The anime boom of the 1980s allowed for this aesthetic and distinct animated genre accessibility to Western audiences. The prominence of anime television series’ such as Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidō Senshi Gandamu) and Dragon Ball (Doragon Bōru) drove the genre for television audiences, but for film the gap was filled mainly by the wonderfully awe inspiring works of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle In the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) and Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) of Studio Ghibli fame. Though the anime genre has become mainstream and is on equal footing with western animation, the genre still faces unfair under-appreciation by some audiences in the West due to a great lack of understanding of the aesthetic and especial themes of anime films. In order to combat this outmoded way of thinking I have compiled my top three films that any budding explorer of this vast and deep film genre must watch at Anifest at the Gulbenkian theatre from 27th October to 2nd November.
Jamie’s Top three for the films you must see at Anifest:
Ghost in the Shell
Showing Time: Tuesday 28th October 8pm. Tickets: Film: £5 per person/ Film and Talk with Andy Frain: £10 per person (Saving of £2 per person).
Ghost in the Shell – (Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai) – Director: Mamoru Oshii: Release – 1995: Starring – Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Iemasa Kayumi. Rated: 15
As one of the films that inspired the Wachowski Brothers’ film The Matrix, Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell has become a crucial film in the anime genre, as the film has beautifully bridged the gap between the anime films of the 1980s and the present day. Indeed, rightfully so, as Ghost in the Shell has become and is indeed freakishly on par to our understanding of reality, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm were prior to World War II. Ghost in the Shell thrusts its audience into the year 2029 where the world is interconnected through an electrical network that seeps into all aspects of life. Crime simultaneously and intricately penetrates and permeates both the real and the computerised world as the films Cyborg protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi investigates the nefarious hacking of a mysterious and well characterised antagonist known as the ‘Puppet Master’. The film itself from the outset succinctly amalgamates themes of the complex relationship between humans and technology, the development socio-political culture within a dystopian setting as well as sex and gender within a non-human. It was these themes that resonated with famed film critic Roger Ebert who stated that Ghost in the Shell is an ‘Unusually intelligent and challenging science fiction, aimed at smart audiences’. Currently in the works is a live action adaption starring Scarlett Johansson, who is set to play Major Kusangi in the remake. Ghost in the Shell is a film that should not be missed by anyone, and with a talk with Andy Frain the films executive producer at Anifest, this experience will be exceptionally memorable.
Showing Time: Saturday 1st November 8:30pm: Tickets: £5.
(AKIRA) – Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo | 1988 | Starring Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki, Tetsusho Genda, Rated: 15
Akira rightfully so, is renowned as a landmark in Japanese animation and a pinpoint for the transition of the anime film genre into the Western psyche. Indeed, Akira’s appeal found its audience within the non-conformist, the dissident, the other. The year is 2019 and Neo-Tokyo has formed as a result of an explosion and World War III destroying the Japanese capital thirty one years prior. The city has found itself in a second war, only this time it’s not between militaries but between two Bōsōzoku (a Japanese subculture often involving illegal motorbike customisation) gangs, the Capsules led by Shotaro Kaneda and the Clowns. Kaneda’s best friend Tetsuo Shima causes a collision into Takashi, a product of a secret government project liberated by a dissident revolutionary group. The two are forcibly split when Tetsuo is hospitalised and Kaneda is captured by government soldiers. During capture Kaneda meets Kei, a member of the dissident revolutionary group, and aids her and the Capsules release. The cult following Akira has gained is not one that should be taken lightly by audiences as some cut-and-dry drab of science fiction masquerading as an intelligent film. It is a genuinely intelligent film. Though the animation seems outdated by todays animated film standards, its themes of the impact of WWII in Japan, the relationship between dictatorial dystopian politics and technology and anomie and disconnect in adolescent subcultures attracted the first wave of Akira’s audience. Most notably however is the film’s spine tingling soundtrack. In particular forty nine minutes into the film the track ‘Doll’s Polyphony’ plays, which is quite frankly the most terrifying piece of music ever to be produced in film. Simply put, Akira is a film that will guarantee you a lifetime of pensiveness unless ‘Doll’s Polyphony’ invades in your mind there first.
Showing Time: Saturday 1st November 5:30pm – Tickets: £5
(Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) – Directed by Hayao Miyazaki | 2001 | Starring Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Chiklis, Rated: PG
Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away managed to beat Titanic as the highest grossing film worldwide and is in the top ten of the British Film Institute’s ‘List of films you should see by the age of 14.’ The story of Spirted Away finds ten year old Chihiro Ogino and her parents moving to their new home, when her father makes a wrong turn and leads his family to a magical spirit world. Whilst Chihiro’s parents make themselves at home in this new world, gorging like pigs on freshly made food at an abandoned Japanese restaurant, Chihiro explores and finds the bath house where most of the films story takes place. Whilst there she meets a mysterious young boy named Haku who tells her she must return across the river before sunset. However it’s too late; Chihiro is trapped in the Spirt world as she cannot traverse the river and her parents have literally turned into pigs. Though Spirited Away seems like a typical childrens’ film, this is most certainly superficial perception and one that is not the case. Chihiro’s non babyish character transgression from an alienated spoiled brat to being self-confident resonates with modern Japanese society, where youths are and have been increasingly disconnected from reality due to Japan’s mass socio-political consumerist culture, highlighting that Spirited Away is not l’art pour l’art. However, what makes this film wonderful is its exceptionally beautiful soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, which complements Chihiro’s development beautifully and succinctly putting beautiful piano and suspenseful violins side by side. Spirited Away is an unforgettable and mesmerising film experience that will make you want to watch more of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces.