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 returned for a week packed full of old and new films alike.
Unfortunately, the Edinburgh leg of the event was thrown into disarray just two weeks before it started when the Edinburgh Filmhouse entered administration. The home to the past eight years of SLA disappearing overnight was understandably devastating for all involved, and we sincerely hope that everyone at the venue is able to quickly land on their feet. The Filmhouse and its staff will truly be missed.
The festival organisers had what seemed like an impossible task on their hands to get another venue in-place with just a few weeks before it was meant to start. Not only did they manage it, but they were also able to honour all of the previously-purchased tickets at what must have been a considerable cost to the festival. I strongly urge you to throw a donation their way if you can afford to do so, as they truly went above and beyond to keep the Edinburgh leg alive, when they could have understandably thrown in the towel.
Among the fifteen screenings on offer, highlights included the European premiere of Hula-Fulla Dance, as well as the world premiere of The Garden of Remembrance, a short film created by Yamada Naoko (director of A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Bird) and Eunyoung Choi (producer of Devilman Crybaby, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!).
We saw thirteen of the screenings over the week, which means we have that many films worth of Thoughts™ to run through. Buckle up!
Kirigoe Mima, a member of the pop-group CHAM!, is leaving music behind to pursue a career as an actress. It’s not an easy transition however, and while her acting roles start to demand more and more, an obsessed fan begins to intricately detail her life online.
Euri’s verdict: A nice, chill film to start the festival
SLA 2022 kicked off with a classic, and one I was very glad to catch on the big screen for the first time. It was played to a sold-out audience, over half of which indicated that they hadn’t seen the film before when the curator asked during the preamble. Perfect Blue holds up of course, its story perhaps striking harder now that online stalking is far more common and publicised. What I enjoyed most though was overhearing the commentary from the festival-goers in the atrium after the film ended, with people loudly coming to terms with what they’d just watched.
Peter’s verdict: Too much pubic hair or just enough pubic hair, that is the question
I’ve seen this film a lot of times, and this was the second time seeing it in a cinema. It’s a pretty uncomfortable thing to watch at points, and a very weird way to start off a festival, but it’s a “classic” and a fascinating film. One moment that I hadn’t fully parsed in previous viewings was a seemingly throwaway line during the fictional detective drama that Mima gets a single line in. When discussing the culprit, they talk about how the culprit “wants to become one […] a girl” as justification for taking off their victims’ skin to wear. Possibly a bit of old 90s TERFism showing up, but then it also ties into the main plot of Perfect Blue of the Mima’s Room stalker/impersonator wanting to be Mima. They want to become one … an idol, or become … Mima. Everything in this film is important. Nothing is throwaway even if it might seem like it at first.
OZ, a virtual world with impenetrable security, has its security broken by a rogue AI. Unfortunately, people thought it was a good idea to hook important infrastructure into it, with everything from the emergency services to nuclear missiles being held hostage. Fortunately the AI has an avatar, so it’s up to our heroes to best it and take back control of OZ.
Peter’s verdict: Digimon are the champions
It’s a running goof that Mamoru Hosoda just keeps wheeling out the same film every few years. We had Digimon: Our War Game, Summer Wars, and most recently Belle (depending on who you ask). While Digimon‘s version was neat, Summer Wars really perfected the story and made it very human and relatable. It’s beautiful to watch in the cinema with Hosoda’s signature red outlines in the digital world, and I bought a set of hanafuda cards not long after watching this film for the first time back in 2009. I still don’t know how to play.
Euri’s verdict: Anyway fuck Facebook
It’s been 13 years since I last watched Summer Wars, so I’m glad that it still holds up. Sure, it’s a bit much that every important character happens to be under the same roof when the problem is a global one, but at the end of the day we’re all here to watch some high-stakes Koi-Koi, and that’s what we get.
colons’ verdict: Top-tier furry character design
Summer Wars is a film with an important lesson to teach: when you’re a giant amalgam of captured avatars, consuming a bunny will give you rabbit ears.
Patlabor: The Movie
Labors across Japan are going berserk, seemingly at random. This phenomenon started with the release of a new operating system, but can the police prove that this is related, and what’s ultimately causing the robots to go haywire?
colons’ verdict: Surprisingly familiar
I’ve heard people say that, after all the positive things they’d heard about it, it was disappointing to go back and play Resident Evil 4 to discover that it’s sort of just a standard early third-person action game. In contrast, it was fun, then, to not know how influential Patlabor is, and be surprised to see a bunch of stuff that must have inspired (or, perhaps, took common inspiration with) many things I am much more familiar with.
It’s also just very technically impressive. As an example, there’s a long, single-shot, first-person sequence where we dash through an industrial area that is animated by hand, and it’s delightful.
Euri’s verdict: *Investigates dramatically*
My entire knowledge of Patlabor boils down to the (very good) music from Mobile Police Patlabor on Television, thanks to a certain radio show. The film is fine, and doesn’t seem to require much in the way of prior knowledge of the series, but at the very least it has me curious about seeing some of the main series – though I might just settle for the OVA series rather than the considerably longer TV series.
Peter’s verdict: Good film or bad film? Combat.
I’ve never seen Patlabor in any form, and I quite enjoyed this. Not really sure I can say anything else though, cos the whole thing sorta washed over me except for learning the origin of the “Business or pleasure? Combat” meme I see sometimes.
Hula Fulla Dance
After losing her hula-loving sister in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Natsunagi Hiwa is following her own dream of becoming a hula dancer.
Euri’s verdict: Half-baked
This was a perfectly cromulent film, but one that really could have used a 12-episode series to really give everyone the spotlight they needed. The main five characters were solid, and having a plus-size hula girl was a huge win for the film, but of course it ends up mostly spoiled by having the majority of her dialogue be self-deprecating fat jokes or about food. She’s also missing her own character arc, something that’s not shared by the other four members. On top of that I think they cheapened the character death in the film, but hey ho.
Peter’s verdict: Yes, this is Aikatsu!
Surprise! Turns out a film made by many of the staff who made Aikatsu and even got the character Ichigo from Aikatsu to promote the film in Japan is one I enjoyed a lot! There’s a fair few plot threads that felt super rushed as Euri says, and it really could’ve benefited from being a 12-episode series. Hula dancing to idol music though, sign me up!
Garden of Remembrance
A 17-minute long short in which we see Kimi come to terms with loss. This was followed by a live Q&A by director Yamada Naoko.
Euri’s verdict: 😏
A lovely short film, but one that I only really appreciated following the Q&A with the director. There are a few very important moments in the film that are not as obvious for a non-Japanese audience, and having them explained really helps to wrap your head around what you’re seeing. This makes me wonder what the general reception will look like outside of Japan, but nonetheless it’s a solid film and one that will really benefit from repeat viewings.
colons’ verdict: 😌
I’m told by the people who saw the Q&A that there’s a lot more to this than it seems on the surface, but the surface is still a heartwarming depiction of one person’s journey through mourning. Great music, too.
Peter’s verdict: 🤔
It’s fine I guess? Good music, nice art style, but half the stuff it shows wasn’t explained until after the film when the director Q&A explained what it all meant. It’s like going to an art gallery and seeing a painting of a shoe. You think “that’s a painting of a shoe”, and the plaque next to it reads “this painting shows the struggle with losing a loved one through the delicate paintbrush strokes and the bits of sand scattered on the painting while it was still drying and it smells slightly of fish and when you hold it up to an x-ray machine it shows another picture from a commission that fell through and…” oh wait that’s the plot to an episode of the BBC’s Hustle. Anyway, they should’ve shown the short a second time so we could actually appreciate it with the new knowledge gained from the Q&A.
Evangelion 3.0 + 1.01 Thrice Upon a Time
The new final instalment of Evangelion… unless???
Euri’s verdict: Pen Pen out of Ten Ten
Evangelion remains the ‘nod your head and pretend you know what’s happening’ franchise for me, but hey I can at least tell that this was better than 3.33.
Peter’s verdict: Didn’t tumble down
Secretly just the same as what happened in End of Evangelion just with less live-action recordings of a cinema.
Break of Dawn
Sawatari Yuuma’s autobot, a floating robot with complex AI that can perform household chores, is taken over by something claiming to be an alien from outer space. Yuuma and his friends try to help it return to space, but it turns out it isn’t easy to send something into space.
Euri’s verdict: Not for me
Despite the more positive reactions I heard from others who saw this film, it really didn’t do anything for me. I found all of the characters ranged from bland to outright unlikable, and the general plot just didn’t pull me on board. All I’ll say is that they should put fences around accessible rooftops.
colons’ verdict: It’s fine! It’s fine.
I heard a lot of valid complaints about this film. There’s a lot of contrived bullshit. In particular, a lot of characters have motivations that do not appear to make sense, but it’s a fun little romp and it has some fun stuff to make you think about. I enjoyed it.
Peter’s verdict: It has a Yuuki Aoi monologue, 10/10
I liked this one. I think it could’ve done better, but overall I liked it. It’s hard to explain what it is I don’t like. Euri mentioned the characters being bland or unlikeable, but I don’t necessarily agree. I do think at least one character who disappears and then comes back for an unnecessary reason just to show up in the finale was very forced. I like the story here though, and an interesting look into the not-too-distant future. I also feel like there may be some sort of critique of Japan’s obsession with tearing down still-functional buildings to build new ones for the sake of making new ones, but it doesn’t seem to want to actually bother exploring that.
Her Blue Sky
After their parents die in a car accident, Aioi Akane steps up to parent her child sister, Aoi. Because of this, she had to sacrifice a lot of her own personal dreams to support each other. Many years later, Aoi is now attending high school and is thinking about what to do when she graduates. While practicing her bass guitar in a local hall, she bumps into her sister’s ex-boyfriend Shinno – except he hasn’t aged since he and Akane broke up 13 years ago.
Euri’s verdict: A big ol’ asterisk
While I enjoyed the vast majority of this film, most of my problems with it could have been avoided by literally removing the hotel scene. It being in here puts a particular character on an unredeemable path and it spoils an otherwise interesting story.
colons’ verdict: This is a film about the moral redemption of an unrepentant rapist
I found this story interesting, even as I hated what it was saying. I would perhaps even go so far as to say I recommend giving it a watch. Be aware, though; the perspective it has on its characters is, I would argue, inexcusable. There’s some age gap discourse you could engage in, for sure, but there’s another much more concrete problem that this film has with sex and consent. The man we’re supposed to be romantically engaging with is a sex pest who at no point is shown to reckon with that aspect of himself.
To be clear, we do not see sex crimes on screen, nor is any specific instance of it depicted. However, we do see our romantic lead have his physical advances on a woman declined in private, and his immediate reaction is to physically restrain her. It is shown that this is instinctive, which implies this behaviour is something he is used to doing. It is never brought up again explicitly, but the implications of this scene linger like a cloud of piss over everything else this character is shown to do.
There was an opportunity here for this story to engage with interesting questions about growth and remorse and forgiveness, but instead, it just tells us that our romantic interest is a rapist and then forgets the whole thing.
Peter’s verdict: Mari Okada can’t write good anime (yes, fight me)
Utterly dull despite an interesting premise. Unlikable characters all-round, and the central story based around the redemption of a scumbag, most of which presumably happens off-screen. Just a bad film.
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes
After running out of the house following an argument with his father, Touno Kaoru ends up discovering a strange-looking cave. Inside, he discovers his pet cockatiel that passed away long ago, as well as a flip-flop that belonged to his late sister. Upon leaving the cave, Kaoru realises that an entire week has past, despite it feeling like minutes.
colons’ verdict: more like the entrance to bad vibes, amirite
This film had an opportunity to be a reflection on how memories of the things we have lost and the things we once were and the people we once knew are worth holding on to, even as we find new things to love and be. It could have talked with a unique perspective about how time makes people grow and change, and you have to learn to be okay with that.
But no, in the world of this movie, if your childhood crush had been held in stasis for seven years starting shortly after you last saw them and then re-entered your adult life, still the child they were, you could totally continue your relationship. That’d be a healthy and normal thing.
Peter’s verdict: They did the third act twist I hate. Sentence: death.
Look, I’m going to spoil the twist in the third act, skip down if you don’t like that.
The guy decides to go it alone and leave his partner behind. I HATE that. Like actual hate. It happens way too often in stories. Act 1: thing happens to two people, the two agree to work together to deal with thing. Act 2: the two get close as part of dealing with the thing. Act 3: one half decides to throw their partnership away and go it alone, before they realise their mistake and they finish the thing together. Except the act of bailing to do your own thing independently almost never makes sense and just makes me not care. Then there’s the whole questionable actual ending too. Also, as admitted in the pre-recorded Q&A after the film, half the book this was based off was skipped so all the side characters who got like a line or two actually were developed in the novel, with the film focusing on the main two characters. Just a real shame, as it started off fairly well.
Euri’s verdict: Disappointing
How to take an interesting premise and a promising two-thirds of a story, then throw it directly into the bin: the movie.
Goodbye, Don Glees!
A group of three kids in a rural town are part of a secret club known as the Don Glees, but they’re all growing up. After they’re falsely accused of causing a huge forest fire they leave on one final adventure, with the goal of locating their drone which has photos that give them an alibi.
Euri’s verdict: A refreshing, ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola
Without giving away major story beats, there are certain themes in this movie that messed me up real good. The movie earns it though, and despite a somewhat unremarkable ending it still manages to be one of my favourites from the weekend.
colons’ verdict: Please be better at preparing for a hike than this
God, these absolute doofuses.
Peter’s verdict: ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ Raise Ur Don Glees! ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ﾉ
A fair few plot holes, but overall a very entertaining film that looked great, had characters I generally liked and the world’s best rendition of a certain nursery rhyme. It won both the judges and the audience awards at the festival, and I don’t think I necessarily disagree considering the other films in the running. However, it’s still not a 10/10 or even a 9/10. I don’t think any of the films in competition deserved a score that high.
After moving away from home to attend university, Tsuru Tamaki is exploring the clubs that the campus has to offer. While trying out for the tennis club, she accidentally causes damage to one of the gliders owned by the aviation club. As an apology, she joins the club on a provisional basis.
Peter’s verdict: Oh right we did watch this film
Heck, this film sure was streamlined, huh? Plenty of characters and plot points that appear and disappear way too quickly to actually care about. I can’t believe we were told it was supposed to be a TV series beforehand, but then maybe that’s so we were less harsh on it? Pretty film though, and uhhhh… I guess it taught me that unpowered planes exist beyond just hang-gliders. We have a microlight training facility nearby though so I suppose we just have powered lightweight planes instead of gliders here.
Euri’s verdict: Multi-thermal drifting
The fact we were told before the film started that this was originally meant to be a TV series really stings, because it’s so, so apparent. There are characters we keep seeing with Tamaki that have little to no importance in the movie due to obvious scene cuts, which only serves to make this feel like a recap movie and not a fully-fledged stand-alone project. Also she picks the wrong guy at the end.
colons’ verdict: To shreds, you say?
I’m curious about when in the production process this was cut from a series to a film. There are skeletons of elements that a well-considered edit would have removed entirely. The one that sticks out to me was, I suspect, intended to be the big two-part series finale, but is instead about ten minutes of jarring status quo shifting right at the end of an otherwise mostly-coherent story.
If you are interested in media that bears visible scars of its production process, give this one a watch!
Seven Days War
Suzuhara Mamoru is an awkward, nerdy high school kid with a crush on his next-door neighbour, Chiyono Aya. She’s the daughter of a politician, and Mamoru learns that she’s due to leave home for Tokyo in a week’s time. In a confession-gone-wrong, Mamoru convinces Aya to run away with him for a week, though they are joined by several classmates. While the group hides from her father in a nearby abandoned coal factory, they discover a young child who is being hunted by immigration officers.
Peter’s verdict: ACAB
This film was not in competition for an award because it was shown at another festival in the UK prior to SLA, and I’m about 90% certain it would’ve won the audience award if it was. It gives immigration officers the same treatment as the Wet Bandits from Home Alone, it has a bunch of unique characters who we naturally learn about as the film goes on, and a moment where the audience practically gave it a standing ovation. It really does have everything. Highly recommended, please watch it when you can.
colons’ verdict: Absolute banger
Easily the best film of the show, and an example of a kind of explicit criticism of named current authorities that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an anime.
Euri’s verdict: I also gained weight during the week
It’s always a good time when the name of the film paints a completely different picture to its actual contents. This Home Alone-ass movie has a bit of a plodding start, but after it hits its stride there’s really no stopping it. The audience gasping and applauding a particular scene was one of those moments where you can truly appreciate watching something like this with a hundred or so other people.
Re:Cycle of the Penguindrum – Film 1
Sorry, I don’t even know where to start when it comes to summarising Penguindrum. It’s the first half of that, but with extra scenes.
Euri’s verdict: Yep this is Penguindrum
Despite watching Penguindrum many years ago, I went into this remembering literally none of it. Some of it came back to me as we went, such as Ringo’s diary and the lengths she goes to stalk her teacher, but the back half of the film might as well have been completely new to me. This was always going to be a tough watch, but I cannot begin to tell you why this was chosen to be the final film on the final day, following three other films!
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: Goodbye, Don Glees!
Ask me about my favourite film from SLA 2022 and depending on the time and weather it’ll be a toss up whether I say Seven Days War or Goodbye, Don Glees!. Right now I’m leaning slightly towards Don Glees!, purely based on how much I’ve found myself thinking about it after the fact.
I think it’s quite rare for animated films to accurately portray kids as kids – either they act too young or too old than you’d expect – but Don Glees! takes the hard mode route of showing kids that are becoming young adults and learning to cope with that. Between the two 16-year-old characters in the film, you have one struggling to come to terms with growing up, and another who has matured a lot quicker than he should have done, yet hides it behind a childish persona. They all feel real, and their story is all the more devastating for it. It’ll stick in my head for some time, I’m sure.
colons’ pick: Seven Days War
I’m still sad that this wasn’t eligible for official festival awards.
Peter’s pick: Seven Days War
Literally the only new film I can confidently call “really good”. Obviously there’s Perfect Blue and Summer Wars, and Hula Fulla Dance is a very very close second, but Seven Days War is the sort of film that makes going to a film festival super worth it. Just a great time.