Witch Mountain returns

One of my favorite movies from childhood was Return to Witch Mountain, about two orphans (brother and sister) who seek to discover the source of their magical powers. Hmm. Guess I was into mahou shoujo early on, it seems. At any rate, Disney is doing a remake, which usually elicits a yawn (if not horror). What caught my attention though was that the girl is being played by AnnaSophia Robb, and the Bad Guy by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I was utterly enchanted with Robb’s performance in Terabithia and Johnson is just a genius of screen presence. Even if they butcher the basic plot, it’s still going to be worth watching.

Closing thoughts on Dennou Coil

I think Nick says it best:

Sometimes, I wonder how the Japanese are able to show what are considered “children’s anime” which can deal with very serious topics. How do they allow shows that put their viewers through such an emotional roller coaster that are said to be aimed at elementary school students? And why don’t I see or hear about this in many modern American animations, unlike the American classics (recall something like Bambi, for example)? I don’t hear of anything that runs like Full Moon wo Sagashite in America today, but I have found another example of an emotionally tiring series in Denno Coil.

Emotionally tiring, precisely because it’s a serious children’s anime. There is a lack of pretense and a willingness to treat children seriously that is the hallmark of the kind of anime I am drawn to. There are few to none of examples of this in American animation, though I think Pixar makes an effort. However, the closest analouge in our media would be children’s books, like Bridge to Terabithia or Holes (both of which have since made the transition to movie form; I’ve read both but only seen the former).

Dennou Coil is definitely targeted at children, but it seemed a blend of a lot of more adult-level anime. The Haibane Renmei parallel is obvious, with a Reki-Rakka empath/loner pair joined by an emotional bond. There’s also the Serial Experiments Lain parallel, toying with the nature of reality and the implications of granting too much “reality” to cyberspace (I would argue in fact that Dennou Coil did a superior job of this than Lain). The magical girl concept is neatly transposed to the technological here, you could even argue for a hint of Someday’s Dreamers in there. But the point about Dennou Coil is that it manages to straddle all these genres of anime and yet establish it’s own unique identity on its own terms.

I have to agree, this is one of the best anime I have ever seen. I have to rank it slightly more highly than Shingu, since it was equally enjoyable to watch but simply had greater heft, its backstory formly grounded in the rich human experience instead of needing to import aliens wholesale.

I don’t have much to say about the ending, spoilerwise or otherwise. Some random screen shots below the fold… Continue reading “Closing thoughts on Dennou Coil”

nothing crushes us

I marvel at the official trailer for Bridge to Terabithia. Watching this, with no knowledge of the book, you’d think it’s just a knockoff of Narnia or some other flick where ordinary kids go discover a magical realm.

The story though is so much more than this. That trailer probably contains 90% of the fantasy imagery in the entire movie. In many ways it’s odd someone didn’t make an anime of this first. But then again, Anna Sophia Robb sells the character of Leslie so much more effectively than any animated character could. And Jess is unique in that he is simultaneously introspective and expressive, so much so that I can’t think of an example of a character in any anime I’ve seen (admittedly, not all that much) who had the same range. The casting was key to making this movie work, and it succeeded.

Bridge to Terabithia

I remember reading Bridge to Terabithia at that age where I too could immerse myself in my own worlds, where imagination and reality could still overlap, and adolescence was close enough to be almost here but not quite here yet. In other words, I was the age that Jess and Leslie were, and that was why it cut so deep. It was probably the first book I had ever read that really and truly made me feel so deeply, so much so that I almost threw the book away, it as it almost overwhelmed the me of then. Maybe reading that book was a trial on the path to being an adult, which is a trifle ironic given that the book is about the essence of childhood.

Around twenty years later, I saw the movie, and it does the book justice indeed. I’m afraid that the rest of this post won’t make much sense. Fair warning.

It’s odd to think how when we are that age, we take ourselves for granted. Much later in life we look back at our mid-twenties as our “youth” and dismiss our adolescent preteen selves as mere children, but there is a magic about us then, and the luckiest of us never fully extinguish that magic despite decades that follow of responsibility and toil. There’s such a deep current of love in this story, one that runs concurrently with a current of pain, and both are so essential. In many ways the creek beyond which lies Terabithia is the physical embodiment of love and pain – a gateway to a different world, but also a dangerous barrier. The bridge only comes later, something we are only capable of building once we have fully learnt the lesson, and then every time we cross it, so much more easily and without risk, we gradually forget the price we have paid.

There’s the otaku dreamgirl aspect of this story too, but the special quality of that friendship is such that is only works in the context of being young. Leslie isn’t an ordinary girl and you are meant to fall for her, to appreciate the way she looks at the world and makes it new, at the sheer force of will. But Jess is not ordinary either – a working class family on the edge of bankruptcy, no advantages or privileges or luxuries, forced to wear his sisters’ hand-me-down sneakers, he still somehow has a Talent that thrives and grows. The two of them are perfect, as they are and more so together, and it is fitting that they create Terabithia between them.

What is Terabithia? Is it childhood? Is it dreams, hope? Whatever it is, it is something that can only be reached by tapping into that something essential from our childhood. The Narnia stories put children front and center as heroes, but were never about childhood – Terabithia is much more honest and raw in that regard. What is the bridge?

There is probably no point in trying to describe how Terabithia makes you feel. It probably suffices to say that it makes you feel. It’s a movie that every adult should watch, every child should read, and every father should be inspired from to hope that their children are in some way like Leslie and Jess, and if so, to live vicariously through them for it.