There is something vaguely rejuvinating about searching for older and forgotten anime titles. Even though a title has been around for twelve years, it is still new to someone who hasn’t seen it before. Age can only deteriorate animation quality as modern times springs new advantages upon animators. But storytelling and characters are still either good or bad and any anime with good plot and characters can still survive even when the animation might be shady by today’s standards. Despite being twelve years old, Spring and Chaos doesn’t look like an anime that ancient. Sure, some of the CGI rather primitive, resulting in some flat visuals, but the vision of the movie brings out great scenes regardless. The visuals are varied and scenic, resulting in a film that looks much more recent than the 1996 vintage would dictate. Indeed, the visuals carry what otherwise would fail to be an engaging film.
The movie is autobiographical–based around author Kenji Miyazawa. However, most people (myself included) will probably not pay the slightest attention to the autobiographical elements. Distancing it from the realm of reality is how all of the characters are animals. Mostly cats, but a random bear or dog thrown in for good measure. Completing this disconnect from reality is how the whole film looks like what a good acid trip would feel. It is scattered, non-sensical, and beautiful. Truth and reality for Kenji blurs, let alone whatever “real” really would be to the audience.
There seems to be two loose, somewhat coherent threads running through the movie: a girl and submitting to family as a career. The female interest floats in and out without ever bringing anything to fruition, yet she is obviously an important emotional key for Kenji. The bigger struggle comes with Kenji’s confusion at what kind of career to follow. He wants to write, he wants to collect, he wants to do something his father considers frivolous and detrimental to the family business. This drives Kenji out and into a position teaching, where he opens up new worlds for his students. Then, in a fit of family guilt, he goes back to his roots and tries his hand at farming, while still helping the students who want to learn under him.
Now, normally I don’t make mention of the subtitle versus English dub debate. Those who travel anime circles know that everyone has an opinion and will stick strongly to their side come hell or high water. However, as a subtitle fan, take note when I say try the English dub on these DVDs. I say that not because the dub is so great (I rather doubt it), but the subs on the DVD lag way behind the spoken word, making it confusing to follow. It is worse than some Asian bootlegs I’ve seen (not that I avocate buying those). Making the issue easier is how boring the Japanese dub is. The voice actors really seemed to mail this one in.
Spring and Chaos is a very interesting view, although I suspect each viewer’s milage will vary depending on how far varried, interesting visuals take them. Of course, those more interested in random, vague animes in general (Serial Experiments Lain, Boogiepop Phantom, Kino’s Journey, etc) will probably find this more interesting than most.
Title: Spring and Chaos
US Distributor: TokyoPop
Length: 53 Minutes
Availability: Out of print, used copies crop up on all the usual suspects (Amazon, ebay, half.com, and more besides). These days I usually see it go for between $9 and $15, however as more copies end up in collector’s collections I expect to see that price start spiking. I wouldn’t dally too long.
Links: ANN Encyclopedia