FEATURING ARTICLES ON WORKS IN PROGRESS: What’s ahead in 2021? SING IT LOUD: From Love Live to On-Gaku PLUS Third Burglars: Lupin vs Fukijo Booze views: Can saké be good for you? & MORE ©2020 Seiko Tanabe / KADOKAWA / Josee Project
CONTENTS 6 THAT SEVENTIES SHOW 12 YES, MILADY 16 UNBRIDLED GLEE 20 LOST IN MUSIC 24 2021: WORKS IN PROGRESS 30 PIGTAILS AND OTHERS 34 RAIN MAN 38 TOPSY-TURVY 42 SHAKEN NOT STIRRED 46 THE RELUCTANT ADVENTURESS 50 HOW GENIUSES THINK 54 SAVED WITH A KISS 58 VINYL FRONTIERS 62 GHOST MEMORY 68 POWER OF THE PENGUINS 72 THE ISLAND OF LOST TOYS 76 NEVER GROW UP 80 EARTH BOUND
CONTRIBUTORS Kambole Campbell writes about anime and film for Little White Lies, Sight & Sound and others. Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History
Alex Dudok de Wit is writing a BFI Film Classic on Isao Takahataâ€™s Grave of the Fireflies.
Andrew Osmond's BFI Film Classic on Hayao Miyazakiâ€™s Spirited Away has just been reissued.
Shelley Pallis writes about anime and manga for All the Anime
"STAUNCH ARE THE FRIENDS THAT GREET YOU" Isla McTear: “Good luck guys, this festival is my favourite of the year. Hope to see you back in full force with packed cinemas next year!” Scotland has been steadily, passionately, sometimes creepily loving anime for over a decade, but this is the first time that it will be doing so remotely. But if you are one of hundreds of new people, taking advantage of lockdown life to look in on what happens at this annual festival, this is the kind of thing we’ve been up to in Glasgow and Edinburgh since 2010. Iain Boulton: “A great festival and a cinematic mainstay for all anime fans. I've never been to a Scotland Loves Anime, I hope to change that when things are safe again.” To really get a sense of the festival experience, Iain, you should definitely stand outside your house in the rain for ten minutes before it starts. Sit very close to someone on your sofa and wonder just how long they will keep masticating. Tut with annoyance when that Jonathan Clements turns up in front of the film, spouting nonsense and delaying your viewing pleasure for another four minutes. Calum Robertson: “Happy to pitch in and support my local indie cinema. Been to some great SLA screenings over the years filled with laughs, tears and weird purple cats and looking forward to more in the future.” Ah yes, for the money from the crowd-funder is going to a worthy cause indeed. A third is going to the Glasgow Film Theatre and a third is going to the Edinburgh Filmhouse, because they’ve been so supportive of us for the last decade, and we want to support them when punters are thin on the ground. Simon Johnson: “Only my second year but sending my” Right. Good. Hope the last word in that sentence wasn’t underpants. Or possibly bacon. Thank you to each and every one of you for showing your support. Every little helps, although I hope the GFT and the Filmhouse don’t get the idea that we will just send them money annually and then not show up. I hope to be avoiding you all in person next year.
Jonathan Clements, Festival Jury Chairman 5
THAT SEVENTIES SHOW By Jonathan Clements
Â© Monkey Punch / 2019 LUPIN the 3rd Film Partners
aster-criminal Lupin III is in for a surprise at a Paris heist, when his attempt to steal a priceless diary is thwarted by another thief. But Laetitia Lambert is no career burglar like Lupin and his crew – she’s a would-be archaeologist, tasked with stealing the book by her grandfather. Inevitably, Lupin teams up with the innocent Laetitia, particularly when he discovers that she is the only person who can help him translate the diary’s multilingual secrets to figure out the location of a legendary treasure. But both Lupin and Laetitia find themselves investigating their own family histories – the fabled Bresson Diary, it turns out, was an artefact that Lupin’s own grandfather, the original master-thief Arsene Lupin, wanted for himself. All of which goes to explain why Takashi Yamazaki’s 2019 CG feature labours under the unwieldy title of Lupin III the First – bear with me, I’ll call it Lupin the First hereafter, not the least because it’s plainly intended as a resetto-zero to bring in new viewers for the Lupin franchise. Much of the Lupin III cast is fixed and unchanging from instalment to instalment. There will be the master-thief himself, his rival and occasional helper Fujiko Mine, his sharp-shooting assistant Jigen and his samurai henchman Goemon. Inevitably, Inspector Zenigata will charge across the screen trying to apprehend him, and inevitably Zenigata will fail. But every Lupin III film also has a guest star, usually a beautiful girl who will not quite tame Lupin’s wandering nature, and this time it is Laetitia Lambert, the pretty archaeologist who herself is a call-back to Lupin’s backstory. That’s provided here by the actress who plays her, Suzu Hirose, then a 21-year-old actress and model whose big claim to fame in 2019 was a leading role in the NHK drama Natsuzora. Natsuzora, meanwhile, was a fictionalised account of the early anime business, featuring many of the figures who were instrumental in the early careers of some of the people who would go on to make the original Lupin III TV series. Scotland Loves Anime regulars may recognise
her voice from an earlier starring role, as Nazuna in Akiyuki Shinbo’s Fireworks. Another CG extravaganza from Marza Animation Planet, a studio also known for Captain Harlock, Resident Evil: Vendetta and the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, Lupin the First is helmed by Takashi Yamazaki, a man with a very specific skillset ideally suited to revamping manga classics. Yamazaki is best known in Japan for his live-action works, particularly Always: Sunset on Third Street, the first of a trilogy of movies about Japan in the 1950s and after. But his work is often intimately connected to the anime and manga worlds – Always was itself based on a comic, and the next franchise that Yamazaki tackled was the award-winning Parasyte. He also directed Stand by Me: Doraemon, a retelling and reboot in CG form of the long-running Doraemon franchise. So, Yamazaki is clearly a man with form, not only in manga classics, but in evoking the spirits and nostalgia of days gone by. The timeline for Lupin the First is purposefully vague, initially glossed as being “a few decades” after the Second World War. It takes a while to notice, for example, that there is no modern technology in play – no cellphones or flatscreen TVs. We’re halfway through the film before revelations about characters’ pasts and parentages make it clear we need to be within a generation of WW2, in order for all the plotlines to match up. Supposedly it’s the late 1960s, although there are anachronisms in the props and costumes that point to a date in the early 1970s.The second-most obvious tell-tale sign comes in the characters’ choice of snack, when they sit around iconic Cup Noodles that were only released in 1971. Second-most? Yes, because to any Lupin fan, you can carbon-date him simply by the colour of his jacket, and the “red jacket” Lupin can be placed in the second season of the anime, in 1976. Lupin’s creator Kazuhiko Kato, who died on 11th April 2019, not long before this film was released, always had the air about him of a man who had won the lottery. Born in Hokkaido in 1937, his knack for
cartooning soon caused him to drop out of electrical engineering college and move to Tokyo, where he moonlighted as an artist, at first in the below-the-line world of manga for rental lending libraries. Artistically inspired by the baroque, bawdy style of MAD magazine, he found early work in crime capers and detective stories, including Gun Hustler, The Murderer List, and The Man Without a Shadow. In 1966, a grumpy editor insisted that he take a pseudonym that made him sound more exotically foreign, and Kato reluctantly accepted, noting: “The editor said to me – ‘It’s hard to tell whether your art was done by a Japanese or a foreigner, so let’s create a pen-name that is indistinguishable by nationality.’ And after a lot of discussion in the editor’s room, they came up with MONKEY PUNCH.” Which was nicely inconspicuous. It was only a three-month job, and he figured he could drop the name right afterwards.
episode. “Lupin’s just happens to be in his pants.”
He was, consequently, eternally sorry-not-sorry that his next job would achieve a success so meteoric that he was stuck with the name for the rest of his working life. Lupin III would run in Manga Action magazine for two years, but managed to strike such a powerful note with 1960s readers that it never quite went away. Kato would return to it periodically throughout his career, while animated spin-offs imparted a long, long tail to the franchise that still endures today. Its star was the titular Lupin, supposedly the grandson of the French master-thief created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905, a self-styled Citizen of the World, leader of a rambunctious coterie of criminals: Goemon Ishikawa, namesake of a famous samurai, and Daisuke Jigen, a gunman modelled on Western hero Lee Marvin. They were pursued by the hapless Inspector Zenigata, himself the descendant of a samurai-era folk hero, and alternately helped, hindered or distracted by Fujiko Mine, a buxom burglar conceived originally as little more than set decoration in the style of a Bond girl, but swiftly developed into an independent, sassy accomplice and sometime rival in Lupin’s schemes – manga’s own Emma Peel. “Everybody has an Achilles heel,” commented Jigen in one
Regardless, Lupin III enjoyed great success on television in the 1970s, making the leap to movies, most memorably in 1979 with The Castle of Cagliostro, a crime caper helmed by first-time anime feature director Hayao Miyazaki. The character would continue to crop up in movies and TV specials thereafter, imparting a long, long tail to the job that Kato had previously expected to be over by spring 1968. Fifty years on, having largely retired from manga creation, Kato found himself directing “Is Lupin Still Burning”, an anniversary special, while Lupin III continued in his own magazine with sequels by other hands, including Aya Okada’s Inspector Zenigata, a manga series that ran for much of the noughties. Fujiko Mine herself got her own anime series, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and the Lupin TV series continued from strength to strength.
It was not always a clean getaway. Copyright law dictated that the Lupin character belonged to the Leblanc estate until 1991, and then after reforms in European law, 2011. Representatives of Leblanc’s heirs complained about the unlicensed use of the character, while lawyers for Kato and his publisher countered that Lupin III was not the original Lupin, by definition. An uneasy stand-off left the name regarded as fair use in Japan but still questionably in copyright elsewhere, causing Lupin to be known as “Rupan” or “Wolf ” in some early overseas anime dubs. It is likely that the stink caused by such arguments put paid to a planned French co-production in 1982, the sci-fi spin-off Lupin VIII – elements of which later resurfaced in the designs of Inspector Gadget, who plainly owes a debt to the look of a sci-fi Inspector Zenigata.
It might be said that Lupin’s greatest heist was Kazuhiko Kato’s career, which was largely taken out of his hands in the 1960s and never quite restored to him. Kato made several attempts to write other stories, but none achieved quite the success of Lupin III, which deftly and unsurpassably married Kato’s interests in espionage, crime, and slipstream sf. His other
works are hence liable to be ever considered as also-rans. Cinderella Boy, for example, was set in a near-future outlaw metropolis, married the Lupin-Fujiko archetypes at a molecular level, featuring a down-at-heel detective who is forced to share the body of a society femme-fatale. Like a sci-fi detective version of Your Name, they switch each night, each attempting to solve the mystery in their own way – the story was first published in 1980 and turned into an anime in 2003, but few have heard of it. Neither have many of his fans had much of an encounter with the likes of Western Samurai, I am Casanova, or Robot Baseball Team Galacters. Kato, however, never seemed to mind.“These days the old comics are all released in compilations,” he commented once to Go Nagai. “I stumble across old ones I’ve forgotten and think: ‘Wow, I drew this!?’ I think my art was more alive back then. Fresher, or something.”
with a bit of brainpower, Lupin the First relies on its code-crackers to have a working knowledge of ancient Akkadian and Sumerian.... so probably not the sort of thing you are liable to run into in an escape room any time soon. It’s here, unexpectedly, that the story visibly lags, with the large cast confined to a single chamber with little to do except offer occasional suggestions. Inspector Zenigata, in particular, is dragged into the team in a somewhat arbitrary move, and has little to do except lurk at the back thereafter. But Lupin the First remains an incredibly accomplished work of computer animation, prancing along a tense tightrope between liveaction and cartoon, and largely succeeding in propelling Lupin III into the 21st century, even as it clings so firmly to the look and feel of the 20th.
Lupin III the First is screening in cinemas as part
The 2019 production was overshadowed by the death of its creator, although plainly the project was intended not merely as a celebration of the Lupin III comic, but of its most famous iteration in cinema screens, Hayao Miyazaki’s aforementioned Castle of Cagliostro. Once again, this is clearly signalled to anime fans early in the film, in a knockabout chase featuring Lupin’s car of choice, the little yellow Fiat 500 so beloved of Miyazaki and his lead animator Yasuo Otsuka. The car can be seen in the TV show as well as Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy, but its most memorable appearance onscreen was in a madcap chase sequence in Cagliostro, to which Lupin the First lovingly tips its top hat. With its unlikely caper, in which a feisty archaeologist outwits comedy Nazis, Lupin the First owes a strong debt to the Indiana Jones films, particularly The Last Crusade, which similarly finishes with a mismatched team of raiders trying to break into a trap-ridden site with the aid of a cryptic diary, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which also features a booby-trapped American McGuffin. But unlike Professor Layton, which confers puzzles on its audience that might presumably be solve-able 10
of Scotland Loves Anime.
11 Â© Monkey Punch / 2019 LUPIN the 3rd Film Partners
YES MILADY By Andrew Osmond
Original comic books created by Monkey Punch Â© TMS
roadcast in 2012, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine presents a very different vision of Lupin III from the one that audiences were used to seeing capering around in anime, and not merely because it placed the serial’s femme fatale, Fujiko Mine, front and centre. Creator Kazuhiko Kato (Monkey Punch) cited many an inspiration for her – he saw her as part Bond girl, part Marianne Faithful, but largely as Milady de Winter, the unstoppable secret agent of the Three Musketeers stories. There was also a little scrap of personal emotion, with the artist admitting he had invested a little of his depiction of his leading lady with his own unrequited schoolboy crush on an attractive classmate. But the original Lupin III strip had been created expressly for adults; sex and violence was part of its appeal. Many of Lupin’s anime exploits, though, watered that side down, often going for zaniness or clean-cut adventures. After all, many of them were shown on TV when kids might be watching. Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle of Cagliostro (1979) epitomised the family-friendly Lupin. Four decades on, Lupin the Third: The First is in the same mould. Still, the adult side of Lupin was never quite buried. Even one of Miyazaki’s Lupin TV stories (“Albatross: Wings of Death”) was surprisingly naughty, finding excuses to have Fujiko gratuitously naked much of the time. And it was Fujiko’s body, and her penchant for exposing it, which fascinated woman director Sayo Yamamoto. Speaking at the Anifest convention, she said, “When I was growing up watching Fujiko in the original series of Lupin, I always watched her with anticipation of when she was going to take off her clothes.”In 2012, Yamamoto was invited to make a Lupin series with full creative control. This was several years before she’d make her hit Yuri on Ice, but Yamamoto was already well-established in the industry. She’d directed five episodes of Shinichiro Watanabe’s Samurai Champloo, then helmed the distinctive crime anime Michiko & Hatchin (2008), about a woman and a young girl driving through South America. One of the best episodes starts with the adult Michiko seducing a man by a river. Beautifully choreographed, it’s
less about male desire than female longings. At that time, the Lupin character had long been relegated to annual TV films. The last full Lupin TV series had ended in 1985. Yamamoto wanted to get back to the manga version. “In almost every chapter or episode there were some sort of naked female somewhere in there,” she said. “I felt that the recent [Lupin] TV series animation was really aimed at kids, made intentionally with kids in mind. So, I wanted to go back in history and bring back the original manga, how I felt it was intended to be entertaining to adults.” Fujiko’s title sequence looks less like traditional Lupin than a riff on a mad anime classic, the 1973 film Belladonna of Sadness. Fujiko’s vision of female liberation isn’t that terrifying, but it’s still a full-blooded celebration of a slinky thief whose body is designed to make hetero men and sapphic girls go hubba hubba hubba. For all its action scenes, at heart Fujiko Mine is sensuously languid, relaxed in its bare skin, with a mellowed heroine who’s seen everything before and done everything before. Rather than pumping adrenaline, the show evokes a curling waft of cigarette smoke. The series focuses on Fujiko’s exploits, with a spectacular Temple of Doom-ish adventure bringing her into instant collision with Lupin. The next episodes show her meeting the other Lupin icons, gruff marksman Jigen and supersamurai Goemon, who measures his sword against a nuclear missile at one point. As you’d expect in Lupin, there’s a generous range of settings: Orient Express trains, airplane battles, haunted labs and nightmare fun-fairs. The episodes are largely separate, but with running threads that reveal a clever season arc, culminating in the final episodes that promise to expose Fujiko’s deep secrets. Lupin, Jigen and Goemon are all true to their familiar personas. Lupin even gets moments of crowd-pleasing goofiness, riding a giant flying statue or dressing as a panto horse. The real shocker is what the show does with Zenigata, the permanently cross policeman who’s another Lupin regular. In traditional Lupin, he’s solely obsessed with nabbing Lupin; but in Fujiko, he’s 13
unbuttoned to reveal his carnal desires. The show’s point is clear: there’s no such thing as a clean-cut character. Notably, all the Lupin anime after Fujiko backed away from that, making Zenigata respectable again. The sex in Fujiko is nothing without the style, overblown and preposterous like a Bond title sequence. This is a designer show that wants to stand out from all the other anime. It looks drawn, shaded, sketched and stylised. “Onmodel” is optional; so is depth, dropped into shots here and there, while much of the art is proudly flat. Often you almost expect a shot to be signed by the artist. Colours are often muted, getting only more so as the show progresses, approaching the monochrome of the title sequence. Lupin fans have argued about if Fujiko Mine is really true to the original manga, or a reinterpretation by a new artist. Personally,
I take it as a one-shot reworking of a franchise; in that way it’s like Batman graphic novels such as Dark Knight Returns or Arkham Asylum. Or perhaps Fujiko is nearer an adultsonly French bandes dessinée. The series is certainly less dark than the Batman books, though its story goes intense places in the closing episodes, before a last joyful reveal. Yamamoto was only one of the “name” creators on Fujiko Mine. The show’s lead writer was Mari Okada, already established as one of the industry’s top professionals. Okada’s interest in female sexuality is obvious from works such as her later schoolgirl manga O Maidens in Your Savage Season. This also became an anime and will be turned into a live-action Japanese series about the time you read this. Meanwhile, Fujiko’s character designs were by the Redline film director Takeshi Koike, who was also the animation director on the first and last episodes. And it was Koike who went on to direct the three subsequent video releases: Jigen’s Gravestone, released two years after Fujiko Mine in 2014; Goemon’s Blood Spray in 2017; and Fujiko Mine’s Lie in 2019. One thing to make clear is that these three films – each an hour long – comprise a separate Lupin from Fujiko Mine, with no continuity in story or style. If you don’t find Yamamoto’s series to your taste, you may prefer Koike’s films, and vice versa. The only similarity is that Koike’s films, like Fujiko, are emphatically not for kids, but where Fujiko revelled in sex, the films are far more about the violence. Goemon’s Blood Spray feels specifically like a tribute to the Tarantino of Kill Bill, or at least a reaction to it, as Goemon takes violence much more seriously. The humour in the films comes from the leads’ chemistry and the action’s madness, but there’s hardly any clowning; no panto horses here. Each film is a separate story, though the later ones have brief call-backs to their predecessors. One thing they share is impressively high-powered adversaries, who seem like genuine threats to the Lupin characters. When watching Lupin, you
usually assume that none of the regulars – Lupin, Fujiko, Jigen, Goemon – can possibly be killed. However, Lupin has always had an extremely loose continuity, like Bond. These films play with the suggestion that perhaps this is a Lupin where the heroes can die…Fujiko appears in all three films, though her role’s very limited in the first two, and some viewers really won’t like what’s she’s subjected to in Jigen’s Gravestone. She gets a far better deal in Fujiko Mine’s Lie, in which she’s in charge of a traumatised little boy who’s lost his dad. The situation echoes a classic live-action film, John Cassavetes’ Gloria (1980) starring Gena Rowlands. But it also seems to refer knowingly to Miyazaki’s Cagliostro, asking if the Lupin characters ever really help people from kindness. The film itself lies to the audience, massively and shamelessly, in order to hide a story twist, but then what else would you expect from Fujiko? Although there are differences between Koike’s films – the mix of colours and designs gives each a different texture – none go for the conspicuous artfulness of Fujiko Mine. Instead, they present straight action scenes animated with maximum magnificence; like the hardcore violence, it feels like Koike’s bid to go beyond anything that could be done on TV. As it happened, the Fujiko Mine
series revived small-screen Lupin. Two TV series have been made since, including the Italian-set adventure in 2015. They’re both strong visually, though neither as radical as Fujiko nor as cinematically stellar as Koike’s films. But notably, the new TV series make a big thing of “mixing up” Lupin. Sometimes he’s the wacky, familyfriendly thief; but sometimes he’s far more hardboiled and dangerous. Because really, Lupin shouldn’t just be for the kids. Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is being screened as part of Scotland Loves Anime this year.
Â© 2019 PROJECT Lovelive! Sunshine!! Movie
UNBRIDLED GLEE By Shelley Pallis
he seaside town of Numazu has a “special” status in Japan. That’s supposed to mean that it has a quirkily autonomous mayoral council, but the tourist trade is keen to jump on the idea, and witters incessantly about how you can see Mount Fuji from the harbour, and how nobody makes noppo bread like the Numazu people. There’s even a “Romance” train from Shinjuku, that will whisk you, and someone you are trying to impress, away to the seaside in just two hours, where you can apparently “see all the nature.” So, in other words, Numazu is very much the same as a hundred other towns in Japan, but for one distinguishing factor. It is the home of the Uranohoshi girls’ school, proud hosts of the Aqours pop phenomenon, an all-girl singing sensation that hit it big at the Love Live competition. And you can be sure that the local tourist board won’t be shutting up about that any time soon, even if the Uranohoshi girls’ school is a made-up place populated by cartoon characters. Because everywhere in Japan now needs to be a “holy land” (seichi) for some media franchise or other, something that the cast of Love Live Sunshine: Over the Rainbow are so keen to stress that they even nip back in a postcredits sequence to say “holy land” a few times. Love Live is a creation of “Hajime Yadate” – the house pseudonym slapped by Sunrise on its franchises to keep them company owned. And like certain other Sunrise creations that shall not be named, but which involve giant robots that don’t sing a whole lot, Love Live needs to reboot every year or so by coming up with a storyline that’s almost exactly the same as the one before, but with different hairstyles and merchandise. Aqours were inspired by a previous girl-group in an earlier Love Live series which, like them,
turned to a talent show in a vaguely defined plan to keep their school from closing – as in “If only some sixth-formers win Britain’s Got Talent, the evil corporation won’t send in the bulldozers!” Unlikely though this plan may seem, it has already worked once in the Love Live universe, so it should come as no surprise that someone is trying it again. But three of the Aqours girls have graduated now, so they are fated to go to another school (hopefully one that won’t be slated for demolition), and as the movie Over the Rainbow begins, they are realising that they are ill-prepared for life outside school. After giving their all to save the school, they’ve lost their free rehearsal space – sadly for cynics like me, the perennially happy show doesn’t feature some jobsworth at their former alma mater telling them to clear off, which might have been a lesson in institutional loyalty. In much the same fashion as Glee, the girls are prone to launch into song-and-dance numbers that spill out of the theatre and into the world outside, clogging the shopping mall and train station with dancing soubrettes in pastel skirts. The locals occasionally join in – as with a quartet of clapping fisherman down by the harbour – and much more entertainingly, occasionally don’t, looking on with barely concealed revulsion as four schoolgirls skip past singing about true love. But there is drama. So much drama. The show is taken up with interminable longueurs of being a 15-year-old girl in small town Japan, all cake shops and wild speculation about boys. Notably, it is so wrapped up in its mid-teen worldview that actual adults are often little more than background decoration – you’d be forgiven for thinking there had been some sort of apocalypse
that had rendered all non-teens mute. But this is indeed the sort of world where a simple age difference of a few months can serve to split up an entire group between middle- and highschools, and where the departure of the three oldest members of Aqours leaves the other six wondering if there is any point in continuing. You-chan’s cousin, the tomboy Tsuki-chan, is transferring into the neighbourhood (because we needed yet another cast member, in an anime show that makes So Solid Crew look understaffed), which is cause for much revelation about what You-chan thinks of her friends, as told to someone else. But Tsuki also has chilling and rather vaguely explained news, that the parents at the school are worried that the Uranohoshi transfers are going to ruin the other school clubs – which means that the Uranohoshi girls will have to demonstrate (again) national competition-winning skills in order to win over the parents. Frustratingly, we don’t get to see their first performance for their new school, in which they apparently bomb because someone’s hair clip falls off. Nor their second rehearsal on a beach, which visiting colleagues tell them is rubbish. In fact, after the opening musical 18
number, Love Live Sunshine is oddly devoid of songs for the next 30 minutes. It’s Riko Sakurauchi who gets to explain why idol clubs are so misunderstood. Their performances, she points out, are always peppy and cheerful, their smiles are pasted on, their job is to impart the absolute pinnacle of frivolity. But the audience doesn’t get to see the backstage tribulations, the rehearsals, the mis-steps; they only get to see the polished final result. Nobody wants to watch dancers who clearly aren’t enjoying themselves, or singers who are struggling to hit the right notes – such a sight would completely ruin the performance dynamics, and leave the audience feeling uneasy. Well, firstly, I’d point out that half of modern television seems to be aimed at showing us the backstage tribulations, rehearsals and mis-steps, not to mention sob-stories about ailing family members, sick pets and schools facing closure. But point taken, particularly after one girl, Leah, is revealed to be out of the singing game after failing to round up any suitable candidates for a new group. Love Live isn’t just a series about the need for self-improvement – it’s about the vital,
almost impossible synergy that hones eleven (or nine, or three...) different girls into one noteperfect unit. Who are these Evil Parents? Tsuki has already said that all the schoolchildren are on the new arrivals’ side, and so are the teachers. It’s difficult to think of a jeopardy so ill-defined as “something that someone said to my friend’s mum”, but this is pretty much where we apparently are. Love Live Sunshine doesn’t really have any bad guys, since, like many a superhero show over the last few years, the roster of protagonists is so over-populated that there isn’t really any space for enemies. Toshio Okada, theorist of otakuology, traces this imbalance of casting back to some toy company surveys in the 1990s, which observed that far more dolls were sold of Ultraman than of the monsters he fought. Mari Ohara, long-term viewers may remember, was the central singer of Aqours, but in this film, it is her millionaire mother, with a gaijin accent bordering on the racist, whose shows up in a pink helicopter to enlist their help in finding her daughter. She does so by showering them with chocolate money: “A performance to show I will pay for your travel desu.” The elder Ohara is the closest thing the film has to a deceitful adult, but even then, she’s bankrolling their travel and open to being persuaded of the evil of her ways, so even she’s kind of with the good guys. In other words, deprived of the three elder members who apparently did most of the heavylifting, Aqours is flapping around like a twelvelegged headless chicken. Urged that they need to think for themselves, they instead go looking for the three departed members, in order to ask them what they’re doing wrong. I suppose, maybe in Japan, that counts as thinking for yourself? Fortunately, Mari’s mum will pay for them to look. “Very very thank you desu,” she says, and the girls are off to Italy! K-On the Movie didn’t take this long to get its cast to That Fancy London, and I don’t remember it taking this long to get everyone to New York in the first Love Live
movie, but anyway, here we are in Venice (and then, briefly, Rome), as if teleported there by magic, while the newcomer Tsuki-chan turns out to have grown up in Italy, and knows her way around. Miraculously, none of the girls get their bottom pinched or are chatted up by any gelato sellers (my experience may have varied). Instead they are dragged off on a treasure hunt of sorts, bouncing from convenient clue to convenient clue, while their three erstwhile classmates consistently give them the slip, pleading that they don’t have time to explain. The animated component of Love Live seems is difficult to take seriously. Surely, it’s the liveaction coordination of song and dance that makes musicals so watchable? The fact that a drawn character can hold a perfect pose, or sync in time with another drawn character, seems a little like an easy grade. But some of the sequences are plainly motion-captured, which means we’re watching a real dancer, imitating an animated character, and the artifice is in the integration of that image into 2D and 3D onscreen elements. And yet the film plainly struck a chord with the fans – 93,000 CDs of the soundtrack were snapped up in Japan last year. Clearly it was also a hit with the businesses of the sleepy town of Numazu, since every place you see on screen, from Doll House Kimura to Japanese Fine Sweets Grandma is a real establishment, eagerly awaiting a rush of Love Live tourists. Not so much the people of Venice, though. As the credits roll in Japanese, a warning note has been appended to the list of sponsors, presumably at the instigation of some fretful Italian tourist officer. “In the real Venice,” it decrees, “stopping and consuming food items is prohibited outside of public eating areas and designated rest spaces.” Someone on the location-hunting team, I suspect, got scolded for scoffing an ice cream inside a palazzo.
Love Live Sunshine: Over the Rainbow, is screening as part of Scotland Loves Anime. 19
Â© Hiroyuki Ohashi / Rock'n Roll Mountain / Tip Top
LOST IN MUSIC by Jonathan Clements
he “Three Musketeers” are the toughest kids in Chiku High, although with a typically Japanese sense of rebellion, they still put on their uniforms in order to go in and bunk off. Quite possibly, nobody else knows how tough they are, since a planned rumble with the rival Marutake High is called off when the Three Musketeers can’t find it. They are, in fact, three impossibly thick teenage boys, dead losses in the school system, but not quite smart enough to find anything to do beyond playing at being outlaws. Their lives are transformed, suddenly and wonderfully, when a chance encounter on the street convinces their leader, the rat-moustached skinhead Kenji (Shintaro Sakamoto) that he’s going to start a band. Music unexpectedly opens up a new world for the Chiku High delinquents, introducing them to new friends, experiences and ideas, in On-Gaku: Our Sound, a relentlessly upbeat indie film from director Kenji Iwaisawa. Not since Makoto Shinkai’s debut has there been quite such an emphasis on self-starting, gogetting amateurs. The original manga on which the film is based was a 2005 self-published work by Hiroyuki Ohashi – in fact, the “complete” edition, on which this film is supposedly based, was not released until the film itself was finished last autumn. The creator started a crowd-funding campaign to adapt the work into an animated film, on which director Iwaisawa toiled, often solo, for seven years. Of the 40,000 drawings that span the film’s 71-minute running time, most are Iwaisawa’s work – he is billed as director, animation director, screenwriter and editor, and presumably also made the tea and took out the bins. Born in 1981, Tokyo native Iwaisawa left high school and learned about film-making from the maverick director Teruo Ishii, who died in 2005. He worked in video production for the live-action film business, while also
tinkering with animation – his first animated short, Fukuraicho: Man in the Tunnel Alley, was completed in 2008. “I hate the word ‘unprecedented’,” he comments. “You hear it all the time when you work in movies. I wanted to make On-Gaku as a feature-length, soloanimated project because that’s something that really warrants the term ‘unprecedented’! They said that On-Gaku would be impossible to pull off, and that’s without considering it as a feature-length independent film. But that was the big attraction of this work, that even completing it in the first place was such a high hurdle for me to clear.” This is not the endless rehearsals, grit and slick determination of Love Live! Sunshine; this is three idiots who have never played a musical instrument in their lives, suddenly deciding that they are going to form a band. Like the film itself, they are the low-fi antithesis of everything we are used to in anime. In the true spirit of punk, they’re crap and they don’t care. Stealing their instruments from the school music room, the three boys march off to Kenji’s house for their first rehearsal, unwittingly enacting a reversal of the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road zebra crossing photograph. Having accidentally acquired two bass guitars, lead bassist Kenji is joined by second-bassist Ota (Tomoya Maeno), and drummer Asakura (Tateo Serizawa). Like the Scotland festival favourite The Case of Hana and Alice, much of On-Gaku is drawn over live-action footage. The scrappy, simplified characters often walk with impressively realistic gaits, because their movements are rotoscoped over those of real actors. Cars and buildings keep up the pretense of being hand-drawn, but every now and then, Iwaisawa leaves the photoreal colours or sharp lines poking through. He also frames and shoots like a live-action director – witness Kenji’s long opening amble through the streets of Japanese suburbia, in 21
which the camera lingers on a series of shots of nothing, and compare it to the “My Generation” montage of Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice, which crams shot after shot of character-building vignettes into a fast-paced montage. Yamada doesn’t waste a single piece of onscreen visuals, because her staff have to draw every single pixel. Iwaisawa still enjoys the luxury of being able to point a camera at the real world and just let it roll. During one of Kenji’s aimless ambles, we hear a woman shouting after a thief – it is so faint on the soundtrack that the subtitle is more noticeable than the sound. Kenji, true to form, just keeps walking, and the drama of the scene unfolds through the passersby: first the thief himself, then a Good Samaritan giving chase, who unwisely hands Kenji his bass guitar for safe-keeping. Then the victim, scurrying along behind, and bringing up the rear, a Japanese bobby on a bike. In any mainstream film, this would be a self-contained action sequence. In Iwaisawa’s confidently indie hands, the entire drama unfolds off-screen. The thief is apprehended just a few metres away from Kenji, but the scene plays out entirely in audio, while he stands there, impassive, holding a stranger’s guitar. Unfortunately for Kenji, his earlier past as a local tough guy is coming back to haunt him. Even though he has, at least temporarily, found a new hobby in endlessly strumming, the mohicanned tough guys of Marutake High are out to get him. Luckily, however, in a dumb-and-dumber case of mistaken identity, the Marutake ringleader Oba (Naoto Takenaka) is waiting for their fight in the local petrol station parking lot, where he is mistaken for a shift-worker and bussed off to the fish-canning plant. Even the Three Musketeers allusion is a step beyond their actual mental capacity, making the subtitles a little bit smarter than the lines they are translating. The band’s lone fangirl Aya (Ren Komai) doesn’t actually address them as such, but as “kenka daisuki sanningumi”, the Gang of Three That 22
Likes Fighting. Their oh-so-clever band name, Kobujutsu (“classical martial arts”), is something that the drummer overheard his uncle say, and in another stroke of bad luck worthy of Spinal Tap, turns out to be dangerously close to that of the school’s pre-existing band of hipster softies, Kobijutsu (“classical arts”). Instead of fighting it out, the bans swiftly affirm their mutual respect. In impressionistic scenes that visualise the effects of the music on the mind’s eye, Kenji sees a summery trip to the seaside when he hears a song by his opposite number Morita (Kami Hiraiwa), while Morita is unexpectedly transported by Kobujutsu’s mindless wall of sound to a surreal landscape of crashing airships, cows, fried eggs in the sky, and a passage through a giant mock-up of the cover of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Iwaisawa’s film excels at emphasising the endlessly beige, suffocating sameness of Every Japanese Suburb Ever – the town of Sakamotocho is a hicksville of convenience stores and pokey side-streets where the inhabitants are all comfortably numb. In one sweet throwaway scene, Kenji smokes a cigarette in a park at sunset, and then meticulously folds it away into a portable ash tray. Tough guy he might be, but he won’t even litter the park with dog-ends – he’s a good-hearted soul, just a little lost, and looking for a direction in life.
by shoe-gazing trio Kinoko Teikoku. Morita, the soft-spoken singer of the guitar trio Kobijutsu, is played by actress Kami Hiraiwa, who is the wife of Fuji Fabric’s lead vocalist Soichiro Yamauchi. For the lead role, Sakamoto was approached by both the director and the original manga author, and was initially reluctant to take the job. “Knowing that he’d spent seven years animating it, I couldn’t really say no,” he told the Japan Times. “If I’d been asked by someone else, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
There are clues, now and then, of deeper resonances with history and culture, but Iwaisawa keeps them at arm’s length – the statue of a local samurai hero, for example, is left eternally out of focus, as if nobody has bothered to ask who he was, and although we know that there are cultural activities in the town, we don’t see them. Instead we see the listless teenagers, kicking their heels in their home-room, or staring blankly at computer games and a TV screening Mischievous Squeeze, a sinister cartoon series about a talking blob that hugs people. Music, for everybody in this film, is a blessed relief, a chance at creativity and escape, as beautifully illustrated by Morita’s guitar performance, in which his clunky, tin-eared lyrics transport him from his dull school life to a windswept train, chugging along a coastline towards the hometown of an imaginary girlfriend. There’s a mini rock family tree buried in the cast, with the teenage Kenji played by guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto, formerly of psychedelic rockers Yurayura Teikoku, while his singing voice comes from singersongwriter Yasushi Okamura, best known to UK fans for singing the Space Dandy theme song, “Viva Namida”. Ren Komai, who plays the groupie Aya, is an actress and model who starred in the music video for “Before the Cherry Blossoms Bloom”, a 2015 effort
Now touring solo after the 2010 break-up of Yura Yura Teikoku, Sakamoto is 53 this year, while Oba, his teenage rival from Marutake High, is played by Japanese celebrity Naoto Takenaka, a ubiquitous figure in TV and movies, and an absurd choice to play a high-school bovver boy, at 64. The effect of casting such mature voices in the roles of callow teens works in a similar fashion to Dennis Potters Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Blue Remembered Hills, which similarly cast adults in children’s roles. Such a casting decision adds an additional waste to the character’s dilemmas –as Oba plots ambushes and subterfuges, Takenaka’s voice lends him the gravitas of a samurai warlord, and not a school bully. The climax of the film features a series of reversals and surprises, as Kenji scrambles to make it to the rock festival in time for Kobujutsu’s first (and possibly last) public performance. Nothing could be further, in aims and executions, from the superpolished pop-music routines of an anime musical like Love Live! Sunshine, but in celebrating music for music’s sake, On-Gaku: Our Sound is a truly independent voice in an anime scene crowded with corporate giants. On-Gaku: Our Sound is screening as part of Scotland Loves Anime.
2021: WORKS IN PROGRESS by Andrew Osmond
Â©2020 Seiko Tanabe / KADOKAWA / Josee Project
020 was supposed to be a year full of big anime movie releases. As we all know, Covid had other plans, and anime studios had to adjust as best they could. For example, one of the summer cinema releases was meant to be A Whisker Away, a delightful “girl turns into a cat” fantasy written by Mari Okada (Maquia) and animated by the Colorido studio (Penguin Highway). It ended up going straight to Netflix. It seems likely though, that many of the big “2020” films will be released in cinemas, but perhaps not till next year, along with the films planned for a 2021 release anyway. Here are six of the most anticipated: INU-OH This March, fans were shocked by news that feted maverick director Masaaki Yuasa was “retiring.” To be precise, he was relinquishing his role as the President of Science Saru, the studio he’d founded. However, that certainly didn’t mean Yuasa wasn’t going to make more anime at Saru, as proved by the preview of his next film, Inu-Oh, at this year’s virtual Annecy animation festival. For the first time, Yuasa is telling a historical story, set in 14th-century Kyoto. The main characters are two boys who begin to perform together. One is the titular Inu-Oh, a jovial young Noh performer who was born with “unique physical characteristics” which adults see as deformities, forcing him to hide his face with a mask. Inu-Oh’s friend is Tomona, a blind musician who plays a biwa, a kind of lute. Yuasa describes them as modern pop idols who rise to stardom in an ancient era, as if the Beatles had transformed culture six centuries ago. “We often think of history as moving in one straight line, but it actually branches off and people and events in those branches have been forgotten or disappeared,” Yuasa said in the Annecy presentation. “So what if over 600 years ago, there was a pop culture and stars in Japan like the ones we have today? I felt a real significance in presenting the lost pop stars that aren’t mentioned in history… To us in the modern world, Noh is an imposing art, but back then it was like kabuki, enjoyed by the general public. Unlike the slow-moving modern 25
Noh, the pace was much faster.” Anime has a tradition of presenting irreverently anachronistic takes on Japanese history, blending in modern sensibilities. Samurai Champloo and Gintama spring to mind. However, the glimpses of Inu-Oh in the Annecy presentation suggest a film that looks markedly different both to conventional anime and to Yuasa’s previous work. The extracts evoke Isao Takahata’s Kaguya with artfully unfinished pictures – used to depict the world that the blind Tomona creates from sounds and a refinement far from Gintama or Samurai Champloo. Apart from Yuasa, another huge name on the film is Taiyo Matsumoto, credited with Character Creation. Known for a graphic style that’s both abrasive and stupendous, Matsumoto’s manga include Tekkonkinkreet, which was spectacularly animated as a film by Studio 4C. It was soon followed by Ping Pong, which was filmed in live-action by Fumihiko Sori (Vexille) in 2002, then animated by Yuasa twelve years later. Both Tekkonkinkreet and Ping Pong centre on the friendships between oddly matched boys, which may influence Inu-Oh and Tomona in Inu-Oh. Beyond Matsumoto, the film has a separately credited Character Designer, Nobutake Ito, who had the same role on Ping Pong and other Yuasa anime: Lu Over the Wall, Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Tatami Galaxy and Kemonozume. The scriptwriter is Akiko Nogi, who previously wrote the live-action film of the manga I am a Hero. There was a historical Noh performer and playwright called Inu-Oh in the 14th century who is said to have enjoyed great success, but few documents about him survive. The film’s version of Inu-Oh is directly based a novel by feted author Hideo Furukawa, published only this year. Furukawa is described in the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction as “straddling both literature and genre fiction” and having “an insistent sense of bricolage, hommage and recursion,” which means he rips off or riffs off other creators, depending on your preference. Furukawa’s book has the full title The Tale of the Heike: Chapter of Inu-o, with the author presenting it as a “new” chapter in the real medieval chronicle, Tale of the Heike, which Furukawa had retold in a 900-page tome a few years before.
MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: HATHAWAY’S FLASH Through the 2010s, the Gundam franchise highlighted its classic timeline, the Universal Century, with vastly more lavish visuals than when it was depicted in the 1970s and 1980s. Gundam Unicorn was a splendid continuation of the old stories; Gundam: The Origin filled out the background; and the 2018 film Gundam NT (aka Gundam Narrative) tied the history together. Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash promises to take things forward again. As Gundam fans know, Hathaway is the son of the heroic captain Bright Noa, a mainstay of the franchise. As a teenager, Hathaway was a central character in the 1988 film Char’s Counterattack, where he became involved in the Earth-Zeon conflict with tragic consequences. Hathaway’s Flash will pick him up as an adult twelve years on. The first of a planned trilogy, the film will be directed by Shuko Murase, whose experience on the franchise goes back to 1990s titles including Gundam F91 (Animation Director) and Gundam Wing (Character Design). Away from Gundam, Murase directed the devastatingly downbeat SF film Genocidal Organ. Will Hathaway have a comparable sensibility? Hathaway’s composer will be Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan), following his work on Unicorn and NT. Unlike recent Universal Century titles, Hathaway’s Flash has a direct link to the father of the franchise. The film is adapted from a trilogy of novels by Yoshiyuki Tomino, published in 1989-90. Reportedly the books present Hathaway as a rebel leader, fighting Earth in the tradition of the legendary Char. That’s also suggested in the film’s trailers, though Char isn’t Hathaway’s only role model, judging by how he introduces himself. “I’m Noa… Hathaway Noa.”Hathaway will be voiced in Japanese by Kensho Ono, who was the Japanese dub voice of Harry Potter, and Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse. Mecha fans may remember Ono as Slaine in Aldnoah.Zero; he was also Tetsuya in Kuroko’s Basketball, Tomohiro in A Silent Voice and the enigmatic Kite in Masaaki Yuasa’s recent Japan Sinks: 2020. 27
THE DEER KING JOSEE, THE TIGER AND THE FISH This looks like a film for fans who appreciate the “real-world” anime films that have grown in prominence in the 2010s, such as A Silent Voice and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. The studio name should also turn heads – it’s by Bones. While the studio is associated with top-drawer franchises from Fullmetal Alchemist to My Hero Academia, Bones isn’t often linked with realworld subjects, though it made the outstanding historical adventure film Sword of the Stranger (2007). Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is the story of Tsuneo, a male university student, and Josee, the big-haired, strong-willed girl he meets who’s confined to a wheelchair. Somehow Tsuneo becomes her “caretaker,” and given the personality clash that’s played up in the trailer, it’s hard not to predict where their story will go. It’s also impossible not to wonder if the choice of material was influenced by Silent Voice and Pancreas, which both involve girls with disabilities or medical conditions. However, the source short story is a proven property – written in 1985 by Seiko Tanabe, it’s already inspired a live-action film in 2003. Judging by the trailer, the film takes advantages 28
of the anime medium to show the teenagers’ fantasy worlds, not unlike Pancreas. THE DEER KING This anime project was announced in 2018, though it seems uncomfortably topical now. It’s a fantasy story, but instead of a Dark Lord, this world is threatened by a mysterious illness. The hero is a soldier who escapes imprisonment and meets a young girl. The story has been described as a medical fantasy, even winning the Japan Medical Novel Award in 2015. The source books are by Nahoko Uehashi, who also wrote Moribito and The Beast Player Erin, both made into TV anime by Production I.G. It’s also Production I.G which is making this film, which should be enough for many fans to pay attention. It also has a couple of really heavyhitting directors. Masashi Ando is an anime giant – he was animation director on Spirited Away, Your Name, Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika, which is a track record that’s pretty hard to match. He’s Chief Animation Director on Deer King as well, and the Character Designer. Ando’s co-director is Masayuki Miyaji, who directed the ingenious meta-historic adventure film Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress, as well as Bones’ SF series Xam’d: Lost Memories.
HATHAWAY'S FLASH KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA: AI NO TSUGUME It’s been five years since we last left the crew of the spaceship Sidonia, still battling the alien Gauna for survival. During the Cloud Matsuri virtual festival this May, the President of Polygon, Shuzo John Shiota, recalled how the TV series was crucial for the studio, marking an influx of new staff and being Polygon’s first collaboration with Netflix, where the two TV seasons can be seen. Ai no Tsugume will be a brand-new Sidonia adventure, not to be confused with a previous cinema compilation in 2015. It won’t follow the source Sidonia manga by Tsutomu Nihei, but will go its own way. The trailer makes clear this is a direct continuation, bringing back many of the main characters, with ethereal music by the Japanese electronic band CAPSULE.
language tagline, “Bye-bye, all of Evangelion.” After a quarter-century, is this the real, definitive, End of Evangelion? Will it make sense? Will Shinji be happy? Will it end with applause or with someone feeling sick? And most important of all, is Pen-Pen in it? Heaven only knows, although we do know the new film’s opening ten minutes is full of cheerful spectacle, with the kind of irresponsible use of national monuments that we usually only see in Godzilla films. Maybe we should watch Anno’s 2016 Shin Godzilla again for clues The film’s opening was streamed online last summer and is a doddle to find on YouTube, complete with a massive cheer by a French convention audience (you’ll see why) and some 1.5 million views.
Several “works in progress” will be featuring as part
EVANGELION: 3.0+1.0: THRICE UP ON A TIME
of the content of this year’s Scotland Loves Anime.
Okay, this is the one that many of you are really waiting for. Eva fans have been stuck at the infuriatingly inconclusive ending to the third Rebuild film since 2012. The latest poster for Evangelion 3.0+1.0 came with the English29
30 ©1997 Nibakari • GND
© 2015 Machiko Kyo/SHUEISHA, ITSV
PIGTAILS AND OTHERS by Andrew Osmond
he collection of anime called Pigtails and Other I.G Shorts encompasses anime going in bold new directions, as well as established directors – namely Masaaki Yuasa and Hiroyuki Imaishi – flaunting their signature styles. Of the five films, “Pigtails” certainly departs into new territory. It starts like a cosy family cartoon, the kind the BBC might show on Christmas Day, but it ends up somewhere dark and melancholy. It’s set on a vast beach, drawn in pale picturebook pastels. The flatness is only broken by a little house, the kind hurled by cyclones in Wizard of Oz. Here a young girl, pretty but not cutesy, lives kind of alone. She never speaks, but a constant commentary is provided by the talking objects in her house, from clothes-pegs to toothbrushes. Like the film, their conversations are funny at the start, then very sad. The film may remind you of Hans Christian Andersen, or the downbeat picture-books by Raymond Briggs (The Snowman). The dark turn recalls a British-set novel by a Japanese author, and also the Buddhist-inflected fantasy Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa. The shock conclusion may seem very foreign to a British perspective, but Pigtails was made as an emotional response to the horror of March 2011, when thousands of Japanese people were swept away by the sea. Pigtails makes sense as the reflections of someone trying to process death on that scale.
The manga’s author, Machiko Kyo, said that after the disaster, she began to wonder what kindness is. The author speculates, “Perhaps a truly selfless act of kindness demands total relinquishment of our own human nature.” At Scotland Loves Anime in 2016, I interviewed director Yoshimi Itazu, who adapted the film from Kyo’s manga. Itazu’s credits stretch from Miss Hokusai (character designer and supervising animator) to Denno Coil (supervising animator), as well as several Satoshi Kon projects. Since making Pigtails, he’s directed the series Welcome to the Ballroom. I asked Itazu why he made the film, and if it was intimidating to portray the tragedy of Tohoku. “I think Pigtails is the personal take of Machiko Kyo on the disaster.” Itazu said. “But for me, it was more about the characters’ feelings. In particular, it is the objects that are emphasised and that really interested me. It wasn’t my intention to make Pigtails all about the disaster. I was interested in the way of telling the story.” One surprising fact is that manga author Kyo was partly inspired by a British garden – specifically a garden created by British artist and film director Derek Jarman. Jarman’s garden was made on a shingle shore, close to Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent. It also figures in Jarman’s 1990 art film The 31
Garden. Kyo says the “Pigtails” manga grew from random images: a barren seacoast, a power station. “It all looked so similar to that film, The Garden. At first glance, nothing more than a wasteland whipped by sea winds. But at a closer look, an oasis of life, painstakingly nurtured by the hands of its gardener.” The same garden was used as reference in the anime. “There’s a collection of photographs of Jarman’s garden,” said Itazu. “I used the colours of the buildings and the plants in the garden as a reference.” At nearly half an hour, “Pigtails” is the longest film in this collection. “Kick-Heart” is half as long, a raucous adult romp by maverick director Masaaki Yuasa. It has rival wrestlers, male and female, and jokes about masochism, poo and soul-lifting orgasms. It’s also full of bodies in frantic cartoon collisions, with much of the hand-drawn joy of Yuasa’s classic Mind Game. “Kick-Heart” is notable for being made possible by Kickstarter. As of writing, the crowdfunding page for “Kick-Heart” remains online, setting out the project’s rationale. According to the text, “During the mid-1980s and 1990s, Japanese animation directors, such as Mamoru Oshii, pioneered a new era of animation.” Oshii is credited on the “Kick Heart” team as Project Consultant. “Recently in Japan,” continues the Kickstarter pitch, “it’s been very difficult for the next generation of innovators to create more artistically driven projects, mainly because of the economic situation in Japan. Most of the focus has been put on creating projects that carry less risk, such as remakes of old animation projects or well-known established properties. So we had an idea: What if we use Kickstarter to connect the fans across the globe who want to see cutting-edge animation with highly-skilled animation directors?” At this time, Yuasa was far less known than he is now, with only a limited number of foreign fans knowing his work, mainly Mind Game 32
and Tatami Galaxy. It was enough. The film surpassed its $150,000 goal by $50,000, raised by more than three thousand backers. The third film in the Pigtails collection is the silly-macabre “Li’l Spider Girl.” The titular spider-limbed li’l girl emerges from an old book, and a schoolgirl suspects that it’s a li’l devil. The spectacular finale has a disintegrating temple, a giant monster and a punchline to remember. The film was originally made as part of Anime Mirai, a programme of shorts by young animators. The director was Toshihisa Kaiya, who’d been an animator on Mind Game and Jinroh. He’s a fan of the actor Junji Inagawa, famous in Japan for telling ghost stories. The fourth film in the collection is “Drawer Hobs.” It’s the only film which might be described as straightforwardly sweet, a fantasy life-slice about magic strangers emerging from a chest of drawers to help a tired call-centre worker. The film’s pastel style isn’t far from “Pigtails.” Like “Li’l Spider Girl,” “Drawer Hobs” was made for what would become the Anime Mirai programme, though it was called Project A at the time. The director was Kazuchika Kise, an esteemed industry veteran, who supervised animation on Ghost in the Shell (the original), End of Evangelion and later Your Name. The last film in the collection is “Oval x Over,” a film-ette about racing drivers made by Hiroyuki Imaishi, director of Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill and Promare. But the film predates all of them; Imaishi made it back in 2005. As you might guess, it was for a racing event – Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 Mile in Roppongi Hills – and it spoofs retro racing anime. The commentary in the film is by Daiichiro Hirakawa, a real sports commentator. Pigtails and other shorts by Production I.G will be screening as part of this year’s Scotland Loves Anime.
Â© 2015 Machiko Kyo/SHUEISHA, ITSV
RAIN MAN by Jonathan Clements
t’s raining again. There are rumours about Hodaka at his remote island school. Something happened to him two years ago in the big city, although nobody knows the full story. Not even his probation officer, who finally releases him from his obligations and lets him set off to university as a free man. And now Hodaka is heading off on the ferry, ready to start a new life studying agriculture in a Tokyo college. And he’ll get to see her. Makoto Shinkai’s novelisation of his anime Weathering with You begins at the movie’s end, relatively secure that it is unlikely he will be spoiling it for anyone. Our hero is taking the ten-hour trip to the city from the Izu islands, an archipelago that are technically still part of Tokyo, despite stretching out into the Pacific. His prologue, however, is merely a framing device for a straightforward retelling of the movie’s storyline, which only rarely deviates from the script. Several years ago, charmed by Shinkai’s 5cm per Second but baffled by its truncated running time, I bought the Japanese novelisation, hoping to find maybe a couple of extra chapters or unfilmed scenes. It turned out to be little more than a straight run-through of the movie, establishing what would turn out to be a Shinkai modus operandi. He insists on writing his own novelisations, and often does so in direct tandem with the productions themselves, so that movie
and novel usually end up with duplicate material When Shinkai was in Edinburgh shilling for Garden of Words, he spent much of his time locked in his hotel room, frantically at work on the novel of Your Name. You might think that a director novelising their own film was a fantastic opportunity to create something that truly expands on the original, but here, as ever, Shinkai restricts himself to very slight nuances, presenting some scenes from the point of view of other characters, and thereby explaining some character motivations that might have otherwise been unclear. The switches in narrative voice are often hard to spot, so much so that I was half a page into someone’s monologue before I realised it was actually someone else talking. But if you, like me after 5cm per Second, are hungry for the merest morsel of additional content, then there is something to be found in the book of Weathering with You, even if it is a glimpse of some of Mu magazine’s more mental Forteana (including an unlikely rumour about Donald Trump – he might be artificial, but I would never call him an intelligence...). Sometimes, however, that can be a little disappointing. One of the most electrifying scenes in the movie version of Weathering With You comes when Hodaka is out shopping for a gift for Hina, and ends up chatting with a shop assistant who is very clearly the leading lady of Your Name, working in the big city after the events of that film, and yet to run into her thwarted love interest, Taki Tachibana. But since Hodaka has no clue about this, he doesn’t notice
© 2019 “Weathering With You” Film Partners
anything much about her except her name-tag, and she’s forgotten by the next scene. In interviews, Shinkai has boldly defended his narrative choice to never reveal what it was that caused Hodaka to run for Tokyo in the first place. “I wanted to depict a boy and girl running forwards without a backward glance,” he noted, “rather than a story of someone who is driven by past trauma, and that is the reason why I didn’t reveal anything about Hodaka’s past.” Shinkai keeps to this decision in his novel, noting with a shrug that Hodaka’s parents and school had welcomed him home “awkwardly,” but noting that even his new bad-boy reputation was a matter merely of whispers and innuendo. During a Q&A about the film, included in the Blu-ray release, Shinkai gently chided his fans for not noticing one of the film’s closing Easter eggs – the sight of Taki Tachibana’s grandmother wearing a braided cord on her wrist. He invited viewers to speculate what that might mean, but, perhaps frustrated with the lack of appropriately nerdy analysis on this one point, makes his intention far clearer in the novel, when he talks about a particular photograph in the grandmother’s apartment – in doing so, he adds closure not to the events of Weathering with You, but to those in its predecessor, Your Name, at least in one universe.
Weathering with You, by Makoto Shinkai, translated by Taylor Engel, is published by Yen Press. The film will be playing at Scotland Loves Anime this year, with an optional commentary track by Jonathan Clements.
© 2019 “Weathering With You” Film Partners
TOPSY-TURVY WORLD by Andrew Osmond
ne of the century’s great philosophers sang that everything you know is wrong, black is white, up is down and short is long. Patema Inverted, by director Yasuhiro Yoshiura, confines itself to Weird Al’s middle axiom, that up is down. The heroine, Patema, begins in an underground world, falling ‘down’ a chasm to the surface. Once there, she must hang on desperately to anything she can, or plunge into the clouds beneath. A surface dweller appears, and the picture rotates one-eighty degrees to show what he sees; an upside down girl, being yanked up into the sky. “Don’t fall!” she shrieks at him. “Fall where?” he asks, reasonably. It’s a wonderfully fresh starting point for a film, though of course there are precedents. Gravity reminded us there’s no up and down in space. In fantasy cinema, David Bowie strode around an Escher-esque castle in Labyrinth (an idea extended in the third Night at the Museum), while Paris rolled up on itself in Inception. A much closer film to Patema was Upside Down. Made around the same time as the anime, this was a French-Canadian live-action film whose leads, played by Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess, are kept apart by competing gravities. It was close enough to give Yoshiura the heebiejeebies. “When I was making Patema Inverted, the
Â©Yasuhiro YOSHIURA/Sakasama Film Committee 2013
producer came to me and said there’s a film with the same concept, which was a shock!’ Yoshiura told me. ‘I looked at the poster, then I put it away… I haven’t seen the trailer because I didn’t want to be influenced.” Luckily for Yoshiura, Upside Down was a damp squib, getting poor reviews and scant distribution. In Patema Inverted, director Yasuhiro Yoshiura uses “up is down” to drive a boymeets-girl fantasy in which the pair must cling to each other for dear life, often floating in mid-air or jumping across the landscape like conjoined astronauts. It’s a charming, funny image, dreamlike yet implicitly sexual, like a teen take on the flying in Peter Pan. The couple’s entanglements subvert an anime cliché, in which adolescents are often comically terrified of physical contact with the opposite sex. The idea might seem better suited to a CGI film, but Patema’s traditional animation gives the action an unpolished naiveté which works. Although the set-up might seem fantasy, SF fans will see that it’s actually using a plot device from classic science fiction. “The kind of twists I like are ones where the world we believe in is fake, and we’re actually part of a bigger world, where things get bigger and bigger,” says Yoshiura. In other words, Patema Inverted is in the tradition of The Matrix and The Truman Show, and a great many prose SF stories. Yoshiura himself cites Orphans of the Sky, a book by Robert Heinlein. Given that Patema herself starts out in an underground world, you could also compare the anime to the YA book City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau; it was later turned into a diverting live-action film, featuring Bill Murray and a man-eating mole. Yoshiura first took on such ideas in his early film Pale Cocoon (2006), a 23-minute story about inquisitive characters living, like Patema, in a suspiciously closed-off world. Yoshiura made Cocoon in his parents’ home; it took PC, software, paper, a scanner and a year of solid work. Patema Inverted, though, has much more space to develop its characters, showing how they cope when the ground’s 40
swiped from under their feet. The youngsters’ free-falling adventures especially recall Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa; both films use the wide sky as a fantastical playground. Interviewed by MyM Magazine, Yoshiura readily agreed. “Of course! I think Patema’s concept, the upside-down idea, is what has let me venture into the world of Laputa and the boy-meets-girl story.” Patema and Age, the boy character, are introduced as generic outsiders, but their chemistry is established through a neat gag. Patema, who’s starting to trust Age, still keeps firing demands at him and even interrupts the romantic music which is trying to build in the background. This broad cartoon joke rings true – Patema is coping with an impossibly terrifying situation and the film won’t let us forget it. Later, it’s Age who’s subjected to his fear of falling and made dependent on Patema. The reversal is no less effective for being transparently schematic.The story feels simplistic despite its deft twists, even compared to Laputa. Patema has few important characters to distract from the youngsters’ story; the villain, for example, is a finger-steepling, megalomaniac bully. The final revelations leave huge questions unanswered. And yet, they don’t really matter. Patema’s and Age’s journeys, to the bottom of the world and the top of the sky, are so much fun that the objections just fall away. Patema Inverted is screening at Scotland Loves Anime.
Â©Yasuhiro YOSHIURA/Sakasama Film Committee 2013
SHAKEN NOT STIRRED by Shelley Pallis
asaaki Watanabe’s anime series Bartender is part of a long tradition of TV shows about smart loners who help others in secret. Its leading man is cut from the same cloth as many a medical maverick, discussed in the same tones of hushed admiration as the trouble-shooting physician Black Jack, as a man with the “glass of the gods,” able to mix the perfect cocktail. Drop into his bespoke establishment, Eden Hall, and bartender Sasakura will be your confessor and psychiatrist. He’ll watch your hands and your face, he’ll talk over your problems, and then he’ll come up with a drink to make your problems go away. It wasn’t all that long ago that cocktails were regarded as a medicinal pick-me-up, dished out by apothecaries at what might be better describes as the town pharmacy. Bartender reclaims the public house as a form of retreat and therapy, reimagining alcohol not as a poison, but as a medicine. It would surely come as no surprise to the authors of a new book, The Japanese Guide to Healthy Drinking: Advice from a Sake Loving Doctor on How Alcohol Can Be Good for You.
The drinking guide is the brainchild of Kaori Haishi, director of the Japan Sake Association, and Dr Shinichi Asabe, an expert on the human liver. It has its origins in an ongoing column that Haishi writes for Nikkei Gooday magazine, which has already spawned two books and a manga adaptation, and come packed with hard information about the effects of wines, beers and spirits on the human body. Haishi’s book has much universally relevant information for anyone curious about drinks and drinking, but can also offer fascinating insights into the nature of Japanese booze culture. She has plainly suffered through many a compulsory works outing, and has empathetic advice for the woman who really doesn’t want to be endlessly chugging beers with her colleagues from accountants in some shouty karaoke bar. She also has much to say about the relative merits of Japanese bar snacks, some of which turn out to have beneficial effects in staving off hangovers, whereas others are just salty excuses to make you thirstier. Using scientific evidence and pertinent anecdotes, Haishi answers all
sorts of questions about the nature of drinking, including the reason why you can find your way home but still not remember how you got there, the mechanics of getting red-faced (a common issue among Asian drinkers) and the question of whether alcohol can shrink your brain. She also deals with the “French Paradox”, an issue in medicine that continues to baffle scientists, since the people of France drink much more wine, but remain infuriatingly healthy. From some of the stories that Haishi tells about her younger drinking days, I am surprised she is still upright, but author photos make her seem remarkably well preserved. That surely has at least something to do with her love of sake, since she doesn’t just discuss the merits of sipping, gulping or otherwise chugging it, but also its value as a skin-care product. When cosmeticians tell Haishi that her skin is “ten years younger” than it ought to be, she credits her eternal youth with a daily tipple of sake, and the use of “the geisha’s secret.” In olden times, it is said, geisha wouldn’t let leftover sake go to waste, but would dab it on their faces and necks. It turns out that sake contains over twenty amino acids, a fact leapt upon by cosmetics companies in the 1990s, although sales were hampered by a loophole in the law. Even though you were supposed to put it on your face, “cosmetic sake” still had a 13% alcohol content, and was, at least theoretically, still drinkable, which meant it could only be sold in off-licences. It wasn’t until 2003 that the Fukumitsuya corporation came up with the solution – Aminorice, an alcohol-free sake that retained the skin-soothing properties. While Haishi performs the writing and interviewing duties on the book, her colleague Dr Shinichi Asabe provides the heavy-hitting data, rounding up a whole bar full of boozeloving physicians to talk through the medical effects of alcohol. This is done with impressive clarity and precision, backed up with rich citations from academic journals, of everything from that time some Japanese boffins got mice
drunk to see what happened to their brains, to the doctor who rigged himself up with a pulse oximeter on a flight to Bangkok, to see how mid-air drinking affected his breathing. One of Haishi’s most winningly quirky interviewees is Nobuhiro Furukawa from the Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare, who looks set to go down in history as Japan’s leading expert in throwing up. Furukawa has a charming, starryeyed interest in his subject, and regards it as a “mechanism that can save your life.” Beyond Captain Vomit, Haishi interviews two dozen other physicians, on everything from travel sickness, to nightcaps to baths – not just bathing in sake, which is apparently another skincare secret, but the very real risk in winter-time of passing out drunk in a super-hot bathtub. Ten degrees hotter on average than a Western bath, the Japanese variety can have fatal effects on a drunken bather, particularly if she goes from warm room, to cold bathroom to hot water; apparently, fatalities have almost doubled in the last ten years. Haishi is unfailingly amusing, but also strictly proper in her approach to drinking. It’s a hobby she loves, but she does not flinch from examining medical dangers, including alcoholism, but also the unseen dangers of things like turmeric, which Japanese drinkers have been known to ingest in industrial quantities in an attempt to stave off hangovers. She is determined to deliver enough information so that readers can drink responsibly, and healthily, so that they never have to give up what they love. I’ll drink to that.
The Japanese Guide to Healthy Drinking: Advice from a Sake Loving Doctor on How Alcohol Can Be Good for You, will be published by Robinson on 14th January.
Bartender, directed by Masaaki Watanabe, is available from Anime Limited.
THE RELUCTANT ADVENTURESS By Andrew Osmond
eiichi Hara’s feature film Birthday Wonderland plays like a very traditional family fantasy, which seems to be part of its point. Given that the film tells the story of a Japanese girl travelling into a magic world, it inevitably raises thoughts of Spirited Away – which was, among other things, a plea for viewers to remember earlier ways of life, to not let the present swallow the past. That’s a theme in Birthday Wonderland too, and it’s stated very explicitly in the script. But Hara’s film also seems like a plea to remember earlier kinds of story. In the two decades since Spirited Away, the “youngster goes to another world” story premise has become familiar in anime – all too familiar. If you follow new anime made for TV, you’ll know it’s one of the most overused formulae in Japanese media now. As long ago as 2016, a Japanese short story contest in Japan actually banned tales of characters travelling to alternate worlds. As I wrote in a previous article, one reason was these stories “could all too easily turn into fan fiction for lazy writers, descending into self-insertion wish-fulfilment. At worst, they’re full of teen ciphers on mechanical quests, so self-absorbed that they negate the point of going to another world.” They also could be massively gamified, adhering to the worldbuilding and conventions of Dragon Quest and its RPG brethren, as if that’s all fantasy ever was. Birthday Wonderland, though, seems meant to remind viewers that otherworld stories existed before games consoles. It’s based on a 1981 book by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a Japanese writer who’s written a slew of stories about people visiting
“other worlds,” going back into the 1970s. But Kashiwaba acknowledged she was following still older traditions; she cited British authors such as C.S. Lewis, who created Narnia in the 1950s, and P.L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins in the 1930s In Birthday Wonderland, it hardly seems an accident that the path to the wonderland lies through a lovely shop with shelves full of colourful children’s books, and not a video game cartridge in sight. True, the Birthday Wonderland film updates Kashiwaba’s story to the present day. The main character, a teenage girl called Akane, has a smartphone… except that sets up a flashback in where we see Akane’s peers cruelly “blank” another girl, who committed the heinous crime of not keeping up with her texts. The reason the girl missed the texts was that she spent a day with her grandmother. Thus, the film niftily sets today’s electronic life in opposition to the values of the past, of connecting to the previous generation. Akane doesn’t want to go to school, guilty she didn’t stand up for the other girl. She makes fake excuses that her mum sees through; but rather than scold her, mum bundles Akane off to the little shop mentioned above. Supposedly the shop’s owner, a family friend called Chii, has a present for Akane (it’s her birthday tomorrow). Curiously, though, Chii herself doesn’t know anything about it. Both Akane and Chii are distracted by a knocking from the cellar under the shop, from which emerges a dapper rake-thin gentleman, in a black suit and top hat. He’s called Hippocrates, and says he’s from another world
©Sachiko Kashiwaba,KODANSHA/2019 Birthday Wonderland Committee.
which Akane is destined to save. And if that seems crazy talk, then there’s also Hippocrates’ companion, a boy doll who comes to life and calls himself Pipo. And so the adventure begins! Akane is bundled to the titular Wonderland, and it’s certainly not like a videogame. It’s more like the Oz of the original L. Frank Baum books, published in America in the 1900s, minus the songs and vaudeville of the Wizard of Oz film version. There’s no real violence; there are malignseeming enemy characters, but even they prefer scaring people to active cruelty. More importantly, many of the world’s inhabitants are kind and welcoming, starting with the first town where friendly villagers live in symbiosis with giant sheep. One important subplot involves the characters transporting a precious hand-knitted sweater, on which the village’s survival depends! Like the original Oz books, much of the film consists of journeys through fanciful places and
landscapes. The story involves a missing prince and a crucial ceremony to bring back the world’s water, but the journey feels more important than the destination. A vivid set-piece involves the characters negotiating a treacherous rope bridge, then braving a world of giant fish and lily pads. As well as Oz, I was reminded of the whimsy of the animated film Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, co-produced between Japan and America in the 1980s. Hippocrates even looks similar to Professor Genius, a figure in Little Nemo. However, Western viewers may be surprised by one particular story decision. In classic children’s fantasies – Oz, Narnia, Alice – only children can travel from our world to magic ones, and often it’s just one child per trip. Of course, it’s a way to make things more exciting for kids. Spirited Away keeps to that rule, discounting Chihiro’s pig parents. But Birthday Wonderland blithely breaks the convention. At the start of the film, the shop-owner Chii – who’s certainly an adult – is present when 47
Hippocrates emerges from her basement. She’s completely ready to accept that he’s magic – she’s just infuriated that she’d never been told about the magic world before! Although Hippocrates claims the girl Akane is the “chosen one” who’s destined to save his world, Chii invites herself too, and stays for the adventure’s duration. Chii’s presence reflects a recurring theme in the stories of Kashiwaba, according to the entry about the author in the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction. Kashiwaba speculates about how “different ages of reader might approach the same story; [Chii] is a knowing and enthusiastic participant, daring the juvenile reader to return to the adventure a decade later and experience it as a mature adult rather than a callow child.” And perhaps, strangely, this is the way that Birthday Wonderland feels most up to date. Back when the Oz, Narnia and Mary Poppins books were written, the prevailing social attitude was they were just for children, who should leave such fantasies behind in adulthood. But now we live in a mainstream of fantasy culture, where grownups revisit childhood tales as a matter of course. Will director Keiichi Hara will take these themes further in his future work? One of his previous anime films, Colorful (2010), boldly presented the “real”, sometimes bleak world as if it were a fantasy, viewed by a nameless ghost who’s been reborn in a boy’s body. There are plenty of other potential permutations of fantasy and reality, childhood and adulthood. Maybe Hara, too, should return to Wonderland. Birthday Wonderland is available in the UK from Anime Limited.
Â©Sachiko Kashiwaba,KODANSHA/2019 Birthday Wonderland Committee.
HOW GENIUSES THINK by Alex Dudok de Wit
he filmographies of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki stand as monuments to their creativity. But how do we weigh the achievement of Toshio Suzuki, the third man at the head of Studio Ghibli? Suzuki’s influence on Ghibli is hard to summarise because it is all-pervasive, at once macro and micro: he has overseen the studio’s operational side, devised its marketing campaigns, produced most of its films, provided calligraphy for their posters, and even helped Miyazaki shade and texture his manga Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. We see glimpses of him at work in the documentary Never-Ending Man, but Miyazaki gets most of the attention, of course. Lately, as Ghibli slips into what may be its autumn years, Suzuki has devoted much of his copious energy to the orchestration of its legacy. A theme park here, a global streaming deal there. Less visible, at least outside Japan, has been the publication of various memoirs and anecdotal accounts of his forty-odd years in the company of Miyazaki and Takahata. Only one of these has come out in English to date (as Mixing Work with Pleasure: My Life at Studio Ghibli, a somewhat digressive set of portraits of the studio’s main players). Here’s another that should. Currently available only in Japanese, How Geniuses Think: Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki is structured as a chronological walk through Ghibli’s catalogue, each chapter
offering a production history of one film, presented against the backdrop of the studio’s circumstances at that time. These texts originally appeared in Ghibli’s marvellous “textbooks”, anthologies of critical commentaries and staff reminiscences about individual features. It makes sense to package them together: How Geniuses Think effectively functions as a linear history of the studio, or at least Suzuki’s version of it. In detail and with remarkably little repetition, it tracks the evolution of Ghibli’s practices, of its directors’ careers, and – most vividly – of Suzuki’s own talents. At the start of the book, Suzuki is a green young journalist at Ghibli’s parent company Tokuma Shoten, so ignorant of animation that he has to be schooled in the basics by a bunch of teenage girls. By the end, he is the most successful producer in anime history, looking ahead to Miyazaki’s current production How Do You Live?, and wistfully reflecting on those cultural trends that are beyond his control. Before toasting Ghibli’s long life, fans should heed Suzuki’s observation that audiences are tiring of the kind of allegorical fantasy films in which the studio excels. That, he explains, is one reason why he decided to shut the place down in 2013 – before Miyazaki kicked it back into gear with his new project. Suzuki’s constant dialogue with the zeitgeist forms the most engaging thread in the book’s
narrative. For all that Miyazaki and Takahata are celebrated as auteurs, Suzuki has had a big hand in choosing and shaping their projects. Some of his calls are motivated by arrestingly trivial factors: he relates that he started contemplating an adaptation of the manga My Neighbours the Yamadas simply because its title echoed My Neighbour Totoro. More often, he is guided by an intuitive feel for the public mood. Thus he brings the novel When Marnie Was There to director Hiromasa Yonebayashi because it tackles “the questions of the self faced by people today.” When marketing Spirited Away, he puts the ghostly No Face front and centre, as the character embodies the “darkness” that has overcome Japan in the era of economic stagnation.
These sections serve as a corrective to any notions that Ghibli’s films have done so well through sheer creative merit. Yes, Spirited Away may be the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, but publicity-wise it also received what Suzuki calls “the biggest nationwide campaign” in the country’s history. This fact bothered Miyazaki himself. Suzuki remembers him collaring colleagues and asking them whether the film triumphed because it was good or wellmarketed; the terrified staff assured him it was the former. Nor is Suzuki overselling himself: his brilliance as a business strategist has been corroborated elsewhere – most recently in a massively entertaining memoir by Steve Alpert, Ghibli’s former head of international sales.
Of course, Suzuki’s success lies not only in reading the times, but in shaping them, too. He has helped to propel film after film to the heights of the Japanese box office and into the collective imagination. Here, he takes us behind the scenes of his epic marketing campaigns, detailing both the corporate tussling and the visionary leaps of faith required to pull them off.
Elsewhere, we read about Suzuki’s efforts to sustain productivity at the studio and keep the peace among its members. There are enlightening passages on Yonebayashi and Miyazaki’s son Goro, the two young directors hired to keep Ghibli’s slate full, without threatening the privileged positions of Takahata and Miyazaki Senior. Suzuki is frank about their
roles, describing them as “professional directors” who are better at managing teams than the elder pair, but less inspired as artists. Yet he respects their right to a measure of authorial control, going as far as to sequester Yonebayashi in a secret location while he works on the storyboard for Arrietty in order to shield him from Hayao Miyazaki’s meddling. Ultimately, the measure of Suzuki’s importance emerges in details like these, which show what it has taken to shape and manage this strange creative powerhouse Contrary to the book’s title, we don’t learn much about how Miyazaki and Takahata think; for that, the reader is better off with the directors’ own collected writings (although Takahata’s have yet to be translated). Suzuki’s descriptions of the pair, while enjoyably candid at times, aren’t wholly surprising: we know that Miyazaki is equal parts curious and rude, resolute and needy, or that Takahata’s intellectual rigour and pedantry have a way of derailing his production schedules. The two famous directors aren’t really the subject of this book. Rather, it is Suzuki’s own genius that is revealed. In addition, How Geniuses Think is a gold mine of glittering anecdotes, many of which have not yet entered the echo chamber of Anglophone Ghibli lore. We learn that Suzuki and Miyazaki agreed to make Howl’s Moving Castle while urinating next to one another in the studio toilets, and that Miyazaki initially asked Takahata to direct his pet project Totoro, only for Takahata to reply that he had no interest in being “sandwiched” between a Miyazaki script and Miyazaki designs. The book was not written by Suzuki but rather transcribed from interviews he gave in private, and this approach results in a breezy, humorous tone that suits the first-person voice.
full of praise for the screenwriter Keiko Niwa, whose claim that she works well with Miyazaki because she “understand[s] how geniuses think” gives the book its title. He’s also complimentary about Nobuo Kawakami, the mysterious tech entrepreneur who pays visits to the production of From Up on Poppy Hill for reasons that remain vague. Suzuki recalls that Kawakami got on well with Miyazaki and others; anyone who’s seen the viral video in which Miyazaki excoriates Kawakami’s dodgy CG software pitch will suspect that Suzuki is being diplomatic. Some films are missing. There are no chapters on The Cat Returns, the TV feature Ocean Waves or the international co-production The Red Turtle. Nor do we get the notorious production history of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, in which Suzuki caused a storm by alleging that Takahata was responsible for his colleague Yoshifumi Kondo’s death, among other inflammatory remarks. In his afterword here, Suzuki provides a gnomic excuse for the omission, noting that he produced that piece in an “unclear state of mind.” Instead, the book reproduces a 2014 dialogue between Takahata, Miyazaki and Suzuki that covers the production of Kaguya in some detail. Notwithstanding these gaps, How Geniuses Think is the most comprehensive insider’s chronicle of the studio that has been written, and that probably won’t change – unless Suzuki himself has a bigger book in him, to be written when Miyazaki finally lets him retire. Ghibli is the most scrutinised anime production house in the world. And yet, until texts like this one are translated and more widely distributed, there will remain things that the world doesn’t know.
How Geniuses Think: Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki (Tensai no shikou: Takahata Isao to Miyazaki Hayao) is currently only available in
Along the way, we’re treated to cameos from peripheral figures in the studio’s story. Some are well known – Hideaki Anno, Mamoru Oshii, Sunao Katabuchi – some less so. Suzuki is
Japanese. The documentary Never-Ending Man is available in the UK from Anime Limited.
Â©Ride Your Wave Film Partners
SAVED WITH A KISS by Andrew Osmond
ide Your Wave is the most recent cinema film by director Masaaki Yuasa, a romantic-supernatural drama about a young couple, their love for each other, the wonder of sea and surf, and the magic properties of water. It’s an unpredictable film, with crazy and heart-breaking story developments, and as such, it reflects Yuasa’s anime over the past two decades. This was the director who brought us the madcap, lunatic fantasy Mind Game, where the hero gets killed a few scenes in, then escapes from a multi-formed God and spends much of the film exploring the insides of a whale. Since then Yuasa has made romantic-absurdist horror (Kemonozume), science-fiction (Kaiba), a timelooping college comedy (Tatami Galaxy), a sports epic (Ping Pong) and a farce-phantasmagoria set in Kyoto (Night is Short, Walk on Girl). The last few years, though, have seen extreme swerving even by Yuasa’s standards. First was the 2017 film Lu Over the Wall, a merry kidfriendly fantasy with a finny little girl and echoes of Ghibli’s Ponyo. Somehow Yuasa followed that up with the X-rated hentai apocalypse Devilman Crybaby, the director’s loving tribute to Go Nagai. Even Studio Ghibli’s famously dissonant double-bill of Totoro and Fireflies wasn’t that extreme. Yuasa demonstrably loves skidding all over the shop. His new film Ride Your Wave is unusual in anime in headlining a young adult couple who have absolutely no trouble connecting. Granted, the
firefighter Minato does meet newcomer-to-theneighbourhood Hinako in absurdly romantic circumstances; he descends to her rooftop to save her from a deadly blaze. But after that, Minato and Hinako click effortlessly and joyously, sharing their lives, their surfing adventures and their fast-blossoming love. It’s encapsulated in an extended montage of their relationship, several minutes long, set to the couple’s own laughably unpolished karaoke song. The director has spoken of “relaxed” animation that shows off the joy of its making; what better metaphor for that than a couple’s karaoke? Warning: Some spoilers follow, though details will be kept vague. Eventually, Ride Your Wave brings in a ghost character, though whether it’s a “real” ghost or an imaginary one is unclear. The story, though, definitely doesn’t become a conventional ghost film – there are no supernatural scares or longhaired ladies, and most of the ghost scenes take place in bright sun. Many involve an eccentric oversized prop which is instantly hilarious. This strand has a few comparisons to Ghibli’s “ghost” film When Marnie was There, and rather more to the TV anime Anohana, which helped define the reputation of writer Mari Okada (Maquia). However, the really interesting comparison is to an anime film that came out only a year before Ride Your Wave. Okko’s Inn is the story of a little girl going through hard times who encounters child ghosts in her family inn – again, they’re utterly unscary ghosts. Like Ride Your Wave, Okko is often cheery and light-hearted, but it also goes some really emotionally intense places. And as it happens, Okko’s Inn and Ride Your Wave were both scripted by the prolific Reiko Yoshida, who also co-wrote Yuasa’s Lu and adapted the anime of A Silent Voice.
Ride Your Wave has story felicities beyond the ghost stuff. It’s a film for viewers who root for those poor second-stringers in the support cast who could have been the leads; especially Minato’s friend and fellow fireman Wasabi, who seems to be so close to connecting with Hinako in the early scenes, but has a different substantial role to play instead. And for viewers who grow
irritated with how awed Hinako is by Minato, by this wonderful man’s skills and wisdom… Well, there’s a lovely reversal of perceptions later on. Granted, the way that it’s done is absolutely the kind of thing you’d expect to happen in an anime, but it’s still written and shown so sweetly The film also hinges on images of lifesaving, of lifting someone up from the depths of the ocean. Perhaps this grew out of a memorable image in Lu, a beautiful, near-abstract flashback in which a drowning diver encounters a mercreature which seems both monstrous and angelic. Or perhaps Yuasa was thinking of a life-saving scene from an older anime. His 2020 TV series Keep Your Hands of Eizokuen! starts with a massive and reverential homage to a 1978 serial, Future Boy Conan, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Conan had a central scene in which a girl frantically keeps the drowning hero alive by swimming repeatedly down to him and breathing air into his lungs, as if she’s saving him with her kisses.
Ride Your Wave is released in the UK by Anime Limited.
Â©Ride Your Wave Film Partners
VINYL FRONTIERS by Shelley Pallis
he first volume of Hiroyuki Sawano’s award-winning soundtrack to the anime series Attack on Titan is now out on vinyl, for all those of you who want the retro feel and an excuse to have an even bigger version of that cover art, and another chance to hear the tunes that launched a thousand Scouts. In interviews, Sawano has offered a frankly bland account of his inspirations, citing Chage & Aska, and then Tetsuya Komuro as his early inspirations. He points, later in his career, to Joe Hisaishi, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yoko Kanno as specific inspirations that led him into working in soundtracks, and certainly one gets a sense in this first album of the influence particularly of Kanno, in his epic orchestrations and odd augmentations. But it’s his use of brass, in particular, that really comes out in the Attack on Titan soundtrack – Sawano appears to have found a way to really push the sheer scale of the Titans into the soundscape by throwing in more brass, more brass, more brass, until your stereo is shaking like a belligerent, never-ending fanfare, heralding the end of the world. Incidental music is often difficult to review – in its most extreme cases, such as much of Kenji Kawai’s soundtrack for Ghost in the Shell, the less memorable portions, when taken out of context, sound like somebody tuning their instruments or randomly smacking drums. Inevitably, Sawano’s score for Attack on Titan stitches together music for fight scenes and chase sequences, clearly intended for use in similarly short bursts. However, he does so with a certain panache, turning each cluster of stings into a stand-alone piece, usually running for three or four minutes. Many of the tracks have odd typographical titles that must be an editorial nightmare – I’m listing them here using plain text, and not including umlauts, unnecessary accents, kanji and in several cases, wing-dings in the titles. The central piece, in its full-length version, throws in everything but the kitchen sink – a choir straight out of Carl Orff (filtered, one suspects, through similar soundtrack efforts by Michael Kamen),
rocking guitars, and that’s before Mika Kobayashi wanders in. I’d say there were half a dozen sections that could, and have been excerpted as musical stings – this is a multi-use track that an audio director can plunder to plug a number of holes. The gentle piano in “Eye-Water” is prodded at by occasional dissonances in the background, as if someone is faffing with their phone at a piano concerto. “Body Motion” thumping menace, big brass for giant enemies and grand gestures, whereas “Counter-Attack Mankind” brings back in the human choir, even more lovely brass and extra strings to provide a musical counterpoint to the Titans. “Army Attack” mixes more ethnic themes, as if a bunch of Bartok-loving experimental violinists from an Irish birthday party have gate-crashed the recording. Similar whimsy lurks somewhere in the lyrical sound picture of “Vogel im Kafig” and “Bauklotze” although vocalists Cyua and Mika Kobayashi are singing in German, hardly the language of love. This, along with much other Teutonic tastes in the soundtrack, and among the names in the show, has led to much internet speculation about whether Attack on Titan is actually set in some kind of alternate Germany. But looking back over Sawano’s other works, German lyrics and themes show up regularly enough to be a clear interest for the composer, not something Attack on Titan-specific. And then, of course, there are the songs, including “Reluctant Heroes” sung in English, and a special mention for “DOA” by Aimee Blackschleger, which has English lyrics worthy of a mental Eurovision rock anthem. I can well imagine Estonia, or Iceland, or BosniaHercegovina sending an all-girl leather-clad metal band rocking out earnest exhortations like: “Keep your weapons aimed / Here comes the chilling face / Pushin’ down your fear/ Jump on the necks of the monsters.” Yes, yes, jump on their necks, before they tear your town limb-from-limb. “Where are your mum and dad?” she adds, as if someone really ought to be 59
supervising all this monster neck-jumping.“Here come the giant hands, breaking through the walls!” Douze points. But that’s not all...!
constantly slip back into jazz, as if the band would rather be playing a dance than the background to a series of brutal murders.
As Golgo 13 was Japan’s nihilistic answer to both Bond and the master-thieves of many a crime caper, many elements of the score (now also rereleased on vinyl through Tiger Labs) echo the kind of 1970s action movies that would surely have been on the mind of the film’s producers. It’s baffling, in fact, listening to the often-jazzy sounds from Toshiyuki Kimori’s soundtrack, why Golgo 13 wasn’t a prime candidate for the sort of complete soundtrack replacement that Manga Entertainment did on the likes of Cyber City Oedo 808. A movie that, if made today would have been all Hans Zimmer brass, and if made twenty years ago, would have surely been all metal, all the time, comes across very much as a piece of its time, with a jazz-fusion nostalgia ideally suited to the kind of bespoke vinyl we’ve come to expect from Tiger Lab. “Gold and Silver” mixes quiet, slow jazz with sudden bursts of jeopardy, in order to accompany the film’s account of the two eponymous mercenaries.
Composer (and in some cases on the album, arranger of others’ tunes) Toshiyuki Kimori (1947-1988) studied at the Dick Grove School of Music, other alumni of which have included Michael Jackson and Barry Manilow, and where faculty teachers had, at various times, included Henry Mancini and the aforementioned Schifrin. Back in Japan, Kimori became something of a 1980s hit factory, both under his own name, and under the monicker “Keith Morrison”, in which guise he produced the Japanese soundtracks for Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals and the 1982 Shaolin Temple movie. His anime contributions included Dirty Pair and My Youth in Arcadia, but these seem to be relatively minor entries in a crazy career that included producing Japanese records for little Jimmy Osmond, and writing a tune that went on the soundtrack of Raise the Titanic, at least in Japan and Spain.
Incidental pieces like “Tail to Nose” and “Danger Zone” flirt with the verve of Lalo Schifrin’s work on Mission: Impossible, but 60
Vocalist “Cindy Wood”, who sings the three songs on the soundtrack, has her own fascinating back-story that fades from public around the time of the 1983 Golgo 13 movie. She is better known internationally as Cynthia Wood, the
Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1974, who briefly parleyed her photoset into several bit parts in the movies, including parading around in a blue cowboy hat as as one of the three Playboy Bunnies who dance for the troops in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). Before her Playboy appearance catapulted her to minor celebrity, Wood had been a music major at college. Which, somehow, led to the bizarre sight and sound of her suddenly turning up on Japanese TV belting out songs in English and Japanese. There is, to be sure, a story lurking behind such a crazy career path, although in the years since, Wood became a casting agent and a doctor in psychology. “Pray for You”, the opening song on the album, as it was on the movie, features Wood singing largely in Japanese, with lyrics that prefigure the film’s closing scene, as well as encapsulating the murderous intentions of a woman scorned. It’s hence all the more surprising that “Pray for You” is the big opener, because if anything feels like a Bond title sequence in the making, it’s the later “Golgo 13 and I”, in which Wood demands in English that the listener “Kill me! Kill me once again!” and then immediately softens her message in Japanese, demanding to be embraced once more, although only a
Japanese-speaking listener would know that! Unfortunately, a combination of clunky lyrics and indistinct diction has meant that, to my cloth ears at least, Wood’s constant trilling about “Love’s Mystery” sounds more like someone proclaiming her passionate desire for “Mr Bean”, which is probably not what the composers had in mind. The album closes with a rather sweet piano reprise of “Love’s Mystery”, in which the absence of any lyrics allows the original tune to shine through.
The Attack on Titan original soundtrack, volume one, is released on vinyl by Anime Limited.
Golgo 13, the original soundtrack by Toshiyuki Kimori, is distributed by Tiger Lab vinyl.
ÂŠ 2001 Millennium Actress Production Committee
GHOST MEMORY by Andrew Osmond
he story of a legendary actress talking about her life. Confusion clouds her memory and her old roles come into play to create an eventful tale.” According to the official Japanese tie-in book Chiyoko Millennial Actress, from which much of the information below is taken, this was the original idea, in a short memo, for a possible Satoshi Kon project called Ghost Memory. It was not meant to be Kon’s next anime after Perfect Blue. Working with Madhouse studio producer Masao Maruyama and the co-producer Taro Maki from Genco, Kon developed a different project along similar lines to Perfect Blue, fusing reality and fantasy. At this stage, it was a science-fiction project called Phantom, and it was planned to be a video anime with four to six episodes. Kon fans will remember he’d already scripted a science-fiction story about a ghost in a spaceship, the “Magnetic Rose” segment of the anthology film Memories. But plans changed and Kon was asked to make a cinema film instead. Phantom was judged inappropriate for the film format and discarded, in favour of the Ghost Memory idea. “Originally there was this idea of this former great actress reminiscing about her life, and how her life and her movies start blending together,” said Kon, “I was drinking with my friends and as we were talking about it, different ideas got expressed, like ‘You should mix different historical eras’ and ‘You should include the futuristic as well as the historical.’ As a result, I kind of mindlessly said: ‘Well, it seems that she 63
ÂŠ 2001 Millennium Actress Production Committee
lived a thousand years, so (the film) should be titled Millennium Actress.’ That’s how the title came about.” Kon conceived of the title character as someone who could “run with her life.” At the same time, he said, he did not think of Chiyoko as being very smart. “I thought if she was too bright, she would stop to think about things too much… I personally choose logic over emotion when thinking, so I admire people who can really go after an objective 100%. It may be just an excuse for me to drink, but I like to drink to dull the logical side a bit. When I write, I usually drink as well.” The proposal above describes Chiyoko as having a clouded memory. Many viewers interpret the film’s reality-hopping story as a reflection of Chiyoko’s senility. Kon, though, seems ambivalent on that point. “There is a gap in interpretation of how Chiyoko feels about her own story. You can interpret it as just some senile old lady’s story, [but] I intentionally wanted Chiyoko herself to recognise that her mind and body aren’t what they used to be.” Conversely, Kon found himself reconnecting with Japan’s heritage as he created Millennium Actress. For example, Kon came up the detail of Chiyoko’s family crest, visible in the 1930s scenes in her home. The director chose a symbol of a downturned wisteria; wisteria is called “fuji,” and Chiyoko’s family name is Fujiwara. “I think if I was younger, the concept of a crest wouldn’t even have occurred to me,” Kon says. “My parents are a bit younger than Chiyoko’s generation, but as a child, [their] talking about various family crests made an impression on me, and I think it surfaced in the movie.” An important recurring image in the film is rubble, the wreckage of the past. Kon says: “At the beginning, when they are tearing down the studio, the debris left after Chiyoko’s birth during a devastating earthquake, the wreckage right before her death, there was a definite intention of connecting Chiyoko with the wreckage.”
Kon suggests such imagery reflected his own experience of maturing as a person in his twenties, feeling the values he learned from his parents and teachers being changed by his friends and co-workers. “Inside myself, I have an impression of wreckage… I had to go back to square one and rebuild my value system again. In order for something to born, there has to be a corresponding destruction. In that way, I wanted the debris, the wreckage, to be important.” The director says he can’t explain why he chose earthquakes as a motif in the film, except to symbolise “the connection between Chiyoko and the flow of the universe, or even something bigger than that.” One of his ideas, not used in the final film, was to have Chiyoko actually born amid rubble, like Princess Kaguya being born from a bamboo stalk. “I was thinking of something reminiscent of a fairy-tale, an old legend.” For much the same reason, Kon put in recurring images of cranes, prominent in the film’s “geisha” scenes, which are said to live a thousand years in Japan. There are at least two in the elderly Chiyoko’s house, for instance, and another on her baby clothes. Much of the discussion in the Chiyoko Millennial Actress book revolves around the film’s final line. The current edition of the film translates the line as “After all, what I really love is the pursuit of him.” The book itself phrases it as “After all, it’s the chasing after him I really love.” However, a more literal translation of the line would be, “After all, I love myself who is chasing after him.” When I asked Kon about the line myself in 2007, Kon said, “It was because of Millennium Actress’ last line, in order to say it, that I made the film. That was how important the line was for me. I anticipated that some people might be shocked, and might consider it to be very egoistic of Chiyoko, due to the nature of the film as a love story. However, this wasn’t my intention. I didn’t consider the phrase to be egoistic; this was her attitude towards something she’s going after. Even if she might not be able to catch it, still her attitude is to chase after it. It isn’t Chiyoko’s ego that’s on display, it’s her attitude, her style of life, that’s shown here.” 65
Kon’s comments in the Chiyoko Millennial Actress book have a different emphasis, though they don’t necessarily contradict his answer above. “I can’t say I wrote the film to revolve around that line. I don’t want people to grasp the line simply and literally as a statement of ‘I like myself like that,’ because there is more behind it… The line means so much because of all the life experiences leading up to it. “Incidentally,” Kon adds, “during the recording sessions, the voice actor that played Tachibana (Shozo Iizuka) told me, ‘I’m really unsatisfied with the ending. I can’t like a woman that would say such a thing!’… But I was expecting those reactions and I wanted those kinds of reactions. I wanted men to respond with a ‘What?!’ Some women responded with something like, ‘I felt really denied.’ I think it’s better that way. You see, I don’t want Millennium Actress to be seen as a simple, fantastic, romantic story.” The director suggests a real-world analogy, relating to a catastrophic earthquake which struck the Japanese city of Kobe in 1995. In the aftermath of the disaster, many people volunteered for the relief effort. “There were volunteers that were very pushy,” Kon says. “Essentially, volunteering is about deciding how one can be a part of assisting other people’s needs. However, for some people the act of volunteering is the important factor, not necessarily the helping aspect. But either way, volunteering is a wonderful act. If you can accept yourself, I think it opens up a lot of avenues. You can say, ‘I like to volunteer for me’ and accept that as such, because that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s important to understand that, and move forward with that in mind… During the different stages in Chiyoko’s life, her goal was to find the self that she liked.” Interestingly, though, the Chiyoko Millennial Actress book gives a different perspective; that of Mami Koyama, who was one of the three Japanese actresses who voiced Chiyoko in the film. Koyama voiced the “middle” Chiyoko, the film star who looks young but is no longer the teenager of the early scenes. Anime fans will also know Koyama for roles such as the fearsome 66
Kycilia Zabi in the original Gundam series and the rebel girl Kei in Akira. “When the voice-over was done and we all said, ‘It’s a wrap,’ everyone was beaming,” Koyama recalls. “What I remember very well is all the actors saying over and over again, ‘I’d like to live like that too’… In terms of chasing one’s dream, I think those kind of women have been on the increase recently. It’s like ‘Men aren’t the only ones who can chase a dream!’ In a slightly earlier time, maybe it was second nature to ‘find and marry a good man, raise children, take care of the home.’ But it’s not that way anymore, is it? When it comes to spending your life doing the things you want to do, it’s not just men who are chasing their dreams. “Don’t we all love that part of ourselves that loves our partners, more than we actually love our partners?” Koyama argues. “In the end, you know, it’s all about yourself. You love yourself as ‘someone in love.’ That’s why we fall in love… To spend your whole life chasing someone you just bumped into, you must be thinking only of yourself.”
Millennium Actress will be released in the UK by Anime Limited.
ÂŠ 2001 Millennium Actress Production Committee
POWER OF THE PENGUINS by Kambole Campbell
eading the words “Penguin Highway” together might feel like a hint towards a simplistic and joyous journey – after all, who doesn’t like penguins? It’s certainly the most straightforward title of any of Tomihiko Morimi’s novels – the most well-known are a little more illusive, namely The Tatami Galaxy, and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida, as an adaptation of a Morimi novel, Studio Colorido’s Penguin Highway shares a little bit of common ground with a couple of Masaaki Yuasa’s works – the aforementioned Tatami Galaxy and Night is Short. Like those two works, Penguin Highway flirts with the surreal, mysterious objects (and flightless birds) built into a very human tale. Unlike Yuasa’s take on the material, however, Ishida builds the film with more photorealistic detail, all characterised by soft linework and gentle colours on the characters, as also seen in the studio’s Netflix
release from this year, A Whisker Away. What might set the film apart most from its coming-of-age contemporaries is its charming obsession with procedure and investigation, building its leisurely paced plot around the investigations Aoyama and his friends undertake over the course of a summer. Those investigations begin with the mysterious and sudden appearance of penguins in the town, and their equally swift disappearance. Along with this, the film opens up another thread, with the mysterious dentist for whom Aoyoma nurses a childish crush – only ever referred to as The Lady – who alternates between amusedly entertaining Aoyama’s pretense at being an adult and sincere care and concern for him. She acts more in the role of a surrogate older sister half of the time (in the general absence of Aoyama’s parents from the narrative).
© 2018 Tomihiko Morimi, KADOKAWA / Penguin Highway Production Committee
Aoyama’s investigation into The Lady’s connection to the penguins soon becomes the main reason for their continuing closeness, other than their regular chess matches. The rules and risks are the mystery, and make up much of the film’s story as Aoyama methodically investigates the truth of what’s going on, but this is where the adventure of Penguin Highway lies, more in process than a physical journey. It’s a coming-of-age story in a different sense, about lived experience rather than about growth and change. As The Lady herself says: “You go far enough and you’ll end up in the same place”. And in a sense, Aoyama does, but to elaborate too much on that would spoil the magic of Penguin Highway, a film all about its mysteries. The mysteries are unraveled little by little in a film that is leisurely paced in its exploration of multiple threads that slowly but surely weave together. Aoyama’s investigation is linked to that of another child with a keen scientific mind, a girl named Hamamoto, with whom Aoyama soon becomes fast friends. The two (and the bespectacled, good-natured klutz Uchida) team up to investigate what Hamamoto calls ‘The Ocean’, a bizarre sphere of floating water hidden within a forest grove that opens onto a wide open plain. Compared to most fantasy or even just other adaptations of Morimi’s fiction, the film takes a leisurely pace in its detailing of Aoyama and Hamamoto’s scientific process. To focus only on the film’s deliberate pacing
is to undersell how fun it actually is. There’s plenty of slapstick comedy with the penguins alone, having fun with their conspicuousness – charging through an area where they really don’t belong, sheepishly wandering into traffic, at one point organised like a military unit. The rest of the time, director Ishida has fun with the general hilarity of children left to their own devices, as well as Aoyama’s contradictions. Chief among those is that for all his talk about being the smartest kid in the room, Aoyama owns a book completely about boobs. Even amidst the kids’ investigations, their scientific method is mixed with insane fantasy concepts – take Aoyama’s principle that he calls “Penguin Energy”. It’s a film aware of its own silliness, which wears it with an impressively straight face. The film digs what humour it can from the rather deadpan first-person narration from Aoyama, who is practically incapable of feeling bad about himself (“as you can tell, I’m not conceited, and that makes me great”, he claims). That unwavering confidence starts to feel like a necessity, a front so that things don’t hurt him, though the facade often slips in the film’s most affecting moments. Despite his insistence at his adulthood, Aoyama still takes petty revenge on the bully Suzuki, scaring him by making up a wild story about how he’ll have to lose all of his teeth when they bump into each other at the dentist. 69
Speaking of that independence, Aoyama’s father is a fascinating case. A gently encouraging figure mostly removed from the narrative, his general distance perhaps becomes a fuel for Aoyama’s desire to be seen as adult and independent. It’s easy to compare Ishida’s work with that of Studio Ghibli – viewed entirely from the perspectives of children, merging coming-ofage life lessons with a magical natural world standing in for adulthood, and even a swooning classical score. Where Penguin Highway differentiates itself from that fantasy template is in its scientific interest in the mysteries of its world, and in the reversal of roles of the children and adults. Where many coming-of-age films and Ghibli films are about the formation of emotional responsibility and childish idealism versus adult cynicism, Penguin Highway has its children proving their capacity for logic and pragmatism in solving the problems of their world, the adults (mainly The Lady) appearing far more impulsive by comparison. It’s not quite as straightforward as that, however, because as much as Aoyama insists upon his maturity and detachment, he is still not above his childish crushes and involvement in petty squabbles. In some respects, the film is also reminiscent of the blockbuster works of Makoto Shinkai (a filmmaker himself often superficially compared to Ghibli), through its photorealistic backgrounds and merging of magical fantasy with natural phenomena and impending disaster, all filtered through the obsessions of young people, though with children rather than the teenagers of Shinkai’s work. Penguin Highway is slippery in that way, in that it recalls numerous mainstream works while subverting them, its photorealist art direction later breaking apart into abstract surrealism, its deliberate depictions of process giving way to wild (and joyously silly) spectacle, and turning back again In short, it’s far more complex than the simplicity of the words “Penguin Highway” would initially suggest. Penguin Highway is screening again as part of this year’s Scotland Loves Anime. 70
71 Â© 2018 Tomihiko Morimi, KADOKAWA / Penguin Highway Production Committee
© 2009 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK / Production I.G / DENTSU / PONY CANYON
THE ISLAND OF LOST TOYS by Andrew Osmond
n a great many ways, Production I.G’s Oblivion Island tells the same story as Ghibli’s Spirited Away. A modern Japanese girl grows up listless, something plainly lacking in her spirit. Chance, or perhaps fate, draws the girl through a portal into a fantastic world, a shadow Japan inhabited by industrious creatures. Here, the girl learns that the waste and neglect of her world has profound effects on the fantasy location. There are lost, damaged souls, which it is her duty to heal. But the world has a fearsome ruler who wants to enslave the girl, stealing her memories, her identity, even her name. Can the plucky heroine save the world and herself?
In Spirited Away, Japanese people have forgotten who they were, marginalising their myths and gods. Oblivion Island has a different focus. Its angle is much more personal; that every person, as he or she grows up, starts to neglect what he or she once knew was priceless, the objects and memories of love. It is these objects which collect in Oblivion Island. The film was directed by Shinsuke Sato, who’s known in recent years for directing live-action films of manga, including Gantz, Bleach, Library Wars and Inuyashiki. He also directed Death Note: Light Up The New World, an original live-
action sequel to the hit series. However, there’s also a familiar anime name on Oblivion Island’s credits – Naoyoshi Shiotani, who served as animation director and one of the storyboard artists. You may know Shiotani as the director who’s stayed with PSYCHO-PASS through the whole franchise, as well as bringing us anime’s cutest donkey in Tokyo Marble Chocolate. Talking about Oblivion Island on Production I.G’s website, Shiotani said, “As the (Japanese) title, Hottarake no Shima suggests, this movie revolves around the concept of hottarake. In English you may translate it in different ways, from ‘neglect’ to ‘abandon’ to ‘forget,’ not because of malice but because of unintentional carelessness. We abandon even our memories without realizing it. This movie tells that we should care more about feelings. We should never forget what is really important for us and the people around us, and it is something you can’t see or grab with your hands.”Oblivion Island starts when 16-year-old Haruka realises she has mislaid a hand-mirror left her by her mother, who died when she was a child. “I used to have this old mirror my mother gave to me,” she says early, looking mournfully out of a window. It echoes the opening of Spirited Away, where a listless Chihiro stuck her tongue out of her car window. “I treasured it, but now it’s gone…”Haruka spends the film looking for the mirror, which has sunflowers carved on its back. Shiotani notes: “In the language of flowers, sunflower stands for ‘I’m always with you,’ which is obviously connected with the role of Haruka’s mother.” The mirror itself in an obvious symbol. After all, what’s a mirror for except to show you your face, and by extension the person you are? Haruka’s hunt takes her to Oblivion Island, a land made of millions of discarded human objects, bodged together in a fantastic multicoloured theme park bricolage. Shiotani: “I wanted people of any generation to feel nostalgic about what they saw on the island, so we used many objects from very different periods. As a first step, we asked the staff to gather all kind of
old toys, electric appliances, cars, cans, bottles, flyers, books and magazines. “Then we selected those we thought could work to build the island landscape,” Shiotani continues. “There are so many objects in any background, that one may just spend weeks trying to locate all of them! I imagined the island inhabitants used objects conceived in the human world to build things according to their sensitivities, in a quite original interpretation.” In particular, look at the scenes in the home of Teo, who’s Haruka’s little-boy ally on Oblivion Island. Teo makes good use of everything he finds – for example, his “mask” is a common or garden bike saddle. He recycles like a good Womble though Teo looks more like Rupert the Bear. He’s actually a fox, a traditionally magic character in Japanese folklore. The film was inspired by a Japanese legend: if you lose something precious to you, you can pray to the foxes to bring it back in the night. The tale is beautifully illustrated at the film’s start, with hand drawings more like Russian animation than anime. Another theme of the film is its concern with uniting generations. Haruka slowly realises she doesn’t understand her father; moreover, that it’s her responsibility to fix that. In Shiotani’s view, “Many Japanese families don’t have enough time for proper communications between parents and children, because we all are apparently too busy doing something else. I’d be happy if, after watching the film, people would stop for a while and think about their parents, then go home and start to communicate over dinner or any other occasion.” The film also features a cute but dignified button-eyed sheep, called Cotton. He was created to make Oblivion Island truly universal – not just because he’s a cute sheep (though that helps!), but because of what he represents. “Cotton is the stuffed animal everybody has had when he/she was a kid,” says Shiotani. “I wanted everyone in the audience to relate with and overlap his/her own personal childhood memories… Cotton is a neglected childhood treasure who has the 73
chance to meet up again with his owner, the very person that left him lying around and eventually forgot him.” Who, you might guess, is Haruka herself. Oblivion Island came out in 2009, six years before Pixar’s Inside Out, with its comparable character of Bing Bong. Shiotani brought up Pixar when he was asked about the decision to make Island in CG. A friend of his had visited the American studio, Shiotani said. “He explained [to the Pixar staff] that in Japan we still draw with pencil and paper. The Pixar people were quite surprised to hear that. I feel that somehow that handcrafted animation fits with the Japanese character. Designing characters with black outlines is something in the cultural visual tradition of Japan, in a way inherited by anime. “At the same time,” Shiotani adds, “I feel the limits of what can be done with traditional 2D animation. When I made Oblivion Island, I tried to transfer the 2D know-how into 3D. There were things I thought were successfully transferred, and other things that made me think about how this system works… In the end, people want to relate to the characters. It’s not about how they move, it’s about the design and story. The audience itself is not really aware of how these things are made. The techniques are on the production side – if you have good characters and a good story, then it will work. “At the same time,” concludes Shiotani, “I feel there are fewer skilled 2D animators. I’m not sure whether that’s because we produce more material these days, so we need more animators and don’t find them. Or whether the number of animators is really decreasing because people are keener on working with tablets than with pencils.” To make Oblivion Island, Production I.G – an anime powerhouse, with a track-record in ambitious CGI effects going back decades – had to pool its talents with several other outfits. The collaborators included Toei Animation, Sunrise and Polygon Pictures, “For Japanese productions, we cannot work with multimillion-dollar budgets,” Shiotani said in another 74
interview. “We have to work on limited budgets, compared to the US. So, what we bring into the movie is our creativity and our way of making computer animation with limited resources, but bringing our personality into it at the same time. “We use a lot of 2D animation in Japan, so we try to develop 3D animation that was blended with our 2D visuals. We did not have motion capture, but the animators have this skill of calculating movements and that’s how we worked.” For example, Haruka’s hair was kept simple; it’s effectively an outline of the kind you’d find in hand-drawn anime. Look out for the parts of Oblivion Island that seem to be hybrids of 2D and 3D. Perhaps the most obvious is a short early sequence, when Haruka follows a strange creature through woods near a shrine at twilight. The CGI Haruka is set against backgrounds which may be simple paintings, though it’s pretty impossible to tell where the 2D ends and the CG begins. It may look strange if you’re used to Pixar or DreamWorks; but then Japan is one of the few countries where those studios don’t dominate movie animation. Far from showing that anime is moving closer to computer-dominated Hollywood animation, Oblivion Island shows anime’s underlying principles and aesthetics – shaped, as always in animation, by economic and practical necessity – are still very different. And Shiotani, like Pixar’s John Lasseter and a host of Hollywood artists, says that CGI is only a tool anyway. “What’s really important in this job is to have a clear image of what you want to do, and have your staff understand it. This is true regardless of the animation technique, 2D or 3D.”
© 2009 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK / Production I.G / DENTSU / PONY CANYON
NEVER GROW UP By Andrew Osmond
Â©KAIU SHIRAI,POSUKA DEMIZU/SHUEISHA,THE PROMISED NEVERLAND COMMITTEE
ne of the many mysteries in Promised Neverland, based on a bestselling Shonen Jump manga nearer Death Note than Naruto, is the enigmatic title. It might be a Peter Pan reference; after the first episode, you could understand the child characters not wanting to become grown-ups. Or you may see “Neverland” as referring to the idyllic, Edenic childhood existence that’s established in the show’s opening… before the horror begins. We start in an orphanage – the happiest, most delightful orphanage you could imagine. The kids don’t just live together, they’re bonded like one happy, laughing, loving family. There are nearly forty youngsters, ranging from babies up to “seniors” of ten or eleven years old. The orphanage is no grim grey building from a dark children’s tale, but a lovely gabled mansion surrounded by forest. In kid-lit terms, it’s like all those idealised boarding schools from Enid Blyton to Harry Potter. And initially, there’s just one adult, a smiling, huggy lady whom the kids all call “Mom”. The orphanage has no TVs, computers or smartphones. The children spend much of their days chasing each other through the woods. This could be a century ago, except the calendar on the wall says 2045 and the children do use touchscreens in their regular tests, as the orphanage doubles as a school. There are a few more funny details. The kids are warned to not to go beyond set boundaries – marked by ridiculously low barriers – and indeed they’ve never communicated with the outside world. They wave tearful goodbyes each time a kid leaves the orphanage, ready to start a new life outside… yet none of those leavers has ever sent them a letter saying where they are now. One more thing: the orphanage kids all have large numbers on their necks, looking like tattoos. Much of the story is told from the viewpoint of two of the oldest, smartest children. Redhead Emma has a tomboy personality and a boundless compassion for her “siblings.” Norman is a quiet, white-haired boy who’s exceptionally clever and particularly
fond of Emma. And… to say any more will involve spoiling the show’s first big moment, so if you want to go in as untainted as Emma and Norman, then read no further. Their world crashes in one night when the latest child departs the orphanage, chaperoned by the watchful Mom. Emma and Norman realise the girl in question forgot her favourite stuffed toy. Breaking the rules, they race down to the orphanage gatehouse to return it. They find a creepy, cavernous building; a truck… and in the truck, their friend’s body, withered, with a red flower growing from her torso. The nightmare only deepens. The children see monsters, demons, towering and claw-handed, with jaws large enough to swallow a shark. They see their friend’s body poured into a jar, hear the monsters praise the merchandise, see them drool over her tasty flesh. But by the far the worst thing is that Mom is with these monsters, talking with them, taking their orders. So Norman and Emma realise the adult they’ve loved and trusted for their whole lives is the worst monster of all. When it comes to stories, nightmare fuel is rocket fuel. With its insane ghastly premise and the attendant emotional stakes, Neverland plunges us into its situation like few other shows. Can Norman and Emma hide their knowledge from Mom? Can they escape the orphanage, their beautiful home which is now a place of terror? Is there any way they can save not just themselves, but the other kids, still blissfully unaware? Is Mom the only familiar face hiding unspeakable secrets? Who can be trusted? And even if the children do “escape,” what awaits them outside? Like Death Note, this is a show about characters trying to make plans, to out-think their enemies and perhaps their friends too. There are also shades of Attack on Titan. This is a horror story rooted in fairy tales, when the imaginary monsters in the dark are grinning facts, their jaws gaping to take you in. And even in the early episodes, the twist we’ve described isn’t the only one-eighty-degree plot reversal. True, 77
Promised Neverland isn’t grim/dark like Titan. Even after the first episode’s shattering shock, there are bright moments of levity between the kids, while even the villains have a funny side. Newly suspicious, Mom brings in another adult to the orphanage, a manic child-chasing maid. She’s like a Disney panto villain gone psycho, snatching up giggling tots with scenechewing glee. It adds to the feeling that this is a specifically children’s nightmare, even as the fundamental situation remains terrifying. Just imagine it. You’re a child, the monsters are real, the adults are helping them, and you’re in their power. You thought The Matrix was a paranoid nightmare? Who needs a Matrix, when you have an orphanage? Running in Shonen Jump from August 2016 to June 2020, the Promised Neverland manga was written by Kaiu Shirai and drawn by Posuka Demizu. The ongoing anime version is made by CloverWorks, formerly part of A-1 Pictures. Its director is Mamoru Kanbe, who once helmed the very hardcore horror series Elfen Lied. Lead writer Toshiya Ono held the same post on Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga, Gatchaman Crowds and Land of the Lustrous. Emma is voiced by Sumire Morishoshi; a decade ago, she voiced little Nina in Fullmetal Alchmist: Brotherhood. Now there’s a character who shouldn’t have trusted grown-ups…By the way, Promised Neverland’s set-up might remind you of Never Let Me Go, the 2005 novel by the Japan-born, British-based author Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day). That also starts with a benign-seeming school which hold a shocking secret about its children’s futures… though Ishiguro’s characters don’t see the secret as shocking, and the story proceeds very differently from Promised Neverland. The novel was filmed in 2010 with Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. Promised Neverland will be released in the UK by Anime Limited.
Â©KAIU SHIRAI,POSUKA DEMIZU/SHUEISHA,THE PROMISED NEVERLAND COMMITTEE
EARTH BOUND By Andrew Osmond
he shortest way to describe Turn A Gundam is as the steampunk Gundam. It doesn’t start in a space war, nor on a futuristic Earth. Rather, the setting seems to be Earth of a bygone age, around the start of the twentieth century, with airships, period costumes, and vintage planes and cars. Soon invaders are attacking from the sky, and a boy and girl in a coming of age ritual see an ancient statue crumble before them, revealing a giant robot. Turn A Gundam feels like a deliberate return to the past, both in history and anime. Broadcast in 1999, Turn A Gundam marked the twentieth anniversary of the Gundam franchise. It also saw the return of the franchise’s father, Yoshiyuki Tomino, as director. Tomino had defined Gundam for its first decade, but worked only intermittently in the franchise through the 1990s (the best-known 1990s Gundam, Gundam Wing, was by other hands). With Turn, Tomino serves up a series that begins most unlike an average Gundam. If you’ve watched the dozenodd Gundams released by Anime Limited, you’ll find the start of Turn bracingly bewildering – “Is this really a Gundam show?” – though it becomes more Gundam-ish as it goes along. Much of Turn is set on Earth, far more than most Gundams. The first scene, though, is an exception. Three kids descend to Earth in a spacecraft, chanting rhymes like “Mary had a little lamb” and “London bridge is falling down.” On landing, they each head in different directions. While they’ll all play roles in the story later on, we focus on one of the kids, a
silver-haired boy called Loran. He travels to find work in a mine in a mountain region; on the way, though, he gets into trouble while bathing in a river and is saved by two well-to-do sisters. As it happens, they’re the daughters of the mine’s owner, who takes a liking to the boy and hires Loran as the family chauffeur. Turn’s story skips forward fast. By the second part, Loran and one of the sisters, Sochie, are close enough so Sochie chooses him to partake in her coming of age ritual mentioned earlier. That’s when the sky invaders attack and the Gundam is revealed, though none of the Earth people know its name. For Gundam fans, there’s an easy way to distinguish the robot from other models – it has a whopping white metal “moustache,” which somehow manages to look distinguished rather than ridiculous. Credit that to its designer, the American Syd Mead – yes, that Syd Mead, who helped realise the world of Blade Runner. Both Loran and the invaders come from the Moon, which is also inhabited by humans – a fact unknown to most Earthlings. When Loran was first sent to Earth on a reconnaissance mission, he had no idea of the violence to follow, and he’s appalled by the sight of Moon craft destroying cities. Instinctively, Loran pilots the Gundam to protect his Earthling friends – who, of course, have no idea he’s not an Earthling. Nonetheless, the Earth’s defenders seem outmatched by the invaders’ technology… till it turns out there are other machines in the ground, ready to even the score.
Syd Mead and Tomino aren’t the only famous names on the show. Turn’s eclectic music is by Yoko Kanno – yes, that Yoko Kanno, in what seems to be her only contribution to the Gundam franchise to date. At the time, Kanno had distinguished herself on 1990s mecha anime: Escaflowne, Macross Plus and Tomino’s own Brain Powered. Her Turn score is uneven, with tracks sometimes feeling clumsily placed, but there are sublime parts – for example, a song at the end of the first episode, when Loran throws his arms out joyously toward the moon in the night sky, shouting his love for Earth. Loran is voiced in Japanese by another famous name; it’s Romi Park, before she’d voice Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist. As we mentioned at the start, Turn can be classed as steampunk. Tomino may have arrived at the genre indirectly; way back in 1983, he’d directed a non-Gundam TV anime called Dunbine, unreleased in Britain. It featured giant robots, but unusually placed them in a medievalstyle fantasy world. Dunbine set precedents for the likes of Escaflowne, but it also showed that “robot war” anime could be transposed to other kinds of backdrop, not just spacewars and modern or future Earths. Turn doesn’t qualify as steampunk under a strict definition – the setting isn’t the early twentieth century – but that’s how it feels. It doesn’t seem coincidental that one of the Moon people’s main fighting machines, a strutting giant called the Wodom, is reminiscent of the Martian Fighting Machines in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. When the Wodom sends beams of fire against old-fashioned Earth cities, you could be watching a remake of Wells’ story. After all, Wells’ Martians were mecha pilots too – they just had more tentacles to operate the machinery. The sight of old-style fighter planes in Turn will remind fans that the Gundam franchise’s most famed character, Char, was based on the Red Baron hero pilot of World War I. Turn has a
beetle-goggled character with echoes of Char, though whether he qualifies as a true Char clone is debatable. A later key story development will feel very familiar if you’ve seen a more recent steampunk anime show, 2017’s Princess Principal. It also seems deliberate that Turn looks remarkably, even shockingly, old-fashioned for its day. It was the last Gundam series to be made in cel animation, but that isn’t the half of it. Remember that Turn was made in 1999, several years after TV mecha titles like Gundam Wing and Escaflowne – both by the Sunrise studio – not to mention Evangelion. Compared against any of them, Turn’s whole look – its character designs, its earthy palette, its freehand animation – all feels like a purposeful throwback to 1970s anime. That, of course, was when Gundam began, and it was also probably the key decade for Tomino professionally. He’d worked in anime since 1963’s Astro Boy, but the 1970s saw him emerge as a TV director, working towards a statement as distinctive as Gundam. Although Tomino is best-known for his signature SF, he made enormous contributions to a very different side of vintage anime – the “World Masterpiece Theatre” family series, where Tomino storyboarded large parts of Heidi, Rascal Racoon and Anne of Green Gables. The first Turn episodes often feel like a pastiche of the WMT style, which continues to be seen even after the robot war starts. Many of Turn’s trappings – the deep mines, vintage flying machinery, and green countryside – will look overwhelmingly familiar to any Hayao Miyazaki fans who’ve seen his early work. Tomino sometimes worked with Miyazaki in the 1970s, when both men were developing their careers. In 2019, the Gundam creator said he’d longed to crush Miyazaki; yet Tomino also said he was only able to make Gundam because he’d met Miyazaki and Takahata. Turn seems to be echoed itself in a later Miyazaki-esque work. A pivotal character in the series, Sochie’s older sister Kihel, bears a striking resemblance to
the title girl Marnie in Ghibli’s late film When Marnie Was There. Kihel has a very complex role to play in Turn, as does Loran himself. The boy from the moon spends much time fighting moon people, taking advantage of his feminine appearance rather than wearing a mask. Loran is one of many turncoat characters in mecha anime, fighting against what are theoretically his own people. But what really makes Loran unusual in mecha anime that he’s not driven by anger, revenge or even romantic love, but rather by a reverence for life – all life – that’s deeply innocent.
mostly not played for laughs; rather the show suggests this is how youngsters with healthy minds should behave. It’s particularly interesting given Tomino’s more recent infamous comments on the blockbuster films by Makoto Shinkai. The tetchy Tomino described them as “films about a boy and girl who are always stretching out their hands towards each other… and yet the boy’s hand never reaches the girl’s crotch.”
Turn A Gundam is released in the UK by Anime Limited.
Innocence, indeed, seems to be a particular concern for Tomino in Turn A Gundam. In the first couple of episodes, Loren spends much time naked, sometimes with girls his age who are equally nude. However, the youngsters are only faintly embarrassed at most. While many viewers will find these scenes funny, they’re
2020 SPON SORS - WIT HOUT THEM THIS WOUL DNâ€™T BE PO SSIBLE: Key Sponsors, 2020:
Thanks to Ailsa Partridge, Stephen Bell, Andy Hanley, Jessica Poce, Kat Hall, Kerry Kasim, Robbie Duncan, Jeremy Graves, Jonathan Clements, Kelli Pitts, Chris Brown, James Rice, Evi Tsiligaridou, Rod White, Allison Gardner, Jonathan Mendoza, Carly Mendoza, Liz Bell, Tom Paxton, Jane Hamilton and Eileen Partridge.
Like everything else in the world, anime has had a very strange year. Weathering With You opened the year on the big screen, cut short by the closure of cinemas like most hospitality and entertainment businesses in an attempt to help curb COVID-19 back in March. Cinema has been impacted across the chain - if we’d been running as normal I’d be cap-inhand apologising for the fact the majority of our planned line-up moved out of Spring and Summer firmly into late Q4 or 2021. Cinemas provide a place for people to hide away from the world and enjoy fictional wonders, so it’s been extremely difficult to be away from them. With the current world situation it would be not only irresponsible but pragmatically impossible to host a normal festival this year. It’s a dilemma both I and other festival directors have faced. Do we press pause for the year and go for it (hopefully) next year or do we try to do something? There’s no wrong choice in these circumstances and whatever the decision, it hurts for everyone. Normally as I write this letter we’d be getting our teeth into the Edinburgh weekend of the festival. The whole team here feels that and misses not just the atmosphere inside the screens but outside of the festival too. Regardless, we opted to do what we love the most and show you things we love a lot - just with a mix of online and offline content. You’ve got the UK premiere of Lupin III: The First and the Scottish premiere of On-Gaku: Our Sound on the big screen as well as a Work In Progress preview of films not out in Japan yet like Josee, the Tiger and the Fish - the first feature film from Kotaro Tamura (Noragami) - and Inu-Oh from the Golden Partridge award winner Masaaki Yuasa (Lu Over the Wall, Night is Short Walk on Girl, Mind Game etc) You may not get quite the same experiences without long time festival friend and host Dr Jonathan Clements to introduce the films but fear not, we have a cunning plan. We lured Jonathan into a trap we like to call The Phantom Zoom where to pass the hours he’s prepared video introductions for the films both online and offline for you to enjoy. We even sat him down with a copy of Weathering With You and made him talk over the entire thing for our online component! And if you can’t make the in-person screenings, fear not - we’ll make every introduction available online. We hope to be back as usual in 2021 - but in the meantime, wherever you are enjoying the festival from, please sit back and relax as you watch some anime films. Many thanks for your support this year too.
Nicholas Robinson Neil Mathie Jack Gaydon Anonymous Lee Forbes Neil Shah Collette Kay Dawfydd Kelly Daniel Quarrell Emma J Andrew Worboys El Bosco Paul Moran Ahmed Latif Justice Barnett Jack Gaydon Ali "AHA" Alfailakawi Natalie Ewan Lafferty Katja Euan Craik Rae Raven Sean Robertson AnimeSocMegan Cotton's Dad Stuart Macfarlane Dinithi O Katie Seivwright Colin Duncan Louise M. Milsom Aidan Kennedy Eleanor Walker Dong Bach Vo Giulia P. Peter Card Alex Caygill Alice Thagaard Harri Kirik Sarah Fergus Macpherson Robert Ashby Stephanie Bazeley Hannah Dwan James Tien dgkp
Richard Webb Marissa Costello nelfalot John McDwyer David O'Toole Gingy Josh A. Stevens Sam L. Jon Drew David-John Cousins Rob Mirfin Ingrid Mur Paul Reilly Adam Castle Mike Bird Susan Chan & Philip Ho q87 FROGYZ Jamie Boyle Emmy Leadley Derek Jamieson & Melissa Bedinger Tom Pounder Adrian Bellis Zanamee Iain MacLellan Angela Leskovics Dylan Parry Jamie MacKenzie Stephen Shirres Connor Davies ania l David Easton Isla McTear Mícheál Ó Lionáird Michael Spafford LummoLind Elliot Page John Stainton Seb Greenhough Jonathan Peace David Fraser Adam Durie Sophie G Steven Fraser Craig Russell
Mikhail of Scotland RickB Speedie Andrew Cook Ewan Bowers Alastair Hill Grzegorz Goral megalomaniac Ted Todorov Adam Reeves Calum & Catriona Millican Melissa Forde Sandy Nisbet Scott Brown Andrew Gordon David Hawker SamBenture Time Ida C. Grant Atkinson and Claire MacLeod Colin Palin Jonathan Clements Matteo Shostak Jonathan Rizko Michael McDonald Andrew Mackie Paul McLaughlin Rebecca Filshie Cathy Chi Dave MacPhail Kenny O'Toole Piotr & Darya Jordan Rosewarne NightmareModeGo Faecloune John W Lewis Barker Dr. Watson Gordy Bolton Antony Amatiello Lynsey Schaschke David "Epoc" Cope Stuart Ower Sean Alexander Richards Helen Boyle
TO OUR CR OWDFUND IN
David Green-Laidlaw Amy Watters William Mawdsley LoveLiver Hannah Craig Stables Kate Raffan Graeme Brown Sam Brewer Louise & Peter McAlister Stephen Cassidy Charlie Ceates Rhodri Davies Euan Taylor Jack Boole Rebecca Wallace Philip King Nyarth Nyarlathotep Andrew & Sophie Ireland Chris McNicholl G & S Wilson Bryan McDowall Catherine Bell Owen James Hayward Sharp Martin "TheFonz270" Quinn Lin Wood Joe Betteridge Pim Robertson Iain Cooper Emily Gibson Daniel Monks Rebecca Mills Kieran Harkins Liam Rendall Jamie Andrews Chris "Queek" Maclaine Connor Cotton Gav Payne Melody Marc James Bulman Gordon Menzies
Cat M. Andrei Radulescu Kate & Andy at Chompworks Marc Hairston Bryan Mackie & Suze McCallum Graham Stevenson Mariana Diaz Katherine Heller Matthew Thomas Peter Shillito Rob Jessop Yvette Hynd Joshua Elsdon Matthew Tinn Kiki & Pip Mike Quin @sirijo_uk Matthew Summers Phil Beveridge Edwin Bell Paul Riley Gerard Shona Mclelland Shauna & Matt Calum Robertson Calum Macqueen Joel Cotton Cochran Maximiliana Behnke Lisa MacPherson Andrew McManus Jason Oldfield Iain Boulton Robert H Mullarkey flying grizzly Steven Hanlon Neil Abercrombie Steven Hamilton Fearghas Urquhart Alexandra Donaldson Ruth Needle Mรณr & Shaun
Craig Mulligan Patrick Cartlidge Russell Thornham Emma and John Martin Grant Y Craig Ballantyne Dr Ryuku-Stefongdy-Lesmay Matthew Jamieson jaden550 Lesa Ng Tom Granados Alicia Haddick (@socialanigirl) Sean "Quortza" Williams Alex Llewellyn That Man And His Manga And you
LUPIN III: T H
DIRECTOR: Takashi Yamazaki MUSIC BY: Yuji Ohno ANIMATED BY: Marza Animation Planet RUNTIME: 93 minutes approx Language: Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING:
SCREENING DATES: EDINBURGH - Saturday 7th November, Sunday 8th November 2020 [18:00, 19:15] GLASGOW - Saturday 14th November 2020 [16:45] ABERDEEN - Saturday 7th November 2020 [16:30] The iconic “gentleman thief” Lupin III returns in an action-packed, continent-spanning adventure, as Lupin III and his colorful underworld companions race to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Bresson Diary, before it falls into the hands of a dark cabal that will stop at nothing to resurrect the Third Reich. The gang undertakes trap-filled tombs, aerial escapades and daring prison escapes with the trademark wit and visual finesse that have made LUPIN THE 3RD one of the most storied animation franchises in the world, in a thrilling new caper that is sure to delight fans old and new.
© Monkey Pu nch / 2019 LU
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Film Partner s
O N - G A K U:
DIRECTOR: Kenji Iwaisawa MUSIC BY: Tomohiko Banse ANIMATED BY: N/A RUNTIME: 71 minutes approx Language: Japanese with English subtitles
SCREENING DATES: EDINBURGH - Saturday 7th November, Sunday 8th November 2020 [15:45, 17:00] GLASGOW - Sunday 15th November 2020 [16:15] ABERDEEN - Sunday 8th November 2020 [16:30] When you’re a bored teenager looking for thrills, sometimes the only thing you can turn to is rock ‘n roll. Having no skill, money, or even a full set of drums, a feared trio of high school delinquents nevertheless decide they are destined for musical glory in a quest to impress their only friend Aya, avoid a rival gang, and – most importantly – jam out. Animated almost entirely by director Kenji Iwaisawa, and featuring a lead performance by Japanese alt-rock legend Shintaro Sakamoto, ON – GAKU: OUR SOUND brings its own sound and vision to the Hiroyuki Ohashi manga from which it was adapted. With pitch-perfect deadpan humor, the film presents a highly original take on the beloved slacker comedy: a lo-fi buddy film with a blaring musical finale that will leave you wanting an immediate encore.
Ohashi / Ro ck'n Roll Mou ntain
/ Tip Top
LUPIN III: THE SECRE T OF MAM
DIRECTOR: Souji Yoshikawa MUSIC BY: Yuji Ohno ANIMATED BY: Tokyo Movie Shinsha RUNTIME: 100 minutes approx Language: Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Will love defeat an eternal evil? The world's most wanted master thief, Lupin the Third is dead! Despite a coroner's report, Interpol Inspector Zenigata is skeptical and discovers that Lupin is actually alive and well and stealing! But who had set up Lupin's death and why? For now, questions are set aside, as Lupin, Jigen and Goemon immediately embark to Egypt to pilfer a stone artifact from a pyramid, with Zenigata in hot pursuit. Fujiko, lured by the promise of eternal youth and beauty by the sinister and enigmatic scientist known as Mamo, doublecrosses Lupin and steals the stone. Her betrayal causes a rift between Lupin and his cohorts, causing the trio to split up, but eventually leads Lupin to Mamo's hideaway, where he discovers the madman's dark secret and a fiendish scheme that threatens the entire planet! Now, it's up to Lupin to stop the insane Mamo-before he can complete his 10,000 year-old plans of world domination.
Original com ic books cre ated by Mon ke
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IN CO M P E T
IT IO N
LUPIN III V S
. DETEC TIV
THE MOVIEE CONAN:
DIRECTOR: Hajime Kamigaki MUSIC BY: Yuji Ohno ANIMATED BY: Telecom Animation Film RUNTIME: 108 minutes approx Language: Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
This Lupin the 3rd and Detective Conan crossover film follows Conan Edogawa, who sets out to apprehend Lupin III after he is suspected of stealing a jewel called the Cherry Sapphire.
Â© Monkey Pu
Aoyama / "Lu pi
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IN CO M P E T
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LUPIN III: T FUJIKO MIN HE WOMAN CALL ED E - JIGEN'S G RAVESTON E DIRECTOR: Takeshi Koike MUSIC BY: James Shimoji ANIMATED BY: Telecom Animation Film RUNTIME: 51 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
By bringing her voice to West Doroa, the East Doroan singer Queen Malta hoped that she could heal the rift between the two countries. Instead, her murder on stage by an unknown assassin only served to increase the tension between the two countries. Already a country known for its incredibly low crime rate, East Doroa increases security in preparation for war--but security is nothing to the likes of super-genius thief Lupin III! Still, when he and partner Daisuke Jigen swipe the Little Comet gemstone from an embassy in East Doroa, it's a little convenient that the police seem to know their every move. And worse, before they can even make their getaway, the pair find themselves under the crosshairs of a certain hitman--the same one that killed Queen Malta! Something's fishy, and in order to confirm his suspicions, Jigen visits the cemetery. There, he finds himself staring at his own gravestone. It's a calling card of the sniper, Yael Okuzaki... and no one targeted by him has ever escaped the grave! But why is he only after Jigen, and not Lupin? And things only get more complicated with Fujiko around!
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LUPIN III: T HE WOMAN FUJIKO MIN CALLED - GOEMON E 'S BLOOD SPRAY
DIRECTOR: Takeshi Koike MUSIC BY: James Shimoji ANIMATED BY: Telecom Animation Film RUNTIME: 53 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
A yakuza boss hires Goemon Ishikawa, a modern day samurai, to protect him aboard his cruise ship casino. Everything goes sideways however when a terrifyingly powerful man— the so called “Ghost of Bermuda”— shows up to put world-famous thief Lupin in the ground... right when Lupin’s trying to rob the very same ship! With his employer dead in the ensuing chaos, Goemon’s honor is at stake, and the only way to preserve it is with blood. But this opponent is like no other, and to make things right, Goemon may need to sharpen not only his sword, but himself as well! With a little help from Lupin and Jigen, of course.
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LUPIN III: T HE WOMAN FUJIKO MIN CALLED FUJIKO'S L E IE
DIRECTOR: Takeshi Koike MUSIC BY: James Shimoji ANIMATED BY: Telecom Animation Film RUNTIME: 57 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
A young boy called Gene holds the $500 million key that his father embezzled. The two are being targeted by the killer Bincam who attacked Gene's father, Randy. Once she escapes from Bincam who manipulates the heart of the human with the power of the curse, Fujiko and Gene get restrained. Bincam's sharp claws are ready to attack Fujiko!
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LUPIN III: T HE WOMAN FUJIKO MIN CALLED ECOMPLETE TV SERIES DIRECTOR: Sayo Yamamoto MUSIC BY: Naruyoshi Kikuchi ANIMATED BY: Telecom Animation Film RUNTIME: 300 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Who is Fujiko Mine? The world's greatest thief, Lupin the Third, has set his sights on the world's deadliest femme fatale, Fujiko Mine. After crossing paths on the same job, Lupin is enthralled with the mysterious beauty but such an attachment may come at a price. Elusive and manipulative, little is known about Fujiko as she holds her hand close to her chest. A thief? A killer? She's whatever you need her to be so she can get the job done. As Lupin and his crew fall deeper into the mystery will they learn the answer to the question that plagues their thoughts...
Original com ic books cre ated by Mon ke
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L VE LIVE! THE SCHO OOL ID
DIRECTOR: Takahiro Kyogoku MUSIC BY: Yoshiaki Fujisawa ANIMATED BY: Sunrise RUNTIME: 102 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Although μ’s, the defending champions of the school idol tournament, plans to dissolve their group after the graduation of their senior members, they receive news that leads them to holding a concert event! The 9 girls continue to learn and grow in this new and unfamiliar world. What is the last thing that these girls can do as school idols? With the clock ticking, what kind of meaning will the μ’s members find in performing the most exciting live performance?
© 1990 MAD HOUSE/JA PA
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DEO © 1991
© 2015 PROJ
ECT Loveliv e! Movie
LOVE LIVE! SU
NSHINE!! THE SCHOO OVER THEL RIDOL MOVIE: AINBOW
DIRECTOR: Takahiro Kyogoku MUSIC BY: Yoshiaki Fujisawa ANIMATED BY: Sunrise RUNTIME: 102 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Aqours reigned over them all in Love Live, the last one they would be representing Uranohoshi Girls’ High School in. Its first- and second-year students are now preparing for life at their new school – only to face a litany of unexpected trouble! Most alarming of all, the third-year students have set off on a graduation trip – only to go missing! As the group’s members drift apart, they quickly realize just how much they meant to each other. What will Aqours do to compel themselves to take that next step forward? The shine they’ve seeked is just ahead, in this inspiring live-entertainment movie dedicated to everyone taking flight toward a new future!
Â© 2019 PROJ
ECT Loveliv e! Sunshine!!
DIRECTOR: Various MUSIC BY: Various ANIMATED BY: Production I.G RUNTIME: 102 minutes approx Language: Japanese with English subtitles
RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
From Production I.G, the legendary animation studio behind Ghost in the Shell, comes a collection of five award-winning and rarely seen short films, directed by some of the best animators from Japan. - Pigtails - A thought-provoking fable portraying a nation’s unspeakable feelings in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima disaster. Based on the manga by Machiko Kyo - Kick-Heart - A love story between a pro-wrestler and a nun, each one with a secret to hide. - Li’l Spider Girl - A broken antiquarian meets with a scared, eight-legged baby arachnid slipped out from an ancient book. - Drawer Hobs - Unfulfilled call centre operator Noeru has to deal with six weird kids who have occupied her tiny apartment. - Oval x Over - Running against destiny was never this burning hot.
© 2015 Mac hiko Kyo/SH UE
Partners / Ka dokawa
Shoten Publi shing co. Ltd
PATEMA IN V DIRECTOR: Yasuhiro Yoshiura MUSIC BY: Michiru Oshima ANIMATED BY: Studio Rikka RUNTIME: 99 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles
RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Patema has lived her whole life underground. Following a catastrophic attempt to harness alternative power sources, her community were driven to settle in a dark, cramped network of tunnels below ground. She roams them by torchlight, dreaming of adventures on the surface. Age does not fit in comfortably in school or society as a whole. The world he lives in is known as ‘Aiga’, controlled by the tyrant Izamura’s family for generations. Together – the pair are about to be pulled into something much bigger that will turn their worlds upside-down!
Â©Yasuhiro YO SHIU
RA/Sakasam a Film Com mittee 2013
PENGUIN H DIRECTOR: Hiroyasu Ishida MUSIC BY: Umitarou Abe ANIMATED BY: Studio Colorido RUNTIME: 120 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles
RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Aoyama is a serious 10 year-old boy who records all of his day-to-day experiences in his notebook. One day in May, penguins inexplicably appear in his home town, despite being located a long way from the sea. When Aoyama sees “Big Sis” – a young woman who works at a dentist’s office – drop a soft drink can which inexplicably turns into a penguin, he decides to investigate and resolve the mystery behind these strange events. Together with his classmates, Aoyama happens upon a strange phenomena which is surely the key to these goings-on. Will their investigation bear fruit, and just how is “Big Sis” linked to these occurrences?
Â© 2018 Tom ihiko Morim i,
KADOKAW A / Penguin
Highway Pr oduction Co mmittee
NG WITH Y OU
DIRECTOR: Makoto Shinkai MUSIC BY: RADWIMPS ANIMATED BY: CoMix Wave Films RUNTIME: 111 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, as if to suggest his future. He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine. Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner. This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the skyâ€Ś
© 2019 “Weat hering With Yo u” Film Partn ers
NG WITH Y O U: COMMENT AR
DIRECTOR: Makoto Shinkai MUSIC BY: RADWIMPS ANIMATED BY: CoMix Wave Films RUNTIME: 111 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: SCREENING DATE:
Dr. Jonathan Clements takes you on a journey through the world of Weathering With You with this full, feature-length commentary (ahem, Clementary) track covering the entire film.
© 2019 “Weat hering With Yo u” Film Partn ers
WORK IN P RO JO
RESS: GER ANG D THE FISH
SEE, THE TI
DIRECTOR: Yasuhiro Yoshiura MUSIC BY: Michiru Oshima ANIMATED BY: Studio Rikka RUNTIME: 99 minutes approx Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: E SCREENING DATE:
Join Jonathan Clements for this Work in Progress feature discussing Studio BONES' forthcoming film Josee, the Tiger and the Fish, as he talks about the film with studio president Masahiko Minami, director Kotaro Tamura and producer Mari Suzuki.
Tanabe / KA
WORK IN P RO INU-OH
DIRECTOR: Souji Yoshikawa MUSIC BY: Yuji Ohno ANIMATED BY: Tokyo Movie Shinsha RUNTIME: 100 minutes approx Language: Japanese with English subtitles RECOMMENDED RATING: E SCREENING DATE:
An early look at the latest feature-length work from Science SARU, Inu-oh, featuring interviews with director Masaaki Yuasa and head of the studio Eunyoung Choi.
" Film Partn
Scotland Loves Anime Magazine 2020