October 15, 2022 · 0 comments
By Andrew Osmond.
Anime is full of fraught love stories, where characters cross oceans of time, fight fierce duels, or turn the universe on its head, all for the one they love. Typically, these lovelorn heroes seem drawn by fate along their journeys, or are they forging their own fate? For the online season of this year’s Scotland Loves Anime, we’ve brought together five specimens of what we like to call Fated Encounters…
Makoto Shinkai’s blockbuster hit may be the ultimate “fated encounter” anime. In this intricate fantasy, a country girl and a Tokyo boy start waking up in each other’s bodies. They’re shocked, dismayed and mortified, especially as they’re total strangers to each other (or are they?). The youngsters are never in the same place at the same time, yet they’re totally intimate. They argue through messages on their phones and even scrawled on their bodies, and they take part-ownership in each other’s lives. Then the rug is pulled out from underneath the audience, the story turns upside-down, and the film becomes a frantic search for someone seemingly lost forever. But loops of fate connect the youngsters, and nothing’s ever truly forgotten…
The most avowedly romantic film by Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Perfect Blue), this is a magic-realist chase through umpteen movie genres and a millennium of Japanese history. The starting point’s simple enough. In the present day, two documentary film-makers go to interview a reclusive old lady called Chiyoko, who was once a movie legend. Chiyoko tells them an extraordinary story, of how she helped a fugitive young man when she was a girl in the 1930s, and became obsessed with finding him again. But this is less a love-story than an epic myth, with the scale of a Terry Gilliam fantasy. Chiyoko crosses centuries and realities, dragging her two bewildered interviewers with her. She’ll become an ancient princess, a ninja, a geisha, and chase her beloved to the moon. But the film hinges on a killer last line that will have viewers arguing long after.
Both Your Name and Millennium Actress have stories that circle around and back to particular moments, be it a girl calling through a train’s doors, or a rocket taking off from the moon. Fireworks by the Shaft anime studio makes such circles even more overt – one of the film’s main motifs is the sight of huge rotating wind turbines, recalling the hands of a giant clock. In a coastal town, middle-school boy Norimichi notices the girl classmate he likes, Nazuna, looks forlorn. Gradually his day coalesces around Nazuma, until he sees her literally dragged off by a stern parent… but a miracle happens and Norimichi will have the chance to turn back time, and help Nazuna again, and again. Fireworks catches the feeling that adolescence is when one’s future is most open-ended, when your future could diverge the most depending on the decisions you make, the character you build. Do you dither, or do you act? Is reality random, or is your fate there to grasp?
Unlike the other films, Birthday Wonderland, directed by Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai, Summer Days with Coo), has no romantic elements. Rather the crucial encounter is between the girl protagonist Akane and the fantastical world she discovers, the title Wonderland. As in Ghibli’s Spirited Away, the suggestion is this girl needs to be kicked into a fantasy adventure for her own good. Akane is a passive, listless type, nursing her guilt about not standing up for a classmate. However, what makes Birthday Wonderland different from Spirited Away, and from many stories of youngsters going to other worlds, is that Akane needs support from a grown-up – namely a lively shop-owner called Chii who joins the girl through the adventure, quite against fantasy tradition.
JOSEE, THE TIGER AND THE FISH
Of all the films in this article, Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is the only one that’s not fantasy. It’s set in present-day Osaka, shown in loving detail worthy of a Makoto Shinkai film (it was animated by the Bones studio, home of Fullmetal Alchemist and My Hero Academia). Tsuneo is a college student who loves the sea. Josee (real name Kumiko) is a wheelchair-bound student who dreams of the sea. They collide one night; following the bumpy meet cute, Tsuneo takes a job from Josee’s grandma to look after the girl, and their hostility slowly thaws. While there’s no overt suggestion of fate, this is a film where the girl clearly needs the boy in her life, while the boy will ultimately come to need her just as much.
Fated Encounters is screening as part of this year’s Scotland Loves Anime.