Quick Thoughts on Tokyo Godfathers

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You know that feeling when you’re sifting through new anime to watch, and you continue to come across synopses that go something like “Oh, no! Blahblah Blahblah is an average guy, but then Sparklebutt Cutiepatootie invites him to her club and then shenanigans happen”? I have that feeling all the time, and it makes me question why I still watch anime. Imagine my surprise when, out of desperation, I go through some of Satoshi Kon’s library and see a film by him with a synopsis that reads “A transwoman, belligerent hobo, and runaway teen find an abandoned baby in the trash on Christmas, and then shenanigans happen!” What the fuck?! How come anime isn’t this absurd anymore?! It’s so great! Needless to say, I watched it immediately.

It was good, not “so great!”

More than anything, I liked the heart at the center of all the drama… which conveniently slips in and out of view as the film pushes itself along. Despite the stupidity of the realism present, the at-times skimmy animation, and forced happily-ever-after scenarios, I can feel Kon’s love of filmmaking present here. I like the focus on “trash,” the worth of a life thrown away by society. The parallelisms between characters and their situations, despite their situations being so different, all have a common thread that makes their interactions so heartwarming, their banter so sweet. All anyone really wants is to be loved and accepted, even those who don’t look the part.

I’ll say, too, the animation, while choppy in bits, was wonderfully expressive and humorous. Realistic? Only occasionally. The moodiness of characters, their emotions so present, their outbursts so theatrical; it all makes the film more fun than it really is. Lighthearted takes on serious developments that involve kidnapping and murder, it’s not something that hits the viewer’s head at full strength every chance it gets. At times, it doesn’t even try at all! What’s present is an occasionally moving piece of art that goes for entertainment along with some vague message. Corny messages, but impactful nonetheless. Tokyo Godfathers represents the rare positive execution of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!.

I would wholly recommend this for Christmas. Because it takes place around Christmas? Partly—more because it evokes the spirit of Christmas through supporting and loving everyone, not just those within society that are in plain view. Now, this isn’t a vote of confidence that we should all be helping out any hobo on the street for the sake of it, but it’s nice that anime makes this a focal point to build upon, rather than absolutely nothing; sadly, the norm. Yet, as cold cynicism takes over, don’t expect a masterpiece from this recommendation. Tokyo Godfathers is a feel-good piece that occasionally oversteps its bounds in terms of sappiness. It is also a tremendous triumph of distinctive personality and charm, courtesy of a phenomenal director and writer.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Quick Thoughts on Koe no Katachi (Film)

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I decided to make this post quick because upon further consideration, there really isn’t much to say about it, despite how unlikely that seems with this film’s tremendous popularity.

To be blunt, this film is the perfect encapsulation of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! The patience required to finally see this film subbed was one that I don’t normally experience with any specific anime film, but the super-high average rating for this piece on MAL had me very curious. To my non-surprise, it’s highly rated because it involves the most humanistic qualities of altruism I’ve seen outside of anime directed at children. It also deals with subject matter such as bullying, suicide, and putting on a brave front, so it’s probably dubbed “deep” and “relatable” along with its heavy reliance on viewer empathy. With myself isolated from the crowd, I found the film to be a good attempt at trying to tell the story of a boy’s redemption from his cruel past. And like most stories along this concept, its execution was horribly overdramatic and at times inconsistent.

One of my biggest qualms with this film without spoiling anything specific is how long it takes for things to actually begin to tear down for the inevitable, overdramatic climax. I was surprised to see that, after the time skip, the bully and the bullied were “comfortable” being around each other despite the past, and one even has some inborn fondness for the other. What kind of strange case of Stockholm Syndrome is this? It makes the middle portions of the film feel incredibly empty of any real content, seeing as its deliberately setting itself up for some dramatic explosion and that’s the only purpose it serves. This is doubled when a myriad of characters are introduced that serve their role and nothing more. One character serves to support, another to cause friction, and another to be an inside source of information for the male lead. Not many characters feel more than just keys to the major plot.

Even so, these grievances are the only things I found truly wrong with the film, as the rest are either tolerable absurdities or likable strengths. Nothing stands out, except perhaps design and animation, which was nice throughout. I found the relationship between the leads to be strong after the initial confusion with why they were so comfortable with one another before the inevitable climax pushes them apart. More than anything, I suppose, is that it evoked a lot of sympathy from me and pushed its frivolity of life onto my cold soul enough for me to enjoy it. One could say that on a storied structure, it teeters upon mediocrity, but makes up for it somewhat on the basis of pure entertainment. Kind of like, I don’t know, Kimi no Na wa.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Tekkon Kinkreet Review

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Something to admit outright concerning Tekkon Kinkreet is that its approach to storytelling is incredibly straightforward and uninspired. Its manner of trying to encourage the viewer to pay close attention to detail flashes signs of other films that came before it, especially within the last fifteen years or so. To some extent, it almost feels American, which becomes more apparent when one knows that the director behind this film is, in fact, American. While some are more than willing to excuse this, others won’t have the ability to fully empathize with the outcome because of it.

What makes it a little more than meets the eye is its (usually) stunning animation. Many times throughout the first few scenes within the setting of Treasure Town I was enthralled by how fluid, how realistic everything dazzled on-screen. It felt like a true and blue film, with the perks of having full control over the project’s structure. Stylistic choices are fairly divisive as they are, with characters appearing more human and fairly rigid in their anatomy, a far-cry from the typical anime style of large eyes and pretty women. It’s a gritty, yet magical attempt at creating a world both like and unlike our own, with a touch of fantasy to a cruelly realistic environment that shines brightly in its darkness.

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There’s something wonderfully human about this film that fascinates one’s curiosity, with a lot of attention going into human ordeals. Despite the tepid display of sci-fi and extraordinary elements, the real spectacle is one that underlies it all to contain the basic necessities of the human condition. Images of fire, aliens, flying children, and vivid daydreams persist, only to be struck down in importance by the idea that all life should find happiness in their own way, whether through positive or negative activities. If only Tekkon Kinkreet had the focus to make the film more than just another one-dimensional story.

Indeed, there is a lot to like in terms of storytelling through animation and character introspection. What makes this frustrating is that that’s all there really is to the film. Characters’ situations can be empathetic, but not so much that one is crying from their pain, cheering for their accomplishments, and riveted with their onscreen presence. They all, in some degree of affirmation, suit a single role they’re meant to play; the old nostalgic, the changing man, the light, the dark, the sin of everything before. All of these things add up into a single message of good intentions in addition to a number of one-hit symbolic jabs. Its value doesn’t quite hit the spot of emotional tranquility it tries to pursue with each passing line, lines which hold the key to understanding the images that accompany them.

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Fortunately, it has everything one could possibly need to follow comfortably: a decent major cast, intriguing visuals, and a lovely story. Containing heart may be all that’s necessary for this film, as the structure and flow come off as somewhat artificial. Not to mention, the imagery and its presentation within the darkest scenes make up somewhat for the semi-dull ordinary sequence of events. Fascinating how the symbolic make-up presents itself with the chaotic whimsy of the film’s dark-ish tone. Even with this, it only eats up a good fifteen minutes of runtime, so while the ending is intriguing, it takes quite a bit of time to build up to it.

One other condition of Tekkon Kinkreet is its inconsistency, both in terms of story and animation. Some scenes have wonderful, immensely fluid animation, while others are shaky at best. At points it almost seemed as though I was watching another ordinary scene from a 2006 romcom, without the destruction of skipped frames. Not to mention, some of the symbolic presentation is either not fully explained or explained to thoroughly. The contrast between Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) together is fairly straightforward, but apart, things that are hinted at with a single line or so become full-blown conflicts of major importance. And when not that, the images of what people are supposed to represent are flashed onto the screen as if to taunt the viewer—”Think! Think, so that you may better appreciate our efforts!” A shakiness illuminates the light of factored quality in one of two ways: fitting two into one, or cutting the two into three and placing the remains among the already loaded one. In layman’s terms, biting off more than one can chew.

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It’s more than a decent film, though I’d hesitate to call it a good one. I was swooned by its messages of good-heartedness and the complacency of its chaotic circus show. My only regret is that I could not try to interpret what may have been left behind by a less-than-proper level of enthusiasm. When I was done, it was done, and the fabric of all that was shown whisked into the chamber of forgotten ideas placed within my moistened brain. Perhaps that may be the most insulting adjective to be held by something so dearly crafted. Tekkon Kinkreet has enthusiasm, but nothing truly worth remembering outside a few key details.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Thoughts on Hana to Alice: Satsujin Jiken

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In all honesty, looking at the cover of this anime film would give one the impression that it would be about the misadventures of two teenage girls caught up in whatever shenanigans they end up making out of a few misunderstandings. One would be right—almost. This is one of those cases where looks can be a little deceiving, as going into it, I figured it would be animated normally and the plot would pick up posthaste. I was wrong, and anyone who assumed this would also be wrong.

Immediately apparent by the very first frame of movement from the characters, one is given the grace of an animation technique known as “rotoscoping.” This is when animators try to draw, frame-by-frame, the exact movements of a live-action picture. It typically makes the animation (more or less) smoother and more uniquely human-like. This is not the first case of this, as anyone who has seen the anime adaptation of Aku no Hana will know exactly what this animation technique looks and feels like. Does it fit here? Debatable. Does it look good? Nope.

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It’s not to the point where every movement is horridly uncoordinated, but a lot of the actions, especially slower ones, look as though a video player is buffering every .2 seconds. It would be easy to criticize a typically-animated anime piece to be lazy with its movement of characters, however with the limited movement they have, at least it looks primarily acceptable. Here, one really has to get used to the jerky movements and abrupt stops of the characters in order to focus on what’s even happening. Characters aren’t exactly ugly, but they have a certain simplicity to their faces that make them almost look too similar. The film combats this by using the typical practice of putting make-up on characters or changing their hairstyles, though this can only go so far to distinguish people. Not many characters inhabit the plot of Hana to Alice, so it’s not that major of an issue regardless.

What positives could come of this technique? Comedy. There are instances where the characters’ faces or movements become so erratic that it almost feels like the animators are playing with the line of reality and fiction. This goes double with the absurd effort Tetsuko’s (Alice) classmates put forth into creating the mythos of the supposed “murder myth.” Even subtle actions, like the swatting of a hat or playful tickling, come across as humorous with the quickness of doing so combined with the atmosphere or a specific scene. There is more being animated here than in typical anime fashion, so there’s a higher emphasis on the humanity of these characters, which definitely adds to whatever charm the faces of the characters may have.

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The other aspect of the film that’s misleading is the combination of Hana and Alice, as while they’re aware of each other’s existence from near the beginning, they don’t actually interact with each other until halfway through the film. Not only that, but the amount of time the two spend with one another is relatively short compared to other films of the variety. Talking over the phone hardly counts. It makes the inevitable sharing scene between the two, usually an emotionally respondent and personal ploy, feel anticlimactic. I feel the film would’ve suited better to build the relationship between these two had they met and faced the rumors together, rather than have Hana be a part of the mystery and remain sidelined until Alice needed to tag out of the spotlight. There’s a curious discussion that could take place about the importance of following through with the expectations placed upon the title of the film, which implies a togetherness between the two female leads, despite only about a third of the film featuring the two in the same scene.

Hana and Alice themselves are somewhat of a mixed bag likability-wise. Alice has a nice spunk to her that somewhat borders the line of “Strong, independent woman who don’t need no man,” while also having a penchant for doing things on a whim, dependent on her interest. However, my issue with her personally is that I feel she changes too much throughout the film. In the beginning, she has the traits mentioned, but also a mental wit and attitude that makes her appealing. She’s even regarded as smart by one of her classmates. The moment she’s depended on by Hana, she seems to lose this sensibility in the face of enacting a plan to deceive adults, which sets off a chain reaction of other things. One could excuse this as nervousness, as while she can deal with snotty brats her age, adults are a different beast altogether, but why go through the effort of showing her as a smart and capable kid only to make her be a brainless hap for the purpose of creating further plot? And she rolls with this up until the end of the film. Perhaps I’m looking too into this, though I would think the blatancy of the set-up of these two characters would be enough to warrant some further analysis. Hana, well, she’s cold and calculating, though shows heart through her dedication to solving the mystery of the “murder.” That’s about it.

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Other characters inhabit the realm within Hana to Alice, but a huge majority of them drop off the face of the planet the moment Hana and Alice meet. The first half of the film features a number of different characters that clue in about the mystery of the murder, along with creating some of the wacky charm that the film exudes. Most are children, though Alice has a few scenes with both her mother and father (who are divorcing; this is somewhat important), all of whom give off enough to emphasize they’re more than just their titles. To be perfectly blunt, the film had a nice beginning, and despite the fidgety rotoscoping, I was perfectly content with the way the film was progressing, though somewhat confused as to why Hana was never a part of it. Most of the enjoyment of the film comes from the wackiness of the child characters and seeing the bigger-than-life interpretation of the murder plot.

Once Hana enters the picture, much of the appeal of the film went with it. Not without a few humorous scenes between Alice and some adult characters, for the most part, the second-half felt rather dull. Again, I really think Hana should’ve been a part of a lot of these scenes, but the film is stubbornly complacent with making Alice go through everything basically alone. Once the plan has been “ruined,” there are a number of scenes that take place one after another that seemingly have no purpose but to show Alice careening around the real world at her whimsically absent pace. At the same time, it makes the plot itself feel aimless, resulting in boredom from the audience. The only thing I could conceive would be watching what one action would lead to in a sort of awkward transition of the trouble Alice runs into with just a simple mistake. Would this be more effective if one actually cared about the character? Absolutely. Would this be more effective if one actually cared about the character who pushed for the entire plan? Absolutely. As it stands, the only thing this effects at large is the intrigue of the mystery, which, in the end, isn’t really much of a mystery as it is fantastical hypotheses. This could also be entirely the point, but I digress.

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Hana to Alice has some quirky charm to it throughout, though more heavily spread in the first half. The characters have some spunk to them and the mystery is played with in a naively appealing light, making the ordinary events feel like an epic. The biggest issue is that it doesn’t do so consistently, which, combined with some questionable animation techniques and the lack of audience empathy, makes for a memorably meandering hour and a half. There is a ray of sunshine in the end, however, as I would recommend the film to anyone interested, as the animation alone needs to be seen to be believed. Also, the parts that play with the fabrication of reality are enacted so seriously that it almost comes off as a parody, one which holds all the charm of, say, Monty Python. If only it did so for the entire length.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.