Futatsu no Kurumi is a short story following 12-year-old Ayaka as she is teleported back in time to the fire bombing of Tokyo in 1945 and covers her experiences in this very different and unfamiliar environment. (from saizen-fansubs)
Well, where to start. We actually have a lot to work with in the short 45 minutes that Two Walnut runs for. Unfortunately, I'm not at all sure what we do have to work with is of a wholesome or good nature.
Two Walnuts presents a girl who experiences the fire bombing of Tokyo. 'Oh look! The war was really horrible! See! See!' is a theme getting pretty tired now, (with such anime as 'Barefoot Gen', 'Graves of the Fireflies', 'Who's Left Behind?', 'Glass Rabbit', and 'Japan, our Homeland') but with Two Walnuts we have at least a twist to put a little lemon in
the mix. This twist is our poor girl, Ayaka, lives in present-day Tokyo! During an electrical storm, she answers a phone which sends her back in time, to Tokyo which was just about to experience the March 10th fire bombing of 1945.
Now, certainly this story could have potential. The human drama, the suffering and mentality of the war, are things that have been exploited brilliantly by all nationalities (just look for instance at the war-time work of Junichiro Tanizaki and Jun Ishikawa for instance) yet Two Walnuts falls spectacularly short. The reason for this is multi-faceted, lying in poor characterisation, poor framing, erroneous plot points which breaks suspension of disbelief, but most of all the ideological and moral approach to the historical events. Two Walnuts is an anime more memorable for its subtext messages than its actual story in this regard.
Within seconds of Two Walnuts start, disregarding technical aspects for the moment, we are affronted with Ayaka's behaviour. This twelve year old girl is shown to have neglected her family dog, disrespected her mother and even more shockingly her grandmother, and is generally obnoxious, demanding, and ignorant. While the degrading morals of youth is a theme that has been repeated throughout all time, in Two Walnuts alarm bells ring because of the nature of this anime. Aimed at early teens or a family audience- if Ayaka has these negative attributes, she will inevitably learn to be a better person. These moral lessons Ayaka learns are not only repetitive and dull, but for some reason it's not even done to the point of restoring any practical belief in her behaviour. By the end of Two Walnuts, Ayaka has managed to fail at acting upon these lessons. We have no trust that if a similar situation occurred Ayaka would have a steady constitution or indeed anything resembling competency.
Another point to this ideological shrift, is a motif throughout the film. Apparently in late wartime Tokyo there was a policy of requisitioning dogs. This is about the most cynical the film gets in regards to the war of aggression Japan had maintained. It was, Two Walnuts promulgates, an administration gone too far that was the downfall of Japan. At one point an old man comments 'this war the adults started... it's the kids that suffer in every part of the world'. An absolutely disgusting comment that tries to detract the fact of Japan's starting the war, of committing war crimes, and instead blaming the nameless majority of 'adults'. Indeed, what Two Walnuts does portray very negatively, are the actual fire bombings of Tokyo. An indefensible action that was aimed at killing citizens en masse, it's inhumanity to man is expressed very bluntly. So while the disgusting actions of the Americans is focused on intensely, the Japanese war sentiment, the absolutist patriotism at the time, is never questioned or debased in Two Walnuts.
While America's continued influence on Japan has been arguably nothing but negative, this portrayal is simply disgusting and a flagrant abuse of the wars historicity. The conservative approach of distorting events to Japan's favour unfortunately has become rife in anime as a whole lately, yet this pervasive congruence in anime is unacceptable, and in Two Walnuts is more pronounced than even some of the more questionable aspects of say, 'Zipang'.
Moving to some the technical aspects... I'm afraid again there's not much that I can happily espouse for Two Walnuts. The background artwork is actually at points fairly impressive, facilitating a somewhat pastille palette with a cross-hatching style; and the majority of 1945 buildings have had a very accurate architectural design. This however is in contrast to a cheap and overly-bright use of digital effects, and extremely simplified character designs blocked in with marker. Two Walnuts has what might be the worst artwork of a canine ever seen in anime too, which is especially appalling as two dogs turn out to be major characters. The actual animation of the anime is also extremely basic. Much use of silhouettes and a propensity of static frames are used to lessen the workload, directly impacting the quality of Two Walnuts as a whole. Overall the art and animation is reminiscent of Shin-chan, truly there is little to be impressed with. Though, as this OVA was produced primarily by Shin-Ei Animation (a studio specialising in low-quality mass-produced children's and family anime), we could not expect too much of Two Walnuts. And that's probably a key fact to remember. While Two Walnuts is a definite failure at anything grandiose, as a emotional family/children's anime, it is perhaps at a passable level.
The staff committed to this project are all quite experienced, yet the production values are generally low. The only real reason I can think of to substantiate this lack, is Two Walnuts is actually part of a programme of yearly anime by Shin-Ei, each commemorating the second world war. Two Walnuts, released 2007, is the 6th release. As such, perhaps the work on Two Walnuts was put off because of priorities on other anime, yet they had to release something when the anniversary arrived, equating to what really feels like an only half-finished anime in Two Walnuts.
It's a shame, but I really can't recommend Two Walnuts for any specific aspect. The a-historical perspective found within might be interesting though, and for children it's probably fine.