This Week: Wish Upon a Star: Cold Body + Warm Heart (Hoshi ni Negai wo: Cold Body + Warm Heart).
There are no singing crickets here, but computer systems have their own bugs to fight all the same.
Every now and again, I end up considering what kind of impressions I would leave on someone if only a fraction of my recorded existence we available to them.
It is not an entirely irrational train of thought. We already have quirks at times with modern systems running into snags when trying to read older file formats. Some computer hardware needs legacy connectors no long made. But it is not something I over consume myself with either. I maintain backups, sure. But, I try and also ensure I am always moving ahead in efforts to create new moments as well. My redundancy levels for my backups may not be as robust as it otherwise could be.
Cold Body + Warm Heart begins with our leading lady, a young woman named Hikari, listening to a fragment of an audio interview her father once gave. The exchange is about how he used to answer questions about his hobbies. In this case, his old stock answer was “I appreciate music”. The trust of the conversation being his considerations for why he came to feel that answer did not cover what he most meant. The limitations of language and/or casual conversation. How what he feels his actual answer would be more akin to the emotion generated when sensational music is made. Even if the music itself, taken separate from that, may be kind of horrible or ugly as a standalone product . Which can be difficult to get across in a succinct fashion when just asked about hobbies. Likewise also, in his one segue, in how he feels he could answer questions about playing with his little daughter. That there could be such a chaotic or messy quality in the performance of it from an outsider’s perspective. But for the participants, the experience trumps that.
The implication in our first line of dialogue from Hikari’s observational computer system is this is a file she has listened to numerous times. By the end of the next twenty minutes, the viewer will have heard it at least twice more.
Is is a scrap of a distant time she has little to no recollection of, even is she herself is not that old.
Cold Body + Warm Heart takes place in a futuristic world. Science fiction tier computing. Giant virtual reality cyberspace networks. Interplanetary travel.
Something which the short film is quite particular about however, is in keeping as tight a leash on its world-building attempts as possible. The viewer will never see a picture or flashback of Hikari’s parents, for example. In turn, we never see fashions that would allow us the ability to judge how much time has elapsed. No clues to what things were like in her parents days. Hikari rescues an archived personality file from a hard defended network early on. But when the character asks how much time has gone by, the response is that it has been about ten years since their last access date. This, over giving us a concrete idea of when the present day of this story takes place. Exchanges and information across the short go like this. Data given, and flowing in a natural way, yet also keeping us ever so in the dark.
It is a set of constructions which I appreciate a lot given the mood it seeks. It keeps things loose. Open. Curious. In several regards, it embodies the spirit of what Hikari’s father is talking about in the well worn audio recording she has of him. Treating the viewer as a participant to this experience, gathering their own resonance from it.
As a result acquiring a messy quality that would surpass raw data alone had it provided years or the like.
This follows into the visual aesthetic of the production as well.
Director Kazuya Ichikawa has held various 3DCG production roles over the years. These range from a small part of Dennō Coil to larger theatrical works like Appleseed: Ex Machina and Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo. Here the eye is towards colorful yet muted palettes, like a planet of deep purple oceans and turquoise skies. Stylized shading utilizing liberal quantities of Ben-Day dots, granting the world a life like the fantastical ideas one may have once found in an old newspaper comic. Ben-Day dots as a design technique only pop up in anime every now and again, such as the Gunsmith Cats opening sequence. Here, in conjunction with the narrative and how close it keeps establishment information held to its chest, these facets dovetail well. The viewer has further layers of creative looseness and imagination to run wild with inside their own head.
What this world is, or what it could be.
This is the kind of all 3DCG anime which still feels a need to cut its framerate down to keep within usual 2D standards. Yet, I almost never thought about that over the course of the film. In the few instances when it is most clear, I do not feel it is was distracting as it is in other 3DCG productions which pull the same stunt. Those are often going for much more in the way of sleekness, or even realism. Cutting frames in such instances takes can take one out of the experience in aggressive ways. Everything about this world is already so stylized though. So much of it drenched in impossible world colors and different computational realities. It is the same way something like the dreamlike qualities of Glassy Ocean (Kujira no Chouyaku) keep me engaged regardless of what the 3DCG is up to.
Hikari, as far as the viewer knows, may well be one of if not the only human in her corner of the universe. Or even anywhere.
If seeing her move may look less than fluid at times, well, I suppose that would also be the case for a lot of machines looking at how a flesh body maneuvers.
I made a crack on Twitter while I was first watching Cold Body + Warm Heart. That Hikari’s labyrinthine computer and cable setup is one of the most monstrous tripping dangers one would find next to the room of Lain Iwakura herself.
In the days since, it is a comparison I have had a hard time shaking off. There are superficial similarities between the two, sure. The image of young girls with short hair bringing to bear technical savvy and a penchant for tank tops or similar practical clothing while operating their cobbled together equipment. But what grabs my attention more are in the contrasts. Lain’s world is one where she is in rapid time at odds with her personal psyche nightmares. Dreadful senses like the paranoia of someone watching you. The ever increasing feeling of the world closing in while she tries to find answers through cyberspace. Serial Experiments Lain is a series I enjoy and appreciate greatly. Though in atmosphere and tone if someone were to tell me they thought it felt like a lead brick weighing them down I would not disagree.
Cold Body + Warm Heart does in ways make me think of what a vibrant or, for lack of a better word, “happy” version of what the other side to Lain’s coin would be look like. Hopeful, perhaps, would be the word.
Hikari is still fundamentally isolated from society, as far as we see. She hold a clear sadness and melancholy within her, for how often she listens to the recording of her father. That said, she does have a certain upbeat wonder and joy to her as she rummages around their version of the internet. She banters with and yet gets on well with her computer system, and the unique relationship it has to her as they travel through both outer and cyber spaces. She is open towards wanting to get to know the individual they extracted early on from a secure part of the network. Further, she shows interest in what they used to be working on in their past human life.
If one fancied a Many Worlds interpretation of what would or could happen to a character like Lain in some alternate timeline or future, I feel Cold Body + Warm Heart would be a swell place to start.
At the same time, it is by no means beholden to any of that. The twenty minutes on display here remains entirely its own thing, capable of standing up and playing with its own strengths. Even if it is kind of messy in spots.
And I feel Hikari’s dad, as he was in the days of that old recording, would like the sound of that a whole lot.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime 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.