Tales of a Street Corner is produced by Osamu Tezuka and uses a combination of living and inanimate characters to construct a story with a heavy anti-war theme. Sounds bizarre, right? Well, it certainly is and the first half is unlikely to get any other reaction than a few raised eyebrows and smiles as it introduces the characters and setting.
Among the cast we find a human girl and her father; a moth; a group of mice; a street-lamp and finally a plethora of various posters containing a large variety of characters. These characters inhabit a street corner that, through clever development, comes off as an entity in its own right that the creators fill with life through musical sequences where all the "components" interact.
These sequences are enhanced by repetitive but infinitely cheerful melodies that are quickly replaced with far more solemn tunes when a mysterious person in soldier boots replaces the joyful posters with images of a man dressed in a military outfit and whose appearance is an obvious representation of a cruel dictator. Suddenly, the atmosphere of the movie ventures into darker territories as war breaks out and the characters do their best to survive.
As far as conventional storytelling goes, the above is about as much sense one can make of it. A metaphorical interpretation is a lot more rewarding in this case and luckily for the viewer it's not a particularly complex one. It basically shows the horrors of war and the effect it has on a happy and functional community in a clever but simplistic way that children and adults alike can grasp. A large portion of the movie can be seen as more or less irrelevant but these sequences are made a lot more interesting by the insanely creative animation. Make no mistake, the artwork is heavily aged, but there are enough highly interesting visual quirks to compensate for that.
In the end, Tales of a Street Corner isn't saying anything you didn't already know, nor does it make you ponder the eternally relevant questions of war. What it does do, however, is introduce you to a charming neighborhood that finds itself victimized by war and allows you to follow its struggle along with appropriate music and nicely done animation. It also makes you sympathize with inanimate characters without any verbal communication and only minimal movement; an achievement in its own right.
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