The very first time I laid eyes upon “Short Peace” was a while ago when I walked into a local video game distributor and its interesting front cover caught my eye. Red and white, like the Japanese flag, this cover featured striking but muddled imagery that forces those looking to take one big step forward just to be able to see exactly what the picture features. I picked it up, I gave the synopsis a read and became somewhat confused by it but it stayed on my mind for quite some time. A video game that’s also a movie which is made up of four mini-movies each telling a wildly different story but each showing a piece of Japanese history and future, fictional or otherwise, that are connected simply by the country they were developed in. Thinking back on it…it’s a little less confusing now that I’ve actually watched the movie. It’s now 2014 and that means the Japan Foundation are spearheading another fantastic Japanese Film Festival with a line up that is just as good if not better than that of last year’s. Thanks to our friends at the Japan Foundation, us here at SnapThirty have been given a whole batch of screeners all featuring movies from the 2014 line up and one of them just so happens to be “Short Peace”, a film that was destined to be watched by me ever since I first saw it.
Made up of four short films, “Short Peace” tells a set of odd but fundamentally Japanese stories dealing with the themes of love, loss, heartache and conflict, though they’re not as obvious in all the shorts. What’s “fundamentally Japanese” about these short films is not only that they’re all set in Japan but they all tell quite Japanese stories. One is about a traveling craftsmen who comes into contact with a Yokai (Ghost), another is about an ancient firefighter living in the capital, another is about a polar bear fighting an Oni and the final is about a group of futuristic soldiers battling against an unstoppable robot. Now I understand that polar bears aren’t native to the land of the rising sun nor does the country have the technology to develop a fully-functional battle robot BUT these things are are quite predominant in Japanese pop culture. Watching the film, you’ll know exactly what it is I’m talking about. Each of the short films has, let’s call it, “heart”. At the core of each of the stories is a pretty solid message. What’s great about those messages is that they’re not laid on thick, meaning that if you’d like you can look into the films a little more to see what lies beneath and if you don’t, well, you simply don’t and you move on. They’re also just really exciting in and of themselves, without looking deeper into what they stand for which, let’s be honest, is not what you want from every single film.
“Short Peace” uses a great deal of CG animation. It is featured in all of the shorts and is fused well with that of “traditional” animation. Entirely developed by Studio Sunrise, it’s no surprise that the animation quality of this film as it a soaring high. It makes it all the more better when a film with heaps of CG animation is done by a studio that has produced some of the greatest CG-based Anime series’ of all time. There’s no comparison when it comes to Sunrise. They’re at the top of their game and I can’t honestly see any other overtaking them anytime soon. Despite the constant use of this style of animation, the different short films in “Short Peace” each have their own style. Each style is appropriate to the story told in the short and it also works well to break the monotony that would occur had the film stuck with one quirky style rather than simply the standard. This was the problem, for me, with “The Tale Of Princess Kaguya” and it’s a problem that “Short Peace” avoided while still driving home the point that the team behind it can dabble in different styles and still come out on top. Quite a feat indeed.
The film’s soundtrack can also be described in much the same way as its visuals: Each short featured a different auditory style that fit perfectly and worked to create great atmosphere almost instantly. Sticking to the films cultural routes, most of the music was composed in a traditional way but that’s because much of the film took place in an “ancient” Japan. The final of the four shorts took place in the future and featured some pretty awesome rock music that fit just as well as the traditional stuff did with the other shorts. It came out of nowhere, it shocked me and it impressed me. Big time. “Short Peace” was presented in its original Japanese dub and, as usually, the voice cast did brilliantly. There’s not much else to say than that. Like every other Japanese cast, this one was able to properly portray their characters. I have never disliked a Japanese dub and I don’t believe I ever will. “Short Peace” has not changed my mind in regards to that.
Let’s simplify what’s been said here: The film “Short Peace” is a sixty minute movie made up of four fifteen minute short films. Each of those films were written by different people, directed by different people and animated entirely by Studio Sunrise. Basically, “Short Peace” is a damn good film made up of four damn good short films. At only an hour long, “Short Peace” easily keeps the attention of an audiences and, every fifteen minutes, delivers them a brand-new story with a brand-new style that they become instantly invested in. That’s masterful movie making and I’ve not seen it done as good as in this film. There’s a reason “Short Peace” has been chosen as one of the films being shown at this years Japanese Film Festival and that reason is that it’s just down right amazing. My only complaint…I wish it went for longer. The way I see it, that’s a pretty good single complaint to have.
Check out the official Japan Foundation Sydney website by Clicking Here.