I’ve recently gotten back into watching anime films, most wound up being pretty amazing. It was reassuring that I picked some good titles as it has left me wanting more. Today I wanted to share with you a rundown of my great anime re-watch of 2020.
I’m going to leave Studio Ghibli films out of this list as it’d be very easy to just write about those and we’ve already covered them in detail here. I’ll also be watching with the English dub where that’s available.
Origin: Spirits of the Past
I loved Origin: Spirits of the Past when I first watched it. I liked the setting of an earth that has mostly been destroyed owing to an accident trying to grow super plants on the moon, and I liked the characters. Upon re-watching it while I still very much enjoyed it I was more aware of the issues with the pacing of the story and how it was all a little underdeveloped and shallow. And while the main characters Agito and Toola are easy to like, they’re never really developed to their full potential and none of the other characters even get to that level. It’s a shame as there are some really cool ideas in play that never really work as well as they could do, it almost feels like a series would have been better than a film to allow for that world-building and development to be fully realised.
Overall it’s an enjoyable film that could have been so much more. I did appreciate the hopeful nature of the ending, even if you have to get through the ludicrousness of a walking volcano – which is equal parts awesome and mental.
I’ve not watched Sky Blue (Wonderful Days) in years, I always loved the soundtrack and the absolutely amazing visual style. I also remember enjoying the understated English dub and the bleak world the film is set in.
It starts with a monologue where Jay, one of the main characters, establishes what led to the world the film is set in as well as the class system that’s in place. Jay and Shua make for engaging protagonists and their bond is well realised even as they find themselves on opposite sides of the class divide. It’s impressive that a film that’s about seventeen years old still looks stunning, it utilises a number of different animation and film techniques which mesh together nicely.
The dub isn’t as good as I remember but thankfully it’s still pretty solid, the only thing that really lets the film down is the runtime. At only 82 minutes it means the pace is such that certain important events don’t get the chance to breathe and settle, ultimately I would have liked more of Jay and Shua’s relationship as it’s the emotional heart of the film but never gets the focus it really deserves. The upshot is that it still remains one of my favourite anime in spite of the flaws, the tone and aesthetic coupled with an interesting story and decent main characters outweigh the negatives. I still love it.
Another one I’ve not watched in ages! My initial thoughts when Metropolis started was that it hadn’t aged especially well, given its nearly twenty years old that was always a possibility. Still, the backgrounds are stunning but I’m not a huge fan of the character designs, they’re overly stylised and quite distracting. It’s a very distinct art style but one that just didn’t really work for me.
I didn’t really enjoy Metropolis as much as I remember. The pacing was way too slow, it felt like nothing much really happened until the last twenty minutes and while I appreciated the jazz soundtrack as something unique it also felt out of place. I liked that the story deals with the segregation between robots and humans, and how robots are treated by most humans. The concept of Tima, the main character, being a robot but understanding that was excellent and feeds into the interesting finale.
After re-watching, it’s a shame that my high opinion of the film has changed with time but these things happen.
The only thing I can ever remember about Tekkonkinkreet is that it was utterly insane and didn’t make a great deal of sense, not sure why that’s my defining memory but there we go. After another watch, it’s definitely not as crazy as I remember it being. Tekkonkinkreet is definitely very weird and I’m still not 100% sure I knew what the hell was happening for most of it but it was still definitely incredibly engaging.
I really liked the art style, the characters are pretty stylised but it’s done in a way that kinda makes them look like comic books come to life, and the scenery is impressively realised. The voice cast is seriously impressive too, most of the core cast are people with an excellent pedigree and it really helps as performances are very good. The thing I liked most is that it took the time to establish a bond between the two main characters, Black and White.
Overall, I’d definitely watch it again in the future if only to try and see if I can finally figure out what the hell is going on.
Steamboy comes from the same director as Akira, I’m not sure I knew that previously, and apparently was the most expensive anime film ever made. I honestly don’t remember anything about the film bar the fact it’s set in Victorian England and I vaguely recall enjoying it. It’s got a really distinct visual style, the darker colour palette adds to the setting and makes it feel more grounded. It’s also got a pretty great voice cast with people like Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin being involved.
The story of Steamboy is alright but largely run of the mill, two opposing sides vying for power off the back of advancements made in steam power and stuck in the middle is a young boy trying to stop it all. The steampunk element with the flying fortress is seriously cool and the final quarter of the film is good fun as James flys around using what is essentially a steam-powered rocket. The soundtrack is excellent and composed by Steve Jablonsky who was mentored by Hans Zimmer and the influence shows. It’s rather odd to watch an anime with such a western score but it adds to the atmosphere.
Overall, it’s probably too long and drags a bit in places but Steamboy is entertaining and well worth another watch.
Within the first five minutes of re-watching, I’d realised how little I remembered about Summer Wars. The film takes place in different settings – the real world and a virtual world called OZ.
Each of the settings allows for a very different visual style which is pretty cool, the OZ elements are very distinct and stand out where the real world elements are pretty typical of anime. Turns out the virtual world has access to a lot of real-world systems so naturally it gets hacked and things go tits up. This happens against the backdrop of a family gathering where main character Kenji finds himself while pretending to be Natsuki’s fiancé. The family decide to fight back against the hacker and that’s when things start getting a bit outlandish.
Summer Wars is a fun and bizarre anime. At one point there’s a card game taking place in OZ to essentially avert a disaster, and while all this is going on you keep dropping back to the family and seeing how they interact. It’d be a lie to say they’re normal but there are definitely relatable circumstances you can identify with, let’s face it all families are weird in their own little ways. It’s definitely a film worth checking out and unlike most animes so refreshingly different.
I always get Paprika and Tekkonkinkreet mixed up for some reason, no idea why as they’re very different films though both are seriously weird. The basic premise of Paprika is that a machine used to enter peoples dreams has been stolen and must be tracked down before it falls into the hands of a dream terrorist.
Paprika is pretty out there as you’d expect, the fact that it involves dreams means it gets seriously trippy as the film goes on. It’s visually pretty impressive and does a good job of conveying the assorted weird happenings. While the voice acting is solid, it seems to be a bit all over the place tonally, some actors play their characters completely straight whereas others seem a bit more playfully or tongue in cheek, it’s an odd contrast. I really can’t emphasise enough how bizarre the film becomes over its runtime, especially as the dreams merge together and bleed into the real world.
Overall, Paprika is enjoyable if you can get past the weirdness although I have to admit I think it wants to be deeper than it winds up being. Definitely worth a watch, though not one that has aged especially well.
5 Centimetres Per Second
I absolutely hated 5 Centimetres Per Second when it released, I found it incredibly unsatisfying and disliked the ending a lot. I have since discovered it’s by Makoto Shinkai, who did Your Name and Weathering With You which I loved, so I was keen to give it another go.
The first thing I noticed was how pretty it is! I definitely didn’t appreciate that the first time around, though it’s obviously not quite as stunning as the aforementioned which is understandable given it’s much older. Still, there’s a lot there to appreciate visually. 5 Centimetres Per Second essentially splits into three segments, set in different time periods of the main characters Takaki and Akari lives.
It’s a story of unrequited love, drifting apart and life going on. I hated it when I originally watched it as I thought it was too slow and incredibly depressing but this time I found it bittersweet and incredibly contemplative. I still would have preferred a happier ending but that’s apparently because I’ve become a hopeless romantic in my old age and just want any romance to work out in the end. The soundtrack is solid and captures the mood of the film perfectly and the English dub is restrained adding to the emotion.
Honestly glad I re-watched 5 Centimetres Per Second and found a new appreciation for the story being told. It’s definitely one that’s worth checking out.
Street Fighter: Alpha Generations
This is the third anime Street Fighter film released and I remember enjoying it. Unlike the previous efforts, it removed the large cast of characters and focussed on Ryu and his struggle with the dark Hadou (a part of his martial art which relies on killing intent). Because of this, it’s a more personal tale than the other films which shift focus towards the ensemble, the only other known characters to appear are Ken, Sakura and Akuma.
First impressions of re-watching, the animation and art style hasn’t aged especially well. The English dub is not great, though having looked at the voice cast I suspect this might be due to the script as some of them have voiced great roles subsequently, they’re seemingly not helped by the stilted dialogue. The fight sequences are pretty decent but there’s not enough of them, though the final confrontation between Ryu and Akuma is interesting as Ryu struggles not to lose himself to the dark Hadou.
Overall, Street Fighter: Alpha Generations is intensely frustrating to watch. There are some really good ideas that could have been fascinating to view if expanded upon properly but ultimately poor execution leaves this as a bit of a letdown.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was one of the first anime films I remember having a proper emotional reaction to. It follows Makoto as she gains the ability to time travel. Initially, Makoto uses her new power for personal gain, sometimes for incredibly petty things like being able to eat dessert again. This selfishness actually makes her incredibly relatable as you can totally understand her reasoning for doing what she does. This makes it easier to empathise with her as she starts to understand that her actions have consequences for the people she cares about, including her best friends Chiaki and Kosuke. The film does a great job of establishing the relationship between the three and for that feels real.
Visually The Girl Who Leapt Through Time more than holds it’s own compared to some recent anime, the soundtrack is superb and the voice acting is largely excellent also. It’s a very well made film that still holds up almost fifteen years on. It has the typical movie time travel problems where things don’t make sense if you think too hard about the rules. It at least deals with potential consequences of changing the future and doesn’t shy away from the potential for tragedy which is impressive. The only thing I don’t really like is the ending, it leans into the more bittersweet side of things where I’d prefer an outright happy ending.
It’s nice to know that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time still hits all the same emotional notes even after all this time, I’m definitely glad this one still resonates in the same way.
The great Anime re-watch has been fun, thanks for reading. I think I’ll do this again at some point and if nothing else it will keep me busy during future lockdowns!
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