Oshii films are not inherently Halloween like in themselves. There isn’t anything scary besides the crushing reality hitting you in multiple ways. That is the kind of material Oshii writes and directs. To enlist some help to provide the horror mood, I brought in another expert of some kind. His name is Katsuhiro Otomo and he worked on little projects like Robot Carnival and Akira. I’m sure you have heard of them. Here is one of his not as well-known but infamous short film collections, Memories.
It’s fortune and unfortunate that Memories starts off with its most famous work first. Magnetic Rose is a short film written by a certain Satoshi Kon and has music provided by a certain Yoko Kanno. Two people that this blog really loves to death. You can see why people love Magnetic Rose already and I haven’t even started talking about it on any detail yet. I’m pretty excited to talk about this one. I hope you can sense that somehow through my words.
Magnetic Rose takes place in the future and features the workmen crew of a space ship called the Corona. That ship is a deep space salvage freighter that just came back to port after a long mission. After hanging out for a bit, the ship gets a distress signal in an area called the spaceship grave yard and you know how this goes. An area with a large magnetic field that ruins ships. Like every science fiction series ever, the Corona goes out to investigate the signal.
While there is a whole crew on the spaceship, the short focuses on the two that investigate the other ship for its emergency signal. That means we split into the ship group in support, Miguel who is the not as professional space fairer who doesn’t know how to use technology that well and isn’t married, and Heinz who is out on yet another mission and has a wife and kid at home. The two investigate the ship and find stuff they never expected to find.
This is where the Satoshi Kon writing goes into full force. Miguel and Heinz’s slowly lose their minds and well being as they warp in and out of the memories of the famous opera diva, Eva Friedel after the loss of her husband, Carlo Rambaldi. She seeks to insert both of them into their collective. Miguel just dives in head first because he has no anchor, but Heinz holds on as long as he can until she focuses on his daughter.
The weaving in and out of Eva’s memories is some great psychological horror. You barely know this crew, but the opening seen has shown how much they know and touch each other. Each one knows their position and can wield it well. This is a crew that has gone on a wide variety of missions. So seeing the crew fall apart in so many ways hurts. The losing of the crews minds in the other ship and the Corona slowly dying outside in space? It’s powerful psychological horror.
It helps that the atmosphere is so good. The music is excellent and the Corona being so enclosed compared the wide spread insides of the alien ship gives it some emotional clarity. Same with the real looking characters designs where each person has a national origin other than “basic anime character” and the art and animation are gorgeous. This one is a feast for the eyes in so many ways. One could easily watch these alone for the visuals, but the writing and direction are so good.
For Magnetic Rose, this short film automatically gets a solid. No questions about it. A younger Satoshi Kon and Yoko Kanno working together, space, drama, solid psychological horror, and the perfect atmosphere. What else does anybody have to ask for. I do wonder why Otomo allowed this stand out film to be first in Memories, but who knows. If you do watch Memories, Magnetic Rose is ok to watch by itself. Still, we’ve got two more short films to cover. See you next weekend for more.