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From manga king Katsuhiro Otomo, known for his iconic work on Akira, comes Memories, a collection of three unique animated sci-fi short films based on his own manga stories. It was made in 1995 and showcased three different styles by three experienced animators.

The first one, Magnetic Rose, is directed by Koji Morimoto and is actually my favourite of the bunch. It's a space opera which actually includes both space and opera! Can't believe it took this long for someone to take this genre literally, to be honest... The short follows a group of dudes in a space salvage freighter as they receive a distress signal and are called in to check it out. They find the signal is coming from some graveyard ship that's orbiting a space station and, once they go in, they find elaborate simulations seemingly emanating from a European opera singer's memories/soul. Turns out, these simulations aren't quite as harmless and nice-looking as they originally seemed. As bizarre and derivative as it is, I do like the short's slow-burning mystery, its animation style and interesting ideas. Think Solaris meets Alien. The second short, Stink Bomb, is much lighter in tone despite having the highest body count of all of them and follows a guy who mistakes some experimental new biological weapon for flu pills (as you do) and, as a result, develops a deadly body odour. After killing everyone in the lab where he works without realising, he is sent out to deliver the drug to Tokyo, even though that means going outside and potentially killing way more people. Of course, that happens and he becomes a problem too big for governments to even control: things escalate to a ridiculous scale and it all ends pretty much how you'd expect. Tensai Okamura's short looks good but its plot is so unlikely and forced that it's hard to really get into it, even if it is more of a fable than anything else. That said, it's well made enough that you do feel like sticking around out of pure curiosity.

Finally, we have Katsuhiro Otomo's Cannon Fodder which takes things in a much more arty, serious direction. It introduces a post-apocalyptic world in which people just shoot cannons at invisible enemies that may or may not even exist. That's all everyone ever learns and no-one really questions that way of life since they're programmed from childhood to believe that their survival depends on it. It's an intriguing premise and could have definitely been the start of a cool feature movie but, as it stands, it's just a solid concept short, nothing more. The animation in this one is more intricate and inventive, making it stand out from the others visually, and its steampunk look works really well. Unfortunately, it's a little bare plot-wise and feels more like an experiment, a random thought rather than a complete short. Overall, Memories is uneven but varied enough that everyone should find at least one short that they really like. Personally, I'd say Stink Bomb was the weakest in that it just wasn't all that funny or intense, plus it felt a little out of place with the whole "memories" theme. Cannon Fodder is worth seeing because of its unique concept and its cool visuals but, for me, Magnetic Rose is easily the most worthwhile of the bunch: it's dark, creepy, clever, nails its titular theme and it's unlikely I'll forget it any time soon.

Whether you enjoy every short in Memories or not, it's hard to deny the visual validity of these animated works from three very talented writers/animators. It's certainly worth watching, even if it's just once, as chances are you'll find one of its stories particularly captivating depending on the type of anime you enjoy and/or the mood you're in.

Worth a look.

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