Well, the decade of the 2000’s have left us and now it’s time to reflect on the anime series and films that given us so much enjoyment over these last ten years. So, in this first post I’ll be listing what I feel are my top ten anime films of the past decade. When I first started working on this list I thought it would be a pretty difficult process but the movie list turned out to be pretty easy because cream raises to the top and I feel the cream was pretty easy to spot.

#10     Card Captor Sakura Movie 2 (2000)

       For lovers of Cardcaptor Sakura, and the magic girl genre in general, there was no greater movie treat than the sealed card movie. This film featured top notch animation, a great story, good music, and the beloved cast from Cardcaptor Sakura. The cherry on top of this great cake is that Sakura is finally able to come to terms with, and communicate her true feelings for Syaoran. 

 

#9      Voices of a Distant Star (2002)

      A short 25 minute in length movie created, directed, produced, and animated entirely by Shinaki Makoto on his Macintosh computer. Makoto and his girlfriend also provided the voices for the two main characters. This small film is a beautiful meditation on love and how it’s affected by the time and the distance of separation caused by war.

       “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” Orson Welles

 

#8        5cm per Second (2007)

      This film by Shinaki Makoto is a must see for anyone who loves a good romance or drama, it has it all, great animation, great story, and great dialogue. This film demonstrates more quality in its 90 minutes than other anime do in 100 episodes.

       This film is another meditation on first loves, distance and separation, and features the relationship between Takaki and Akira featuring the concept of mono no aware, which is often translated to mean the Ah-ness of things, or the sadness of all things. Meaning that Takaki and Akari love is extremely sweet, and sad at the same time, just like the cherry blossoms, while beautiful and awe inspiring, they only last a short time. Short but sweet, with just a little taste of bitterness and pain, just like teenage love, while that love may not be the one to last a lifetime, you’ll always remember it.

 

#7        The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)

       Another Shinaki Makoto film set in an alternate reality Japan where the country is divided with the south being protected by the United Sates and the northern part being controlled by the Soviet Union, and features the relationship and childhood promises made between childhood friends Takuya and Hiroki, and a girl named Sayuri. After Sayuri disappears each boy takes a different path, but years later each boy must come to terms with their loyalties and decide whether or not they need to honor a promise they made to Sayuri years ago.

 

#6       Cowboy Bebop, the movie (2001)

       As a great lover of the Cowboy Bebop series, this film was just like a Cowboy Bebop episode with the exception that it was bigger, better, and more bad assed than even, enough said.

 

#5       Metropolis, the Movie (2001)

       Metropolis is an anime based on Osamu Tezuka’s manga with influences from the German film of the same name.  This film was directed by Rintaro, with Akira’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo doing the script writing. This film is a great work of creative art and has some of the best animation I’ve ever seen, and is a must see for any fan of film.

 

 #4      The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

       This film is a very touching human tale of friendship, love, and learning to grow up. The film is also a cautionary about the lure of changing the future, and all the unintended consequences that those decisions entail.

 

#3        Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

       The plot of Tokyo Godfathers revolves around three homeless people finding a newborn baby in the trash on Christmas Eve and their quest to find the baby’s parents. Throughout the trio’s quest to return the baby to its parents we come to learn about each of the homeless person’s background. This film is a tale of miscommunications, regrets, and ultimately, a tale of the search individual redemption.

 

#2       Millennium Actress (2001)

        A film within a film, Millennium Actress is the story of a film director named Genya working on docutmary film about a famous aging actress named Chiyoko. While interviewing Chiyoko, the director slowly gets Chiyoko to reveal her life story to the audience, and that story is told in the form of flashbacks using famous moments of Japanese history and filmmaking. This movie is for those who love storytelling at its finest, compare to Cinema Paradiso.

 

 #1     Spirited Away (2001)

       Spirited Away begins with the simple premise of a ten year old socially withdrawn girl named Chihiro getting sucked into an Alice in Wonderland type of adventure in an attempt to save her parents and regain her identity, and takes us on an adventure of visual and emotional wonder. Many, including me consider this film to be Hayao Miyazaki’s masterwork, while many non-Japanese enjoy and appreciate anime, this film made many people not familiar with the art form stop and take notice. All, I can say is that if you haven’t seen Spirited Away then you haven’t seen anime.

       If you think I’m over stating Spirited Away’s  impact or power, here’s a list of where respected critics and magazines have placed Spirited Away in their best films of the decade lists (these lists include all films, not just animated features).

#8 Spirited Away (Film School Rejects)

#21 Spirited Away (Film Comment)

#22 Spirited Away (Cinematical)

#4 Spirited Away (The Hurst Review)

#3 Spirited Away (Jeff Meyers, editor Metromode)

#2 Spirited Away (Vanity Fair)

Borrowed from the Vanity Fair review.

        “You may have a noticed surprising absence of Pixar work on this list despite the fact that no company has made more money, impressed more critics, and pleased more audiences than the bastard love child of Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. True, each Pixar film is a gem in its own right, and it’s widely rumored that the devil has gross points on Lasseter’s soul. However, if you’re talking animation with an unparalleled power to provoke pure wonder and wide-eyed enchantment, even Lasseter would gladly bow down to Hayao Miyazaki. Watching this film is not only to feel like a child again, it’s to dream like a child again.”

For my ninth post in the “12 moments of anime 2009” series I’m choosing my experience seeing Ponyo at real movie theater.

        While I have seen thousands of episode of anime and over 100 hundred anime films seldom do I get to view anime films the way they’re meant to be seen, in a real movie theater. Over my long years of anime viewing I’ve seen anime films, and for the most part I’ve viewed these films at anime club, or watched these films from VHS tape or DVD at my house. While these viewing methods are great when it’s the only viable viewing method available a movie is really meant to be viewed and experienced on the big screen.

        Over the years, I’ve only had the good fortune to see a couple of anime films in full theater glory and I have to say that you can tell the difference between watching a film in the theater vs the best home movie equipment. So, this past August I had the pleasure watching Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on the Cliff AKA Ponyo at a Digital Cinema movie theater.

        Seeing Ponyo in the theater reaffirmed just how good anime films can be when you watch them as they were intended to be seen, and made me wonder how much more I would had loved 5 Centimeters Per Second & The Place Promised in Our Early Days if I would have had a similar viewing experience.

As I was skimming the AnimeNation news blog I spotted a bit of wonderful news; Isao Takahata , legendary anime director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli will make “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”, (AKA Taketori Monogatari, or Kaguya Hime no Monogatari) his next film.

The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter or  Kaguya Hime no Monogatari is one of Japan’s oldest and most beloved fairy tale. The first written reference of this tale that I can find comes from the Konjaku Monogatarishū AKA “Tales from the past”, a collection of myths from Japan’s distant past written around the 12th century. Since the tale of Princess Kaguya is one Japan’s most beloved fairy tales/myths is been referenced in so many anime and manga it’s almost too many to count. Because this tale probably was transmitted orally before it was put to written word several different versions, both long and short exist. Below, I’ll give a a quick telling of my favorite version.

Tale of the Bamboo Princess

The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter

“Once upon a time” (my words),

       There lived a poor bamboo cutter who was one day cutting bamboo in his fields when he beheld a wondrous light, bending down to have a closer look he saw a beautiful creature in the heart of the reed, the girl was only four inches tall. The bamboo cutter picked the small girl up and took her home to his wife, and together they raised her in a small basket. As the days went by, every time the cutter returned to his fields to do his cutting work he found gold, and soon the cutter and his wife became very rich.

       After a period of only three months the girl grew from her small stature to a fully grown maid, the most beautiful maid in the whole land. When the bamboo cutter decided to name his daughter her held a feast and named her Lady Kaguya or (Precious Slender Bamboo of the Field of Autumn). As the story of Lady Kaguya’s beauty spread throughout the land many suitors showed up at the bamboo cutter’s house attempting to win her love. After a long period of time all but five of the men went home and finally the remaining five men (all Noblemen) asked the bamboo cutter to bestow his daughter to one of them, to which, he replied that since Lady Kaguya really wasn’t his real daughter she wasn’t required to follow his wishes. Even thought the five men eventually went home they still kept asking the bamboo cutter for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

         The bamboo cutter soon became bothered by the men’s demands for his daughter’s hand and he went to her and said it would be fitting for such a handsome and fair maid to marry one of the noblemen, to which, she replied that I’m not so fair to be able to trust myself to choose marriage to an untested heart. So, it was soon arranged that all five noblemen were summoned before Lady Kaguya and each nobleman was be given a difficult task to complete, and the one that succeeded would marry Lady Kaguya.

      The first nobleman, Prince Ishizukuri, was told to travel to northern India and bring back the stone beggar bowl that the Buddha himself had used. The second nobleman, Prince Kuramochi, was told to travel to a mountain named Horai where a tree grows that has silver roots, a golden trunk, and bears fruit of pure white jade and bring back a branch. The third nobleman, Sadaijin Dainagon, was told to find and have fashioned a robe made of the pelts of flame proof rats for Lady Kaguya. The fourth nobleman, Chiunagon, was told to bring back the rainbow hued jewel that’s hidden inside a dragon’s head. The fifth and final nobleman, lord Iso, was told to find and return with the cowry-shell that the swallow carries over the sea plain.

        The noblemen departed to complete their tasks, and over the course of several years either tried to fake, steal, or just plain failed to complete their assigned tasks and Lady Kaguya rejected all five of the noblemen. Soon the news of Lady Kaguya’s beauty eventually reached the Mikado (Emperor of Japan) so he sent one of his palace ladies to meet with, and report back to him everything about Lady Kaguya, but Lady Kaguya refused to meet with her. The Mikado soon sends for the bamboo cutter and his daughter to report to the palace with the reward of a noble title to be awarded to the bamboo cutter. After talking with his daughter, Lady Kaguya tells her father that if she’s forced to his house she’ll die, so the price of his nobility will be his daughter’s life. The bamboo cutter travels to the palace and tells the Mikado of his daughter decision, and the Mikado is so interested in seeing Lady Kaguya that he arranges a royal hunt so he can stop by for a visit the bamboo cutter’s house.

        When the Mikado enters the bamboo cutter’s house he sees a wondrous light and finds its source is Lady Kaguya, as he gets a glimpse of her face she disappears. Knowing that Lady Kaguya is no mortal woman he begs for her to return, and she does. The Mikado pleads his love for Lady Kaguya, but Lady Kaguya tells him that she must remain at this house, so the Mikado departs in sadness. In the seventh month of the third year after the royal visit, Lady Kaguya looks upon the full moon with sadness and pain, and Lady Kaguya tells her father that the sight of the moon causes her to reflect on the sadness of the world. The next month, Lady Kaguya tells her maids that she’s no mortal woman but was born in the palace of the moon kingdom, and will soon leave this world and depart for her birthplace. . When the bamboo cutter finds out that his daughter would soon depart he becomes angry and informs the Mikado, who sends a whole company to prevent her departure.

     On the night of the next full moon, a great cloud descends from the moon bringing with it a great host of moon-folk, and a glorious carriage. The troop of soldiers tries to prevent the moon-folk from landing but all their arrows miss the mark, and the leader of the moon-folk orders the bamboo cutter to bring forth Lady Kaguya, the power of his command opens all the locked doors, and Lady Kaguya comes forth. The commander tells Lady Kaguya that it’s time to leave this sorry world, and just as she’s about to depart she hands the bamboo cutter a scroll which says that she’s sorry for causing him pain and that if she was born to this world she would have not caused her father pain. Lady Kaguya also says that because her father loved her so well, she’ll leave behind her silken mantle as a memorial so he can gaze upon it when the moon shines and he can remember his daughter.

    Then the moon-folk bring forward a coffer that contains a Celestial Robe of Feathers and a small portion of the Elixir of Life, and after Lady Kaguya drinks some of the Elixir of life the moon-folk   attempt to place the Robe of Feathers over her back but she stops them. She tells the moon-folk that she still has something to do; Lady Kaguya proceeds to write a message to the Mikado, and she gives the scroll and the remaining Elixir of Life to the troop commander. Once Lady Kaguya places the Robe of Feathers over her back all her memories of the mortal world are erased and she departs with the moon-folk to return to the moon.

        The message to the Mikado says that while he desired to be with her, it was not permitted to be, and that basically she wanted to be with him but she was forbidden to do so, and that caused great pain to her heart, so she’s sorry.

       After the Mikado read the letter his heart was so overcome with sadness that he ordered his commander to take the scroll along with the Elixir of life to the top of the highest mountain in Suruga and burn them. His loyal commander, following the Mikado’s orders, climbed to the summit of the tallest mountain and carried out the Mikado’s orders. From that time forward men would look upon that mountain and say that the smoke rising from its peak mingles with the clouds of heaven, and that mountain is now called Fuji-yama, the never dying.

This is a wonderful tale that showcases how the Japanese love of nature is linked with the divine, and I’m sure that when Studio Ghibli completes this movie it’ll be a monster hit in Japan.      

the-picture-wall

       This episode begins with Naoko watching a TV debate about the consequences of the possible introduction of sex droids, her only comment is that the birthrate will decline even further. Then we see Rikuo and Masaki eating lunch in the time of eve cafe when Nagi tells them that there are other people that they can talk with inside the cafe. Masaki doesn’t care about the people that hangout there, he only wants to know what the deal is with the cafe.

the-two-loverswatching-the-tv-001starcrossed-lovers

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         As Rikuo is scanning the cafe he seems drawn to the breasts of a woman who is hanging out at the there with a man, and immediately Masaki starts ragging on him for checking her out. Nagi comes over and tells them that four hanging out together is more fun than only two, so she calls over the couple that Rikuo was staring at. After an awkward moment of silence the woman introduces her companion (Koji) and herself as Rina. Every time Rina moves, Rikuo’s gaze is drawn to Rina’s sexy features and Masaki keeps having to slapping Rikuo around to keep his eyes to himself.

koji-and-rina-the-couplethe-four-of-them

         After a few minutes, Rikuo notices that Koji has a super new camera phone and he asks to see it and as he’s playing around with it he triggers a holographic wall of pictures to appear. Upon seeing the pictures Rina stands up and asks Koji what this is? As Koji is at a loss for words Rina seems to have a problem with her leg and she excuses herself, Rikuo follows her and watches her as she is checking out her leg. To Rikuo’s surprise he finds out that she is an android and he’s still quite drawn to her sexy features.

what-is-thisrikuo-spyingchecking-some-leg-001

checking-some-leg-002

         Rina eventually notices that Rikuo is watching her and they start talking, Rina is a protection android and got injured on the job. Rikuo asks her if she’s here at the request of her master, and she says that she her to see Koji. He then asks her if she can get repaired by her manufacturer, she tells him that she can’t have any contact with the manufacturer or else it would cause trouble for her master. She tells him that she’s with Koji because he makes her feel like a human even though she not one, Rikuo tells her she should tell Koji how she feels, but she feels that she should leave things the same. Meanwhile, Masaki is trying to convince Koji that it’s best that humans stay with humans and androids with androids so he should leave his fake lover (Rina), and to Masaki’s surprise he discovers that Koji is a android who has a female for a master and she is also his lover.

the-lively-cafekoji-and-his-masterthe-master-and-her-lover

        After Masaki and Koji talk a little more, Masaki agrees to keep his knowledge of Koji’s secret from Rina, and once Rina and Rikuo return to the table Rikuo and Masaki excuses themselves leaving the couple to work out their problems. Both Masaki and Koji are shocked to learn that both Rina and Koji are both androids and that neither Rina or Koji know that the other is a android, as they are talking about the android love triangle Nagi comes over and tells them not to meddle too much. Rikuo then tells Masaki that if humans and androids can’t tell the diffrence between each other than they have to be the same and that their love has to be the same.

let-them-work-it-outi-cant-believe-itif-we-cant-figure-it-out

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        When Rikuo arrives home he finds out that his mother and sister stepped out and only Sammy is at home. He notices that Sammy has done something to her hair and he asks her about it, Sammy ask him if he’s not please by it? Rikuo doesn’t answer Sammy because he’s too embarrassed by the thought of whether or not he finds it attractive on her. Well, that’s all for this episode.

welcome-home-masterdoes-it-look-good-001

are-you-not-pleased

        This was an interesting installment of Eve no Jikan but it did feel a little choppy at times to me. Rikuo and Masaki’s encounter with Koji and Rina left more questions unanswered than it answered, Rikuo tried to make the point to Masaki that if the androids and humans can’t tell who is human and who is an android then aren’t they the same?

           I would have to agree with Rikuo’s point, if I was at a cafe and started talking with a cute woman who I was attracted to and I asked her out on a date would my feelings of attraction still be valid if I found out that she was a android later on? I don’t know what my answer would be, and I’ll probably never know because of my age, but if your under 18 you’ll probably live long enough to have to deal with the issue.

        Now to the idea that started this episode off, sex, or the idea of sex between androids and humans. If you thought that the issues of abortion or pornography are controversial in America wait to the issue of real sex droids crops up, I can just see the god fearing masses chanting and protesting in front of the capital asking for a ban on physical relationships between humans and androids, call it “the defense of human relationship act” or some other nonsense.

       I can actually see how humans would benefit and even welcome the possibility of sex with androids, if you had a very lonely person and a sexually attractive android that acts totally human in every way, sex would be a natural progression in a friendship/companionship relationship. But, I fail to see what the android would get out of this type of relationship other than fulfilling a programing rule to satisfy their human owners, unless some programmer manages to be able to write code enabling the android to fall in love and feel pleasure.

         If you think that this is far fetched then you haven’t seen what some of the Japanese love dolls look like, so picture the below doll bodies covering a functioning robot, below are a couple of work safe pictures of the dolls. While they are clearly not good enough to pass as human but think about what they’ll look like 20-30 years from now, click on image to view at full size.

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silcone-art-doll-001 

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         Part two of this film begins with Rikuo questioning Sammy about her activities and he gets frustrated about the answers that she is giving him. Then at school Rikuo and Masaki go over the three laws of robotics, and Masaki tells Rikuo that there’s nothing in them that forbid androids from lying if it doesn’t violate the three laws.

        So after school they go back to the Time of Eve cafe to look and see if Sammy shows up, and while they are there they meet a cute little girl named Chei. A little while later Akiko enters the cafe and Rikuo goes to talk to her at the counter. Then Chei comes up to Akiko and Rikuo and she snatches his glasses and runs off. Then a android (?) asks Masaki not to stare at him constantly and makes a Blade Runner reference. Then the person (?) next to Masaki gets up to leave and Masaki tries to follow him but he can’t open the door to follow. Nagi tells him that the door is programed not to open for a short time after someone leaves in order to protect peoples’ privacy.

         After a short but lively conversation with Akiko, Rikuo finds out that Chei has given his glasses to Nagi so he goes to the counter to put them on and when he can see again he sees that Sammy is at the counter. She has her hair up in a ponytail :), and he reaches out and grabs the scrunchy out of her hair. Sammy runs out of the cafe with Rikuo trying to chase after her but the door locks behind her, Nagi tells Rikuo to sit down. She tells Rikuo that when Sammy first came here she was closed but now she has opened up, and she talks about her family, her worries, and her nightmares, and Nagi tells Rikuo he’s always welcome here if he follows the rules.

        When he is back at home, Rikuo talks to Masaki on his cell and he tells Masaki that he wants to go back to the Cafe, Masaki also tells Rikuo that he tried to follow that guy but lost him. Then at the end of the episode we see a woman getting a report from a agent stating that androids are starting to develop individual traits, and the woman tells him to keep observing the situation. Well, that’s all for this episode.

        This movie is becoming a very interesting mediation on the upcoming issues that will soon occur because soon humans will interact with robots and androids. The Japanese and Koreans are quickly developing lifelike robots and androids to help people with everyday tasks and even companionship, and there is even a quick discussion of The Three Laws of Robotics, and even a Blade Runner reference.

         Overall, I’ll keep watching this film as the additional parts are released, and I can’t wait for a DVD or HD disk to be made available for purchase. If your wondering where I got this copy, I purchased this copy through the DLTO section at CR.

         Soon, I’ll do a much more in-depth discussion of the Time of Eve film and the nature of future human/android interaction, it’s coming quicker than most people think or are prepared to deal with.

      Note: The world of Eve no Jikan is set in a future Japan where robots/ androids are common place in Japanese households. The androids all have a holographic halo above their heads to mark them as non-human, and members of society that are obsessed with androids are referred to by calling them Dori-kei.

      Part one of this film begins with a young man (Rikuo) downloading some data from a android (Sammy), then as he prepares for school the android begins to perform basic household tasks like making coffee and cooking. Later at school he runs into a friend (Masaki) who saw Rikuo’s older sister (Naoko) last night and he says that she was pretty out of it, but he tells his Masaki not to worry about it he sent the android to take care of her. Masaki tells him that he trusts androids too much but Rikuo says that it’s not about trust.

 

      After looking at the movement records of his android he asks his Masaki if he’ll come with him after school to check some of the places his android visited, he feels that something strange is going on after he looks over her records, he also notices a strange entry in her records “are you enjoying the time of Eve”. When they arrive at one of the locations listed in the data they think that the GPS is broken, but soon they see a android entering the location. They follow the android inside and the guys see a sign matching some of the strange data from Rikuo’s android’s data “are you enjoying the time of Eve”.

 

      Well, they follow the android inside to find a cafe that has a board at it’s entrance stating that the rules for this cafe call for no discrimination between humans and androids while inside. They get greeted by a counter girl (Nagi) who tells them to have a seat and she’ll take their orders soon, so they have a seat. Once at their seats Masaki and Rikuo notice that the android that they followed inside no longer has a ring above it’s head and they start to get paranoid that this place might be dangerous.

 

       Soon the waitress comes to take their orders and she tells them to enjoy themselves as long as they obey the rule, but soon they start staring around looking at everybody in the shop. They get interrupted by a young girl (Akiko) visiting their table, she invites herself to a seat and begins to talk their heads off with questions, but when they ask about Masaki’s android, Nagi (the waitress/owner) tells them that it’s one demerit point for breaking the rules. Masaki then asks Akiko if it’s strange that his family doesn’t own an android and she tells him that she’s heard of such situations.

      Masaki asks Akiko why she hangs out here and she says that it’s a family situation but she likes to talk to and understand everyone, she feels that everyone is her family, and she says that everyone is different no matter what they look like. The next day at school Rikuo tells Masaki that Akiko got him thinking and now he wonders what his android Sammy is thinking about. As Masaki and Rikuo are waiting to leave the school they see Akiko at the school and to Rikuo surprise Akiko has a band above her head marking her as a android.

     Once at home Sammy gives Rikuo a cup of coffee and he is shocked to find out that she brewed a new brand, and when he asks her why she changed brands she tells him that she thought he would like it better. Rikuo then starts questioning Sammy about why she is acting independently and trying to be human and she replies that she is not human she is a android, a few seconds later Rikuo’s sister Naoko tells Rikuo that he is acting like a Dori-kei. Well, that’s all for this part of the movie.

      Well, this was a interesting opening several minutes for the Time of Eve movie, the setup was quick and to the point. The Japan of this future has now integrated robots/ androids into their society as basically domestic servants, and they are treated by most people like such. But Rikuo’s grasp on the rules of the world are shaken when he tracks his andriod’s travels to a cafe where the androids’ halos are turned off. He had a conversation with a cute girl named Akiko and later he discovers that she is a android, he thought Akiko was a human because she passed a super advanced version of the Turing Test. It seems that androids in this world have gotten so good that while in the cafe they have transcended the Uncanny valley so it shakes Rikuo’s reality and he must readjust his thinking.

      A few day ago I was looking through a old collection of my anime tapes when I saw a copy of Hols: Prince of the Sun/ Taiyo no Oji: Horusu no Daiboken  AKA The Little Norse Prince  from 1968. This film is very important in anime history for two major reasons, the first one that this film was the directorial debut of Isao Takahata, and the second reason is that many anime historians consider this to be the first major anime film to break away from the Disney style of film making thus putting anime films down their own creative path.

      Note: I will use the name Hols to describe the main hero, many fan translations in the past thought there was a link between the “prince of the sun” title and the Egyptian sun god Horus so his name got translated into various forms of Horus. But in recent years the film’s creators have cleared this up by saying that there is no connection between the sun god Horus and the main hero in this film, his name Hols is a form of a common name found in northern Europe. Also, please excuse the quality of the screen captures, my tape of this movie is very old and not even my best professional level VCR player could do anything for it.

        The film begins with our yet unnamed hero fighting off a pack of wolves with a hand ax, and while battling the wolves our hero awakens a stone giant named Mogue who asks our hero why he as disturbed his rest. The boy tells the giant that he was being attacked by silver wolves, and the giant tells the boy that those wolves are the followers of Grunwald. The boy notices that the giant is in pain and he asks him whats bothering him, and the giant tells him it’s only a thorn, so the boy climbs up the giant and discovers that the thorn is really a sword. The boy attempt to remove the sword as the giant tells him he’s not strong enough, and after a mighty struggle to boy manages to remove the sword.

     When the boy pulls the sword out the giant praises him and tells the boy that the sword is called the “Sword of the Sun”, and he can keep it as a gift but will he be able to reforge it? The boy climbs off the giant and tries to use the sword but nothing happens, and the giant tells the boy that if he can reforge the sword and present it to the giant then the boy will be called Prince of the Sun.

      Hols leaves the giant and heads home, and when he gets close he is summoned to go see his dieing father. When he goes to see his dieing father, he tells Hols that he must return to their original village on the coast of the north sea to unite the people and battle the demon that drove them away from the village, and then Hols’s father dies and Hols burns their home and heads off.  Hols takes to the sea with his friend (Koro) a small bear, and after a long journey they find land again. Once on shore they are attacked by giant birds and Koro and Hols are separated, Hols yells to Koro to find a village with people and wait for him. Hols is carried many miles away by the bird then dropped into rugged mountains to die.

       After Hols climbs to the top of the mountain he finds Grunwald holding his rope, he invites Hols to become his brother because he admires his strength. Hols asks Grunwald why he should join him, and Grunwald tells him because he’s the strongest and smartest person in the world. Hols refuses and attacks Grunwald, Hols is quickly defeated and falls down the mountainside. Later Hols is found unconscious by a small child and taken to the local village, he is taken in by an elderly blacksmith and his family. Hols learns that a monster is plaguing the fisherman of the village, and later Hols finds out that the blacksmith’s son in law was just killed by the monster.

        While at the man’s funeral Hols watches as the men of the village argue and debate about how to kill the monster fish but nobody does anything, so Hols grabs some spears and heads off on his own. After a intense and dreadful battle with the fish Hols manages to kill it, and once he returns to the village the villagers discover that the game fish have returned.

     Prosperity has returned to the village along with the fish, and Grunwald is very unhappy when he hears that his favorite fish was killed. Grunwald is also very angry to learn that Hols is still alive, and he wants him dead before he gains more power, also back at the village Koro is reunited with Hols. Just as the village is having a celebration a large pack of Grunwald’s wolves attack the village, but the wolves gets their asses stomped because the villages ban together. Hols gives chase to the pack leader with his friend Koro helping him, and they chase the leader far away from the village.

     After a long chase Hols and Koro lose track of the head wolf, but their attention is drawn to a destroyed village by a beautiful singing voice. Inside the village they discover a girl about Hols’s age who lives there all alone, her village was destroyed by a demon and she is the lone survivor and a curse in upon her so no village will accept her. Hols tells Hilda that they are alike and that she should return to the village with him, so she agrees to go back with him. The villagers are smitten by Hilda’s singing, almost all work stops whenever Hilda starts singing.

      As time passes and Hilda sings more and more the villagers do less and less work, it’s almost as if they have lost their will to do anything. The silver wolf is spotted again and Hols gets some help and tries to reforge the “Sword of the sun”, but their efforts seem to have no effect on the sword, and when Hilda comes to see what’s happening she has a bad reaction to the sword.

     Grunwald sends orders for Hilda to destroy Hols and recover the sword from him because after all Hilda is his sister. The village women try to integrate Hilda into their group but she refuses saying that everything will turn to ash anyways, and the closer everyone tries to get to Hilda the more she pushes back.

     As a wedding is going on in the village Hols is out chasing the silver wolf, he throws his axe and misses and when he goes to retrieve it he finds it missing. Later we see Hilda with the axe seeming to direct a attack of rats on the village, the village is almost totally destroyed and even the bride is almost killed. When Hols returns Hilda casts suspicion on Hols, and later she help a power hungry guy by giving him Hols’s axe.

     The next day the children make Hilda come outside to play with them and later when Hilda is alone with a sleeping child one of Grunwald’s helpers orders Hilda to destroy the village and kill Hols. Hilda says that she won’t kill this child, but one of her friends says what good will saving one girl do, all you’ll create is another lonely Hilda. Hilda’s two animal friends battle for her soul, with one of them telling her to live and love like the villagers, and the other one telling her to destroy the village and kill Hols and live forever like Grunwald. After awhile Hilda declares that she has a demon heart, a demon brother, so she is a demon, and it’s her job to fight humans.

     Hols stumbles upon Hilda singing in the forest and it’s such a sad song he asks her to share her pain with him, but she says that he’ll be killed by a demon and runs off. When Hols returns to the village he is accused of trying to kill the head man with his axe. All sorts of trouble ensues, Hilda refuses to vouch for his presence with her, and even someone accuses Hilda of the attempt. Before it gets ugly Hols takes his axe and tells everyone he will return with proof of his innocence.

     While out in the woods Hols runs into Hilda who tells Hols that he’s so stupid for thinking that they were friends. She and her bird friend tells Hols that she was behind everything, the wolf attack, the rat attack, the assassination plot, and she wants him to fight her. She pulls a knife on him and uses magic to corner him, he tells her to stop and says that even if she is a demon she can regain her humanity, but it doesn’t work and she attacks him forcing him over a cliff.

     After the deed is done, Hilda’s friend Chiro (the squirrel) tells Hilda that she’s through with being her friend saying she’d rather live and die with the humans rather than go back to Grunwald. When she returns to Grunwald he tells her good job, Hols is now trapped in the forest of delusion and hill wander around lost until he dies. Hilda tells Grunwald that she’s done and now she’ll go back to the north to live alone under the ice of a frozen lake.

      Grunwald is displease at Hilda for threatening to leave him so he shows her visions of the villagers and Hols tracking her down and killing her, and he tells her that this will happen to her if she doesn’t go to the forest of delusion and kill Hols once and for all.

     Once Hols is gone, Grunwald attacks the village with snow and ice spirits, some villagers run and hide inside while others try to organise a defense for the village. While Hols is trapped inside the forest he comes to grips with his inner fears and masters his delusions and is able to find his way out. Once he exits the forest he finds Hilda waiting for him, Hols tells Hilda that he now knows how to defeat Grunwald and return her to being a human being, but she attacks him instead. Hols soon disarms Hilda and tells her to return with him but instead she disappears telling him to save his friends.

      The village is now under full assault from Grunwald and his snow demons, many villagers try fleeing but many want to make a stand and fight the demon. Hols returns telling the villagers that he now knows the secret to reforging the Sword of the Sun. While Hilda is out in the snow storm she comes across Koro and the small child that liked her so much, they are almost dead from the snow and ice, so Hilda gives them her wrap and she takes off her necklace charm and places it’s around Koro neck and tells them to go and take and with them her life’s charm, they are lifted into the air away from Hilda who is left alone in the ice and snow.

     After a while the ice demons beat Hilda to the ground, while back at the village the Sword of the Sun has been reforged. Grunwald seeing the the sword reforged leads an attack directly into the heart of the village, and the villagers lead by Hols charge forward to attack. Hols charges up the ice demon and slays the silver wolf while the villagers protect Hols from the other demons using arrows. Just as Grunwald and Hols are beginning single combat the villagers start to flee for another large demon is attacking from the rear, but they are wrong it is the return of Mogue the stone creature.

 

      Mouge congratulates Hols on the fine sword he has, and says he’ll take care of the giant ice demon. Koro and the child return and give Hols Hilda’s necklace telling him he can use it to fly, Grunwald seeing the turn of events starts to fly away from the battle. Hols dons Hilda’s necklace and flies after him with the villagers following, and they chase Grunwald to his icy lair. Hols and the villagers do battle with Grunwald and soon Hols disarms him, the villagers surround Grunwald with flaming arrows and Hols’s sword summons sunlight into the icy lair and Grunwald cowers in fear. Hols throws the Sword of the Sun at Grunwald and he and his ice palace sink into the sea. Once the palace sinks beneath the sea Hilda’s necklace disappears from Hols’s neck and Hilda’s friend Chiro breaks down in tears for Hilda.

       The next day, the ice and snow are gone replaced sunlight and warmth, Hilda awakens in the forest confused about why she is still alive with out her charm of life. She is drawn to some noises she hears in the distance to find the villagers and Hols rebuilding the village, and then she is spotted by her friend Chiro and the child who loves her and they rush to greet her. Soon Hols walks up to and smiles at Hilda and takes her hand and leads her back to the village. Well, That’s all for this movie.

      Well, this movie is interesting and important for several reason. One of which is that you can see the birth of “classic” anime storytelling when viewing this film, the hero’s quest, the conflicted heroine, the weak banding together to defend themselves, and many other themes that will be brought to completion in future projects that many involved the this film will go on to create.

      Many people responsible for the creation of Studio Ghibli were present at the creation of this film, in fact many of the people involved in this film were fired or demoted because Toei was angry about the content and cost overruns. Isao Takahata never directed another film for Toei after making this picture, Toei’s loss but our gain. Even though this film lost money it is considered one of the greatest works of anime film making. Isao went on to direct Lupin III, Heidi, The Grave of Fireflies, Only Yesterday, and many other beloved projects.

       But to me the most interesting thing about this film is Hilda, while everyone else’s motivations are clear Hilda’s are very confused. We can easily understand the others; Hols, the hero’s quest; Grunwald, who wants to rule the world; the villagers, who want peace and prosperity; even the power hungry villager, he wants to be in charge.

     But what does Hilda want? She has always been alone except for her two animal friends and Grunwald, she sits alone and sings sad and lonely songs. When Hols takes her back to the village and they accept her she gets very confused and doesn’t know what to do. Hilda sees happiness and love around her, and even the village girls tease her about having children and becoming a bride, with Hols of course. She gets angry at the villagers for trying to make her happy by telling them it will all turn to dust anyways.

       She knows what she is doing is wrong, but until the very end she does it anyways. Every time she does something wrong it causes her pain and suffering in her heart. In many great future anime series and movies you will see a Hilda type character; Monsley in Future Boy Conan, Eboshi in Mononoke Hime, Abelia in Now and Then, Here and Now.

      So, If you every get a chance to watch this movie do it, if you can manage to look past the flaws of a 40+ year old anime, you might find out that plot and story are more important the frame rates and resolution. I’ll take substance over style any day.