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Keiichi Hara - Colorful

Thursday 26th December 2013

Jonathan Clements on Keiichi Hara’s Colorful

Keiichi Hara - Colorful

A nameless soul reaches the train station where the dead are routed onwards to new fates, only to discover that it has won the chance to be restored to life in the body of Makoto Kobayashi, a boy who has committed suicide. Against the clock, the newly awakened “Makoto” must try to find out what his greatest sin was in his previous life, and also determine what it was that led his host body to die in the first place.

This feature-length adaptation of a 1998 novel by Eto Mori has strong resonances with the Buddhist-informed afterlife of Kenji Miyazawa’s Night Train to the Stars. But Colorful also sits neatly in a little sub-genre of Japanese magical realist films about the afterlife.  One of its most notable antecedents is Hirokazu Koreeda’s acclaimed film Afterlife (called Wonderful Life in the original Japanese), in which the spirits of the dead meet at a deserted school, where they analyse their lives and try to determined the most crucial, happiest moment of their life. They then take that moment with them into the unknown.

Colorful takes that filmic gaze in a new direction – as with many anime that recognise the weirdness of replicating reality by drawing pictures, it is in love with the idea of the everyday. It looks for miracles and a sense of wonder in the simplest of mundane, everyday settings. In the jury deliberations at Scotland Loves Animation a couple of years ago, one judge voted for it on the basis that it did that bravest and oddest of things, suggesting that the best thing in the universe was having a friend to hang out with. Despite its musings on the nature of reincarnation and fate, it is far more involved with the nature of modern living, and might be better regarded as a quintessential Everyday Anime, dwelling with a hyper-real sense of wonder on seemingly mundane occasions like a family dinner or two friends out shopping.

The anime adds only two significant elements to the original novel. One alters the character of the protagonist’s angel guide from an old man to a perky young boy. The other sites the formerly placeless story in Tokyo’s Kinuta district, where a lost local tramline is highlighted as an invisible connection between several elements of the story. This not only celebrates the director’s own hometown, but subtly functions as a memoir of forgotten pieces of the anime business itself, since the same area was the home of Toho’s animation division in the 1940s. A break-out film for Keiichi Hara, who had previously spent more than a decade directing the gross-out comedy of Crayon Shin-chan, its fate in the English language was not helped by sharing the same title as the immensely more forgettable Colorful (2000), a relatively obscure, 16-episode anime series a bunch of sex-crazed boys who spend all their time trying to get a glimpse of girls’ knickers. This is not that anime. It’s much, much better than that. See it if you can.

Colorful is screening as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, showing in a dozen UK cities in 2014.


Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 2

was £39.99
By popular demand, the anime fan-favourite released for the first time on DVD!

Four years after Tai, Mimi and the rest of the Digidestined brought peace to the digital world and found their way back home, the Digimon Emperor - a new villain - threatens the world and its Digital Monsters. With some the original kids off to junior high, a new generation is chosen to defend and save the world from evil.

Davis, Yolei, Cody, and Ken join T.K and Kari to form the new Digidestined team. Together they journey back to the Digital World to battle the Digimon Emperor and free all the Digital Monsters from his control.



Naruto Music: Asian Kung Fu Generation

Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.
Love Kyoto Animation as much as we do? Then here’s a title you’ll want for your collection.

One Piece Music: Bon Bon Blanco

Tom Smith on bikinis and cowbells
Need more cowbell? Have five! Japanese pop quintet Bon Bon Blanco (or B3 for short) is made up of 80% percussionists – and whilst its vocalist Anna Santos is the only member without an instrument to bash, I’m pretty sure she could work her way around a cowbell if pushed.

Harlock Space Pirate

The life and legend of Leiji Matsumoto's anti-hero
The new Harlock's ship is positively monstrous, a skull-faced battering ram that smashes other spacecraft to flinders. The press notes suggest the darkening of Harlock is a reflection of the times, and of modern Japan.

The Weird World of Rotoscoping

Andrew Osmond on the history of animation’s corner-cutting secret
Rotoscoping and its descendants are an important part of American cinema, and recognised today. Many film fans know, for example, that Gollum, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the rebel anthropoid Cornelius in the Planet of the Apes reboot are all based on physical performances by one actor, Andy Serkis. Again, it’s common knowledge that the Na’vi aliens in Avatar were human actors ‘made over’ by computer – the digital equivalent of those guys wearing prosthetic foreheads and noses in the older Star Trek series.

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #3

Wonder no more, as we reveal the origins of Akira Toriyama’s creations!
The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Attack on Titan music: Yoko Hikasa

Paul Browne on the songstress behind the dramatic ending theme
‘Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai’ (This Beautiful Cruel World) is, on the whole, a wistful and enigmatic song that seems strangely disconnected from a series that regularly deals with death and despair. Yoko Hikasa’s mesmerising vocals manage to draw the viewer in, lending an air of reflection and regret.

Fairy Tail Music: Idoling!!!

Tom Smith on the music to part nine
Even without the tie-in with anime, Idoling!!! had had a strong presence on television. After all, the group were created by a bunch of media moguls from Fuji TV. They figured out that by appealing to two of Japan’s more dedicated entertainment fangroups, idol fans and TV junkies, that they could be on to a winner.


Babymetal, anime apartheid and MazandaRanting in our 25th podcast.
Jeremy “Care in the Community” Graves is joined by Manga UK’s Jerome “Twitter Hijacker” Mazandarani and Product Manager Andrew “Mr Manga” Hewson, and special guest Stuart Ashen, star of Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild, out now. Not sure any of those names will stick.
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