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'Short Peace' review: Diverse animation with impeccable storytelling

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Short Peace


"Short Peace" will begin its theatrical run in Houston starting this Saturday.

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"Short Peace" is an anthology of four extraordinary animated films directed by Shuhei Morita, Katsuhiro Otomo ("Akira"), Hiroaki Ando, and Hajime Katoki. The film follows in the footsteps of Otomo's "Memories" from nearly a decade ago and incorporates different animation styles and film genres into one unique experience.

The opening of the film features a young girl playing hide-and-seek with a boy who is never shown on screen. She keeps asking if the boy is ready for her to come and find him. When he's finally ready, her surroundings completely change. She sees and begins chasing a white rabbit through various environments that are consistently modified. The opening ends with a glowing red ball that flies up her shirt, lifts her into the air, and sifts through a variety of different appearances for the young girl before the "Short Peace" title is shown on screen.

"Possessions" begins with text that tells the story of Tsukumogami; every century souls occupy various inanimate objects and play tricks on people. The short opens with a lone samurai trudging through a forest during a thunderstorm. Seeking shelter, he finds an abandoned shrine to rest in. But the shrine turns out to be haunted as it transports our protagonist to a room infested with umbrellas, an intertwining fabric room, and a smelly garbage demon.

"Combustible" is a story of honor. It's presented in this traditional Japanese style with soft intricate colors which leaves the short feeling simple yet completely elegant. Matsukichi is disowned by his father after his tattoos are discovered, but this allows him to follow his one true passion of becoming a fireman. Waka becomes depressed with Matsukichi's absence as an uncontrollable flame suddenly engulfs their homes.

"Gambo" is the most gripping of the four shorts. A polar bear that can understand human speech is asked by the last remaining daughter of a small village to save them from the red demon. Featuring a field of red flowers that are realistically rendered and a nasty brawl featuring not only the bear and the demon but a samurai and an entire army, "Gambo" begins and ends in one of the messiest bloodbaths imaginable.

The anthology's finale is "A Farewell to Arms," a sci-fi short revolving around a group of scavengers with heightened physical attributes thanks to protective suits who are confronted by an automated artillery drone known as GONK.

"Possessions" is the most satisfying short. Its animation is this wonderful blend of traditional and 3D animation. While the short is somewhat strange at first, it's actually very lighthearted and a joy to watch. The little dancing umbrella frog is freaking adorable. "A Farewell to Arms" is a visual ecstasy thanks to how well its futuristic technology is animated and its dynamic sense of perspective.

"Short Peace" lives up to its title as its brief 68-minute duration results in a film that is extremely easy to digest. The animation in each short is breathtaking in its own way and its short length contributes to the fact that each story is quite engaging. With its beautiful animation and exquisite storytelling, “Short Peace” is a rare animated film that taps into reflective and sentimental territory.


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