Wednesday, February 15, 2012

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: The Two Faces of Akitaroh Daichi

Director: Akitaroh Daichi
Official Site: Main Site
Additional Links: ANN Entry


Official Site: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN EntryMAL Entry
Video [Free]: Crunchyroll

Now and Then, Here and There

Official Site: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Enrty
Video [Free]: YouTube, Hulu, Manga.comAnime News Network

Director Akitaroh Daichi is known by most as a purveyor of wacky, out-there comedies. Be it the crazy inner works of the animation business in Animation Runner Kuromi, the weird family dynamics of Fruits Basket, or the completely-in-another-universe stylings of Gag Manga Biyori, he is someone who seems to truly revel in the realm of absurdity and humor. And the latest series of his, Poyopoyo, is the subject of this month's "Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month". Well, co-subject,that is…

While this bizarre slice-of-life entry of a cutesy, roli-poli cat and his adopted family is certain to tickle many funny bones, especially those who count themselves among Daichi's fans, there is one title of his that is anything but humorous…

I have broad tastes, and aside from yaoi/yuri, hentai, anything demon-related, or overly skeevy, I'm game for pretty much anything. By extension, I also have great admiration for directors that do works that are diametrically opposed to one another. One of my favorite individuals to cite is Sunao Katabuchi, who not only directed the critically-lauded children's film, Princess Arete, and worked on a number of wholesome shows such as Meiken Lassie and Sherlock Hound, but he also directed the violent and totally-not-family-friendly Black Lagoon.

Despite having a resume mostly populated by "general audience" fare, the 2007 series (and subsequent sequels) was not typical territory for him with its rambunctious action, grittiness, and subject matter, though Katabuchi proved to be very successful in guiding the anime along, creating possibly the best action-adventure series since Cowboy Bebop. Akitaroh Daichi is another one of those types of directors, who's credentials runs similar to Katabuchi's. Yet, the contrast between something chuckle-worthy like Poyopoyo and his 1999 title, Now and Then, Here and There, could not be any grander, where the latter was one of the most depressing and cutting depictions of wartime ever made.

Daichi is not a total stranger to dramatic material. His Jubei-chan series, for example--running gags and slapstick aside--never shied away from dire dramatics and all-out action sequences, while Bokura ga Ita (We Were There) fell more into the realm of comedy-drama than straight-out comedy, particularly with some of the more serious content of the story. Now and Then, Here and There, a thirteen-episode tale of a headstrong youth being flung billions of years into a horrid future, offers little-to-none of Daichi's signature silliness or laughable, and colorful visuals and designs. The first episode almost seems to bait you into believing it will be like his other shows (soft character designs included), but the bittersweet melancholy hanging over it seems to note otherwise. What follows later is an absolutely unflinching account of war and the horrific depths of mankind's cruelty, and it makes no qualms of who dies or who suffers on the wrong end of the morality pole.

So harsh is NTHT, that, if it were not for his name being prominently listed in the credits, it would be nearly impossible to believe that Daichi both created and directed the series. Yet, it is also perhaps his finest work, a masterpiece that is unforgiving and bold in its unpolished portrayal of war, but still, through all of the murky darkness, a small glimmer of light and positivity exists, akin to the kind of warmth found in the director's other works. Simultaneously, it is heart-rendering and heartfelt--ugly, but possessing an unmistakable beauty to it. It's certainly not for everyone, but it is still a powerful and remarkable work from a most unexpected source.

Of course, if NTHT is not your thing, there is always the aforementioned Poyopoyo, which falls in line with most of Akitaroh Daichi's body of work. There isn't a whole lot to delve into the beyond its simple premise and three minutes-long episodes, but it's still a quick and enjoyable watch for those into cuteness and comedy. It can be viewed at Crunchyroll in Japanese with English subtitles, whereas Now and Then, Here and There is available (English dubbed, though a great one) at YouTube, Hulu, and Manga Ent. and Anime News Network's own websites.

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