The prevalence of community and the idea of identity has always been a strong form of drama but anime sometimes cannot address certain part of these issues in a mainstream way without resorting to metaphor or mythology which is a great balance point but can affect the impact of reality. The idea with “Tokyo Godfathers” is two fold as it addresses both aspects of the LGBT+ community and homelessness. Attending the closing night of the International Film Festival Macao last December, the film “i’m livin’ it”, a piece into on the worlds of the homeless surrounding a fast food establishment in Hong Kong gave a view into this portion of that life and the stories behind it. While this anime is based in Tokyo and made in 2003, many of its themes are still prevalent today if not more main stream (though stigma is still attached in many aspects). What the film does today is that by embracing actors who can perceive the experience in one way or another, it brings an authenticity which can be very telling both in the readings and the humor. Granted the style in some scenes of anime can be over-the-top but”Tokyo Godfathers” in many ways moves between the two worlds including degrees of subtlety. A scene on a bridge as well as on a roof is undeniable in its power.
There is also a dexterity of storytelling where events are not always what they seem. Huamn foibles persist but also depth as well as lack of perception of characters as the progress on their journey. Hana (as played by trans activist Shakina Wayfack) brings a humanity to the path especially for that of a mother. Gin and Miyaki provide the chorus in her trinity. Hana won’t be brought down. She is a force of nature The dramatic essence of her theater background definitely brings a balance of light in the darkness especially when she returns to see Mother (played by gender theorist Kate Bornstein). This scene and many others definitely gives the restoration and perspective a sense of realness. Many times with new dubs it can take away certain subtleties because of political correctness. “Akira” is a good example with some of that film’s brutality maybe toned down a bit in later dubs. “Tokyo Godfathers” retains its power but also takes into fact the aesthetics, both inwardly and outwardly. It was amazing to see the sync more adequately line up and play to the emotions especially with Hana. The restoration especially with the shadows since most of the film takes place at night and in the cold gives a sereneness even in the more textured scenes.
By Tim Wassberg
The intention of another plague like the one in the Middle Ages seems like a given at some point in modern life. The key is how does one fight against this kind of knowledge versus what we are able to control. “King Of Thorn” attacks this idea with an old world resonance, using mythology against us. The “Medousa” virus is born out of that legend of the woman/lizard who turned men to stone with a glance. The same element rules here with an incubation period of 60 days which is 100% fatal. Creating a Noah’s Ark type scenario, a scientist brings together a way to stop the virus until a cure can be found. The set up is wonderfully clever despite many holes along the way. The director interview on the extras would have one believe that everything is tied in together (which might be true) but the reality is that there is a lack of clarity on first viewing. The visuals and labyrinth approach in terms of structure are quite interesting but, not unlike the new “Dredd”, it suffers as well from the “just-get-out” problem. The reality is that the timeline and the basis of two twins becoming the catalyst for dreams (or video games) coming to life just doesn’t connect. The back story which involves the lead scientist and CEO finding an alien that was created by a little girl in Siberia by her mind tries to recount “Hellboy” but again without a truly specific through line. Even the intrigue behind the scenes with both the planted engineer as well as the soldier/spy sent in to protect the “experiment” seem a little far fetched. The influences from “Resident Evil” and beyond are apparent. The narrative is a bit clearer in the English dub but only based on the precedent of differences in accents and backgrounds in the character which for English speaking audiences cannot ascertain in the original Japanese dialogue. The eventual revelation of the two sisters as well as the connection to the computer/spirit of Alice has possibility but is not truly flushed out. The Q&A in the extras as well as the director interview tries to explain some of this but the visuals seem to take an overall higher road. The pilot film hints at something much more religious and intensive in the process and shows why the director got the job because there is scope. The overall film itself carries this but, towards the end, it forgets about context. The Japanese trailers do play to the strengths but the initial overseas trailer does the best job outside the pilot film. The US trailer uses different music which works but takes the idea in a different direction. In terms of other previews on the disc, “Stein’s Gate”, with its notions of time travel, has interesting possibilities until the microwave scenario cuts in. “Gai-Rei-Zero” in terms of its tone provides the most energy and darkness with a sense of knowing. “King Of Thorn” is ambitious in many ways and succeeds in some of them. However, despite its good ideas, there is a lack of overall clarity, some of which might be cleared up in consequent viewings, but nonetheless creates confusion on first impression.
“Fractale” is a story of world consumed in technology and yet primarily rustic in its appearance. The series does bring up a texture of life experience versus life downloaded but the overall instinct lends itself with a bit of irony.
Disc 1 The presentation of a story of almost reverse technology tends to idealize the notion of simplicity over the ideas of “progress”. Religion, as with all things, takes its approach in the process but requires a sensibility to frame it in context. Here, the Fractale system can be seen as both a calming force or a means of control, as long as it is used for that specific reason. The key in telling the story is, of course, self-reverential. The character of Clain does find himself between two worlds in his ability to access the technology but has a love for analog things which, more often than not, opens new possibilities for him where none might necessarily arise. A young woman, a priestess of sorts, falls literally into his life and he is smitten. Now granted he has not seen many girls before so this becomes a structure of irony anyway. What she brings, which is a continued mystery in the world, is a doppel. In this world, people function towards the idea of being in every place at once which allows them to do many simultaneous things (which they do through artificial constructs). Clain heads out to help the priestess but finds a sort of civil war progressing where certain people want to be unplugged. The land itself is not wasted but it is barren compared to say the fields that were tilled before because nobody needs to do to exist. Now work apparently gets done through the doppels but its execution is vague. Like “Waterworld”, these “unplugged” people are in search for an oasis but they are not quite sure where. The Japanese language and subtitles are more straightforward while the English dub progresses more playfully though only for the first couple episodes. The commentary explores the balance of technology and the Celtic influence but not with any real depth.
Disc 2 Continuing on within the structure of a trinity of friends that will not leave each other, the series continues its religious connotations in effectively pursuing the assimilation of one whole. The participants are struggling against their respective destinies thinking that something different should befall them. After getting a taste of the Fractale universe through the city of Xanadu, Clain realizes that the basis of what people are fighting for is not all it is cracked up to be. Entering into the temple (another religious connotation) as a heightened doppel (think the Holy Spirit in the Catholic religion) becomes more and more brazen in her rescue attempts, the trio finally acquiesces to their fate. The interesting progression is that nothing really changes. The balance effectively moves in the idea that Clain himself is on a crusade to save both these women, who hold different emotions for him (whether they be real or not). Happening upon a cloning structure of a girl fashioned to be “god” is a little heavy and doesn’t quite connect the dots. Save for some slang, the translation is similar on both sides of the coin. The promos both regular and Blu Ray speak to the two lead characters but hold out on the spiritual bridge between them which is the core of the series. The inclusion of an orchestral performance of a suite from the score highlights the almost John Williams-breathe of its sound., The textless songs as usual provide a depth filled backdrop while the trailer for “Tales Of Vesperia” stands out among the coming soon trailers.
“Fractale” is a retro-implication of technology gone awry that circles back around to notions of religion simply as a matter of course. These philosophies work well within the narrative bent of the show though at times, the notion of what the creators are exploring seems to get away from the texture of what the show is truly about: fate
The balance between the real world and the virtual world continues to meld in many ways as the aspect of what is crucial and not seems to disappear into the void. The aspect that has always been true with “.hack” in terms of the storyteling process is projections and what people consider real and false in terms of identity in their own life.
Like the concurrent novels, the anime adaptation “.hack/Quantum” takes the structure of quantum computers to create a notion of lost souls able to live on without a physical structure to keep them present in the real world. The narrative motivation here reflects on the increasing amount of plugged-in personalities who start to diverge from the real world since the texture of inhibitions and notions of self take a back seat and become a type of metaphorical idea of what an alternate world would be.
This specific interlay follows three gamers who meet up and travel in “The World”. When the structure of the gameplay seems to deconstruct because of “server maintenance” causing players to actually “hurt”, the balance between administrators and consumers seems to shift, both online and in the outside world. The element of having modern thinking and placed characters existing in an almost sword-and-sorcery world where dragons and monolithic statues of doom seem real creates an interesting dynamic. The statue of doom is particularly impressive because of the sense of scale interrelated with the use of clouds. This anime in its current form shows the balance of 3D and 2D concepts working well together.
The most sensitive of the girls meets up with a young boy/cat named Hermit who seems to have a hacking app inside the world all his own, though his motivations turn out to be more dastardly in an overall form leading to the injury of people on the outside world. The questions that “.hack” continues to ask have distinctifying presence in today’s youth society where people can text but not talk.
In terms of technical, the transfusion between Japanese and English language in terms of structure is negligible except for a bit of hankering around Tokyo. The extras seem to play a little more Eastern than usual. The “Chim Chim” animated interstitials are a bit of world play but simply fail to translate in an overt sense. The short subject of Yuo Oguaa including a quiz and cooking school are overly indulgent though a visit to the animation studio has some fun bits despite a lack of converted information. The promotional videos and trailers for “Quantum” interrelate the growing intent that this idea of connected worlds is different from virtual reality. Of the additional trailers, three that stand out are “Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040” (simply for its furturistic intensity), “Chrome Shelled Regios (because of its uber “1984” paranoia) and “”Requiem For The Phantom” (just for its pure gothic viciousness).
“hack//Quantum: cointinues to show the intentions in a world split between connectivity and disconnection which is of dire prevalence in our current state.
The aspect of a technology-based Western has always held a degree of fascination but, as “Cowboys & Aliens” shows, there is a fine line to making it work since there needs to be an element of tongue-in-cheek progression but also a slick presentation. “Wild Wild West” failed on this principle as well. It also might be the dexterity of capturing it live action.
That makes it a balance of why “Trigun”, even as a feature film anime, works.
Disc 1 Granted the film itself is not punctuated by undeniable cinematic flourishes but the way it presents the darkness of the world balanced by the lead clown/vigilante Vash gives it a definite cadence and visual style. The background of this story revolves around a young lady seeking revenge on a legendary bank robber called Gasback who is responsible for the death of her mother. The opening scene paints a picture of a robbery gone wrong 20 years earlier when the non-aging Vash dispelled an earlier crime. While this age discrepancy is never explained, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the film which would have been a problem in live action. What transpires is a little like “Mad Max” with a bit more brevity. The character including a would-be bodyguard are distinctly interesting especially when every bounty hunter converges on the town in question to gather the reward for Gasback which is a couple hundred thousand devil dollars, whatever that is. The character of Vash can be annoying for sure but his progression plays to a point which gives an uneven balance that nonetheless works especially during a heightened bar brawl as well as a desert chase sequence. The difference between the Japanese and English versions obviously differs on the texture of slang with the actual English version being more cohesive due to the genre. In terms of trailers, the stand out for this disc is “Evangelion” which actually plays better than the movie though the promo for “Soul Eater” has more energy. The arcade-homage “Funimation” promo also shows a balance of the company’s intention between older and young viewers.
Disc 2 This disc of extras include firstly discussions with the cast and crew from Japan the day after the recording. Most have a perspective of returning and finding that same voice after 12 years between the TV series and the movie. The voice of Gasback understands the intonations of why this man does what he does while the original author Nightow, despite being simply a consultant, knows the importance of creating diametric characters to further the experience which is balanced by Yoshimatsu, the head animator, who found it necessary in a more widescreen structure to show the wasteland. Director Nishimura highlights the element of the crowd scenes which give distinct character as being something specific to the movie which gives it more depth. The movie premiere shows the reflection of anime in Japan with the large amount of applause. The “Post Recording” seems a little staged but the reflection of working off of drawings shows the interconnect in making the reactions a little more life-like. Some of the features like Anime Expo 2009, the brief Yoshimatsu story and the raffle drawing seem too extraneous. The special talk show though gives some good insight though too much time is spent on theoreticals and not the progression of the story. In terms of overall impact, the web promotion clip optimized by hard rock does the best job while some of the other commercials save for the latter original Japanese one don’t communicate the intensity.
“Trigun” is a great amalgamation of two worlds colliding which can only be relaied in most presumptions in an anime setting. Both the visual and the narrative structures work well in congruence. The extras are extensive but some are extraneous despite some effective cast and crew interviews and an interesting talk forum post-premiere.