A powerful human drama about how even in war, there is always something to look forward to.
What They Say
Dragged through a time warp by a strange machine, Shu is thrust into a hellish future as it explodes into war! Surrounded by fierce warriors enslaved innocents, and enigmatic wanderers, Shu faces the ultimate challenge of survival in a world gone mad!
Both language tracks are offered in 2.0. For the purposes of this review, I listened to the English dub, which was well done. The dialogue and music stay centered between the two channels, but there is some nice directionality with the sound effects. All of the tracks are clear with no distortion or dropout detected.
For a title that was made prior to the digital conversion (1999), Now and Then, Here and There looks pretty good. The character models are a bit outdated compared to more modern titles, but they look fine. The transfer to digital has softened some of the lining, but the colors are clear solid. There were no real technical flaws to speak of. In general, it looks about as good as it could.
The three discs are housed in a standard size amaray case with an insert to hold one of the discs. The front cover features some of the distinctive original art that has become synonymous with this series. All of the imagery consists of a sunset setting with hazy, realistic foreground pictures. The front cover in particular has Shu and Lala-Ru atop a robot, with Lala-Ru’s pendant glowing in the light. The back features more of the same with some screen shots and series summary. Overall, the packaging is fairly standard, but I loved the artwork on it. It somehow manages to convey the despair, hope, and beauty of the series as a whole.
Again, the menus are pretty basic, but feature more of the art style from the packaging. The background has some art, while the selections are in a line down the left-hand side of the screen. There is no animation, but again, the art is hauntingly beautiful. The selections stand out well, and are easy to follow.
There are some nice extras on this set, mostly all on the third disc as it has been set aside solely for extras. For starters, there is a clean version of the closing, though no opening oddly enough, and a metric-ton of character, mechanical, and background sketches. Those are set on an automatic slideshow, though you can hit pause if there is one you want to look at for longer. There are also a bunch of storyboards available to look at. On the last disc, you can peruse through various random scenes throughout the series in a split screen with their storyboards to the left. On the second disc, you can actually also watch the entire last episode in this manner. It is pretty neat if you are interested in seeing the differences between concept and final in realtime.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A long time license of the now defunct Central Park Media, the classic Now and Then, Here and There has been rescued and re-released by ADV Films (that feels a bit weird to say…). This is a title that I have long heard great things about, and with good reason: it is a great human drama about the side effects of war in a world gone mad.
Shu Matsutani is like any regular, high-school boy: he has a good family life, he is a promising member of the school kendo club, and he has a crush on one of his classmates. But when she subtly reveals her feelings for the captain of his club, he does not let it get him down, and it is not long before he spies another cute girl. She is sitting at the top of one of the smoke stacks in his town staring at the sunset, so he decides to join her.
As can be expected from a situation such as this, the girl, Lala-Ru, is actually a mythical being from another world who is being hunted for her powers. Before long, Shu is caught up in her struggle and transported to her hellish, dry, desert world, where he is taken prisoner by the airborne nation of Hellywood. The insane ruler of Hellywood, King Hamdo has been hunting Lala-Ru because she has the ability to create water with the power of her pendant, and he feels that controlling her would cement his status as ruler of the world.
While in prison, Shu is cellmates with Sara, another girl from Earth who was kidnapped because she was mistaken for Lala-Ru. Being an affable guy, Shu promises Sara that everything would be OK, and that he would help her escape. Shu is quickly forced to join the Hellywood military, but he morally disagrees with Hamdo’s methods and fighting in general, so he soon concocts his escape with Lala-Ru.
But he is unable to take Sara with him because she has a different fate: like any female taken prisoner by Hamdo, she is expected to be passed around the troops to bear more future soldiers for Hamdo’s army. This causes Sara to snap and kill one of her potential paramours, and she escapes by herself to the desert. With all three of them free, and Hamdo determined to recapture Lala-Ru for his own plans, a final confrontation with Hellywood is inevitable.
What makes Now and Then, Here and There so poignant is how well it delves into each character’s personal lives and motivations in such a short time. On the surface, this anime is about a war against an insane ruler, but underneath, it is each individual story about how each person is dealing with the harsh conditions of the world and the war. For Shu, he struggles to get home while trying to protect those he cares about; and at the same time, he has the weighty job of trying to change the collective negativity that has engulfed a world of people who have given up hope.
But for all his appearance as the protagonist of this series, in many ways, Shu is little more than an ancillary to the lives of the people he meets. His presence is merely to push the story forward and his optimism is to make sure that it does not descend into a soul crushing pit of despair. Far more interesting are the people around him. For starters are the foil characters of Nabuca and Tabool. Both are young men who were kidnapped from the same village while little boys and trained in Hamdo’s army. At the outset, they are similar kids, but they take very different paths once in Hellywood.
Nabuca wants nothing more than to go home, and so he chooses to accept Hamdo’s claims that he will be able to when the war is over. He does not enjoy the invasions and the random slaughter, but he feels it is the only way to get free quicker. Tabool, on the other hand, understands that Hamdo has no intention of ever freeing any of them, and so he enthusiastically commits the atrocities he has been forced to commit. He is a bully—little more than a violent thug—but he is realistic about their situation. He does not try to justify his actions, whereas Nabuca—the supposed ‘good guy’ of the two—does and hides from the responsibility.
And then there is Hamdo and Abelia. Hamdo is quite literally insane, often switching from conciliatory to rage-filled and vengeful at the mere thought that something might not be going his way. And then there is his streak of cowardice and absolute impatience for everything; it all makes him a handful, and not very popular as a ruler. Unfortunately for Abelia, she is responsible for keeping him happy. She is his most dedicated officer, and she is continually charged with having to placate Hamdo when things go awry. She is so put upon at times, that I kept waiting for her to turn her back on Hamdo, but she never does.
But the most interesting character to me is Sara. Overall, she actually receives very little screen time when compared to the rest of the people, but her situation struck me the most. From the fact that she was mistakenly kidnapped, to the continual rapes, on through to the end, Sara is a person who life has decided to dump on. And she cannot take it. From the first moment we see her, she is rightly petrified at her situation but is somewhat placated by Shu’s determination that everything would work out. But from the moment she is raped the first time, she goes catatonic, her mind removing her from the horrors of her situation. When she recovers, she snaps, brutally bludgeoning a soldier to death and running out into the desert.
When we see her next, we find that she has been rescued, but is carrying the child of one of her rapists. Though the storyline hints at the father, she never learns it. Again, she loses it, attempting to kill herself and her misbegotten offspring, though Shu prevents that. All in all, the series does a wonderful job of building her as a sympathetic—or just plain pathetic—character. As I said before, she does not actually receive a lot of screen time, but by the end, I was rooting fairly vociferously for her to get her revenge and find some redemption/satisfaction in her life. If anybody deserves it, she does.
In essence, Sara embodies the entire theme of the series from beginning to end. Shu enters a harsh world, controlled by a mad despot, where everybody is bitter and self-serving. In fact, the world itself has gone mad through the bad living conditions and lack of resources. Being a fairly happy-go-luck kind of guy, Shu is angered at the despair that has taken over the world and sets about to change through the power of positive thinking.
Sara’s character arc mimics this perfectly. At the beginning, she is scared, but has a little bit of hope. But soon, the conditions of her confinement beat her down, making her as crazy as the world is. She no longer finds any joy in life and only lives to hurt those who hurt her. But no matter how bad things get for her, Shu is certain she can find redemption and be happy with her life. And like the world, she ultimately does.
It might be starting to show its age a little bit, but Now and Then, Here and There is still an excellent human drama about the effects of war. I am glad that ADV managed to rescue this license and not let it disappear. If you have not seen it yet, I urge you to do so. It is well worth it. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System