Title: Short Peace (Theatrical Edition)
Genre: Historical fantasy, sci-fi
Format: 4 short films
Directors: Shuhei Morita, Katsuhiro Otomo, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki (respectively)
Intelligence Agency Report: David Taranto
In “Possessions,” a traveling artisan gets lost in a storm and seeks shelter in an unkempt shrine in the middle of the forest. He hopes simply for a place to rest, but the spirits there have some requests to make of their own in return.
“Combustible” follows two childhood friends as they grow up and apart. Matsukichi purposefully gets himself disowned by his affluent family in order to pursue his more plebian dream of fighting fires. Wakana is groomed for an arranged marriage to increase her family’s standing. With one action, Wakana takes her fate and her feelings into her own hands.
“Gambo” is a white bear demon being hunted by a renegade samurai. When he meets the last daughter of a village being terrorized by a large red demon, the two are able to understand each other and he sets off to set things right… but the red demon won’t fold so easily.
In “A Farewell to Weapons,” a team of weapon diffusers is sent to neutralize and dismantle leftover weapons from a war that has left Tokyo decimated. Each member dons heavy protective and powered suits to infiltrate the city, but the mobile defense turret they’re up against isn’t going to be so easy to take down. When the hunt moves underground, an old subway line becomes the crucible to determine what men and machines are really made of.
Field Agent Report by: David Taranto
This is a difficult film to rate on the whole, because the parts are so different and are all of varying quality. I think the only way to do this justice is to give 4 mini-reviews.
“Possessions,” overall, deserves something close to an 8. The story is simple (as the short film format demands) but satisfyingly self-contained, feeling something like a happier, more colorful episode of Mushi-shi. The animation involved a new blend of 2D and 3D techniques that worked to great effect in close shots, but failed to make a serviceable walk cycle. This hurts the quality of the piece overall and makes some scenes look more like early PS2 cutscenes and less like the kind of animation you’d expect to find on the big screen in 2013. Apparently, the Academy voters overlooked that when deciding to include it as a final nominee for Best Animated Short.
“Combustible” earns the same – an 8. The animation is smooth, and in some scenes makes clever use of the texture and awkward visual perspective typical of Edo-period cityscape paintings. The story feels a bit rushed and stunted, but all the important pieces are there. Its Shakespearean tone and visual poetry are to its credit, but I think the overall rushed feeling is probably why this was passed over for the final list of Academy Award nominees in 2013.
“Gambo” was the weakest of the four pieces. I’d give it a 6.5. The visuals were okay, but the story felt like the second act of a longer film. The exposition for the renegade samurai and white bear is largely missing (but is filled in sufficiently enough as the film plays out), and the film ends on a question with a cryptic answer that would really benefit from one more revelation.
Finally, “Farewell to Weapons” was far and away, for me, the best piece of the anthology. Easily a 9.5 on its own (I hold back the 10 for tradition’s sake, mostly), it is tense, thrilling, complete, visually stunning with a perfect soundtrack, and its theme plays out pitch-perfectly. This segment alone was worth the price of admission, and is well worth your money as well.