Matt, Matt, Mike, Alan and Dan were their names… (The names have not been changed to protect the innocent).
This is the tale of that fateful night – 29 April 2006 – things have not been the same since…
London – Anime ‘all nighter’ of Sci Fi London 5
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
"8 hours - 4 films - more Sci Fi geeks than you could possibly imagine"
Apart from the badly managed waiting for the first film to roll, this was a cool night. We met up with a panicked Landsman (first to arrive) who was beginning to think we’d stitched him up by abandoning him to a nerdfest of epic proportions – everywhere you looked a living embodiment of ‘Comic Book Guy’ from The Simpsons was discussing the finer points of Deep Space 9 or Jedi Religious coding… and the gentle ‘hum’ of large man body odour stalked the corridors.
Other bonus things were that newly released Rogue Trooper was freeplaying on the PS2’s and Xboxs, freebie DVDs, posters, copies of 2000AD and other assorted sci fi ness were dispensed – then it began after a fun heckling session. Where the director of the festival proudly told us that he’d secured the Japanese print of FFVII – not the badly dubbed U.S. version. To which Mike shouted out “but I can’t read!!” – it set the tone nicely!
First up was…
GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE
(Japan 2004, Dir: Mamoru Oshii, 100mins, Colour)
A classic sequel to a classic film. Innocence is a film of extraordinary beauty, a hauntingly meditative reflection on the nature of humanity and the artificial.
This was a crowd pleaser even if it did take a bit of following…
When machines learn to feel, who decides what is human?
In the stunning opening sequence of Mamoru Oshi's follow-up to his acclaimed anime Ghost in the Shell, we fly over a glowing, futuristic cityscape before descending into its labyrinthine streets. Here, hero cyborg Special Agent Batou (Akio Ohtsuka) pursues a murderous gynoid (a robotic sex doll - seeing as you asked) into a narrow alleyway. In an explosive confrontation, the doll attacks him, then self-destructs - and it all looks absolutely breath takingly beautiful.
So many scenes in Ghost in the Shell 2 could be framed and hung on the wall as acclaimed works of art - I can honestly say that I've never been quite as entranced by a film's looks... ever. You really should seek this film out, if only to witness the five minute 'parade' scene' (the sequence took a year to create), and is a tapestry of ornately decorated dragons, glowering demons, giant elephants and lion dancers. Beneath this massive cutting edge CGI spectacle scurry the hand-drawn figures of human spectators, dwarfed by the parade's Byzantine grandeur. The scene is utterly otherworldly, a space that is alive and yet nearly devoid of human presence as the hailstorms of confetti blend in the shadowy, inky reflections on the windscreens and windows of cars moving through future Tokyo (now a lawless city of sun-scratching spires, complete with a gothic cathedral that appears built out of old computer parts). And don't get me started on the villain’s lair, it is a Tudor manor constructed entirely of stained glass, where people, birds, and even fire are frozen in time.
Many films have looked at the increasingly blurred distinction between human, and machine. Innocence, takes this further and adds animals into the mix - a helicopter looks and sounds like a wasp, an airplane flaps its mechanical wings like a bird, and a submarine 'swims' through the deep with like a giant dolphin. Obvious references to Blade Runner and a host of sci fi specialities abound but there are also quotes from the bible, Milton, Confucius... There’s as much here to entertain your mind as your eyes. Plus some kick ass shoot-outs and a convoluted mystery… Highly recommended!
The initial free Red Bulls washed down some dodgy Nicotinamide / Ginseng tablets, things were getting a bit trippy and we were only one film in…
Darkmatt Rating: öööö1/2 (hard sci fi eye candy)
KARAS: THE PROPHECY
(Japan/USA 2006, Dir: Keiichi Satou ,80mins, Colour)
Karas, (The Crow) is best described as Batman with a Samurai Sword or a Cyber-punk version of The Crow. Set in Tokyo, populated by both humans and ghostly beings, Karas is the city's guardian. Tokyo is thrown into disarray as a former Karas named Eko attempts to seize power. Yurine, an entity representing the will of the people, stands in Eko's way with her newly risen Karas. Essentially, the new Karas runs from place to place battling the various monsters who are out to test his skill. Character development doesn’t happen so it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. Some of the artistry is confusing and overloaded, possibly intentionally, but very distracting none the less.Now two Karas emerge to destroy all the demons or all humanity. Which Karas will prevail? You might not know what the hell is going on from the opening to the end but it’s still an interesting battle freakout piece of anime…
WTF? was the standard response, it felt like our brains had been removed and given a serious full colour kick in…
Darkmatt Rating: ööö
Dazed and confused were prepared for the main event… FFVII: Advent Children...
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
UK Big Screen Premier
(Japan 2004, Dir: Tetsuya Nomura & Takeshi Nozue, 101mins, Colour)
Copious cups of coffee helped wash down the free Purbeck’s Chilli Red Ice Cream – so wrong it’s almost right, but only as long as you follow it up with a hit of Honeycomb Hash flavour to put out the fire!
Anyway, two years after the events in "Final Fantasy VII", a disease called 'Seikon-Shoukougun', or 'Geostigma', is spreading through the planet. This disease is believed to have been caused by the body fighting off foreign material that invaded the body two years earlier, at the end of "Final Fantasy VII". Guilt-ridden and haunted by his past, ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife has decided to live a secluded, solitary life away from his friends while maintaining "Strife's Delivery Service", whose headquarters is located in Tifa Lockheart's bar, the Seventh Heaven. Tifa's bar serves as an orphanage for children stricken with Geostigma. Here, Tifa keeps an eye on Barret's six-year-old daughter, Marlene, while Barret searches the planet for an alternative energy source to the Planet's energy, Mako. One day, Cloud receives a phone call from the former Shinra, Inc. president, Rufus, asking him for protection from a mysterious man named Kadaj. Kadaj, in the meantime, along with his brothers Loz and Yazoo, are searching for their "mother", and seem to believe that Cloud knows where to find her. Meanwhile, Vincent Valentine has been wandering the planet gathering information on Kadaj's scheme, and Cloud and his friends must come together again to fight these new enemies.
This wasn’t the “big gay leather prettyboy cockfest” that formed Mike’s initial reaction and that reflected that fact that if you haven’t played the game – you may struggle to invest in the film and as such despite it’s technical achievement… you might think it weak and choc overblown with sentiment. Mike went on to complain that FFVII “made Bambi look like a hardcore snuff movie”…And I have to admit that whilst I enjoyed it, I would have liked to have seen some CGI blood splashing over the screen at points.
Visually though FFVII: AC is the best example of what CGI can deliver to cinema that I’ve ever witnessed. In a word: AWESOME and a treat to see it on the big screen!
Darkmatt Rating: öööö
Some men simply can’t take a whole night of Manga insanity and thus it was that Dan snuck away like Judas in the garden of Gethesemane but without returning with a bunch of soldiers and crucifying us…
or Kumo no mukô, yakusoku no basho as I like to call it...
(Japan 2004, Dir: Makoto Shinkai, 91mins, Colour)
This was the killer – dawn was breaking and we’d been caffeine-ated up to and beyond the eyeballs - Beyond the Clouds, we were in The Promised Place… But in an alternative reality, the end of World War II saw Japan split into separate states; the Union and the Alliance. Two science students, Takuya and Hiroki, spend their time building a jet that will take them to a mysterious tower that appeared on an island on the Union side of the border. The story focuses on three children with a dream, Sayuri, Takuya, and Hiroki, of flying to a huge tower on the horizon with a mysterious purpose not disclosed to the general public.
Did you get that? A massive, mysterious tower… Going right into the sky!!
Reactions were generally positive to this one even though to quote Mike “it wasn’t the violent action and f**kfest” he was hoping for… as mentioned Dan had left before this one but he did text me that he was regretting that choice because it was raining and the tubes weren’t running yet… That just shows that you have to be hard core if want the reward… or something?
Final Red Bulls were being downed now, Mike was on hand to spray any of us who began to fade into unconsciousness with his nifty but shocking ‘cold water spray’ – man that really perked you up!!
Darkmatt Rating: öö1/2
Finally after 8 hours of brain frying visuals we emerged blinking into the Sunday morning London drizzle. Mike went on his way back south and Alan n Matt n I took in an impromptu McBreakfast once we’d made it back to that sunny place we like to call Hitchin….
So it was over but yet it will live in the memory until next year!?
Darkmatters: H O ME