Anthologies can be hit or miss but this is mostly hit.
What They Say:
In 1995, Katsuhiro Otomo’s anthology Memories showcased the work of upcoming superstars of the anime world. Now, Otomo’s spotlight shifts to a fresh generation of master creators with an all-new anthology of visionary films.
The audio presentation for this feature is pretty solid all around as we get the original Japanese in 5.1 as well as the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The short stories across this are pretty varied in what they do so that definitely factors into the sound design as each one works its own style. The encoding captures it well with what it does here since it works some quiet and spooky scenes with the right kind of ambience and sound effects to the bigger action pieces. The show definitely makes an impression across each of the stories that are told here and the sound design works to enhance the overall story being told, particularly for Gambo and for A Farewell to Weapons.
Originally in theaters in 2013, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With just over an hour of material here, the Sunrise animated work here has different styles going by each director and their vision which comes across beautifully here. With solid bit rates throughout, the feature comes across with some bright, vibrant and really eye-popping colors at times. The visual presentation has a very solid look to it with lots of detail and plenty of strong colors in the larger areas and backgrounds. There’s some great, fluid animation throughout this and the transfer brings it to life wonderfully, making it an engaging visual presentation when paired with the audio design of it.
The packaging for this release is pretty nice and appropriately busy while also going outside the norm a bit for Sentai Filmworks as there’s a slipcover here. The slipcover uses a different design than the cover itself which is a plus as the slipcover uses the white and red image that pushes the various characters together in a great way from the theatrical artwork. The logo along the bottom is clean and simple and very appealing in its design. The back of the slipcover uses the white background to its advantage as we get the shots from the various stories lined along the sides and along the middle which surrounds the text talking about the premises of the anthology. With an obvious nod towards Akira, we also get a good production credits breakdown and a solid technical grid that covers everything cleanly and accurately. The Blu-ray case uses a wraparound piece of artwork that has the full range of characters spread across it which looks great and has a whole lot of detail to it. The logo is kept small and to the side but still hits right. There’s no reversible cover for this release but we do get a set of four postcards that showcases the poster art for each of the four main stories.
The menu design for this release goes for a good design layout with what it does here as it uses a large part of the Blu-ray case cover artwork that comes across as brighter and more detailed than it looks there. Here, it dominates the screen and with all of its pieces to it, it’s easy to spend time just checking it out and enjoying that aspect of it. The navigation is kept to the lower right corner where it features a black and red box that lets you get to the usual selections as well as individual access to each of the stories. There’s not much in the way of submenus here, but what you do have loads quickly and it all works nicely as a pop-up menu during playback as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Anthology films have never been popular but there have been some fantastic works over the years that makes for some engaging stories. Short form storytelling is a very difficult art because of what it has to convey in a small amount of space in order to draw on emotions, stimulate you for action and make you empathize with the characters as they deal with what’s going on. One of my favorites was the one from years ago that Katsuhiro Otomo worked on with Memories, so seeing him come back to the anthology format here after all these years and to bring others with him to showcase their works is the right kind of thing that you’d expect. It’s a good bit of karma to bring that opportunity out for others.
With Short Peace, we get a brief intro story that’s like following the rabbit into the rabbit hole and discovering what’s on the other side. That’s followed up with four very different pieces. The opening piece comes from Shuhei Morita with Possessions. The story gives us a look at a traveler from centuries ago that seeks shelter in a small shrine to get out of the rain. What he finds inside as the night goes on is that the things inside, from umbrellas to kimono’s and more, have a spirit and personality of its own that he has to work through in order to survive and get out of it. It’s a beautiful piece as we see him using his reparative skills to fix all the things that have fallen into disuse and to bring them back to life with his words, his passion and more. It’s a beautiful piece that really shies well with its flow and the way it draws you in.
The second story, Combustible, comes from Otomo himself and for me it was the weakest of the batch. With its focus on a love that cannot be, we see a young woman who wants to be with the man she grew up with as a child and has come to love but is unable to be with because of his dreams of being a firefighter. That’s a very different job in that time and place since it’s more about destroying buildings so they don’t spread the fire, but the story itself is a kind of decent tragic tale that plays out. The opening half of it is what worked for me the most in how it was storyboarded and flows with the back and forth, the zooms and how it pulled out to tell the tale. It’s a story that’s easy to watch at a distance and it hits some fantastic technical marks, but it didn’t engage me emotionally.
The third story is arguably my favorite here with Gambo, a tale told by Hiroaki Ando. The focus is similar to the others in that it takes place in the past, this time in a village, where we see that the villagers are being threatened by a large red, violent and ugly oni. The oni has destroyed most of the village and has been stealing the women for its own nefarious purposes and all that’s left is one little girl that must survive. While the village tries to convince a wandering warrior to deal with it, he arrives in pursuit of a white bear that encounters the oni first. It’s a brutal but titanic battle between the ogre and the bear that goes even bigger as it goes on and reveals some great moments of man being in tune with nature while also seeing a great bigger picture that left me wanting more, both of the oni and of Gambo.
The final story, A Farewell to Weapons, is based on an Otomo short story and is done by Hajime Katoki. This story diverges from the other by taking us to a post-apocalyptic future where we see a group that works to scavenge and either recover or destroy weapons that are found. The team is sent to a small part of Tokyo that’s still around in order to get the weapons that are believed to be there. It’s a straightforward mission story that goes horribly wrong when they find an autonomous tank, a GONK, still operating there that they have to battle in order to get to the weapon itself. It’s a story that humanizes itself fairly well, though you really don’t connect with anyone with the light touches give for the characters, as we see them doing their job but struggling to make sure they survive it. It’s a different kind of visual beauty from what the other stories in the past are like and it’s one that really plays to the weapon fetishism in a great way as well as the action since it’s all very high tech but still grounded in the people that are dealing with it.
Short Peace is definitely a very fun anthology that plays some great short stories and just has a lot of fun with it. While there are serious stories – most of them are in fact – there are light moments in a few of them that helps to keep the narrative from getting oppressive. The four main stories all have their big pluses that make them worth seeing all on their own and all the more so in a collection like this. I’m somewhat amused that I found Otomo’s story the weakest in terms of actual story, but I loved what he did in terms of direction. The other stories all shine in their own way from start to finish and keep you thoroughly engaged and wanting more of them. This is the kind of release that you definitely want to check out and see what clicks since it offers some great stories that you won’t get in another form – unfortunately. I’d certainly love to see a few of these expanded.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.