Scotland Loves Animation is a yearly festival that runs in Glasgow and Edinburgh, bringing a curated selection of premieres and classic movies to the big screen for a week in October. Three of us from the GLORIO crew were there this month for the latest instalment, where we watched fifteen different films in the charmingly cosy Edinburgh Filmhouse cinema.
This was my first time attending despite it being on my radar for many years, and admittedly I wasn’t quite sure how I would handle up to four movies a day. It was great fun though – between an absolutely stacked line-up of films and some very friendly faces in attendance, it’s done a solid job convincing me to go back again next year.
As for the films, all eyes were on two in particular. Mamoru Hosoda’s latest film Belle famously received a 14-minute long standing ovation at Cannes, and his work as director at Studio Chizu has been largely excellent. The other film was Sing a Bit of Harmony, with people’s expectations largely being set by the festival success seen by Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s previous film, Patema Inverted.
Of course, that didn’t mean we could write off any of the other films either; A whopping ten of the fifteen films on show were premieres in one form or another, so there were plenty of films we hadn’t seen with the potential to become our favourite of the festival. This also means we have fifteen films worth of Thoughts™ to run through, so buckle up!
Lupin III: The First
Lupin and the gang are back in an exciting new adventure, only this time it’s in three dimensions.
Euri’s verdict: An exciting new direction
I feel like I’m typically more forgiving than most when it comes to 3D anime, thanks mostly in part to Orange and Polygon Pictures. At the same time, I saw enough advertisements for that atrocious looking remake of the first Pokémon movie that the mere mention of a 3D reimagining is enough to make me flinch. Fortunately for us, Lupin III: The First is hands down the best execution of 2D to 3D, with Lupin’s famously wacky antics lending itself beautifully to the new art direction. Definitely one to put on your list.
colons’ verdict: Yes
This is just a great time. I was clapping and cheering throughout.
Peter’s verdict: Sure why not
I’m not super familiar with the Lupin III series, aside from the Detective Conan vs Lupin III film I saw on a plane to Japan once. However, that wasn’t an issue with this film at all. It was good fun, the main cast of thieves were super cartoony, and it had a decent Bond-style opening sequence with the famous theme. I really enjoyed the film, and I’m way more interested in watching other Lupin III films/series at this point now I’ve seen this. I almost wrote “thrown in the deep end”, but this film manages to avoid being impenetrable for newbies like myself so that wouldn’t be appropriate. Definitely worth a watch and, interestingly, I feel like the mouth movements of the film may have been for the English-speaking version, rather than the Japanese original, though that might just be me. Either way, it’s on the ol’ ‘flix and in English if you’re a dub person, and subs are available too. Give it a shot.
On-Gaku: Our Sound
Three bored delinquents find themselves in possession of a bass guitar, so it’s only natural that they form a band. You don’t need musical knowledge to be in a band, right?
Peter’s verdict: I’ve got a song stuck in my head. It goes something like “hmmmm hmmmm hm hm hm hmmm hmmm hm hm hm hmmm hmmmmmmmmm”, do you have any idea what it’s called?
This film has absolutely been inspired by Cromartie High School, with many classic rock influences and references, along with high school delinquents having feuds with other schools but not actually getting into fights, cos that’s a headache. Something really interesting about this film is how Kenji Iwaisawa wrote, directed and animated the film almost singlehandedly, then approached some musicians (including Yura Yura Teikoku’s lead vocalist and guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto as the lead character Kenji) to voice the characters. This is a film that’s a genuine joy to watch and laugh along with, especially if you’ve got a decent audience.
Euri’s verdict: Sounds good
This might well have been the film I had the lowest expectations for, not knowing anything about it when going in, but I ended up loving it. It’s definitely a film better suited to an audience thanks to its extremely deadpan humour, so grab some friends and give it a try.
Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto-Memory Doll
In her latest assignment, Violet has been hired not to write a letter, but to supervise the daughter of a noble couple in her education to become a proper lady.
colons’ verdict: As a newcomer, I liked this a lot
I’ve discovered that I’m a sucker for little stories that cover aspects of a person’s life over a long time, and this is one of those. It’s a nice isolated story about childhood and reconnection, and we don’t have to talk about the comphet because it’s barely even present in the text.
Euri’s verdict: A noble effort
This may be movie length, but it’s essentially just an extended regular episode of the show. What’s more, it focuses on the better parts of the series, by which I mean the standalone character stories and not the war stuff. Not quite a tearjerker like some of the prior episodes, but a quality movie nonetheless.
Fate/stay night [Heaven’s Feel] THE MOVIE III. spring song
The third film in which a bunch of kids kill each other to obtain the holy grail, except this time Matou Sakura is just a tad more crazy.
Euri’s verdict: I liked it when he was the bone of his sword
I liked how, in Unlimited Blade Works, that Archer eventually says Unlimited Blade Works. Dropping the name of your anime into speech is great, especially when it has a silly name like that. Alas, I found myself painfully disappointed that no one in this movie says Fate/stay night [Heaven’s Feel] THE MOVIE III. spring song.
(It’s more Fate and the fight scenes are as rad as always. You’ll know already if you care whatsoever for the story.)
Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna
The Digimon Adventure cast is growing up, and despite the ongoing presence of wild Digimon, the older members are struggling to find the time to deal with them. For Tai and Matt, this might be their last outing with their Digimon pals.
Euri’s verdict: I would like a Patamon on my head
This was actually the one movie of the SLA week that I hadn’t bought a ticket for, but after having a good time with the other films I’d seen during the week, I decided to just go ahead and watch it anyway. While I haven’t seen a lot of the Adventure stuff outside of the original series’, I didn’t feel like there was a lot left unexplained here, and it was nice to see the gang in a story that isn’t complete ass. I do find myself immensely curious about what it was about the film that made the original director leave, though I do have some ideas.
colons’ verdict: chomp
i love to see a baby eat six hundred burgers
Over the Sky
Miyamasu Mio has a silly argument with her childhood sweetheart. After cooling off, she decides to see him and apologise, but gets into an accident along the way. I can’t accurately describe what happens after that.
colons’ verdict: It’s a crime that Clements’ interview will never be released publically
This was a very fun experience to have in a cinema. If you insist on watching it, please do so with people you are comfortable laughing at something with. This film is so dense with bad decisions that you’ll be able to dissect it for months to come.
Peter’s verdict: Absolutely hilarious, in a so-bad-it-went-past-good-and-back-to-bad-again way
This film was announced as having a Q&A with the director. I don’t mean to talk down how devastating COVID-19 has been to everyone, but I sure was glad the Q&A was pre-recorded and the director was not present, because hoo boy would that have been awkward. This film is bad. Like really, really bad. It’s a pet project of some guy who thinks there’s so much meaning in every single decision made in the film and yet it ends up being unintentionally hilarious which, when you have a merciless audience like at the screening we went to, meant that the audience was in tears laughing. Huge game changing plot devices are introduced at the drop of a hat and not questioned at all, and then some of them just get booted out again because someone changed their mind or something. It’s a huge, hilarious mess. The real joke though is how much money was spent on this. You have some pretty big names voicing the characters in this, such as Yui Ogura voicing a character for…one line? Ikue Ootani (Pikachu) providing one of the mascot character’s voices. Somehow, Anna Tsuchiya voicing an anime character for the third time ever? The visuals of the film aren’t amazing, and in some cases they’re pretty awful (looking at you still-frame-montage only a few minutes in), but it is a 95 minute film that is (mostly) animated. It just seems like a weird thing to exist, and I don’t recommend anyone bother watching it.
Euri’s verdict: Yelling like Goku while performing CPR
I wish I had something positive to say about this film, but alas, I do not. I will instead mention that the bad guy is voiced by Takenaka Naoto, who readers of the blog may recognise as the mysterious old man from Kamen Rider Ghost.
Knights of Sidonia: Love Woven in the Stars
It’s been ten years since the end of the second season, and we see a new era of pilots in training to protect Sidonia. The final battle with the Gauna is nigh, and Nagate is finally coming to terms with his feelings for one of the girls in his space harem.
Euri’s verdict: 1:1 scale Tsumugi plush when
I had to marathon the previous two seasons of Knights of Sidonia ahead of watching this, but I’m honestly quite glad I did. It’s certainly not a perfect show, but it has a lot of cool space stuff and mechs and giant lasers that I can’t help but love it. The film is a direct sequel to the second season, unfortunately for the handful of people who turned up to the showing hoping for the best, but it was great to see it jump right back into the thick of it without half an hour of reintroductions. The conclusion was also quite satisfying, and I’m more than happy enough for it to go out like that.
Sing a Bit of Harmony
Satomi learns that a new girl is joining her class at school – by looking at her mother’s calendar. It turns out she’s an AI in a human-like body, an experiment led by her mum who works for a large tech company, and this experiment will be considered a failure if the kids realise she isn’t human. She’s a bit quirky, though.
Peter’s verdict: Yoshiura does it again. Please watch this film.
So, here we are again. Yasuhiro Yoshiura is a director you may know from Patema Inverted and Time of Eve, both of which are films I am very fond of and highly recommend to everyone. Patema Inverted has two groups of people affected by different gravity and they keep separate until one day one of them finds someone from the other and they try to make it work despite violent tendencies from one side. Time of Eve, originally a short series and later a theatrical film, looks at humans and AI-powered robots, which (who?) the humans treat like shit because they’re “just tools”. Then there’s the titular cafe, where you can’t tell who is human and who is a robot, and you learn these people’s stories with the culmination of violent law enforcement and protestors getting involved. Sing a Big of Harmony exists somewhere in the middle.
Spiritually it’s closer to Time of Eve through the use of AI everywhere, from toys to alarm clocks to farmers. In terms of technology, it’s closer to a prequel to Time of Eve, as the vast majority of the robots shown are clearly robots, and that’s a major part of the story. Shion is a robot with some form of AI, but has been designed to mimic humans as closely as possible, both visually and in mannerisms. Their “mission”, as it were, was to be undetected as an AI in school, as a final test of the local robotics company’s efforts. That doesn’t go super well, but fortunately Shion’s creator’s daughter is there to help them out as best she can, though there’s not much you can do to stop Shion from singing. Shion’s a big fan of singing to the point where they wouldn’t be out of place in a stage musical. Indeed, the introduction to this film made comparisons to Glee and Frozen, although in this case the singing is unexpected and out of place (though still diegetic).
Unlike Time of Eve‘s sleek interfaces and futuristic looks, the technology in this film features bare metal, very artificial-looking robots and cables everywhere. Even Shion, when being forcibly powered down or is receiving diagnostics, ends up ejecting huge PC boxes from her stomach. This is a world that is still developing physical technology, but is really getting there with AI software.
This film is a fun time, with great music numbers, beautiful choreography for certain scenes, a compelling and fairly original story and many genuinely memorable moments, with a few interesting twists thrown in for good measure. For me, this was film of the festival and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m pleased the audience felt the same and gave it the audience award.
Euri’s verdict: Yes, I am happy
We’d heard very mixed opinions of this film via people who attended the earlier showing in Glasgow, which was pretty disheartening given the anticipation for Yoshiura’s new film. Sing a Bit of Harmony ended up being great, and honestly it’s the perfect film to see with an audience that isn’t afraid to laugh and clap at points. I’m not a big fan of rewatching things in general, but this one needs a revisit when it’s more widely available.
colons’ verdict: I am also happy
This film is very good. Yes.
Following a traumatic event, Naitou Suzu can’t sing without being physically sick. She loses her confidence and withdraws from society, until she signs up to U – a virtual reality where she learns to sing again.
Peter’s verdict: Tale as old as time
This is Beauty and the Beast, but it’s in the digital world, except when it’s not for arbitrary plot reasons. Yeah it’s pretty, and the musical numbers are great, but it’s really nothing special. Like, there’s not much I can really say about it here without just going “this specific bit of the plot was stupid and undeserved” a few times, and “I really liked this visual thing they did that other films have also done” a few times. That’s it, that’s all I can say. A solid 6/10.
colons’ verdict: A box-checking exercise
There’s a moment in this film when our main characters have managed to earn the trust of some kids who are trapped in an abusive home with a cartoon worst dad possible. They’re having a video call together, and the kids are still at home. During this crucial, time-sensitive moment where they should be sharing information and making a plan, instead, our characters celebrate amongst themselves and ignore the kids for a bit. Predictably, the abusive father sees what’s happening and ends the call before the kids have a chance to share their address.
Later, the protagonist stands up to this abusive father. Once. And then leaves, leaving these kids in the same situation as they were before, only now with the father’s knowledge that he shouldn’t let them access the internet or he’ll get in trouble for abusing his kids. This is framed as a good thing, and we never see them again.
This film is mostly big ideas executed without much thought, and it feels cheap as a result.
Euri’s verdict: Hosoda has made another pretty film
Belle was certainly the film people were pegging as the frontrunner for awards over the SLA weekend; it’s Hosoda’s latest and we heard plenty about the 14 minutes of applause it received at Cannes. It’s a gorgeous film, which might be the least surprising thing you could say about it, but story-wise I found myself thinking it was… fine? There are some big and important plot points that have extravagant payoffs, but I kept finding myself scratching my head by the ways in which the film takes us to these moments. Still, definitely worth a watch, but it’s not my favourite Hosoda film.
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko
Narrated by her daughter, this film tells the story of Nikuko-chan – a large lady who loves her food and has a tendency to find herself in big trouble.
colons’ verdict: I don’t understand why people didn’t like this
I loved Children of the Sea when I saw it at a previous SLA, and was surprised upon exiting the theatre then to learn that I was one of very few people who did. This was another case like that. I was completely enamoured with this film, and a lot of people very much weren’t.
This is just a nice story about some people living their lives. I cared about them, and I wanted them to do well, and I enjoyed spending the time with them. I support this kid with Tourette’s and his trans boyfriend. Your headcanon is valid too, but mine is correct.
Peter’s verdict: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I fell asleep in the cinema watching this film. I saw a decent amount of it and I felt like it was a mess and not interesting, so I have no regrets catching up on sleep during it.
Euri’s verdict: What’s in the box?
This was one of the most divisive films of the weekend, despite winning the award for best film given by the festival jury. Personally I thought it was fine – it didn’t do a lot for me to make it stand out from the rest of the films, but it did have some excellent character moments throughout.
Pompo the Cinephile
Gene Fini is mad for movies. He works for B-movie juggernaut Joelle Davidovich Pomponette, and has big dreams of becoming a film director one day. That day arrives sooner than expected when Pompo catches on to Gene’s talent, and with an original script and a big-name actor on board, Gene is giving the massive responsibility of making not another B-movie, but a blockbuster.
Euri’s verdict: Pompo is here!
This was, pretty handily, my favourite film at SLA, and I think it’s an opinion that was shared by the majority of us in the showing based on discussions I had after the fact. Pompo is whacky and hilarious, but it also does a legitimately great job of showing just how much work goes into the making of a movie. Gene is involved in so much of the movie making process as the director, giving us insights into casting, directing and even editing, and how things get shaken up the plans change. It’s a terrific time, so don’t hesitate to watch it if you get the chance.
Shirobako: The Movie
Everyone’s favourite donut-loving anime-making quintet are back, except this time they’re making a film! Wait, didn’t we just watch this movie?
Euri’s verdict: Still nuts for donuts
Shirobako is a Glorio favourite, as you can see in our top ten anime of the year list from 2015. Yes, it was really that long ago that the anime aired, good lord. It’s several years since we last saw the cast, and many things have changed because of that. As interesting as that is I found myself wanting more character interactions as a result, with everyone besides Aoi relegated to almost cameo levels of appearance. It’s not a bad film, but with Pompo doing the film-making bit better, it quickly became overshadowed.
Looking for Magical Doremi
Three young women are on separate pilgrimages to the MAHO-dou, the famous house from the Magical Doremi anime they watched and loved as children. After bumping into each other and realising they are all fans of the show, they start hanging out and visiting other famous locations featured in the series, while dealing with adult problems along the way.
Peter’s verdict: Biggest surprise of the weekend
This film was great. I have never seen Magical Doremi and that doesn’t matter, because it could have used literally any piece of media from around 20 years ago that the three age levels of the main characters can map to. This film tells a story about three characters bonding over [media franchise] and then supporting each other in life as adults. I found the film generally enjoyable, despite some questionable decisions for a mid-film love interest and the overall ending, but otherwise I had fun watching it.
colons’ verdict: I could fix him.
This is another one of these films that’s just a story about some nice people who I want to see do well living their lives and growing together, so yes, I liked it. The tie-in to a children’s show I’ve never heard of was fun, and I’m sure there were plenty of references I didn’t get, but I just enjoyed watching these people bond over a shared experience and just, you know, do some stuff.
I heard some people complain about the ending, but it’s set up as something that’s kind of already in motion when our three main characters first meet; like, why else would she have had that key?
Euri’s verdict: Being an adult is hard
They really do quite a superb job of making this film interesting to people that have zero knowledge of Magical Doremi, and I found myself very surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I could give or take the ending though.
The Deer King
After the conclusion of a large war between two nations, former soldier Van has been enslaved and is forced into hard labour. Meanwhile, soldiers on the winning side are being attacked by wild dogs, becoming infected with the fatal Black Wolf Fever. While protecting a young girl from a wild dog attack, Van finds himself bitten and infected, yet he doesn’t die. Instead, he appears to have received unexplainable powers.
colons’ verdict: Okay, but why did he have to [redacted]?
I’m pretty tepid on this one, but I think I mostly liked it? I can’t talk in specifics about the big thing I didn’t like about it without spoiling both this film and Paper Mario: The Origami King, so I won’t.
Euri’s verdict: Oh deer oh deer
It’s nice to see a new traditional fantasy film, but this really didn’t do much for me. It certainly has good moments, but I feel like Princess Mononoke does a lot of this already, and better.
Peter’s verdict: GO BACK I WANT TO BE WOLF
This film was fairly slow for a lot of it, though it managed to be generally interesting. As Euri says, some strong Princess Mononoke vibes from this one. Maybe not vibes, but certainly intentions. This is another film with an ending that wasn’t deserved at all and honestly it soured me on the entire thing.
End of Evangelion
TUMBLING DOWN TUMBLING DOWN TUMBLING DOOOOOOOWN.
Euri’s verdict: Pen Pen peering nervously around a corner
It’d been over ten years since seeing this for the first time, and that’s probably about the right amount of time required to recover from a viewing of it. There’s not much else to say beyond ‘good luck’ if you’ve never seen it before!
Peter’s verdict: I had never seen this film before
This film is so omnipresent on the Internet that I started to doubt that I hadn’t seen this film before. So many iconic scenes and frames are used liberally in memes, AMVs, etc that I found myself recognising a lot of it. But otherwise, yeah I’d not seen this film before seeing it in the cinema here. It was certainly a grand finale for the festival and I actually really enjoyed it considering the Evangelion content I have seen in the past comprises solely of the original series and the first two rebuild films. It was funny when I mentioned that the festival was ending with End of Evangelion that the response was “what? why not Thrice Upon a Time, that’s weird? I guess it’s the best Evangelion film”. It had been long enough since I saw Rebuild 2.0 that I was somewhat uninterested with Evangelion as a whole. After seeing End of, I remember actually liking the show, so I might give the film series another try. Or maybe Death and Rebirth…
colons’ verdict: A very normal film with very normal attitudes towards women
Before this film started, the crowd was asked who in the theatre had never seen any Evangelion before. I was sat pretty close to one of the people who raised their hand, and that meant this was a fun reaction video for me.
Legally Binding and Very Scientific™ The Glorio Blog’s Film of the Festival
Look if we don’t tell you what our favourite was then what’s even the point? Here are our picks!
Euri’s pick: Pompo the Cinephile
Pompo has a bit of everything, but it was the balance between being informative about the filmmaking process and pure comedy that really made this one stand out. Also Pompo the character is great, and as unlikely and unnecessary as it’d be, I’d love to see her in more than this.
colons’ pick: Sing a Bit of Harmony
As a disclaimer, neither me nor Peter have seen Pompo yet. But also, from me, you should watch Fortune Favors, too.
Peter’s pick: Sing a Bit of Harmony
I loved this film. The characters were all great, the music was great, it was fun to watch, it had an interesting and original plot, it was just all around good. It made me happy.