'Patlabor' & 'Grave of the Fireflies'

You might not expect that I would be interested in anime (Japanese animation, usually derived from comic-books): but I've always been interested in animation, and indeed I saw a number of the older Japanese fairy-tale cartoons before the rise of modern anime.

The National Film Theatre is currently running an anime season, and yesterday I saw Patlabor (1989): like most of these films it is set in a mechanized future and involves a good deal of machinery, in this case large worker robots which have taken to suddenly running amok. Unusually, there is less action and more reasoned plot than most similar films, as the characters try to find the source of the problem - prophetically, this turns out to be a malicious computer virus which has been embedded into new software (a familiar enough concept nowadays to anyone unlucky enough to be running Windows, but a new idea then).

As is often the case, the character animation is wooden, but the backgrounds and machines are detailed and well animated: and though there is less action than usual the film ends with the obligatory punch-up between two huge robots.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988, directed by Isao Takahata for Ghibli studio) is something else again. It was shown on the digital TV channel Film4 recently: it's an intelligent and grown-up film following the lives of two Japanese children near the end of World War 2. Losing their mother in a fire-bombing they are forced to fend for themselves, with tragic results. The boy, a young teenager, scavenges and steals - food is short and little help available - and tries to look after his toddler sister. She becomes ill and dies of malnutrition: he dies later after Japan's surrender, and their ghosts look back over their lives.

Sensitively animated, it handles the distressing subject with sympathy and without blame - the Americans are hardly mentioned although the planes in the air-raid are plainly American: the atom bomb is never mentioned. It's a world away from the cuddly animals of American animation and the noisy futurism of anime: a unique use of animation to tell a serious, sad and touching story.

LInks: IMDB - Patlabor : Grave of the Fireflies

Posted: Sun - August 20, 2006 at 10:24 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM