Secret Santa Project Review – Memories

Surprise!

It feels like an age has passed since I’ve last written something here to justify the “and anime with a little written SF thrown in blogger” part of the mental description I have for myself. Actually, it has been an Age since I last wrote here – meaning – just a few months ago, in September, was a time when Hillary was going to be the next President and now we’re living in a decidedly different future age. And just think, 2017 could turn out to be even more absurd than 2016. Thank goodness there will be Natsume Yuujinchou season 6 to turn to when 2017 gets too crazy.

In this brave new age, one of the constants is that I’m excited to participate in Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project. This is my fifth year doing so. Last year would have been my fifth year, but, a brain eating space alien entity temporarily removed my ability to email properly and I sent the email asking to participate to a totally made-up email address that my alien addled brain created. When December 2015 came around I began wondering why I never received so much as a peep and, with about 15 seconds of investigation, discovered my mistake.

I promised myself not to make the same mistake in 2016 and, when I finally received my list of three anime recommendations, I was so relieved that I promptly procrastinated to the last week of Advent the actual watching of something from my list. 🙂

I know I’m not an easy person to pick something for because I was truthful when asked about restrictions and I wrote that I wanted nothing from the last 5 years. And, as a heads up to my future potential Secret Santa, next year I’ll be writing “from the last 6 years”.

The list I received intrigued me:

Memories
Serial Experiments Lain
Now and Then Here and There

Good, I thought. Nothing newer that I’d already watched, dismissed, or already intended to watch and nothing I was really familiar with. The title that most leaped out at me was Serial Experiments Lain because, when I was getting more serious about anime a decade ago, this was a series that was supposedly required watching. I never did because other “required” titles like Akira and Evangelion had disappointed me and this deeply dampened my desire to watch the other “required” anime titles.

After a very, very small amount of research – I want to give each show a fair shot and be surprised about it and I can’t blame Wikipedia or ANN or MAL if I spoil myself about a decade+ old anime – I decided I’d like to watch all three eventually, though, for the Secret Santa Project I would try to watch both Memories and Serial Experiments Lain.

My procrastination along with how fast December went by scuttled that plan. I still intend to get to the other two titles, but, for today I will be reviewing the mid-90’s anime movie entitled Memories.

memoriesStory

Memories is three distinct shorter works shown together in one roughly two hour movie. The first part was entitled Magnetic Rose. This short centers on the crew members of a  debris collection operation in space as they hunt for a high quality discovery that will yield a big paycheck and what happens when they find that score. The second part, Stink Bomb, follows the events that occur after a bumbling idiot takes a pill at a medical research facility that was most definitely not fever medicine. And, finally, the third part shows us a day in the life of a typical family living in a quasi-East European? country  that’s at war and is aptly named Cannon Fodder.

Thoughts and impressions

Upon finishing Memories, I went back and began my research of the title. The first thing I learned was that the three works that make up MemoriesMagnetic Rose, Stink Bomb, and Cannon Fodder – were all based on manga created by Katsuhiro Otomo, who is best known as the original creator as well as director of the anime adaptation of Akira. At this point, if I had known that the creator and director of Akira and Steamboy was behind Memories then I probably would have tried to finish something else.

I moved onto the production of Memories. Studio 4°C was responsible for production of Magnetic Rose and Cannon Fodder and Madhouse produced Stink Bomb. Both studios are known for being able to produce great animation and Memories, now over 20 years old, still had the power to shock me with how well it was animated.

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_08-22_2016-12-22_16-41-56Magnetic Rose was directed by Kouji Morimoto, one of the co-founders of Studio 4°C, and whose segment in The Animatrix – entitled Beyond – was the best and well-known production of his that I’d watched beforehand. Stink Bomb was directed by Tensai Okamura and was his first full directorial experience. He has gone on to direct several well-known anime series: Wolf’s Rain, Darker than Black, Blue Exorcist, Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda, Nanatsu no Taizai, and Kuromukuro. (I’ve not seen Wolf’s Rain but, of the others, the best work of his has been Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda.) And, lastly, Cannon Fodder was directed by the original creator and executive producer of Memories, Katsuhiro Otomo.

At this point, I’m scratching my head. Every year that I participate in the Secret Santa Project I like to try and figure out before the reveal why the titles that were recommended to me were the ones recommended. I’ve yet to see anything from the production of Memories that would lend itself to me. I was starting to think maybe my secret Santa was just running out of ideas or maybe it was just a personal favorite when I saw it – the reason why my secret Santa recommended Memories to me.

When I saw it, I also completely understood why my reaction to Memories was what it was.

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_29-49_2016-11-21_03-02-16To draw the suspense out let me say how I moved onto seeing who wrote the script because I eventually learned during my anime blogging that the person in charge of series composition/script can have a big influence on the finished product. And, it was here – when I saw who handled the script to Memories – that I saw a name that explained everything.

Who was in charge of the script for Magnetic Rose? Satoshi Kon.

Who was in charge of the script for Stink Bomb and Cannon Fodder? Not Satoshi Kon. (Katsuhiro Otomo)

There it is. The Alexander who slices through the Gordian knot of feelings I have towards Memories.

It’s been long enough that I’m not going to just assume those reading will know who Satoshi Kon is. He was one of the most talented and great directors anime has ever seen. His influence has reached as far as Hollywood movies and, incidentally, created my favorite Christmas movie – Tokyo Godfathers. He died decades too early, at age 46, in 2010. This post at We Remember Love does a good job summarizing some of the reactions people had at his passing and if you want a real punch in the feels, read his last words.

As a point of trivia, one of the reasons Masao Maruyama gave as to why he left a company he help found, Madhouse, to create the animation studio Mappa (Yuri on Ice being their latest series) was so he could continue working on gathering the resources, both creative and monetary, to finish Satoshi Kon’s last and unfinished movie – Dreaming Machine. So, every time Mappa creates a quality series we owe Satoshi Kon a bit of thanks for his continued influence.

Okay, where was I?

Oh yes, reviewing Memories.

There are three reasons to watch Memories.

  1. The animation – Even this neophyte sakuga fan can tell that the animation is top shelf. This 20+ year old show is a constant feast for the eyes. Bonus points were earned by Stink Bomb for featuring non-CG vehicles in motion that looked good. (Yes, I know they’ve improved how they splice CG cars and trucks into an anime to the point that they almost look like they belong in the same world as everything else, but, it’s still noticeable.)
  2. The writing in Magnetic Rose – Satoshi Kon elevates this first part of Memories far above the other two.
  3. The animation style of Cannon Fodder – Separate from the raw quality of the animation, the style of animation found in Cannon Fodder is a treat to see.

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_19-16_2016-12-22_18-29-56Beyond that, there’s not much I found noteworthy. I was particularly turned off by the apparent feature of Katsuhiro Otomo’s writing were everyone is basically an idiot. Even in Magnetic Rose there is an undercurrent of this – the story would have played out completely different if the characters had an ounce of self-preservation and slight ability to follow the protocols of their job. I don’t fault Satoshi Kon for this; it wasn’t like he had the power to change the story that far. (The next thing Satoshi Kon did was Perfect Blue and, as director, he apparently tinkered with the story until he was satisfied with it and I wonder how much this was influenced by his experience on Magnetic Rose.) The other two parts had it even worse. Stink Bomb features a main character who makes Homer Simpson look like Einstein and I know the point that Cannon Fodder was trying to make, but, I’d like to know if they somehow bred out any spark of intelligence in this country.

And speaking of Cannon Fodder, at least 25% of this part of Memories is used up by showing in excruciatingly sleep-inducing detail how the cannon is fired. I have a strong feeling that the whole story was created to give an excuse to show this cannon being fired.  In Cannon Fodder‘s favor, along with the animation and animation style, I also really liked how this short transitioned between scenes. This is one example, we go from the father as he’s getting dressed for his job tending the cannon to his son at school.

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_05-09_2016-12-22_18-24-46

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_05-16_2016-12-22_18-24-59

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_05-20_2016-12-22_18-25-07

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_05-21_2016-12-22_18-25-14

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_05-23_2016-12-22_18-25-20So, in conclusion, I am glad I watched Memories. It did not improve my opinion of Katsuhiro Otomo and that has confirmed my low opinion of Akira and Steamboy. However, it did give me the chance to discover something from Satoshi Kon that I’d probably overlook otherwise and allow me the chance to recall all the fond and sad memories I had of him, and that, was well worth it.

Final  Score: 9/12 A-
Rewatchablity: 1/5 – Low
Ending:
2/5 – Below Average
Animation: 4.5/5 – Sublime

Recommended? – Yes, especially for fans of quality animation (sakuga) and Satoshi Kon fans

More screenshots from Magnetic Rose

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_01-55_2016-11-21_02-55-42

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_04-47_2016-11-21_02-56-39

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_11-06_2016-11-21_02-58-53

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_13-48_2016-11-21_02-59-30

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_16-07_2016-11-21_02-59-57

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_25-15_2016-11-21_03-00-34

memories1-magnetic-rose-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_35-22_2016-11-21_03-02-45

More screenshots from Stink Bomb

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_01-35_2016-12-22_16-37-30

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_04-24_2016-12-22_16-40-14

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_04-40_2016-12-22_16-41-09

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_08-10_2016-12-22_16-41-31

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_13-18_2016-12-22_17-18-14

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_26-55_2016-12-22_17-20-54

memories2-stink-bomb-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_28-42_2016-12-22_17-22-29

More screenshots from Cannon Fodder

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_04-15_2016-12-22_18-22-53

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_09-54_2016-12-22_18-26-42

memories3-cannon-fodder-720pblurayx264-thora-mkv_snapshot_08-38_2016-12-22_18-26-29

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