Sunday, October 21, 2012

Introducing myself to non-Ghibli Anime

The Girl who Leapt Through Time(2006): Funny thing about this movie is, back when I was a novice into this whole anime genre, this was one of the first movies that were recommended to me and I am watching it after watching something like 20 animes including every movie Hayao Miyazaki directed(except his very first Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind(1984)). The Girl who Leapt Through Time is a story of Makoto, a regular teenager who is having a kind of bad day. She runs late for school, fails a surprise test, causes a minor accident in her cooking class. While on her way to drop some manuals, she passes through her science lab where she sees a strange object on floor. At the same time, she feels like someone else is in the room and while trying to see who, she falls on to that strange object. As she falls, she experiences a bunch of strange images flying past her. She gets up quickly but that someone is long gone. However on her way to her aunt's workplace after school, she gets in an accident with train that would have killed her certainly. But instead of dying, as she closes her eyes in anticipation of the accident, she finds herself safe distance away from it, watching the train past. When she tells her aunt about this, she says that Makoto experienced a time leap. She finds it hard to believe but when she successfully goes back a whole day that evening, she realizes her aunt was right. With this power at her hands, she uses it for something a typical teenager would - to ace the surprize test she failed last time, to make karaoke session longer and to get out of an awkward situation with one of her closest friends, Chiaki. When she talks to her aunt about this, she advices her to be careful the way she uses her powers and with many things that follow, Makoto soon also realizes that there is much more to time travel than she can understand. 

I saw this same week that I saw Looper(2012) and Twelve Monkeys(1995). I know, too much time travel for me. As for this one, I only have one problem and that is I didn't understand how did she get that last time leap after her counter went to 0? If there was any explanation to it, I missed it. Otherwise, it was delightful. If I didn't know better, I would bet that it is a Ghibli movie. You will find every trademark that Ghibli is known for in this movie. We have a female protagonist. She is young, innocent, exactly like any normal girl her age would be. We find her in extraordinary circumstances and she shows maturity beyond her years to get through it. It touches themes like love, longing, doing something for greater good and is shot beautifully and is aesthetically brilliant. Trademark Studio Ghibli movie. I knew there is a reason I liked it. :)

Rating(out of 5):

Millennium Actress(2001): First of the three Satoshi Kon movies I saw and probably favourite of all four. It's a story of an old actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara, leaving in a kinda exile for many years. Tachibana - One of her devotees finds out her where-abouts and convinces her to do one last interview for him. He also has a gift for her that he is excited to give her - A key but probably it is the most important thing to her and has been throughout her life. She lost that key many years ago just before she went into anonymity and looking at that back in her hand, it opens all the floodgates and she tells them the whole story of that key and her life. She tells them about how some painter gave her that key when she was just a teenager, how she accepted the acting offer despite her mother's opposition just because that movie will take her in Manchuria where this mystery man is supposed to be and then continued doing them just so as to keep looking for him. We see the complete story of her life told through brief excerpts from movies she did in her career as if they are relevant to the central story of her looking for this man. This approach of storytelling is probably the biggest highlight of this movie. Throughout the movie, Tachibana and his cameraman watch the whole story as if it is being played out right in front of them but none of the actual characters can see them. Tachibana being one of her biggest fans soon gets drawn into that world and assumes the role of Chiyoko's saviour as we go from one movie to others. After few repetitions of same scene is different setting, this part of the movie becomes rather ridiculous and formulaic. But there is also a small comic element with director so immersed in the story and his camera-man is rather uninterested.

Many years pass, she still hasn't found the guy she is looking for but she remains hopeful. Couple of times they come on cusp of actually meeting but fate eludes them every single time. There is an everlasting tint of sadness in the story but with the motifs of jealousy and betrayal introduced in the mix, story takes an interesting turn in last stage to the heart-breaking finish. There are two things that make Millennium Actress memorable to me, first it's editing which is something special as movie travels through lot of different eras in Japanese history and second is it's story. After Grave of the Fireflies(1988) which I rate as high as one of all-time favorites, this is another movie which tackles a story that we almost never see in an animated movie. It easily could have been a sprawling epic in live-action format. Instead, Satoshi Kon made such an heartfelt anime.

Rating(out of 5):

Perfect Blue(1997): So after I loved Millennium Actress, I went right into the second Satoshi Kon - Perfect Blue, movie that Arofonsky liked so much that he bought the rights of to base his Black Swan(2011). This time it's a story of pop-sensation Mima. It starts at her last concert where she declares her retirement from singing. He wants to take her shot in the acting career. When she comes home from it, she gets an anonymous fax message calling her traitor. Soon after, one of the fan letters she receives explodes; injuring someone on the set. She also finds out a site called Mima's Room, a fan-site where to her astonishment she stumbles on what is supposed to be her own diary. What really freaks her out is that diary contains so many details that no-one would know about her. Her acting career starts to take roots soon. Her agent gets the writer of the drama series she is working in to expand her role. Writer agrees but takes her role in drastically different direction by making her a rape victim. Even though she agrees to it, this would tarnish her image as a sweet, innocent pop idol probably beyond repair and may not go down as easily in her fan-base. In her diary on Mima's Room she reads that she or whoever is writing that diary blames writer of the series for this derogatory turn of events. To her Horror, that writer ends up dead the very next day and things just continue to go south from there.

It should be clear from the fact that Arofonsky based Black Swan on this but this is one of the darkest movies I have seen. It does a great job of showing her in two minds about if she did a right thing by quitting her singing career even though she keeps on telling herself that it was her choice, especially when all the craziness starts. I also think the ending wraps up the story very well. But, Ghibli has spoiled me. I didn't think the animations were as great as Ghibli. For last 15-20 minutes or so with multiple cuts in and out of reality, I had no idea what was happening. Also, not necessarily a dig against it but I have rarely seen as much as a kiss in an animated movie but there is SO much nudity in Perfect Blue, it's startling.

Rating(out of 5):
Paprika(2006): Some of you probably know that Inception(2010) is my favorite movie. I have heard a lot since I got into anime about how similar it is to Paprika and hence I have always been itching to check this out and see what the whole fuss is about. Last week I did and I swear, I had absolutely no Idea what the hell was going on in it. Here, I will usually write a little about what's the plot of the movie is at least in some detail but I really don't know what happened and that puts me at a loss as what to say. Something about DC Mini which can be used to enter your dreams being stolen and then dreams and some kind of carnival of weird looking toys and then dreams collapsing into reality and then something like two giant inflated dolls fighting and that's about it. If you have seen it and have understood anything more than this, please tell me. Please. I will forever be grateful to you. I am not even joking. Off course, it goes without saying that I did not like it as much as Inception, in fact even thinking about comparing the two is like a mortal sin for me. For first hour or so, I was really trying hard to understand what am I watching. Some of it, I did. Most of it, I didn't. After that I just gave up. It was just too much of an effort. I just sat there watching images come and go. From the three previous entries in the post, you must have guessed that I like anime movies. I always try and find something in them to praise about. But, unfortunately, I wasn't lucky this time. I am sure that as a concept, it must have looked great on paper and to its credit, I will also say that it LOOKED quite good on screen as well but as a movie while executing it on-screen, it failed miserably. Maybe they just overshot, went too overboard with their ambition. It went so over the top, there was so much to take in it that my brain almost fried and I don't mean it in a good way.

Rating(out of 5):


  1. After reading this post, I feel very ignorant :P
    I've always ignored this genre.
    Please suggest some good ones to start. :)

    1. There is so much to watch here.
      If you want to start, I will definitely recommend Laputa: Castle in the Sky. That probably is the best place to start.
      After that, there is Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, probably two most famous movies in the genre. Then there is Ponyo and Kiki's Delivery System, which I think might appeal more to kids but are still worth watch. Then there is My Neighbour Totoro and Girl who leapt through time which are worth your time.
      Personally, I consider Grave of the Fireflies and Millennium Actress as the two best anime movies but don't go into them immediately. Believe me, They can turn into a mess.
      I do not care about either Akira or Paprika but who knows maybe you will like them too. But again, I will say wait a bit before you get into them.
      And finally, there are few that I haven't seen but have heard that they are good like Whisper of the Heart, Secret World of Arriety and latest From Up on Poppy Hill.
      Hope this helps. :)

  2. I'm here again!! It's been too long, I've been so swamped!

    Only 3 1/2 out of 5 for TGWLTT? Seemed like you liked it more! It's such a beautiful film to me, and I adore the soundtrack!

    I understand your Paprika rating. I did enjoy it to an extent, but was very confused. It needs a re-watch.

    Perfect Blue is SO FREAKIN' CREEPY! I just re-watched it last night. And Millenium Actress made me cry. I only need to see Tokyo Godfatrhers and I'll have seen all the film directed by Satoshi Kon (though he directed some TV series that I haven't found yet). I read an essay comparing his works and the way he portrays women to how Hitchcock did, and it was very interesting.

    You need to see Whisper of the Heart and Arrietty and Nausicaa! I love them all!

    1. Also, man, if you thought Perfect Blue had a lot of nudity in it, Ninja Scroll will shock you. I'm not really a fan of Ninja Scroll (I thought the protagonist was a bit shite) but yeah...

    2. Welcome Back Ruth !! We missed ya. :D

      Well, there is that count bit and time-travel bit which I am not sure handles the science part well. So, that takes it down 1/2 star. So, does 4 out of 5 sound good ?

      I think I have 5cms/second next on Satoshi Kon Resume. Don't know where will I go after. Now that you mention it, I think that comparison kinda makes sense you know. Except he probably won't have any controversy like Hitchcock since his heroines aren't real. :)

      WILL you STOP saying that? I am already jealous enough. :P

    3. I am not really sure if you are recommending Ninja Scroll or warning me to stay away. Hmmmm. Lets see. :D


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