Memories (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, February 22, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004



What They Say
Created by celebrated anime master Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Roujin Z), MEMORIES consists of three dazzling stories, each delivered with its own astonishing style.

"Magnetic Rose," directed by Koji Morimoto (Animatrix) based on a manga short by Otomo, concerns two space travellers following a distress signal drawn into a magnificent world created by one woman's memories.

In director Tensai Okamura's (Wolf's Rain) "Stink Bomb," a young chemist accidentally transforms himself into an unstoppable biological weapon set on a direct course for Tokyo.

Otomo's own "Cannon Fodder" depicts a day in the life of a city whose entire purpose is the firing of cannons at an unknown enemy.

The Review!
After his success internationally with Akira, Otomo refocuses on the bigger worldwide market and attempts to do something not quite as intensive but just as enjoyable.

Audio:
Columbia once again treats its Destination Films properties as foreign films and has declined to produce a dub for this release. This leaves just the Japanese 5.1 mix for the single language track, but what a track it is. Memories has long been one of the most dynamic anime soundtracks out there, from the beautiful distinctness of the operatic singing in Magnetic Rose to chaotic elements in the Stink Bomb episode with numerous people running and shouting in all directions and the variety of vehicles and special effects used. Cannon Fodder also is wonderfully done here with its wide open booming music and the rush of the cannon fire itself. Revisiting this score in 5.1 again reminded me just how potent anime soundtracks can be in this format after hearing so many stereo mixes for so long.

Video:
Originally released in 1995, Memories is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. While I didn't haul out my oversized Japanese release from the late 90's, I've watched it so many times over the years that it's easy to tell that this transfer looks just about identical to that one. Memories is a richly detailed film in both foregrounds and backgrounds, along with some very lush and vivid colors throughout. The only downside to it, much like with the original Japanese release, is that in various places in the Magnetic Rose episode a lot of the blacks when done as interiors tend to give off a purple hue. This was noticeable on our last setup as well with the import, so it's not something that I really gave much consideration to. The vivid shift of colors in a key scene in Magnetic Rose is beautifully reproduced while Stink Bomb brings the vivid color palette to life for its entire episode. Cannon Fodder itself looks fantastic with the illustration style used, with so much detail visible.

Packaging:
I generally dislike the silver material being used on keepcase covers since it reminds me of the time before the crash of the comic book market, but sometimes it just looks perfect. Memories is one of those exceptions with the thin lettering across the center of the cover while the trio of images from the movie fill out the rest of the cover, each showcasing some really great artwork and the different styles within. The back cover provides a few shots from the three pieces and a brief summary of the film with each episode getting a line or two description. The discs features and technical information is all clearly listed and the usual round of production credits as well. The insert is a small one-sheet that has an intriguing set of images I haven't seen before that pulls all three episodes together and provides the episode selection list. A small booklet is also enclosed that provides dozens of full color shots from the shows, conceptual pieces and full color design pieces.

Menu:
The main menu is a simple static piece that has a trio of images from the three episodes in the movie lined up next to each other with a crisscross blue backdrop behind it. Selections are quick and easy to make along the bottom and access times are nice and fast, but the menu overall is pretty minimal and feels like something of a disappointment considering the quality of the film itself. Especially when you consider that the menu is quiet and the film has such a range of great music.

Extras:
The two extras are tied together in this release, with a twenty-five minute or so making of feature that has interviews with Otomo and the directors of the opening two episodes. There's discussion going into how Akira changed perceptions of the foreign market and elements of how each director brought their own styles and elements to Otomo's stories, plus what it's like working with him. It's definitely an interesting feature overall with lots of little nuggets of information for the die-hard Memories fan. At the end of it, there's a three to four minute pilot film for the movie that shuffles the images around and was used to promote and sell the project while it was moving forward. It's really interesting to see the way the images are used from the various episodes to blend together with this piece.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Memories has long been one of the small number of very high quality enjoyable anime films that have been made over the years. With Otomo writing the stories and directing one of the episodes while the other two are done by others who he felt were ready to make that leap to directing, Memories achieves what Otomo wants most ? it zips right through and keeps you surprised.

The release of Memories in the past has been odd in that the subtitled version was commissioned I believe for a one time event showing and was done very quickly with the basic gist of things coming through. It's not to say that the script wasn't good, or that it feels rough, but it has that slight edge of not being properly polished. To the surprise of the translator, his script showed up in the form of the subtitles on the Japanese DVD release of the movie (and I believe the laserdisc release as well prior). While it wasn't the full detailed work we usually see from this translator, for people who wanted to see the film it as a huge boon. Especially since Memories has long been considered to be far too expensive to license and without enough of a fan market to recoup the costs due to its having been so widely available subtitled previously.

So enter Columbia and their Destination Films line, which scooped up the property and has done well by it. While I can't for 100% say that the subtitle script is the same, it feels the same. The other languages though, I don't know where they got the scripts for those, whether they converted the English to it or they did it based on the Japanese script. Each of the stories in Memories plays out different, but each tries to keep the element of surprise to it while also keeping it paced fast enough that you don't get bored.

Magnetic Rose is the anchor of the film though, the most easy to sell and visually the one that people would expect from Otomo after Akira. It's a simple science fiction tale that has a space salvage crew checking out an old set of ruins in space, ruins that form a strange free floating rose no less. As members of the crew go inside to investigate, we see the dilapidated version of what was once a massive and hugely beautiful ship that feels more like a royal castle floating in space than anything else. Before the crew gets too far though, they hear operatic singing throughout the ship and the feel that someone is alive or controlling things there. Naturally, they get separated and each experience different things as the force within the ship toys with its new playthings. The episode plays up a number of traditional elements in this particular genre, so while the animation is gorgeous and there's the beauty of the opera singing, it has some feel of being done before to some degree.

The dark nature of Magnetic Rose is perfectly followed up by Stink Bomb. This episode is designed to take a comedic element, a really dark element and tie it up into a chase sequence. The premise is really simple; Nobuo is one of many drugs researchers at a facility but he's feeling under the weather himself. So after the suggestion of one of the other researchers, he takes one of the pills from the chief's desk that was just recently approved (and soon to be thinned down for consumer release) and promptly takes a nap in one of the waiting rooms. When he awakes, everyone he comes across is dead at their positions. So he panics and runs, taking his bike and heading as far away as he can. What he doesn't know is that the pill he took is a biogenic weapon that unleashes a stink-cloud and odor that kills everyone else. So as he high-tails it throughout the country, the military is after him and people are fleeing before him. There are some truly beautiful scenes as he's attacked, such as when the row of tanks tries to take him down or the barrage of air launched missiles come ever so close but not quite. This episode is just a hell of a lot of fun with a great score that keeps it moving along right up to the gotcha style ending.

The one story that felt the weakest or least interesting to most people is Cannon Fodder, but that was the story that left the biggest impression with me at the end. The story of a family living in a city that knows only war and knows it only by how they all work towards the goodness of the cannon that sits in the middle of their lives is powerful and can be adapted to so many other things. Watching how the children live under this huge cannon and what it represents is shown not only in the daily life but in the child's dreams as well. The nature of the job that the mother goes through on the assembly line, where several of the them seem to pay lip service to the general hails of adoration for those in power. And most detailed, the hard work and fear that the father goes through being on the cannon itself and being responsible for loading it up. The cycle of control that the cannon represents over the people plays out into many cultures and is one of those pieces that is used to symbolize a way to express how present day issues are potentially able to go. To me, it's a very big and important piece and it's resonated strongly with me since I first saw it.

In Summary:
While Memories has the problem of not having a dub and that will play badly in fandom, those who have wanted to get the Japanese release but couldn't, either initially due to the high price or the lack of a capable player, this release takes everything from that one that was good and makes it better. Memories is a landmark film in the history of anime, not quite up to the level of Akira or certain Miyazaki movies, but it's one that has made a strong and lasting impression on both a lot of fans and animators. If it takes the power of a company like Columbia to finally get some of these gems over here, then I'm all for it at this point.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Director Interviews,Pilot Film

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MSRP: 26.96
Running time: 114
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Memories