Past + Future = Present (Short Peace Review)

The wait for the simulcast season to settle in is making the Spellbook kind of empty…

I haven’t actually seen Akira or anything else by the guys who handled Short Peace, so I didn’t really know what to expect from this aside from knowing its name and Academy Award nomination from an email newsletter.

Synopsis: A collection of four short animations by big names of the anime and manga industry.

Source material: n/a for all but A Farewell to Arms/Buki yo Saraba (manga by Katsuhiro Otomo)

Main studio: Sunrise

Anime season: Summer 2013

Tsukumo (Possessions)Apparently this segment was nominated for an Academy Award…? It’s certainly one of the more charming segments, with the lost repairman wishing only to help the spirits with his toolkit. Considering the frog (kaeru/蛙) stated “I’m leaving” (which, depending on the word used, could be kaeru/帰る)…if it did use some form of 帰る, that was a nice little pun. While we’re on the topic of puns, “possessions” certainly works for tsukumogami

However, Tsukumo is noticeably more CGI than the other segments, making it come off more like a Western animation – considering the talk around Seikaisuru Kado and Houseki no Kuni as of late Tsukumo went out with a whimper for a reason, even though the CGI’s fluid enough to convey movement believably, especially of the fabric. Also, while this segment could have been mired by its cultural aspect, it does explain itself with an initial wall of text.

(Small sidenote: I think, out of the four, I got attached to this one the most. Maybe it’s because I “got” this one more than the others…)

Hi no Youjin (Combustible): This was the segment I suspected was the Academy Award nominee instead – it’s directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, most famous for Akira, and about a Romeo and Juliet situation – so I was somewhat relieved to be wrong. It involves quite a bit of dramatic irony that isn’t too thick, to the point where you might end up caring about Wakana (Owaka, the woman) as she is consumed by fire and Matsukichi, the firefighting neighbour of Wakana’s, yells at her not to go where the fire will spread. It’s also well-animated, with not even the fire out of place in the wall scroll aesthetic.

If there is a flaw in this one, it’s that its cultural ties are even stronger than the ones in Tsukumo – spirits in objects are easy to explain by demonstration, but how the heck is a Western audience meant to know “Owaka” is an old-timey name for “Wakana”? I only learnt this through the Edo scene in the Boueibu otome game so I don’t expect anyone else to know…(This is why I was relieved, if it wasn’t obvious.)

GamboWhen the classification warned me there was “animated violence” on this disc, I thought it was lying…until Gambo showed up. This segment is pretty much typical anime in a nutshell, give or take giant robots (which do appear in Buki yo Saraba) and high school students (absent), but if you have a list of “fights you never knew you needed”, better add “polar bear vs. oni” to it. It’s turn-off-the-brain entertainment for the most part, a tale of captive women and fighting men that’s as old as feudalism, if not more.

The CGI is pretty hard to detect in this one, but it’s there. Nonetheless, it upholds the tradition of Tsukumo in keeping the animation in both 2 and 3 dimensions top-notch.

Unfortunately, Gambo is pretty shallow if you don’t interpret what the crosses on the samurai’s jacket are for (they imply he’s Christian, which may startle some viewers more than the other sensationalistic stuff in the segment).

Buki yo Saraba (A Farewell to Arms): This one is arguably the most nonsensical at its core when you realise it’s just suited men with silly (code?)names fighting robots and disarming them using nuclear equipment, with lots of explosions. Then again, I’m not so hot on Girls’ Last Tour and this is very much like that (right down to the post-apocalyptic scenery!), and thus there are a lot more implications than you might think there are.

This is the one segment where the visual work of Sunrise, as a renowned mecha studio, comes into play. Every explosion is a pyromanic’s delight and while it’s not sakuga, it’s clearly quality work. Of note are the detailed backgrounds, which while drab colour-wise are not too hard to take in at any one point in time.

The fact only one man in his birthday suit and one GONK (autonomous robot) are left standing after the bunch of robot fights doesn’t bode well for ye olde Tokyo or the human condition by way of Otomo, but considering it was put at the opposite end of Tsukumo, that’s gotta mean something, right?

Anything else? 

  • Apparently there’s a dub out there, but even after fiddling with the audio, it doesn’t seem to be on my disc. Regardless of what language you watch Short Peace in though, it shouldn’t lose too much meaning.
  • Overall, it’s not very good for viewing with kids. Gambo is by far and away the biggest offender of this, but Buki yo Saraba might also be in that category too.

Final verdict: If you’re entertained by ideas that are put out there but not completely explored, try it out and see if you like it.

Watch it if you:

  • would like a short visual spectacle to kill time with (it only lasts about an hour, including opening but not including ending credits)
  • like “reading into” things, because then you can “plumb the depths” of this anthology work and understand what Otomo was trying to get at regarding the human condition
  • aren’t satisfied with all the high school protagonists anime often presents

Pass on it if you:

  • don’t like violence
  • would like some coherence for the story
  • would rather live in the present

Purchase or watch links/Information sources:

 

 

 

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