As a young boy I was exposed to all manner of anime series adapted for U.S. television. From Starblazers to Speed Racer, I was impressed with the adult oriented material, but always had a bit of a problem with the animation itself. I wasn't a huge fan of the way the character's movements and facial expressions were exaggerated, or of how action was often created using still frames of characters in the foreground with lines and swooshy sound effects in the background to somehow suggest movement. To me, anyway, it looked cheap and, as I got older, I really hated "anime". That was, of course, until I was literally dragged to the theater (by Big McLargehuge, no less!) to see Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Boy Howdy, did that film open my eyes. As I began to fancy myself something of an otaku, I began to research the medium and developed a newfound respect for many of the anime I'd once considered "cheap!" So, essentially, Katsuhiro Otomo created what was my first look at what anime could be, and, through this, opened my eyes to the culture behind it.
With his 1995 "anthology" style film, Memories, Otomo enlisted the help of two of Japan's most prominent anime creators; Tensai Okamura, and Koji Morimoto. Each director then adapted their own versions of short manga pieces by Otome, derived from his graphic novel of the same name. While the three films are presented together, there really isn't a common thread woven through them; rather each is a standalone episode.
"Magnetic Rose" is the story of a salvage crew that receive a distress call from a massive orbiting spaceship that is sitting in the midst of meteorites swirling in a highly unstable magnetic field. Of course, seeing that the salvage of such a vessel could bring in enough money to set the crew up for life, they shirk off the danger and investigate. What they find, however, is a veritable palatial estate in space, filled with the memories of a long dead opera star. As the crew investigate the ship, they realize that it's not only her memories the computer can replicate, and it soon becomes apparent that the space palace's distress call was one of loneliness.
"Stink Bomb" is a very funny and effective bit of sci-fi/political satire in which a young researcher for a massive medical firm mistakenly ingests a pill he thinks is a new remedy for the common fever. However, when everyone around him begins lapsing into fume induced comas, the young man becomes terrified, thinking he is the sole survivor of some form of industrial accident. Not realizing he is the cause, he travels from the isolated complex toward Tokyo, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake!
The final chapter, "Cannon Fodder" is the most uniquely animated of the three. It focuses on a city whose entire purpose is to construct, man, and maintain giant cannons to protect itself from an enemy they aren't even sure exists. This was my favorite installment, and was directed by Otomo himself. I really enjoyed the look of the animation, which had a water-color quality to it that I felt was quite distinctive and really added to the overall "fairy tale" vibe.
All three episodes are great stuff, although I did find that Magnetic Rose seemed to drag on longer than it needed to, and seemed to have the weakest of the scripts. Stink Bomb was just perfect as it was, and, were it not for the stunning animation of Cannon Fodder, would probably be my pick of the three based on sheer entertainment value alone.
The DVD from Columbia/Tri-Star features a gorgeous widescreen anamorphic transfer, nice yellow subtitles in the letterboxing, and a smattering of extras, including three short "pilot" episodes of each of the segments. It also features a booklet, interviews with the three directors, and a short "Making of Memories" featurette. It's a solid set for an outstanding collection of some of the finest anime you'll see anywhere, and highly recommended.