Mothballs #7: Gentlemen Callers

This Week: Metropolis, Mr. Stain on Junk Alley, ef ~ A Tale of Memories, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and Galaxy Express 999




So… early 2000’s animated film based on a 1940’s manga which was loosely based on a 1920’s German silent film that Tezuka had only seen a single frame of before he started his comic. All directed by Rintaro, who tends to either produce very strong films or gets far too over ambitious and they collapse under their own weight. If this turned out to be a mess, I don’t think anyone would have been surprised.

All told, I found this a marvelously well done production. It’s bursting with lavish background art and slick animations, holds wonderful cinematography at both close and especially wide angles, and it possess a grand soundtrack with lots of southern style Jazz. And everything culminates into a deliciously shot climactic sequence transitioning into Ray Charles soulfully singing over the whole affair.

It’s difficult for me to find fault with pretty much anything in this film that can’t be justified by saying “It’s Metropolis” or “It’s Tezuka”. Sometimes it can perhaps seem long, but the current restored cut of the 1920’s Metropolis is about two and a half hours, and it’s still missing parts. The characters, naturally, all have Tezuka’s classic style and motivations driving them forward, which some might dismiss, but they are fully realized and had so much raw effort and passion behind making them come to life.

Everything about this film was big, boldly polished, and classically done.


Mr Stain on Junk Alley

Mr. Stain on Junk Alley and Mr. Stain on Junk Alley: Epilogue (Garakuta-doori no Stain)

For a series of CGI shorts, this was quirky and good fun. The lack of dialogue I think helps a lot, as it allows for everything to be portrayed via carefully done timing. It has a slice of life via surrealism bent to it, and so while every episode pretty much has the same setup (“An item is found! “What to do with it?”) I always enjoyed seeing what inspired direction the show would go with it.

I think the full length Epilogue bonus episode was unnecessary though and fell flat, as it changed up too much of the formula to deliver a far more traditional story. The TV show had a fine enough ending, by my book.


Ef - A Tale of Memories

ef ~ A Tale of Memories

I had difficulty really connecting with this show. And there’s going to definitely be some spoilers here.

It leans very hard on the melodrama lever (which I expected in something with main character romantic lead with a 13 hour memory span), and yet the show never lead me to believe that anything was really at risk of not being resolved happily for the relationships involved. It jumped over every problem too fast, arguably as a direct result of containing multiple visual novel routes to cover, and so came off as a more of a “best of” hit scene list from the game (which I haven’t played) with all of the sweeping dramatic parts but none of the required pacing and time to let the sad moments actually sink in and try to carry me away. While I enjoyed it trying to tell multiple stories at once, if it cut one, it’d have more time for setting the proper pace to actually sell the melodrama to me.

As Shaft did the animation, the visuals generally have positive marks, and naturally is at its very best when dealing with more abstract things outside of the default visual novel style of the show. If this production had been handled by a different studio, I don’t think scenes such as the storybook style Miya reciting her numerous voicemails as they’re visualized on an increasingly messy frame would have been done as well.

But romances are probably one of the most personal taste genres out there though, and I certainly recognize the parts that were done well and where I can see its appeal and where I’d even recommend it to folks looking for something like it. I suppose I just felt I needed deeper tension/suspense/bone crunching sadness “lows” after the dramatic “highs”, as I feel this is the kind of show that really wants me to go “I wonder if they’ll stay/get back together?”, as I know that’s what I personally need in those situations to really ride that rollercoaster.

I’ll still aim to give Melodies a watch soon, and attempt to approach it as a different production and go into it with an open mind to give it its fair shake. I’m not dreading it at least, since it should ideally look at least as well produced as Memories, so there should at least be that. But, since they are coming from the same franchise, I could also see how it could also have similar results as the first one.

Romances are really tough for me to judge in advance though, since it’s more of a nebulous goo that causes some folks to just “click” with it and others not to, through all levels of objective differences and approaches. And it can’t really be replicated from one production to another, less the viewer then figure out how the sausage is made and the whole thing then falls apart.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Another Shaft series, in this case one where they can just let the art team run wild. This I think helps the series in more ways than one, as while this is a comedy series, it’s the kind that prefers a drier or more sardonic style of humor. The kind of series where in your head you’re consistently going “that was a really funny joke” but you’re not necessarily always driven to physical laughter. In this respect, the art design team made it very visually dynamic to look, so you’re always engaged in what’s going on and keeping your eyes on the screen less you miss something, and the style unquestionably works for the production.

With everything entirely character driven, their quirks are dictated by their wordplay-inspired names (which the show thankfully explains at the end of episodes where new characters are introduced). I found their interactions enjoyable, but I can see how this could also grate on others, since there isn’t really any character development or room for wondering how a certain character will act. And particularly for comedies, there’s always the question of if it’ll hold up to repeated viewings.

I could see myself grabbing a random episode here and there at some point in the future though, and I feel the art design and overall tone will help it to hold up better than some other recent anime comedies.


Galaxy Express 999 (Purple)

Galaxy Express 999 (Ginga Tetsudou 999) 8/113

I’m enjoying the various temptations that keep coming Tetsuro’s way regarding his goal of a mechanical body. For now they’re diverse enough, though I hope it doesn’t end up repeating itself. But, it seems smart enough to be able to know when to switch things up when/if it’ll need to.


Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.

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