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The Big Three - Summer Anime Movies 2006

edited October 2006 in Anime
Theatrical Animation - The Big Three

Since it will never make it on the show, I thought I'd give my opinions of the theatrical offerings of this past summer. Recommendations and Griping follow.

1. Brave Story - As much as this struck me as a kids movie, it was still a good hearty fantasy adventure, and I went out of it feeling satisfied - I suppose it is the theatrical equivalent of eating a big bowl of goulash - not exactly gourmet, but filling. The story centers around a sixth grader, who, in an attempt to repair his broken home, finds a doorway into a magical world where adventurers compete to collect gems which will grant them a wish with the Goddess of Fate. It also had some pretty dark stuff in it, all things considered: The story starts off with the main character's dad leaving the family. Wataru comes home and sees his father at the door with a bag, and when his father says he isn't coming back, Wataru thinks he is joking and doesn't believe him until he goes inside and sees his mother. Another important character is Mitsuru (voiced by Eiji Wentz), a too-angsty-for-a-12-year-old mage who enters the 幻界 world before Wataru. As for the style of the animation, the backgrounds and environments are well fleshed out (although there are a couple moments of really ugly 3DCG) and although the character designs are little bit too bright and simple for my taste, the animation is well executed and expressive. Music has a lot of Irish inspired tracks...I recommend the OST.

2. Geddo Senki - Poor Usula K. LeGuin...Miyazaki Goro does not have the directing chops of his father. On top of the fact that is film's story and tone differed drastically from the novels (which is sometimes the case with an adaptation), the end result was a mishmash that was nearly impossible to follow. Whereas Ged was the protagonist of the novels, he really blended into the background - you could have almost gotten rid of the character. Arren was nuts, Theru the mute girl could sing, and the evil wizard reminded me of Michael Jackson. The frustrating thing is they couldn't decide whether or not to keep elements of the novels in the film - in trying to blend original ideas and adapted material, they ended up with a half baked mess. I saw the film in the theater with a Japanese friend and my little sister, who doesn't speak Japanese. My sister says "I had a hard time following that," and I replied "So did I" and my Japanese friend says "Good, so it wasn't only me." In other words, understanding of dialogue did nothing to clarify a muddled plot. I wish that they had taken that money and made an original story about dragons and magic - I felt that the impulse to preserve the Earthsea books lead to confusion and an overly complicated story-line. Somewhat like they were writing a bad fanfic where someone uses names, but changes the characters entirely. As far as the art goes, it was alright, but by Ghibli standards, sub-par. The dragons fighting was lit beautifully, but there were a few shots (such as the scene where Theru is in profile, unmoving for at least 3 minutes) which were incredibly awkward. The hilt of the sword looked uncomfortably like breasts. The music is nice (and very popular.)

3. Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo
This was far and above my favorite film I saw last summer. With character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (evangelion + manga) and animation by studio 4C, this film was absolutely beautiful. While I was watching it, I found the pace somewhat dreamlike and slow, but thinking back on it, the more I liked it and appreciated its story and atmosphere. It is about a girl who one day discovers she has the power to jump through time. These are little jumps - five minutes, an hour, a day. At first she uses it for silly little things (eating her pudding that her sister had stolen out of the refrigerator the previous day, spending as long as she wants to in a karaoke box) but gradually she starts to meddle a little two much and things begin to fall apart. It employs a sort of magical realism, set in present day Japan. and the characters were believable. The time-leaping protagonist is friends with two boys and the three of them like to play catch out in the field behind the school. This triangular "just-friends?" relationship is complex, sweet, and wonderful to watch, as though it has captured some of the best and most nostalgic parts of being a teenager.


  • I really want to see Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. I like the concept, and it really sounds like some good people were behind it. ^_^
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