Aug 26, 2021
Animentary: Ketsudan shows the war and its real impacts in a dramatic, documentary (and fictional), raw, symbolic and even experimental way at times.
It's not just an anime that will tell real events that took place during the Second World War, it will create a narrative that travels through several layers very well orchestrated by the direction of Ippei Kuri. Also, if we analyze Kurenai Sanshirou, 1969 and make a brief comparison between the director's two works, it is already possible to find some aspects in the way he works with a “similarity” to the real world from a fictional story. As when anime takes advantage
of a narration to introduce this informative part of what is happening, and also with real images of what happened.
Of course, in Ketsudan it is possible to see a huge evolution in the form and expressiveness with which such an approach is used. Not because of the weight of the theme itself, but because of the direct relationship with how the director approaches the theme. An approach that is very practical, and at the same time formal.
The formal and practical that I talk about here is directly related to how the anime was produced. It is a work that impresses even for its technical virtuosity, which for the time, is very impressive.
The whole characterization of the anime takes this very raw and human approach. He maintains some very physiognomic features of a human face, trying to achieve a very strong and expressive resemblance to the real world. And even released in 1971, the anime does not carry those more cartoonish traits inherited from a formation of Japanese animation proposed by Tezuka.
A humanization in the characterization of both the characters and the spaces. The ships and scenery (all inspired by and featured on World War II ships and landscapes) are all very well detailed and functionally complex. You see a cannon working, a torpedo coming out of a submarine, planes exploding.
The anime also mixes some imagery and symbolic moments that fit very well with this cruder approach that the work calls for. In one of the episodes, a soldier is watching a moth heading towards the light. This moth dies and the anime intersperses this image of the moth falling with a Japanese army attack plane. In this episode in question, the soldiers would sacrifice themselves and die in favor of an attack that was already planned. And many already knew they were going to die.
Not only events and situations, but some objects and gestures also gain a very high expressive value, such as flags, ships and swords. In the episode () one of the Japanese army characters dies. The anime shows this soldier's sword breaking in the clash, and then a fallen flag on the ground. Soon after, an image of the broken sword beside the soldier. In the episode of the death of Isoroku Yamamoto (important Japanese admiral in World War II), who is shot dead in an ambush, and found with his sword in hand (a true event). A symbol of endurance and pride at the same time. The sword in Ketsudan is always shown and extolled in several scenes as an important and very representative symbol. In both moments mentioned above, there is a very strong relationship between these objects and the lives of soldiers as soldiers, who live and die for their country.
Looking now at a more moral issue. Ketsudan doesn't just show a heroic patriarchal relationship of Japanese soldiers, but also of Americans (even though it weighs a little more towards Japan – which is not a problem, as the US portrayed these clashes in art with the same particularity). In the episode of Isoroku Yamamoto's death, the anime shows how the US intercepts and steals information from the Japanese army, which helped the Americans take their revenge for Pearl Harbor.
Kind of strange to reflect that Ketsudan not only criticizes this horror of the War (mainly in the final episode), but at the same time, he is also fascinated and enchanted by all these happenings – it makes the viewer fascinated with the theme. The relationship between the real, the imagery, the symbolisms, etc. This is all very well harmonized.
Annimentary is not a “documentary” per se, but a narrative story that imitates the real. It starts from real events, turning them into a kind of fiction, as in Midway: Battle on the High Seas, 2019. But at the same time, it still has documentary attributes to tell this story, and this is not limited only to narration that describe the events in more detail.
If not enough a whole scheme of anime to associate itself with the real (departing from the cartoonish, obviously) director Ippei Kuri still uses real images and records from World War II. And like his entire approach, he intersperses these images with narrative moments, managing to refer more directly this expressiveness of the narrative real, with the real itself. As I said in Kurenai Sanshirou – where he also uses some real footage in the first episode, and associates it with the narrative – he's evolved a lot in how he fits that into his staging. In Sanshirou, for having a more pop culture-oriented relation to Bruce Lee's action films, the images chosen by him (the various explosions), end up sounding a bit Camp (which is not a bad thing). The images he has chosen now (such as planes crashing into the sea, soldiers arriving ashore or saying goodbye to their lands before fighting) have a colder and more painful weight. A weight that will directly interact with our subconscious in relation to events.
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