This year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme is called ‘It Only Happens in the Movies?’ and it explores the theme of ‘encounters’. The films in the programme “include titles in which characters experience seemingly unusual meetings, plunge into unexpected circumstances and new environments, as well as collide with different generations, ideals and ideas – asking the question, does it really only happen in the movies?“.
Here’s the summary from the Watershed website:
The brainchild of renowned animation filmmaker Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), this anthology of animated shorts consists of four dystopian tales that together represent a crossover between contemporary anime and traditional Japanese artistic customs. Including Otomo’s ‘Combustible’, a depiction of a huge fire in Edo; ‘A Farewell to Weapons’, a dystopian action film written by Otomo and directed by designer Hajime Katoki (highly regarded for his work on the Gundam series); Hiroaki Ando’s ‘Gambo’ about a legendary battle between a demon and white bear; and ‘Possessions’, Shuhei Morita’s Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Short Film.
And here’s a trailer:
Short Peace was outstanding. I wasn’t sure what I would make of a film made up of four short stories, as I’m generally not a short story fan, but I absolutely loved it.
The first story, ‘Possessions’ (九十九 / Tsukumo), was my favourite. It told the surreal story of a man who gets caught in a storm in a forest one night in the 18th century. He seeks refuge in a tiny temple building and finds himself transported to another world. The animation was gorgeous, and the story sweet, funny and gripping. I found myself utterly transported along with the man and felt like we’d taken a journey together.
Next up was ‘Combustible’ (火要鎮 / Hi no Yojin), a story set in ancient Japan, probably around the Edo Period. Not only was this story enlightening (is that really how fires were fought in those days?!), it was also touching and sad. The animation was really beautiful, especially the traditional buildings, screens and kimonos.
The third story was the tale of ‘Gambo’, a white bear who defends a village against a terrorising red demon. I wasn’t crazy about this one, and could have lived without the vast amounts of blood, but it wasn’t bad. I just felt the story lacked something, although I realise it’s hard to tell a story like this in such a short space of time.
Finally, a dystopian story called ‘A Farewell to Weapons’ (武器よさらば / Buki yo Saraba). This was my least favourite of the four stories as I found it a little dull (although I usually love a dystopian tale!). However, the ending was quite humorous and left me thinking ‘what on earth was all that about?’. There was just too much fighting and shooting in it for my liking, but maybe that was what it was about. There’s too much fighting in the world, and sooner or later our own creations will start fighting back.
According to Wikipedia, “the idea behind the Short Peace was of a hybrid project composed of the four anime shorts and one video game. The overarching theme of the project is Japan, with each entry representing a different setting within the country’s history. Because the modern era had not been represented in the anime, the team decided to represent it using the video game. The decision to bring both the four anime as well as the game to the west was made early in production.”. If the video game is anything like the anime shorts, it could be enough to make me want to start playing video games again (if only I had time!). Short Peace was only an hour’s entertainment, but thoroughly worth it. If you have the chance to see the whole project, or any of the four shorts, please do!
For more information about the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme please visit: www.jpf-film.org.uk