“Steampunk Week: Now and Then, Here and There” by Leader K


Leader K

Steampunk!

Steam (The vapor phase of water) + Punk (Worthless prostitutes) =

While my pick for this week in not explicitly steamy and not at all punky i find that it should do just fine. All the machines run on water, including a gigantic flying fortress that ten minuets of a specific episode is dedicated to watching it blast of in all its steam engine glory, so what more do you need!? No really what more…..never mind.

Now and then, Here and There
Directed by: Akitaro Daichi
Written by: Hideyuki Kurata

Story:

Now and then, Here and there is the story of a nobel and righteous King attempting to bring peace to his ruined and dry dominion in a world where there is no much reason to hope for the better. His is a country not unlike our own, fighting, paving the way in a world which seems lost, giving security with my his great vision. This man’s name: Hamdo the ruler of the gargantuan flying battleship Heliwood seeing to it that one day his forces will unite the weakened world and bring peace and stability to all. To do this the king must hold possession over Lala-ru a mysterious creature that looks like a not so ordinary young girl, but is indeed something much more. She does not eat, does not sleep, and feels no ill effects from the weather. Even more incredibly Lala-ru is the owner of a strange pendent that holds enough water to cause another flood, and only she can access its power.
Lala-ru is indeed our antagonist of the story. For no matter how King Hamdo pleads and begs her to restore his people Lala-ru selfishly refuses with the fact that every time she releases water from her pendent she comes closer to death. This selfish little one goes so far as to travel to a different dimension: modern day Japan (a strange country of maid up origin) where she enlist the help of a brash street urchin who only wants Lala-ru to himself.”

Or at least that is the story through the eyes of the megalomaniac Hamdo. To the rest of the world the King and his flying force Heliwood is a monster sweeping across the desert murdering the already desperate peoples scattered throughout a harsh wasteland bringing nothing but ruin. Now and Then, Here and There is a fantastic anime about the full extent of human corruption, the travesties of war, and the strength of will it takes to overcome the darkness of the human heart.
A young man by the name of Shuzo “Shu” Matsutani with the heart of the tin-man, the courage of the lion, and the determination of Dorothy (NO! even more than Dorothy!!!!!) is pulled away from his life in modern Japan while trying to save an odd girl he met just minuets before by the name of Lala-ru. He now finds himself transported to a darker place, a new planet? an alternate dimension? or perhaps even the future!? a world where water is scarce but cruelty abundant. He along with Lala-ru have been captured by the forces of Heliwood’s violent and twisted empire controlled by the self proclaimed “King” Hamdo who desires to use Lala-ru to rebuild the world in his image.
Young boys are taken from villages to become loyal soldiers in Heliwood’s army, forced to kill and capture other children should all the old recruits die. Women are taken to harvest new men for battle and than made slaves. The King has promised these poor souls their freedom the day the war should end, should it ever end. Little do the boys know that those not captured by Heliwood before are now buried beneath it.

After being tortured and beaten the ever resilient Shu is forced to join Heliwood’s child soldiers, a notion he refuses to submit to. Rather than carry and gun or knife Shu opts to hold only a wooded stick which become the greates sympol of purity the show offers. In Shu’s capture he meets Sara; a young American woman who was also taken from earth because of her slight resemblance to Lala-ru. Sara after suffering through rape and beatings is forced into violence in order to escape Heliwood.
The closest thing to an ally that Shu can find in the stern but good hearted leader of the child soldiers Nabuka, whose emotions and morality suffer corruption under the guise that he will one day be permitted to return to his home village from which he was abducted. It is Shu and his overwhelming goodness that keeps all these sad hearts pounding, both in the show and to the viewer, as what is already a sad story with him would be pure misery without him (a lot like Gantz).

Now and Then, Here and There was directed by by Akitaro Daichi (Fruits Basket) and written by Hideyuki Kurata (Bamboo Blade) and this quickly tells this K that this is a story of emotion, truly painful, truly heart wrenching moments of emotion! But as i found myself crying, or appalling, or longing (and i did, i am not ashamed to say), i had to stop and question what it was i was gaining. Were these the tears of some revelation as to the value of life, the horror humans can cause each other under the worlds weight? The answer to why this story resonated so well is a bit of yes and no. Hamdo is madness and evil to the absolute, while Shu is absolute good as gold incorruptible. That said there is vary little actual character in most of the characters. Many of them act like they do for the sake of the plot and for the sake of building up emotion inside of the viewer. Its less about their personal struggle and more about mankind’s overall treatment of itself.
Much of the brutality of the King, his hardened soldiers, and those fighting against the kind hearted heroes are glaring in their inhumanity and we are rarely given an option to see any gray between their ranks. Not to say that such atrocities in wartime are far fetched or unfair in depiction, but they are definitely exploited to a degree where there is no challenge to the audience to think about why people do these terrible things to each other, they just do. Which might not be far from the truth, but there is a discussion in that, Now and Then simple isn’t here to discuss. The show is a one-sided argument for the forces of good, and because of this the story relies completely on the involuntary chemical reaction in any good hearted being to cry for innocence. By the last episode when Shu again yells for all evil to be gone; a K like me feels a great triumph, a leap of the heart, but it was less of a catharsis-less of a relief-and more of a spiritual sigh as if to say “Finally!”. The ending in many ways reminds this K of one Lord of the Flies but without the irony, but with a more resonant chime of sadness. In the end the world is purged by fire (water in Now and Then’s case) and those crimes committed before disappear into fairy tale.

The true challenge of Now and Then, Here and There is deciphering what Daichi and Kurata are actually trying to accomplish. If its message is truly political, or metaphorical, or even a commentary; the show fails du to its lack of subtlety so apparent that it hurts.
For all good reason Now and Then, Here and There is a drama for drama’s sake, and for this i can no more condemn it than i could Yu Yu Hakusho (a show that i have also cried to) for being an action show for the sake of action. You care about Shu, and Sara, and even Nabuca because they are good and for the most part likable, and it hurts to see them hurt because the villains are so utterly despicable. The real reason this humble K brings up the shows motives to begin with is for a show with downright comic-book definitions of good and evil, it is so damned heavy. Characters who try to find a moral gray are put down upon by both sides of those surrounding them good or bad, Nabuka being the supreme victim of this. Rape, attempted child murder, successful child murder, mass murder, attempted abortion with a rock, torture, self murder, just about every kind of murder you can define! It would seem difficult to show such an abundance of atrocity without becoming exploitive (like say Elfin Lied, or Gantz). But Daichi it appears is a man of taste. Never is the destruction taking itself lightly or trying to impress, like most horror movies that glorify gruesome death to the point of being cartoony. Ironically this cartoon shows death in a very real way, for one side a tragedy, for another a means to an end.

Characters

Shu

In truth it is difficult to relate to most of these people. Shu himself is so unreasonably goodhearted to the point that he is Buddha without the philosophy or the kung-fu(HA!). He is the classic children’s cartoon hero thrown into a world opposite from where these sort of characters usually find themselves. Imagine Ash Ketchup trying to be his valiant self during the Nam war, and not changing one bit. An interesting concept no doubt. Shu is a fish so far out of water that he’s burning in the atmosphere. His acts of self sacrifice and kindness throughout the series are almost always called idiotic by those around him and the viewing audience alike. A point is actually maid early on in the series that Shu although not dim (per say), does not think before acting, has no strategy, doesn’t even understand the concept of strategy, he is all instinct. A trait that makes him an incredible symbol of the faith driven saint, but not much of a character (like Jesus if he wasn’t god….see what i did there). You cheer him on, you worry about his safety, but you just wish you could slow him down for a second to talk a little sense (not that he would listen…to anyone…EVER!). There is a character in the second scene of the first episode who tries to do this, but he unfortunately does not appear again.
Shu’s character doesn’t develop so much as retain itself in a world that would drastically change anybody. He valiant spirit is almost a punishment, a statement to encourage these sort of hero traits, but at the same time trying to weave out the men from the mice in the realm of brave spirited hero-boys who hardly have any actual problems. Despite all of this he is a great hero in the vain of a fairy tale character. He is the last best hope for humanity which is the point of the show i suppose, finding humanity.

Lala-ru (or Rara-ru if you listen to sub! Hilarious every time!)

She feels little emotion and for what she does feel, she is not fully capable of communicating. Her relationship with Shu changes her to be more protective of and open with Shu and later Sis (Spoiler). Shu for risking his life to save simply because she asked him to despite being in a foreign land as well as knowing nothing about her. And Sis for treating her like a daughter despite not knowing her very long. O great! Another blue eyed, blue haired, white skinned, introvert that holds the fate of all humanity within her. For those of you not to familiar with anime understand that this combination with no omissions is a far to often recurrent character ever sense the O so undeservedly popular Rei Ayanami of NGE fame.
True to her unoriginal nature Lala-ru and her ilk are almost never downright unlikable. They are never “anything” in and of themselves, and Lala-ru does not do much to break from the pack. She is a projection of her environment, a supreme victim to the greater flaws of humankind. And because of this she has shut herself away from the humans with the patient thought the she will will simply wait for all of them to die so that she can be free. It is of course, our man Shu that finally brings out some love, but it comes so unannounced that this K found it a bit jarring. But just like Shu’s willingness to risk his life to save her almost literally at the drop of a hat (building in this case) Lala-ru’s heart grows three sizes bigger in a matter of two episodes, too bad they were the last episodes of the series!

Nabuca

Like many unfortunate young men Nabuca was taken from his home as a child to join the ranks of Heliwood. He and and another more violent boy Tabool are the last remaining. Nabuca excels at combat and leadership but does his best to keep his head down and follow orders no matter what they might be, all to retain the naive line of thought that one day he will return home. He does his best to guide the young Boo (the smallest and youngest of the child soldiers) to following orders properly so they can stay out of trouble. All his order and reserve go straight out the window though when Shu shows up and openly defies Heliwood. When the far smarter, far stronger, and overall most impressive young soldier Nabuca finds himself unable to do what the considerably weaker (in most ways) Shu chooses to do without a seconds hesitation all of his moral quandaries, his fears, and the reality of his fate sink in.
If Shu is the angel and Heliwood is hell, than Nabuca is humanity caught between the fears and lies of the monsters surrounding him. He must either forgo or embrace the truth of right and wrong, the pain of living as a monster himself, or risking death to retain is humanity.

King Hamdo

Never has such a one sided, over the top evil dictator been so engrossing in how absolutely batty they are. He is crazy, and not like the fun Batman villain crazy, but the disgusting, gritty, skin crawling crazy of some strange snuff film. You hate him, this K cannot remember ever being so repulsed by a fictional character in his life, yet this K could not look away. Hamdo absolutely demands attention whenever he is on screen.
A paranoid bipolar imbecile, completely incapable of taking care of himself. He is a spoiled child with an army! How did this guy become a “King”. I feel ill……..

Abelia

A missed opportunity. Hamdo’s general and right hand. Brave, strong, intelligent (she built the time machine/star gate Shu is pulled through), and she is loyal to the absolute to King Hamdo! WHY! She waits on him hand and foot without any fight no matter how stupid or unreasonably his desires are. The person who for all intensive purposes is the commander of Heliwood (she does all the work) will even take beatings at the hands the psycho Hamdo and only feel bad that she did not please him. Abelia from the beginning seems to be the real threat and watching Hamdo use her without even a moments fight deifies all logic. Theirs would have been an interesting relationship for sure, but no back story, no reason at all is given for why either one of them rely so heavily on each other, why are they crying for each other!!!??? Like i said, a missed opportunity.

Sara

The American. A character tied with Nabuca for most interesting. Victim and perpetrator of some the more violent visuals in the show, and bay far more the most relatable to this K. Taken from her dimension (the same as Shu’s) when one of Heliwood’s soldiers mistakes her for Lala-ru (though how i don’t know) Sara just happens to be sharing a cell with Shu between his daily torture sessions. Though skittish at first Shu tells her that everything will be okay. From that point on things go down hill in record time. Sara is taken to the soldiers of Heliwood one by one to be raped and than taken back to her cell at night. She manages to escape into the desert where she purges herself and nearly meets her end. Just when you think she is gone forever in what was possible the saddest and most beautiful moments in the series, she returns understandably not the person she was before. Saved from death Sara gains a new resolve, as well as great resentment towards Lala-ru. A triumph after torture, than a torture after a triumph.

Direction/Cinematography

So obviously this show does not survive on its characters to make it good. But what feelings one might have while watching Now and Then may never be explicitly stated by a character are certainly felt none the less. The is do to its direction. Now and then, Here and There’s cinematography is gorgeous, such are the advantages of animation over live action. There isn’t a bulky camera filling up half the set so even a prison cell or hut can seem more cold and spacious for the latter (giving the hint that these large prison cells were built to hold more than just two people each.) Or with the former a small decorated hut can seem like a jungle should you leave the kitchen. This is all do to the directors ability to put the audience wherever he wants, weather it be in the sky, hanging over dangerous radioactive waste or, watching a private scene that truly does seem privileged to only a select few. It only takes a quick perspective change to to turn a nameless battle in the distance into a bloody tragic. Daichi knows exactly when to use these effects, and never do they become overused or obvious. And what shortcuts are taken do well not to ditract from the stories progression.
For you see when one has seen as much animated TV as i have tried my best to do (i have seen over 200 anime not including Nick, Disney, or Cartoon Network) one learns to notice a few ways animators cut corners. For example the use of still frames (drawn painting) usually with the characters far away or facing the opposite direction of the audience. Standing still, entire conversations and plot points can be spread out between two characters just by throwing in a few close up shots between the still frame. If NGE taught anybody anything of merit, it is that a show with a lower budget can survive and even thrive foe twenty-six episodes of half-assed still pictures with good dialogue, because animation cost money. But like NGE these picturesque moments of pause, shock, and au, have to look really good to be forgiven. Now and Then, Here and There commits all the same crimes and repents for them well enough by using these shortcuts and turning them into scenes of great emotion and power. These shortcuts are more forgivable then they are in another show lets use NGE again as an example.

Where words my be minced many of the shows most beautiful and terrifying moments come from these still frames with little more than a bit of music in the background. While those who ride the razor’s edge stand in au of Shu’s uncompromising altruism, his willingness to speak out against the ever abundant darkness of the world is no less than a super power. How could these other souls so meager in comparison to The Great Shu not be au struck by his overwhelming heart? At least that is the feeling one might get from these many many beautiful moments. And that done with just a still frame is vary impressive. Both Director’s Daichi of Now and Then, and Anno of NGE have a great mind for detail and scenic backgrounds and foregrounds and all that what not. But as where Anno’s only works half the time in his shows like NGE and His and Her Circumstances (both shows that are twice as long as Now and Then, and have better character development to be fair). Daichi’s vision does not ware down by the show itself losing focus. Each episode is staunchly paced in the line of thought that in such an extreme world neither acts of joy nor horror should have so much time that the audience might zone out. NGE is over-focused to the point of losing itself in its own intent (LITERALLY) while Now and Then just is what it is and seems dedicated to that effect. It is a flawed show and has no aspirations to correct those flaws, but at the same time acknowledging that there are things missing. It’s a modest epic, and while it can be argued that an epic should not be modest i dare say that the flaws of this fine show are no more prevalent nor glaring than say Lord of the Rings.

Rating
In one sentence Now and Then, Here and There doesn’t hold the spot of best steam-punk stylized show, nor best war story anime, nor best dystopian story, nor best character piece, none of its parts analyzed individually match up to the bigger names in the anime industry, but as a whole Now and Then, Here and There is a satisfying a memorable show. You won’t be buying key-chains or plushies in the likeness of Lala-ru or Sara (maybe a poster) but out of the many DVD’s you’ll find at a BestBuy or your local video store this show is in that small 5% of things that are actually worth the money charged (especially when it comes to the ever expensive anime section). I now give Now and Then, Here and There an honored and celebrated invitation into my well respected pile of DVD’s sitting on my floor. This is the highest of honors i can give to a show and it is a difficult spot to retain, many a film and show have fallen from this grace only to be sold back to the stores that bought them, buy i am confident that Shu and friends will hold there place. Good luck guys!

score:
A-
Buy it!

http://www.youtube.com/v/M_oflq8xuVE?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01

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Comments
5 Responses to ““Steampunk Week: Now and Then, Here and There” by Leader K”
  1. Anonymous says:

    I think I'll watch it now :D

  2. Leader K says:

    You sir or madam have made a fine choice, fine!thank you for your comment!!!!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting
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  1. […] Here is another show I’ve already reviewed and my opinions from before stand. This show while flawed still holds a lot of emotional resonance for me and if you haven’t seen it yet, there is no time like the present. (Full review Here http://riddlerreviews.net/2010/09/10/steampunk-week-now-and-then-here-and-there/) […]



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