The British Film Institute (BFI) is holding a special showcase for recent anime (including the chance to rediscover Akira) from the 8th to the 10th of June. The line-up is excellent and contains some of the best theatrical titles to come out of Japan with titles from Studio Ghibli, Production I.G., and Madhouse. Of all the titles on display none intrigue me as much as A Letter to Momo which got a theatrical release in Japan last week and has had excellent reviews. Here’s the line-up:
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo, Starring: Mami Koyaa, Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Running time: 125 mins.
This is a stone-cold classic. Like Ridley Scott’s movies Alien and Blade Runner it’s aesthetics have influenced the look of a lot of animation and film. I have seen it on multiple occasions and I highly recommend it.
The year is 2019 and thirty-one years have passed since World War III. Neo-Tokyo is wracked with riots and clashes between the authorities and extreme political opponents. A child from a top secret government project interested in psychic powers is spirited away by one of these political extremists but gets caught up in a clash between young delinquent motorcycle gangs. This gang finds itself suddenly catching the interest of the authorities when one of the gang-members, Tetsuo, exhibits psychic powers. He is taken by the army to be experimented on but his mind might be more powerful than anybody could have guessed.
Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
Director: Makoto Shinkai, Starring: Miyu Irino, Kazuhiko, Hisako Kanemoto Running time: 116 mins.
Makoto Shinkai’s films are stunning to watch and feature such beautiful and melancholy stories full of more humanism than most Hollywood output. As the numerous OS wallpapers on my computer attest I am a fan (he answered two questions I put to him in a recent interview!). This is his latest film which looks stunning.
Asuna is a girl who spends her days listening to mysterious music coming from the crystal radio, a memento she received from her father. She embarks on a journey in the underground realm of Agartha which some believe has the properties of bringing people back from the dead. With a brave young man named Shun, Asuna will see the cruelty and beauty of the world as she evades dangerous beasts and a ruthless group of soldiers from her world.
From Up on Poppy Hill
Director: Goro Miyazaki, Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada Running time: 91 mins.
Based on Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama’s 1980’s shoujo manga, the film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyzaki who directed the underrated Tales from Earthsea. Check out Otherwhere’s review if you want a more detailed and interesting analysis.
Set in 1963 in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics this coming of age tale takes place in Yokohama and follows the life of a high school girl named Umi Komatsuzaki. Her father, a sailor, is missing and her photographer mother travels frequently so she helps run a lodging house with the rest of her family. Umi’s efforts to protect the lodging house draws new emotions from her friendship with two boys, Shun Kazama, a school newspaper member and Mizunuma, student council president.
Fullmetal Alchemist 2 – The Sacred Star of Milos
Director: Kazuya Murata, Starring: Romi Paku, Rie Kugimiya, Maaya Sakamoto, Shinji Kawada Running time: 110 mins.
I’m not a FMA fan but I’m in the minority because a lot of people love this show. The BFI have gone the extra mile and managed to secure the director, Kazuya Murata, and the producer, Masahiko Minami, for a Q&A that will happen after the screening. Great stuff!
When state alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric follow a fugitive alchemist to a valley inhabited by the Milos they find themselves in the middle of a rebellion. The milos chafe against the oppression of the state and are being lead by Julia, a young alchemist who is determined to raise the status of the Milos and return them to their former glory.
Gintama – The Movie
Director: Shinji Takamatsu, Starring: Rie Kugimiya, Shinji Takamatsu, Akira Ishida, Sugita Tomokazu Running time: 96 mins.
This is a movie adaptation of a hugely popular manga and anime.
Edo period Tokyo has been taken over by Aliens! Mankind has been conquered! After the proud samurai have been defeated they have had their swords confiscated and have been ‘reduced’ to working for a living. Enter former Samurai Sakata “Gin” Gintoki or ‘Odd Jobs Gin’ who will forfeit his dignity just to get paid. In this tale Gin becomes embroiled in the hunt for a legendary master-sword.
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura, Starring: Karen Miyama, Cho, Toshiyuki Nishida, Takeo Ogawa Running time: 120 mins.
Production I.G.’s film A Letter to Momo is getting excellent reviews and being compared to Studio Ghibli’s works. Anybody with any interest in anime will recognise the major production talent or the projects and studios they have worked on. Director Hiroyuki Okiura has written and directed this. It is his first movie since the magnificent Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. The animation and background has been handled by Ghibli chaps Masashi Ando (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) and Hiroshi Ono (Kiki’s Delivery Service) respectively and the project has animators from a myriad of other high-profile titles like Evangelion, The Sky Crawlers, Tokyo Godfathers and Summer Wars.
13-year-old Momo is a young girl who grew up in Tokyo but following the premature loss of her father, she has to move with her mother to the old family house on a remote island named Steouchi. Here, time seems to have stopped: old wooden buildings, holy shrines surrounded by trees, fields painstakingly carved out from steep hills… and no shopping mall. Momo has more troubling matters as she has an unfinished letter left by her father. A letter that contained only two words: “Dear Momo…” What was her father going to say? One day, exploring the attic of her new big house, Momo finds a dusty and worn out book and this is the start of an adventure.
Director: Shinsuke Satou, Starring: Haruka Ayase, Miyuki Sawashiro, Tamaki Matsumoto, Mitsuki Tanimura, Running time: 93 mins.
This is a 3D-CG movie from Production I.G.
When we reach adulthood and our childhood treasures are forgotten and disappear, where do they go? Apparently fantastical creatures from another dimension gather them up and takes all of these items to Oblivion Island. Haruka, who lost her mother at an early age, visits a shrine to pray for the return of a mirror she received from her mother. While at the shrine she sees one of these creatures and follows it.
Director: Jun Shishido, Starring: Sumire Morohoshi, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Daisuke Namikawa, Takeshi Tomizawa, Running time: 120 mins.
This is Madhouse studious movie adaptation of Joroku Inumura’s 2008 light novel and features staff who have worked on major titles like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Ah! My Goddess!, and Gankutsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo.
The story takes place in a world divided between two powers at war and focuses on issues such as empathy and love between people of different social status. Main protagonist Charles Karino, a Revaamu Empire mercenary who flies a two-seater seaplane named Santa Cruz receives an assignment: to fly solo over 12,000 kilometres of enemy waters to protect a girl named Fana del Moral who is the next in line to the empire’s throne.
Great stuff! For more information on how to book tickets visit the site. For now it looks like you’ll need to sign up for a BFI membership but tickets go on sale to the general public on Tuesday 8th May and the box office opens at 11.30am everyday.