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Archive for July 2006

Now & Then, Here & There Review

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A review has been a long time coming folks so apologies for that, but here is one of a long lost gem. Enjoy =o)

Now & Then, Here & There

Genre: Adventure Drama
Director: Akitaroh-Daichi
Distributor: Media Blasters
Duration: 25 minutes approx per episode with 13 episodes total
Production Creation: 1999

Plot Synopsis

Shu is an ordinary, happy go lucky Japanese kid. He goes to school, he attends Kendo class and pretty much gets beat at every Kendo class he attends. Shu though, is never disheartened and always tries his best and always tries to look on the bright side of everything. Shu’s world is shattered though when he meets a mysterious girl watching the sunset on top of a smoke stack in his town centre. Before, he can get to know this mysterious stranger, they are both thrust far into the future, into a world that Shu neither recognises, nor wants to stay in.

It’s a dark future, where Shu finds himself imprisoned and tortured by an army of captive children who are being manipulated into fighting by their psychotic ruler King Hamdo, and his sadistic generals. Stuck between people that he wants to save and child soldiers who know nothing of innocence, Shu takes up the fight that nobody else will. He fights for the future of all the innocents who cannot or will not fight for themselves and will do anything in his power to prevent further death, pain and destruction in this already hellish world.

The Review

Whoa, I certainly didn’t see this one coming. Hailed as the sleeper hit of 2002 by many anime review websites, I can now see exactly why Now & Then, Here & There gained such critical acclaim.

For a start, the characters are extremely well thought out and developed. Shu seems to be your everyday happy school kid, but beneath that he has an unrelentless sense of optimism coupled with a strict sense of morality. While his polar opposite, King Hamdo, is a massively insecure, neurotic coward of a man, who has only one goal and will do absolutely anything it takes to achieve it. It’s not just these two characters who have such intriguing levels of depth either, practically every character in this show is driven by a myriad of feelings, emotions and events that really fleshes them out and as a result, you actually find yourself eager to see what happens to them.

Other characters such as the tragic teenager Sara, abused and beaten by her adult captors, yet struggling to find the will to live, Nabauca, the duty bound child soldier who denies the innocence that he has lost, and the mysterious girl La La Rue also managed to really strike a chord with me.

The big theme that runs throughout this show is innocence, or more to the point, the loss of it and it’s this which puts Now & Then in a league of it’s own. The child soldiers themselves are proof enough of this, as they were once innocent children taken from their village and forced to kill and maim the enemies of the insane King Hamdo, thus depriving them of not only their childhood but their innocence too. We get to see how this affects the children psychologically too, as some become duty bound soldiers who can commit violence with terrible indifference and moral abandon, while others, such as the toddler Boo, struggle to even hold the weapon in their hands and continually doubt themselves and their purpose. It’s all about children being forced to grow up too quickly and as such, you feel pity for them and what they have to go through.

The impact of the destruction of childish innocence is increased by the very fact that it is often contrasted with scenes of children who still have their innocence and naivety. The director skillfully achieves this by showing the children playing, asking naive questions, showing affection and just enjoying themselves – all of the things that the child soldiers of King Hamdo’s Helliwood fortress are unable to do.

As you can probably deduct by now, the world depicted in Now& Then, is not very pleasant and the audience is privy to some really brutal, cruel and harrowing scenes such as child beatings, animal cruelty, torture and much more besides. I won’t go in depth about them, but let me just say that some scenes in particular made me feel quite uncomfortable. Thankfully to give some respite to the somewhat melancholy mood, the director has done a superb job of juggling the more distressing situations with lighter, more relaxed scenes, such as showing children enjoying their childhood in more serene settings along with more traditional action sequences too that serve to up the pace a bit.

The storyline itself as discussed earlier, is largely upheld by the whole theme of innocence and the director uses it to it’s fullest effect. Aside from this, there is a fair amount of tragedy in the plot also since, at the risk of spoiling the show, major characters die quite frequently and this just adds to the whole sombre mood of the show.

The plot maintains a very brisk, if slightly uneven pace. The show starts off extremely quickly, showing you Shu in happy surroundings for the first episode and before you know it the show changes mood quickly and throws you right in the deep end so to speak with the brutality and violence that was mentioned earlier. A whole lot of events and characters are established within the first two episodes, but after this for about three episodes or so, things begin to slow down a bit. Consequently, just over halfway through the series, the plot picks up speed again and the audience is swiftly propelled toward the awe-inspiring climax. Some have argued that thirteen episodes wasn’t enough for this series to really spread it’s wings, but I disagree.

Personally I think that throughout the span of the thirteen episodes, both the plot and especially the characters, are afforded a great deal of depth and detail and that any more episodes would make the series somewhat plodding and too drawn out.

On the technical side of things, Now & Then succeeds pretty well too as production values seem to be quite high. The artwork is remarkably solid and detailed, vividly depicting a world far into the future that is stuck in a rut of almost Mad-Max esque technologies crossed with almost alien wastelands and other such environments. The character designs are quite good too, and especially in the case of the children, really help in showing you the whole gamut of emotion and distress that they go through.

The animation is very competent too with fluid character movement, smooth background and foreground panning and virtually no re-used frames throughout the course of the show. Of note, the use of still frames after an emotional exchange or event, is done not just to allow the audience time to reflect on what is happening, but also to show the uneasy pauses between some of the characters as they interact with each other.

In terms of the music, it tends to be quite foreboding in order to reinforce the whole gloomy atmosphere of the show. The use of the violin especially is significant, since it is utilised to reinforce moments of tragedy or the general melancholy mood of the show and succeeds well in doing this.

Ultimately this is now of one of my personal favourite shows and I cannot find much to fault with it. I know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea since the stark and brutal nature of it will invariably put a lot of sensitive folk off it. That’s quite understandable, but even so, this is a superb show that I don’t think anybody should miss out on.

A definite keeper.

Ratings Summary

Animation: A-
Art: A
Music: A-
Content: A

Overall: A

Review by: JP Jones

Suitability for children

The show contains a whole lot of blood, general violence, brutality, torture, abuse and lots of other nasty things which are thankfully only implied. Even so, this coupled with the tragic and sombre nature of the show, makes it only suitable for those aged 17+.

If you liked this why not try…

Grave of the Fireflies – Central Park Media
Barefoot Gen – Image Entertainment

Written by bitsnark

July 21, 2006 at 12:40 pm

Hellsing Ultimate Dub: Out with the old and in with the old

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A little bit of news regarding the forthcoming Hellsing Ultimate OVA that is due at the end of the year from Geneon, ANN is reporting that the cast who took part in recording the TV dub will reprise their duties for the OVA. This for a Hellsing fan should be cool, as we get to hear Crispin ‘Rude’ Freeman continue to utilise his dark, raspy tone for roles that he will unfortunately be typecasted in for the rest of his career.

Still at least we get a decent dub ^_^.

Written by bitsnark

July 5, 2006 at 8:21 pm

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