ANN Yasuhiro Yoshiura page

My average ranking: 6.88 (The two versions of "Time of Eve" have been counted as one item.)

Director Pantheon: Yasuhiro Yoshiura Rating
Aquatic Language (special) Decent

Better known as Aquatic Language this nine minute student film about the wonders and perils of communication pre-figures Time of Eve. The cafe and the barrista are dead ringers for their counterparts in the later anime and may prompt viewers to re-adjust their thoughts about Nagi's true nature. The design of the characters is highly stylised, so much so that they don't fit comfortably in their 3D surroundings, something that is managed more successfully in Time of Eve. This stylisation does, however, heighten the impact when the transparent 3D fish and speech bubbles make their surprisingly joyful appearance. The cryptic presentation may be frustrating but it does encourage the viewer to think about the subjects raised.

Extended review

Harmonie (movie) Good

In the shared dreams sequence there are hints of Yasuhiro Yoshiura's penchant for oppressed societies, the relationship between humans and robots, and the creation of new paradigms. Yet, the charm of this Anime Mirai film lies chiefly in its ensemble of high schools students. In just half an hour he presents a self-contained world where the day to day trivia of existence is thoroughly convincing. As a bonus their designs are refreshingly left field for anime. Akio being infected by Juri's dream via her song is sweet on an emotional level and a subtle metaphor for meme transmission. The multiple uses of "Harmonie" in the story and its optimistic thematic role add further to the charm.
Kikumana (movie) Not really good

Predating Aquatic Language by a year this six minute short film consists of a sequence of images of a young woman, the titular Kikumana, in a room full of books. She may be dreaming or perhaps her imagination is let loose; she is connected to the world but connected to no one; experiencing all sorts of the things, while experiencing nothing. It seems to me to be a surreal commentary on our lives in the digital age. In tone it has an affinity with Pale Cocoon, although the artwork (in grey tones) is nowhere near as sophisticated. As with Makoto Shinkai, a director whose career Yasuhiro Yoshiura parallels, it's fascinating to see his craft develop. Yoshiura's early stuff isn't as accessible but it's more interesting than Shinkai's. Time of Eve was an enormous leap forward for him, the way it presents his complex ideas while being simultaneously immensely entertaining. I think he has entirely leapfrogged Shinkai.

You can look it up on Yoshiura's Studio Rikka website - a google translated version of the page is here.

Kimi no Iru Machi (OAV) Decent

Based on a long running manga Kimi no Iru Machi depicts an event well into the run but includes several flashbacks so that viewers can get a handle on the relationship between the three main characters. If you aren't familiar with the manga (and I wasn't) it may take a couple of viewings to understand their history (which I needed). It's easily good enough (and short enough) to enjoy watching at least twice.

Haruto is a country boy who travels to Tokyo on a school excursion where he hopes to meet Eba with whom he is having a long distance relationship. Amongst his travelling classmates is an earlier flame, Nanami, who still harbours feelings for him. The first episode sets up the crisis; the second resolves it very sweetly. I found it a tad predictable but there's plenty of things to appreciate about it in any case. The artwork and animation are gorgeous, the characters are appealing, and the many small observations hit the spot perfectly. Best of all, the outcome is satisfying, even if the characters still have much more ahead of them. (I guess that's the point of the OAV: to get people buying the manga to find out what happens afterwards.)

Pale Cocoon (OAV) Good

Pale Cocoon is a formidable piece of work, even if it's only 23 minutes long, largely because its structure reflects its message. In all three of his works Yasuhiro Yoshiura explores how humans wilfully rely on assumptions and self-deception to make sense of their world. The manifold pleasures of Time of Eve come about as the characters within the story suddenly realise the truth and see things clearly for the first time. In Aquatic Language characters argue about the value of hearsay or even if words have any power. In Pale Cocoon the apparent remnants of the human race have forgotten their own history and live under the misapprehension, despite their technology, that they evolved on the moon. Worse still, it seems they don't even understand the notion of what the moon is. The protagonist, Ura, restores an old archive that suggests otherwise and sets out to uncover a truth that no-one else can face. What he discovers is both alarming and wonderful. The problem for the viewer is that Yoshiura is, in effect, putting us through what Ura is experiencing. It requires several viewings, some consideration and a little cheating on the web to make sense of the snippets he provides. The viewer is unlikely to understand what is going on at first blush and, annoyingly, the anime's very impenetrability discourages re-watches - it just doesn't seem that interesting at first. Nevertheless, once the story is understood, the final image of a blue earth appearing beyond the pale cocoon is one of the most uplifting moments in anime. Shame about the ordeal getting there.

Extended review

Patema Inverted (movie) Good

The weird premise - gravity being inverted for the heroine - is complemented perfectly by the visuals which are the main the hook for the film. And a huge hook it is. The constant fear of falling into the sky is visceral and terrifying. The imagery of someone holding on for dear life with just clouds and emptiness below them won’t be easily forgotten. Yet the terror is replaced by sublime joy when Patema and her new friend Age discover that by holding onto each other they can fly across the landscape. (People holding on to other people for survival is a major image and theme of the film.)

Patema is game but highly vulnerable. One slip, one false move means a fall into oblivion. The scenes are framed so the viewer is staring into the abyss along with her. We share her terror. At one point, having no other alternative, Patema grasps onto the body of the big bad, the overplayed psychotic Izamura, for anchorage. In that moment he finds a strange pleasure in the sense of protectiveness he feels, but the parent is quickly replaced by his Marquis de Sade nature. The rapid transformation with its sexual undertones briefly has the film prying into an uncharacteristicly dark place for director Yasuhiro Yoshiura.

That moment aside no one else is as memorable as the heroine. Compared with Time of Eve the characters are flat. Age is stoically loyal; his rival from underground, Porta, is goofily good-hearted, the authority figures from the upper world are stiff and overbearing. Actually, stiff is a good description for many of the characters. The designs are unexceptional, bordering on dull, and they even hold stiff poses much of the time, although their movements are fluid, which makes for an odd mixture.

This is a film that ought to be seen on a big screen. A small screen will limit its highlights and highlight its limitations. Its simplicity makes it more accessible than Yoshiura’s Pale Cocoon but leaves it a notch or two below Time of Eve

Patema Inverted: Beginning of the Day (ONA) Good

In his previous works Yasuhiro Yoshiura displayed a penchant for situations where characters find their beliefs up-ended. In this 4-part ONA prelude to the forthcoming movie Patema Inverted he presents the notion more literally than anything he has done to date. The four episodes combined are a little longer than 25 minutes but, especially in the third and fourth segments, they dangle before us the promise that the movie may well be every bit as fascinating as Time of Eve.

Indeed, the third episode contains the most startling anime footage I have ever seen. If you have a fear of heights or fear of falling this may not be the anime for you. There are a couple of moments – losing her grip on the wire mesh fence and shortly afterwards dropping her backpack – when the absolute terror of Patema’s predicament was conveyed to me in an almost visceral way. Having a plucky girl subject to such an incomprehensible terror created a sympathy I have rarely felt for an anime character. And, yet, I spent most of the short episode chuckling at how singular and audacious Yoshiura’s imagination could be. The central conceit is startling and original, belying the frequent complaint that contemporary anime is avoiding risks. My astonishment matched that of Patema and Age when they first clap eyes on each other.

The final episode provides some background on Age whose world is tightly regulated, uniform and emotionally austere. Both Patema’s and Age’s worlds are blinkered, one by its claustrophobic environment, the other by its deadening moral attitudes. The ineffable paradox the protagonists present to each other could be seen as an allegory for our own unease at the “other” in our world, be it refugees or economic immigrants or people with lifestyles alien to our own.

Time of Eve (ONA) Masterpiece

Better known as Time of Eve. With the work of directors like Yasuhiro Yoshiura coming on stream (literally: Time of Eve is an ONA) it is now clear that reports of the death of anime have been greatly exaggerated. This really is the perfect anime. It may not be to your taste (Philistine!) but you can't fault it. This simple tale of little revelations in the lives of Rikuo and Masaki is actually a major revelation. And those moments of illumination are what makes Time of Eve so charming: such as the boys discovering the truth about Akiko, and later Rina and Koji; or Rikuo finally seeing clearly Sammy standing right in front of him and later realising how much his piano playing means to her; the viewer learning in episode 5 the significance of the droplet of water falling from Sammy's hair in episode 1; and learning in episode 6 the truth behind Masaki's evasions about his family. The 3D sets are simple but glorious, the camera movements are themselves a feature and the character artwork avoids all the fashionable cliches. Watch it.

ANN Book Club (with more commentary in subsequent posts)

Time of Eve (movie) Masterpiece

Although the episodic nature of the story make it arguably less suited to a feature film format than as its original on-line broadcast, Time of Eve the Movie: First Season Complete Edition still delivers its subtle yet thoughtful and emotional messages. It would be my recommended format for new viewers as it can be watched now in its entirety without repeating the credits. Extra footage is minimal, however the new end credits and what follows add more revelations and pose fresh questions. Observe closely the knuckles on Nagi's left hand as she embraces the man (?) / machine (?) in the final scene. It's these seemingly insignificant touches that make Time of Eve such a gem.

Extended review

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