Seeing as how it's been about 20 years since I last saw this anthology, I wanted to revisit it for a few reasons. Key among them being my shifts in perspective over the years and the fact that way back then I don't think I appreciated creators such as Katsuhiro Otomo, Kōji Morimoto, and Satoshi Kon as much as I do now. I recall mostly enjoying this back then, but 13-16 year me didn't really have the attention span to absorb everything the same way. Also, in the expanse of media having been spewed out over the past few decades, I believe there's a good portion of people who may not have heard of this so a spotlight never hurts.
Memories adapts three different manga by Katsuhiro Otomo, splitting up directorial and production duties for each section. They're a very a very eclectic mash-up of sci-fi horror, comedy, and dystopian industrial-fantasy, offering up a very engaging range of styles to draw in the audience.
Magnetic Rose is generally the strongest in the anthology and also stands strong in comparison with some of the most celebrated full feature anime films. Directed by Kōji Morimoto with a script by Satoshi Kon, this chapter also features composer Yoko Kanno's (Cowboy Bebop) predilection towards jazz and opera music to enhance the entire atmosphere. It's an incredibly tight and concise story, wasting n
The story follows a deep space salvage team that's tracking a distress signal. As they get closer to it they discover a spaceship graveyard that surrounds an odd space station. As they explore the station they discover a vast and grandiose interior dedicated to an opera diva who disappeared years ago. Delving deeper into the station they encounter stranger and stranger things, discovering the station to be haunted in an odd fashion. The story manages to get a lot of tone and concept into it's trim 45 minute run time, including the only real play on the theme of memory among the three chapters.
Stink Bomb is such a tonal shift from the previous chapter that I imagine it may be the least liked among the trio, but I love it for its embrace of its own random weirdness. It also has the odd distinction of loosely pulling its concept from the real story of the death of Gloria Ramirez.
The story follows a sad sack lab technician who decides to go into work one day despite fighting the flu. He partakes in some pills he believes may be of help but unbeknownst to him they are part of a biological weapon program. They react to the flu shot he just had and in turn he slowly starts to emit a noxious smell that kills all those around him. As he attempts to flee he spreads the toxic cloud, forcing the hand of the military to try and eradicate him every step of the way as he slowly approaches Tokyo.
It's not the deepest of concepts, but they have so much fun with it as they lob every weapon at the poor schmuck as he drags a stink cloud of death behind him. It's great.
The final chapter, Cannon Fodder, is the most conceptually artistic of the three as it revolves around a city made entirely for war and the poor working class citizens that keep it running. Directed and written by Otomo, its focus is more on establishing the unique visuals of this world and offering some minor social commentary about class struggles and war then on telling a straight story with a plot. It's also interesting for its editing as it's cut in such a way that makes it feel like one continual take.
For the most part it almost feels like a documentary about life in this world where the people don't even know what enemy they are even fighting anymore. While we are given one family unit to follow, they are essentially hollowed out humans as they live to serve the state. At no real point are they allowed the luxury of personality or any emotion that might really draw us in to their specific story. In a way it feels like watching a nature video observing a poor animal being consumed (although in this case spiritually), and we just have to sit through it to learn something.
It does an amazing job of offering a beautiful vision of something that's inherently ugly.
A lot of this rewatch was for nostalgic purposes, but as I was hoping I was able to take a lot more out of each chapter this time around. From being able to appreciate the tight storytelling skills in Magnetic Rose, to learning more of the background and loving the embrace of chaos in Stink Bomb, and finally to the distinctive flow and visual development of a world as concept in Cannon Fodder, each chapter offers up a unique enjoyment.
If you're in the mood for some standalone short movies and don't really want to commit to a longer anime series then I definitely recommend checking this out. At the very least watch Magnetic Rose to watch a master class in storytelling, and more importantly to understand that you can get a lot of content in a small package without having to suffer through a two and a half hour movie that wants you to think that it's giving you a lot of content.