Mmmmm taste like mediocrity.
Story - 3/10
While they try to connect our stories with themes, and a pointless pre and post roll video, I think each of these works better if just viewed as their own piece of art work.
In the first of our stories, the main character and narrator Xiao Ming, reminisces about a local noodle shop that his grandmother would take him to. Over the years the owners of the store changed multiple times, along with the focus of the shop, but upon it’s return it didn’t have the same allure, since the noodles might have been the same, but what he really liked about his time there had changed. Years have gone bye and he’s returned to the town to say goodbye to his grandmother, and over a bowl of noodles he realizes that his experiences there made him who he is.
This is somewhat of a disjointed story as it is extremely sparse with the details that are actually important, and what is given tends to conflict with itself. The idea that he felt at home with the noodles, because of his grandmother, is something people can connect with, as we almost all have such memories, but then they decide that instead his good memories were all about a girl he was stalking. They then end the story with the point that those times have molded his life, but outside of liking noodles and moving to Beijing we don’t even know anything about his life; did that time spying on a random female make him a private eye or a serial killer? They had cute story about memories, but left out everything that actually makes it a decent story.
Following up the rather short opening film, was one about a woman who is one of the most popular models in China. She says that she’s continuing to work so that she can help support her sister, a younger girl who is currently in fashion school, but when she starts to see an up and comer outshine her, she realizes how much she loves her job, or at least the notoriety that comes with it. She begins to push herself to stay in shape, but her unhealthy choices actually cause her to head in the wrong direction, to the point her career is almost ruined. After taking out her frustrations on her sister, she is reminded that her friends and family are and always were there for her, which helps kickstart the next portion of her career.
What made this section so terrible is that the story has been done to death, and even then it was an extremely hackneyed one. The model who believes she is being pushed out of the business so she becomes a bulimic, if done right, can be powerful, but here it almost seemed degrading. Since there is no sense of time passing it appears that after the first sign of not being the best, she went right to the extreme. It also didn’t help that, although they show her at times as a caring sister who looked after her family, most of the film has her acting like jealous and angry woman. There was a right way and a wrong way to make this story, and they started off in the right direction and then veered straight into the wrong.
Wrapping up our collection is the only story that really feels well thought out and properly put together. A young man, somewhat disappointed about his current life situation, finds an old tape that brings back memories and makes him realize his brash decision making is what got him in the place he’s currently in.
This is the only film where you get a good sense of who the character really is, as there is enough time spent on his younger years and his current life. They also did the best job of creating a story that actually has a moral to it, and one the character actually seems to learn from. While the first twist towards the end was very surprising, and one that actually worked as well as not seeming like a cheap ploy to make up for bad writing, I thought the second one was a bit much and somewhat cheesy, but I guess it’s what needed for a happy, or rather sappy, ending.
They also try to make a deeper connection after the credits role, but with little context of what the characters are doing, or where they are headed, it feels rather pointless.
I actually think making short films is much harder than making a feature, as you need to include and build on all the elements in a very condensed period of time. The first two achieved that goal, but at the expense of quality, while the third really excelled at what this style of film making is all about.
Animation - 6/10
I thought the animation for all three was very nicely done. The first and last were much better than the second though, as they had a subject, the Noodles in the first or the changing city in the third, which they were able to focus on, putting beautiful detail into both. The third wasn’t bad, but I just felt there was something missing, especially considering it’s focus was an artistic medium.
The characters themselves were badly unoriginal and somewhat boring. If there was a template for standard anime characters in a realistic setting, these would fill it. It’s almost comical to see how both lead males appeared to be twins.
Sound - 6/10
The character voices weren’t that bad, and that’s actually somewhat surprising, considering the voice actress for the second film’s Yi Lin was Evan Rachel Wood, who often has no ability to act in her main on screen profession.
The only real miss when it comes to the character voices was that of Li Mo, voiced by Ross Butler. This seems to be Ross’ only work as a voice over artist, and it’s clear why thats the case. His entire performance comes across as someone reading the words off a teleprompter, without ever seeing them before. Worse than that, the teleprompter is also broken and only displays one word at a time, with a pause in-between. The cadence in which he delivered his lines would make Christopher Walken sound like a speed demon.
All the music for the series is very well done, and while nothing really stands out as being spectacular, they are all very well composed orchestral pieces.
Characters - 2/10
In the first film things like the Noodles and the changing city are so much better characters, with stronger background stories, than Xiao Ming himself. He’s there as the narrator, and so they can have the cliche ending with a dumb line, but you could almost do without him.
The ladies in the second story weren’t very original either. The older sister Yi Lin is an aging supermodel, aging as in earlier twenties, so when things seem to go bad she starts taking it out on the sister she cares for. That little sister obviously looks up to her, and since she won’t ever be a model she gets into the design side, so that she can try and be like her sister. Eventually the younger sister’s talent pushes the older sister to continue her career, and they happily work together.
Like almost everything in this trio of shorts the third one provided the best characters, even if they again weren’t groundbreaking. Well I should say best character, as the supporting cast were there, but didn’t add much outside of being needed as props. The main character Li Mo is similar to the previous films Yi Lin, as his default setting appears to be selfishness, but this time he at least realizes that he was the one who screwed up all those years ago, and appears to take some responsibility for it.
While the films were supposed to be focusing on the changes in life and losing bits of your past, the mundane and sometimes terrible characters make the stories more about awful people who finally realize they’ve screwed up.
Overall - 5/10
While none of the stories were necessarily bad, I wouldn’t say any of them were great either. They all dealt with common movie themes, an object that reminds you of your youth, worries of aging, and the love that got away; and did so in a way that wasn’t very original. I’d say that the final chapter, Love in Shanghai, was the best of the three as it tied together a few good elements and added a nice twist, it also was the most like a complete and profession movie. A Little Fashion Show was easily the worst, as it is as unoriginal as it gets, as this exact story has been told in this exact way dozens of times before. The third of our group, The Rice Noodles, was a cute story, but really was very amateur, more like a college film than a studio made piece.
If nothing else, being shorts, they are easy viewing that’s also enjoyable. You could do much, much worse with an hour and a half of your time watching anime.