I finished my very busy Saturday at Animation Is Film 2023 with a second consecutive anime film (as is my specialty) following The Concierge. This was the North American premiere of Phoenix: Reminiscence of Flower, the theatrical cut of the recently released Disney+/Hulu series Phoenix: Eden17, itself a very loose adaptation of one of the later arcs of the legendary Osamu Tezuka’s unfinished life work, the manga Phoenix. I didn’t watch Eden17. In fact, even though I love so much of Tezuka’s manga and have wanted to check out Phoenix for years, I’ve actually never experienced any of it in any form.
I don’t know if more (any) experience would’ve made this exercise better or worse, but I certainly didn’t come away from this film feeling like my time was well-spent. Apparently, it was barely more than an hour and a half, which seems impossible. I felt like I was sitting there for 8 hours as it clumsily bounced around its unwieldy mass of plot at a pace that was both overly rushed and excruciatingly protracted, with none of it landing the impact the material demanded. Nothing about the direction or aesthetic helped this effort. I’ve read enough Tezuka to know the care with which he executes all of his stories throughout his unbelievably prolific career, so I can only imagine how much he put into his decades-spanning masterwork. I feel relatively confident saying this didn’t live up to that source.
That’s really all I have to say about Phoenix: Reminiscence of Flower. It’s always cool to get to see something slightly before its release in its home country, but when it’s mostly just a new edit of a series available for streaming worldwide (apparently with a different ending, interestingly), even that has limited meaning. With my admittedly lacking knowledge, it strikes me as a film that didn’t need to exist from a series that likely does immense disservice to the legacy of one of the greatest manga from one of the greatest mangaka.