All told in hindsight, three seemingly unrelated tales intertwine to paint a more complete picture.
In the far reaches of space, after tracing a distress signal to a large abandoned space station, a pair of engineers—Heintz Beckner and Miguel Costrela—find a derelict mansion and decide to explore on foot. Their investigation reveals a dark secret surrounding the fate of Eva Friedel, a renowned opera singer with a tragic history. Hallucinations soon begin to plague them, and they must fight to retain their sanity in order to escape the station alive.
Hapless lab technician Nobuo Tanaka consumes some pills at his laboratory to cure a cold. Unknown to him, however, the pills are actually experimental drugs that enhance his flatulence to a lethal degree. As the toxic gas escaping him kills everyone in his vicinity, he is ordered by his superiors to retreat to the company headquarters in Tokyo. The journey to the city is made all the more arduous as Nobuo struggles with his deadly odor while the police, military, and foreign adversaries are hot on his trail.
In a fortress city filled to the brim with cannons, a young boy wishes to surpass his father by becoming a revered artillery officer. Despite no proof of an enemy nation, he cannot resist the urge to partake in the daily bombardment routines organized by the city. Whether at school or just before bedtime, he only dreams of someday firing a cannon for the sake of his homeland.
Memories is a 1995 animated anthology film series composed of three unrelated sci-fi stories, focusing on the individual themes of each story than a core theme throughout. However, they do all share a technical and inspired approach to their visual style, boasting some of the most spectacular animation Japan had ever created for its time. All three shorts were based on stories written by Katsuhiro Otomo, known for creating the visual spectacle that is Akira, and here he serves as producer and the director for the last episode, working with some of the industry’s biggest names to deliver arguably the greatest anthology series in all
of anime. Because of the structure of Memories, this review will look at each separate part in chronological order, starting with the most “memorable” part.
To put it in one word, impressive. It boasts some of the most resplendent animation and music that compliments the unnerving tone and setting, along with the script being in the hands of Satoshi Kon. The short chronicles how the Corona, a salvage freighter in deep space comes upon a strange space station after responding to a distress signal. The two engineers of the crew, Heintz and Miguel, enter and discover a luxurious European interior that once belonged to famed opera singer named Eva. As the two engineers further explore they both become engulfed in Eva’s memories through a series of paranormal encounters, with both men each reliving their own memories.
For a ghost story, this is one of the best I’ve ever seen. In a 40-minute duration it delivers on capturing the essence of the anthology title, creating a haunting yet intriguing world of one’s past, and presents a disturbing message of the dangers of living in the past. Eva is a literal representation of that very message and attempts to lure both men into her past, and while some may resist, others might be more willing to fall into the trap, seeing it as an escape to a better place. Magnetic Rose explores love lost and the desperation of a lonely person determined to regain a kind of love so precious, no matter what the cost. This idea is woven masterfully into the plot, making it as thought-provoking as it is terrifying. Kon’s style of storytelling is also present here, blurring the lines between reality and hallucinations and keeping viewers thinking throughout its duration. Fun fact for any film buffs out there: This short also holds references to other sci-fi films such as Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey with certain scenes, yet never feels cheap or derivative. Magnetic Rose has these familiar elements and makes them feel fresh, a testament to the staff behind this show. The overall story exudes intrigue and ends in a way that answers enough questions to feel satisfying and make sense, yet leaves enough to viewer interpretation to leave its mark.
Satoshi Kon was also behind the art direction and like the story, it’s stunning. The fluid animation, cinematic techniques and overall attention-to-detail make Magnetic Rose a marvel of animation. Considering this came out over 20 years ago by the time I’m writing this, and still looks incredible. The scenes in space alone demonstrate how impressive the show is on a technical scale. Despite looking dated with its art style and not being vibrant or colourful, Magnetic Rose shows that there is more to animation than simple visual look. Meanwhile the sound was composed by Yoko Kanno and is mostly operatic, matching the setting and tone of the tragic story perfectly. Voice acting was great all around with Eva’s voice actress in particular being breathtaking in her role. Her version of “Madame Butterfly” is awe-inspiring, even if you dislike like opera, you will still probably appreciate the piece and the overall music in general with how it complements scenes so effectively. Magnetic Rose excels in so many ways that the only way I could see it have been better is if it were its own stand-alone movie. And on that note, I am very surprised this story has not even been rumoured at all for a potential Hollywood adaptation considering the high potential for a successful anime adaptation. It is the highlight of this anthology and is the part of Memories that you will strongly remember.
Here Memories transitions from haunting beauty to a dark comedy that uses satire to demonstrate how stupid humanity can be. The change of tone and pace can be seen immediately from the start, showing a rather overly cheerful television program with fitting music and colourful art compared to Magnetic Rose. Stink Bomb follows Nobuo Tanaka, a young lab technician of a hospital trying to cure his cold and when trying to find a new cold medicine under development, he takes the wrong pill; the ‘red pill’. But instead of finding enlightenment, this buffoon finding all his fellow employees dead and panicked, rushes to deliver the experimental drug he mistook for cold medication to headquarters in Tokyo. Unbeknownst to Nobuo, his mistake is the cause behind everyone in the hospital dying, with him now spreading death and destruction everywhere he goes without him even knowing. Because of this, Nobuo becomes a target of assassination and kidnapping by the government.
Most people find Stink Bomb easily the worst of the three entries, feeling like a 40-minute long dumb joke that wasn’t funny to begin with, however I feel as though Stink Bomb gets too much negative buzz than it deserves. It’s a light-hearted take on how foolish our species can be when in dire straits ala Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, ridiculing such in over-the-top comedic fashion. The idea that a lab technician is so unbelievably stupid is not something that I consider detrimental to the show; his density fits the kind of comedy the show is going for and is the perfect example for how one man can cause such disaster and trigger-happy militants can further the damage with both ease and lack of common sense. Even if you did not find the comedic style to your liking and I myself will admit that I did not find it that hilarious apart from some overexaggerated missiles, it is definitely an entertaining short that I never once found dull.
The animation is the weakest of the three, lacking the technical quality, art direction and sheer unique look of both Magnetic Rose and Cannon Fodder. It also looks the most dated, but still holds up enough to not lessen the experience and contains some of the most action-packed scenes with fluid animation to match. The music is arguably the best part of the short, composed of lively jazz expertly incorporated throughout and is surprisingly appropriate for Stink Bomb’s chaotic style of comedy. Both the animation and sound add to the story’s light-heartedness, and that’s exactly what Stink Bomb strived for. If you come into this looking for some sort of hidden meaning, you will be disappointed. Its intentions are purely to elicit a smile on your face, and for me, it succeeded.
Cannon Fodder is aesthetically the most intriguing of the three shorts, creating a world comparable to a communism dystopia filled with massively-oversized cannons that fire at an “enemy moving city” that is never visually confirmed by the show; clearly an allegory on society. Cannon Fodder is the most literal title this show could have had. Everyone’s life revolves about firing cannons; the men work the cannons, the women make the shells, and the children are taught on the mechanics of firing cannons. Cannon Fodder looks at the life of an average family on an average day in this bleak world. We see the father going through the motions as he loads cannons, only living to work, to the naïve child aspiring to someday be the man who fires these cannons. It’s a dreary 30 minutes that leaves you in a bleak state, having seen how bleak these characters’ lives are and that it won’t change.
Cannon Fodder is certainly not for every anime fan. It’s a short similar to artistic anime like Texhnolyze that are merciless in their depiction of a hopeless world. It’s also a highly political film, with its critique of militarism, socialism and propaganda very noticeable throughout the story. It’s shown the leader of the city is nothing more than a chubby man, yet is portrayed through portraits and such as a fit, powerful leader and worshipped by civilians. An interesting fact: none of the characters are ever given names, another result of living in this kind of world where cannons are valued more than the individuals that work on them. The premise and story of Cannon Fodder is simple and not subtle in the slightest, making it even more frustrating to some viewers. However, considering how political first-world countries have gotten in recent years, I feel like this short is worth the 30 minutes it takes to watch.
The artstyle for Cannon Fodder is ugly, no doubt about it, and it complements the dark, depressing vibe the world has. The palette of greys and browns gives the city a decaying, decrepit look that mirrors the people belonging to it. Steampunk elements blend into the city seamlessly, with cannons sticking out of every building present. The people themselves don’t even look human, with sickly grey skin and sunken eyes look more like they can straight out of a nightmare than anything resembling the kind of world we live in. From a technical perspective, the attention to detail is perhaps the best of the three shorts, but what really makes Cannon Fodder’s animation so great is Otomo’s direction. The entire short is one continuous sequence without a single cut. Can you recall an anime you’ve seen that has no cuts in its entirety? Otomo utilizes an array of cinematic techniques and transitions that blend in with the story and animated scenes so well that they may go unnoticed to the average viewer, and that is in my opinion the sign of a master of cinematography. Cannon Fodder is quite possibly one of the greatest one-takes in the history of cinema in general and like Akira, is a testament to Otomo’s ability as a director.
In conclusion, Memories is not your typical anthology series; it does not have any overarching narrative that ties the three entries together. But what Memories does contain is a unique collection of short stories that individually showcase some of best animation the industry had at the time and it still hold up. But saying that its value only resides in the animation undermines other great aspects of Cannon Fodder and Stink Bomb such as directing, atmosphere, themes, etc., and nearly everything about Magnetic Rose. None of these films should be ignored and are all worth the time it takes to experience each of these wonderful pieces of animation.
Memories is an anime movie co-produced by Madhouse Studios and Studio 4°C, and it also was co-directed by Tensai Okamura, Kouji Morimoto and Katsuhiro Otomo. It is a collection of three short movie, each directed by one different director and every one are adaptations of three of Otomo's short stories.
I am going to address every story separately, as I think everything will be clearer this way. I am also going to say my final remarks at the end.
This is the only short of the three that deserves to be called Memories. The atmosphere is done in an incredible way that always leaves the
viewer on the edge of his seat, expecting something to happen and creating even more tension in the process. The visual style plays a big part on that and it also is pretty and well-detailed, but visually old.
This short as a whole is incredible, actually, I think that it would have been actually better as a sole and full-length movie, as that way we would have been able to explore this wonderfully tragic story with more time and it wouldn't have to be paired with the other movies. Needless to say after that, Magnetic Rose is my favorite short of this collection and the best one, by far.
Supposedly, this short was comedy, but no one in the room I watched it laughed. More than that, the story feels unimaginative and the characters are so ridiculously dumb that it makes you wonder how they became scientists of that level. Despite that, I got to say that it is very pretty, albeit a bit old-styled.
This was, for me, a terrible short. I actually was glad that it ended. The quality drop between the two first short is astounding actually. I can't really recommend it to anyone.
This short is, at least for me, a well-defined criticism to some cultures and elements of our society. In that it is pretty successful, but it doesn't manage to tell a particularly interesting story in the process.
Its most marking characteristic is its visuals, specially when paired with the awesome soundtrack that accompanies it. I would categorize the visuals as experimental and unique. Also, it is not really possible to explain it, you just got watch it to understand it. Also, it uses a trick similar to the recent Birdman to make it seem as if the movie is just one continuous shot.
Cannon Fodder is experimental and interesting, but it definitely isn't something everybody would enjoy. I would recommend it to people who enjoy experimental stuff or this style of criticism.
As a collection, Memories fails, its title doesn't fit, the themes have nothing in common and, overall, it isn't that good. The only great short it has is Magnetic Rose, that is an incredible sci-fi. Because of that, I can't recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone. My advice is: watch only the first short and, maybe, give the third one a try if you enjoy that type of stuff; just skip the second one, for your own sake.
This movie has three lil movies inside, I'll name them in order of appearance -"Magnetic Rose", "Stink Bomb" and "Cannon Fodder".
The first episode "Magnetic Rose": I felt that it reflected the title pretty well- the theme definitely correlates to memories. This was probably the most impressive in terms of story and art- the only complaint is that this would've been ideal if it was turned into a full-length movie instead of being thrown into a 3 episode movie. But that's just me. The story is basically about two space dudes from the future exploring the interior of what was once home of a famous
opera singer of the century (our generation).
The second episode "Stink Bomb": I'm not sure how it relates to the title at all. This was the most humorous and light-hearted of the three. It's about a chemist who takes a pill right before he sleeps and then he wakes up with everyone around him dead- it sounds very dark and depressing but they managed to keep it surprisingly mellow somehow believe it or not. I enjoyed this one a lot as well.
The third and final episode "Cannon Fodder": This felt a bit underwhelming in comparison to the first two, no offense. In terms of visuals this was probably the most unique- it's very rough and gritty but it can be very charming. Its about something comparable to the Industrial Revolution and the war around the early 1900s. I always kind of waited to see the little boy the majority of the time as he felt to be the main character but sadly he doesn't get as much screen time as i hope he would. The only thing that corresponds to memories is the little boy saluting a general from the past and he dreams of eventually becoming one instead of being a cannon launcher like his father.
Overall: It's pretty good- but if i were you i'd watch it all in reverse (episode 3 first, episode 2 second then episode 1 last). It'd probably be more satisfying than if you did it in order. There isn't a chronological order to it anyway it's just three different movies with some connection ..with i guess the theme of memories tucked inside.
Memories is a collection of three anime shorts: "Magnetic Rose" directed by Koji Morimoto, "Stink Bomb" by Tensai Okamura and "Cannon Fodder" by Katsuhiro Otomo, and Music by the amazing, outstanding and perfect Yoko Kanno.
the best of the 3 no doubt about it, this story is all about reality and illusion. Would you want to live in a perfect world, where there is only happiness? Of course you would. But what if this perfect world is nothing but an illusion? That's the question this movie asks.
The movie handles the question very well and doesn't really give an answer, leaving the viewers to
form their own opinion. The last scene in particular is extremely beautiful and will keep you thinking long after the credits roll.
This is the most lighthearted of the three movies, as you might expect from its hilariously absurd premise. It belongs to the genre of dark comedy. People die all around our helpless hero, the upbeat, weird-fun, jazz soundtrack makes this even more awesome. The lighthearted Stink Bomb was meant to be just that: A fun little romp that should elicit a smile after the grim Magnetic Rose.
"Everyone is provided for ... but no one is truly happy", the best thing one can aspire to be is the commander of a cannon. The setting itself is simply neat to watch in its industrial glory, and the message it tries to convey seems to be an indictment on the extreme level of conformity inherent in socialism.
Overall- This was an amazing experience for me and without a doubt i will be re-watching it every year for the rest of my life.
Before he was one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Satoshi Kon was a manga artist. From early success in college to ambitious collaborations with the likes of Katsuhiro Otomo and Mamoru Oshii, his manga work is highly recommended to better understand his genius.