Officially underway is Reel Anime 2010, Madman’s annual cinematic showcase of the freshest titles Japan’s animation industry has to offer.
This year’s program features one Australian premiere, one world premiere, one title hot off a successful stint at the 2010 Sydney Film Festival, and the first two installments of the bold Evangelion rebuild.
Redline (dir. Takeshi Koike) – World premiere. Studio Madhouse (The Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight) have pulled out all stops with Redline, a high-octane collision of Lichtensteinian pop pulp cyclonics, racy Heavy Metal-style visual vocab, and an eye for creature creation to rival the original Star Wars. The throttling death race setting enables some seriously eye-widening setpieces, which inevitably mandate that story and character should recline in the passenger seats. It’s an unabashed exercise in sensory acceleration, and if taken as such, Redline’s sure to quicken a lot of pulses.
King of Thorn (dir. Kazuyoshi Katayama) – Australian premiere. This sci-fi/horror/action amalgam moves at the clip of the videogames from which it borrows its grind-and-advance narrative mechanics. The plot – killer plague sees a clutch of the usual genre suspects (cute kid, mysterious bad boy, shifty intellectual etc.) entering cryo-freeze only to awaken and find themselves besieged by alien nasties – is pure, recycled pulp. It’s a fact done no favours by a reliance on an overstated Sleeping Beauty motif and tedious it’s-all-a-dream-no-it’s-not!-or-is-it? perceptual rug-pulling. But if you’ve ever pined for a film in which autonomous brambles take the form of a plant dragon and ensnare Edinburgh Castle, King of Thorn will scratch that itch but good.
Summer Wars (dir. Mamoru Hosoda) – The stand-out of Reel Anime 2010 is the gorgeous Summer Wars, which straddles two worlds – both visually and within its own diegetic sphere. The first is the real world of teen tech whiz Kenji, who finds himself improbably recruited by the girl of his dreams to holiday at her grandmother’s bucolic estate in celebration her 90th birthday. The second is the virtual realm of Kenji’s employer OZ, an online peer-to-peer universe where people are signified by a vibrant miscellany of cartoon avatars, and where digital transactions carry very real implications on society. Mixing social commentary and gentle coming-of-age drama with videogame action, and possessing an admirably un-saccharine sense of heart-swelling poetry of the everyday, Summer Wars plays like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World meets Still Walking. Will appeal to lovers of Studio Ghibli.Evangelion 2.0 You Can [Not] Advance. (dir. Hideaki Anno & Masayuki & Kazuya Tsurumak) – The genius of Evangelion was never confined to its outré visions of sky-scraping robots and celestial harbingers of doom seemingly torn from the id of Storm Thorgerson, but in the crystalline perfection of its giant-mechs-as-adolescence metaphor. Teenagers – callow, impetuous, angst-crippled teens – were given charge of cyclopean fighting machines and tasked with nothing less than defending the world. Kids thrust into ungainly new bodies with frightening, exciting new powers? It was The Wonder Years with collateral damage. Fifteen years after its television debut, the ambitious cinematic Evangelion rebuild – which commenced with last year’s Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone – continues with Evangelion: 2.0 You Can [Not] Advance, which furthers the visual sprucing and narrative compaction established by its precursor. But unlike part 1.0, which adhered stanchly to the plot progression of its revered televisual source, 2.0 urges the story into unfamiliar terrain. It lacks the scope and complexity of Evangelion proper, but with its slate of surprises and awesomely upgraded animation, You Can [Not] Advance should both slake Eva die-hards and spark the interest of curious newcomers.
The festival screens around Australia at the following locations from the dates specified below:
SYDNEY – September 2-15 – Dendy Newtown
MELBOURNE – September 2-15 – Cinema Nova
BRISBANE – September 2-15 – Dendy Portside
CANBERRA – September 2-15 – Dendy Canberra
ADELAIDE – September 2-15 – Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas
AVOCA BEACH – September 2-15 – Avoca Beach Picture Theatre
HOBART – September 2-15 –State Cinema
PERTH – September 16-29 – Luna Leederville
For more on Reel Anime 2010, visit its official site.