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Spring and Chaos

Score: 75%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Region: A
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 57 minutes + 10 minute bonus

Genre: Anime
Dual Language: Japanese and
Subtitles in
           English, German, Spanish,
           Chinese, Korean and French


  • Interviews with Shoji Kawamori, Writer/Director
  • Interviews with Atsumi Tashiro, Sound Director/Producer
  • Mini-Feature Film on the Life of Kenji Miyazawa
  • Art Gallery of Stills from the Movie
  • Animation Cel Included with Packaging

A certain period in the development of Buddhism signaled a change in the dogma that had been practiced since the beginning of the religion in India. Practitioners at some point, instead of viewing the present world as flawed and needing transcendence, decided it was merely man?s perception that was flawed. There was nothing wrong with the world that couldn?t be fixed by clear vision and mindfulness. The saying that conveys this, roughly translated, is ?When you begin to practice Zen Buddhism, mountains are mountains and trees are trees. As you perfect your practice of Buddhism, mountains are not mountains and trees are not trees. When you master your practice and achieve enlightenment, mountains are again mountains and trees are again trees.? The idea that a perfect world was all around, but simply perceived as imperfect through imperfect vision, fits well with the story of Japan?s most famous modern poet, Kenji Miyazawa. Spring and Chaos tells Miyazawa?s story through animation, and features some of the most medium-bending anime I?ve ever seen. To match the brilliance and depth of a poet, Shoji Kawamori (of Escaflowne and Macross fame) creates a world that could convince even the most resolute opponent of ?anime as art? that this is a mature and vital way to convey a message.

With Escaflowne or Macross, Kawamori certainly stretched the giant robot theme quite a bit, and put in time to produce videogame titles like Omega Boost, which featured unique aspects in gameplay or visuals, still around the world of mecha. Spring and Chaos could not be further from the work Kawamori fans may have come to expect, but it may well bring in a new group of fans that otherwise would not have picked up Escaflowne or Macross for a viewing.

The story is told in the real setting of 1920s Japan, with characters that live in a removed rural area and appear as cats. The choice to use cats, says Kawamori, was made because trying to represent Miyazawa?s unique qualities in human form didn?t seem quite right. Just as Japanese businessmen still pay some homage to Miyamoto Musashi, it?s obvious that Kawamori feels a strong artistic debt to Miyazawa, and wants to bring his spirit to life by way of anime. The results are astounding, purposeful, and everything most fans would want to see. Spring and Chaos is not easily categorized, but those who watched Grave of the Fireflies will attest to the moving power anime can have, even when no boobs or blood are present. Viewers looking for depth will find more than they could have expected.

The serious, reverent style of Spring and Chaos should not suggest that it is less than fun to watch. Seeing the story behind an incredible person is sometimes equally incredible, or so Kawamori would hope. Miyazawa lived a simple life in North Eastern rural Japan, going from an academic career to the fields. He had a passion for the cosmos, and seemed to be fascinated by science in general. He was both a mystic and an academic, so the language he used in the first quarter of the last century would be considered a bit fantastic even today. Mostly, it would seem that he had a broad sense of what the world might be doing under our feet and around us, and wanted to go beyond the mundane affairs of life into the underlying meaning of things. Scenes from his childhood, his adulthood, and his dying days flesh out Miyazawa, making him more than some strange prophet we might see in an anime movie. Rather than making magic, he sees the world around him as a magical place and puts thoughts on paper to calm his mind and document the strange wonder he feels about life. The challenge and disappointment he faces is not glossed over, and we get a real sense of the struggle he had by being so sensitive to the world?s small energies.

The DVD is a quality production, with interviews that help you get inside the mind of Kenji Miyazawa and how he was brought to the screen. Macross fans stumbling across this one will be shocked at the difference in both storytelling and art, but Shoji Kawamori is capable of flights of fancy (as evidenced by Escaflowne?s elaborate and mystic storyline), along with hard-driving action or mature storytelling. The blend of technology and art is no clearer than in his use of both traditional and CG animation, which comes not from Kawamori?s past use of CG, but because Miyazawa seemed to live between two worlds. In scene after scene, softer textures are interspersed with CG to give an unsettled, dreamlike quality to the film. The fact that Miyazawa was not understood in his own time and only gained prominence after his death only makes the effort put into this DVD so much more worthwhile. As much as it may sadden us to see a human life cut short after only 37 years, Kawamori makes the case that Miyazawa lived life to the fullest everyday, not only sharing his joy with the people around him, but transcribing it for the masses. And now, we have Kawamori to thank for a little joyful transcription of his own, into images and sound on film.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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