Dec 10, 2014

Review: Short Peace

Short and Sweet Animes by Talented Directors: Short Peace Review
by Tanya Lindquist

Short Peace is a series of short anime films by some of the most talented directors in Japan. There is a companion piece to the films in the form of a video game called Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day. The films and video game explore Japan in different time periods. The film opens up with a girl entering a portal and begins to change clothes and hairstyles once inside, signalling to us that we are entering a world where magical things will happen.

The first short is called Possessions by the director, Shuhei Morita, of Tokyo Ghoul. This film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short in 2014. The story follows a man seeking refuge in a Shinto shrine for the night. Once inside, strange things begin to occur. Supernatural spirits visit him and seek his assistance. The man soon realizes there he can’t leave the shrine unless he helps them. This world feels right at home in a Hayao Miyazaki film particularly Spirited Away. What I enjoyed the most was the use of color in the umbrellas and in the fabric.

The next film, Combustible, is by the director of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo. Set in the Edo period, the film evokes imagery of a woodblock print. The opening scene unfolds as if you were unveiling a scroll. A tale of childhood friends, Owaka and Matsukichi, who fall in love as adults. Their love is not meant to be when Matsukichi is disowned by his family, and Owaka is arranged to be married to someone else. While the story is very generic, there is no denying that a master is at work here. The animation is exquisite, and every inch of the screen is full of detail.

Gambo, the third entry, goes down the horror route. Story is about an ogre who kidnaps the women of the village for nefarious purposes. The villagers ask a samurai to rid them of the ogre. The only woman left in the village is the Emperor’s daughter, and they want her protected at all costs. The Emperor’s daughter runs off and lays among a field of red-orange flowers. The imagery of that scene is quite striking and is a clear contrast of what is to come. This scene is interrupted by a white bear. The samurai, who is following her, is suspicious of their interaction. He had a previous run in with the bear and regards it as evil. The girl is able to approach the bear, and asks it to destroy the ogre. This was by far my favorite of the films shown. It is the one that lingers with you through the credits. The confrontation between the bear and ogre is visceral and full of tension.

The concluding film called A Farewell to Weapons, and is directed by Hajime Katoki, famous for his work on the Gundam series. The anime follows a ragtag group of soldiers who are sent into a torn down city to defeat an enemy. The enemy turns out to be a robotic weapon that seems unstoppable. The quick cuts and shaky cam in this anime made it feel a lot like other live action military films. As a result, it becomes confusing who is who when they jump around to different soldiers and get the action from their perspective. The ending is what makes the viewing worthwhile. The tone of the pieces switches from action film to biting satire.

Short Peace is a worthwhile series of anime to seek out. Each one is unique and is reflective of the director’s style and artistry. The closing credits that appeared at the end of each segment felt bothersome at first, but by the end it provided some much needed time to pause and reflect. I hope Otomo considers doing a Short Peace 2 with a whole new set of directors.

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