Memories -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 110
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Memories


By Dani Moure     August 09, 2004
Release Date: June 21, 2004

© Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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

Magnetic Rose: Based on a manga short by Otomo, two space travellers following a distress signal are drawn into a magnificent world created by one woman's memories. (Directed by Koji Morimoto)

Stink Bomb: A young chemist accidentally transforms himself into an unstoppable biological weapon set on a direct course for Tokyo. (Directed by Tensai Okamura)

Cannon Fodder: A day in the life of a city whose entire purpose is the firing of cannons at an unknown ememy. (Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo)

The Review!
The director of the smash hit Akira gets two other directors together to produce three individual works based on his own stories, and bundles them together in Memories.

I listened to the Japanese 5.1 track for my main review. It's a very good track that exemplifies some of the sound effects and music, producing some great directionality. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback, and was fully immersed sound-wise in all three segments. My only gripe with the soundtrack is that we don't get an English dub (though German, Spanish and Italian dubs are present). It's unfortunate, but it is inline with the handling of foreign films by major distributors such as CTHE. They did provide great dubs for Metropolis and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie though, which makes it a little more disappointing.

Memories is presented in gorgeous anamorphic widescreen, with the transfer preserving the film quality with very little to complain about. I noticed no artifacting at all during regular playback, and the only thing that might bother some is the occasional nicks and scratches present from the source. Colours are really well produced, and from the stunning animation of Magnetic Rose to the detail of Cannon Fodder, it comes across beautifully. While watching I really felt as though I was in a cinema immersed in the movie, which is really how it should be with a film like this. The subtitles are in a white font with a black background, but are quite large and easy to read.

The front cover depicts a different piece of artwork from each film, portraying the art style of all three, and it looks quite striking. The film's logo is across the middle of the cover and looks really fitting with the rest of the cover and the tone of the show. There's also a couple of taglines above and below it. The back cover presents a scene from each movie, as well as providing a general summary of the show and the film's credits. The disc's technical specs are well presented in a large information box. The insert just replicates the cover on the front, with the three episode titles on the inside. The last two pages of the insert are filled with ads and a competition from CTHE.

The main menu is mostly static, replicating the front cover for both the main menu and the story selection. No music plays on any of the menus which is a disappointment considering the fantastic soundtrack. Sub-menus contain various screenshots in various places, usually one from each episode, and are static as well. Though a little dull, the menus do fit the show in a strange way, and access times are nice and fast.

The only extra present is the "Memories of Memories" featurette, but it's a really interesting piece. It opens with a bit of a build-up about Otomo and his success with Akira both in Japan and internationally, and then goes in to the original pilot film for Memories. This is effectively a long promotional trailer, but it's interesting to see how each episode is presented and the focus of the short on each. It's followed by a series of interviews with the directors of each episode, with each providing an interesting insight into the production of their episode. It's particularly interesting to hear Morimoto talk about how he initially wasn't that engaged by Magnetic Rose, and how he and Satoshi Kon reworked the story. It's capped off with the trailer for the film, which ends the piece well. In all it's a really interesting featurette.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Memories is a very interesting disc to review. While it's all presented under one whole, there are three individual stories present, two running at around 40 minutes and one half that. They each have their own premise, characters and even different directors and staff working on them, and as such in a way they need to be treated separately, yet there's a similar tone and theme running through all three.

Magnetic Rose is the first segment, and arguably the strongest of the three, about two men, Miguel and Heintz, working as salvagers in space whose ship answers a distress call from a station and sends them to investigate. On entering, they are in awe of the beauty of their surroundings, as the whole station looks like an old-fashioned mansion. The occupant was an old opera singer, and as the pair find out more about her, Miguel is slowly immersed in her world as he begins to see things involving the woman, and soon, Heintz suffers the same fate.

The story in this opening act was very interesting, keeping me engaged right through to the unexpected resolution. As Miguel and Heintz uncovered more and more about the woman, I found myself just waiting to discover the purpose of what she'd set up and her reasoning for it all. It's really tragic, both in her story and how things play out for Miguel and Heintz, and I was captivated all the way through.

The characters are really well fleshed out given the length of the piece, with Heintz in particular getting a fair amount of backstory, and the feeling when it was all over for his wife and daughter was really heart-breaking, given how much he cared for both. Likewise, despite what she ended up doing and how many she'd drawn in, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for Eva in a way given what she'd gone through.

To back up the excellent story, Magnetic Rose has an amazing soundtrack, with the operatic and classical themes that fit perfectly and really sound phenomenal. Combine that with some superb animation and this episode really is a winner.

Stink Bomb is presented next, telling the story of a man called Nobuo who works at a science lab. He gets ill one day, and when he arrives at work his colleagues suggest that he takes some of the experimental cold medicine they have been working on. Unfortunately for him, it's not cold medicine at all, and when he wakes up after taking it, he finds everyone dead. It turns out that what he unleashed was far more than just medicine for a cold... and it means that the national army, as well as the Americans, will be involved in stopping a cloud of gas that was unleashed as a result, and is killing everyone in its wake.

This episode has a really interesting premise and the consequences of Nobuo's actions in the story are huge and quite disturbing, and despite that there's a dark comedic element to the short that helps make it quite captivating. The scenes of Nobuo riding along trying to get help, surrounded by the huge cloud and being attacked by everything the military can throw at him ? from tanks to fighter planes ? is both amusing in that he really doesn't have a clue what's going on, but it's terrifying to think what would happen in that situation where they have to go all out to kill the man because if they don't, everyone will die. Sure enough, the final scene is one that is scary as you see the fear on all the people's faces, and yet amusing in how stupid the action Nobuo takes is.

And really, that leads to my only frustration with the story in a sense; Nobuo comes off as rather stupid. The fact that he makes no connection between the stink cloud that's surrounding him and everyone dropping dead when he gets close is silly, as most in his position would. I could overlook it because of the fear and pressure he would be under in that situation, but it's a little far-fetched to believe that he would do what he does at the end of the show after everything he's witnessed. Nonetheless, this issue is only mildly distracting, and I could easily overlook it given the positive aspects of the film.

Cannon Fodder is the final piece, and also the shortest, running about 20 minutes. This episode, directed by Otomo himself, depicts a family living in a town where they all work to fire cannons at their enemy. The mother, father and son all have various duties in this goal; the son dreams of being a part of it all, the mother works on the production line, and the father takes part in the loading and firing of one of the many cannons.

It's a disturbing piece because we never find out who they're firing at or even why, it's all shrouded in mystery and when the boy raises a similar question, his father simply answers that he'll understand when he grows up. While I perhaps enjoyed this episode least of all three, that's not to say it's without its merits. I really liked the way Otomo presented the story, telling us pretty much nothing, but portrayed the various aspects of how everyone in the city is in essence at the whim of the cannons through the characters. In particular, the fear presented in the father when the cannon was loaded and then fired spoke leaps and bounds about the situation everyone in the town was in. In contrast, the son's excitement and joy at the thought of being a part of the firing squad was very disturbing, as he knows nothing but war and so wants desperately to be a part of it. His dream was a great way of showing just how much it meant to him.

The themes present throughout this final piece are clearly meant to carry a message, and its one that is present even nine years on from when this film was produced. Interestingly, Otomo chose to depict the events of Cannon Fodder in a completely different art style to the other episodes, which gives it a unique and distinguishing look that is similar to a painting. It's very striking and works quite well.

In Summary:
Memories is an interesting piece, with each of the three parts playing out totally differently with contrasting themes and messages, and yet each has its own merits and is very good in its own right. Magnetic Rose was my favourite of the three episodes that left a lasting impression on me, with an engrossing and tragic story, it really plays out like a classic opera or stage play. It's a really wonderful short movie that I would recommend even standing on its own. While I had a small gripe with Stink Bomb, it was nonetheless enjoyable and had an interesting theme that played out well. Cannon Fodder has the most powerful message and was definitely a thought provoking piece that really showed how anime can tackle some difficult themes in a really engaging way. With all three stories that complement each other perfectly in one well-presented package, this is a disc I'd highly recommend to both anime fans and a wider audience who are just looking for something that's clearly quite special.

Japanese Language (5.1),German Language (5.1), Italian Language (2.0), Spanish Language (2.0),English Subtitles,Arabic Subtitles, Dutch Subtitles, German Subtitles, Hindi Subtitles, Italian Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles,Turkish Subtitles,Making of Memories Featurette

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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