Jan 31, 2018
Bavel's Book is a 1996 TV special by independent director and animator Koji Yamamura that tells about two siblings who find a mysterious book left on a bench and what happens to them after they start reading it. For its five-minute length, the anime presents a simple yet interesting story that comprises:
- a short adventure with a twist;
- a fair bit of surrealism that involves merging our reality with the reality inside the book;
- and also a cultural reference to Jorge Luis Borges - a famous Argentinian writer who is widely considered one of the key figures in the magical realism genre.
In general, with this
short Yamamura vividly portrays how a person may get completely absorbed while reading an engaging book, especially if that person is a child with a rich imagination. The story may be not something mind-blowing, yet it's good for the fact that it employs an interesting surreal concept; brings enough twists for its brief duration; pays tribute to Borges and literature in general; and with all that remains clear and absolutely unpretentious, so that even a child could understand it.
Speaking of the animation, it is somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is very interesting, creative and original, just like in all Yamamura's works. On the other hand, it also has a fairly low-budget look, and Yamamura's art style, with its brownish colours, sloppy lines and somewhat grotesque character designs, may probably not appeal to some viewers. In other words, it is artistic but low-budget and perhaps not for everyone.
Speaking of the sound department, the soundtrack is several short avant-garde tunes performed by a female duo called Syzygys. The melodies employ keyboards and violin; they aren't particularly memorable, yet they sound nice and fit various situations in the anime quite well. As for the voice-acting, it's just decent: the characters don't talk much, and when they talk, they sound just like usual kids should.
As for the characters themselves, they are just a boy, his sister, a certain man and a certain creature they encounter on their adventure. None of them get any substantial characterization; however, that's not what this short is supposed to do, and it hardly makes any sense to expect deep personalities and development in the course of five minutes anyway. So, the cast is nothing much, but that's excused by the show's format.
Overall, this anime is recommended to Yamamura's fans and those who are generally into experimental animation and unusual stories. Also, if you enjoy Bavel's Book, I highly recommend Atama Yama - my favourite Yamamura's short with a similar theme of merging realities, albeit in a totally different story.
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