Otomo's Memories

On 23 December 1995, Otomo Katsuhiro, the creator of Akira, released Memories to Japan's general viewing public. A collection of three stories, this movie brings not only variety, but enjoyment to each. "Magnetic Rose" is the first and longest of the three, followed by "Stink Bomb" and "Cannon Fodder".

"Magnetic Rose" is set in space in the year 2092. Four men -- Heintz, Miguel, Ivanov, and Aoshima -- pilot the mighty spacecraft Corona to new heights in interstellar garbage collecting. Actually, they are one of many ships that collect garbage left over from the expansion of humankind into space. When the crew of the Corona run across a distress call, they go to investigate. They discover a huge scrapyard of debris floating about a huge, central piece. Heintz and Miguel go to investigate, discovering living area set aside for an early twenty-first century opera diva who went into space after the death of her husband, Carlo. While there, the pair encounter strangely real and seductive illusions which make one wonder what exactly is going on. The ending is original and realistic, making this an excellent movie in itself.

"Stink Bomb," the next segment, is an incredibly funny and tragic story about a researcher who accidentally swallows the wrong pill, making him the ultimate biological weapon. Emitting a gas that kills all humans, frogs, and birds within its range, yet making plants flower even in winter, he becomes the greatest threat to mankind since the discovery of the atomic bomb -- and he doesn't even realize it. By some cosmic joke, an unthinking desk jockey calls this man, Tanaka, to come to Tokyo with the vital research on the project he swallowed. The militaries of both Japan and the US try to stop Mr. Tanaka before it's too late, bringing about every resource they have to bear. But can they succeed? This story is more humorous than anything else. Even in seeing it the second time, there were scenes in which I almost fell out of my seat from laughing too hard. The message that Mr. Otomo brings to the screen in this comedy of errors is a sober one, but drawn to the ultimate extreme for the sake of humor. If you have the chance to see this film, this is the reason to see it.

The final part is "Cannon Fodder". Set in a city in a constant state of war, cannon volleys are fired into the neighboring land daily. War has become a nine-to-five job for the city, whose children will grow up to be just like the adults in charge. While many may consider this episode boring, one should watch it at least once to understand what Mr. Otomo is saying via this short piece.

The animation of each episode differs, depending on how one views it. While all three episodes are very well done, the style of "Cannon Fodder" is vastly different from "Magnetic Rose" and "Stink Bomb". "Cannon Fodder" uses more computer effects than the other two, integrating them into the perspective of the scenes (like the Sharon Apple concert in Macross Plus), rather than just using them for a computer display. All three episodes are very fluid, never once skipping a few cels per second for the sake of the budget.

The music also differs from episode to episode. "Magnetic Rose" is done by Kanno Yoko, the maestro behind the musical success of Macross Plus. With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra playing the pieces, the music as a whole -- and especially the climatic opera piece -- blends in beautifully with both animation and storyline. "Stink Bomb," done by Mitaku Jun, is rather original. The music lends itself perfectly to the chaos of the entire story, and enhanced the viewing pleasure of many in the audience. Finally, the loud and rather strange music Nagashima Kankou provides for "Cannon Fodder" makes this steam-driven city of war come to life.

While this may be considered an "artsy" movie in the US (especially because of "Cannon Fodder"), anyone with an opportunity to see Memories should do so at least once. This looks to be a crowd-pleaser for many years to come, even if it doesn't achieve the cult-status of its predecessor, Akira.

-- Theo Moon