Ancien and the Magic Tablet: Radical Dreamers

hisui_icon_4040_round As I have mentioned several times on the blog and podcast we have been getting anime movies in English far sooner than we have in the past. In the age of streaming in English, an hour after a TV show comes out in Japan movies and OVA are much easier to forget. When a movie comes out a year after the fanfare has died out in Japan it can be easy for it to get lost in the shuffle. Now titles that are part of big franchises or are from certainly noted directors are remembered but everything else depends on marketing. I mean how many people remember that Harmony existed or that The Empire of Corpses got an English release? Now let’s be honest. Not every film would be memorable if it got a simultaneous release. Some mediocre and rotten films were made to be forgotten. But there has been a distinct move with the help of new distribution methods like Fathom Events that make it much simpler to help the great films that would find a wider audience if they come here sooner.

That said the release of Ancien and the Magic Tablet is sort of crazy. It played at the New York International Children’s Film Festival the day after it was released in Japan. When we got Your Name as quickly as we did I was impressed. The fact that Kenji Kamiyama was doing the Q&A in New York not long after the Japanese debut is impressive if somewhat masochistic. I hardly expect such an amazing turns around on a regular basis but it is amazing when it happens. (If they want to do such things with the Heaven’s Feels movies I won’t complain.)

One of the major benefits of the near simultaneous screenings is that I went into Ancien and the Magic Tablet with almost no expectations or preconceived notions. I only really saw the little picture on the NYICFF website and nothing else. I knew it was directed by Kenji Kamiyama but I did not even read the synopsis. I wanted to experience it as pure as possible. Considering how bombarded you can be with trailers, previews, spoilers, and interviews you often have to take a very conscious effort to go into a movie fresh so I decided that I would take the opportunity when it was presented to me on a silver platter.

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Your Name. Here

hisui_icon_4040_round Makoto Shinkai is a fairly well-known anime director. He has enough name recognition that people outside of the anime community actually know his name. His films regularly appear at film festivals and win a good deal of awards. He even gets the always sort of awkward next Miyazaki title along with Mamoru Hosoda. Overall a fairly enviable career. That said I think his films have always been a hair’s breadth away from being super successful. As I have mentioned they win awards and critical praise but they always seem more art house darlings than blockbusters. But all of that changed last year. Your Name was the fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the highest-grossing anime film worldwide. In fact, this little joke from the recent Fate/Grand Order short pretty much says it all:

To sum up the scene Your Name is just the go-to reference when you want to talk about financially and critically successful anime.

So with several other anime and manga making reference to the movie, and it generally just getting praise left and right, I really felt a NEED to see this movie. When I was able to see it at the New York International Children’s Film Festival I knew I had to go. Would this be the next 5 Centimeters Per Second or more like the new Children Who Chase Lost Voices?

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The Case of Hana & Alice: The Curse of Anaphylaxis

hisui_icon_4040 Most of the anime films you are going to see are either based on a manga or the extension of an anime TV series. Many anime are based on myths and historical events. Even most of the Ghibli films are based on popular books. On rare occasion you will even see an original story not based on anything. But interestingly enough one of the rarest origins of animated movies has to be taking a live action series and making it an anime. If anything the opposite is almost always the way things go especially with popular josei manga and anime. It is common enough that we have a section for anime that are being turned into live action series in the monthly Line-Up post. Overall it is not that odd when you think about it. You would be thrown off if someone told you the Sex and the City or Breaking Bad prequel was going to be made as a cartoon.

But despite its relative rarity The Case of Hana & Alice is an instance where the anime is actually a prequel to a live action movie. Actually it is a prequel to a live action movie that is based on a series of short films that were made to be Kit Kat commercials. The unusual path to this anime ripples through all of its production from its combination of CG and rotoscoped animation to its idiosyncratic pacing. Yet in the end it uses all of this to explore a quirky character study of friendship and acceptance.

If anything this seems like a lot of time, effort, and technology to tell a story in animation that might otherwise be far more easily told with far simpler live action techniques. Was all of this worth it?

narutaki_icon_4040 Since The Case of Hana & Alice is a film that acts as a prequel to an already existing live action movie, a live action movie that neither of us have seen, the true test of this story would be whether it could stand on its own.

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