are four very personal potential apocalypses. Three occur during Japan’s past
and one is set during its future. The ultimate results will vary drastically according
to the characters and circumstances involved. Produced under the auspices of
Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira,
the anime anthology Short Peace (trailer here) screens in many markets this Friday (but
look for it in New York on the 21st).
a brief but strange opening prelude, Peace
commences with Shuhei Morita’s Oscar nominated Possessions, which truly deserved to carry home the little
statuette. Its loss can only be ascribed to a lack of taste on the Academy’s
part, because it is a visually striking work with unexpected depth. A lush
supernatural fable in the tradition of Kwaidan,
Possessions takes place during a dark
and stormy night in Eighteenth Century Japan. A weary traveler seeks shelter in
shrine, only to find himself in a supernatural repository for broken objects
that hold a “grudge.” Fortunately, the man is both handy and spiritually
sensitive. Morita’s richly detailed
animation is strikingly elegant, yet it has an appropriate macabre undertone. Possessions evokes scores of classic
Japanese movies, yet there is something strangely moving about it.
own Combustible packs quite an
emotional punch, as well. Set during the Edo era (or thereabouts), it follows
the ill-fated son and daughter of upper class neighbors, who are obviously meant
for each other, but are irreparably separated when he rejects his birthright to
join the fire brigade. Unfortunately, his services will soon be required. Inspired
by the look and composition of Japanese watercolors and screen art, Combustible is stylistically stunning.
Nothing like conventional anime, it borders on the outright experimental, yet
it is driven by a narrative worthy of classical tragedy.
Hiroaki Ando’s Gambo could be
considered a kaiju film, yet it is perfectly in keeping with the tone of Otomo’s
contribution. A demon has terrorized a forest village, carrying off their young
girls until only one remains. Venturing into the woods to meet her fate, she
encounters Gambo, a gigantic white bear, who is the earthly servant of the
Gods. When the two supernatural creatures clash, things get intense and
action continues with Hajime Katoki’s A
Farewell to Arms, a post-apocalyptic techno-thriller following an armored
military unit’s campaign to take out an automated battle tank. A veteran
designer on Mobile Suit Gundam,
Katoki puts the pedal to metal, delivering a barrage of explosions amid a
deadly cat-and-mouse game.
constituent films proceed from
best to worst, but the decline is remarkably gradual. Frankly, there is no
clunker in the lot. While the overall running time is only sixty-eight minutes,
we can hardly accuse it of false advertising, since it announces its shortness
in its title. Regardless, the four chapters will convince any viewer anime can be
a form of high art. Absolutely necessary viewing for any and every animation
fan, Short Peace screens in Colorado
at the Littleton Drafthouse this Friday (4/18), in New York at the Village East
on the following Monday (4/21). Check Eleven Arts’ website for further cities
and dates near you.
Labels: Animated films, Anime, Anthology Films, Japanese Cinema, Katsuhiro Otomo