Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 in Shit: Short Peace

I mostly wanted to see Short Peace because I want to play the videogame associated with it. It was written by Suda51. I still haven't played it.

The big hook about Short Peace, an anthology of four anime short films, was that the director of Akira was involved. I thought Akira was pretty cool when I saw it, but it wasn't ever the anime for me in the way it is for a lot of people.

Otomo's contribution to the anthology, Combustible, is a short about firefighters in ancient Japan. It's a weird love story thing with class resentment undertones, and it's very pretty. It ended up relying really heavily on that love story, though, and ultimately paying it off in a kind of boring way. At least I think that was how I felt about it.

I saw Short Peace while it was playing at the Japanese Film Festival of San Francisco, where I also saw Crows : Explode and Why Don't You Play In Hell? The festival is tied to the J-Pop Summit, which I found out about last year when Anne Boyer was visiting and mentioned it. I ended up going last year because there was a Hello Kitty Kawaii Town booth and I thought that would be a funny thing to go to. When it came around this year I found out about the festival and got excited. Since the 2013 summit, every Sanrio store in San Francisco has closed. At Hello Kitty Con, the chairman of Sanrio Inc and Sanrio GmbH, the US & European subsidiaries of Sanrio, was asked about those closures; his response was basically that the company was trying to get a foothold in Wal-Mart and Target stores and that closing their own stores was somehow tied up in this.

Interestingly, the con happened about five months after Sanrio's stock had taken a quick dive based on wonky information from a Goldman Sachs analyst. The analyst claimed that Sanrio's IR presentation suggested the company was moving away from licensing and toward making their store operation central to their business. Despite being obviously bogus, investors jumped ship. Not for very long, of course, but I imagine that experience is now taken into account at any point that the question of operating a store is brought up.

Shuhei Morita's Possessions is a film about hostile objects. A traveler takes refuge from a storm in a hut where the things revolt against his presence. The space itself reorganizes to confound him. I really hated the animation though. The same could probably be said of Hiroaki Ando's Gambo, but that did have a pretty cool fight between like a polar bear and a demon, I think. In terms of how all four pieces functioned as complete short films, Gambo was probably the best. It's all kinda gross-looking CGI though so I dunno.

The final movie in the anthology, which I think was translated as A Farewell to Weapons, for some reason sidestepping the Hemingway reference?, was a bit stickier. Not that I particularly loved it, but I remember walking out thinking that if I gave much of a shit about the whole drone thing as a locus of the political that I might be a lot more interested in it. Which isn't to say that I don't think the conversation about drones isn't an important one; just that I have trouble staying interested when that seems to be the primary lens through which folks talk about the state of politics or the world or whatever. Kind of like how I get it when people talk about videogames as this magical site of new practices or whatever. Even when I am convinced by their point and glad they found a way to make it, there's a weird triumphalism to the whole thing that just puts me off.

I guess it's also kind of funny that Weapons' director worked on a number of the Gundam series, and that he had a hand in designing the mechs for the most obtuse fighting game I've ever played, Virtual On. Getting it on Dreamcast like six years late without knowing anything about it certainly didn't help but goddamn if it wasn't a game that militated against your engaging with it. Really I should be waiting to post about this movie until I another thing I'm working on goes out (if it does), since that's all about Suda51 and mechs, but this whole project this year has been such a goddamn mess and I saw so few movies and cared about such a small fraction of them it's kind of hard to get it together to do that.

Weapons is about a team in a desert/city environment being sent in to disable or destroy some sort of rogue automatic tank thing. It's also CGI I think? but it looks better. Drone stuff maybe. I dunno. The whole anthology was kind of a let down.

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