As I  write this It’s festival time again in Montreal.  For me, that means my yearly pilgrimage to Fantasia for films and friends. The festival may have traded the intoxicating (and likely intoxicated) crowds and atmosphere for a more professional event where movies don’t start n hour late… I’m not sure which I like best… and the focus has been off of anime for years. But you still get a few cool movies to choose from.

Anime no bento is actually a collection of three short movies that the festival itself bundled into a single screening. And I’m really glad I got to watch it. 

I’m going to review them in the order they were screened. I’m sorry there are no drinking games for these. It was hard to put them together in the cinema. Feel free to drink whatever you want though!

Deji Meets Girl

This is actually a short program rather than a short movie. The original 12 two-minute episodes were all stitched together into a continuous 24 minutes for this screening.

Official Description 

It’s summer in Okinawa, and teenager Maise Higa is spending most of her time working as the receptionist at the family hotel. The days are sunny, but uneventful – until the arrival of Ichiro Suzuki, a mysterious visitor from Tokyo who is Maise’s age. Strange phenomena, spectacular impossibilities of nature, begin to occur almost immediately.

Deji Meets Girl was on my to-watch list the season it appeared on AniChart and I was disappointed that it didn’t get picked up for distribution by any service available to me. So when I saw that it was going to be shown at Fantasia I knew I  had to catch it.

First Deji is not the name of the boy. From what I gathered, the title was something like trouble meets girl which makes it even better for me. Another pleasant surprise was rather the story featured a lot of very eery yokai giving Deji two points in its favour as far as I’m concerned. You can add to that the fact that Deji featured my favourite visuals among three very visually interesting shorts and you have a recipe for an anime Irina is bound to like.

The pacing was a bit off, especially towards the end where Suzuki’s depression was not given the room it needed to be really impactful. Also, I  think that mashing all the episodes together threw the show off balance a bit. Even if you would binge it, there would still be a break between episodes, an ED or mental break while you physically skip to the next one. In this arrangement, there were eyecatches between certain episodes, the ones that did not follow from the previous episode, but for the rest of them, they tried to create a continuous flow. And it does work but it also exacerbates any pacing issues and even adds some. 

Other than that it was a sweet if a little aimless short with some beautiful art and breathtaking colours. Deji – it’s a soft and generally light-hearted exploration of depression and burnout set against the glorious background of magical beaches. Oh, and the action takes place in Okinawa but one of the leads is from Tokyo. You can very clearly hear the difference in their accents. That’s quite fun if you’re the type of person interested in Japanese as a language.

A Girl Meets A Boy And A Robot

I hope I can find some screenshots for this one. As I write this there is no entry for this short movie in either MAL or AniList yet so I’m going to have to go with Fantasia’s write up

Official Description

A girl with no memories wanders through the rubble of the world before, where the relics of automated technologies continue to function despite their human masters having (almost) all disappeared. She meets a friendly robot, also amnesiac, and they travel to a town where a brave young man leads a wild existence. He searches for the Time Crystal in order to get in touch with the past, but what the trio don’t know is that the truth lies among them.

I was surprised that I couldn’t find more about this short movie on the internet, considering it’s from Shinichiro Watanabe. Yup that one. His works usually get a lot of attention and for good reason

Between Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Shamploo, Macross Plus and Space Dandy, the man has a proven track record.

A girl meets a boy and a robot is also very visually interesting. It was made by MAPPA and I recently wrote that the studio is very good at creating distinctive-looking anime. For this particular movie, what struck me the most is how unanime-like it looked. If I had seen a clip of it without dialogue or context, I would have guessed that it was a French animation. A fancy one! That’s a compliment. I think the French make some very good-looking cartoons.

As soon as the first seconds started playing, I was sure that this movie was going to bum me out. It’s obvious from the get-go that it’s one of those classic post-apocalyptic stories that follows the last remnants of a dying human race. And well, it is and I kind of was.

The thing is, I’m not all that fond of these types of stories. There are some great ones out there but by now I have seen so many that they often feel redundant, and I have a tough time really engaging with them.

Please take this into account when I say that I liked A Girl Meets a Boy and a Robot. I liked it a lot.

For most of the runtime, it was more or less what I expected. The pain of isolation, the disappointment at mankind’s folly that will lead to our ultimate destruction. All the expected elements are there. But it is quite pretty to look at so that’s always a plus. However, there’s a twist towards the end. And maybe some of you will see it coming a mile away but I didn’t. I wasn’t expecting any sort of twist in this story. And this turn of events was a slap in the face that woke me up and make me really take in the movie.

As such, I look back on it as a melancholy yet hopeful meditation on the need for connection and conversation. I was honestly cheering on the inside when that last scene hit.

Summer Ghost

I had read the manga before watching this movie but I am going to pretend I hadn’t.

Official Description

After meeting online, three teenagers fascinated by the paranormal visit a disused airstrip. They hope to spot the “summer ghost” that is said to haunt this place, a rumor that is quickly confirmed. But the heartbreaking truth about these three youngsters and what they have in common remains a mystery for now.

A meditation on mortality among those whose life is just beginning, SUMMER GHOST is the first achievement of loundraw, a young character designer and novel illustrator. With sensitivity and conciseness, as well as a masterful marriage of rich and saturated colors, this maxi-short (or mini-feature?) reveals an important new talent in the field of anime

Like the other movies on this list, Summer Ghost has some great visuals going on. It’s probably the least impressive looking at first glance. However, unlike the other two, there is some really good visual storytelling interwoven into the narrative. A bit like it was done for Garden of Sinners and I adored that.

My first note as the movie opened was: The Light! Indeed, throughout the entire movie, Summer Ghost makes use of very evocative and striking light. Sometimes it’s blinding, reducing characters to hazy forms, other times it’s stark stripping colour from the world. It shines from different sources warping the perspective.

They also do this neat trick, which is somewhat related to how light is used in the story. The characters use extremely limited colour palettes, they almost come off as sepia-toned at times, whereas the backgrounds stay perfectly normal. This goes a long way to showing us the inner turmoil of characters that are left largely unspoken.

Like the other two movies, Summer Ghost also deals with depression and grief. It delves into the very serious suicide problem that Japan has had and I believe still has and tries to explore the minds of people who lose their will to live. But it’s nowhere near as depressing as I’m making it out to be. In fact, most of the runtime is a bit of a mystery as the main characters try to solve a murder that happened years before the start of the movie.

The ending is decidedly bittersweet and depending on how you see things it can be more bitter or sweeter.

Like I said, A Girl Meets a Boy and A Robot hasn’t made it to the big aggregator sites yet but Summer Ghost has and it is much better rated than Deji. That doesn’t surprise me. I would say out of the three, it is the most accessible and consistent offering. However, I also think it’s the one that deals with its themes in the most simple and naïve way. That’s not a bad thing, I enjoyed the movie but I think I would have difficulty picking a favourite.

Summer Ghost is a meditative and occasionally poignant short film.

I don’t know if I would have been able to see these without the festival and I honestly think I would have missed out. Each of them has something unique to bring to the table. I don’t think there’s anything to gain by watching all three together though. They are very different movies and folding them into a singular experience forces you to compare them which is completely futile.

I would say if you have the chance to see any one of them (and if they sound interesting to you) you should go ahead and not necessarily try to find the others.

If anyone has seen any of these movies, let me know your thoughts. I’m genuinely interested. Oh, and I was seated next to an older gentleman that spoke Japanese with his friend and it made me happy to think that even in Canada, adult Japanese men are making an effort to watch anime movies. It added something ineffable to the experience.

 

15 thoughts

  1. Well, since you so kindly asked… Let’s see if I can remember something mildly useful…

    Yes, so I watched Deji as it aired. I remember it being pretty pleasant at first, if a little aimless. Nice vibes, cool colors, silly hijinks. The Okinawan accent & expressions, as you mention. Always a positive in my book, like youkai in yours. Unfortunately, the show put me off when it focused on the dude’s depression. Episodic watching was partly to blame. As soon as you hit play, the show throws you into a stinking pit of misery. The emotions hit you in the face like a sack of bricks, without warning or proper build-up. I didn’t sign up for this! Although, given Deji’s a short, it’s unfair to complain too much. And time can cristallize your core feelings, as nuance gradually fades away. I could be remembering it too harshly. Regardless, I dropped Deji a mere three minutes before its end. (Who the hell does that? Me, apparently.)

    Summer Ghost I also considered dropping, as it built towards its emotional climax. But I’ll ignore my negative thoughts about its writing, and second your praise of its art direction. Beside the lighting or toning, I also liked the animation style. For lack of a better word, how “rough” it was? I’m not sure why, but I was particularly transfixed by these small fireworks! Really, really loved the choppy way they animated every single spark. One frame it is there, at its flamboyant peak… The next frame it’s completely gone, replaced by black nothingness. Zero or one. No in-between! Evoking the fleetingness of life, yet finding beauty despite its brutality… Life is short, try to enjoy it while it lasts… One of the movie’s core messages, spelled out in its opening scene. Another neat move, binding the characters together through this ritual of lighting fireworks. One more thing I wanna mention is the music. Wasn’t always a fan of how it was used, but I respect its bare bones, Minimalist nature. A genuine rarity in anime, and well in keeping with the film’s vibe.

    Never heard of the Watanabe one. Will keep an eye out. Out of curiosity, when does Fantasia usually take place? I’ve actually never been. Don’t think I’d ever come home during the summer — fall is my go-to season, on the rare occasions I do visit — but it doesn’t hurt to know.

    1. I’m surprising about Deji. The depression arc was only about two minutes do I didn’t think it would hit that hard on weekly viewings. It really does make a huge difference in the experience.

      Summer Ghost was adapted from a bare bones doujin and I think that my knowledge of the manga made me a lot more forgiving of the naive writing.

      Fantasia is usually throughout July and maybe the first week of August.

  2. Wow, that festival sounds like so much fun! The anime you got to watch sounds pretty good too. I would totally watch all of them if I had the chance! Were there other anime at the festival that you were tempted to watch?

  3. I’ve watched an episode or so of Deji; didn’t watch all of it because of stuttering availability? Something like that. I think I may have heard of Summer Ghost, but I’ve definitely never heard of the Robot show. All three sound like they’re worth watching at the very least.

    1. I may have brought it up once, Dawn-chan. Remember, its director is “loundraw”, the character designer for Vivy, Tsuki ga kirei, I wanna eat your pancreas… “loundraw” being the kind of name you don’t easily forget, or so you’ve said if memory serves.

      1. That may well be it. I tend to google things you bring up, if I don’t know them, and I defenitely remember you mentioning Ioundraw.

        1. You honor me, Dawn-chan-senpai.

          I tried searching for the comment yesterday, but my efforts were in vain. Irina’s post tags seem exceedingly random, at least to my untrained eyes. I strive to one day reach a level where I can decipher their hidden connections!

          As a wise man once said, we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

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