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Fantasia Festival 2018 Film Roundup


Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada is North America's longest-running Genre film festival. This year's festival ran from July 12 to August 1. Although none of the AFA crew were able to make it, thanks to the generosity of the fine folks at Fantasia, we were able to check out a selection of animated features that played this year's festival! And here's a round-up of what we thought...

Fireworks




As a long time fan of director Akiyuki Shinbo's work (both in Madoka Magica and his earlier career directing episodes of Yu Yu Hakusho) I had a strong gut feeling that if nothing else that Fireworks would be visually interesting. Though by the end of the 75 minute run time it was the story, not the visuals that disappointed me. Which is a shame since I desperately wanted to like this movie. I'm usually fond of the Groundhog Day twist to certain stories since it really gives you a chance to get to know the characters and how their interactions can change. However, I did not find either of the romantic leads particularly engaging and even some of Shinbo's unique camera shots almost seem to work against him in giving a scene impact. I'm truly hoping that there is some big plot revelation that I simply missed in a first viewing. Otherwise, my opinion of this film will remain the same. Much like its title, it is all flash with little to no long lasting substance.   [Rachael Ward]

We are fortunate enough to be experiencing a boom in high-quality, theatrical Japanese animation. On a visual and technical level, Fireworks is very much in the same league as recent triumphs such as Your Name and A Silent Voice.  Storywise, it's a fairly conventional story of teen romance, albeit told with a sci-fi-ish twist that allows the protagonist (and the audience) to explore various what-if scenarios, Sliding Doors style. But it's not easy to get too invested in the central relationship when the characters are so thinly drawn. The female lead gets a particularly short shrift in this regard. Still, there's a lot to like. It's visually appealing and absolutely beautifully made, with some gorgeous animation. Most of all though, it does create a wonderful nostalgic evocation of youthful summers that makes it worth watching, especially for fans of high-quality 2D animation. [Chris Perkins]


Crisis Jung



I'm all for animation directors testing the boundaries on what is typically put on display for audiences. Though due to my own experiences and preferences, I have my limits on how much I can take seriously. From the get-go, Crisis Jung seems to be more of a violent parody than any serious kind of adult media. Which is perfectly fine for audiences who enjoy this sort of humor. And I will give credit where it is due, that Crisis Jung goes completely balls to the wall and as over the top as it can get. And in a weird way, I have to respect it for that. My dissatisfaction simply comes from the fact that this style of humor/hyperviolence is not my cup of tea. I am able to make exceptions for animation such as Devilman Crybaby since all of the hyperviolence and sexual imagery were all layered into a story with an actual emotional payoff. But it is still not something I find myself gravitating toward as a medium. Still, Crisis Jung knows exactly what it is and does not apologize for it in any way. A boldness that certainly makes it stand out from the crowd. [RW]

Although screened as a feature for its world premiere, Crisis Jung is actually a web-series, that will be available through the Black Pills App. Produced by Bobby Pills, who describe themselves as "An animation studio in Paris full of depressive, beautiful, fucked-up people making cartoons for depressive, beautiful, fucked-up people" this is anything but conventional. Featuring a hero wandering a desolate wasteland seeking vengeance for his murdered love, it combines elements of influences like Mad Max, Fist Of The North Star, Heavy Metal and He-Man. Ultra-violent, perverse and twisted, it definitely isn't for everyone. There's some solid animation here too. It's probably best experienced in episodic format, however, as watching it in feature format makes feel it a little wearing and draws attention to the (deliberately) repetitive nature of the format. Still, there's some pretty remarkable imagery here, and the (literal) climax is quite something to behold. [CP]



Aragne: The Sign of Vermillion 




Talk about a film that is WAY out of my usual taste and after watching the first 30 minutes I see no reason to change my stance on that. I give both the film and it's director points for having Agrane being very visually distinct (you certainly won't confuse this for any other anime film out there), its uses of red and black permeating most shots. But on one hand, the film seems to be focused on a lot of gross-out horror scenes (mostly involving insects, which has NEVER been a type of horror I can bring myself to get through) and two, the film feels like an unfinished work. Cutting to what are clearly animatic/storyboard clips before cutting back right into the finished/half finished animation taking any viewer (horror fan or otherwise) out of the experience. I don't think this will be a film that I will ever pick up again, but I sincerely hope, for the sake the film's potential fans, that the film is actually completed. [RW]


Impressively, this crowdfunded animated slasher flick was animated by just one person, Sakamoto Saku. With this in mind, it feels harsh to be overly critical, but this really didn't work for me The visual style is pretty unconventional, combining CGI with some flat looking character designs and jerky animation, making it tough to engage with. It looks more like the cut-scenes from a late 90's videogame than anything else. There's also the strange stylistic choice to occasionally switch into a storyboard or animatic style, making this seem like an unfinished product. In fact, I had assumed on first watch that the film was actually a work in progress (and it would therefore be unfair to judge it as a finished work). However, on further research, this just seems to be a quirky stylistic choice- and its one that, sadly, only stands to alienate the audience further.  [CP]




Violence Voyager



The most interesting thing in this Japanese feature is the way its produced. Not true animation, but more like a form of puppetry, with still paper artwork manipulated in real-time. Plot-wise, it's a horror film, with a pair of children stumbling across a run-down theme park in the Japanese country. As if the name of the park wasn't enough of a red flag (the violence voyager of the title), they begin to realize the park has a sinister purpose behind it. And once the secret is unveiled, all but the most ardent gore-hound or shock-seeker will likely be ready to check out. The imagery here is truly grotesque and many will find that the fact that it involves children crosses a line. Exceptionally nasty stuff, that I couldn't recommend to anyone. [CP]



Penguin Highway





When I saw the Penguin Highway trailer earlier this year I was excited to see it and when I saw it was from a story penned by Tomohiko Morimi (of Tatami Galaxy and Night is Short Walk on Girl) I had a feeling the trailer would not do it justice. When cute Adelie penguins are seen all over his village Aoyama starts to investigate. He's only in the fourth grade (so 9-10 years old) but he applies scientific method rigorously to understand just what is going on. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it with my high expectations. What really made it for me was that no one had special knowledge to answer the question of what was going on. Aoyama with his friends practice sensible scientific reasoning and logical experiments. Hiroyasu Ishida has directed a feature that takes a whacky (and cute) concept, looks fantastic and depicts relationships between the characters felt grounded in reality from adults to the school bullies. [Chris Harvey]

This fantasy family feature is the first film from Studio Colorido, previously known for shorts and commercials. And what a start this proves to be, a charming and oddball tale of a young boy who investigates a series of odd happenings- that begins with the mysterious appearance of penguins in his hometown. It's a crowd-pleasing film will a wide appeal, so let's hope that gets the treatment it deserves. The animation here is wonderful, particularly with the adorable penguins themselves. It's a scientific fact that its impossible to see penguins and not smile, and Penguin Highway is jam-packed with the little buggers. An utter delight. [CP]

Though I knew little about this film going in, other than the fact that penguins would be heavily featured, I was impressed by the animation I was able to view in the film's trailer. As the earlier statements regarding this film have already attested to, this fun yet odd family adventure film was a joy to watch from start to finish. From the adorable animation of the titular penguins to the ever unfolding mystery of their presences in the town, I was steadily drawn into the film more and more as the plot deepened. This is a film with quite a few layers to it and I look forward for another opportunity to view it and peel back more. [RW]




*screeners provided by Fantasia Festival*

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