Tentacle-Free Anime: "Short Peace" (2013) Review
- by Kazekun, 24 November 2014
I love short stories, I find them to be fascinating in how one can take a full premise and condense it into a few paragraphs, or frames, to tell a great story. Anthologies also allow for diversity, they give you the freedom to do whatever you want – as long as it sticks to the theme of the anthology – and you get to spread your wings more. There sadly isn't a lot of anthologies in the anime world, but I have seen a few of the ones that do exist, and every time I find myself falling in love.
Katsuhiro Otomo (the creator of Akira) is no stranger to doing things his own way, and also experimenting in any way that he can. In fact, the man has made a whole legend of himself because it seems like he's always been able to do things his own way. So it only seems fair for someone with that much power to give back, and allow other, budding creators to experience that same sense of freedom.
This is a pretty captivating little opening as you try to figure out what's going on, and I think it is supposed to be symbolic of the audience not knowing what to expect, and then suddenly they're transported to a land of awe-inspiring, genre-transcending magic.
The opening music for Short Peace is very catchy and bumpin', a good selection to get a person ready for the ride. It gets stuck in your head easily. The animation is fantastic, and the colors are so crisp, but the main girl's face is just off putting. Her eyes are too wide, and she looks as if she has a flat face. Very unappealing, even if she is a little girl. But the opening also doesn't fit with the “traditional” tone that most of the anthology offers up, but fits more closely in with the final story: A Farewell to Weapons where it focuses more on that heavy sci-fi bend.
Possessions – Directed by Shuhei Morita, this academy award nominated short story focuses on a traveling craftsman who get stuck in the rain. He enters an abandonded shop in a forest to find shelter, and what he finds inside is more than a surprise. The story is very simple and steeped in Japanese lore, so you may have a bit of trouble understanding some of it on a deeper level. The art is beautiful; at first it took me off guard with its 3D CGI look, but the more it went the more I loved it.
Shuhei Morita does a great job at making you feel the intensity of the dangers the Craftsman finds in the shop, even in the sillier moments there is a certain eeriness to it all. The outcome isn't what you'd expect, and honestly feels a bit rushed for its own good, but I found Possessions to be one of the two better stories in this anthology. One thing to note that this story has going for it, art wise, is the impressive color pallet. Everything is so colorful and vibrant to look at, Morita really did go all out in getting this story to look as good as possible. Because of that, Possessions definitely deserves its nomination, a high honor for any anime. There aren't that many.
Combustible – Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo himself, Combustible – like Possessions – takes place in an older period of Japan. I can't say for certain which period it is, but the story itself focuses on the Firefighters of the age. And a love story that involves choosing between what you love to do, and who you love. This story wasn't one of my favorites, I did like it better the second time I watched it, but overall I believe the story itself could be handled much better.
Two childhood loves are forced to choose between one another, or the lives they have either chosen/had thrust upon them. One of them makes a mistake, and it starts the worst fire in this town; destroying everything. The characters are believable, as are their actions, but the ending leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. The art of it does look great though, with a very unique look to it. The whole thing is told as a rolling scroll, as if it were written down and the visuals take the place of the text.
Visually, combustible is one of the better stories in this anthology. As a story though, it needed a bit more work, or at least a bit more time in its slot.
Gambo – Here we have my least favorite story in the anthology. Directed by Hiroaki Ando, Gambo is also the most violent. Featuring a Polar Bear as the star of the show, it has an art style very similar to Possessions. Although where it seemed to work with that story, it doesn't work as well with this one in my opinion. Everything fills very stiff, and while I found the decision to make a Polar Bear the main character in this, the story just doesn't work.
There is a monster terrorizing a village and the Bear decides to go after it and save everyone. There is a “reason” shown as to why, but it's hard to buy. The Polar Bear as a character just kind of “exists” in the story until needed, with no build up as to why this creature would help people that it in fact despises. There isn't enough background in this people, things happen and you're just expected to go with it.
It does all however lead into a pretty gruesome battle, and the monster is cool looking. I just didn't end up finding any of it particularly interesting because I didn't feel like any of it was given room to breathe and tell us a bit more about why we should care about the characters within.
A Farewell To Weapons – This short, like the Short Peace Opening, takes place in a futuristic setting, instead of a historical setting. Farewell, like Possessions, is so good. Directed by Hajime Katoki, and based off of a story by Katsuhiro Otomo, this is my second favorite story in this anthology. It features 5 guys who are a mission to destroy all weapons in an old, abandoned American-looking city. At some point there was a huge war in this world. Long after it is over, these guys are a part of the clean up. The art is super crisp in this one, and detailed, and the weapons themselves which end up being the enemy are really cool to look at.
Some of the characters are unlikeable, some are, so it gives a good balance. We also get just enough detail into this world to care for these guys. Farewell also feels longer than all the other stories. I feel it got the most screen time to work with, giving it a chance to tell a better story in the time it was given. If you're an action fan, A Farewell To Weapons is for you.
Short Peace is a fun experience, but I did find it lacking with both Combustible and Gambo the most. I think those stories needed a little more screen time given to them, really. They're not awful stories, just victims of their time crunch and the storytellers need to be as different as possible. I do suggest Short Peace as something everyone should watch, it will give you 4 whole anime to burn through easily, and it will give you a taste of not only variety, but what's out there as well.
That's one thing anthologies are good for, there is always something for everyone and will give you a chance to gauge what it is you actually enjoying watching. I very much look forward to Otomo's next anthology project, and hopefully if he does one it won't be another near 10 years for him to do it. I also look forward to the continuing work to be done by the various creators involved in these stories. Morita, for one, should definitely be proud of himself for being nominated with an Oscar through Possessions.
I truly hope he gets to go far.
Final Score: 3.5 Polar Bears out of 5
Have you seen "Short Peace"? How did you enjoy the movie and the review?
Tagged: Tentacle-Free Anime.