Spring and Chaos
It was only after his death, at the age of 37, that Kenji Mayazawa was recognized as one of Japan's Pre-eminent poets and visionary thinkers. Kenji's Spring, renamed Spring and Chaos by Mixx Entertainment, tells the story of Kenji's tragically short life and his struggle to be true to his art and himself. In many of Kenji's poems he used animals in place of humans, in keeping with this theme, director Shoji Kawamori (Macross, Escaflowne) chose to represent Kenji, his family and the people around them as anthropomorphic (i.e. human-shaped) animals, cats for the most part, in this film.
Spring and Chaos is one of the most beautiful Animes ever created; deep and meaningful, provided the viewer is able to figure out what is going on in the story. Like Kenji Mayazama's writings, Spring and Chaos is very surreal, allegorical and abstract. Many viewers may have a hard time following the story, and thrill seeking Anime fans will definitely be put off.
When Tokyopop first presented Spring and Chaos at Otakon in 1998, fan reaction to the dub was not good. Without a doubt, Mixx took a big risk casting Ron Jaxson as Kenji. Jaxson is a skilled voice actor and delivers his lines very well, however he has a noticeable African American accent and it is generally recognized in the film dubbing industry that accents should be kept out of dubs.
According to Stuart Levy, "The idea of using an African-American voice for Kenji came from Kenji being so different from those around him."
Objectively, the quality of the dub isn't nearly as bad as it has been made out to be by many fans, Jaxson's voice is a case of hit and miss with fans' personal preferences. Some find it absolutely horrible, while others find no problem at all with it. For my part, I appreciated the soulful feel to Jaxson's voice, and while the vocal critics of the dub focus mostly on the choice of Jaxson, it is actually the supporting actors that often fail to properly deliver their lines. Wendell Kimsell, the voice of Kenji's father, is the most disappointing of the bunch. Kimsell completely fails to adequately deliver his character's emotions.
All in all, the English dub of Spring and Chaos is actually much better than many contemporary Anime dubs and does not deserve the criticism that has been heaped upon it. Nonetheless, since it really is a case of hit and miss, interested viewers should try to pick up a copy of the hybrid DVD in order to be able to chose between the English dub and the original Japanese track with subtitles.
On the visual side, the artwork and animation are well done. The producers made good use of modern computer animation to enrich the overall experience without cheapening the traditional animation that makes up the core of the movie. The anthropomorphic characters have simple designs, yet are beautifully formed and detailed. They and the other focal points of the animation are well drawn, and so are the backgrounds, being exquisitely detailed and realistic
The soundtrack presents a wildly diverse and beautiful range of music, from European classical and period pieces to Japanese pop and experimental music. The presence of European classical music and period pieces in a movie about turn of the century Japan may seem odd, but it's actually very much in keeping with the fact that European music and culture were very much "en vogue" in Japan at the time. Not only is the music beautiful, but it is also a very important part of the feature, at times taking center stage in the production and becoming as important as, or even more important than, the actual visual effects.
Spring and Chaos is quite simply an exquisite piece of art. As with all art, not everyone will appreciate it, but those who do will very likely consider it one of the most beautiful and meaningful Animes that they have ever seen.
Overall (dub) : A
+ Superb story, superb music.
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