Dec 1, 2017
"Korokichi was having a happy war dream."
The ending would be a decent way to start a review of this rare gem, recently brought to 1080p light by the admirable restoration efforts of the National Film Center, the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Just to get this out of the way, so that you know what that NFC mark at the bottom right of the screen means.
Don't get distracted, please.
Although this logo's presence leads us, albeit tangentially, to the first question this film poses, which is the most important.
Is it Propaganda?
The answer is, for better or for worse, yes. Of course yes, it
couldn't be anything else. In its essence, this short film is spectacle.
The second question is, whose view is it propagating?
We don't really get any clear answer for the frame. The synopsis has the word 'Unfortunately', and you could say that it was unfortunately placed. Ha ha... Sorry
Anyway, the turn of phrase used in the synopsis could lead someone to think it is anti-war propaganda, one of the rare, and all the more braver, voices of dissent in Shouwa Japan. A liberal, or maybe even one of those elusive 'leftist' creatures, harshly but serenely condemning the bloodthirsty folly that was engulfing his beloved country.
On the other hand, the circumstances of its restoration, along with the prominence of the National image thingy at the corner would suggest a mildly nationalist approach. What with the Article 9 controversies and the general diplomatic situation in East Asia in the last few years, an artistic masterpiece would do just fine to lift the spirits a bit, no?
But even so, with these two versions already competing from the 3rd second of this film, I couldn't find a definitive answer to that question. A panoply of amazingly drawn and animated symbols, and a series of amazing plot twists, mostly in visual form, provide an incredible depth to this, so to say, shadow plot running in the background, concerning that very question.
The question of for which side is this film propaganda for.
"If the roles were reversed
You could have seen me sneaking up, sneaking up from behind. "
I will not give out these amazing presentations for the sake of avoiding spoilers. I also wouldn't want to give a strongly subjective view to any one of you who is tempted to watch this after reading this, it could ruin your experience.
The best thing about this artwork is how it lets you imagine an entire variety of trains of thought and burning questions. For example, I'm pretty sure that the political angle I chose to follow leaves a lot out and is a long, long way away from perfect.
Concerning the symbolism, aside from showing how important visual presentation is for a silent film, I will only not an example that is not worth noting, due to its obviousness.
On some scenes you can clearly see stars painted on the tails of the airplanes.
Especially in the 'Middle Finger, Peace Sign' section at about the 5-minute mark.
The scope of potential enjoyment that this sort of presentation implies are enormous, and I'd never stain them with my narrow imaginings any more than I've already did.
Suffice to say, they are unbelievable.
Only for this this anime gets an 8 and a very strong recommendation, and that concludes this very short preview. Better not get too specific, you know.
Now to get the specific parts out of the way:
I treated art and story together and gave them a 8.5, with art taking the 9, it being the dominant motor of storytelling.
The film was silent, with no accompanying music. The reason for the 7 rating is that I watched it, and wrote this review, entirely while listening to The Front Bottoms, mostly Slow Dance to Soft Rock and the s/t album. As overwhelmingly all-encompassing this masterwork of 21st century literature is, the best I could give it is a 7, the anime not having any original sound and whatnot.
Standalone, The Front Bottoms are of course a 10, and they also serve to give another voice to the chorus of symbols making up the splendor of this spectacle.
Hearing the decadent poems coming out of a dying empire while watching the same empire being portrayed as a barely adult bully by the younger, adolescent empire where the film was produced.
Korokichi was quite interesting, and that is that, I guess.
Enjoyment was of course a 10.
I'll leave it at that, please enjoy this gem.
What did you think of this review?