Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories is divided into three segments. The first, Magnetic Rose, is about the legacy of an opera singer, and the terrible secret she leaves in space, as the crew of a salvage ship must try to find a way to survive entering her memories. Stink Bomb is about a hapless Japanese researcher fighting a simple cold, whose remedy is truly far worse than the original illness. Cannon Fodder revolves around the life of a boy who lives in a socialist city of cannons, where everyone's place and duty is set for life. Otomo himself is credited as director for the third segment, acting as supervisor for the first two.
Though I'm not admittedly a rabid fan of Akira, I still admire the scope of the works of Katsuhiro Otomo. (Yes, I like Roujin Z about as much as Raph did, and I was also on a high dosage of caffeine that morning watching Sci-Fi.) When I heard one of my anime fan friends had a copy of Memories, I had to watch it, just to see what it was like.
I'm glad I did.
Memories is a truly impressive piece of art, even if only for the first segment alone. Magnetic Rose is technically stunning, artful, and definitely at least a little jarring, with the opera singer's final wish coming at a terrible price to those around her. Characterization is well-done in all segments, with very realistic acting in the first story, and intentionally caricaturish acting in the other two. The art and animation, however, are what you'd expect from a production with Katsuhiro Otomo's name on it. Magnetic Rose has what I would describe as the most realistic mecha designs I've seen in a while, the floating salvager Corona being functional, not impossibly aerodynamic or intricate. Everything has the right amount of -age- to it ... no matter how modern the equipment is compared to us, it LOOKS obsolete. And the opera singer herself is simply astounding. I don't quite think I'll hear "Madame Butterfly" in quite the same way after this, though.
The other two entries don't quite equal the sheer excellence of Magnetic Rose, but they succeed in their own right. Stink Bomb is a hilarious black comedy, in which the world's stupidest man comes across the world's worst biological weapon while in search of a cold medicine. Though at the very least implausible (I seriously doubt any pharmaceutical company would be this lax in their security), Stink Bomb comes as a relief from the suspenseful and jarring nature of Magnetic Rose, and rather than a letdown, it adds some action and humor that is badly needed, even if the humor is still decidedly black. (The ending to this one is hilarious, in a twisted way.) A lot of fun is poked at the Japanese Self Defense Force's absolu te ineptitude, in how a million bombs and missiles can't nuke a guy on a motor scooter. (Have we seen *this* before?) And the music to this segment is a lively jazz that, though at first at least a little disturbing, is actually incredibly appropriate.
The third sequence, Cannon Fodder, has a jarringly different art style from the other two, almost a cross between an MTV Liquid Television short and Terry Gilliam's Brazil, and altogether very well-done. The world is a Communist-seeming Dystopia (complete with pseudo-Cyrillic lettering), and the whole setting revolves around the impossibly big cannons, which rain down on the enemy's mobile city that is never once seen in the segment. It's all allegory, and it's a bit heavy-handed. Honestly, I was pretty lukewarm to this segment, but it's not inherently bad. The setting itself is simply neat to watch in its industrial glory, and the message it tries to convey seems to be an indictment on the extreme level of conformity inherent in socialism. Everyone is provided for ... but no one is truly happy, if the best thing one can aspire to be is the commander of a cannon.
Overall, this anthology is definitely a good watch, as they are very different and far more thought-provoking than a lot of the mind-candy anime we see here in the states. With great art and animation, a well-done soundtrack, and several uniquely interesting stories, it's really something else. Just hope America will get to see Memories soon ... until then, look out for the digital sourcebed version (which I hear is ultra-rare) or the unsubbed import from Japan. Good luck!
Magnetic Rose is well-told and excellently animated, Stink Bomb is amusing and inventive, but Cannon Fodder's intriguing imagery really leads nowhere. Combined as an anthology, it's worthwhile viewing for the anime fan who wants something to think about. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: There's some violence here and there, but children would be more disturbed by the tone of these pieces rather than the content, as it is simply too dark-toned for the under 13 crowd. The child of one of the cha racters does die tragically as well, which makes it largely unsuitable for children. No nudity or sex to be found here at all, though, and the violence is largely implied. Recommended for mature audiences based on themes that would sail over any junior high schooler's head. (Like Otomo ever makes a *simple* piece.) Dragon Ball Z this is not.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Memories © 1995 Mushroom / Memories Production Committee
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