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Now And Then, Here And There 1: Discord and Doom

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Content rating: 9
Posted 2002-08-05 by StupendousMan
Endorsed by kurt on 2002-08-19 12:12:00

I've figured it out: NTHT is a study of human psychology; specifically, the workings of the ordinary human mind during wartime. In Germany, during World War II, millions of perfectly decent citizens helped the Nazi party to carry out its campaigns of conquest and extermination. Why? How could they stand by and watch as the cattle cars rolled past to the camps? What were they thinking?

In NTHT, a young boy asks himself the same questions. Shu, a junior high (?) student with boundless energy and enthusiasm -- though not a lot of forethought -- finds himself transported into a forbidding land. The battlestation "Hellywood" sits in the middle of a barren desert, dominating the few poor villages around it. It is filled with unhappy people, most of whom have been impressed for service under mad King Hamdo. Hamdo is clearly insane, a megalomaniac who seeks to conquer the world when he's not snivelling in fear. His loyal staff, led by a fiercely controlled woman named Abelia, hold the rest in line as they try to keep up with his outlandish demands. For some reason, Hamdo believes that a young girl with strange eyes, Lala Ru, holds the key to his success.

This is not a happy story, as others have commented. It is depressingly and convincingly real in its depiction of life under a despotic miliary regime (well, it seems real -- I'm happy to say that I have no actual experience). Bad things happen to good people, often for no obvious reason. There is a violence, but much of it is implied (hidden between the panels of the manga, so to speak); yet the director knows what he's doing, because it's all the more effective. We know what's happening, and our imaginations are more frightening than standard movie gore. The director also has a deft touch with timing: he isn't afraid to let key moments play out, slowly, so that both the characters and the viewers have a chance to reflect. The superb backgrounds don't hurt.

Although Shu and Lala Ru are presented as the main characters, I think that the stars of the show are going to be Nabuco and Abelia. Both are members of Hellywood's army, the former a young footsoldier and the latter Hamdo's top aide. Both control their emotions and their actions very closely, because they've seen what happens to those who don't. Both, I think, do understand that they and everyone in Hellywood is doomed; and Nabuco, at least, knows that what he's doing is wrong. And yet ... and yet ... they still carry out their orders, without question. Why? Why? Abelia is one of the most interesting characters I've met in anime in some time. Like many "top henchmen," she's blindly loyal and infuriatingly cool. But unlike most, she doesn't enjoy being evil; she doesn't taunt her enemies. There are moments when I imagine the wheels turning in her head. Will she ever decide that it's just not worth it any more?

I guess you can tell that I plan to find out :-)

The video is terrific: a simple style, but carried out smoothly. I'd like to buy a round for the cinematographer and his crew -- some of the shots are stunning. I can't tell much about the sound from my lousy mono TV speaker (sigh), but the opening and closing music works for me.

I recommend this title highly. It's not happy, it won't make you happy, but it will make you think. So far, I haven't found any answers, either in the show or in my own mind. But it's thinking that everyone ought to do.

Equipment used when writing this review:
Teenaged Panasoic 21-inch TV set, lousy mono speaker. Sony DVD player run through a VCR into a single coax for the ancient TV.

Content: 9 Video: 9 Sound: 9 Packaging: 5 Menu: 7

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Other reviews of this disc:
Now And Then, Here And There 1: Discord and Doom by CmdrTaco (Rating: 8.20)
What a strange show. Based on reviews I've read around the net I was looking forward to this one. But it really wasn't what I was expecting. So far the story is basically the kid gets thrown into strange alternative world sort of...(continues)
Content: 8 Video: 9 Sound: 8 Packaging: 8 Menu: 8

Now And Then, Here And There 1: Discord and Doom by Darthbert (Rating: 8.20)

I was fortunate enough to find Now and Then Here and There at my local blockbuster and seeing as I had interest in the series I picked up the first disk to check it out. Now, please consider the fact that I have a pretty good memory, I...(continues)

Content: 10 Video: 9 Sound: 8 Packaging: 7 Menu: 7

Now And Then, Here And There 1 by guiler (Rating: 8.20)
This is a strange one, this one. You look at the art and it seems amost Miyazaki-like in its simplicity and childlike repose. Then you start watching it. Whoa. For something that looks so simple (and plots somewhat simply, though well), it...(continues)
Content: 9 Video: 8 Sound: 8 Packaging: 8 Menu: 8

Now And Then, Here And There 1: Discord and Doom by Scrubs (Rating: 8.60)

Never since seeing Cowboy Bebop for the first time have I sat through watching a whole series from beginning to end before the weekend was over. I'm not a big anime fan, but I know a good show when I see it, anime or no. I just...(continues)

Content: 9 Video: 9 Sound: 9 Packaging: 8 Menu: 8

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