Now and Then, Here and There
Matsutani Shuzo is your typical, hyperactive Japanese schoolboy. He's hopelessly cheerful, plays kendo, and has a crush on the captain's sister. Nothing really bothers him; everyday is just the next play in a larger game. Then on his way home from school one afternoon, he spots a girl watching the sunset from the top of some factory smokestacks near his home; smokestacks he is famous in the neighborhood for climbing when none of the other children were able. This strange girl with liquid blue eyes tells him her name is Lalaru, but says little else as she watches the setting sun. Then out of nowhere, several large machines, piloted by strangers in military uniforms, appear around the stacks and attack Lalaru. Shu attempts to save her and in the process is sucked back into the future with the soldiers to a bleak, sand blasted wasteland ruled by the remnants of a long dead war machine. Now as a prisoner and conscript of the battleship "Hellywood", Shu must face hard realities as he struggles with his new situation and tries to find a way for he and his fellow prisoners to escape the mad rule of King Hamado.
Well animated, well written and well directed, Now and Then, Here and There is a gem in the rough amongst the horde of mediocre to bad titles released by U.S. Manga Corps (MD Geist anyone?). This is a rather unexpected title from director Daichi Akitarou, who is better known for his action and comic works, notably Jubei-chan and Elf Princess Rane. The characters and story are surprisingly deep for a thirteen episode series, and the pacing, while a little on the slow side, manages to cover a lot of ground. At the end of the last episode I felt like I had watched a full twenty-six-episode run rather than a half-season length cable show.
The characters are what really hold this show up. All of the characters are well written and fully developed into the story. Even relatively small characters like the diminutive conscript, Boo, have essential roles in the tale and are interesting and fun to watch. My personal favorite though, is the mad dictator, King Hamado. He dominates every scene he is in. He isn't just your typical evil anime overlord. From his voice acting, to the way he moves, to his interactions with his underlings and the main characters; you don't just see how depraved and sick he is, you feel it. Not many animated characters can claim such a screen presence. Of course, since he's the bad-guy, many people I have talked to who have also seen this show, despise him, but the level to which they dislike this character only serves to prove my point. Outside of the mad king, the acting for Nabuca, Shuzo's conscript commander, is also exceptional. He's a little boy saddled with a man's responsibilities and choices and is believable despite the unbelievable setting.
The animation is very good, with a style reminiscent of late 80s cell animation despite its newer release. The older looking style works to good effect, making the scenery seem somewhat rougher and more realistic. Now and Then, Here and There is not about the shiny and new but the old and worn out. Everything is drawn with an eye towards this that gives the setting its post-apocalyptic flavor.
The music is simple, but gets the job done. Much of the show has no noticeable BGM at all. The background silence lends to the overall effect of the series.
However, and this is where the show slips in some eyes, Now and Then, Here and There is tragic: a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Some members of T.H.E.M. haven't been able to watch more than a couple of episodes because the show is so dark and depressing. Just like in the classic tragedies, main characters die, and the ending is less than the "Shining Ray of Hope" that some other stories might conjure up as the finale. No one comes away completely happy, no one comes away clean.
That said, it is not a *bad* show because of this. Shuzo and the others are more mature for their struggles and the overall tone at the end is still hopeful if not joyous. This is definitely not a show for those who like their anime on the lighter side, but rather for those who love a well-told story, whatever its mood.
Remove as many as two stars if you do not enjoy tragedy in anime. — Jason Bustard
Recommended Audience: Not for the kiddies. No nudity and very little swearing, but parts of this show are extremely violent, and although the cast is primarily children, it deals with adult issues and themes such as death, war, rape, and suicide. Older teens and young adults of a literary bent would probably enjoy this the most, but anyone with a penchant for tragic stories may enjoy this one.
Version(s) Viewed: Bilingual DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Now and Then, Here and There © 1999 tarty / AIC / Pioneer LDC
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