Memories Episode 1: Magnetic Rose Review

Rating: 9/10

Plot: The Corona is a ‘garbage’ ship in the outreaches of space. The captain, Ivanov, is about to head home when Aoshima, their tech specialist, notices an SOS signal. They don’t want to investigate, but fear the repercussions for ignoring a distress call, so they decide to give it a quick check. Ivanov sends his two engineers, Heintz, a serious worker and family man, and Miguel, a goofy womanizer, to explore the odd cluster of debris where the signal is originating only to be astounded when the inside is revealed to be a magnificent mansion where holograms, hallucinations and fake décor are peppered throughout. Who is sending the SOS, and is it really a call for distress?

Breakdown: Memories is actually an anthology film, but I felt it better to review each section on their own.

This project has a lot of talent attached to it. It was produced and based on a manga written by Katsuhiro Otomo, most famous for writing and directing Akira, as well as directing Steamboy and doing the screenwriting for Metropolis,. There’s also, of course, the marvelous Satoshi Kon, creator of works such as Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent.

The talent is definitely reflected here, because the film is off to a strong start with this episode.

It’s a haunting and intriguing tale from start to finish. The characters’ memories and even Eva’s, the lady of the ‘house,’ are manipulated, used and warped to suit Eva and seemingly the station’s desires.

The movie does a good job of connecting you with the characters from the getgo, allowing the film to be filled with tension and be immersive. There are also several aspects of mystery along the way – not just with Eva, but also with Heintz. A particular revelation with him was heartbreaking when I realized it was a real memory and not a manipulation.

The art and animation are fantastic….barring the CGI, which hasn’t aged well. It stands up well against other 1995 CGI, but by today’s standards it’s downright ugly sometimes. Luckily, it’s not very prominent throughout the episode. Only the shots of the station itself and some action shots are noticeably CGI.

The music is beautiful and very impacting. I particularly enjoyed the song at the very end. Yoko Kanno did the music for this segment, so the quality is no surprise.

Overall, this episode is wonderful and a great start to the movie. However, I am a bit wary of the other two entries as they’ve been noted as being much weaker than Magnetic Rose. Hm.

Additional Information and Notes: Memories Episode 1 – Magnetic Rose was directed by Koji Morimoto, who also directed the “Beyond” segment of The Animatrix and did animation work on Akira. He also co-founded Studio 4°C – the company that produced Memories. The screenplay was written by Satoshi Kon.

The entirety of Memories was based on a manga by Katsuhiro Otomo.

Runtime: 1 Hour, 53 minutes

Year: 1995

Recommended Audience: There’s one fly-by shot of naked breasts via a photo Miguel has, but it’s literally on screen for about a second. Other than that, there’s some corpses and skeletons lying around and a kid is shown to semi-graphically die from a fall. 10+

Tokyo Godfathers Review

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Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: Three homeless people – a drunk/gambler washed up father, a crossdresser and a teenage runaway – find a baby amidst some trash. With only a few clues as to who her parents are, the three set out on a mission to find the baby’s family to decide whether they should return her or contact the police.

Breakdown: Welcome to the AVAHS finale! And what better way to close out the holiday season than with anime?

Technically, this isn’t much of a Christmas movie. While the entire movie plays out over the Christmas season with the movie spanning what seems like Christmas to New Years, there isn’t much connection to Christmas outside of decorations, a few songs and the implication that Kiyoko, the baby, has it in with God.

That being said, this is still a Christmas movie, and a damn good one beyond that. This is another of Satoshi Kon’s babies….no pun intended, and it has his style all over it.

While not being gut-bustingly funny, the movie does have several laugh-out-loud moments, and the characters, both major and minor, are very memorable with interesting and well-written stories. Only Gin, the washed up father, might have a slightly cliché backstory.

The story has a very straightforward path – get baby to parents – but this is one of those movies that seems more about the journey than the destination. The various hurdles that they have to jump to find Kiyoko’s parents are both realistic and hit all the right notes.

For instance, there’s a scene where Gin gets jumped by a bunch of teenage asshats who just want to beat the crap out of a homeless person (and a dead old homeless person as well) for no reason other than entertainment.

This is scene is really difficult to watch, especially since they steal something very important to him, resulting in him getting beaten even worse in an attempt to get it back. Just when you think he might die, they top off the scene with a great joke to lighten the mood. The joke doesn’t seem out of place or even out of character for the sake of a joke, and that type of sudden contrast can only be pulled off with real finesse.

While the characters are all very funny in their own right, they each have fairly sad stories that really make you feel for each of them. All of the emotions here, over the top for comedy effect or not, are all very genuine.

The story, while seeming very straightforward, had several twists and turns that I honestly didn’t see coming, especially the twist with Kiyoko’s mother.

If I had any qualms with it, the story seems a little too convenient at times. They just happen to stumble upon people from their past, the exact clue to where they need to go etc. a lot during this movie, and it’s only towards the end where you really start to notice, but still. This can be explained away by possibly whatever connection Kiyoko may or may not have to God, but *shrug* According to the Wiki page, these coincidences are done on purpose to showcase the little connections that we may have even with strangers to strongly link us together. Still, it can seem a bit wonky sometimes.

Also, I would’ve liked more exploration on Miyuki’s, the runaway, story. Her dad may or may not have done something to her pet cat that made her stab him in the stomach. He later says he has the cat and it’s fine, so I don’t know what happened there.

The art and animation are fantastic, yet another Madhouse production, and the city feels so well done and gorgeously detailed that you really feel like you’re there.

The music is also great with Christmas music, some classical selections and a somewhat jazzy BG set melded together.

The voice acting, Japanese, really shines here. Everyone is just fantastic in their roles, especially Hana’s VA, Yoshiaki Umegaki.

Bottomline: This may not be putting the spotlight entirely on Christmas, but it is still a feel-good Christmas movie with great characters, a fantastic story, plenty of action, drama and comedy, it’s and just a great experience overall. I can see myself watching this at least a few more times in the near future.

And that, sadly, closes out A Very Animated Holiday Special. Here’s to next year!

Additional Information and Notes: Tokyo Godfathers was written and directed by Satoshi Kon and it was produced by Madhouse.

Runtime: 1 Hour, 37 minutes.

Year: 2003

Recommended Audience:
Some rather crass homophobic slurs get tossed around, and there’s some other swearing. There are also a couple of suicide attempts, and one guy gets shot up. In terms of nudity, there are a couple boob shots but both of them are for the sake of breastfeeding. 13+

Paranoia Agent Review

Rating: 9/10

Plot: A city is plagued by seemingly random attacks by Shounen Bat – a boy on golden rollerblades wielding a golden bent baseball bat. While hardly anyone pays attention to the first few attacks, the case continues to wrack up incidents as the true story behind Shounen Bat gets increasingly complicated and crazy.

Breakdown: Paranoia Agent is certainly one of the crazier and thought-provoking anime I’ve watched. The series is kinda set up in an episodic way as most episodes focus on the story of one or two characters who are the current targets for Shounen Bat. The only linear aspects to most of the series are the detectives working on the case and Shounen Bat himself.

The individual stories are really well-written and some of them get very dark with their subject matter. They range anywhere from a perfect kid at school getting suspected of being Shounen Bat to prostitution, dissociative personality disorder and pedophilia.

The story of Shounen Bat is the craziest of all and I’m still trying to make complete sense of it. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s definitely an aspect of the series that I’m still trying to figure out fully.

One of the most interesting aspects to me is the ending. I’ll try to explain this without spoiling it all, but in a world where every episode supposedly ends with ‘freeing’ the victim from something and giving their story a somewhat happy ending, the actual ending to the show is not happy for the main characters at all.

The final two episodes as a whole are a little hard to swallow, but I can honestly accept it in the world that has been presented to us – a mirror of our world while still allowing for events such as that. They’ve basically been doing the same thing to a lesser degree during the whole series.

Some of the episodes are intertwined and it’s really interesting to see what you believe to be two or three completely separate stories connect in some way at the end.

The characters are all very memorable. Not all are likable, but some of them you’re not supposed to like. They’re very realistic and interesting characters to follow through their different storylines.

Art and Animation: The art and animation are both very well done, expected from Madhouse. The animation in particular is very fluid and nice to watch.

Music: I love the soundtrack for this series. The opening is very unique, contrasting greatly with the average J-Pop we’re usually fed. The ED is very relaxing and I love the melody. I’d definitely put it on my list of favorite ED’s. The background music is also wonderful as it really set the tone for the series and created its own identity.

Voice Acting: Japanese – Everyone was good in their roles. I can’t think of anyone who annoyed me. Even cute little Maromi, with chibi cutesy characters almost always getting on my nerves, had a good voice that was fitting and nice to listen to. It would probably grate on me over time, but it never annoyed me during the series.

Bottomline: This is a very funny, weird, interesting and thought-provoking psychological drama/thriller. The only reason I deducted one point was because there was never a point that really wowed me in amazement. There’s still more than enough to enjoy in this series, and I highly recommend it.

Additional Information and Notes: Paranoia Agent was created and directed by Satoshi Kon, who was also the director of Perfect Blue, director and original writer of Millennium Actress, director and original writer of Tokyo Godfathers, and director of Paprika.

It was animated by Madhouse, and the English dub was done by Geneon, though the US license is now expired.

Episodes: 13

Year: 2004

Recommended Audience: Psychological series are already quite a bit above child territory but add on to that prostitution, sexual references, suggested pedophilia, animal death, no nudity oddly enough, and they don’t even show the attacks on screen, child death…..14-15+.