Review

by Theron Martin,

Short Peace

Blu-Ray

Synopsis:
Short Peace Blu-Ray
Short Peace is an omnibus production collecting together one introductory piece and four short stories. In “Opening,” a girl playing hide-and-seek comes across assorted hyper-scientific wonders. In “Possessions,” a traveling repairman in 18th century Japan takes shelter in a dilapidated shrine during a storm, only to discover that the spirits of many worn-down objects inhabit it. In “Combustible,” an Edo-period young woman laments that she is being married off to someone other than the aspiring fire crew member that she has long loved; only a massive fire can bring them back together one last time. In “Gambo,” a massive, battle-scarred white bear helps a girl and a traveling samurai combat an ogrish brute who appears to have come from outer space and is using a village's women as brood mares. Finally, in “A Farewell to Weapons,” a highly-trained, well-equipped recovery team in a post-apocalyptic setting encounters a particularly troublesome automated tank, left over from the war, during one mission.
Review:

Short Peace is also the name of a collection of manga short stories by Akira creator/director Katsuhiro Otomo, which was published in the 1970s. Here, like with the collection Memories, his name is the binding element to another collection of shorts, in this case all animated by Sunrise; he is the director of one of the pieces (Combustible) and the original creator of another (A Farewell to Weapons). While A Farewell to Weapons was directed by longtime Gundam and Super Robot Wars OG mechanical designer Hajime Katoki, the other three were directed by men who were, at the time of the pieces' productions, known primarily for their work in shorts: “Opening” was directed by Koji Morimoto, who is probably best-known for the Magnetic Rose segment of Memories; Gambo was directed by Hiroaki Ando, who is best-known for Five Numbers!, and Possessions was directed by Shuehi Morita, who at the time was best-known for Freedom!, Coicent, and Kakurenbo but has since gone on to direct Tokyo Ghoul.

The introductory and four regular pieces total about 65 minutes in length, not counting the end credits. Since their artistic styles and story elements are each dramatically different, they will each be described separately below.

Opening
By far the shortest piece in the set, this is merely a stage-setter rather than an actual narrative. The girl playing hide-and-go-seek is merely a pretext for involving her in all sorts of wondrous transformations and world-jumping – in other words, it is pretty much just an excuse for someone to show off the breadth of their creativity. The artistry and animation are far from the best in this set but the vision and sense of magic make up for that.

Possessions
Although Otomo is the highlight director, this is arguably the highlight entry in the set, as it was a nominee for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. How it earned that nomination is pretty obvious, as it is a gorgeous-looking work which may start with the deep gray and blue overtones of a storm-tossed nighttime forest but afterwards bursts into dazzling color and detail as its traveler gets drawn into the spiritual world of discarded items. The story is pretty simple – the traveler gets out of his supernatural predicament (and even earns a reward or three) by repairing various discarded items – but the visuals are anything but, as the complexity impresses on numerous fronts, whether it be the patterns on the traveler's clothing, the array of swirling silks in one scene, or the fine details of parasol construction in another. Most impressive is the junk monster, which is comprised of the discarded remnants of innumerable objects. Animating that must have been a nightmare, yet it is pulled off gloriously well.

Combustible
Otomo's own work is the second of the main pieces and easily the least satisfying in a storytelling sense, though every bit as impressive as the others in its details. Its featured young woman played with a neighbor boy obsessed with firefighters as a child and grew to mutually love him, but they were forced apart as they grew older, as the boy's father did not regard firefighting as a respectable profession and she was betrothed to someone else. When her carelessness starts a small fire, she hesitates on raising an alarm, as she perhaps contemplates how this might be the one way for her to be with her beloved. The problem is that Japanese homes in that era were very fire-prone, so that little fire soon turns into a major conflagration, with tragic consequences. That story is really only a framing device for a focus on period firefighting techniques, though, particularly how one of the main tasks of fire brigades was pulling down houses to serve as fire breaks. Although it starts out looking like an animated Japanese scroll, it also eventually has its own impressive visual displays, particularly its animation of fire and the striking look of some of the kimonos. It is also the piece where the character designs are most distinctly Japanese.

Gambo
Although the story is self-contained and has a satisfying (if also sad) conclusion, this the piece which most cries out for expanded treatment, as even a few extra minutes would have helped smooth out and fill out the story. It tells of a traveling samurai who loses an encounter with a monstrous white bear, only to encounter that bear again some time later as he is attempting to track down and deal with an ogre-like creature who has been brutally absconding with female villagers. As he discovers, though, the bear is actually on his side this time, as it has made friendly with the last remaining girl in the village (it seems to be intelligent) and taken to fighting the ogre, especially after discovering the ugly purpose that the ogre is using the villagers before. That fight is the piece's feature element, and that and other scenes makes this by far the most graphically violent of all of the works. (This is also the only one which has any nudity, but that one shot could hardly be called a fan service moment.) It is also the least impressive artistically, as it uses a deliberately rough and grainy aesthetic which will definitely not appeal to all tastes but was probably meant to convey the rough and grainy setting of the beleaguered village. Only in a field of flowers does it have any vividness of color, as the setting is otherwise morosely dull-looking – again, probably by symbolic intent. The animation is still quite good, however.

A Farewell to Weapons
At around 20 minutes, this is the longest of the pieces and the only one which uses a fully conventional visual style. It is also the only one which pointedly carries a message in the way it ends. (Possessions could be interpreted as carrying a message about the value of restoring old things, but it is not as blunt.) The running battle against the “Gronk,” which is either the official name or nickname for a tenacious autonomous tank, takes up most of the piece, and achieves quite a bit of intensity in the process. It is a wonder of tactical execution (although in the end, all of the humans' carefully-laid tactics fail), and it being directed by a long-time mechanical designer shows in the precision detail applied to the tank, the suits worn by the recovery team, and the weapons they use.

As one might expect, the musical score also varies dramatically in style from piece to piece. Each one is equally well-supported, though, and the differing sounds are each strongly-suited to its story. The theme song at the end of “A Farewell to Weapons,” “Yume de Amishou,” has a classic 1940s sound, a sharp contrast to the American rock-style “Motorcycle,” which is not exactly an opener but is used at the beginning of Farewell.

Given their past track record in releasing one-shots, pairings, or collections of shorts, that Sentai Filmworks is responsible for this release is hardly surprising. (They seem to be the only American anime company willing to do this.) Their Blu-Ray release, which comes in a slipcover, includes one postcard-sized art card for each of the four main pieces but otherwise has no Extras beyond trailers. The visual production on the Blu-Ray is very good and the DTS-HD Master Multi audio is outstanding. The English dubs directed by Kyle Jones offer no complaints, as each is well-cast, well-performed, and does not vary markedly on script.

For anyone interested in animation – and not just anime – Short Peace is well worth a look. It offers impressive creativity, variety and range; at least a couple of these pieces are likely to suit any tastes.

NOTE: Grades below reflect overall averages (except for Music, which was consistently at that level) and should not be taken as specifically applying to any particular piece.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-

+ Fantastic artistry on some pieces, great creativity and variety, strong supporting music and dubs.
Artistry on Gambo, stories come up a little short in some cases.

Director:
Hiroaki Ando
Hajime Katoki
Screenplay:
Katsuhito Ishii
Hajime Katoki
Kensuke Yamamoto
Storyboard:
Kazuyoshi Katayama
Hajime Katoki
Unit Director: Shuhei Morita
Music:
Tomohisa Ishikawa
Hikaru Nanase
Original Concept: Katsuhito Ishii
Original creator: Katsuhiro Otomo
Original Character Design: Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Character Design:
Tatsuyuki Tanaka
Yusuke Yoshigaki
Art Director:
Yoshiaki Honma
Hiromasa Ogura
Animation Director:
Hiroyuki Horiuchi
Yusuke Yoshigaki
Mechanical design:
Hajime Katoki
Kimitoshi Yamane
Cgi Director:
Masashi Kokubo
Makoto Wakama
Director of Photography: Jiro Tazawa

Full encyclopedia details about
Short Peace (movie)
Gambo (movie)
Buki yo Saraba (movie)

Release information about
Short Peace (Blu-Ray)

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