Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tales from Earthsea

 
Released on July 29th, 2006, Tales from Earthsea is a loose adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's  Earthsea series of books. it is also Goro Miyazaki's first foray into Ghibli directing. as such, the film caused a large rift for a period of time between Hayao Miyazaki and his son, due to Miyazaki senior thinking Goro was not ready. eventually, though, the two reconciled after the elder Miyazaki saw the film.
 
Son, I am not disappoint.
 
Tales from Earthsea follows the young prince Arren as he journeys across the continent while running from his problems. over the course of the journey, he comes to terms with both his life and himself while saving his friends. he also learns a lot about how the world works, things that as a sheltered prince he would not normally see, helping him grow as a person worthy of being a king.
 
By coming to terms with both the darkness and light within him, Arren finds the strength to stand up to evil for what he believes in.
 
While this sounds all well and good, the movie covers a lot of topics not normally discussed in lighthearted Ghibli films. besides Grave of the Fireflies, this stands as the darkest Ghibli film i've ever laid eyes on. the callousness of the population and the downtrodden plight of the slaves is sort of disconcerting, considering when you fire up a Ghibli film, you expect something....nice. something to take you away from the cold grips of reality that we all have to live with every day. but this was just depressing for the most part. the female lead was nearly killed by her parents, for fuck's sake. the visual style was slightly different from your standard Ghibli film, and while this was interesting, given the context it didn't really endear me any more to it (in fact, it actually put me off at times, with the weirdly articulated teeth and the odd jelly-looking tears they cry).
 
Seriously, they cry jelly.
 
Further faulting this movie is the lack of a coherent plot. it starts off with a dramatic bang, but never really goes anywhere with it; in fact, after Arren's father dies, we never hear any talk of his kingdom again (save for a brief, "poor me" mention here and there). the opening sequence involves a dragon, but the significance of dragons in the movie is never fully explained. in fact, they're only seen once more in the whole movie, and in a very confusing way. there's an overarching narrative and goal, yes, but the story holds together much in the way that a 100-year-old rope ladder holds together: loosely, barely hanging on, frayed at the edges.
 
Really, this is barely explored.
 
the visuals were actually pretty dazzling. if nothing else, this movie has going for it that it's pretty. very pretty. the care and detail put into the backgrounds makes them alone works of art. the character designs were unique as well, with each one being separate and distinct, even the background characters. sadly, they are compromised by the poor voice acting choices of the dub (perhaps I should have watched the sub, but that's neither here nor there). they don't project enough or add enough emotion at the proper points, making the scenes fall flat when they should be sparkling. it was hard to hear unless they were damn near shouting. somewhere in the middle of this lay the soundtrack. it was beautiful, but honestly rather weird, given that while the wide range of instruments lends the film a faraway feel, it's too wide at times. hearing both pipe instruments from Asia and fiddles from Ireland is too confusing a setting to be effective. pretty as it is, it would have been nicer if they could have picked one direction or the other.
 
Fucking Magestic.
 
I don't regret watching Tales of Earthsea. but all the same, I wouldn't call it the greatest Ghibli movie out there (far from it). I'd like to think that if it had a sequel, it'd feel a lot better, as there were a lot of things left unexplored and unresolved. perhaps it's good to also think of this as Goro's test run. it wasn't a great movie, but for a first timer with little experience, it was a masterpiece. but given the darker tone, I wouldn't recommend this for everyone.
 
#toofabulousforthis
 
Tales from Earthsea is distributed by Disney Internationally and Madman Entertainment in Australia specifically. torrents are easy to find through your favourite search engine.
 
This movie Yaois itself.
 
2/5


The Cat Returns

 
Intended as a sort of spiritual successor to Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns was released on July 19th, 2002. it follows Yoshioka Haru, as she deals with the attention of some VERY grateful cats after she saves their prince from being hit by a car. while Haru is flattered, she eventually realizes how clear she needs to be with them when she is dragged to their kingdom to be the prince's bride.
 
Needless to say, she's not SUPER happy about it.
 
Like Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns wasn't directed by either Miyazaki or Takahata, but instead by Morita Hiroyuki, an animator at Ghibli. even more interesting, neither of the two giants had any major hand in the film. it also holds the title as the shortest of the official Ghibli films (outside of the TV movie Ocean Waves, which might not be counted under the title of "official" Ghibli film, and it's a 3-minute difference anyway). despite this, it manages to keep the pace fast without feeling rushed, instead pacing the action to match the drama involved. Haru evolves as a character very naturally as time flows on, going so far as to stand up for herself very assertively at the end.

 Note to self: do NOT go skydiving with the pets.
 
While it's not a comedy, it's not solely a drama either, nor is it purely a slice of life. i'd call it somewhere in the middle of the three, its genre being hard to nail down. given its relation with Whisper of the Heart, combined with the surrealist elements and coming-of-age style plot, I like to think of this as one of Shizuku's novels after she becomes a professional writer (see Whisper of the Heart). if you think about it from that point of view when you watch it, it gives it an interesting, exciting feel to it, since it's sort of like an epilogue to the original movie.

There are some things that never change, such as The Baron being the gentleman he is.

The art style here is distinctly different than other Ghibli works. it's not more realistic in the way Only Yesterday was, nor is it photorealistic/super-cartoony/somewhere in between the way things were in Pom Poko. it remains as anime, but with bigger eyes and differently shaped noses. this could be due to the influence of a new director, or it could be because The Cat Returns started life as the beginnings of a short film for an amusement park (who dropped the project, which Miyazaki promptly scooped up and repurposed into this lovely piece of film.

I think all of us are happy that this beautiful movie didn't go to waste.
 
The music in this movie is rather mystical, along with most of the sound effects. it's understandable, given that the majority of the story is set in an alternate world, so i'm rather thankful it is. at the same time, though, it's very light and airy, fitting with the bright, sunny setting of the Cat Kingdom. the ending theme in particular is very cutesy and yet rather sad, playing off the bittersweet goodbyes given at the end.

Growing is done through the course of this movie.

short and sweet, the movie was clean as a whistle and clear and sharp enough as one, too. like Whisper of the Heart, there are certain things that may go over a younger viewer's head, but otherwise it's perfectly fine to show this as a follow-up (or even standalone, though I recommend watching them together). the movie received extra-positive reviews from critics, which, given its size, is even more impressive. it is available from Disney in North America and Google via torrent everywhere else.

Please be careful.

5/5

Whisper of the Heart

 
Whisper of the Heart, written by Miyazaki and directed by Kondo Yoshifumi, was released on July 15th, 1995. it was the first Ghibli film not to be directed by either Takahata or Miyazaki, and was the directorial debut of Kondo. The film was the highest grossing on the Japanese market in 1995, and received extremely positive reviews, but it would be Kondo's last major contribution, his last work being as an animation director and character designer on Princess Mononoke. Kondo would die in January of 1998 from an Aortic Aneurysm, something that inspired Miyazaki's first retirement and more relaxed working pace from then on out.
 
Do yourself a favour and don't overdo it.
 
Whisper of the Heart was based off the manga Mimi o Sumaseba (If You Listen Closely) by Hiiragi Aoi (and is also titled the same in Japanese). it follows a girl named Tsukishima Shizuku as she struggles to find some purpose in life. during this time, she writes some lyrics to the tune of the song "Country Roads" to be sung at her graduation, and tracks down a mysterious rival named Amasawa Seiji. the film is very cozy, having a sleepy sort of feel throughout the whole thing caused by the coming-of-age themes. the movie is cute and light, punctuated by rock hard determination and drive.
 
Never forget the potential you have inside.
 
I was rather excited to see Whisper of the Heart, given that I heard it was a successor of sorts to The Cat Returns, which I had seen years before. while this wasn't entirely true, it DID have some recurring characters and a slightly similar theme. even without the two being sequels, Whisper of the Heart was a joy to watch on its own. the idea of finding oneself is one explored on occasion in anime, but to have such a focused energy devoted to perusing creative fields is really heartwarming to me. you don't see many anime about a high schooler devoting herself to being a writer!
 
As easy as it is to just eat junk food when you're busy, it's important to eat well, lest you hinder your progress with your poor diet.
 
The visuals were excellent as usual, beautiful and cute throughout the film. it shows its age, but that gives it even more charm, as a cozy sort of nostalgia can sweep over you if you let it. adding another layer of depth, the movie switches between styles during certain scenes, at times coming alive with rich detail, complex lighting and vibrant colour. it gives a sharp and distinctive contrast to the other scenes (such as the difference between Shizuku's normal life and her dream sequences). it's interesting to take note of, since given its age all of this was hand-drawn (and, if you pay attention, you can sometimes tell the characters from the background as if you can see the cel in front of you). adding to the quirks, I spotted many titles and subtle nods to other Ghibli films. it became something of a game for me to try to spot the next one.
 
Showing age isn't a bad thing. It can sometimes be compared to patina on an item, in that it adds something to it.
 
Even more important than the visuals is the sound in this movie. The dub's voice acting is simple and patient, going well with the characters and their personalities. the music kicks off with a chorus singing "Country Roads" as we are introduced to the setting, and the first third is eaten up mostly by Shizuku writing new lyrics to the tune of the song. the ending is a Japanese rendition, with the lyrics being written by Miyazaki himself. why they chose "Country Roads" as the movie's theme will forever haunt me. the rest of the soundtrack has a sort of quiet, "end-of-the-day" feel to it that's very relaxing and homey. there is an element of whimsy to some of the tracks, with almost flowery melodies at times, tunes that feel as though they could carry you upward like a down feather on a breeze. it suits the film well, since while it is flighty during the dream sequences, it can also be well-grounded during some of the rougher spots.
 
Don't be surprised to hear sing-alongs.
 
Whisper of the Heart was sweet and cozy, so it'd be easy to show to any age group. it might be hard to understand at points for young viewers (anything under 10 or so), but is by no means explicit so there's nothing to fear here. it is currently distributed by Disney in North America and Madman Entertainment in Australia (not that it's hard to find on the net, though).
Always believe in yourself, even if it's just one of your ideas believing in you.

4.5/5


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pom Poko

 
Pom Poko, released July 16th, 1994, is a story of how a hoard of Tanuki (raccoon-dogs), threatened by development, fight humans to defend their ancestral home. using their transformation abilities (which, according to legend, they possess along with foxes and a select few cats), they stage various attacks against humans to try to slow and halt the destruction of their forests. eventually, they enlist the help of Tanuki from elsewhere to strengthen their efforts.
 
Because when your home is threatened, it's everyone's problem.
 
though they have lived peacefully for hundreds of years, in the mid-Showa period (1960's), a group of Tanuki are threatened as urban sprawl outside Tokyo threatens to take their home in the Tama Hills away. desperate to survive, the Tanuki begin vigorous training in the art of transformation. Shoukichi, a young Tanuki in the group, acts as the main character as he tries to keep the peace between the members of the group while also trying to protect his family and his tribe. while Shoukichi is a "main" character of sorts, the large group makes it a bit hard to focus on just one, which sort of works in the movie's favour. it gives a sense of unity and desperation, a sort of "it's us against them" mentality that adds drama to this otherwise comedic venture.
 
In addition to transforming, the Tanuki also have other powers of illusion, such as making ghosts appear or creating elements to work with, such as the gusts of wind here.
 
I had never seen Pom Poko before, and neither had the people i watched it with, so this was very interesting to see. we laughed hysterically and marveled at how odd some things among the Tanuki became. we were sad at the sad times, but mostly we just laughed and remarked over the weirdness present throughout the film (especially commenting on the "pouches" the male Tanuki possessed and transformed into some very fantastical things). despite the sad message, the movie was very lighthearted for the most part and kept us rolling with laughter with each line.
 
That's a ball sack they're riding on. I shit you not.
 
The visuals were simple but pretty, and mostly centred around the same areas (most action took place in the woods). since they were all animals, however, this was to be expected. what caught me off-guard was the various forms the Tanuki were depicted in. this stands as the only Ghibli movie with a photorealistic representation of anything, and while I understand the idea they were trying to convey, the super-real Tanuki freaked me out a little. equally weird was the super-cartoony times, which didn't come around nearly as often but still left an odd taste in my mouth. both of these accented the movie, so they were by no means out of place, but it was an interesting stylistic choice on Ghibli and Takahata's part.
 
The realism isn't always bad.
 
The dub's choice of voice actors were lovely, and suited each character well (despite the English's misuse of the word "Raccoon" rather than the more correct "Raccoon-Dog"). the soundtrack also made use of a lot of traditional instruments, leaving a sound that is distinctly Japanese. it sort of gives off a feeling of clinging to the old ways as the world around changes. this accents the movie further, giving rise to the desperate and nostalgic feel of the Tanukis' plight. the epilogue uses some piano as well as traditional flutes, leaving us with a well-rounded feeling of conclusion.
 
It has a cozier ending than you might think.
 
Overall, Pom Poko quickly rose to one of my favourite Ghibli films, and that sort of says a lot, given that they have 22 movies under their belt (of which I have seen 17). it was well-rounded, dramatic, and yet fun and light, without much to offend. for this reason, it is a great movie to show to someone of any age (though some might object to the usage of Tanuki balls). it is available from Disney in North America, and despite the english track, i can't find any other distributors out there. not that that matters, a google search will find you a torrent rather quickly.
 
THE HILLS HAVE EYESSSSS
 
5/5

Porco Rosso

 
Debuting in theatres on July 18th, 1992, Porco Rosso follows a former WWI pilot as he fights for his country, his freedom, and his lover against pirates, foreigners, and the government. originally, the film was conceived as a short in-flight film for Japan Airlines, based on Miyazaki's manga The Age of the Flying Boat (Hikōtei Jidai). over time, however, it grew into a feature-length film, with Japan Airlines remaining a major investor and showing the film in-flight long before its official release. (This is why the opening title card appears in Japanese, Italian, Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French and German.)

Girls, this is not a field trip!
 
Marco Russo, aka Porco Rosso, is a bounty hunter and former Italian WWI pilot in the Adriatic region of Europe. he is a fugitive from the Italian government in the late 1920's, during which time the Italians had turned Fascist and wanted to capture Marco for deserting the army after the war. Marco leads a free, transient lifestyle on a deserted island with his distinctive red biplane. eventually joining him in his exploits is Fio, the granddaughter of his friend and favourite engineer.
 

Hey now, just because they're ladies doesn't mean they won't do great work!
 
Perhaps it is just my love affair with everything from that era, but this movie was just a delight to me. the visuals are standard, top-notch Ghibli output, showcasing Miyazaki's adoration of old-style aircraft. and it's not limited to just Marco's plane, either, there are tons of different aircraft on display. with the flashbacks included, it shows at least 20 years' worth of planes in various colours and styles. combine that with the glistening gem known as the Adriatic Sea and its surrounding islands, and you have a love letter to a time and place long gone all wrapped up in a romanticized watercolour package. there's added fun in looking at not just the style of the planes, but the colour, as well, since Marco's not the only one with an unusually-coloured flyer.
 

Be prepared for plenty of striking visuals.
 
Equally important is the soundtrack. composed by the masterful Joe Hisaishi, it has a cozy, old-style feel, taking you back to the era of smoky lounges, cabaret singers and classic cocktails. the big-band jazz and lilting melodies of the piano give a smooth, relaxing aura to the movie, making you as at home on the skies as Marco is. you can almost sense the longing of the characters and of the era through the songs. it evokes a sort of lonely yearning that is at once bittersweet and comforting.

I didn't know Fiat could actually be, well, badass.

The dub's choice of voice actors was spot-on, though Marco was at times a little hard to hear. I suppose that comes with the "gruff, hardened noir hero" territory, but all the same, the volume tends to fluctuate a little wildly. otherwise, though, everyone and everything was perfect as usual. Fio was bright and cheery (reminded me a little of Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service, actually), Gina was at once sultry and in command, and the pirates (and the foreigner) were comedic, friendly, and filled to the brim with bravado, as they should be.

Hey, I didn't know we were in Cuba.

Porco Rosso is available from Disney in North America, and Madman Entertainment in Australia. i'm willing to bet a simple google search could scare up some torrents in any manner of languages. there is some gunfire, some fighting, and i'm pretty sure someone calls someone a bastard once or twice, so i'd recommend this for kids 10+ (since they might at least know not to repeat the words heard in the heat of the moment, ha ha).
Count on Ghibli Motors to Get You There!

5/5

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Only Yesterday

 
Only Yesterday, released July 20th, 1991, was directed by Takahata Isao and based on the manga of the same name by Okamoto Hotaru and Tone Yuko. Set in 1982, it follows a young woman named Taeko, as she takes a vacation from work in the countryside, spending her time alongside her brother-in-law's relatives doing farmwork. during this period, she recalls memories of her childhood in 1966, when she was 10.
 
Taeko leaves trails of nostalgia wherever she goes.
 
Only Yesterday stands out among the Ghibli films I've seen as the most slow-paced of them all. it is light and cozy, but a bit odd in its subject matter (there are other slice-of-life films from Studio Ghibli, but none this quiet). it swaps between past and present at random, occasionally taking breaks where Taeko muses about farm life. in between this all, a romance starts to blossom between Taeko and her host, Toshio, though it was rather hard to see through the sepia-tinted nostalgia glasses till the end. it can be confusing at times, making references that only Japanese people would really get, but for the most part the flashbacks are completely relatable to those watching (considering we've all been there during those awkward growing up years).
 
Haven't we all been there?
 
The visual style, while still recognizable as Ghibli, is different from what you'd expect from a Ghibli movie. it's much more realistic in its facial movements, making for a very interesting (if a little disconcerting) look about the characters. also in contrast to the standard Ghibli mould, the dialogue was pre-recorded (sans the flashback scenes, which were done in a more traditional style) and the faces animated to match, as was done with Akira. in a way, this contributes to the feeling of the passage of time in this movie.
 
The facial structure is much different than a typical Ghibli movie. It's even more noticeable when they laugh or smile, since more of the facial muscles are shown.
 
The soundtrack was unique, even for a Ghibli. after all, not many anime can say they've used both traditional scores, Hungarian (and Romanian) folk music, and a Japanese rendition of "The Rose". all of it accents the movie beautifully (well, having "The Rose" at the end was a little weird and even comedic), and really breathed some life into the movie when it was needed. nothing felt out of place, even when things turned Eastern European towards the end of the first third.
 
They typically reserve the Hungarian music for when they're showing off the scenery.
 
Further making this movie unique is that it stands as the only Studio Ghibli film to not be released in North America, despite Disney holding the rights to it. it DID make it to television in January 2006 as part of Turner Classic Movies' tribute to Ghibli, but has yet to be released in the US or Canada (it HAS, however, been released in Germany, Australia, and the UK). as such, it only has a Japanese audio track.
 
Perhaps it's a good thing, since I doubt they could translate this well...
 
Due to Disney never taking an interest in the movie, one would either have to import it or simply torrent it. as such, it is available from many torrent sites (I sourced it from The Pirate Bay as part of a Ghibli package). the material in the movie is really quite benign, though due to talk of puberty I would recommend this for 12+ (unless you don't mind awkward-as-hell questions from little kids). older people in particular may enjoy this movie, as it may take them back to their youth. if they don't mind subtitles, this could be a way to introduce a parent or grandparent to anime.
 
As long as they're not uber-conservative, they shouldn't mind this.
 
2.5-3/5


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ghibli Week

 
Hey-o, as a bonus for the blog's revival and the holidays upon us, next week you will be getting A WHOLE WEEK OF REVIEWS!! i've elected to do the weirder bunch of Ghibli movies (the ones everyone forgets about) in a week-long spree starting next sunday. (there'll even be a double feature on Christmas!)
 
 
look forward to it, kiddos, cause i sure am! ^^
 
 
-光

Akira

 
Akira is a 1988 film that has become a cult classic among anime fans. based on the manga of the same name, the movie cost $11 million (over $21 million today) to make and grossed $80 million ($152.8 million today). The story follows biker gang leader Kaneda Shotaro and his best friend Shima Tetsuo as the pair confront the government, revolutionaries, a group of psychic children, and Tetsuo's own descent into madness. the movie pioneered many techniques of anime that are still seen today, or are sometimes even too advanced for today.
 
They really took their time to make this movie sparkle.
 
In the year 1988, Tokyo is overtaken by a mysterious, massive explosion that levels the city and sparks World War III. By the movie's start, in 2019, no explanation for the blast was given to the public, and while the city has been rebuilt, the scars of war show themselves prominently on Neo-Tokyo's face and its people. Rough and tumble bike gangs rule the streets, one of which, the Capsules, is led by Kaneda Shotaro and his powerful red motorcycle. During the course of a fight with their rivals, the Clowns, Kaneda's right-hand-man Tetsuo is injured while avoiding a child in the street. The government carts him away to a hospital, where it is discovered that, like the boy he avoided hitting, Tetsuo possesses psychic powers. The government then detains him with plans to use him to further their goals.
 
Kiyoko, one of the psychic kids, eventually helps the main characters.
 
Akira was a rush. The animation was so fluid it was as if the action was happening right in front of your face. They achieved this ideal through the use of a massive budget, a committee of producers, and over 160,000 animation cels. The film broke the mould in this respect, and by also having pre-scored dialogue, meaning they recorded the dialogue beforehand and animated the character's faces to match. it makes for a much more expressive feel than you usually encounter in anime. with it being anime vs live action, it also had the ability to show a much more well-realized Neo-Tokyo. the colours and visuals were just stunning, even with most of the action taking place during the night or the twilight hours.
 
Really, it's just gorgeous.
 
The one place i found Akira lacking was the plot. while it was faithful for the most part to the manga (the ending being severely trimmed vs the manga's ending), the whole thing was just.....weird. Tetsuo's hallocinations, the whole thing with the inflating body parts, and even the psychic children were never fully explained, or even touched upon enough to make sense together. The explosion at the beginning is eventually detailed, but just how the psychic children angle fits together with the biker theme is rather odd, as if it was cobbled together from two different stories. the ending is the main attraction in this circus of madness, the head jewel in a crown of calamity. i actually had to read the plot on wikipedia to make sense of what i had just seen. while it was definitely interesting, it was more about fascination than true interest.
 
When in doubt, steal things from the government.
 
as with the animation, the sounds of Akira were spared no effort. the soundtrack is at once very appropriate and gripping while being very 80's in nature. you may catch yourself laughing a bit at the synthetics while at the same time being on the edge of your seat while Kaneda races around a corner on his bike. even the bike's sound was customized, being created by splicing together a 1929 Harley Davidson and a jet engine. as was previously stated, the animation was made to match the original dialogue, so while the choice of voice actors for the edition i heard (2001 Pioneer/Animaze dub) were top-notch, there were sometimes awkward moments (such as when we heard someone shout "TETSUOSHIMAAAA!!!"). still, though, each character had a great pick for his or her voice, which just accented the movie more. (plenty of nostalgic lulz were had after hearing Tai/Joe Shimamura as Tetsuo, Blackrose as Kai and Vash/Lelouch as Kaneda.)
 
No expenses were spared in the making of this bike.
 
Akira is definitely a cult classic among anime fans, due not only to its content and style, but also due to the era it was released in. one of the first series to make it over here on home video  during the early 90's, Akira was one of the reasons that anime was blacklisted among many parents/groups during that time. it was an era when cartoons were only for kids, so something as gorey, violent, and offensive as Akira came as a rude shock to those parents who rented it for their children (against video store owners' advice). as such, this movie is firmly 18+.
 
The Clowns are really a classy bunch.
 
Akira is available from many torrent sites, such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents. it is available for purchase from Funimation in North America (formerly Bandai), Madman Entertainment in Australia, and Manga Entertainment in the UK. be warned, though, if you search for Akira on TPB, be sure to include "anime" in the search bar, or else you'll get results for a Japanese porno.
 
Everyone's foreheads are so large and their eyes so close together.
 
4/5

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home

 
Released on March 30th, 2013 and taking place within the span of the main series (about 2/3 of the way in, so early fall), the movie Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home tells three self-contained tales involving various members of Kissui Inn. We see more of Ohana's mother Satsuki's past and her motivations, more of Yuina's exploits, and more of Nako's family life. Though the 3 plots have little to nothing to do with each other, they intertwine like a braid, together but separate pieces.
 
The movie starts off with a young Satsuki, though we don't come back to her plot till about 20 minutes in.
 
The first arc deals with Yuina coming to the Kissui Inn for a few days as an apprentice. Ohana is none too thrilled about this, considering Yuina's naiveté and inexperience compounding the fact that Ohana now has to train her. Despite Ohana's attempts at reining her in, Yuina flits about the inn, blundering up everything from kitchen duties (which she was never invited to in the first place) to putting something away in storage. Yuina leaves a big mess for Ohana in the storage, which leads us to...
 
Dammit, Yuina, lookit this mess Ohana has to pick up now!
 
The second arc, which deals with Satsuki, Ohana's mother. Ohana stumbles on Beanman's daily log, which she glances through, surprised to find mention of her mother. She begins reading them to glean some information about Satsuki's past, which we gain a window into as Satsuki comes of age in Yunosagi at the Inn, thinking about her future and falling in love.
 
We get to meet Ohana's dad in this movie, too. Pretty cool if you ask me.
 
The third arc springs up amidst all this chaos, and deals with Nako's increased burden due to her parents not being at home, leaving Nako with all the responsibilities of the household and looking after her 3 younger siblings. Putting strain on this, Nako's younger sister Mana has a field trip in a few days, which their mother promised to attend.
 
Why, Nako, why did you trust your kid sister with the water glass...
 
The first and third arcs by themselves seem almost like extended episodes (not helped by the fact that this movie's only an hour long anyway). Satsuki's memories are what really ties this feature together into movie status, lacing the whole epic with the same syrupy nostalgia we enjoyed in the main series. Despite this needed element, the movie feels a little less than coherent due to the shortness and lack of new material. Satsuki's past is really the only thing that counts this as separate and distinct from the main series. It was enjoyable, but for a movie, it was a bit of a letdown that it was basically a big OVA.
 
Though at first she seems inept, Yuina eventually does rise to the challenge and proves herself not a total ditz.
 
Despite what I just said, this is not bad in the slightest. On the contrary, Home Sweet Home exudes a warmth and tenderness we came to enjoy in the original series, making the dramatic moments all that more bitter. the music is still lovely, the visuals still awash with that old-timey feel, and the characters still their distinctive selves. it's as if the movie itself is filled with nostalgia, bearing that "one more time" feeling that one gets with the ending of a beloved series. i'm not sure how well that translates into a movie, but it's at once cozy and bittersweet.
 
If only the happy times could last.
 
As with the main series, Home Sweet Home keeps up the pace of semi-ecchi moments, meaning that, in line with the main series, this is good for the 15+ set. It also tells a coming of age story, but in a slightly different manner, so if you liked the series, you'll like this, too.
 
Good choice, man.
 
Home Sweet Home is available from Underwater Subs, Deadfish Encodes, Hatsuyuki Subs, Coalgirls, Rice Subs, TAO Subs (Spanish), and Liuyun (Chinese). It has been licensed by NIS America in North America.
Whodababy. >w<

4/5