Joe OdagiriJapanese
Modest Heroes: Ponoc Short Films Theatre
Also known as: Ponoc Tanpen Gekijou: Chiisana Eiyuu: Kani to Tamago to Toumei Ningen
Medium: anthology, film
Year: 2018
Writer/director: Akihiko Yamashita, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Yoshiyuki Momose
Actor: Fumino Kimura, Joe Odagiri, Machiko Ono, Min Tanaka, Rio Suzuki, Sota Shinohara, Kentaro Sakaguchi
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 53 minutes
Website category: Anime 2018
Review date: 25 November 2019
Disappointing. There's not much point in watching it beyond admiring the animation, really. I nearly went to see it at the cinema when I was in Japan last year, but not going was the right choice.
It's by Ponoc, the studio that rose from Ghibli's corpse. I approve of the principle. Lots of talented animators getting together to continue things for themselves. Their work has lots of charm, but so far hasn't been particularly good. (Well, it's early days. So far they've only done this and Mary and the Witch's Flower.)
These three episodes are:
It stars little underwater people in a river. They catch fish and are themselves nearly caught by bigger fish. It's a food chain. (That huge fish is scary, with realistically flicking eyes.) Kanini and Kanino are children, under the protection of their tough, friendly, hairy father. When you're that small, though, even dad can be swept away.
It's fine. Everyone's likeable, albeit barely one step up from cavemen. (Almost all the dialogue is someone's name, to the point where you wonder if they can talk at all.) It's got some nice animation touches, e.g. tears not falling, but instead floating next to you as if in zero-gravity. The animation and the charm of underwater life is probably the best reason to watch this, actually.
Shun is life-threateningly allergic to eggs, but also really good at sports. His mother does dancing. There are sympathetic people. This isn't so much a story as a look into the life of someone who has to be this careful about their food.
Again, the animation's the best thing about this episode. I'm thinking of the nightmare festival and the plague blotch colour contamination after eating some ice cream.
Again, it's barely a story. It's fun to watch, though, because of its invisible hero. This is cool because he's just an ordinary bloke with an ordinary job and no one cares about his invisibility. They don't even notice him. They should, because he's wearing visible clothes, spectacles, etc. but he gets ignored in an everyday way. People don't pay attention.
Even gravity ignores him. He has to carry heavy things if he doesn't want to float away.
There's some interesting stuff in here, e.g. the blind man, the gigantic extended metaphor, the use of colour and the grey ugly world. This was also Natsuki's favourite segment. It's hard to beat invisibility. As a story, though, it's understated.
You could have an interesting discussion about the thematic effect of combining these episodes. All three are about vulnerable people in danger, in everyday settings. Even without portraying discrimination, you could argue that they're saying interesting things about difference in Japan's conformist society.
However they also feel a bit pointless. The scripts are somewhere between "understated" and "undercooked". Probably best watched as a short, mildly eccentric collection of oddities that don't tend to go anywhere much. The most fun thing here is the closing theme song.