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Reel Anime 2012 – the best of Japanese animation

THE ultimate Japanese animation festival Reel Anime returns to Australian screens this September. Grace Yew tells you more about the films on show. 

Anime lovers have a lot to look forward to at this year’s Reel Anime festival. Featuring a carefully curated compilation of 2D masterpieces, the biennial extravaganza looks ready to beat the success of its 2008 and 2010 predecessors.

From critically acclaimed epics to sleeper hits, Reel Anime 2012 will have something for everyone to enjoy, be they genre devotees or casual viewers.

Ardent fans need not worry: in order to maintain the nuances of the original language, all films will be screened at selected cinemas across Australia in Japanese – with English subtitles.

From Up on Poppy Hill (Studio Ghibli)

This high school love story is set in post-war Yokohama, just before the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Poppy Hill hits all the right emotional beats as it explores the themes of love, loss of innocence, and the struggle to balance modern prosperity with traditional culture.

The film was produced by “Disney of the East” Studio Ghibli, the Academy Award-winning maker of mythic masterpieces Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Arrietty. From Up On Poppy Hill stays true to Ghbili’s style, featuring its trademark engaging characters and rich animation.

The movie’s director Goro Miyazaki, whose previous works include 2006′s Tales from Earthsea, also leaves his mark. The ex-construction consultant applies his talent in design and landscaping to Poppy Hill‘s lush scenery.

Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda)

Wolf Children tells the story of  brother and sister, Yuki (Snow) and Ame (Rain). Their family lives happily but harbours a dark secret – the children’s father is a “Wolf-Man”, half human and half wolf, whose affliction has been passed on to his children. When he dies, their mother Hana relocates the children to a rural town, where they are confronted with life-changing choices.

An art college graduate, visionary director Mamoru Hosoda debuted in 2006 with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. The film won a slew of Japanese and international awards, including “Animation of the Year” at the Japan Academy Prizes. Summer Wars, 2009′s contemporary sci-fi, earned him further acclaim and even more awards, including the Japan Academy Prizes, the Stiges Film Festival and an Annie Award.

Berserk – The Egg of the King (Studio 4ºC)

Based on Kentaro Miura’s bestselling manga series, this first instalment of The Golden Age Arc trilogy is an epic adventure in a dark, European-inspired medieval world. Guts, a lone mercenary and unmatched warrior, sets out to become the “Black Swordsman”. He is then is recruited into a group of mercenaries, but later begins to question the organisation’s true purposes.

Under the direction of Studio 4ºC, the Berserk franchise takes on an exciting new direction. The studio is famous for award-winning original features such as Mind Game and Tekkonkinkreet. Additionally, they’ve provided creative shorts for Batman anthology Gotham Knight, video game blockbuster Halo Legends, and The Matrix’s animated tie-in, The Animatrix.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (Makoto Shinkai)

Old-school fantasy Children Who Chase Lost Voices features Makoto Shinkai’s characteristic breathtaking visuals complementing the existential questions his script poses. The movie follows the story of school girl Asuna. After a mysterious stranger dies saving her from a monster, she journeys into a legendary world to see her deceased loved ones again.

A bit about Shinkai: the Nagano native and cult director debuted in 2002 with his independent film, Voices of a Distant Star. The film won a number of national awards, and was quickly followed by The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004) and 5 Centimeters per Second (2007). His style is defined by melancholic expressions and a uniquely DIY approach to creating imagery.

Reel Anime will be playing from September 13–26 at Cinema Nova, 380 Lygon Street. For more information visit their website.

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