold the film to me. About 50-minutes in, there is a running sequence in one of Kaguya’s dreams, in which the animation grows frantic and messy, perfectly encapsulating her emotional state as she withdraws. In a frenzy, she returns to the lands where she grew up. Here she witnesses conditions that greatly contrast from those in the palace. She wanders a barren landscape and here, we can see a complete difference in treatment. Out of pity, a woman leaves out a piece of bread for her and a man talks with her casually, not so formally for once. In the palace, she is honored and carefully safeguarded, yet here, she is not treated so nobly with upmost respect as a princess, and is rather humanized, being treated as a regular person. She comes to discover that the people she knew had moved on and by this point, she believes that her happiness is dead, never to return and symbolized by the decline of the landscape. However, the man reassures her to some degree, about how the forest will revive after some time, and this gives her hope that she could still potentially enjoy what’s to come.
Conflict strikes again when suitors take interest in her, all from noble backgrounds, yet Kaguya does not want to marry. She is already torn by all her restrictions, yet her interactions with these five accelerate her skepticism. The men brashly fight over her, yet soon we discover that they don’t exactly value “her,” but rather the image of her that they have created. They all compare her to legendary, supposedly even nonexistent treasures, and Kaguya cleverly has them attempt to receive such treasures to demonstrate their resolve, yet most of the men falter. In the two cases, the suitors attempt to dupe her with fake items and this merely adds to Kaguya’s understanding of her objectification. She is viewed as a prize to be one, regarded for her beauty and skill at playing music, not exactly for the individual she is. In another case, one suitor actually embarks on an expedition to obtain the Dragon’s Jewel, but his resolve proves to be weak after he is intimidated by hallucinations. Another occasion, Kaguya almost falls for another suitor’s proposal, but acknowledges his shallowness after he witnesses what he supposes is her, and turns her away. Considering the dedication some of the suitors have undergone to deceive her, she would expect them to still love her regardless of her appearance. The one that truly changes her however, is the final suitor who dies in an attempt to grasp a Cowry Shell. It is here that Kaguya recognizes the implications of her actions. Her attempt to turn away her suitors and act as a princess serves to take a life, and in this she becomes aware of what she is doing, merely being a fake. Simultaneously though, she is disgusted by how all she knows is fake, herself as an actor on the stage, and everyone else in valuing her for such shallow reasoning. Her father believes that he is bringing her happiness while the opposite could not be any truer. Here could lie the conflict of interest, in the case a parent and child have different visions of which is best for the child. The parent may think that one thing may be best for their offspring and would push them to become happy that way, yet the child may feel towards something else, yet is inexperienced with the world and sometimes goes along with their parents as the guiding route, even if it does not lead to their true happiness. Kaguya is heading in the wrong direction regarding her own vision of happiness, a princess, yet why should a princess be treated so differently from everyone else? She is unable to exhibit her full emotional capacity, and is not permitted to live as a commoner and survive on her own. In a rage she wrecks the Eden she had created. Another scene is also important in which she leaves the palace to see the cherry blossoms, but immediately turns back to the palace once a child reminds me of her fonder days, herself realizing that she cannot ever fully return to them. By this point she has become cynical and it may be here where she finally hits rock bottom in calling out to the Moon. Only after the Emperor later departs though, does she recognize this.
Another important moment that stresses Kaguya’s character is her encounter with the Japanese Emperor. This scene truly makes note of how strong of a female lead she has become, rejecting said Emperor without hesitation and shuttering and vanishing at his embrace, which the Emperor every woman thus far has loved. Dismissing the Emperor himself valiant as most wouldn’t dare try it, he wielding unbelievable power and authority, yet Kaguya now doesn’t care, committed to her own beliefs of expressing her emotional capacity. However, now she has yet another issue to address, in the Celestials are returning. Her calling out to the Moon previously serves to symbolize the want to commit suicide, but even now regretting it, it is no longer reversible. Towards the end of the film, her hesitation to return to the Moon reminded me of the anxiety people feel when they know they are going to pass away, like a patient with a fatal disease waiting to pass away and in such a case, one has to simple cherish the time they have left. With said limited time, with what is later made out to appear as a dream to Sutemaru, she reunites with him and enjoys a few final hours in living out her childhood days once again. Here, she is able to express how she feels without the restrains the palace grants her. The scene with Sutemaru goes to represent an alternate possible path that Kaguya could have taken in living as an ordinary person rather than a Princess. Though too late, as Sutemaru has already married and moved on, Kaguya enjoys a few moments which later vanish like a dream. However, she now fully registers that she would have been happier living out her life the way she initially had, daily endeavors of being poor, and stealing just to survive. Her fascination of the commoner’s life lies with her having to “work” and “try” to gain anything, the invested effort itself making something more valuable. Here draws the dualistic connection between pain and pleasure, in which the contrast magnifies each. Suffering in itself, is its own aspect of life, to not completely discarded and turned away from. It allows an individual to change and makes the more pleasurable moments of life all the more worthwhile. This contrast is later shown with the celestial’s descent.
Kaguya’s return to the Moon is honestly now probably one of my favorite scenes in the entire medium. The celestials descend in a grand procession to retrieve Kaguya. The defenses installed by humanity prove futile against the power of the Moon, and her return is inevitable. With this grand procession however, lies something especially important, the soundtrack dissonance. Upbeat, joyful music is played throughout what is supposed to be a rather depressing, sorrowful scene, in turn, creating a varied emotional reaction and here once again, lies a major point and underlying motif of the film in its entirety. As summarized perfectly by someone in a Youtube comments section, “It’s all the juxtaposition of emotions. After all, that’s what makes Kaguya’s vision of Earth compelling: she sees the beauty in earthly life, even with its trials and tribulations. The celestial beings only have eternal bliss, and no valleys to make the peaks meaningful.” The celestials view emotions as baggage and are hence refrained from expressing them, as to why Kaguya desired to descend to the Earth to begin with, captivated by the ability to express a wide range of feelings. As previously mentioned, the celestials know only bliss and play a tune completely inappropriate for the context, representing just how distant and ignorant they are to earthly endeavors. Not only that, but said tune goes on and on and on, as if to represent the “eternal” and “everlasting” aspects of celestial existence. Human pleasure is transient, not everlasting, which runs contrary to that of those of the Moon. The difference here is that the other celestials choose to live ABOVE the suffering, in contrast to Kaguya who chooses to live WITH it. Kaguya is constantly haunted on Earth by the same struggles as the ones on the Moon, restriction regarding the capacity to feel. She wishes to live a commoner’s life, embracing what life has to offer, rather than in an ascended, enlightened state, wholly divorced from suffering.
Kaguya’s return to the Moon metaphorically reminded me of death in how her wearing the cloak would erase her memory like death and Moon itself being a place where one cannot express or “feel,” (the celestials seem to be “above” the pain and suffering) once again, a null state like death. Life begins as an escape from nothingness, pre-conciousness, much like Kaguya’s journey, and then becomes what we know as “life,” in experiencing daily struggles and pleasures, memories and adventures, then ends with a return back to the state of nothingness in death, much like the aforementioned procession. As Nausicaä says, “all things are born from the darkness and all things return to darkness.” Reinforcing such an idea, I quote yet another individual, “This whole movie is about the human condition. Princess Kaguya arrived from nowhere in a flower, like conscience born from the nothingness that preceded it, suddenly produced by a brain, or a result of the soul. It is welcomed and raised and ponders on life, on happiness, on others, on human relations. But it finds nothing to answer itself. It echoes in nothingness again. When Kaguya destroys the garden, she realizes all happiness around her is “fake”. Nothing is persistent. All is destroyed. Such a mindset finally makes her emit a desperate death wish when the Emperor attempts to assault her. Calling the moon is drinking a slow poison. Calling for oblivion. Calling for an eternal death. This is why the people of the Moon have no feeling, no worries; but this is also what the movie meant before. Contrasting life and death. Making people see how short life is. How unavoidable death is. When Kaguya finally talks about Earth and the Moon, she tries to convince people that living is worth it. But when the Feathered Dress falls upon her, it’s over; she has fallen into Eternal Oblivion. Dead and is returning to bliss.” Her return is even subtly foreshadowed to some degree in the beginning of the film in the instance that she imitated frogs leaping. “Frog” in Japanese can be pronounced as “kaeru,” which “returning” unsurprisingly just so happens to share such pronunciation. I think Kaguya is about life in itself, in unveiling it as a journey, as well as discovering the duality of pleasure and pain (much like Nausicaä’s struggle of purity and corruption) as seen with her speech in which, while she is cut off from finishing it, she seems to come to some conclusion about it. The final scene of the film, though her memory is wiped and capacity to feel seemingly lost, she still manages to look back towards the Earth one final time, signifying that perhaps, deep down, internally, her soul still remembers. She IS Kaguya after all.
I appreciated how Ghibli didn’t take on a completely jovial, Hollywood-esque ending in which everyone was satisfied and was ambitious enough to leave the tale as something still something rather tragic. This truly film resurrected my hope in modern anime as I wouldn’t have expected something like this to still be produced in 2013. I’m glad to have found another work worthy enough to be inducted into my favorites.
The title of the film is not, “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” as the myth is commonly referred to, but rather, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.” It truly is HER story.
The movie has some merits – it has delightful watercolor-like visual style. It’s very pleasant to watch, one can simply sit and enjoy the flow of images. Animation is vivid and the art style captures the mood of the period and atmosphere of the folk tale very well. What this movie fails to capture however, is the very point it’s trying to make.
Because the movie is adaptation of the 10th century Japanese novel (sort of novel, at least) I initially believed it’s the ancient text which is to blame for anime shortcomings. I was really shocked to find out that numerous versions of the original narrative tend to have a better story than this anime offers.
The writers of the anime failed because they took their own set of what I will loosely describe as ‘Ghibli values’, injected it into the old narrative, clashed it with Heian period customs, played this conflict for over an hour and instead of resolving it they turned back to the slightly changed climax from the original story, completely ignoring the fact that with the liberties they took the original ending doesn’t work as intended – some characters are straight-up unlikeable, when they really shouldn’t be, some characters don’t serve any purposeful role and main character is spineless and passive. And any potential moral is subdued by the story’s inconsistencies.
The creators tried to amend the situation by explicitly telling the audience how and what it should feel and accompanied the ending with an emotional soundtrack (which is by the way not particularly memorable). These tricks don’t work perfectly – for the most part the movie feels more like a series of disjointed segments (Ghibli-esque beginning -> modern social commentary -> traditional folk tale -> melodrama), in each segment aiming at a different thing, connected only by the characters and art style. And additionally all of it feels dragged out and, honestly speaking, a little boring.
This really is not a good sign for a Japanese movie when a Western viewer relates more to the millennium old original story than to its modernized retelling. Visuals, faint mood of melancholy and oriental feel are not enough to consider The Tale of the Princess Kaguya a good film – it’s at most an average one.
Kaguya-hime (I’ll refer to it as such henceforth) is based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a famous story from Japanese folklore. In this rendition, an elderly bamboo cutter finds a tiny human-like baby within the folds of a bamboo shoot one day, and takes it as a sign from the heavens that it is his duty to raise the mysterious child. However he and his wife quickly discover that the child is far from a normal human, as she grows at an insane speed. She goes from crawling to walking in a split second, she learns to talk in no time at all, and within months she’s as big as the older children who used to play around with her. Meanwhile, the bamboo cutter finds even more miraculous gifts within the bamboo shoots in the forest such as gold, gemstones and expensive clothing. He comes to the conclusion that the task the heavens has provided him is not just about raising the child, but about turning her into an actual princess of the land.
The majority of the story then takes place in the capital and follows Kaguya’s blistering journey through her youth as her foster parents are doing everything within their power to try to turn her into a real princess, although Kaguya herself is mildly enthusiastic about this idea. Now the idea of having a wild tomboy being forced to become a “proper” woman is nothing new, but I still think this story showcased one of the best renditions of that concept that I’ve seen in a while. Kaguya’s character herself is superbly written and her reactions to everything going on around her feel very realistic and enjoyable to witness. She shows in full that she is very talented and fully capable of carrying out all the modest and appropriate ways of behaving for a noble woman, but at the same time very clearly gets the message across that despite all that she only really wants to live her life freely and play around. She’s a very relatable character as a whole, and her enthusiastic spirit is perhaps the biggest reason as to why the film is so captivating throughout.
The supporting cast primarily consists of Kaguya’s foster parents, her mentor, her childhood friends as well as all kinds of rich nobles that are interested in her. None of them feel needless in any way, but it’s pretty clear that this story is about Kaguya herself and no one else, as the focus is always on her alone. In a way this can be considered a bad thing since the rest of the characters don’t get very much in the way of depth and back story, but I personally didn’t ever feel particularly bothered by that. Kaguya is really the only one that truly matters in this movie, and as far as that goal goes the movie executes it brilliantly.
What is definitely worth mentioning about this story though is the ending of it. While I obviously won’t spoil any details, let’s just say that the conclusion of this story is… unexpected. It is very unusual, spontaneous and just plain strange in a lot of ways. Was it bad then? Honestly I’m not entirely sure if I liked it or not, but it was definitely not what I ever thought I’d see in a Ghibli film at least. Personally though, I always appreciate when stories diverge from the norm and decide to go a little bit crazy, so regardless of which I respect it for what it did on principle. However I know from experience that whenever a movie comes along which takes a sudden unexpected turn close to its ending, there will always be heavily split opinions on it. Therefore I can guarantee that there will be a lot of people who will really dislike the climax. Just a warning.
As far as the production value goes, the soundtrack is for the most part rather ambient but it is very on-point for the atmosphere of the story. Some of the instrumental tracks in it however were very catchy and pleasing to listen to. In addition Kaguya also plays a little music on her own within the movie itself so it was quite diverse in that department. The voice acting is typical Ghibli in terms of feel and quality, which is of course always a great thing. I’d praise it more, but honestly I’m more or less expecting it from a Ghibli film at this point.
The animation however is where Kaguya-hime really goes way off what you’d ever expect to see in an anime movie released as late as 2013. The art style takes a very old school, classical approach which makes it feel hand-drawn most of the time. Sketch lines are intentionally left in, and at first it looks like the movie wasn’t actually finished in its current state since common sense says it requires quite a lot more polishing. But this is the style the movie utilizes throughout on purpose. At first it takes a while to get used to, but once you do it’s actually really captivating to witness. It makes the movie seem so much more atmospheric somehow, and helps beautify it as the icing on the cake. Where the animation really shines though is during the sequences of the movie which has a lot of rapid movement. When Kaguya runs throughout the mansion or the forests, or when the camera simply “flies” throughout the landscape, it looks absolutely mesmerizing. I’m not even sure how to explain it since it was so unorthodox; it’s something you really have to see in person and experience for yourself.
As a whole, this is probably my 2nd favorite Ghibli film to date (after Spirited Away), so yes I honestly liked this more than Takahata’s former “masterpiece”. It’s a bit hard to put into words exactly what it is that makes Kaguya-hime so loveable though, but I think it’s a combination of the setting, Kaguya’s character and the creative artwork. Case in point however is that I truly loved this movie from start to finish, despite its lengthiness. As with most (all?) Ghibli films, this one is most definitely watchable by all audiences, but in particular if you’re a fan of beautiful landscapes and coming-of-age stories, then you better add Kaguya-hime to your repertoire as soon as possible. Not doing so would be seriously missing out.
4: Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni
English: In This Corner of the World
MAL Score: 8.23
Suzu Urano is a pure and kindhearted girl who loves to draw and keep her head in the clouds. Growing up in the outskirts of Hiroshima with her family, she is more than happy to help with her grandmother’s nori business.
However, when she becomes of age, Suzu leaves her beloved home to marry Shuusaku Houjou, a man she barely knows. As she integrates into her new husband’s household, the homesick bride struggles to adjust to the unfamiliar environment as the war effort extends far beyond its point of no return. When the war reaches Suzu’s own backyard and peace gives way to brutality, how will she support herself and those she comes to love along the way?
Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni paints a colorful yet haunting depiction of everyday life in the years before and after World War II, showcasing the perseverance and fortitude of ordinary Japanese during one of the darkest periods of modern history.
The protagonist is a nonchalant (at least on the surface) and a bit dreamy ordinary girl who loves to draw and paint. She is raised in Hiroshima and marries into a family of a young man employed in the naval town of Kure,
The movies goes into great detail showing the life of an ordinary family of that time. It starts as a great slice of life, of her old-style marriage with a new husband, sharing life with in-laws and communicating with neighbors. There are happy, sweet, and tender moments although the life is set in wartime, and the hardship gradually creeps into life. The relationship with the sister-in-law is a bit fictitious, but the protagonist forms a solid bond with the family and the relationship to her little niece is just beautiful.
And I will stop there, as it would be a great spoiler.
I will only add that air raid scenes were really terrifying, although it was not right in your face bloody. The reason why almost excessive showing of daily life was necessary becomes evident when the war becomes very personal and relate-able to the protagonist, and you are shown what war can do to people leaving emotional and physical scars. The effects of the A Bomb is not directly shown apart from a later brief horrifying scene (as the protagonist was in Kure, 30-40km away from Hiroshima), but depicted as a culmination of personal tragedies in a mass scale (if one could feel the great tormenting pain and sorrow of losing a loved one in Kure which was attacked by conventional incendiary bombings, then imagining the tragedy of hundreds of thousands lives lost in Hiroshima can evoke fear and despair without showing it right in the face).
I groaned in the theater as shedding tears was not enough to control my emotions. After the film finished I was in the streets with Christmas lights and happy faces around among families and friends. The world felt very ordinary yet very fragile. I kept on half-weeping on the train heading home.
This is a very well done film with a distinct art-style (it is realistic but it’s a reality only achieved by animation and not a photoshop production using photographs or rotoscope), thorough research in history, and passion. I don’t know if this film is the best of all war films, but I think it is one of the best animated films produced dealing with war (I can’t say which is better- the Grave of Fireflies, or this).
This should be seen at theaters with a wide screen and good audio.
Aesthetically speaking, my only gripe is how much the character design seems marshmallowed and unfit for whatever mood intended. At first, I found it to be overall pleasing and cute, but as soon I realized it was confusing me on whether I should be relaxed or tense, it began to bother me. Aside from that, it’s overall gorgeous with a unique touch of visual realism that’s always welcome in any war drama. The backgrounds are detailed and cozy, rich in colors and identity, vivid and with an endearing picture book-esque look. There are also several angles only properly done through aerial photography, which again denotes the commitment to realism where it’s due. It’s simply undeniable the amount of care put into it. The animation is fluid enough, though I believe it wasn’t the focus as more often than not it’s obvious they want you to pay attention to the scenery instead of how things move. However, once the bombings take place, the animation reaches its peak and realistically depicts war explosions battering the screen in a manner that I doubt has ever been so accurate in anime medium.
I won’t lie, the protagonist’s voice doesn’t fit, but it’s still a great voice. It doesn’t fit due to the cartoonish look that is like seeing a little girl talking like an adult. I appreciate how natural the voices sound; in contrast to the artificial screeches that exist within the medium, the voices are closer to what real people sound like. Odd as it may seem to have a new type of voice to be your main character, it is these little actions that diversify the search for new talents and different approaches in the industry, thus, commendable.
Characterization-wise, it’s obvious that the protagonist is the main focus. It’s a coming of age depicting the development of a female character who faces several minor conflicts involving her family while dealing with the war and its outcome, and honestly, a lot is left to be desired. Most of the movie details a very generic situation: Suzu coming to acknowledge her own capabilities and trying to cease fire with her sister in law Keiko. The mundanity of events is way too clear, so much that it begins to beg for something more substantial to happen. Some major events like death and moments of extreme doubt are, unfortunately, rushed and not properly developed. It does not suffice to dedicate a mere few minutes to explore the regret, anger, and mourning involving an important and present character’s death. In the end, Suzu doesn’t really change beyond one would expect from the very beginning, as she doesn’t draw a very innovative conclusion out of the whole picture the film provides to us. War is bad and we need to do our best. This is a rather common problem I perceive in most anime about war: they don’t really do anything with the premise. It’s interesting to explore different facets regarding a theme, but it’s not actually leading anywhere. The mundanity of war isn’t ambitious enough. Even then, its execution could have been superb if it wasn’t rushed. This would give both the protagonist and the audience enough time to contemplate, feel, and think beyond the monotony she was trapped in but not necessarily brainwashed by. It’d be a lie to say that 90% of the film isn’t simply Slice of Life in War. In itself, it’s not a bad concept, but it requires extremely careful directing to hold an air of poignancy. It’s possible to delve further into other characters, but I don’t believe they’re worth analyzing when they mainly just set a conflict with the protagonist or contribute to the lighthearted vibe that weaves throughout the movie. It is indeed a character-driven movie, but by a character who isn’t very deep or interesting past what’s presented from the beginning. She does change, but just a little and we are mostly presented to how she reacts and interacts with others rather than how those reactions and interactions change her through time, which in my opinion should be the focus in any character study sort of story (as in Ashita no Joe for example).
In the end, In this Corner of the World can be a very good movie depending on what you’re expecting and planning to enjoy out of it. I can’t stop thinking this is a “feels good” sort of anime and no matter what tragedy they tried to convey, it just didn’t resonate with me at all. Maybe I had set the bar too high and got slightly disappointed, but my biggest gripes are without a doubt the pacing that’s occasionally repulsive and the abrupt cuts that can annoy some viewers, myself included. I do believe the movie had a solid and genuine intent as an adaptation made with care and I do believe its execution, albeit flawed, manages to deliver enough to constitute itself as a worth watching piece of animation.
I was fortunate enough to go to the very first screening of this film at the festival, which featured a short talk by Mr Katabuchi and, needless to say, the audience was very excited to watch the film. French isn’t my best language but what I got from it was that Katabuchi believes younger generations in Japan don’t realise how the war affected people, and it’s perhaps likely that foreigners don’t either (as a foreigner, I feel this is true of me). He felt that the original manga helped educate people about it through a very personal lens, by immersing them in and exploring how it affects the life of an ordinary woman from Hiroshima, and he hoped the film would do the same.
Well, that it certainly did. The film itself is slow, and beautifully so. The actual plot, as in most slice of life, is minimal. There is no big conflict to be resolved. Just life, and the war that affects it. And this was all extremely unnerving.
From the very beginning of the film, you could feel the tension in the theatre. We, as an audience, didn’t all know about how the war affected individual Japanese people, but we all knew about the war, and certainly about what that meant for Hiroshima in particular. As the film progressed, and more and more time passed, the tension in the room grew stronger. People were, quite literally, at the edges of their seats. It’s an awful feeling – you know what will happen. You see all this stuff happening to people but you know it’s not the culmination, because you KNOW what will inevitably happen in Hiroshima, and you’re just waiting for it to happen. With most films, there’s often the potential of something terrible happening, and you’re waiting to see if it will happen. With In This Corner of the World, a slow-moving 2 hour masterpiece of a film, you don’t wait to see IF the big bad thing (that the characters don’t even know about) happens. You wait to see WHEN it happens, and that is the most unnerving feeling in the world.
And I think In This Corner of the World knows how unnerving it is, and it plays with that. At several points in the film it builds up the tension and the feeling that something bad will happen, and you could hear little gasps in the audience. We were being played with in a very cruel way that only a very good film could. Once a character is invited to go to Hiroshima for a festival, and I heard someone whisper “oh no”.
And when IT inevitably happened, it was… brief, and unspectacular. It was not the huge culmination we had all been waiting for which, instead of underwhelming, made the whole thing even more uncomfortable. The entire theatre felt more silent than it had been the entire time.
I suspect we, as a majority of foreigners, expect that the bombing of Hiroshima would be the absolute worst thing to happen (I know I sure did), but it wasn’t. The aftermath, of course, was another deal, but that’s what I feel is so special about In This Corner of the World. It’s not spectacular in the sense of being a spectacle, it’s spectacular in the sense of being quietly real. We know the experience of an entire nation, more or less. We know what happened. But what we’re shown is the experience of just a handful of people. It makes it personal, and it makes it special.
And, through all the suffering you see in this film, in the end you can’t help but feel a certain… hope. In the end, even after all the hard-hitting stuff you see on screen, you’re left with a feeling of it gets better. You know it gets better, and you remember not just the hardships of the characters but also the message of sheer human resilience, and hope, so much of it.
In This Corner of the World is an absolutely beautiful film. It truly is a masterpiece, for any film – animated or not, and if you have a good supply of tissues, I can not recommend it enough.
3: Sennen Joyuu
English: Millennium Actress
MAL Score: 8.26
At the turn of the millennium, Ginei Studio’s dilapidated buildings are set to be demolished. Ex-employee and filmmaker Genya Tachibana decides to honor this occasion with a commemorative documentary about the company’s star actress: Chiyoko Fujiwara, the reclusive sweetheart of Shouwa Era cinema. Having finally obtained permission to interview the retired starlet, an enamored Genya drags along cynical cameraman Kyouji Ida to meet her, ready to put his lifelong idol back in the spotlight once more.
Hidden in this secluded mountain retreat is a thousand years of history condensed into one lifetime, waiting to be narrated. Chiyoko’s recollections take them on an illusionary journey through Japanese cinematic history that transcends the boundaries of reality; the saga of her acting career intertwines with her filmography, the actors in her life blend seamlessly with the characters on screen, and the present melds with the past. Though the actress may have retired at the height of her career 30 years ago, the curtain on her life’s stage has yet to fall.
The story follows a pair of filmmakers who are interviewing a famous actress who has been retired for many years to celebrate the studio’s 70th anniversary. Millennium Actress features one of the most original story telling methods I have seen. We see the majority of the movie told through the actresses various movie roles. We shift from feudal Japan, World War 2, and a futuristic moon base, amongst others. You are never actually sure what is real and what is the movie all the time. I also found it interesting that the two filmmakers were always observers during the entire process. Their presence provided an interesting way of narrating the story and kept the viewer from getting confused by the constantly changing scenery.
Though many will perhaps not be able to relate to Chiyoko’s devotion to a man that she hardly knew anything about, I still never felt as though it was too farfetched. Whether or not she truly loved him the way one might feel for a lover is beside the point. Her love is what shaped the remainder of her life and allowed her to accomplish the things she had. I think this is summed up best by her last lines from the film when she comments that finding him was not that important, because it was the chase that she loved the most.
The two filmmakers Genya and Kyoji provide a nice anchor for the viewer. Of the two Genya is the most important and as the story unfolds we learn about his past and why he idolizes Chiyoko. As for the object of Chiyoko’s devotion we really learn little about him other than has ultimate fate. I think it was a good decision from a storytelling standpoint because his mysterious nature was what kept her looking for him.
The art was really exceptional. There were sometimes that some of the backgrounds looked like actual photographs and perhaps they were but they seamlessly fit in with the rest of the animation. The film as does a wonderful job at portraying many different settings. Everything feels so authentic from the prewar Japan costumes and architecture to the 50s styling and fashions.
Overall I really can’t recommend this movie enough. I don’t think its appeal is limited to just shoujo and romance fans. Give this movie an hour and a half, you will be glad you did!
Millennium Actress is a film that can easily be called great. It is outwardly audacious and seemingly gorgeous in nature.
Though frankly, Millennium Actress comes across as something that would be praised as long as the aesthetics are nice, the plot is convoluted and that it is directed by Satoshi Kon. As ridiculous as it might sound, this is a genuine statement after coming to a conclusion: the movie’s fans are often completely oblivious of any criticisms, and their belief that this movie is a magnum opus will not change due to the mentioned reasons. Of course, about the said belief, I beg to differ.
The story is quite average. If I should be honest, this is the kind of plot that I would consider dreary and uninspiring for how frequent it is recycled in Hollywood, so I see no point in magnifying it. It’s just not special, but it has a heart, and that’s what matters. I can clearly see where they were trying to go with, and so the intention is clear and rightfully consistent throughout. Unfortunately, this also means the movie is predictable and has virtually nothing to anticipate other than “does the actress meet her love?”, which is kind of a dull two-sides-of-a-coin. Nevertheless, it is still a movie that feels complete and satisfying regardless. Also, paying homage to Japanese cinema is no good excuse for an average story, though it’s nice and somewhat exciting to feel such radiated, genuine affection of Kon towards the pridefully rich cinema history.
The execution, however, is arguably poor. As thin and uninspiring as the story is, the execution barely does anything to embrace it (unlike in, say, Tokyo Godfathers). To be fair, all the director does for the movie is dragging this nonexistent storyline for an hour and a half. And so coming upon the second problem, the expendable convoluted nature of the narrative. For a story with barely any philosophical weight or plot development, the messy confusing narrative is just absolutely pretentious. “Oh but it’s gorgeous, and it merges reality with memories…” well, fair enough. But this naturally would beg a question, “Why confusing, necessarily?”. While acknowledging that by the end of the actress’ life, she can recall the events so vividly and can’t differentiate what’s real and what isn’t; yet forasmuch as this whole sequence solely focuses on that concept itself without even bother to have a wider, or deeper reach, it gives the audience no insights or depth other than the actress’ very simplistically discernible state of mind. This would have been so much more thematically powerful if it had included an actual psychological emphasis, and that the acting career emergence didn’t just take up the whole second half for nothing. When an idea so superficial being told so grandiosely, it will inevitably give the impression of being overly self-indulgent. To me, the complexity (or just convoluted, not complex) in this movie has not much depth or thematic ideas.
The characters are fine. They are fun and likable enough to lead the audience till the end, but none of them were even remotely profound or memorable. Some parts of the scripts are honestly so corny. I could forgive everything these hombres verbalize throughout the movie, but for the last line, I simply couldn’t. It’s just melodramatic and corny and foreseeable. Unforgivable.
The tone is clearly a craft of dexterity by a truly talented director. Kon knows exactly how and when to implement comedic relief, or to build up our expectations for an emotional impact. And so, thanks to the tone, the story seems to flow much more seamlessly. Still, this is insufficient as a saving grace for an overall poorly-written and executed movie.
Nonetheless, taking all that aside, we actually have quite a fantastic audiovisual piece of art. The animation is flawless and the art is not your typical degenerate garbage (not trying to sound disrespectful, but it really does look mature and visually intriguing). The music is really good and generally well used. I have no major complaint about the production value and perhaps am even more than enthusiastic to praise this truly astounding audiovisual spectacle. I can rest assured anyone who watches this movie would concur.
That said, this movie, albeit aesthetically merited, is subpar in almost every way. Satoshi Kon is definitely not a hack, however refutably overrated, for he has demonstrated his genuine competence in composing his own coups such as Perfect Blue or Tokyo Godfathers, and even glimpses of greatness here and there in Millennium Actress. Nevertheless, the self-indulgent and bafflingly confusing narrative has made Millennium Actress his weakest work that I’ve experienced so far. Mind you, this movie used to hold a 10 on my list for quite some time, so I do understand all the unhinged worshipping. Yet have I verily changed to thus give my sincere final verdict upon this movie: How corny.
STORY – Millennium Actress’s story is very simplistic and very sweet. I’m not usually a fan of unquestioning, devotional love, especially to such a crazed, obsessive extent, but the way this movie presents things makes it very easy to like. Just the extent of everything, the lengths to which Chiyoko had been willing to go; all of it was incredible. Even better still, was the idea that we in the audience could not know just how much of it was real and just how much of it was fantasy. The lines seem permanently blurred and any one scene might have just as easily been a memory or a dream, especially since all of the recollections are coming at an age where forgetfulness is common, making everything all the more tragic.
The use of movies to convey a fantasy was brilliant, especially considering the story’s form as a movie. The way people in the present are thrown into the past (or fantasy) was also a wonderfully creative way to tie the two times together, and there’s even a bit of tongue-in-cheek self-commentary on this way of handling things. Really, it’s Satoshi Kon’s phenomenal storytelling that transforms Millennium Actress’s exceedingly simple plotline into a masterpiece.
CHARACTERS – I have mixed feelings about the characters in this movie. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of sudden, unquestioning love; thus, I definitely wasn’t a fan of the fact that Chiyoko essentially fell into eternal love with a man she’d met once, briefly, for several short hours. At the same time, the extent to which she took this infatuation seemed strangely realistic, despite how incredible it was. Indeed, people obsess over little things all the time, irrelevant people, incidental meetings; there are short moments that they will remember for the rest of their lives, so perhaps it isn’t so strange that Chiyoko should cling onto something like that. Besides, it wasn’t as if she had thrown her entire life away for the man, even if she did build up everything she had in order for him to see her. Aside from the obsession, I really enjoyed the way the elder Chiyoko was portrayed. It was very believable that she would become a recluse, and the way she told her story, the small revelations that came along with it — all of it was wonderfully interesting to watch and very touching in the end.
The other characters in the movie are all relatively minor and their characters subsequently less complex. Mostly, their personalities are sculpted so that they contribute directly to moving Chiyoko’s story along, whether by acting as antagonists or by wanting to discover more. In the end, I find them more to be tools to help Chiyoko along more than being characters of their own, but in a movie like this, I think that’s fine.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Millennium Actress has some absolutely gorgeous animation. The art style is rather typical of Satoshi Kon, and you’ll easily notice that many of his middle-aged and older male characters look startlingly similar across the movies and series he’s directed, but the same can be said with a number of other prominant artists and directors. What I loved about the animation itself was how smoothly scene transitions were handled, especially considering that we moved back and forth between present day and past recollection and between reality and movie fantasy constantly. The inclusion of the present day interviewers within flashbacks is one of my favorite touches and really helps weld everything together in the end. It was especially nice too, to see so many different kinds of scenes animated since they were just scenes within Chiyoko’s movies.
MUSIC – Maybe I was too wrapped up in the pretty animation and storytelling, but I didn’t note very astounding music, though nor did I note anything bad.
VOICE ACTING – I saw this movie subbed. The voices were pretty average for the most part, though I didn’t rather enjoy elder Chiyoko’s performance for some reason. Her emotion, especially near the end of the movie, was just very touching. :3
OVERALL – I really enjoyed this movie, though if I had just been given a synopsis, I probably wouldn’t have been very interested in the first place. Having Satoshi Kon’s name attached to it did help though, and I think this is one of the better examples of his works. The way the story was told just changed everything, including the fact that the plot itself was very simple.
2: Hotaru no Haka
English: Grave of the Fireflies
MAL Score: 8.50
As World War II reaches its conclusion in 1945, Japan faces widespread destruction in the form of American bombings, devastating city after city. Hotaru no Haka, also known as Grave of the Fireflies, is the story of Seita and his sister Setsuko, two Japanese children whose lives are ravaged by the brutal war. They have lost their mother, their father, their home, and the prospect of a bright future—all tragic consequences of the war.
Now orphaned and homeless, Seita and Setsuko have no choice but to drift across the countryside, beset by starvation and disease. Met with the apathy of adults along the way, they find that desperate circumstances can turn even the kindest of people cruel yet their youthful hope shines brightly in the face of unrelenting hardship, preventing the siblings from swiftly succumbing to an inevitable fate.
A well-renowned Studio Ghibli classic about 14 year-old Seita and his little sister struggling to survive after their home is destroyed by carpet bombing, their mother killed, and their father is away fighting with the Navy.
Except they don’t really struggle. Not at first, anyways. They have a loving aunt who is more than willing to give them a place to stay, help cook for, and take care of them. Far from being grateful and thankful for this lucky turn of events, though, Seita is angry and resentful. Why?
Well, because occasionally she makes insensitive comments about how Seita plays all day with his sister and eats her food, instead of going to school or working. And you know what? She’s absolutely correct!
A 14 year old in the 1940’s was considered a mature adult, especially during in Japan, doubly so during wartime, and more than capable of working for a living.
At that age, my great-grandparents and grandparents (who were born around the same time as the fictional Seita, except in the USSR, where far more people starved to death and died during the war than in Japan) were either in the military or working to support their family. This wasn’t considered either tragic or unusual; it was simply the way life was back then for the countries at total war.
However, Seita, despite supposedly caring for his sister, can’t take this horrible verbal insult to his pride. He leaves his aunt’s house, ignores the advice of a kindly farmer who tells him to go back and apologize, and continues obliviously playing with his younger sister…as they both slowly starve to death.
Thus, Seita is a completely callous, idiotic monster, responsible not only for his own death, but the death of his sister as well. That’s my first problem with “Grave of the Fireflies”. That the main character is responsible for the entire tragedy that ensues.
Another weakness of the movie is how completely contrived and fake the emotions were. You’re telling me that when Seita sees his dead mother, her skin burned off her very flesh, he doesn’t cry? He’s so tough, that he tries to entertain his younger sister by doing tricks on a metal high bar?
That might make a great scene for a movie, but it’s pure bullshit. Especially considering how childish and immature Seita acts throughout the rest of the movie. Him and his sister laughingly frolicking so soon afterwards also struck me as pure movie bullshit.
The aunt’s own temperament is equally contrived. You’re telling me that she shows no emotion upon hearing that her own sister has died? She’s clearly no monster, and treats her nephews quite well, so why the utter lack of emotion? And why her bizarrely antagonistic attitude towards Setsuko, the younger sister? She’s four year old.
Seita is the one at fault here, not her. Again, it makes little sense except as a series of emotionally manipulative scenes designed to make the viewer feel empathy.
Yet, the anime has an even greater flaw; it fails to make a statement. There is no point to the story.
Seita and Setsuko suffer tragedy during World War 2. They play and laugh a lot. Seita ignores the responsibilities of an adult. Eventually, they starve.
What’s the punchline? What’s the meaning? There have been thousands of films before this and hundreds of films afterwards about the cruelty of war. What makes this one special? What’s the director’s message about life and the human condition? There is none.
Hell, I didn’t even feel any particular pity for the two fictional characters. The director even failed to do that.
On the bright side, the animation of “Grave of the Fireflies” is, for its time, absolutely breathtaking, as is its attention to the most minute details of a scene must have taken tremendous dedication and effort on the part of the artists.
The music, while a simple orchestral score, is nevertheless touching, adding just the right emotion to several important scenes. It’s not overpowering, but rather a soft background noise that makes one think of nostalgia and regret. In certain scenes, the music isn’t used at all, which, if anything, enhances the scene.
Lastly, I should note that the movie is semi-autobiographical. The writer Akiyuki Nosaka experienced a version of these events with his own little sister.
Only in reality, he stole food from her. She died, and he survived.
Now that would have been an ugly, authentic story worth telling.
Set during the last days of WWII, while the US Air Force was fire bombing Japanese cities, Grave of the Fireflies is a movie about a young boy named Sata and his little four year old sister Setsico. When their mother is killed in the firebombing of Tokyo Sata is forced to care for his little sister in a nation ripped apart by war and famine. With his father far away serving in the Japanese navy, Sata is the only one who can care for his sister. The love shared between these two siblings is something that will forever leave an impression on me. As an older brother myself I could very easily put myself into Sata’s situation. His need to give his sister the very best he can while not being able to provide for her is a very real feeling.
There are no heroes in this film, and there are no villains. Sata and Setsico are no heroes; the only heroic things they do throughout the movie are love and take care of one another. And, their aunt, although harsh and unfair, is no villain. At the same time neither side of the war, American or Japanese, is portrayed in a negative light. This is not a war movie and doesn’t exist to condemn one side or the other. This is a movie about two orphan children trying to survive while the society they grew up in crumbles to dust around them.
Many critics of this movie complain about how annoying little Setsico is. Yes, I can admit, sometimes Setsico can be annoying, but really, what little girl isn’t? She’s a child, and children can’t understand everything that’s going on around them. Setsico doesn’t understand that there is a war going on and that she can not have everything that she wants, she doesn’t understand that Sata is killing himself trying to provide for her. As an older brother I find it absurd when people complain about how annoying little brothers/sisters can act in movies without even realizing that siblings are annoying in real life. Sata is no different. if you read this review, please leave a comment.
The story is basically about two siblings attempting to live and survive in a war-stricken Japan during the second World War. The imagery and the way the story is set up is beautiful, but there was so much wasted potential in the way that the plot progressed that it became underwhelming. The biggest issue that Grave of the Fireflies has, regarding story and plot, is that it doesn’t progress at a reasonable rate to retain interest. In the historical aspect, Grave of the Fireflies gives superb reiteration of the struggles that Japan’s citizens faced in World War II (fire bombing, lack of food, and destruction of homes), and does deserve praise there. In many cases the movie transitions and alternates between deeply depressing to blissful from the perspective an ignorant brother and sister attempting to enjoy leisure activities during war time. I expect that the direction this was supposed to be headed in was showing that despite the cruelties of war, a young man and his sister could still find ways to enjoy life and each others’ company. However, it fails to deliver this message this and only left me feeling contempt towards Seita.
Character-wise, Grave of the Fireflies suffers immensely. Throughout their ‘struggle’ to survive, if you can even call it that, Seita is given a lot of responsibility to shoulder in taking care of his sister, Setsuko. While it is without a doubt an arduous task to raise a child while being a teenager, Seita is depicted as a complete incompetent in his attempts to do so. He literally has one job: take care of his sister. Why couldn’t he do this when he had many prospects at his disposal?
Early on in the series I thought Seita was actually quite a responsible young man; he seemed dependable and level-headed in making decisions that benefit both him and his younger sister. He finds a place to live after their hometown is destroyed, keeps himself and his sister fed, and is conscious in being delicate with his younger sister’s more fragile psychological well-being. The way he took care of his sister and contemplated thoughts before speaking showed his capability of becoming a refined, mature figure. However, we later see what a useless older brother and guardian he turns out to be. While he’s staying with his Aunt, who is nice enough to let them stay despite shortages of food/supplies, he literally does nothing. He doesn’t work, attend school, contribute to the war effort/relief, wash his own dishes, or even teach his sister manners. He lazes about and utilizes only what supplies and money that was left as an inheritance from his family. He even has the audacity to infer that his aunt is a mean and annoying person when he was simply an ungrateful child. While there are several instances where he degrades himself in attempts to get food in the second half of the movie, resorting to theft, or begging, he is unable to throw away his pride, ultimately leading to both siblings’ demise. It would have been a better movie if Seita was framed as the monster he was, but instead he’s portrayed as a sympathetic martyr figure, which is just stupid.
I’ve heard and read opinions about Setsuko being perceived as an extremely annoying character, which is both warranted and unwarranted. While I can see why they people would think so, her character was ultimately shaped by being spoiled by her family and older brother. I can’t quite say that she was annoying since she was actually characterized very realistically. Children, if not raised correctly, often act spoiled, entitled, and greedy. Hell, some children who were raised correctly still act that way. It touches on the topic of nature versus nurture. I felt a fair amount of pity for her since nobody taught her manners, and as a direct result it’s obvious that she wouldn’t know any better; this is jointly the fault of both the parents and Seita.
The art/animation were, as usual, fantastic as expected of Studio Ghibli. There’s really nothing negative that I can say about it. For a movie from 1988, the film is easily watchable. I think the sound portion of the movie, as a whole, was good. There wasn’t anything that particularly caught my attention, but there was nothing that didn’t match the atmosphere of the movie.
I would be a liar if I said I enjoyed Grave of the Fireflies. It’s such a pointless, depressing, and frustrating watch that I would personally recommend not watching it. In a historical context, it’s informative and somewhat mind-opening, but extremely lackluster in terms of being enjoyable as a movie. There are far better historical films that you can watch in order to be enlightened on World War II. It is likely that they will be less politically charged as Grave of the Fireflies as well.
1: Mushishi Zoku Shou: Suzu no Shizuku
Japanese: 蟲師 続章: 鈴の雫
MAL Score: 8.61
On a warm summer day, a boy heard the sound of bells ringing, as if in celebration, in the mountain near his home. Several years later in that same mountain, the mushishi Ginko encounters a strange girl with weeds growing out of her body. Soon after, Ginko coincidentally runs into the now grown-up boy Yoshiro on his way off the mountain. With Yoshiro’s help, Ginko soon begins to uncover who this mysterious girl is and what happened to her.
An adaptation of the last arc in the manga, Mushishi Zoku Shou: Suzu no Shizuku follows Ginko’s peculiar journey amidst the occult to unravel the mystery behind the enigmatic girl called Kaya and the mountain that has become her home.
Drops of Bells (the title of the double-episode) basically tells of humanity’s growing more and more separate from nature. The plot is of a human girl chosen from birth to be the next lord of a mountain, yet her human family cannot understand this and strive to keep her from the destiny forced upon her by nature’s law. The primary plot point is that humans aren’t really fit for the task of mountain lord, as humans possess a wisdom unlike other animals that is unfit for becoming one with the mountain, and possess a heart that can be crushed under the weight of the thriving life throughout the mountain. However, Ginko basically says that despite humanity being as separate as it is from nature’s law, it is still a part of the whole.
That’s the Tao for you. Humanity’s a bitch, and balance with nature is dead. However, that doesn’t take the Tao out of the human species. As a human murders a bird for sport, it’s the same life force flowing through each of them, and when the bird falls to the ground as a corpse that life force does not die with it. That’s the way of shit, and that’s what’s so real about Mushishi. It takes that whole concept and makes the whole unexplainability of the Tao explainable through the beings known as mushi. That’s exactly it; Mushishi makes the unexplainable explainable. Ain’t that just the coolest shit? That’s what makes Mushishi the pinnacle of Japanese animation and manga.
[Edit: Replace the Chinese “Tao” with the Japanese “Kannagara” and you basically get the same idea. The latter concept is likely what Urushibara was familiar with.]
In the first half of Suzu no Shizuku, a girl leaves her family behind when she’s summoned to be the next lord of a mountain. Thriving lands, called “Rivers of Light”, require the presence of a lord to maintain the balance of the surrounding life. Choosing a human as a lord is an unusual move, however. Such a task is typically delegated to animals since they live with fewer emotional attachments.
Several of the introspective themes that were previously explored in the Mushishi world are summarized here—most notably interconnectedness, the indifference of nature, and the necessity of letting go. All life—plants, animals, and humans—are dependent on each other, and are influenced by the ripples of cause and effect. Nature, which is personified in Suzu no Shizuku as the mountain lord, acts as the unbiased mediator. The overarching lesson seems to be that we should appreciate what we have, and not cling when the time comes to move on.
The second half concludes the story without quite concluding the series. The ending leaves some questions unanswered, but it ties up enough to guide your imagination to where the stories and characters could progress into the distant future. I’ll refrain from deconstructing this any further. To me, Mushishi is more of a meditation than a conventional story, and is therefore best appreciated without excessive analysis.
The art, animation, and sound design have remained remarkably consistent since its premiere in 2005. The backgrounds in Suzu no Shizuku are just as gorgeous as they were when the first season aired. The character and special effects animation are fluid and precise. And the subdued and ambient melodies that have become a hallmark of this series are present here as well.
When you think about it, it’s kind of a miracle that Mushishi, which is essentially about life experiences and nature, was made with such a substantial budget in today’s hungry and impatient climate. I’m grateful that ArtLand was willing to take a chance on such an esoteric and spiritual story, and that it’s been successful enough to adapt in its entirety. It’s been a truly extraordinary experience.
Watched the first season about a year ago and over the course of good 3 weeks and now the second season with all the specials in 2 days.
I was really not in the mood for this show and actually wanted to look for some slice of life anime instead but I did it anyway and this show is really so, oh so different from any other. Never have I seen or heard of an anime that could compare to Mushishi. Regarding my expectations, I knew what I was diving into since I read that the ‘episodic’ part doesn’t die down in the second season, and that’s very true. Just know, there’s a very good reason why every single season and/or special has a rating of 8.5/10 or higher on MyAnimeList.
Well, let’s do this.
Mushishi is one of the most interesting anime in every way. That also goes for the animation. It is among the most exceptional things I have seen in anime. The way it fits the mood and overall theme of the anime and the way it underlines everything is just amazing. Every background could be an actual painting. Nothing is half-assed. And as a Winter fanatic, the episodes that take place in deep Winter absolutely make my heart melt. The sheer beauty of the scenery with snow everywhere is exceeding pleasure for the eyes. It basically screams melancholia and sadness in a way but due to the art style combined with the theme of the story it also has such warmth, it’s hauntingly beautiful.
One more thing I really enjoyed about the animation were the designs of the Mushi. They had such original and vivid designs and were moving in such weird ways. Real creativity by the creators right there. And not to forget the design of the people in the show, who basically make up the entire show. That’s what this show is about. The humans have this distinct look and these very distinct, round features that instantly let you know what show you’re watching because no other anime has this kind of look to it. Only thing was that sometimes you couldn’t make out the difference between characters from different episodes since a lot of them look so, well… normal! But that’s not really a bad thing. So all in all, can’t complain, oh no!
First to the openings.
The opening for the first season is Ally Kerr – Sore Feet Song. Second one is Lucy Rose – Shiver. Like everything else, they fit the atmosphere of this anime like my old shirts fit me again because I lost a lot of weight. They’re as calm as they could be and also, they’re English songs by English artists. I have both on my phone and love them to bits because they bring you back into this show and all that you experienced in it. Lovely. And now…
Oh man. That soundtrack.
What’s there to say? Ever heard of Feng Shui? Yes? This is like it, but just a bit less boring for the show. The soundtrack is by Toshiro Masuda, who also made the soundtrack for the original Naruto show. And I still remember how incredibly well that soundtrack burnt itself into my mind. So well, that you can play me a song out of the Naruto soundtrack in about 30 years and I will probably still instantly know where it’s from. The same goes for Mushishi. And let me stress this. The soundtrack Could. Not. Fit. The. Show. Any. Better. This soundtrack is absolute brilliance. It takes the very, very calm theme of the show and makes it even calmer. And as with the Naruto one, these tracks, these very calming tracks with bells, light flutes and beautiful melodies will dig inside of your head, maybe without you even noticing, and they will stay there. If you ever feel stressed or burnt out, even if you haven’t seen Mushishi, you should listen to this soundtrack. It’s so hauntingly beautiful I still have all of it on my phone and listen to it regularly when I want to feel at ease. Fantastic, brilliant work, I can’t stress this enough.
There is the problem I have with this show. While on the one hand I completely understand how the author wanted to write this anime, since it is episodic in every way until the very last minute, I still can’t completely wrap my head around the fact that we basically know nothing about the main character at the end of this show. And by nothing I mean almost nothing. There were like 2 episodes that revealed a bit and then a tiny bit more that was sprinkled here and there but that’s about it. There is no overarching storyline that leads to some grand finale or anything. But then again, this show started as mysterious as it ended. I understand the idea behind that thought. It is probably the most ‘grown up’ show I have ever seen. That’s the best way to describe it for me.
The entire thing plays in old Japan (probably?) and it’s about our main character Ginko. And that, dear people, was a lie just now. Since he is the main character, but he travels through the land for a particular reason and he is what they call a Mushishi. Since Mushi are basically entities that can’t be seen by most people but they are part of nature just like any plant or animal would be, they can interact with humans and might do harm. Some change peoples’ surroundings, some change the people themselves. And they all are connected through the big Light Veins that flow through the earth that basically represent life itself. The best way to describe it is basically… There are poisonous plants or for example mosquitoes, right? These plants or bugs don’t attack humans for any malicious reasons nor do they mean any harm, they’re just there, doing their thing. And that’s what Mushi are, just that most people can’t see them. And that’s where the Mushishi come in. They can see them and research them to find cures for the problems these things cause.
But again, I personally feel a bit of a lack of an overarching plot… Maybe that’s just me though!
Well, well. You have to create a main character for your show. How do you do that?
Don’t ask me.
I’m an idiot.
These people did it right though. Oh and how well they did it…
Ginko is probably one of the most simple, most complex, most mysterious and most interesting and greatest characters I know in anime. He is an enigma from episode one until the last episode and aside from a bit of info about his past, he will stay that way. Full of questions and answers and full of self-sacrifice. Always with that Mushi-repellent cigarette in his mouth. Simply put, he’s cool as fuck. And chill as fuck. I don’t want to imagine this show without Ginko. His personality was perfectly written and as the animation and soundtrack, fits this show 100%. And he’s a lone traveler. He doesn’t have any travel buddies. No cute mascot that lives in his backpack and no shits to give. Actually that last one is wrong, because he actually cares a lot about every part of nature there is and in every way possible. A young, wise man that says stuff that you will find yourself thinking about twice. More than just once. One of my all-time favorite characters in anime.
Regarding the other characters, most of them are very ‘normal’. In the most purest way. They’re just villagers or wanderers who are just casual people in old Japan. And they don’t have any blue or red or green hair. This anime doesn’t need stuff like that to have you, the watcher, remember who is who. Because honestly, you forget. And that’s kind of part of this show. They’re just normal townsfolk and once Ginko did whatever a Ginko does he just leaves, mostly, never to return. So given that they’re supposed to be as normal as it gets, most fill their role well. They do just what they should do. But a few can seem a bit too bland to be honest. They just have nothing special going for them at all. They’re TOO normal. But that’s my only problem here. Good.
Overall just probably one of the best shows I have had the pleasure to watch. But that ending left me wanting more. I really lacked a conclusion to something. Again, there was no overarching problem, but I just wanted something more… I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m really content with what I got since that ending was as enigmatic and classy as this show has deserved it to be, but it’s just the syndrome of ‘I want more’ after having reached the end of a good show, you know?
I wasn’t in the mood for this show. But this show put me in the mood for it in about 2 episodes. It is absolutely, ABSOLUTELY fantastic. You have my word on this.
Mushishi (All of it): 9/10
I don’t know what I’m gonna watch next. Gotta find a quality show but don’t know what…
Also it’s 7am, why do I always get in the mood to write these when it’s late as hell. Goddammit.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Mushishi Zoku Shou: Suzu no Shizuku
2. Hotaru no Haka
3. Sennen Joyuu
4. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni
5. Kaguya-hime no Monogatari
6. Kaze Tachinu
7. Flanders no Inu (Movie)
8. Hadashi no Gen
9. Ushiro no Shoumen Daare
10. Giovanni no Shima
11. Nezha Zhi Mo Tong Jiang Shi
12. Donten ni Warau Gaiden: Shukumei, Soutou no Fuuma
13. Ojiisan no Lamp
14. Princess Principal: Crown Handler Movie 1
15. Haikara-san ga Tooru Movie 1: Benio, Hana no 17-sai
16. Donten ni Warau Gaiden: Ketsubetsu, Yamainu no Chikai
17. Hadashi no Gen 2
18. Fuse: Teppou Musume no Torimonochou
19. Oushitsu Kyoushi Heine Movie
21. Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru
22. Doraemon Movie 21: Nobita no Taiyou Ou Densetsu
23. Donten ni Warau Gaiden: Ouka, Tenbou no Kakehashi
24. Ihatov Gensou: Kenji no Haru
25. Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai
26. Harukanaru Toki no Naka de: Maihitoyo
27. Hi no Ame ga Furu
28. Kanashimi no Belladonna
29. Naruto Movie 1: Dai Katsugeki!! Yuki Hime Shinobu Houjou Dattebayo!
30. Raiyantsuuri no Uta
31. Ohoshi-sama no Rail
32. Crayon Shin-chan Movie 12: Arashi wo Yobu! Yuuhi no Kasukabe Boys
34. Versailles no Bara: Seimei Aru Kagiri Aishite
35. Crayon Shin-chan Movie 03: Unkokusai no Yabou
36. Alps no Shoujo Heidi (1979)
37. Tezuka Osamu no Buddha: Owarinaki Tabi
38. Hashire Melos (Movie)
39. Haikara-san ga Tooru Movie 2: Hana no Tokyo Dai Roman
40. Hi no Tori: Houou-hen
41. Anne no Nikki
43. Furusato Japan
44. Bakumatsu no Spasibo
45. Akage no Anne: Green Gables e no Michi
47. Chocchan Monogatari
48. Kamui no Ken
49. Glass no Usagi
50. Anime Sanjuushi: Aramis no Bouken