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Animation Features Movies

Inu-Oh (Inu-Oh, 犬王)

Director – Masaaki Yuasa – 2021 – Japan – Cert. – 98m

***1/2

In fourteenth century Japan, a blind musician and a deformed, masked dancer shake up the culturally staid world of Noh theatre by forming a hugely popular rock band – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave,2019; Lu Over the Wall, 2017; Mind Game, 2004) as he has a tendency to break with tradition. Here, he takes on periods of Japanese history but rather than go with power struggles as to who rules Japan, he focuses on two outcasts, an orphaned musician and a deformed dancer, who join together to form a rock band with an emphasis on theatrical showmanship to upend the artistic conventions of the day and become an overnight sensation until the ascendant ruler, determined to control the historical narrative, has the musician killed, and the dancer emasculated, forbidden to perform anything but state-approved material, and that only in the Imperial court.

It’s a triptych, one long story split into three sections. In the first section, after a prologue detailing the decisive Battle of Dan-No-Ura towards the end of the twelfth century, in which the Heiji clan were defeated by the Genji and the formers warriors threw themselves into the sea and perished, two centuries later in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, Northern would be Kyoto-based, shogunate emperor Ashitaka decides that the power to rule demands he acquire three sacred treasures, one of which is a sword buried in the lake at Dan-No-Ura.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies Shorts

Memories (Memorizu, メモリーズ)

1/ Magnetic Rose (Kanojo no Omoide, 彼女の想いで)

2/ Stink Bomb (Saishu Heiki, 最臭兵器)

3/ Cannon Fodder (Taiho no Machi, 大砲の街)

Directors

– 1/ Koji Morimoto, 2/ Tensai Okamura, 3/ Katsuhiro Otomo

– 1995 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 113m

*****

Executive producer Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime anthology adapts three of his dystopian-themed manga stories into animation – out on Blu-ray from All The Anime, Monday, 12th September, details below review

The film that made Otomo’s name and the one with which he’s most frequently associated is Akira (1988). It wasn’t his first film, though. Previously, he was one of nine directors who collaborated on the uneven portmanteau Robot Carnival (1987), a compendium of different animated stories based around robots of various types. One of the other directors was Koji Morimoto.

Memories is loosely similar – it only has three stories (and three directors), allowing each of the segments a bit more room. Its three episodes are very different yet perfectly complement each other. Otomo directed the third section Cannon Fodder.

Parts of the roughly two hour Akira drag, while Otomo’s later Steamboy (2004) gets lost within a massive set piece after a near perfect opening first reel or so.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Where Is Anne Frank

Director – Ari Folman – 2022 – Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Israel – Cert. PG – 99m

*****

In Amsterdam, a year from now, her imaginary friend Kitty sets out to discover what happened to Anne Frank – out in cinemas on Friday, August 12th

Amsterdam, Holland, about a year from now. Early in the morning, the usual tourist queues are assembling outside the Anne Frank House, passing a tent housing refugees on the pavement. Inside, something strange happens as a glass case shatters and the original copy of Anne’s diary is exposed to ink from a pen, affecting the ink writing on the pages and materialising Kitty (voice: Ruby Stokes), the imaginary pen-friend to whom Anne addressed her diary.

The materialised Kitty is perplexed. Where is Anne Frank? What has happened to her, to the house? The staff, too, are perplexed. They can’t let the waiting crowds in with the case broken, but those people have been queueing for hours and it seems wrong not to open up for them. After a brief debate a solution is found and the diary moved to Anne’s room where it is placed on the desk where it naturally sits. The concerns of the house staff seem trivial compared to those of Kitty.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Fortune Favours Lady Nikuko (Gyoko no Nikuko-chan, 漁港の肉子ちゃん)

Director – Ayumu Watanabe – 2021 – Japan – Cert. PG – 97m

*****

A large, single parent mum continues to make bad relationship choices as her daughter tries to make her way in the Northern Japanese coastal village where they currently live– out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, August 10th

Charging in its opening minutes in rapid-fire, riotously paced colour through the love life of large lady Nikuko (voice: Shinobu Otake) – whose name given by her daughter translates roughly as Meat-lady, a reference to her size and resultant huge appetite – this details her poor, serial, romantic choices via which the various men for whom she falls scam her for money and cheat on her one after the other. Eventually, she falls for The Novelist, who is at least faithful and comes with the added bonus that he’s always spending money on books (not that he’s generating any money himself) which engenders in the story’s voice-over narrator, but not in the woman herself who doesn’t bother with books, a lifelong love of books and reading. But, one day, he unexpectedly leaves, so Nikuko follows his path up north, fails to find him and settles in a small, coastal fishing town.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Belle (Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime, 竜とそばかすの姫)

Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. PG tbc – 121m

*****

A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – out on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, June 27th and 4K UHD Blu-ray including the soundtrack from Thursday, July 7th

‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.

Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Music

The Island

Director – Anca Damian – 2021 – Romania, France, Belgium – 84m

*****

A reimagining of the Robinson Crusoe story with Robinson as a doctor on an island where Friday is the only survivor of a refugee ship – from the Annecy 2022 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

The story of Robinson Crusoe, the man shipwrecked on a desert island befriended by a native he calls Friday, is here turned on its head by director Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, 2019) bringing to life a clever script using an inventive mixture of 2D and CG animation techniques. Robinson (voiced by musician Alexander Bălănescu, who composed the music and songs with Ada Milea) is a Westerner, a well-off doctor who spends most of his time lounging around on an island with an i-Pad. He might be a shipwreck survivor, at least metaphorically. He sings about dreaming of shopping when hungry and after a while we wonder if he’s simply disillusioned with the Western materialist way of life.

He finds himself in the company of Friday (Lucian Ionescu), sole survivor of a refugee boat who treats the doctor as his saviour. Robinson admonishes Friday to drink only bottled water, because the alternative is unsafe.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The House Of The Lost On The Cape (Misaki no Mayoiga, 岬のマヨイガ)

Director – Shinya Kawatsura – 2021 – Japan – 100m

*****

Two children separated from their respective parents are taken in by an old woman in a benevolent, magical house with a malevolent monster nearby – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now in the Official Competition section

A younger girl and an older girl find themselves at Kitsunezaki (Fox Cape) Bus Station that’s been wrecked in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. An old lady appears and takes them under her wing. They walk through forests, then up a hill, until eventually they arrive at a huge bungalow with a thatched roof which is to be the girls’ home. Kiwa, the old lady, claims to be their granny.

There’s something odd about the house, though. The older girl Yui accidentally makes a hole when she puts a finger through a paper wall. Later, the hole has mysteriously vanished. Then there are the drinks which appear out of nowhere when Yui says she’d like such and such a drink. At night, outside, strange turtle spirits (kappa) gather.

The younger girl Hiyori never speaks. This appears to be the result of some sort of trauma.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

No.7 Cherry Lane (Jiyuantai Qihao, 繼園臺七號)

Director – Yonfan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12A – 125m

*****

The tutor of an 18-year-old girl falls for her mother who hired him against the background of the 1967 protest marches in Hong Kong – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now as a Screening Event

Insofar as this is like anything else – which it really isn’t – it’s like a reworking of The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) filtered through In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000). Oh, and it’s 3D rendered then 2D animated. Broadly speaking, The Graduate is about a young man seduced by a much older, bored housewife before later becoming romantically involved with her daughter. In The Mood For Love is set in early 1960s Hong Kong and includes a sequence on a sloping pedestrian street where a man passes a women walking in the opposite direction, the whole thing charged with a sense of romantic longing. There;’s a similar scene in No.7 Cherry Lane, although it’s considerably less central to the plot than the one in In The Mood For Love.

Yonfan, here making his first film in ten years, would certainly agree that filmic and literary references abound in the film.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi, 聲の形)

Director – Naoko Yamada – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

****

Groundbreaking and innovative Japanese drama about school children, bullying, remorse, isolation and self-loathing – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now in the Special Programmes section (A Special Screening for the Hard of Hearing)

Egged on by Naoka Ueno (voice: Yuki Kaneko) then later shunned by classmates for his bullying of new girl in class Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami), who happens to be deaf, Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino) stops interacting with them and withdraws. This is represented onscreen by the extraordinary graphic device of an ‘X’ over the faces of his fellow schoolmates whenever they appear. It’s a very powerful way of expressing his isolation. Five years on, wrecked with guilt about his treatment of Nishimiya, he learns sign language and decides to befriend her and to make amends…

This film may well broaden your idea of what animation is capable. It’s nothing like Disney and equally it’s light years from Japanese SF action fest Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) although it likewise started life as a manga and concerns teenagers.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Some recommendations from the BFI’s Anime season 2022

With the BFI’s long-promised Anime season finally under way, here are some highlights. At BFI Southbank through April and May 2022.

Anime is the Japanese word for animation: here in the West, the term has been co-opted to refer to animation produced in Japan, and there’s an awful lot of it. Further titles will be added below as the season progresses. Click on the links for full reviews. Scroll down for booking info and screening times.

Memories (1995). Executive producer Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime anthology adapts three of his dystopian-themed manga stories into animation. One is scripted by Satoshi Kon. Akira may be widely considered Otomo’s masterpiece, but for me, the more collaborative Memories is at least its equal – if not a better film altogether. Tragically, it never had a UK theatrical outing. However, if I were to recommend one film in this season, this would be it.

Perfect Blue (1997). Satoshi Kon‘s feature debut is a multi-layered, identity crisis psycho thriller which redefines the boundaries of animation, Japanese or otherwise.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003). Satoshi Kon delivers a Christmas movie with a difference. Three homeless people – a drag queen, a hard drinker and a runaway teenage girl – find an abandoned baby at Christmas and resolve to return her to her parents.… Read the rest