Mikan Watch #44: Welcome to the SPACE SHOW

Posted by DiGiKerot in Mikan Watch at March 2, 2011 on 7:31 pm

On top of the shoe-locker there, to the right of the screen, though the box on the left could possibly be one too.

This post has been a long time in coming. Well, possibly a long time in coming, which is why it’s kind of a relief that I’m actually able to post this. The story goes is that I saw this movie back in May last year at a screening at Londons BFI, which was actually before the movie opened in Japan. The movies director, Koji Masanari, and the producer were in attendance, and they did a Q&A session after the screening.

So I asked him about Mikan Boxes. Really.

Of course, the Mikan box above is only a small element on display, and even then it was only up there for a couple of seconds. Whilst I obviously have the powers of my finely-honed Mikan Eye, it was quite possible that I’d not seen what I believed I had. This confirmation is important to me, as it means that I only asked a really dumb question, as opposed to a really dumb and inaccurate one.

As it turns out, there’s a second one at the end of the movie too. Hard to make out here, but t’was much clearer on my TV.

Welcome to the SPACE SHOW was a movie which really didn’t do very well, shifting only around 7000 copies when it was released on home formats a few weeks ago. For a movie, that’s pretty bad. For a movie that’s been in production for about four years and quite clearly had a pretty huge budget, that’s kind of disastrous.

There’s a bunch of reasons that would probably go to explain that – the movie itself has something of an identity issue, in so much as it’s hard to work out if it’s aiming for a mainstream or an otaku audience. The character designs in particular straddle an awkward middle ground which probably doesn’t appeal massively to either – in particular, I think the promotional art gave a little too much of an air of “pre-teens only” to it. Hideyuki Kurata’s writing also has, as always, a slightly off-beat sense of humour which probably appeals more to an otaku audience than it would a mainstream one. It’s really a movie that’s hard to fathom the target for, and I rather imagine the promotional department had just that issue.

Throw that into a year which opened with fanboy-blockbusters like Haruhi, Nanoha and Unlimited Blade Works (which between them cover a huge swath of fandom), had a new Ghibli movie and also contained a few amazing curveballs like REDLINE and Western favourites like Trigun, and you’ve got yourself a year where its going to be very hard for an original work by a first-time movie director to get column inches even in anime magazines. This is doubly true for a movie with designs which preclude it from the most nerdiest of publications.

So it wasn’t really all that surprising when the home release was met with a rather muted reaction by Western fandom as well, many of whom seemed to be oblivious to the movies existence.

To be fair, it’s not like the film is free of problems in itself. The film is clearly too long to the order of fifteen to thirty minutes, and for a movie that’s running over two hours, that means it rather drags in places. What doesn’t really help is that there’s a raising of the stakes towards the end which doesn’t really add to anything other than the running length – there was a perfectly good evil scheme going on without needing another layer ontop of it. It’s a needless complication that works to the movies detriment rather than it’s benefit.

In it’s defence, though, the movie is really, really pretty. Astonishingly so. I mean, it’s not quite REDLINE levels of stunning – there’s a few sequences where objects don’t move quite like they probably should in a slightly jarring fashion – but the animation is largely incredibly fluid, and the backgrounds highly detailed with a lush colour palette. There’s also a certain, amazing density to the visuals, particularly in the movies first act. The production staff pretty much chained designer okama to a desk for a couple of years whilst he churned out literally hundreds of pages of alien designs to fill out the backgrounds of the lunar cityscape.

Welcome to the SPACE SHOW is definitely a movie that’s worth seeing at least once. To be honest, and this is likely to be an unpopular (or at least uncommon) view of the matter, but I do kind of prefer this movie to a lot of the anime flicks I’ve seen in this last year. Not Haruhi and REDLINE, of course, but faced with a choice of rewatching Summer Wars and Welcome to the SPACE SHOW, well, I’d go for the latter.

Is this a Kamichu reference I see before me? Someone who doesn’t have to dig out their copies check, please… ^^;

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