When a gigantic, unearthly monster suddenly looms on the skyline of a Japanese city, the expected occurs—the Japan Self-Defense Forces roll out the tanks while the public panics. Nobody knows what it is or where it came from, but Yuki, a bold and inquisitive teenage girl, has a secret but might be a useful clue. Her friend Tetsu has been clandestinely caring for a bizarre creature called Cenco, which will soon prove itself to have some remarkable, even impossible characteristics. Another teenage boy, a stranger with some mysterious link to the monstrosity attacking the city, shows up, and his unwelcome interest in Tetsu's pet snuffs out any doubt of a connection—and lights the fuse for the coming battle.
(Source: Rupert Bottenberg, Fantasia Genre Film Festival)
Every so often anime throws up something completely out of the ordinary, not simply in terms of content, but also in terms of production. There's many a title that can boast an extremely original plot, or cutting edge animation, or some other aspect of it's production that has the potential to shake the foundations of the entire medium. A case in point is Shinkai Makoto's much acclaimed Hoshi no Koe, which proved once and for all that a quality anime could be produced by one person (with some time and effort of course). It's a sad fact that the current trends within anime have precluded
other such innovations in favour of what's popular or what will sell.
With Cencoroll though, the winds of creative change that were long thought becalmed, may have started blowing once more.
The anime is simply about a boy named Tetsu, a girl named Yuki, a mysterious amorphous blob with a transformation ability and eyes in odd places named Cenco, and a fight (kind of).
It sounds completely uninteresting right? That's what I thought too before I watched it, and to say I was extremely surprised by Cencoroll would be an understatement.
The anime is based on a one shot manga called Amon Game by Uki Atsuya, and it deviates from standard anime practices in almost every aspect, from plot to production. The story itself is laced with a large number of metaphors and symbols, some of which are easy to spot while others are far more subtle. While this can sometimes be a bad thing if used too much, in the case of Cencoroll it can, more often than not, promote discussion about the various references or symbolisms present in the anime, and more importantly, their usage within the context of the story. An example of this is the scene with the giant pudding that carries Tetsu for a while, which made me think "I wonder what King Kong would be like if it was made by Salvador Dali?". This is merely one of a large number of "I wonder.." thoughts that popped into my during the 27 minutes of this anime.
The entire show has a large dose of surrealness about it which is reinforced by the presence of Cenco and other "creatures" like "him". The symbols and metaphors present within the show also lend themselves to the overall sense of wierdness, and while the show can sometimes feel like it's overdosing on odd, it always manages to reel itself back to the main plot. That's not to say that the story is great though. It's too short to do any serious development in terms of plot or characters, which some people may find unfulfilling, however the show has a lot to offer if you approach it with an open mind.
Aside from the ED, which was produced by Supercell (an 11 piece doujin music group), the anime has almost no thematic music whatsoever. This lends the show a strange, almost eerie, feeling of calm (bordering on apathy). Unlike most anime that are reliant on music to heighten the impact of a scene, Cencoroll studiously avoids using such techniques for the most part. The impact of this is most apparent when one considers the characters in the show, and while some may find the lack of music a little disconcerting, leaving the major part of the anime free of music enhances the characters in a big way (more on this in a bit).
The one area where Cencoroll really separates itself from the crowd though, is in it's art and animation. While the character designs are a little on the plain side, they are extremely expressive, and their actions are well animated throughout the show. This, in particular, goes for Cenco's transformations which, although surreal, are extremely fluid. The backgrounds are very well rendered from start to finish, with some scenes reminding me of the stunning artwork from Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~, and it came as a real shock to find that this level of quality was the work of one man.
That's right. You didn't misread me. Cencoroll is, aside from some bits of music, the work of Uki Atsuya, who wrote the screenplay, designed the backgrounds and characters, directed the show, and animated everything. In that respect it has a great deal in common with Hoshi no Koe, yet even this can't keep the show static for any length of time. Unlike Shinkai, Uki actually received the backing of Aniplex for the production of the film, something which made his job easier. This marks one of the first occasions where an established production company has backed a single person in this way, and while producing an anime alone may not be a rarity nowadays (there are hobbyist animators after all, who regularly publish their work on the internet), the ripples from Aniplex's decision will be felt in anime for years to come.
In terms of characters there is very little in the way of characterisation or development, which is due to the running time of 27 minutes. That said, there are those who would argue that the apathetic nature of the characters signifies that they are not believable in any way, which is a fair assessment for the most part. There is an argument in favour of the characters though, and that is the fact that they are teenagers. Consider, for a moment, that the majority of teenagers actually do display a degree of apathy, uninterest, boredom, etc, and one begins to understand the character's reactions in the show. While all three characters display a certain amount of boredom, Yuki also shows a good deal of curiosity during the first part of the show. In the case of Tetsu though, the strange occurences and wierd creatures are everyday occurences, so much so that they are no longer astonished by events, and this "boredom" with his daily routine is what is most emphasised by the lack of music.
Cencoroll is a surprisingly well designed show, so much so in fact that it managed to catch me completely off guard. There are a number of aspects to the show that deviate greatly from normal anime practices, with many of those deviations occuring as part of the story. There are also several scenes which are simply moments of creative genius, the giant pudding being one such moment, however the scenes that occur inside Cenco's stomach are also memorable for their oddness. Granted the story and the characters lack a good degree of development, but given that this is only one episode, and is mainly the work of one man, I believe such failings can be forgiven.
After all, many forgave those same failings in Hoshi no Koe, and while Cencoroll is decidely wierder than, well, most other anime out there, it also challenges the medium in a way that, in recent years, no other show has done.
Yuki finds herself wondering why a bike parked outside the school starts moving when it suddenly transforms into a ... panda?! Suddenly she's in the middle of a battle between the owners of these ugly yet irresistibly adorable monsters.
For fans of Furi Kuri, Atsuya Uki has created the whimsical, slightly insane yet delicate short film Cencoroll. Uki certainly did an impressive job adapting his manga background for the big screen. While the 30 minute length leaves little time to fully develop a complex plot, Uki rose to the challenge with remarkable grace. Cencoroll never felt rushed and while none of my initial questions were answered,
I found myself utterly satisfied with the ending. With a little bit for every watcher--action for the boys, two nonchalant semi-bishies (wink wink) for the girls and poetic storytelling for anime-snobs like myself--Cencoroll is a roller coaster that won't make you dizzy.
Moreover, in true stroke-of-genius fashion, Uki is able to capture a stylized art form and sound to give Cencoroll a voice of its own. The movements are of choppy but fluid quality and the sound blends perfectly into the production's texture. As expected for OVAs and the budget they normally receive, the drawings never seem half-assed. But unlike others, Uki is able to capture his manga roots within each snapshot, transition and moving scene. The result? A short film that lulls viewers into its sci-fi core with an unnatural serenity for its genre.
With such a short duration, it is well worth your time to see this lovely anime, which reassured anime-lovers that cartoons are not just for kids!
The anime starts off with a giant alien blob appearing on top of a skyscraper in a city where our two protagonists reside. Shortly after, these two meet when our female protagonist Yuki discovers that our male protagonist Tetsu is in possession of one of these blob alien creatures, of which he has his named as "Cenco". His creature specializes in transformation.
Cencoroll is quite an average film individually from its yet-to-be released sequel, featuring an interesting premise, but lacking in.. well.. lots of stuff. Most of the time the anime is silent with no soundtracks. People who are fond of music utilization in anime will
realize how quiet the whole film is. However, this is left up to preference.. because the silence of the show do symbolize the mood of the film and its characters, particularly Cenco and its linked owner Tetsu.
Male protagonist Tetsu is the "go with the flow" type of character while simply doing whatever it is that he so desires. His mood seems to signify that he is devoid of curiosity or any sort of excitement or joy. Yuki on the other hand is quite the difference to Tetsu's personality, which makes it seem as though their personalities compliment one another to fit as relief.
Even though the art is nothing too exquisite, it is actually quite a pleasure to the eye in its simplistic art and smooth animation. It's especially quite nice when watching Cenco use his abilities.
The concept of this anime is unique in accordance to the alien monsters that we get to see. These monsters and their symbiotic bond with their 'owners' make the show entertaining as we get to see how the characters make use of them as well as interacting with one another during and outside of battle scenes. However, we don't necessarily get an abundance of that in this short film, as there is only one antagonist and three shown monster/creatures.
The characters do lack a lot of development as well as interaction in favor of exploration of the creatures' innovative abilities and how it plays out in combat or work in practicality. The human characters didn't have much explained about themselves to us.. any thoughts about them would just have to be assumptions based on their personalities and the actions that they take, as there is no background to any of the characters including the antagonist. There is no backstory to them and there certainly is no elaboration on what/when/where/why/how these 'monsters' came to be. And this ultimately is the sole reason why I see this film as lackluster, as there is no justice as to why this anime even deserves the praise that it gets when simple concepts and fundamentals are never even touched upon.
By the end, Cencoroll leaves you with no conclusion along with no elaboration on any of the events that have taken place in the movie. So you're left to question and wonder what was the point of the wasted 25 mins you just gave into watching this short film. It makes me a little more than confused at people who praise this anime so much given how unexplained Cencoroll is. But I will say one thing: Despite my views about this anime being highly average, its sequel -if it ever releases- may very well change the mind of many people who have watched Cencoroll including myself. That is, if it lives up to the hype.
If you have any opinions on why my review is terrible then please, share why. Thanks for reading.
"Cencoroll" is a very fresh and unique story based on the Manga "Amon Game."
Both works were original creations by Atsuya Aki, who created, wrote, directed, and animated (Yes, animated) this film alone.
The only help he had were the Seiyuu, Music, and production by Aniplex. I must say this first before I begin... Thank you Aniplex!
A giant alien shows up on top of a skyscraper, "A boy and his blob" watch over it, "There's another one, are you hungry? You're lazy today, huh?"
The boy's name is Tetsu Amamiya, he owns a blobby alien life form he named Cenco. Cenco can transform into any object imaginable.
are many more people with the possession of aliens with similar, if not, more unique powers. You have to always be on your toes. Just like the mystery alien that formed on the skyscraper, what is it?
It's a simple story. But the execution, animation, and creativity make this film feel fresh and surprisingly original.
I have not seen artwork like this in an anime, except for maybe Tsuritama (Atsuya Uki was the character designer of Tsuritama).
The animation, character designs, and backgrounds bring out an atmosphere that is full of unique emotions.
The whole development has a feel like it is a piece of art.
There's no musical score in Cencoroll, just an ending theme. It was a good idea, and it fit the production very well.
The Seiyuu all did a great job voicing their respective rolls.
Same in the Sound effects department.
All the characters have that bored teenage mentality to them, but it is never to the point of annoyance.
It's almost like they are all at that stage between childhood and adulthood, there's just no emotion.
It's directed in such a way where it feels realistic and fits the production.
I knew that I was going to enjoy this show, but I enjoyed it even more than that. The atmosphere alone is worth it, and the artwork is just beautiful.
This man Atsuya Uki, really has talent.
This is a production I would purchase if it was possible.
It's very well thought out, and executed.
Keep on the look out for this one, it's a very original production worthy of the 30 minutes of your time.