Back in summer of 2006, when I made my first solo trip to Japan, one of my goals for the trip was to see Ged Senki in a theater – because, damnit, I wanted to see a Studio Ghibli movie as it was meant to be seen.
At the time, there were actually two Big Screen anime movies playing – this is quite rare, really, the theatrical anime industry in Japan is pretty much dead – Ged Senki, which I saw, and Brave Story, which I didn’t.
About a year after my trip, however, the Brave Story PSP game came out, to rave reviews… well, rave reviews from the sorts of people I listen to, anyway… and I bought it, played it, and enjoyed it considerably.
Just this year, the Brave Story movie DVD was priced down to Y1500, a price which, even with the crappy exchange rate, is quite reasonable, particularly as it has English subtitles. Not very good subtitles, in places, but subtitles nonetheless.
Now, then, there’s something about Vision, the world in which the Brave Story… Brave Stories? Brave Story Stories? Brave Storyverse? Let’s move on… the world in which the game and movie are both set.
To explain, I need to digress a bit.
From watching anime, it becomes obvious that almost every Japanese child is, at some point in their developmental years, whisked off to an alternate universe or an alien planet or something similar, and while there they have to fulfill a quest, they learn some valuable life lessons, and then they get plunked back into mundanity, only this time Things are Better. I imagine that office conversations, once they grow up and become salarymen, revolve heavily around all the various office drones recounting the details of Their Particular Adventure, ending in deep sighs as they return to their desks and get back to the annual reports.
The American equivalent would probably be Back to the Future 1 & 2, only with less Michael J. Fox.
Anyway, Vision turns out to be a world that’s gotten kind of used to all these Japanese kids appearing out of nowhere. They have a pretty good system for dealing with them – process them, assign them a fantasy archetype based on standardized testing, and send them on their way to hopefully get their quest done and get the heck back to Japan before screwing too much up.
The game, “Brave Story: New Traveler”, is, as the name would suggest, a sequel to the events of the original Brave Story, so it has a bunch of kameos that don’t make a whole lot of sense but that don’t change the plot all that much. It was a Well Done Sequel: you definitely had a feeling that Things Had Happened, but it was its own story.
The movie, “Brave Story”, is an adaptation of a novel, and suffers somewhat from it if you haven’t read the book – I haven’t, by the way. You get some character introductions, some nice set pieces which hit – presumably – the “high spots” of the novel, a montage about halfway through the film where you see the main characters doing things that probably make a lot more sense if you’ve read the novel, and then you get about an hour of mixed action and dramatic plot development. Once you get to that part of the movie, it’s pretty satisfactory even without having read the book.
It’s just staying interested until that point that’s a little tricky.
I’m tempted to go hunt down the book – a Rowlingesque 824-page TOME – read it, and then re-watch the movie. The animation was superb and I think it deserves another go.