Anime Film Review: Memories

Memories is an anime film that was created by Katsuhiro Otomo and was released to Japanese theaters in 1995. It consists of three episodes: “Magnetic Rose,” “Stink Bomb,” and “Cannon Fodder.”

Directed by: Koji Morimoto, Tensai Okamura, and Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Satoshi Kon and Katsuhiro Otomo
Starring: Shigeru Chiba, Hisao Egawa, and Kayoko Fujii
Run Time: 113 minutes

“Magnetic Rose” was directed by Koji Morimoto, and its screenplay was written by the late Satoshi Kon. The main characters of this story are the crew of the Corona, a deep space salvage freighter. While they’re out on assignment, they pick up on a distress signal. They are duty-bound to try to help, so they follow the signal to what appears to be a spaceship graveyard that orbits a giant space station. Heintz and Miguel, two of the Corona‘s crew members, enter the area to look around.

The two of them discover that the inside looks like a rather extravagant European interior, although the rooms are in varying degrees of decay. However, they find no signs of life. Through some investigation, they discover the space station belonged to a famous opera diva named Eva Friedal. As the story progresses, you can definitely tell that Satoshi Kon’s touch is on it, because the story becomes harder to distinguish what is reality and what isn’t.

Of the three stories in Memories, I thought that “Magnetic Rose” was the best. It had a fascinating story that keeps the viewer guessing, the animation has a more “realistic” look to it, and Yoko Kanno’s music score adds to the atmosphere and ambience of the piece. Of the three episodes, this one fits in with the overall theme of “memories.”

“Stink Bomb” was written by Katsuhiro Otomo and was directed by Tensai Okamura. The main character of this episode is Nobuo Tanaka, a lab technician who is battling the flu. One day at work, he accidentally takes an experimental drug, thinking they’re cold pills. It turns out the pills he took are part of a biological weapon program. When these pills interact with the flu shot he’s already taken, they create a deadly body odor and turns Nobuo into a weapon of mass destruction. However, Nobuo is unaware he is emitting this odor and what effect it has. The story follows him as he heads to Tokyo to deliver the experimental drug as he was instructed to do when he reported the accident that killed everyone in the lab, which he didn’t realize that he caused.

Even though the overall subject of this episode is serious, the actual execution of the story is more lighthearted and comical. One could also call it “dark humor.” The animation style used for this story is more on the “cartoony” side, and there’s a rather upbeat music score going in the background. “Stink Bomb” was a decent story, and I did find myself laughing a few times while watching it, but I just didn’t think it was quite as strong as “Magnetic Rose.” I’m also baffled how this particular story fits into the Memories title that this story was released under.

The final episode of the film is “Cannon Fodder,” written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. The story is set in a walled city that’s perpetually at war. In fact, the livelihoods of everyone in the city depend on maintaining and firing the cannons in the city.

Of the three stories included in Memories, this one was my least favorite. After “Magnetic Rose” and “Stink Bomb,” this one ends up feeling a little boring and dull. The animation in this particular story appears to have been inspired by the works of animator Bill Plympton. When it comes to how this one fits into the overarching theme of memories, my husband mentioned to me that it could be argued that the reason for why the people in this city are fighting has become a long-forgotten memory, so they fight more out of tradition than anything else.

When it comes to overall film as a whole, I don’t think it’s quite as strong as it could have been. The three different animation styles don’t help to create an overarching feel to the piece, and the fact that the theme of memories isn’t very strong in all three pieces doesn’t help. Overall, I think the individual pieces are stronger than the unit as a whole. While it was nice to see Otomo try to produce a film like Memories, it just didn’t work as well as it could have in the final product.

When it comes to the DVD that was released in the United States by Sony, the film can only be seen with Japanese audio and English subtitles. There was only one real bonus feature on this disc, which is a featurette titled, “Memories of Memories.” This 29-minute piece feature includes interviews with Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, and Tensai Okamura. It also includes the pilot film that was produced to promote the Memories project. This was a decent featurette for what it is. The only other “special feature” on the disc are trailers for other anime that Sony released that they were promoting at the time.

Memories is considered to be a classic anime film of the 1990’s, especially since it features contributions from such names as Katsuhito Otomo, Satoshi Kon, Koji Morimoto, and Yoko Kanno. Even though I may not have been as impressed as I might have been by Memories, I still believe that this is a film that really should be seen by anyone who considers themselves a fan of anime at least once.

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