With the recent bluray re-release of 1987’s Robot Carnival from Discotek media, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit another Katsuhiro Otomo related animation anthology, 1995’s Memories.
I first discovered Memories in high school, browsing through my local used DVD store in the pursuit of getting more into “classic anime.” This was around the same time I watched AKIRA, Paprika, and Ghost in the Shell for the first time, and Memories fits right in with those for numerous reasons. Magnetic Rose in particular blew me away and still does.
Memories is a three episode anthology based on manga/short stories by AKIRA author/director Katsuhiro Otomo. The shorts vary in tone and subject matter, but they are all excellent pieces in their own way.
When people talk about Memories, Magnetic Rose is probably the short that takes up the bulk of that conversation, and for good reason. Out of all three shorts, it cuts the deepest.
The short begins with a group of astronauts traveling to the location of a mysterious distress call. They trace the call to an abandoned space craft that two of them, Heintz and Miguel, venture onto to look for the signal. When they arrive inside the ship, things are not as they expected.
While the concept largely comes from Otomo’s short story, screenplay writer Satoshi Kon (YEP, THE SATOSHI KON) and director Koji Morimoto added many additional elements that make the piece more personal and frankly, kinda horrifying. Their most notable addition was the emphasis on the perspective of Heintz, whom we follow on a surreal journey through his feelings of loss, isolation, and guilt about being away from his wife and daughter. There are many ideas in this segment that Satoshi Kon would return to later throughout his career. Like in his films, there are many scenes that subvert our expectations of whether or not what we’re looking at on the screen can be trusted as real.
Director Morimoto had just come off of working on Macross Plus with Yoko Kanno, the future legendary composer of Cowboy Bebop. While working on Macross, he felt a level of disinterest in working on the project until he heard the music that Kanno had produced for his segment. After that, he was instantly and dramatically reinvigorated by the project because of her music and he knew that he had to work with her on Magnetic Rose.
Yoko Kanno’s haunting, operatic soundtrack helps to accent the feelings of opulent melancholy that permeate the short. Without giving away too much, music is a large portion of the Eva’s story in Magnetic Rose and the fact that the OST is so powerful, the feelings and circumstances surrounding her character are conveyed powerfully and experienced directly by the viewer.
If you don’t watch anything else from this anthology, please at least check out Magnetic Rose. It manages to develop a highly mysterious and interesting world in a very short amount of time, taking some obvious inspiration from things like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. It’s an obvious pick for fans of really excellent visual art and animation, the works of Satoshi Kon, or just people that like weird neat stuff. Please check it out!
Memories was released by Columbia/Tristar/Sony on DVD in the U.S. in the early 2000s but is now out of print (I think?) though you can still get copies of it through Amazon/eBay for fairly cheap. The DVD’s picture quality is not amazing but it is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with some nice bonus features.
Thanks for reading my piece on Magnetic Rose! I’ll be covering Stink Bomb and Cannon Fodder in upcoming articles soon so stay tuned for those! I’ll link them here when I finish writing them.
If you check out Magnetic Rose or the other Memories shorts, let me know what you think! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at @bebopshock and I’ll get right back to ya. Or just comment here on WordPress. Whatever works. Later!