Memories – Film Review

Memories Anime Film Review PosterMemories (1995)

Directed by Kōji Morimoto, Tensai Okamura and Katsuhiro Otomo

Based on comic books by Katsuhiro Otomo

IMDB Rating: 7.6

Based on the works of legendary Japanese sci-fi storyteller Katsuhiro Otomo, this cobbled-together anthology features some huge names alongside new faces, presenting an opportunity to try new things. Some of them fall flat, many of them work, but does it create an engaging feature-length title?

(Warning: The most 90s trailer ever made is approaching…)

Executive produced by Otomo Katsuhiro (manga creator and film director of Akira), Memories is a collection of three short anime films based on some of his comic shorts. The first film is Magnetic Rose, following a space salvage crew who answer a mysterious SOS call originating from an abandoned station that once belonged to an opera singer. Second is Stink Bomb which follows Nobuo Tanaka, who takes some experimental cold tablets to sleep off his seasonal illness only to wake up and discover everyone around him has fainted. Last is Cannon Fodder – written and directed by Otomo, the story follows a civilisation that revolves around firing giant cannons every day at an enemy that nobody knows.

This is a truly peculiar experience. Katsuhiro Otomo described this film as something like an ‘omnibus’, and it was advertised originally in Japan as an opportunity to go back into the “Otomo zone”, many years after his magnum opus Akira. From what I could see, Memories is a fairly interesting demo disc, of sorts. Three totally separate thirty-minute pilots hinting at ideas and worlds with potential, but ultimately not quite delivering enough between themselves to make watching Memories feel like a wholly enjoyable experience.

These are three separate stories, so it makes sense to take a look at all of them separately, quickly. However, all of them follow a similar pattern of not being able to deliver a satisfying ending. Magnetic Rose is definitely the most impressive story, and probably the most impressive of all the stories. A strong sci-fi offering, this story of dreams and illusions is technically excellent and delivers some really interesting scenes, although the characters are all a little flaky and generally unlikable. Also – minor spoiler here if you haven’t watched it, yet – one of my biggest hates in all storytelling is the use of vulnerable characters’ deaths to spark quick, painful emotions. It’s a cheap hit that kind of put me off the story’s relatively bland conclusion.

Second is Stink Bomb, a surprising comedy number in between two dark tales. An excellent example of classic comedy animation, this funny tale is flawed by the main character’s incomprehensible ability to not comprehend. Other than that, and the classic trope of a main character that cannot be shot by anything at all, this is a sweet, enjoyable story. Lastly is Cannon Fodder, which for me is the most ambitious of the stories and the one I would most want to see in a full-length format. Definitely the best in terms of direction, this beautifully flowing cinematic piece showcases a vibrant, deeply intriguing world. However, seemingly understanding at this point in the film that it is impossible to deliver a satisfying conclusion to any of these stories, Cannon Fodder does not even try, cutting the story short before any real payoff is made.

Unfortunately for Memories, the animation hasn’t really aged well, either, with the occasional flash of brilliance acting as refuge between animation that simply feels dated for a sci-fi cinematic experience. Ultimately, this is an interesting watch for deep fans of sci-fi anime wanting to understand the inner workings of the medium – I have heard a lot of people talk about watching this as part of university courses, which totally makes sense. However, as a piece of entertainment it falls short. Not just once but three times, just to compound the fact.

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