Feast for Eyes and Ears: Fantasy Railroad in the Stars, Mezame no Hakobune and 1001 Nights
July 13, 2009
Sometimes animations don’t need stories, or even characters. Sometimes the experience is derived purely from pretty pictures and pleasant sounds. My recent viewing of an obscure anime Fantasy Railroad in the Stars was one of those, and the two other anime I am going to recommend in this post (one being Oshii’s Mezame no Hakobune and other being Amano’s 1001 nights) have this in common: no story, no characters. Audio-visual experience is what defines them, but it’s also interesting how each one tries to engage our attention for 20~50 minutes without any plot or character to follow.
Fantasy Railroad in the Stars [48 min]
Watching Fantasy Railroad is a lot like watching Iblard Jikan in that we are presented with beautifully rendered/coloured pictures, while a pleasantly soothing music plays in background. Even though I much prefer the amazing drawings in Iblard Jikan, as an animated experience Fantasy Railroad is superior, simply because it actually has narrative voices talking throughout the journey. It’s just so much easier to engage in this journey through different galaxies when you get the feeling that someone is there travelling with you, exclaiming in excitement and wonder, which I think Iblard Jikan should have done to make its journey through the world of Iblard.
Mezame no Hakobun [35 min]
Mezame no Hakobun directed by Mamoru Oshii is, how should I say, more exhausting and immersing work. If you want something visually stimulating, look no further. This is more than pretty pictures, it is of water bubbles, gaseous forms, digital textures. If I recall correctly, one fan claimed to have felt like being born again after watching this. I don’t know if I would go that far personally though. There are moments that are truly captivating, simply surrendering yourself to the experience of diving, flying, etc. But other times it’s just so alienating and bizarre (and weird!), you will often find yourself fast-forwarding. Very interesting work nonetheless if you like experimental anime/films.
1001 Nights [24 min]
Ah, my favourite of the three. There are few reasons why I like this work much higher than the previous two. The first is that the art is inspired by Yoshitaka Amano and this is the closest you will get to savouring Amano’s uniquely ghastly illustration in animated form. The second is that 1001 Nights is a philharmonic, and thus its harmony between visuals and music is captivating. Normally we are only interested in how appropriate and fitting the soundtrack is to the visuals, theme, mood, etc, where music is more or less a background piece for what is happening on the silver screen. In the case of 1001 Nights, music responds to the animated drawings. The difference here is that the hauntingly melancholic symphonic pieces are actively synchronising with the music of animated drawings (which I’ve talked about in my previous post on TTGL), and not merely as a passive background piece. You may recall such chemistry between your two senses in Disney’s philharmonic Fantasia, where birds simply glide in legato, while skipping across the water in staccato, all in perfect rhythm. Although of course, one should not expect as much synchronisation in 1001 Nights compared to Fantasia, but what it does is still amazing and absolutely gorgeous.