Sunday, 29 April 2012

Review - To (2009 - Dir. Fumihiko Sori)

I'd pre-ordered this based on Sori's previous work - Vexille in particular - but after seeing a not-so-great review in SFX I cancelled the order and thought that I'd rent it instead. I should have stuck to my original plan and not bothered reading other reviews first. As with Vexille, it's not the best film ever but something about it gets under my skin and makes me want to watch it again.

To is two separate stories (this severely confused me, when the credits for the first part came up after not that long, it took me a while to realise there was a second story), based on the manga 2001 Nights by Yukinobu Hoshino. Both stories deal with what will happen when humans start to venture out into space. Will we make exactly the same mistakes again?

The first story Elliptical Orbit concerns the shipment of a new energy source. Fifteen years after setting off, the ship transporting the liquid protons back to Earth has to stop off for repairs at a space station. The female captain of the ship meets up with Dan - the head honcho of the space station - and they obviously have a history. But what has happened between them? This story is not really concerned with the science and more with how relationships will be affected by long haul space travel. It contains some strangely static space battles but is nonetheless quite enjoyable.

Then we come to Symbiotic Planet. This is a riff on Romeo and Juliet with two lovers hailing from two different antagonistic nations. Being planet-bound this one has a different feel and atmosphere to the first story but the style and theme ties them both together. It also has a comedy ending that made me chuckle. Fairly standard issue characters are the norm, especially the military types, but I could easily imagine this kind of thing happening. Again, this is more of a love story than hard science-fiction.

A mention has to be given to the title sequence which is one of the best I've seen in years. Music and clean visuals come together beautifully, whetting your appetite for what is to come. I could watch it repeatedly - nice and loud.

The style is a little odd - not quite anime, not quite the CG animation produced in Hollywood - but if you've seen Vexille or either of the similarly styled Appleseed films you'll be used to it. I like it as a way of telling stories differently. There is some resistance to it, with people worried that it might replace traditional anime. As Sori himself says, there are some worlds that you can only produce with hand-drawn animation giving Miazaki's work as an example. I think there's room for all of these different styles. I like this. I like anime. 

I have a strong suspicion that my rating of this film may go up over time. It's one of those films that I just feel myself drawn back to again and again. I better go and order it now...

(As an aside, the extras are quite interesting - especially the brilliantly titled 'Special Questions'. Sori explains how most western films are dubbed into the Japanese language for a Japanese audience. It seems that the whole world is a bit subtitle averse.)


If you like this you could also try:
Vexille, Appleseed, Appleseed: Ex Machina.

1 comment:

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