Week 24.22: Anime, AI, and agendas

A few months back, I watched Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle after anticipating it for quite awhile — on paper it sounded like a revisiting and refinement of themes he’d be building for years, in particular Summer Wars, which I’d always considered one of my favorite films of all time. It turned out to be a strange disappointment, all over the place and lacking heart, both literally a cohesive center, and convincing emotional resonance. A bit later on, I read a review saying that many of his earlier works actually shone as a result of his writing partner at the time, Satoko Okudera. These days, she seems to be mostly working in Japanese television and other films I sadly will likely never see.

After it came up in a work-related conversation this week, about good depictions of metaverse concepts in film and media, I decided to give Summer Wars a rewatch to see if it still holds up. I’ve been doing it in installments over my lunch breaks and still haven’t finished, but I can confidently say that it does. It has heart in unashamed abundance. I cried because it has sequences that are joyous and beautiful, because it observes life and family from ten thousand feet, because it feels like a once-in-a-career miracle that people made this then went their separate ways. I also learnt that young people today don’t know how to unzip multi-part archives, but that’s another story.

Back on the anime bullshit, I finally got around to watching Netflix’s A Whisker Away after several years. It’s about a girl who gains the ability to turn into a cat, which she uses to get close to her crush. It spends almost no time explaining the spirit world and mechanics behind this, because it would rather focus on how people are all suffering deep down and can’t be vulnerable or open in our society, and those are the parts that end up saving this somewhat uneven but well-meaning film that doesn’t manage to end very elegantly.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, also on Netflix internationally and not to be confused with Bubble, a high-budget but fully unnecessary and shallow anime film. Naw, Soda Pop is something else, happy to outline and color in its small scaled human story. Pros: it has a refreshing look that’s bright and sketchy, is set mainly in a suburban mall, has a storyline concerned with music and poetry, and a small but well-meaning heart. Cons: the ending is a bit cringe. On the whole, I enjoyed it and want to see it again.

Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop: look at those clouds!

An AI image generation tool called Dall-E Mini hit my timeline this week, and I haven’t been able to get enough of it. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the proper Dall-E 2 at all, which produces vastly more detailed and beautiful results, but hey this is the one we plebs get, and so it’s the one I’ll play with.

You can bring some really wrong ideas to life with this, which I’ve seen and admittedly also tried, things involving deceased personalities in historically unlikely scenarios, for example. Mostly I’ve just cracked myself up trying to create frames from movies that never happened, and things that are mundane yet just enough surreal. I now desire more power, so if anyone has an invite to Midjourney or any of the other proper tools out there, let me know.

I’ll save a few for posterity here, but my Instagram Stories have been full of them this week.

Kim got back from a multi-week business trip. We were worried it would feel too long but talking regularly via FaceTime was surprisingly good at helping with that. The first few weeks did drag on, but ever since I’ve been back in the rhythms of a day job, time just started moving faster. I said to someone that I now experience and visualize time in the form of calendaring software again: a carpet of items stretching forward endlessly, aka Agenda View. The weekends pop up unexpectedly; all I’m aware of is what’s due to happen later today, tomorrow, and beyond. Looking at time and life itself this way is extremely restrictive for the soul, while it perfectly serves the needs of productivity like blinkers do on a race horse. Part of this is a problem with me, but perhaps the rest is a design challenge. There has to be a better way.

This week I’ve been singing along to the late, great Adam Schlesinger’s Mexican Wine by Fountains of Wayne.

One response to “Week 24.22: Anime, AI, and agendas”

  1. […] that borrowed the aesthetic and some of the narrative set up of Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars, recently mentioned here as one of my favorite anime films. Sadly, while they had the idea then, the execution in Crash […]

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