I attended two film events this year. One of them was Scotland Loves Anime (SLA), and the other was an informal event hosted out of my home with a bunch of friends. Here are some recommendations based on ’em.
Recommendation: Live-action cat films
We watched Rentaneko and the Neko Atsume film adaptation at the informal home event. This is a category of film I wasn’t really aware of before this year, and I’m unsure if there are more examples of it. Both films are about the curative power of the presence of cats, and both feature a lot of very good cat footage and are generally chill as all heck. Neko Atsume is a surprisingly faithful but also creative adaptation of the phone game. Rentaneko features an absolutely unforgettable jingle. Both are worth a watch.
Discommendation: Tie-ins to franchises you have zero familiarity with
SLA’s schedule often has at least one pretty specialist programming decision. This year, that decision was the inclusion of Fate/stay Night – Heaven’s Feel Movie 1: Presage Flower, which was completely incomprehensible and frankly pretty dull. There was an interesting and highly threatening shadow creature draped in cloth, but I was unable to really tease out any other plot from what I saw.
I say this, of course, as someone who knows nothing about Fate in general. I watched Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children many years ago, and, for the same reason, hated it. I was also baffled and pretty bored during last year’s SLA screening of Psalm of Planets Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution. Really, I should have seen this coming.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes was enjoyable, though, so shout outs to Euri for making me watch the first four episodes of the show before the festival.
Recommendation: The recent works of Polygon Pictures
Blame! (pronounced ‘blam’) and the Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters films are among the best things I’ve watched this year. Polygon Pictures have assembled a software stack unlike anyone else’s, a visual style all of their own, and a production team with incredible artistic and storytelling talent. I am tremendously excited to see what they put out next. Actually, based on how good the sound design in the Godzilla films has been, I’m even more excited to hear it. I’m also compelled to maybe start reading the Blame! manga, so effective was the film at selling the setting.
Discommendation: Calamity of a Zombie Girl
…at least, not on your own. Calamity of a Zombie Girl is, to its credit, extremely honest with itself and the audience about what exactly it is, and as a result, was a surprisingly enjoyable theatre experience. With one notable canine exception, the audience was able to laugh along with the slapstick gore, and was rooting for the ‘bad guys’ at the end. Without an audience to bounce off, though, I cannot imagine this film would be tolerable. Get some friends together if you must.
Walking Meat, which was shown as an opener for Calamity at SLA, on the other hand, is absolutely worth 21 minutes of your time.
Recommendation: In this Corner of the World
It’s probably not gonna be news to a lot of people that this is a good film. You’ll want to strap in, though, because it’s heavy as all heck.
Discommendation: Perfect Blue
I did not particularly enjoy Perfect Blue. A lot of my lack of enjoyment was certainly intentional on the part of the film makers; it’s clearly supposed to be a pretty uncomfortable watch. It was certainly memorable and interesting, and I’m happy to celebrate that, but I cannot in good faith recommend it. There are other films — heck, there are other Satoshi Kon films — that do an equally good job of exploring the themes of perception and loss of reality without feeling the need to so graphically and lovingly depict heinous bullshit.
Recommendation: The works of Tetsuya Nakashima
The biggest surprises of our informal home event to me were Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko, two films by Tetsuya Nakashima. In some ways, they are tonal opposites; Kamikaze Girls is a comedy about an unlikely friendship, and Memories of Matsuko is a heartfelt telling of a perfectly tragic life story. Stylistically, though, they share a lot; a common unusual pacing and photography style and sense of humour shine through, but absolutely without compromising the stories themselves. I would love to have seen what the Attack on Titan live action films would have been like if he’d stayed on that project.