Simple stories about the power of love, friendship, and the human spirit have been at the forefront of Japanese animation since its inception. These stories are what many of us grew up with. We saw Naruto or Goku overcome impossibly strong adversaries. We saw them endure unbearably darkest times without breaking and we eventually saw evil vanquished. The anime medium has told many different stories but it is this simple, universal theme that it always comes back to. The show we’re looking at today may just be the best example of this theme I have ever witnessed. Let’s dive into the tank and take a look at Akitaro Daichi’s 1999 cult classic, Now and Then, Here and There.
What is love? As a question, it may seem to have an obvious answer at first glance. Is love not the warm affection we feel towards one another? Perhaps it’s not as simple as that. Romantic love, for instance, is not the same kind of love we show to our parents or siblings. Parental love is not the same kind of love shared between friends. Perhaps love needn’t even contain emotion or a warm sense of affection. It could be used to describe the act of looking out for the well-being of a community rather than an individual. For a word that has such a deep and nuanced meaning, how would one go about teaching it to someone who had never seen or experienced it? How would we express such a concept? In Kyo-Ani’s latest treasure, its lead character desperately tries to find the meaning of the love her father figure showed her. Let’s dive into the tank and take a look at Kyoto Animation’s 2018 work, Violet Evergarden.
“From the studio that brought you Your Name.” That line says a thousand words and implies a thousand more. Needless to say, sharing a common bond with the highest grossing anime film of all-time is an easy way to get people talking and a certain way of raising expectations through the roof; expectations no small Netflix film could ever realistically achieve without capable hands. To add to the colossal weight the film insists on lifting it aims to be an ambitious run of three separate short films that attempt to explore the contrast of youth and adulthood. Each of these shorts has its own story to tell but, the question is, do they tell them well or do they ultimately tumble into a cliched and hamfisted attempted to recapture the magic of Shinkai’s modern classic? Let’s dive into the tank and take a look at Flavors of Youth.
What does it mean to be a friend? Are we suppose to plaster smiles on our faces, laugh at each joke, and act as if nothing is ever wrong? What would happen if someone you considered a friend was suddenly able to read your thoughts and know your deepest desires? What if they found out that the person they thought you were was nothing but a lie? Would your friendship fall apart if they knew your true feelings or would they continue to love you in spite of the change? These are the questions Kokoro Connect and its four-episode sequel, Michi Random, asks its characters. Let’s dive into the tank and take a look at one of Silver Link’s more underappreciated titles, Kokoro Connect.
Good friends are something we all pursue and treasure. Sometimes we even place our entire worth on the number of friends we have or on the people who know us. Social media has this idea that placing importance on how many “friends” we have or how many “likes” our entries receive we are someone more valuable than another. If you aren’t popular then who are you? Growing up I didn’t have many friends. I was incredibly shy and whoever I grew a liking to (only because they grew a liking to me first) I would always keep at arm’s length. I was that way with everyone I didn’t know, constantly afraid of any type of social interaction. When I played on a swingset I would move on as soon as someone else jumped into the swing beside me. Then as I grew older things changed. The anxiety that once gripped my life started to gradually disappear and I began to speak with confidence. A confidence that once seemed impossibly out of reach. During the past five to eight years I often found myself wondering what exactly happened. At what point was I able to stand beside a stranger with my head held high? I am sure there are many factors to my change and if I had the time and space I could probably recall a fair number of them. But every story has a beginning and mine happened to start with the first person who wanted to be my friend. (note for those who haven’t seen the film I will be talking about some major spoilers)
When it comes to any piece of art, whether it be music, film, or literature, the most important thing it needs to execute is its identity. What does it want to be? An action-packed thriller with twists and turns? A romance? Or maybe a simple down to earth comedy? While you can, of course, utilize all of these elements in a single story they have to be just that: elements. They need to be tied effectively to a single, larger narrative. The show I’m going to be looking at is a perfect example of what happens when you have everything but a single, cohesive narrative. Let’s dive into the tank and take a look at Charlotte.
Do you remember the films you grew up watching over and over again? Do you remember those enchanting and charming animated films that fascinated and dazzled your young mind? Films like The Lion King, Bambi, and Beauty and the Beast continue to reach the hearts of children and adults even today and similar things can be said for Studio Ghibli. Should one call them Japan’s answer to Disney they wouldn’t be far off. Ghibli is responsible for some of the most beautifully hand-drawn films of all-time. Spirited Away was when the studio first caught the mainstream eye but Ghibli had been creating masterpieces long before then, such as the epic Princess Mononoke, the wonderful My Neighbour Totoro, and my personal favourite, the inspiring Whisper of the Heart. When fans were given the news that Ghibli would be closing its doors at the end of 2014 it left many of us wondering what would or could fill in the vast gap left by the beloved studio. Unsurprisingly, the absence of Ghibli’s craft hasn’t stopped anime from excelling in 2-D animation, going on to craft some of its best films in years with Your Name, A Silence Voice, and most recently Maquia (When The Promised Flower Blooms). But those films aren’t necessarily for children. It was a passion for simple, innocent storytelling that made Ghibli so unique in the anime world.
Enter Studio Ponoc, a brand new animation studio formed by people who were once under Ghibli’s wing. Do they possess the same fiery passion their forebearers did or are they merely trying to cash in on nostalgia? Let’s dive into the tank and take a look at their first full-length animated feature, Mary and the Witch’s Flower.