What was your first introduction to Katsuhiro Otomo‘s Memories and was it this specific music video highlighting Magnetic Rose? That was my first exposure to the trilogy—a compressed version of an animated masterpiece riddled with artifacts. That’s not meant to begrudge the music video, Aptheosis’ “Phantom of the Opera” techno remix is still a bop, but Discotek has performed some sort of wizardry for its Memories Collector’s Edition release.
The licensor has been very candid about the restoration process, enticing fans during previous livestreams with clips using its AstroRes™ upscaling technology. The results are mind-blowing and this is, hands down, one of the most attractive anime features I own. Magnetic Rose, quite easily the crown jewel of the anthology, is stunning. The story primarily takes place inside a labyrinthine compound belonging to a reclusive soprano named Eva. A pair of space salvage workers, Heinz and Miguel, respond to an SOS call coming from within and begin unraveling the rise and fall of Eva’s life only to be confronted by the residuals of Eva’s memories. Heinz, too, is living in denial and Eva’s ghost is all to willing to confront him with his conveniently tucked away personal tragedies.
Magnetic Rose is a masterclass in sci-fi that isn’t bogged down in justification for its own existence. It’s an effectively creepy ghost story set in a fully-realized sci-fi setting backed by creators at the top of their game. The classical music score brings together Yoko Kanno with Madame Butterfly’s Giacomo Puccini. The background art, each a frame-worthy painting, eases the audience with its beauty as a place set out of time. The crew may be living in 2090, but Eva’s home is a baroque mansion of indulgence. Takashi Watabe‘s mechanical designs feel bound in a sense of realism; it’s easy to understand how salvage gear and dual-piloted crafts work just by looking at them yet they remain wholly distinctive.
I recommend the dub, especially for Magnetic Rose, as the preferred way to experience Memories. Discotek has achieved a clever dub script treatment that allows Heinz and Miguel to play off one another naturally. Both men feel like they have genuine rapport and there’s not an awkward moment to be found. Robbie Daymond almost steals the show until the story hits its highest tension, allowing Marc Swint to really shine in an emotionally-charged turn. My only criticism might be with Frank Todaro‘s accent as Ivanov, which can be a little hard to parse at times without the assistance of subtitles.
It’s hard to follow up Magnetic Rose, so let me use some of my unlimited wordcount supply to sell you on Stink Bomb and Cannon Fodder. The former is often maligned due to sheer level of stupidity of its protagonist, but might I convince you, dear readers, that war itself is stupid and incompetency is par for the course? The short follows Nobuo Tanaka, a junior chemist at a pharmaceutical company who downs an experimental pill for his cold symptoms, takes a nap, and wakes up as living, breathing bomb. Incapable of putting two and two together, he hurriedly travels towards Tokyo to get answers while Japan and America (what you thought this wasn’t our fault?) try to diffuse the situation.
Stink Bomb lacks the artistic flourishes of Magnetic Rose and Cannon Fodder but it makes up for it in pointed commentary. Once you accept that Tanaka is stupid by design, Stink Bomb becomes a sort of black comedy. I recommend following it with Shin Godzilla if you want the full incompetent bureaucracy leads to mass death experience.
Cannon Fodder builds on some of Stink Bomb‘s themes while serving as an exposition on film technique. It’s also the one spot in the release where some of the animation magic dissolves a bit to reveal the mechanics behind it. Magnetic Rose, Cannon Fodder, and to a lesser extent Stink Bomb use a technique that to my knowledge was popularized first in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, although it dates back further. Known as multiplane animation, it’s used to give the illusion of depth by layering animation cels. The technique is most obvious in Magnetic Rose during the early scenes where Heinz and Miguel are flying through space debris, but in Cannon Fodder the use is highlighted further and allows for staff to create extended tracking shots of the characters. There are points when the moving parts no longer look like a single whole, but it doesn’t diminish the artistic accomplishment.
Cannon Fodder serves as a setting and animation showcase more than a proper narrative as we watch how a society indoctrinates the young to idolize their position as cogs in an endless war. Where Stink Bomb is absurdist, Cannon Fodder is a mirror held up to unquestioned patriotism. Labor activists cry out for non-toxic gunpowder while children try to ace their math tests to ensure their future as trigger-pullers. It’s a dark 30-minute closer and I wish there was more.
While I prefer the restored iteration, the original is also on the release in all its filmgrainy goodness, too. There are some genuinely great additional features tacked on as well, including a brief explainer on the restoration process, interviews with the Sound Cadence dub staff and NYAV Post‘s Michael Sinterniklaas, and a one-on-one with Heinz dub voice actor Marc Swint.
Discotek has created the definitive edition of Memories and earned no shortage of fan accolades as a result. Those still waiting on Project A-Ko should sleep easy knowing it’s in good hands.
#Memories #Collectors #Edition