Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Visit To The Carnival Part Three: Starlight Angel & CLOUD

So strange, that seconds after the stirring poetics of PRESENCE, that we are taken into something more "fittingly anime", as we are now in the fluffy wonders exhibited by Hiroyuki Kitazume's STARLIGHT ANGEL. Set in a robot-themed Disneyworld, complete with mecha exhibits, rides, and parades(!), ANGEL tells the music videolike tale of a young girl's love lost and gained. Told with all the vibrance, and saccharine optimism befitting of a Yuu Hayami, or Yoko Oginome video, it is at once cute, colorful, and completely forgettable. Which isn't to say that this musical venture into nearly transparent pop light show is a complete loss since it does feature an impressive amount of visual flare, and an amazing monster mecha creation near the finale(albeit for no clear reason, other than to have an antagonist of some sort). It is a sugary sweet respite from the more somber, artistically inclined seriousness of the previous entry.

Looking at it now, this installment is a clear-cut vision of Bubble Japan's great wish for a future complete with cute girls(whom I swear, our lead character is a dead ringer precursor to just about every modern "moe" archetype- Yui Hirasawa, anyone?), cute machines, pretty boys, and enough technological nostalgia and wistful longing to fill a warehouse full of tourism brochures. STARLIGHT ANGEL may be terribly light on ideas, but is a stark reminder of the promise of Japan during this pivotal time period. The feeling is so much so that it is hard to imagine how this would even play to a roomful of modern anime enthusiasts. Culture shock indeed.

It is as if there were no real limits to what could be done with not merely anime, that technical innovation was the key, and no economic downturn was in sight. Which makes this one all the more strangely tragic as I watch it again. Even so, this is a lighter entry in the film, and a fascinating footnote piece.

Which then leads us into the one piece concocted by someone not particularly known as part of the same community, but a notable one nonetheless. More a part of a larger component of a modern art exhibit than a standard anime production, CLOUD is the beautiful journey of man, and his relationship with technology as witnessed by an ever changing world. Panels, sometimes cut off into sections of the screen display the long walk of what looks to be a robotic child across various backgrounds. Lushly illustrated and animated, the piece is both soothing, and poetic to a fault. Featuring haunting music by Isaku Fujita, the sound is reminiscent of ambient masters Harold Budd & Brian Eno. And the often colorless artwork granted such details as how the wind affects the robot child's clothing as he walks is sublime in ways animation can only best achieve in this manner. Also worthy of note is the child's design that resembles a combination of both Tezuka's Atomu and Gerhardt, perhaps using Tezuka's iconographics to illustrate Japan's ascension from isolationist island, to a part of a larger, more volatile planet.

It is a startling mood piece that while is zero on the narrative front, is a singular achievement akin to the best avant garde works. It says so much with so little, making it a personal favorite in any medium.

Stay Tuned For Next Time: A Strange Tale of Meiji Machines: Episode of the Red Haired Man's Invasion (AKA A Tale Of Two Robots) & Chicken Man & Red Neck(aka NIGHTMARE)!

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