Japanese Journals - Anime

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Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 9:20 am

Anime - a distinctive style of animated film that has its roots in Japanese comic books, immediately recognizable and characterized by heavily stylized backgrounds, sci-fi and fantasy themes, highly exaggerated facial expressions with limited facial movement, simulation of motion through varying the background behind a static character or other foreground element, and frequently, big-headed characters with child-like, large eyes; originally called 'Japanimation. (Definition)

OK thats the definition out the way, anime is produced for every age group and covers virtually every subject matter, it is the animated form of Manga, (comic books) and can be childishly simplistic or amongst the most beautiful and stylish art youll ever see.

In this thread well cover films and series (at least the stand out ones), so from the imagination of some of Japans greatest animators lets take a journey through the world of anime.

Please feel free to add your own comments, reviews, and criticisms to this thread.

INDEX in alphabetical order.

Click on the film name to be taken straight to the comments.

Angel's Egg - 1985 comments by A

Appleseed - 1988

Appleseed - 2004

Barefoot Gen - 1983

Brave Story - 2007 Thread started by hengcs.

Ghost in the Shell - 1995

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - 2004

Ghost in the Shell [Stand Alone Complex] - 2002

Haibane Renmie - 2002 Thread started by Howard Schumann.

Howls Moving Castle - 2004 review from arsaib4

Howls Moving Castle additional comment.

I Can Hear the Sea - 1993

Little Norse Prince - 1968

Millennium Actress - 2001

Mind Game - 2004

My Neighbour Totoro - 1988

Nausica of the Valley of the Winds - 1984

Paprika -2006 Thread started by Hengcs.

The Place Promised In Our Early Days - 2004 comments by hengcs.

Porco Rosso - 1992

Puni Puni Poemi - 2001

Steamboy - 2004 review from arsaib4

Steamboy - 2004 further comment.

Voices of a Distant Star - 2003

Whisper of the Heart - 1995

Still to come list.

For other sections of Japanese Journals, please use the links


2. Kurosawa, Ozu & Mizoguchi - The Classics

3. Kitano, Tsukamoto & Miike - The Modern Cult Directors

4. Anime

5. Horror & Ghost Stories

6. Jidaigeki (Chambara)

Cheers Trev

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:49 pm

Tonari no Totoro (1988) My Neighbor Totoro

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Wonderful film from the ever creative imagination of Miyazaki, two sisters, Satsuki and Mei (11 and 4 respectively) move to the countryside with their father to be close to the hospital where their mother is being treated. A huge tree towers over a forest near their new home and its not long before they venture into the forest and meet the Totoros, who are the guardian spirits of the forest. There follows a mixture of real and fantasy adventures with the sisters, the Totoros and a neko-bus (cat bus).

No words can express what a simplistic yet fabulous anime movie this is, the plot is nowhere near as complex as some of Miyazakis films but the artwork and originality shine out.

Thoroughly recommended for everyone and anyone, age is no barrier. A definite must see movie.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated - none yet but I cant imagine any reason why it wouldnt be U.

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby A » Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:37 pm

After having seen Angel's Egg by one of my favorite current directors Mamoru Oshii, who's latest film was shown in Cannes last year, I was once again blown away.
This rarely seen masterpiece was released in 1985, and fastly aquired a cult following, though it still isn't properly aknowledged in film history, due to its lack of distribution and availability. I got to see a perfect quality fansub version which was shown here in Berlin last month in front of an audience consisting of about ten people, from which 5 left the viewing after a couple of minutes.
So what is so great about this unknown 70minute anime?
It is a story of a little girl guarding an egg who meets on our erth far in the future a man with a cross. They journey a bit together, meet some strange people hunting shadows of fishes, and that's about it, without giving away the final twist.
Doesn't sound much?
Well, it is one of the most personal films I've ever seen, and one that doesn't exactly tell a story. We have a parable that is presented through associative montage, with minimal dialogue and maximum symbolism. The whole film is bathed in christian mythology, and even the little dialogue consits mostly of quotes from the bible. Sounds very slow and difficult to "read", but once you've gotten into the right mood, (and that will happen fast or never) you are presented with an overwhelming portrait of Oshii's overcoming of a personal crisis. If it weren't for the animation we might be watching Bresson or even Dreyer, as the Faces and Eyes of the Characters tell us the most.
He made the film, after having lost his faith (he was a catholic previously) and it shows. A doomed atmosphere on a dead planet inhabited by strange machines and "people" that are caught in useless rituals. Everything seems to have ceased living and only appears to be "there" without purpose.
But at the end of the film we are witness to a spiritual rebirth and a new hope. The film begins with gods descent onto the earth, and ends with its ascent into heaven. In between we see a kind of death and rebirth of mankind. We have already all of Oshii's main themes he would later explore more deeply, and also a famous mirror-scene he would later use reversed in Ghost in the shell.
What can I say at two o'clock in the morning?
A spiritual film that isn't religious (though a little knowledge of christian mythology would help), and a must see for every anime fan. If you like Tarkovski, Dreyer, Bresson, you'll probably enjoy this one.

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Jul 09, 2005 5:18 am


The first thing we see in Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) is the castle itself, emerging from a maze of fog and haze. And we soon realize that its moving (hence the title -- see what I mean!). Anyway, as it comes into focus, it starts to resemble something youd expect Terry Gilliam or a young David Cronenberg to draw a sketch of, but it would be hard to imagine them having the audacity to make an animated film with it. Comprising of a front (or is it the back?) that kind of looks like a face; multiple layers and platforms with protruding windows; parts moving independently emitting gaseous contaminants with bells and whistles abound -- this microcosm of a weirdos idyllic castle is simply one of most indelible "things" youll see all year.

If you havent heard it by now, Howls Moving Castle is the latest opus from the Japanese anime and manga master Hayao Miyazaki. The director who has given us such films as My Neighbour Totoro, Kikis Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke , and in 2001 offered the awe-inspiring masterpiece, Spirited Away. Miyazaki, who found the now famous Studio Ghibli in 1985, is considered by many to be the greatest anime artist alive, although some Akira fans who have a certain affinity with the adult world offered by Katsuhiro tomo might disagree. The world Miyazaki usually takes us to is often kind of quiet (compared to other anime), two-dimensional, magical but not overly whimsical, containing beguiling characters that demand attention, and more often than not, the complications that arise are familiar to our adult world.

Howls Moving Castle is set in 19th century Europe (I think). It mostly deals with Sophie, who we first see as a shy and plain young girl working at her familys hat store. Her first adventure occurs when she is harassed by a couple of soldiers only to be saved by a handsome young lad who turns out to be none other than Howl; on their way they also end up dodging blobs of black goo sent in by the "Witch of the Waste." However, the witch eventually gets to Sophie, turning her into a 90-year-old woman, arched back et al. This predicament forces her to move away from town in order to seek help and she ends up in "The Waste," a sort of no-mans land between warring kingdoms. Sophie is helped by a scarecrow who she refers to as "turnip head" (based on her least favorite vegetable -- shes old, remember?!) and this creature takes her to Howls castle where she introduces herself as a cleaning woman.

Up till now, kids watching this film might be contemplating why there arent any amusing characters (other than the castle itself, of course), but that changes once we go inside this object. We first come across a talkative fire-demon named "Calcifier" who is responsible for running the show and knows it. We also meet a cunning youngster named "Markl," Howls apprentice in wizardry, and these two bring much life to the proceedings. Howl turns out to be a very wanted wizard -- he's not just claimed by the "Witch of the Waste" and Sophie, but also by "Madam Sullivan," his old master who wants his services in order to help her kingdom wage war. Howl also has a certain past which we gradually discover along with his inhibitions that help determine the choices he eventually makes. Sophie stays along, caring more for the others around her than the state she is in.

Adapted from a children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones, an Englishwoman who studied under the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein, Howls Moving Castle proclaims its anti-war stance from the very start. The idyllic town and countryside are often invaded by huge Victorian era war-machineries, carefully designed by the master thus in many ways rendering them as important as the castle, but employed by selfish individuals blinded by greed and power (sound familiar?). This is not surprising since WWII was a big part of Ms. Joness childhood, and now Miyazaki has updated her stance. Marco Mueller, director of the 2004 Venice Film Festival (where the film had its world premiere), called it "the strongest anti-war statement we have in the entire festival" thus slapping the faces of luminaries like Amos Gitai and Wim Wenders. While I admire Miyazakis stance, I do wonder if he laid it on a little too thick (we hear various musings, claiming "lets stop this stupid war," not to mention some devastating war imagery) considering that its an animated film. But, Miyazaki is a strong believer and in an interview given to Newsweek; after being asked "Were you surprised [Spirited Away] won an Oscar?," he said: "Actually, your country had just started the war against Iraq, and I had a great deal of rage about that. So I felt some hesitation about the award. In fact, I had just started to make, so the film is profoundly affected by the war in Iraq."

After watching the film for the second time (this time I paid so I paid more attention), some of the plot points that seemed perplexing initially felt more relaxed and attainable. Frankly, I would have loved the film even more if the castle itself was given more prominence. Some might say that they wouldve preferred some backstory with young Sophie, but if one is aware of Miyazakis habits, theyd realize that his characters remain a little mysterious to the very end. Also, the line between good and evil isnt clearly drawn and that enables them to take various shapes and forms. His visual compositions have never been better, and while his narrative (which he wraps up a little too quickly) may not have the metaphysical depth of some of his previous films, it remains enchanting all the way through. Some of the best moments are minor ones: whether it's Howl howling that he doesn't want to live if he isn't beautiful (after his hair-color gets screwed up) or a race on the stairs between Sophie and the witch. Howl's Moving Castle might be the best animated film youll get to see all year, but I wouldnt walk in expecting another Spirited Away.

edited by admin
trevor's review

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby trevor826 » Mon Jul 11, 2005 9:39 pm

Umi ga Kikoeru (1993) I Can Hear the Sea aka Ocean Waves

Directed by Tomomichi Mochizuki

After watching this very well made for TV studio Ghibli film I had to wonder why? Why was it animated instead of live action which would probably have been more cost effective, there are no scenes out of the ordinary, no cute talking creatures or amazing acrobatic or indeed aerobatic routines!

The only reasoning I could think of, with animation the creator is in complete control and in the case of this film the small but significant ageing can be done in a natural way keeping the personalities looking and sounding right. Whatever the reason, Im glad it was done because this is a truthful and engrossing though simple story well told and nicely animated.

The story is about first love and friendship, its about growing up and the change between school and University, the awkward moments, the complexities of being a teenager and trying to do the right thing and not hurt those you care about. Its also about how the effect of things you have no control over can change you and the way you relate to others.

A charming anime that will hopefully bring back good memories of school and of the value of friendship.

Recommended viewing, good quality animation.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC not rated but probably PG.

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby trevor826 » Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:22 pm

Hoshi no koe (2003) Voices of a Distant Star

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

A stunning short anime written, directed and created by one man and his computer.

At only 25 minutes long you wouldnt expect very much but this simple tale of a boy and girl in love, being pulled further and further apart but still getting strength from each other is a delight.

Mikako dreams of going into space and given the opportunity, grabs it; Noboru her boyfriend stays on earth but feels lost without her. They continue to communicate by cell phone but as the distance gets greater the messages take longer to reach each other, by the time she arrives at Pluto her messages takes 6 months to get to Noboru and his life appears to be falling to pieces but things have a habit of getting worse and due to an interplanetary war they do, but will matters improve?

A stylish anime although some of the 3D work stands out a bit too starkly against the traditional 2D animation, the greatest strength though are the characters and storyline, a simple but beautiful tale illustrating that love can cross all boundaries, even that of time, it also shows how not being close to the one you love can disrupt your life.

If this is anything to go by, Makoto Shinkai has a great future in anime ahead of him, as long as he keeps putting as much thought into the characters and story as he has with this.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated PG

P.S Thanks hengcs, I got this after your recommendation.

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby hengcs » Mon Jul 18, 2005 10:00 pm


If only I still had my old review ...

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Jul 30, 2005 3:00 pm


Steamboy belongs to a newly formed sub-genre of animation called "steampunk." In this category, the films are usually situated in the past, but the ideas and the technology on display are anachronistic. Hayao Miyazakis Howls Moving Castle (2005) could be classified as such, but theres no doubt regarding Steamboy: the first feature length anime in nearly two decades from Katsuhiro tomo, the creator of the groundbreaking Akira (1988) . The film is set around the Great Exhibition of 1851 that took place in Victorian England. Early on were introduced to a young boy named Ray Steam (voiced by Anna Paquin) whose father Eddie (Alfred Molina) and grandfather Lloyd (Patrick Stewart) are away working on a secret project under the O'Hara Foundation. Ray gets involved once he receives a "steam ball" from his grandfather along with a note that he needs to protect it under all circumstances. It isnt long, though, that hes being chased from his house in Manchester to London where he eventually discovers that his own father has schemed to use the powerful object for his sinister plans including a "steam castle" and a robotic army capable of destroying anything. Now, its up to Ray to contemplate whether to go along with his father or listen to his granddads rhetoric regarding strong nations merely inventing an ideological enemy in order to build powerful weapons (hmmm...).

And much of the film is devoted to those issues. There are no amusing or strange characters like the ones one usually comes across in a Miyazaki film; theres also no love story of any kind -- basically, this is pure tomo, who is known for producing anime thats geared toward adults. Steamboy, which is the most expensive anime to date ($22 million), didnt do very well in Japan where it opened last year (perhaps people were expecting an even darker and somber tone). Nevertheless, the animation here is simply awe-inspiring. The mixture of 3D computer imagery and hand-drawn pieces produces a lavish, yet deeply intricate design which vividly brings the various monumental steel components to life. The anti-war stance is also handled in a more persuasive manner (as far as animated films go) than the latest Miyazaki effort. Having said that, as a whole its not as satisfying an experience as Howl's Moving Castle. The version of Steamboy which has made it to our shores is apparently cut, so that explains the sudden edits resulting in tonal inconsistencies. tomo has also devoted too much of the third act to various destruction sequences that become rather tiring after a while. Its largely a one note film which needed to reinvent itself more often that it actually does. Still, though, its as solid as steel.


edited by admin

*trevor826's review.

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby trevor826 » Fri Aug 05, 2005 2:15 pm

Mimi wo Sumaseba (1995) Whisper of the Heart

Directed by Yoshifumi Kondo

Similar in a way to Studio Ghiblis I Can Hear the Sea, both are far more reality based dramas than for example Spirited Away or Kikis Delivery Service. Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old girl who wants to be a writer when she grows up. Being a bit of a bookworm she is constantly taking books out from the library and notices that a lot of them have been taken out previously by the same person, Seiji Amasawa, intrigued she sets out to discover who he is only to realise hes a boy in the same year at her school.

That is only a little of the plot as it is actually a girls journey of self-discovery, first love and family. There are a couple of small fantasy sections but these are to do with a story she is writing and as such are more like dream sequences, unfortunately there are also several renditions of the song Country Road but at least one is slightly humorous.

An assured story with a subtle hint of young love and a very positive though down to earth plot.

Beautifully animated as you would expect from Studio Ghibli, the nicely realised characters and interesting tale make this recommended viewing.

I believe that "The Cat Returns" is a sequel to this but haven't seen it yet.

Cheers Trev

BBFC not rated but definitely no more than a PG.

Re: Japanese Journals - Anime

Postby trevor826 » Sat Aug 06, 2005 7:10 pm

Hadashi no Gen (1983) Barefoot Gen

Directed by Mori Masaki

Please be aware, these comments neccessitated including spoilers!

An anime set in Hiroshima in 1945, the character animation is rather crude but that doesnt prevent this from being an outstanding albeit very disturbing film.

Apparently this is based on an autobiographical account, and was written with the intention to show what it was like before, during and after the bomb in Hiroshima, it is an incredible story of survival under the harshest conditions and carries a message of humanity and hope.

Gen lives with his father, his heavily pregnant mother, older sister Keiko and younger brother Shinji, they are a close family and Gens father has sense to realise that Japan should finish the war by surrendering although of course this is seen by others as traitorous and cowardly. Days go by with the routines of planting wheat, going to school; Gen and Shinji are typical of any brothers, arguing with each other one minute, laughing together the next. A few false alarm air raids interrupt the flow of the daily routine every now and again but not enough to disrupt their lives too much.

Then the day comes, what appears to be another false alarm turns into hell on earth as the atom bomb hits Hiroshima, what follows are some of the most graphically disturbing images youre ever likely to see, it wouldnt surprise me if James Cameron used these scenes as inspiration for the dream sequence at the start of Terminator 2 but these are far worse and far more painful, the full effects are shown as men, women and children are turned to ash and scattered to the breeze, my 16 year old son was absolutely gobsmacked, stunned into total silence!

Following the explosion Gen runs to his familys home, he finds his mother desperately trying to free the others from the wreckage of the house as fires start burning all around, Shinji cries pitifully because of the heat as Gen joins in the rescue attempt but its too late, Gens father tells him to take his mother and get out while they can, he knows that he and the two children have no hope of escape and doesnt want to see the whole family die. Gen promises to look after his mother and has to literally drag her away from the flames before they like their trapped kin are burned alive.

All through the film a narrator is relaying historical data, times, dates etc and strangely (after all this is Japanese) he apportions as much if not more blame on the Japanese government as he does on America for the bombing, he blames the government even more for the following bomb on Nagasaki because they wouldnt even consider surrender despite the US warning that another bomb would be dropped.

What follows then is the struggle for Gen, his mother and the new born sister to survive, Gens hair starts falling out and despite his and his mothers best efforts, the baby girl dies of malnutrition, death and disease surround them but they still have hope for a future, the human spirit can be an incredible thing at times.

As previously mentioned, there are many very disturbing images after the bomb has been dropped and despite the rather low BBFC certification I would advise caution. Despite the poor character animation this film comes very highly recommended for the story.

Cheers Trev

BBFC rated 12.


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