There are a scant few in the anime world who many consider to be masters of their art, but Katsuhiro Otomo is certainly one of them. The creator of such classics as Akira, Roujin Z and Steamboy lends his unmistakable talents to three short stories that examine memories and the nature of the human experience. Director Koji Morimoto brings us Magnetic Rose, the tale of a space rescue mission gone awry; director Tensai Okamura tackles the story of a biological weapons accident with unusual consequences in Stink Bomb, and Katsuhiro Otomo himself directs Cannon Fodder, which depicts life in a world dominated by huge cannons whose inhabitants existence seems only to fire them at an unseen enemy. These three stories come together in one collection by some of the greatest names in anime of our time.
Magnetic Rose follows a group of space workers that answer a distress call from a seemingly abandoned ship in the middle of an asteroid field. Two of these reluctant saviours venture onto the ship only to find a strange world of palatial luxury created by a sentimental opera singer's memories, which she is more than willing to share with anyone who crosses her path.
The most immediately noticeable thing in this first story is the depth of character that emerges in each of the protagonists and how quickly it becomes evident, the character development happens in a matter of minutes which is quite amazing as there are plenty of directors out there who require hours to adequately explore their subject. The next thing that comes to mind is the sound, a mixture of a fantastic score by Yoko Kanno and an emotionally rousing Puccini aria.
Stink Bomb is the tale of hapless scientific researcher Nobuo Tanaka, who after accidentally ingesting a biological weapon, is instructed by his superiors to rush the offending research materials to Tokyo. Unfortunately for our hero, he begins to emit a noxious gas that decimates the surrounding area and must dodge army forces if he hopes to reach his goal.
This second outing can best be described as a farcical comedy, but its origin can clearly be seen, as the chasing of a hapless protagonist by increasingly hostile forces was one of the central themes of Roujin Z as well. It may seem strange to have such a comical short in the middle of the two more serious ones, however it does break up the pace nicely and there can't be many people who don't find a gas-emitting geek on a moped both surreal and hilarious.
Cannon Fodder explores a strange dystopian city through the eyes of a small child and his family. The focus of this unusual city, that looks as if it was taken straight out of post-industrial Europe, is the gigantic cannons that line the rooftops and their goal of continuing to fire on the enemy.
This really is an amazing story that comes across in this short as the people of the city diligently work at shelling an enemy that may or may not in fact actually exist. The only questioning voice is one of a child, asking the questions that everyone else simply accepts as fact. Cannon Fodder is packed with symbolism, from the need for an enemy to unite a people, through the innocence and questioning nature of children, and even mans seemingly insatiable need for conflict. This is a deep and interesting piece that will need viewing more than once.
The combination of fantastic animation, sound and storyline from the big names behind this film results in a great piece of work that I would heartily recommend not only to seasoned anime fans, but to film lovers everywhere.