Ghost in the Shell (1995) – Hiromasa Ogura

Ghost in the Shell… WHAT A FILM!

Firstly, the soundtrack is incredible and is so suited to the film. It sounded like a mix of Indian and Japanese music at times and it was brilliant and very interesting to listen to. The audio married with the visuals made Ghost in the Shell a well-executed film that was stunning for the ears and eyes. This film felt like art. It was quite inspiring.
The visual style of this anime is a real treat. It blends naturalism with stylistic moving images, creating a ‘computerised’ feeling for the viewer. It almost felt avant-garde in its approach. The more stylised moments were timed well and weren’t over used, creating a balance that I appreciated. Perhaps what holds this film even higher in my regard is that it looks timeless. Due to the effects, I found it quite hard to believe that is was made in 1995!

The film is very technological, so keeping up with the language was a little challenging at times. But on the whole, the storyline was well thought through and very engaging. The language used was such a treat. (I’ve said that word twice now but there’s really no other word for it!). I think I connected with the language so well because, at times, some of the characters spoke quite deeply. I think the use of language is especially important in characters such as Motoko because the content has a lot to say about the interconnection between ‘robot’ and ‘human’ and what the merge of the two means.

On reflection, I didn’t have a particularly strong connection with any of the characters, which is a shame but I did still care about the story and its happenings. This mixture gives the film credibility in its storytelling ability – I didn’t have to care much about the characters to be actively engaged with it.

There’s one event in particular which I am still a little confused about. There’s a moving tableau where we see different beings with Motoko Kusanagi’s face. To my understanding, this wasn’t explained and, as a result, I am still quite intrigued as to its meaning – any heads up?

As a whole, Ghost in the Shell is a must-see and I now understand why it’s talked about so widely. If you haven’t seen it, let me know what you think and if you have, let me know your views, I’d be very interested to know.

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Writing unlikeable anime reviews – some thoughts

Over the past few days, I’ve been putting off writing a review.
That alone raised some issues for me and I seriously questioned if I should write about something I wouldn’t enjoy writing. After all, this blog was born from my enthusiasm and admiration of anime – 5 Centimeters Per Second really sparked this and inspired me to start writing reviews.
Recently, I’ve been reviewing short anime and although there have been some good ones, there’s been a lot of ones that I disliked along the way which is unavoidable. I have reviewed all the ones I’ve watched but I’ve noticed in myself, and my writing, that the ones I least enjoyed (and wasn’t bothered about) have felt more of a chore to write. I don’t want my blog to feel like that.

Should I really write about something I have no desire to write about? Where’s the fun in that?

It’s a tricky situation.

I’m in two minds.
I think that it’s good to write about the anime I have enjoyed and the ones I haven’t to compare and contrast them and to evaluate reasons as to why I didn’t enjoy them as much. To look deeper into the film and notice the great parts of it, which will challenge the way I think about it, even if I didn’t like to watch it.
But at the same time, I just want to fill my blog with wonderful anime that I feel enthused about to inspire others to watch them – and if people don’t agree on my views, we can have an interesting discussion about it.

If I feel very strongly about how much I didn’t like something I have seen, that can make for a very interesting read. But if I’m not bothered about it, if I’m not inspired to tell the world why I disliked it so much, why should I write about it at all?

I hope I can find the answer within myself soon.

7 Short Anime – A Review

A Reflection of One’s Mind

This is a story in which most people can relate to from their childhood – an argument between friends and the effect that it has on both parties. The drawing was a little bit too rough for my taste but despite this, I was still quite invested in the story and the soundtrack worked well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This took me completely by surprise. I really enjoyed its stylistic quality and the hand-drawn aesthetics of this anime. In a way, the simple nature of the drawings made the action more jarring. I like that it is not rigid in its meaning and can be viewed in many ways. For me, it said a lot about our relationship with the world and the innate human desire for destruction of oneself or others – we cause a lot of damage to the worlds inhabitants, even though it is alike to us in many ways.
I recommend watching this and I would be interested to know what other people have taken from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playground

I liked the playful quality of this film. It is essentially about children playing make believe and their imagined worlds coming alive. It shows how quickly relationships can be formed and how easily it can be shattered. A really nice watch and one of the more detailed ones I’ve seen in this blog.

 

 

 

38.7°C – Mitsuru Sasaki

This wasn’t a bad watch but it wasn’t anything breath-taking either. It attempts to create a girls fever dreams and evoke the feelings of being in that state, however I don’t think it did the best job in regards to this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Akka 羽虫の病

I found the editing of 羽虫の病 very interesting but it did make the story quite hard to follow and understand. I got a sense of the weight of the story on my fist time of watching but it took a few watches, and some reading of the comments, to gain more understanding of the exact content of the story.

 

 

 

 

Koi-Zora

There wasn’t enough detail in this piece and the style of the drawing wasn’t to my taste either. I understand the intentions of this piece and its meaning, but the execution could have been better.

 

 

Aletta 

I feel similar to ‘Koi-Zora’ in terms of the stylistic execution. This has more of a story though and follows what I believe to be a guardian angel watching over a boy from when he was a baby. She watches over him as he grows up and then saves him from drowning. It’s okay but, again, nothing incredibly special.

 

 

 

 

4 Short Anime – A Review

Before I went to sleep last night, I jumped down the rabbit hole that is YouTube and found some short anime to watch. Some I liked more than others but I thought I would share my experiences with you all – which one was your favourite? 

Paulette’s Chair (Poulette no Isu)
ポレットのイス 

A very sweet little animation which made me smile. If you’re having a down day or you need a little pick me up, watch this short film. It serves as a reminder that there’s always someone – or something – looking out for you.

 

Fumiko’s Confession (Fumiko no Kokuhaku)
フミコの告白

The dramaticism made me laugh so much. The sudden switch from a naturalistic conversation to a farfetched response is so extreme that it makes a really entertaining watch.

 

May

I like the concept of this short anime. A woman sits down to dinner by herself and we see inside her mind as she imagines what could happen in the restaurant if everyone’s phones ran out of battery and they all started talking. It’s a nice film with a good message but it’s nothing special.

 

Kanamewo
カナメヲ

The first time I watched, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I felt that the relationship between the two characters wasn’t explained well enough, so I was left confused in certain parts. In a nutshell, I didn’t really like it.
However, I gave it another chance and watched again and I’m glad that I did. This time I appreciated the story, graphics and sound. I still think the soundtrack is not fully suited but it does somewhat reflect the overall mood of this piece. This is best viewed with headphones due to the use of panning from left/right stereo which I enjoyed. It’s well drawn and it has a good story – a lot happens but it doesn’t feel rushed. There is no speech, so it does well to tell such a detailed story and convey the character’s emotions purely through movement.
With a little help from myanimelist.net, I found out that one of the characters is actually a tree goddess and now the film makes a lot more sense. With that in mind, the film has quite a bit to say in terms of the overall message. However, it would have been better if her character was more obvious just by watching, rather than researching.

Like the Clouds, Like the Wind 雲のように 風のように – Hisayuki Toriumi

Like the Clouds, Like the Wind by Hisayuki Toriumi is not an impressive film by any means but it’s not bad either. Aesthetically, the film shows its age – I can tell it came out 27 years ago. However, I don’t think this excuses the lack of attention to detail. This was particularly evident with the overall drawing of the characters and how their mouth shape, and speed in which words were said, were not aligned or accurately replicated. One shot in particular showed two characters in the background with no faces drawn, which is inexcusable and disappointing.
That said, the story line is quite strong and has some unexpected and well executed events which made it enjoyable to watch. The main character Ginga was, on the whole, quite likeable and her gutsy spirit made me laugh in quite a few places. I would have liked to have been introduced to her a little more before the main storyline began to establish a connection with her. In a few places, the film felt a little rushed – often not elaborating on scenes that should have been fully fleshed out. As a result, some character’s decisions or opinions seemed to appear out of thin-air or they seemed unfounded.

This film seemed to be afraid of silence. The excess of speech was a little overbearing at times, especially with Mano’s character who seemed to speak everything he was thinking out loud, quite often to himself. This made the characters less believable and over-dramatic. I believe that good animation uses silence to its advantage and allows the viewer to see the characters emotions or thought process without it having to be voiced. At no fault to the film, the almost-constant speech meant that I spent a lot of time reading which meant I couldn’t fully appreciate all the visuals which was a shame – I’ll have to learn Japanese!
In regards to the sound, I enjoyed the orchestral score, which suited the film, and the sound effects were realistic and integrated well. The voice actors were a little ‘shouty’ at times but I could mostly understand the intention behind some characters words.

Overall, I did enjoy the storyline. It was interesting and surprising at times so it wasn’t a waste of time – it was just a shame that the graphics let it down! 

The House of Small Cubes – Kunio Katō

The House of Small Cubes by Kunio Katō is a sweet and moving story of a man who lives in a house above the water. As the sea levels continue to rise, he has to build additional levels onto the existing roof for a dry place to live. When he drops his pipe into the depths of his sea-filled home, he is taken on a journey through his past.

This 12-minute film stands out stylistically – the hand-drawn frames are reminiscent to ‘The Snowman’ and the colours used in some parts are quite unexpected, making it unique in that aspect. When he takes a trip through memory lane, we journey with him through moments of sadness and pure joy and the transitions between these scenes and memories, both visually and musically, are seamless. I was swept into his memories just as he was and the experience was quite touching. For a film of this length, I was surprised by how much I learned about his life and how quickly I was able to connect with his story emotionally.
Perhaps my favourite thing about this short film is that it is completely universal. The absence of speech means that ‘The House of Small Cubes’ does not alienate viewers of a different language and can be fully experienced by everyone.

If you have a spare 12 minutes, this film will certainly not disappoint.

Watch it here

Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki

Spirited Away is a film in a league of its own – I have never seen anything quite like it and I’m not sure I ever will. I didn’t know what to expect but, at the same time, it was far from what I thought it would be. That is part of the films charm – it’s uniqueness in journeying through the unexpected.

Surprisingly, I struggled to settle into the story at first. I couldn’t find any likeability with the human characters – to some extent, I could understand the reasons behind their attitudes towards each other, but due to my dis-connection with them, I wondered if I would ever care about their journey. However, when Chihiro and her parents collided with the Land of the Spirits, the story truly started to come alive.

This is a film full of imagination and creativity in every aspect. Each character is unique and memorable and their strong individual personalities allow you to have a relationship with them – even down to the tiny Soot Sprites, who were a particular favourite of mine. The characters really make this film unique. It left me wondering about most of the characters pasts, how they came to be there and why they are that way.

My best friend Ane said “this is also another classic example of one of my favourite things with Ghibli movies. There is no one that is just bad or just good. They always show the bad guys from both sides and show that the bad side is not due to a personality trait but rather a consequence of environmental factors and pressures.”
This is especially evident with No-Face. As the spirit spent more time in the Bathhouse, the more the environment began to consume No-Face and bring out some ‘negative’ aspects. However, the distance from the Bathhouse relieved these traits and the softer side to No-Face that we first experienced began to emerge. The emerging connection and relationship between Chihiro and No-Face is very heart-warming, alongside her unexpected companionship with Boh and Yu-Bird in their resembling Rat and Fly forms.

The soundtrack was, on the most part, good but sometimes it pulled me out of the experience which was a shame. This was mainly when the score would suddenly cut in the middle of a musical phrase for the next scene to come in – this may have been purposefully put in place but it wasn’t blended smoothly enough for my taste.  Other times, the music seemed to try too hard to evoke a desired atmosphere, often coming in too soon, which resulted in the effect of the action being lost. That said, the sound effects were excellent and were well integrated in the film.

The story itself is ever-changing and evolving, ensuring there is never a dull moment! This makes for an engaging film which keeps you on your toes. It’s the kind of film that you just have to allow yourself to take it all in like a sponge. I was often wondering too many things about different characters or happenings, but they didn’t need to be fully explained because she didn’t understand either. You go on the journey with her. As the story progresses, you watch Chihiro grow and you experience the story together. It is this shared experience which allowed me to fully connect with Chihiro and the other characters, resulting in an active engagement with the story. By the end of the film, I felt like I had come a long way with Chihiro and was quite amazed by what we experienced.

The beauty of Spirited Away is that it is a film for everyone – nothing feels too ‘childish’ or too ‘adult’. It is perfectly balanced. I would certainly recommend this film and I look forward to watching it again.

5 Centimeters Per Second – Makoto Shinkai

‘5 Centimetres Per Second’ by Makoto Shinkai is a film that stayed with me. So much so, that 5 days later I found myself watching it again.

This film is truly living and breathing and that is what makes it so breathtakingly brilliant. It allows the viewer to take from it whatever they wish – it doesn’t try to evoke emotions. They let it be. That alone allows each viewer to have a truly personal response. And that is where the beauty truly lies.

The main themes are distance and time and it is the combination of the two which creates a base for the story. Explaining the story, even briefly, would not only ruin it but I feel it would be an injustice to the film. All you need to know is that “Makoto Shinkai paints a breathtakingly vivid tableau of young love, desire, loss and hope. Told in three heartbreaking chapters, we follow the young dreamer Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, silence, and, finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to crush the delicate petals of true love.” It is a simple and honest story but that is what makes it so excellent.

When I first watched this film, my physical reaction was much more than I ever could have expected. I felt somewhat broken – my chest physically hurt and, as the saying goes, I felt like the carpet had been pulled from underneath my feet. The characters experiences, especially Akaki’s, pained me. It left me feeling quite down but at the same time, utterly exhilarated by what I had just seen.

The visual aspects are just stunning. In each frame, there is so much attention to detail, especially regarding the use and blend of colours. The frames were individually coloured on Photoshop and although the process was long, it really paid off – I can see why the film took a year and a half to create. I was taken aback by the framing and how the shots mimicked how a camera would work, with landscapes coming in and out of focus. Alongside this, the locations were based on the places that they were set which pushed the film further into reality, heightening its believability.  You could quite easily watch this without any audio and be completely immersed in the story.

That said, the combination of visuals and audio really breathes life into this anime. The sound effects are truly realistic and are expertly blended alongside the soundtrack, which is perfectly suited, both lyrically and musically. The voice actors really bring the characters to life and, even though I don’t understand Japanese, I can still understand the intent of the characters without reading the subtitles.
Each element of this production has undoubtedly been carefully considered and the combination of all aspects work harmoniously together, creating an unforgettable experience.

The second time of viewing was completely different in comparison to when I first saw it. I felt more insightful, understanding and thoughtful. There was still an underlying sense of pain and the weight of the story, but it left me with a new experience. This in itself deserves praise. I’m inclined to believe that as daily life changes for the viewer, the experience of the film will change alongside it, creating a completely new and personal response every time it is watched. The second time, I was awed further by both the intricacies and the simplicity of the film and I look forward to watching it again.

I picked up this film purely by chance and was drawn in by the beautifully written and intriguing blurb. I went in with high expectations but I received something far greater than I ever could have imagined.  I would like to thank the director, creatives, and other members  who worked on this film for bringing ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ into the world and sharing this story with us.

“Having a change of heart due to distance and time is universal and unavoidable.” – Makoto Shinkai

“I can’t help thinking that the speed everyone lives life at is always slightly different.” – Makoto Shinkai

5 Centimeters Per Second Trailer