About Us

Contact Us


The 21st Century

Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters
Lifestyles 1
Lifestyles 2

The International Writers Magazine

Memories - Classic Anime- DVD Review
Dan Schneider on the work of Japanese animators Otomoto, Morimoto and Okamura

I had long suspected that the American geeky infatuation with Japanese animation (aka Japanimation or anime) stemmed from the same impulses that veered Western Intellectuals into the Eastern Mystical religions. To me, anime was merely the new name for the poorly animated cartoons that proliferated in this country back in the 1960's wave of cartoons that began with such fare as Gigantor the Space Age Robot, Kimba the White Lion, and Speed Racer. By the 80's and 90's the filmic equivalents had spawned such ‘classics’ like Akira, and Princess Mononoke. I was wrong.

The man responsible for Akira is Katsuhiro Otomo, the Orson Welles of the genre, and the mastermind of this intriguing triptych of short films. In the mid-1990s he released this follow up, called Memories, based on some famed Japanese manga or comic books- he had written. The title is a bit misleading since it only obviously ties in to the first of the 3 films - Magnetic Rose. This is a magisterial film, the longest of the three, that borrows elements from such sci fi classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris. It is directed by Koji Morimoto, who also contributed to the Animatrix compilation DVD.

The tale follows a space salvage crew of the ship Corona, in 2092 that stumbles on a haunted derelict spaceship in the middle of a magnetic asteroid belt, and reluctantly follows orders to investigate. Two of the crew - Heintz and Miguel - are sent to investigate and find a palatial estate in space - or rather a hologram of one, filled with the romanticized memories of a famous female opera star who disappeared decades earlier, that seems not only to be able to materialize things, but play with the minds of the astronaut’s like the ocean on Solaris. The lush visuals and musical score alone can make this small film a gem, but the story never veers into predictability. Miguel gets swept up in the romantic fantasy of the sentient hologram’s wish to relive its long dead owner’s life over again, but better, while Heintz’s mind and emotions are toyed with by the sadistic hologram, which plays off feelings of guilt he has for leaving his family behind on his long voyages. Rare is such human characterization achieved in film - animated or not, and with such spare strokes. The film’s ending, where the title is manifested, is one of those ends that leaves you truly thinking.

The second film in the piece has almost no bearing on the overall film’s title, save that it may be assumed a memory that is told from a future point in time. It’s the weakest film of the three- a tale called Stink Bomb, directed by Tensai Okamura, about a moronic lab worker named Nobuo Tanaka, who mistakes a biological weapon in pill form for cold medicine. He soon becomes a living mega -Typhoid Mary whose body odor kills anything that comes near him.

He is ordered to return to his company’s Tokyo headquarters, but soon becomes a target for the Japanese and American military as anywhere he travels becomes a biological disaster area. This is intended as farce, since the corporate and military leaders are deliberately shown as cartoonish imbeciles who cannot even kill Nobuo, who evades them with a simple moped. At film’s end he succeeds in accidentally wiping out a good portion of Japan- fade to black.

The last piece- Cannon Fodder - is Otomo’s own film. It has a visual sensibility far different from the first two pieces- sort of a more lush version of the Eastern European animation of the 1960's and 1970's, typified by the sci- fi classic Fantastic Planet, and like that film is almost pure allegory. There is also not a single break in the track of the film as its iris glares relentlessly at a fictive dystopian city-state in a perpetual war with an unseen enemy beyond its walled borders.

The society is very fascistic and reminiscent of the silent film classic Metropolis. The daily duty seems to be loading huge cannons, reminiscent of those in another sci fi classic, Things To Come, to be fired at an unseen enemy - a fact which is blissfully never questioned by the city’s inhabitants, yet which the viewer sees is nonexistent in the desert beyond the city. The moral being that once a power has defeated all its enemies it must manufacture its own lest fall of its own weight. It is the memory of a former enemy that drives this state- this the subtle tie to the overall film title. The ostensible character focus of the film is a presumably typical plebeian clan whose father works a dreary job as a cannon loader, and whose gung ho son longs to one day do his duty for the cause. Its ending is enigmatic as the first film’s was. The boy goes to bed and we see what may be the light of bombs flash several times outside his blindered window. Artistically, the first and last piece should have been switched, and the middle piece needed a bit more fleshing out, as well as a tie to the overall title.

The DVD has a terrific widescreen anamorphic transfer, with yellow subtitles, and extras, including three short pilot episodes of each segment. It also has a featurette with the three directors, called ‘Making of Memories’. But, it is heartening to see a film of such daring, even when it fails, getting made and released in Japan, as well frustrating to note that no American animators would dare pick up the gauntlet this film drops- opting instead for numbingly simpleminded Disney fare, which is far more like the watered down Mysticism I expected from this anime film. Instances like this are those times I love being proved wrong. In fact, I only hope my artistic presumptions are more routinely proved wrong. I strongly recommend this DVD to both hardcore anime buffs and mere filmic afficionados. I doubt you will be disappointed.

© Dan Schneider,December 2004
The Best in Poetica seeks great poems & essays!

More about film here


© Hackwriters 2000-2004 all rights reserved