My favourite clip from class on 17/11/2009

Of all the anime we saw yesterday evening, my own favourite is Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers. I love it for its characters, its breathtakingly cheeky coincidence-laden plot, and above all for its portrait of a Tokyo rarely depicted in anime – the Tokyo of unglamorous streets and cheap rooms, where living on the edge means queuing at soup kitchens and rummaging in rubbish heaps rather than fighting alien invaders and teenage angst. Tokyo Godfathers is a film for grown-ups, but one that acknowledges the confused,  fearful, hopeful child’s heart hidden in every adult.

Satoshi Kon is a very clever director, but he never allows the themes and ideas of his films, and the games he plays, to become more important than the people in them. His characters are completely convincing. Even when they veer into conventional cartoon territory, limbs and faces stretching like rubber, voices shrieking upwards, they keep their basic humanity.

If we hadn’t seen Toyko Godfathers yesterday, I would have chosen Ryuji Masuda’s Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta: Mr. Stein of Trash Street (Garakutadori no Stain.) This is anime as Terry Gilliam might make it – low-budget, creator-controlled, but visually rich, with a wryly inventive script underpinning its wordless antics. Mr. Stain lives in a quiet side alley off the bustling city streets, and rummages through the trash that collects there. The treasures he finds always turn out to be two-edged swords.

He and his friend Palvan, the giant orange cat, are a pair of innocents abroad, experiencing that busy, confusing world outside through found objects that promise much but usually deliver something unexpected. The episodes are short, around seven minutes, but each is a perfect little parable, again aimed at the child in all of us, and each one ends on a note of optimism, with the credits rolling over a party where everyone involved in that day’s adventure lets their hair, fur or feathers down and looks forward to another day.

Both titles have been released in the USA. Tokyo Godfathers is also available in the UK. The FUNimation DVD release of Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta isn’t easy to find, but you can track down the series online. The DVD has some good extras, including interviews with director/writer Masuda, producer Shunsuke Koga and CGI director Daisuke Suzuki and a clutch of CGI shorts.

So what was your favourite clip from yesterday’s class?


8 Responses to My favourite clip from class on 17/11/2009

  1. stealthbuda says:

    Urda was the only new clip for me that caught my attention. I thought most of the other clips were quite fluffy where as Urda looked quite dark and obviously contained some people using weapons in anger.

    I was interested in the fact that it was made for mobiles though more than anything, although depressed at the distributers constant need to shoot themselves in the foot an encourage piracy by not providing adequate and timely release of their products, this is a prime example.

    I aquired the clips from YouTube and watched them on my phone.

    Watching them all together was enjoyable. I’m not sure waiting for each episode after being provided with a tiny episode would have kept me interested though.

    I enjoyed the style very much, and the story was interesting and well developed in the short space of time. I like stories that ignore the build up and go ‘here’s the action, this is what these people do, accept it or move on’, which it does very well.

    Some of the action was questionable, trained soldiers missing a space shuttle whilst using tracer rounds, but there are some amazing set pieces that make up for it.

    I won’t give any of the story away for those that wish to see it, but I really enjoyed it and was pleased becasue I had never heard of it before last nights class. So thank you Helen.


    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you’ve tracked the rest of it down, Adam. Interesting that you picked up on soldiers missing large targets despite good equipment – I’m always amazed when that happens, even though it’s so common in animation and live action from all over the world!

      Once handheld platform anime develops further I think we can expect to see whole series released much faster – daily for first runs, then on-demand. It makes much better sense and as you say will be the most effective weapon against piracy.

  2. Rhiannon says:

    The clip that I found the most outstanding was The Sky Crawlers. The magnificent deadly dance of the two planes/pilots set against stunning backgrounds and a sweeping score was an absolute joy to watch!

    The animation style of this film is visually stunning, the combination of the rather obvious but realistic CG animation of the scenes in the air, and the more traditionally drawn scenes and characters on the ground. The difference is made even more obvious by the mood and the colour palette used between the two. All the scenes on the ground are quite cold, sober and dull in colour, with a lot of uncomfortable silences, whereas the scenes in the sky are all bright, exciting, vibrant and full of life! I think it’s obvious where the writers feel the Kildren find their purpose in life!

    For a film that is rather on the depressing side (do not watch this if you are looking for something sweet and light-hearted), the contrasting action scenes bring life, and almost joy into this film. I think it’s this contrast that really sticks in my mind. The fact that you can go from being on top of the world to crashing to the ground in a few minutes (quite literally in this film) is a thought that tends to stay with you for a while!

    Apart from the slightly hollow feeling you’re left with at the end of this, this is definitely one of the better films I’ve seen this year, and definitely one of the best uses of steampunk I have seen in a while!

    • Helen says:

      I’m so sorry to have to miss the screening at Comica on 26 Nov – a film like this should be seen on the big screen. You’ve picked up brilliantly on the way colour is used for emotional/psychological scene setting.

  3. bexy09 says:

    The clip that was definitely my favourite was Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. I can remember watching it for the first time a few months ago and I completely fell in love with it and last week watching the trailer made me fall in love with it yet again ^_^ sorry for being cheesy but it’s true!

    Without a doubt it’s so much better than Spirits Within; using actual voice actors from the anime industry for the English dub was so much better and it’s so good when you can easily recognise those particular voices again (it didn’t take me long to realise that about 6 of the VAs were from Naruto).

    But it’s not just the VAs that make it special to me. It’s also the spectacular visual effects and CGI which really took my breath away, particularly how Tetsuya Nomura was able to make them so realistic, it doesn’t really hit you that you’re watching a computerised film cuz they look so real! Too bad they’re not!! ^_^


    • Helen says:

      Nothing wrong with being cheesy! I like your comments on the English dub, especially the subtle way you point out that voice acting is a specific skill, and the way you link it with other work by the same actors.

  4. thegosm says:

    I was pleased to see a bit of Gankutsuou (Maeda, 2004). Last spring I saw an entire episode, which showed a mixture of visual styles that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The opening sequence used a computer-generated technique that was simultaneously evocative of dissolving Henri Toulouse-Lautrec watercolours and, subtly, the imprecise lines of old tattoos. It had an almost dreamlike quality, which made a startling contrast to the first ‘proper’ scene: a street carnival rendered in vivid, rainbow colours, designed to resemble a mixture of decoupage and drug-induced hallucination.

    When the main characters were introduced another visually challenging technique seemed to simultaneously apply and reveal the pattern of their clothes: imagine a mixture of old-fashioned manga-style screentone (where a pattern is applied en bloc and uninterrupted to a defined surface) and velvet burn-out devore, simulating the effect of cutting through the image to reveal a richly-decorated background beneath. While the unclothed portions of the characters (their faces, hands etc, rendered in a hand-drawn style) moved naturally through the frame, their clothes seemed to take on a vitally mesmerising yet almost completely static life of their own.

    As the episode progressed, the frames became increasingly crowded with vaguely familiar visual cues presented and contrasted in ways that made them utterly unfamiliar (I found Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt and Maurice Binder, to name but a few), and this is where I felt that Gankutsuou really came into its own.

    While the hand-drawn, everyday, facial features anchored the eye to a certain extent, their very plainness within the extraordinary textural context rendered them utterly peculiar and unsettling. The visual layering made it virtually impossible for the inexperienced viewer to predict what the diegetic environment was going to do next; I did not feel secure in my analysis of the frame, and thence the story itself, at any given point.

    Gankutsuou investigates (among other things) the imbalanced relationship between a naïve young man and an older, wiser and infinitely more dangerous being and never have I seen stylistic effect and narrative content so effectively matched before. My feelings of uneasiness and instability as a viewer were directly analogous to the protagonist’s feelings of insecurity and powerlessness; I was Albert to Maeda’s Monte Cristo and, while I left the theatre not entirely sure that I understood what I had just seen, I felt that it was compelling, brilliant and unique.

  5. Helen says:

    Really nice appraisal here, fitting in very well with the powerful visual emphasis of the film. This one really does tell its story visually, and by expressing your views through visual terms and references you’ve enabled me to ‘see’ the film through your eyes.

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