This is a collection of great classic short stories. All were uniquely interesting and well done in almost every aspect.
Art, Animation & Character Designs
Artwork and animation is superb! Graphics were outstanding, colors were rich & vibrant and the backgrounds were highly detailed. Animation was equally as good with velvety smoothness. Characters were all just well done. They were well detailed and also rich with color. There was some usage of CG here and there and it worked well. A lot of times in many anime, the use of CG sometimes takes away from the series since it looks out of place. Here, it's carefully mixed in and not over used.
The soundtrack had a lot of pianos and softer music. Nothing really stood out but were mostly soothing, relaxing. Well, I can't say "nothing" really stood out. Actually one comes to mind... the one in episode 5. Nice little jazz piece there. Another one that comes to mind is the soundtrack in episode 11. A nice semi-dramatic piece with whistles and/or windpipes, some light trumpets and light violens. Almost sounded gaelic.
Series and Episode Story
All the various tales in this series were all nearly perfectly done. Everything from detailed rich artwork, to unique characters to fantastic story telling. Some of the story telling in it's visual interpretation was both artistic and visually breathtaking... take for example the final episode story. It's just a wow! For the most part, all these shorts leave more of a psychological impact as opposed to anything else on the viewer. This is what makes these stories fantastic and very immersive. The chracters really add to this experience as they are very well animated, sometimes over-emphasized, which gives it a more dramatic feel, and with facial expressions that really bring them.... their emotions and expressions to life.
The story told in episode 10 is probably the better one of them all. In fact, I can almost say it was a masterpiece. It was superbly done... especially in how the writer's (not this anime's writers) characters are "brought to life" by involving them in the real scenes the writer himself is in... as if his characters are coming to life and acting according to his writings right infront of him. Almost reminded me of Millennium Actress Well done. The way this story is told and narrated was very in-depth in dramatization and intertwining of the writers thoughts, narration and his reflections of his true past. My God, I loved it. The way the characters actions and reactions being over-emphasised really added depth and realism in how chracters would act on stage in a real play.
Overall, this was a fine collection of shorts brought to life in all their glory. I only wish there were more episodes with more stories to be told. Don't miss this set for sure.
Last updated Wednesday, November 03 2010. Created Wednesday, November 03 2010.
This anthology of Japanese short stories did enough at grabbing my interest with both its intense storylines on both the emotional and suspenseful side, as well as the visual presentations conveyed for the themes of each title. Considering the separate stories for this series, I'll post my thoughts on each individual title in the same way I summed up
No Longer Human was the longest running and most character driven of the six stories exploring the deteriorating mind of a young man feeling neglected by society and a one night stand with a prostitute leading to a double suicide where only he survives and his life further deteriorates. The story goes into the potential causes for what led to his neglect and the psychological issues he develops as a result, shown clearly through some abstract designs of the "monster" the lead believes himself to have become thanks to how society views him after the suicide. In a way, the story could be seen as a "take that" towards the Japanese culture's emphasis on valuing the group over the individual as not valuing individual worth can negatively effect the self-esteem of a person where it could drive that person to a breaking point hence the inevitable outcome that the story develops.
In the Words Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Fall Bloom is the more quirky of the six stories presented focused on the awkward chemistry between a forest bandit and a city girl he wants as his wife. The short does have some moments of anachronisms like the bandit blowing bubble gum and listening to music on an MP3 player during one of his raids and some city citizens taking pictures with cell phones. Not to mention a couple disturbing moments where city girl breaks out in a musical number while the bandit is slaughtering villagers and she plays around with their severed heads like they are dolls. This short has a strong emphasis on the darker symbolism of cherry blossoms which I haven't seen conveyed in any anime I seen to date. That symbolism is death considering feudal era myths emphasized such and the bandit had an immense fear of the blossoms in bloom throughout the story because of this. What is beautiful can lead one to their downfall and this is clearly seen with the bandit's introduction to the city girl intruding upon the lifestyle he set up for himself as he is forced out of it, a difference from the more subtle deterioration of the lead from No Longer Human.
Kokoro isn't as grand with the visual details as the past two stories yet it returns to being subtle like No Longer Human. It places emphasis on perspective as each of the two parts to the story explore the perspectives of two men caught up in a love triangle over the daughter of the wealthy old lady allowing the two to live in her house. From what I understand, the focus on the practitioner religious man was never explored in the original story. But judging from its focus on events, the situations from the man's point-of-view do make sense considering the thoughts of his friend, the educator, and the daughter forcing herself upon the practitioner. Like the past two works, don't be so surprised with the tragic outcome that develops considering the tragic irony that occurs.
Run, Melos makes use of a framing device where the play being developed by the scriptwriter takes place at the same time as the writer becomes conflicted over further developing it thanks to his own personal problems regarding a friend as the play's events remind him of said situation. Use of this style of narrative leads the two storylines to blur together at points as the scriptwriter witnesses the play literally unfold in front of him as it develops and shrunken down versions of the play's characters engaged in combat with one another take place on the writer's table while he's unsure over how to finish off his play. Alongside the play's developments, flashbacks are shown of the problem that led to the scriptwriter's thoughts concerning his friend and this clearly effects him while writing his play. A tragic development discovered by the finale of this story leads to what is perhaps the most heartwarming and positive ending you will get out of the six stories in this anthology.
The Spider's Thread creeps into more dark territory with focus on a ruthless killer going on a killing spree until he finally gets captured and killed. The first half to the short puts enough focus on the killer being a mercilessly evil individual. That is until we get to the second half where said killer literally goes into Hell which makes for both the animation highlight and the most disturbing part of this story. One little deed from the killer before his death which could be considered insignificant by many gives him a chance at redemption towards the end of the episode. It presents some powerful, yet blatant, symbolism of what a life of evil would lead one to beyond death. I'm still shocked by the fact a story this morbid could be based on a Japanese children's story.
Hell Screen ups the ante on dark and disturbing by a painter's exposure to the king's barbaric and merciless treatment of the kingdom's citizens driving him to create a true reflection of the king's world when the king requests the painter to make his mausoleum into what he considers to be his "beautiful kingdom." Hell Screen proves to be the darkest of the stories in this anthology featuring characters whom you are unsure whether or not to even sympathize with as the king has no regard for the villagers that he orders his guards to kill off and the painter and his daughter slowly lose their sanity as they get further along with the painting to press the king's buttons and use the suffering of the villagers (i.e. drawing their burnt up corpses) as inspiration to further develop the painting. The final masterpiece turns out to be just as chaotic as the painter perceives, yet at a great cost in the episode's finale.
Aoi Bungaku proved to be quite the immersive anime anthology for me thanks to the suspenseful and psychological use of animation and storytelling to depicting the themes and thoughts of the characters portrayed in each of these adaptations. While I have yet to actually read from the source material for these six pieces of Japanese literature, the anthology provided from Aoi Bungaku has provided me with one of the best unlicensed anime TV titles I have seen to date.
Last updated Monday, October 11 2010. Created Monday, October 11 2010.
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