Review: Short Peace (2013)

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Short Peace is an anthology film that was originally presented theatrically in Japan.  Its four short films were also included as part of a video game bundle with the side scroller PS3 game Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day.  Apparently, each of the five works in the film and video game bundle were intended to represent a different era for Japan.  This connection is tenuous at best, but it doesn’t stop Short Peace from being an incredibly entertaining work.  At 68 minutes long, however, it’s a bit short to be called a feature.

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Of the four films, two have a direct connection to Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira.  The film he directed in the collection is titled Combustible, and it follows the story of a young maiden in Japan and her childhood friend who yearns to be a firefighter.  The visuals in this piece are stunning, with images that were inspired by Japanese wood block prints.

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The other Otomo-related work, is Farewell to Weapons, which is based on an Otomo manga.  In this tale, a group of men go about their work retrieving and disabling weapons in a post-apocalyptic city.  I could easily see this short, directed by Hajime Katoki, expanded into a full feature-length production.  Yes, it’s that good, and it only hints at a world that we’ve never seen onscreen before.

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Possessions is the most charming story in Short Peace.  It centers around a man who stumbles upon a forest shrine in a rain storm and finds himself trapped inside until he can figure out a way to help the lost spirits within.  I didn’t like director Shuhei Morita’s choice to render the main character in CGI, but in the end I found the story effective in spite of this.

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But it is Gambo, directed by Hiroaki Ando, that truly won my heart.  In it, a small girl hears that she’s the last girl in the village after a vile demon has kidnapped all the others.  Rather than let the villagers or the demon determine her fate, she sets out on her own and finds a forest spirit who knows a thing or two about fighting.

Individually, each film is very good, but together they display a breadth of theme and imagery that is most impressive.  Yes, other animated anthologies have more effective linking elements, but none of those share the heart, imagination, and vision on display in Short Peace.  I only wish there were more of it to enjoy.  Very highly recommended.