Nick and Micchy plug in to RetroCrush to check out of the service's streaming gems: Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories, a trifecta of short films adapted from the Akira creator's story collection. Time to fly to the far reaches of space and back to cogs of the all-too-familiar warmachine.
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Micchy, I was gonna try to write an intro about how we need to escape from the stressors of the present by revisiting the past but screw it. I'm pretty sure we've used that joke like 8 times and it's past its expiration date.
I mean, what can we say when it's so omnipresent?
So we're taking another dive into RetroCrush
's offerings (now with an actual web player!) with Memories
, an anthology film from the minds and talents behind Akira
. This first segment of which follows the crew of the most unfortunately named spaceship ever.
It was 1995, humanity hadn't even gone through the SARS epidemic yet, give them a break. It'd be another story if it were named the Columbia as far as disasters from two decades ago. But that one wasn't caused by the spiteful consciousness of a wronged opera singer creating mind palaces in space.
Oh for sure, it's just an oopsie daisy of a coincidence. Like I imagine the ship is actually named after the crew's favorite terrible beer.
Yeah, checks out.
, this first story is actually the only part of Memories
I'd ever even heard of before watching it, specifically because it's the story scripted (though not originally created) by the late, great Satoshi Kon
Kon's obviously a pretty big name on it, but "Magnetic Rose
" was also directed by the cult favorite (at least in English-speaking circles) Koji Morimoto
as part of a three-part anthology film from Katsuhiro Otomo
. Kind of a powerhouse of a creative team!
is also a full-on space age ghost story, which basically combines my 2 favorite genres into one and it's great. Instead of stumbling onto your standard haunted mansion or castle, our doomed heroes clamber their way into a haunted space-station that's ALSO a haunted mansion.
And like any self-respecting ghost story, it features creepy cherubim robots, angels crying tears of sewage, and a load of other really striking imagery.
I suppose I should be glad Eva the ghost soprano didn't think to add clowns to her staff.
Clowns are so gauche anyway. When you're the supremely extra opera prodigy of a royal family that dresses like the 1700s while living in space, only the grandest and most refined horror finery will do.
That said, that imagery loses some impact thanks to this particular release - it caps out at 480p and I'm almost certain that's fudging the numbers on a standard definition rip from the original DVD release. So if you've already seen Memories
it may be worth it to just wait for Discotek
's announced Blu-ray release to revisit.
especially deserves HD. It definitely loses something when the lush dream worlds have the definition of what my eyeballs see when I first wake up in the morning and have to hunt for my glasses.
Though some people may benefit from the blur. I don't know if too many could handle seeing this gore in HD:
It doesn't makes the disintegrating people any less disturbing!
Love waking up from an idyllic flashback to happy times with my family to [gestures]
Oh for sure, even with the low resolution Magnetic Rose
is dripping with atmosphere. From the moment our heroes enter the ship and are drowned in ominous opera wailing it's nothing but ominous dread for 20 minutes. It's not necessarily doing anything groundbreaking as far as a ghost story goes besides replacing the spectral with sci-fi, but great direction and music can absolutely sell even the most bog standard horror premise.
Absolutely. Story-wise it's simple: a gang of trash collectors stumble on a haunted
spaceship, are lured inside by visions from a woman long dead, and then finally they die, unable to escape from their delusions. The strength, like you said, is in the execution.
Nothing like reliving your daughter's death while a ghost reassures you everything is alright!
It's also funny how much it resembles Kon's own original works, considering the story was first made by Katsuhiro Otomo
. Escaping tragedy by delving into a false, romanticized past, all the surrealist ghost imagery that blurs the lines of reality. If you told me this was a trial run for Perfect Blue
I'd believe you. With a dash of Paranoia Agent
That's the case for Heinz at least. The other guy on this expedition just wants some hot soprano ass, which, relatable. Unfortunately she's also a crusty skeleton.
Good for him he's totally consumed by her hologram fantasy. Have fun starving to death, I guess, dude.
He was SO CLOSE to figuring it out too! Guess all that time in zero gravity gets to ya huh.
In all seriousness, what makes Magnetic Rose
so chilling is how even as the illusion starts to collapse, even when the guys know it's all fantasy, there's nothing they can do to escape the strains of Madama Butterfly.
It's a suitably dark ending that I think works better than if they'd managed to escape. The titular Rose is a seemingly eternal trap waiting out there in the depths to drag in more damned souls, hauntingly beautiful in its self-made isolation.
Anyway Part 2 of Memories
is about a guy killing people with his farts.
It's also about the collapse of government bureaucracies in the face of a largely preventable disaster, but yes, it's also about Joe Shmoe turning lethal on Taco Tuesday.
Also: do not take mysterious drugs not yet approved for prescription use! Nobuo Tanaka's just a walking mess of bad health practices.
Really there could not be a more awkward/fitting time for this particular piece of black comedy to get rereleased. Like I'm sure this segment plays WAY differently now than it did in 1995, yet it manages to be oddly prescient about the governmental response to a sudden biological disaster. Namely: shoot it.
I mean yes, breaking out the tanks and fighter jets to shoot down one dude with bad gas is overkill, but it's also extremely funny that the government's response to the stink bomb is to start firing at him without ever bothering to tell him why. So poor dude's going his merry way on a dinky little scooter while being chased by seemingly the entire armed forces of Japan.
To be fair he's also the densest dude alive and can't figure out why this cloud of poisonous gas that kills everyone except him keeps following him and only him everywhere he goes. And then decides yeah, let's go to the densest populated city in Japan while that's happening. I'm sure it'll work itself out.
Meanwhile his bosses are like "yeah we told the one guy who survived to come by before anyone finds out about our screwu- ohhhhhh shit."
Granted the military's not any brighter. Their ultimate plan to stop him is to just get a bunch of really big fans and blow his fart cloud away.
Only way this could be more screwball is if the fans had a big ACME logo on the side.
I like how the Americans step in with their Very Expensive Spacesuits and seem to have it all under control for a hot second before their refusal to tell this dude anything useful screws it up for everyone again.
So yeah Stink Bomb is about as hard a swerve from Magnetic Rose as you can get. And I'll admit that while I enjoy the pure energy of its Looney Tunes antics, it wears out its welcome about 5 minutes before it actually wraps up.
Lingering around a little too long is hardly the worst thing a movie about a fart could do though! I don't disagree that it goes on a smidge too long, but up until that point it's a goldmine of black comedy.
I certainly don't dislike it, but it's definitely my least favorite of the 3 entries. But that's mostly because Magnetic Rose
is entirely My Shit, and Cannon Fodder
is just an absolutely stunning accomplishment of artwork.
Ah yes, the one about the military-industrial complex.
There's a LOT to dig into with the commentary present in this short, but the first thing that'll grab your attention on this one is one of the ballsiest animation choices I've ever seen. Namely constructing nearly the whole thing as a single shot and moving the "camera" across the entire city.
This is something live-action directors will do for maybe a few minutes at a time to show off, but Katsuhiro Otomo
does it for nearly 30 minutes on animation cells and almost entirely hand-painted backgrounds.
On top of being an impressive technical feat, it really sells the idea that everyone in the city is a cog in one big machine. And they are, working day in, day out to fire just one enormous cannon. Thousands of people are building, loading, and aiming each round, and this guy gets credit for pushing the button.
It's a very old-school kind of absurdist commentary. There's very sparse dialogue and much of it is the mundane stuff you'd hear in any city in our world. But that's kind of the point - this is a world in which anonymous militarism against some unknown, unseen, unnamed "Enemy" is the end goal of all life. Even the anti-establishment protesters are merely calling for using less harmful materials to shoot the gun.
"No ethical consumption under capitalism" except it's "no humane murder in the war machine." Their trig classes exist to calculate bullet trajectories, all their industry centers around building more guns; even their greetings are shooting-themed! It's a big meaningless system that exists for itself. Nobody really understands the point of it all, but it's so omnipresent that they don't really question it either.
Side note: 'uttekimasu" is an absolutely awful pun and I hate it so much.
It's a message that could feel heavy handed if handled poorly, but the art and animation manage to make this whole world feel not only tangible, but achingly familiar. And even as the various characters go about their day seemingly numb and disinterested from the implications of their day-to-day lives, it builds a sense of unease in your stomach more palpable than any scare in Magnetic Rose
It's a really solid piece - though it's actually my least favorite of the three! I remember hearing an observation that everyone has a definite least favorite, but nobody can agree on which one it is. I think that might in fact be a testament to the strength of all three - it's just a matter of which ones speak to you the loudest.
Oh for sure. Memories
is one of the rare anthology works that doesn't really have a weak section. One might be more to your taste than others, or feel more out of place compared to its peers, but all 3 are unique and singular piece that can stand on its own.
It's a special film for sure, certainly more consistent than the other Otomo anthology that comes to mind (Short Peace
). There's a reason it sticks around in the conversation!
And there you have it, folks.