“Hmmmm.” That was the noise I made as the post-credits scene in Makoto Shinkai’s Kotonoha no Niwa (Garden of Words) faded to black. It wasn’t so much a question or even a measure of concern but more a noncommittal sound that seemed to fit with the rather woolly way the petite forty five minute film ends. Ordinarily at the end of Shinkai film, even one as short as Dareka no Manazashi (Someone’s Gaze), there’s a satisfied silence, pregnant with the weight of the story just told and the characters just glimpsed.
Pluviophiles rejoice for much attention is lavished on the rain
A lot of the discomfort with the ending will likely come from what expectations you had going into it - in short whether you’re familiar with Shinkai’s films or not. Certainly you should take each work on its own merits, but the sharing of motifs and style and tone is enough to sink you back into the amber sunsets and cloudscapes first set out in Hoshi no Koe (Voices of a Distant Star).
The final day of Scotland Loves Anime touched on the entire spectrum of releases with the early 90's classic Ninja Scroll – remastered in high definition but with the original Manga Entertainment English dub – a look into the junior animators of today with the Anime Mirai collection of short films and an already established master at work with Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki (which I mistakenly referred to as the European premiere, the honour of which goes to the BFI screening last week).
Beginning deep into the afternoon with Ninja Scroll, the introduction by Jonathan Clements covered the film's context, namely as an homage to the ninja novels of Futaro Yamada which were written in the 50's and 60's when any mention of samurai or imperialism in a post-war Japan was forbidden, hence ninja. Madhouse decided that the novels relied too heavily and prior knowledge of Japanese lore and set out to create a film that invoked but wasn't at the behest of history. This was Ninja Scroll, somewhat ironically popular almost everywhere except Japan.
It's fitting that in his introduction at the world premiere of Nerawareta Gakuen (literally: School In Peril, official: Psychic School Wars), Jonathan Clements mentioned that whenever The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is remade, so too is Nerawareta Gakuen. It's easy to see why: it has the same overall genre of a campus love comedy with strands of science fiction bubbling beneath it that makes the stories so endearing. Here though the time travel is a little woolier, the story a little more meandering and the visuals a whole lot more colourful.
skirts and stained glass windows, sunsets and sad songs
Were you to take the skies of a Makoto Shinkai work and push them through a high-powered kaleidoscope, you would be some of the way towards imagining how colourful and visually arresting the entire production is. This is not to say it is universally beautiful, although there is sublime artistry in every scene, but the lack of restraint is at times wearisome, dulling the eyes. What could be better than a classroom bathed in the evening sun? One with stained glass windows! And bubbles! All lovingly rendered and fully animated.
Continuing the "What the devil am I watching?" theme, day two of the Glasgow leg of Scotland Loves Animation started with After School Midnighters which had more than a touch of Pixar envy to it. Continuing his introductions, Jonathan Clements revealed that this was originally a short by the production staff in order to bolster support for their abilities.
At one point it looked like the short wouldn't go anywhere until it found its way onto French TV which catapulted it into a film. Originally featuring the animation of previously inanimate objects - a vampire, Jesus Christ and an anatomical model - only the latter made it to the final film. Produced by T-Joy who also own numerous theme parks around the globe and who are also set to distribute the Evangelion 3.0 movie, this was obviously an opening salvo in a wider push for global recognition.