May. 13th, 2010

starlady: Sheeta & Pazu watch the world open out before them (think in layers)
Hoshi no koe | Voices of a Distant Star. Dir. Shinkai Makoto, 2002.

It's fitting that the first line of the first anime done in the sekai-kei style questions in its very first words what world (sekai) actually means.

I love Makoto Shinkai's skyscapes; they outshine even his landscapes, which are breathtakingly beautiful. I read a paper about Shinkai's anime, I think it was in Mechademia vol. 1, that argued that Shinkai's anime, and the anime of the sekai-kei school, consistently present worlds (plural very much intended) in which characters are separate but connected--they transcend distance, first by technology and then simply by affect, which persists across distance and time even after the characters themselves have lost all actual connection. It's like that line in the Ashberry poem: "We are together at last,/but far apart." 

I think Hoshi no koe encapsulates a lot of Shinkai's themes handily; in some ways the chronological gap Mikako and Noboru endure is just a literalization of the process of growing apart as part of growing up that characters in his other anime like Kumo no mukou, yakusoku no basho and 5cm per second experience (and in space travel time literally becomes distance; they are the same). And despite the fact that Shinkai's anime are completely digital I really do think that his anime, and the sekai-kei school in general, really are the apotheosis of Tom Lamarre's anime-as-layers theory: the entire anime is a process of moving through and across layers: in the first sequence Mikako and Noboru, on his bike (girl on the back of the boy's bike! hello Ghibli films!) look up through the sky to space beyond it, through all of which layers Mikako begins to move, while the train in the foreground separates Noboru from his terrestrial destination (much the same way as rain, snow, cherry blossom petals separate the characters from the viewer). It's no accident that Lamarre in The Anime Machine focuses almost exclusively on Castle in the Sky, and that the same movie is Shinkai's favorite anime.


Tonari no Yamada-kun | My Neighbors the Yamadas. Dir. Takahata Isao: Studio Ghibli, 1999.

So it turns out that there was one other minor Ghibli film I hadn't seen, because I didn't even realize it existed. Tonari no Yamada-kun is a meandering, slice-of-life drama about a typical Japanese family's quotidian trials and tribulations. The most notable thing about it is the animation style, which is extremely flattened and cartoon-like. I find it notable that Miyazaki Hayao talks about making "manga movies" but that this is the Ghibli film that comes closest to looking like a comic strip (I liked the permanently unimpressed dog particularly). The movie is charming, and also really funny; I was laughing out loud at multiple points, which is something that rarely happens to me with anime. Definitely worth a watch, particularly for people interested in conversational Japanese.

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