These cyberpunk/SF mysteries drawn from the works of Ango Sakaguchi are intriguing for how they adapt a classic author, but grow far too gimmicky for their own good
Masaaki Yuasa's dizzying mini-epic begins as boy-seeks-girl and ends by circumnavigating entire universes of possibility
A classic historical novel, in English for the first time, has a dazzling stop-motion animated adaptation to go with it from one of Japan's masters of that art
Václav Havel once wrote that hope is not the same thing as optimism, that "[hope] is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." Hirokazu Kore-eda's Maborosi — his first feature film and still one of his finest — is about a woman whose life is disrupted by something senseless and awful, something for which there seems no answer to the question "Why?" What she finds is not an answer to that question, but something greater — a way to make sense of what happened to her, and other things like it, in a new and transformative way.
I'm always going to be grateful that the Animerama productions — the animated theatrical features for adults produced by Osamu Tezuka and Eiichi Yamamoto — have now all been restored for English-speaking audiences. They're milestones, and they deserve to be seen by anyone curious about animation as an art form. But where they excel as milestones or animation-art showcases, they stumble as entertainment or even coherent storytelling. Cleopatra, the second project in the series, is so willfully bizarre that it almost merits being seen for that reason alone. Like A Thousand And One Nights before it, it showcases techniques and design styles that seem fresh and new simply because they've been out of vogue for so long, and for that reason alone it's worth a viewing. But it feels like it leaves too many of its best ideas on the table.
A key insight for Osamu Tezuka's work, I think, is that he was willing to try anything once, if not always succeed. In 1969, his animation studio Mushi Productions released A Thousand And One Nights, the first of three attempts at creating feature-film animated projects for adults collectively called "Animerama". Nights is a curious project even by Tezuka's most outré standards — alternately visionary and puerile, in the same way Ralph Bakshi's own animation-for-adults projects pushed buttons and boundaries while also being hidebound by their own juvenile tastes. But it's a fascinating time capsule, and the story as a whole is reminiscent of one of Tezuka's own adult manga in its scope and sweep.