Scotland Loves Anime – Weekend The First, Day The Second

Posted by DiGiKerot in Events at October 16, 2012 on 7:04 pm

The second day of this years Glasgow wing of Scotland Loves Anime opened with the token film that no-one seemed to know much about, Afterschool Midnighters, a fairly recent CGI effort, apparently based on an earlier short film which gained some popularity in France (and it, indeed, looks like the kind of thing that’d be popular in France, no insult intended). It centers around around a rather ludicrously elaborate and huge elementary school, which certainly has the scale to put the overblown educational structures of a SHAFT production to shame, if not the necessary baroque architecture. When three friends who are looking to attend the school sneak into the soon-to-be-demolished science room and mess around with the anatomical figure, it has some unforeseen consequences.

You see, it turns out that the anatomical statue is called Mr Kunst Lijk, and is a member of the Afterschool Midnighters, a group of supernatural creatures who inhabit the school at night. Or at least he used to be – all what is really important here is that he’s actually alive, is a “genius” (read:Mad) scientist, and is also a bit of a vengeful jerk. He takes it upon himself to invite the girls back to the school late at night to extract some payback upon them. His moustachioed skeleton sidekick, Goth, however, thinks it’d probably be a far better idea to use the girls to gather the three magical medals from the other Midnighters, which will permit them a single wish which may well allow them to save the Science Room from demolition.

There’s also a group of formaldehide-preserved half-skinned Yakuza bunny rabbits running around. Totally the best characters.

It’s a really weird, schizophernic movie. It’s not necessarily a great one – the writing is a little too slight for that, the heroines never really demonstrating anything other than the base characteristics of there being the dopey hyperactive one, the goth one and the ojousama, though I guess that’s forgivable in the sense that it’s really more of a movie about Mr Kunst Lijk by proxy. There’s some really obvious shortcuts in the animation as well, shadows being typically forgotten about, and some odd 2D effects being superimposed in places where achieving the same effect in 3D may have been too complex.

It’s never really not a fun movie, though. There’s a pretty terrific song-and-dance number near the start which made me a little disappointed that the movie wasn’t a full-on musical, there’s some great comedic timing, particularly with Kunst Lijks facial expressions and the occasional bout of scattilogical humour that comes out of nowhere. It also has a peculiar sense of scale – there’s something oddly humorous about a swimming pool being gradually presented more and more like a ferocious stormy ocean, completely loosing all visible evidence of it’s surroundings. I’ve certainly seen worse animated features in recent times (even discounting Gyo), and I got a good laugh out of it.

The second feature of the day was the K-On! movie, shown in Europe for the first time (not that it hasn’t been available on disk-media in Japan for a while – I imported a copy myself). I gather that the only thing which stopped it from being an outside-Japan premiere is that there was a screening in Taiwan at some point, although there’s little evidence of that online, at least in the English-speaking world.

It was the K-On movie, though. I’m going to assume that everyone reading this who would have possibly been interested in seeing it has probably already done so, and as such I’m not really inclined to go into any depth on it. It’s not a perfect movie, but there’s a lot about it that is just about there. The opening in particular, where HTT are pretending to be Death Devil, is an amazing piece of writing – it manages to put across everything a newcomer would need to know about the characters in order to enjoy the movie without being obvious about it – and the frequency and hit-to-miss ratio of it’s gags borders on being unfair to other comedy productions at times.

The screening also concluded with a Q&A session with the director of both TV and theatrical K-On, Naoko Yamada, and the movies producer – Chaostangent has a full writeup of it, so I’ll point you in that direction, since I wasn’t taking notes and my memory is kind of bad.

The second day was capped off with a screening of the first Berserk movie, The Egg of the King. It was… Berserk, as a movie. I mean, it’s retreading the same content as the old TV version did, short the episode of pre-flashback (or is that post-flashback?) material the TV show presented us with before starting the Golden Age arc.

The problem isn’t so much with the material the movie was covering, which is still as compelling as it ever was, but more the animation. The thing with Berserk is that the manga designs are extremely complex, and elaborate, multi-layered armour isn’t exactly the easiest thing to animate by hand, being full of lines as they are – which is exactly why they didn’t animate it by hand. 3D CGI people ahoy, folks! It stands out kind of obviously as well, particularly given they use a few different approaches to the animation across the movie. Sometimes things are handdrawn, sometimes things are fully CG, and sometimes the use CG with handdrawn touch-ups (typically redrawing the heads or facial features). The problem is that they aren’t really consistent in their approach, even within the same scene, which serves to make it stand out all the more.

Then there are the moments where they’re just standing there, like a static, kind-of-janky-looking action figure.

Of course, the counterpoint to that is that it did afford them the ability to make some very dynamic looking action sequences – as excellent as the TV version of Berserk was, the animation was extremely limited. It never really presented itself as something with a huge budget, and given the animation challenges the title presents, it mostly worked as a series thanks to clever use of it’s limited-yet-excellent soundtrack, compelling writing and decent pacing. The movie still has the compelling writing, and the pacing is still decent, if a little more rushed-feeling than the TV version, though Shiro Sagisu’s admirable soundtrack isn’t really a patch on Susumu Hirasawa’s TV score (though Hirasawa did compose the movies OP theme).

It’s still kind of OK, mind you, as disappointing as the animation was coming from Studio4c. I’m still curious to see the second movie, which is just as well given I’m seeing it in a few days time…

The drinks coasters that the festivals staff were hurling out into the audience like shuriken (perhaps this would have been more appropriate for Ninja Scroll?) suggest that the movie is out on DVD and BD over here in Blighty just days (or day?) before Christmas.

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