Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Dipping My Toes in Anime: Spirited Away and Akira
And here we are, closing out another month of dipping my toes in one of my cinematic grey areas: the beautifully magical world of anime. I'm ending things with Spirited Away, which I probably should have started with since it's one of those 'gateway' anime films, and Akira, which I deliberately left until last because it's one of those animes that need a little background. Did the month end on a high note, though?
I must admit, my watch of Spirited Away wasn't as good as it could have been. I sat down to watch it on Friday night, but then the news struck about the shootings in Aurora and I couldn't bring myself to keep watching the film. The next day, I sat down to watch it again, only just making it through. My mind was trying to process everything that had gone awry in the world, so I had the attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo. I know, it is a downright shame, and I'd love to see Spirited Away a little further into the future when I'm not so damn angry with the world. That said, it was a very good film.
In fact, Spirited Away is one of the reasons why I have taken to anime a lot more than I thought I would. I wouldn't say that this film is primarily made for kids, but I'm sure it was made with kids in mind. Instead of alienating kids with OTT characters obsessed with being simple, Spirited Away tells a rich, layered story of a young girl taken to a strange alternate world where humans are animals and gods, witches and monsters rule. It takes a fairytale and puts this strange spin on it. Strange being the operative word, because this film goes in several directions that you would never think it would. However, there's not much more I can say about this that hasn't already been said, apart from the fact that the visuals are so simply beautiful. And that I'd love to see it again in the future. It looks like it has that rewatch quality.
Now, I'd been warned about Akira, as it probably isn't the most accessible anime, but it was definitely a seminal one. Made back in 1988, the film brought a whole lot of new stuff to the anime table that hadn't been seen before. Most of all, it gave the animated genre the same footing as live action films: this is a film which could have easily been filmed just like a normal film, but the fact that they went down the animation route made it all the more special. Through the animation, they could fully realise the dystopian Tokyo that they wanted to show, and make a pretty kick-ass film along the way. Now, I do love these films which invent their own universes - and Akira is rich with imagination. However, it goes a little down the road of Paprika by letting it's imagination run a little too far ahead of itself sometimes, but I can be sure that a rewatch would completely iron that out (unlike Paprika - I'm a little too iffy about that one). What separates this and Paprika is that I could actually connect with the characters in some small way.
I didn't completely love Akira (sorry, Cherokee), but I can appreciate the influence it has had on anime films, or any film in general. The universe that it creates is a very interesting one, and the people that fill it are even more interesting. Could this possibly be made into a live-action film? Who knows. To me, Akira lived and breathed the gritty aesthetic of its universe, and I don't know how well that would translate into actual real-life stuff. Hopefully they shelf the idea of making this into an American film, because I'm sure we can all live with the influence it has had on other films, and its awesomeness, for the time being.
Anyway, what did I think about my experience with anime as a whole?
It was a definite eye-opener. I admit, I was one of those naive people who thought that animation was reserved for kids. Anime not only showed me that animation could cater to any audience, but it was also capable of achieving such great aesthetic appeal that live action films could never do. Also, I guess my experience is a little helpful, considering the fact that I'm going to Japan in January. Hopefully I'll be able to find Totoro there.
How would I rank the films I've seen, from least favourite to most favourite?
8. Paprika (2006) Dir. Satoshi Kon
7. Howl's Moving Castle (2004) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
6. Akira (1988) Dir. Katsuhiro Ohtomo
5. Spirited Away (2001) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
4. The Girl who Leapt Through Time (2006) Dir. Mamoru Hosoda
3. Millennium Actress (2001) Dir. Satoshi Kon
2. My Neighbour Totoro (1988) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
1. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Dir. Isao Takahata
What will I be dipping my toes in next?
As you will know from last night's post, once this month is through I'm taking a wee break, so I don't see much point in doing any toe-dipping. September will be out, too, since I don't think I could guarantee being able to fulfil eight movies from a specific genre/write about them - that's when our production goes on stage. So we'll have to wait until October, and I'll announce then! For now, what do you think of Spirited Away or Akira, and anime films in general?