Now that the second Scotland Loves Anime has come to an end, I have the film festival blues. I really enjoyed my first experience at this event and the travel from the East Midlands to Scotland was totally worth the experience (considering this was also my first time travelling up north).
While I wasn’t able to get to the Glasgow viewings for the first weekend, I went to Edinburgh instead to meet up with Chaos, Arbalest and Shuuya, so we went to see what this year’s Scotland Loves Anime had to offer.
It took place at the Filmhouse Cinema which was a lovely and welcoming place to be. Just before the first film started, the creator of the event Andrew Partridge gave an intro and talked to all of us about an award for the Best Of Show; judges were in the audience to give their verdict on four of the films in the schedule.
Here are my thoughts on all the films as well as the AUKN crew:
A Letter to Momo – Scotland Loves Anime award nominee
We started off the festival with a film that isn’t coming out in Japan until next year, directed by Okiura Hiroyuki who also worked on Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and produced by Production I.G, we were treated to A Letter To Momo.
We start in the Japanese Inland sea on a small island, our main character Momo is travelling with her mother to start a new life after the tragic loss of her father, she starts to get bored of the simple village life rather fast and while in her home attic discovers a very old book with demon looking images, it is until that moment where something strange starts to happen to our main character.
I’ll have to leave it there since going into more detail would spoil the heart-warming experience of the film’s revelations but I will tell you that it is a very funny and beautiful film to watch. Momo is understandably shy when you first see her but she becomes an intriguing character the more that is revealed, however it is the mysterious supporting cast that really steals the show, giving it plenty of humour.
The animation reminded me a lot of Studio Ghibi works with just a hint of CG effect on character models which sometimes made the film a bit slow, definitely at the start but it also made the characters more natural because of it.
In conclusion it was a lovely film, that was fulfilling until the very end.
Shuuya – “Typical coming of age story that Miyazaki probably would have made.”
Chaos – “An amazing film in all it’s aspects. Well rounded plot, a soundtrack that if not particularly strong works nicely in it and topnotch animation.”
Hotarubi no Mori E – Scotland Loves Anime Jury award winner
Next up was a short film by studio Brain Base and director Takahiro Omori who are known for producing some of the best anime series in recent years such as Durarara!! and Kuragehime. Since the running time was short, at the start we were treated to episode 2 & 3 of the phenomenal Baccano anime series.
As the film was introduced, one interesting comment I remember was that this film was only supposed to show in cinemas for two weeks in Japan but ended up showing for 8 months, so this really did gain a lot more interest in my view.
We start the film with Hotaru, a young girl who is lost in a huge forest and shouting for help, it is then a boy named Gin who finds her and leads her to safety, Hotaru soon finds out that he is a youkai and if he is touched by a human then he will disappear, she then finds herself returning to Gin every summer break to visit him on a yearly basis.
Hotarubi has a very simple but ultimately engaging relationship between the two characters and it really does shine, it provides plenty of humour as well as executing the drama at the right time, you see a big change as Hotaru grows up and starts to understand Gin’s situation, which is mastered beautifully.
The presentation is top notch as well showing colourful backgrounds to eye-catching character designs also with some great voice acting which was very convincing.
This film really touched my heart and really deserves the SLA award since it was my favourite film out of the line-up as well.
Shuuya – “Did well to create the emotional impact it did for something so short.”
Chaos – “I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a film that was so obvious, but at the same time so engaging as Hotarubi.”
Colorful – Scotland Loves Anime award nominee
This was a different project from studio Sunrise since they are more known for their action & mecha anime series, instead they brought in director Keiichi Hara to produce this drama, Slice-Of-Life story.
A spirit wandering the afterlife is suddenly stopped by a mysterious boy who reveals that it has won a kind of lottery and has chance to be reincarnated if a certain requirement is fulfilled, the spirit enters the body of Makoto Kobayashi who committed suicide from a drug overdose, he must find out why this happened and find out what was his sin before he died.
The spirit finds it difficult to understand Makoto’s past life style and his personality, it is when we find out about his troubles, you want to know more about it and this makes Colorful a very interesting and engaging experience.
You get to know more about this character and the people around him, it had a good amount of development for me to at least care about his situation, add to that the amazing attention to detail to all backgrounds and a smart ending, it’s another film that I really enjoyed.
Shuuya – “A dark analysis of Japanese life with a interesting twist.”
Chaos – “IMHO, the best of the festival. Makoto’s journey may not be a pretty one, but it’s certainly worth following.”
Votoms: Pailsen Files
Another studio Sunrise film but this time it’s back to what they are best known for, good old mecha action.
The film was introduced by legendary director Ryosuke Takahashi, who has been a part of the Votom series since the first TV series aired back in the mid-80’s and at the end of the movie there was a quick Q & A session on the film and the Votom series itself.
Votom: Pailsen Files is about a five man soldier unit who is centered around the character Chirico Cuvie, this team sent on various missions to help there allies win a current 100 year war, the film is full of conspiracy, betrayal and death.
The film is enjoyable but sadly the plot is all over the place, lacking any focus, are team of characters are mostly forgettable and you may not know what is going on half the time, however if you see it as a mindless, massive, mecha action title then this fits the bill, it does a good job in giving the series a bit of variety in battle locations, like snow or even space action sequences.
As said Votom:Pailsen Files was at least worth a watch but it was also one mess of a movie.
Shuuya – “This was a compilation too incoherent for those that have not watched the original TV series.”
Chaos – “I fell asleep at the beginning of it, then some amazing action kicked in and I kept on trying to understand what was going on…”
Mardock Scramble Parts 1 and 2 – Scotland Loves Anime award nominee
These are the first two movies of a planned three, both were directed by Susumu Kudou and produced by Studio GoHands.
The plot focuses on are main character Rune Balot who is a teenage prostitute with a tragic past, a man named Shell Septinos pays for her services but when they finish Shell shows murderous intent and attempts to kill Rune, a few moments later, she is rescued and find’s out that she had acquired special abilities thanks to the help of Dr. Easter and a mysterious mouse named Oeufcoque, she is kept alive so she can bring Shell to justice.
Mardock Scramble seems to have this bleak cyberpunk future theme that reminded me of anime films such as Ghost In The Shell and Armitage III, not a bad thing because it really was one of the best action and stylish films of the line up, the backgrounds looked very unique and eye-catching with a lot of production value put into it.
Through these two films you get to know more about Rune and her dark background but as you progress she becomes a lot more confident when she is with Oeufcoque, making her a pretty cool and interesting character.
A very stylistic and violent film that is entertaining throughout and are worth looking into, both films have me eagerly awaiting for the final instalment.
Shuuya – “If you like violence, sex and gorgeous visuals then Mardock Scramble is just what you need.”
Chaos – “Rune Balot is the meanest heroine since the major. Her head is so messed up that she is one of those characters that keeps you guessing.”
Tekken: Blood Vengence
Based on the popular fighting gaming franchise, this CGI film is based on the Tekken universe and directed by Dai Sato who has worked on various anime scripts for shows like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo which have been successful in gaining worldwide interest.
When Jonathan Clements gave us a introduction on this; he told us that this Tekken movie was meant to be taken seriously, then proceeded to tell us these comical, outrageous quotes from the movie, this was also the only movie from the whole line-up that had an English dub, plus it had no 3D, so I thought that I might be able to take parts of this movie with a meditative attitude, it never happened.
I haven’t played Tekken for a long time but to describe it, this movie was so bad, that it also ended up one of the most entertaining, over-the-top films I’ve seen this year, the cheesy dialogue had most of us laughing as well as the character interactions. It ended up totally opposite to the way it was meant to be taken.
While signs of a bad movie were shown – poor character development, lack of plot focus and a slow start, in the end it was worth watching and it’s mostly thanks to the audience atmosphere, I would recommend you at least see this with a large crowd to appreciate it’s ridiculous storyline.
Chaos – “Excellent! For the wrong reasons though. In any case, if you like fighting games and films, you will enjoy this film.”
Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror
Some of you will remember that in the schedule, there was a mystery film that was not revealed until it finally screened, pretty much all of us had no clue on what it actually was at first, we even had a chance to guess but to no avail, all we were told that it was something different, when the film started we finally found out that it was “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” which was directed by Shinsuke Sato with studio Production I.G producing it.
The story follows Haruka, a teenage girl who lost her mother when she was young. She remembers her mother giving a hand mirror to her before she passed away but eventually she lost and forgot it the more she grew up, upset by this she goes to the local shrine to pray for the hand mirror to be returned to her. While resting at the shrine she sees a strange “fox-masked” creature collecting unwanted items off the ground and while following it she discovers a place full of forgotten items.
All of the film is CG animated which is interesting but risky if you don’t make a convincing setting, however Oblivion Island succeeds in telling an interesting story, a creative and convincing world and a grand adventure that successfully pays off by the end of the movie, I would go so far in comparing it to any Pixar film.
While it might more suited as a kid’s film, it’s not at all a bad thing, it has a massive amount of imagination and humour to entertain anyone, a big surprise and a pleasure to watch.
Shuuya – “A kids film filled with plotholes but still fun if you’re in the mood for something really light or with nice CG.”
Chaos – “A fantastic fantasy story with amazing animation.”
The final part of the show was a series of short films shown back to back – the first of the short films shown was Coicent – produced by Sunrise and directed Shuhei Morita.
In the year 2710, the world is more technologically advanced than before, we meet are main protagonist – Shinichi who is on a school trip to Nara city, while looking around he meets a troublesome white deer and a girl named Toto, this proceeds to become a tale of love and silliness.
The most interesting aspect of Coicent in my view is it’s character models, for the most part they are CG animated while still keeping the regular anime expressions, they did well to fit them into the normal 2D backgrounds.
Fitting 25 minutes into short film can be hard, not getting to know much about Shinichi and predicable antagonist’s doesn’t make Coicent the most memorable experience, however it does offer up a fun and charming romantic comedy that I enjoyed throughout.
Also the ending has dancing deers, this could be better than the The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya “Hare Hare Yukai” dance. (I am totally serious)
Shuuya – “A fun short that I would like to have seen become a TV series.”
Chaos – “The dancing dears makes this film worth watching. The rest of it is also very enjoyable.”
Towa No Quon
The next short was the first of a 6-part series by studio BONES.
At the start we find a child in the middle of a park being chased my military unit, the kid is currently mutating at a large speed, turning into some kind of monster who has the power to shot deadly orbs that when touching something can damage it, just as the special military unit comes in to capture him, a bunch of monsters attempt to save the child from danger, these unknown beings are also part human and the leader Quon wishes to save all these converted monsters from this military unit.
This has an interesting premise as soon as the first short starts, we have good animation (BONES again shows there talent for great action sequences) and a likeable main character that has enough motivation to get behind him.
Since it is the first film of the series, I can forgive the lack of character development, I felt that too many characters were introduced, some even cliched, plus the idea may be a bit simple to some, however apart from these nit picks, Towa No Quon was a solid and thrilling watch which I hope to see more in the future.
Shuuya – “Very cliched and predictable X-Men wannabe.”
Chaos – “Looks promising as an sci-fi/action series. “
The final short turns us back to studio Sunrise with Hiroaki Ando at the directors helm.
Five doors suddenly open up to reveal five prisoners who find themselves stuck in a prison with everyone gone, these individuals use there talents to work out where they are and how they are going to escape this prison.
Sadly this was the least impressive film shown, the CG was unnatural, the mystery of the prison was easily predicted and the prisoners were bland & boring to watch. It wasn’t all bad though, I liked the ending twist but it’s all I can give it, it is a shame because if it had a better running time, it could have had a lot of potential.
Shuuya – “Terrible CG and art accompanying a uninteresting plot made this a very weak feature.”
Chaos – “Boring. Slept through it.”