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'Mary And The Witch's Flower': From Neo-Ghibli, A Quasi-Kiki

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The freshman effort from ex-Ghibli creators Studio Ponoc at first seems like a riff on 'Kiki's Delivery Service' or 'Harry Potter' territory, but has morality rather than magic on its mind

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The Edition Omega Point Chronicles: Jōji Yuasa's 'Aoi no Ue' and 'My Blue Sky No.1'

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The first in a series of releases documenting the experimental works of Japanese composers brings us two electronic works from a regular presence in Japan's musical avant-garde

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'Spring And Chaos': The Man With The Child In His Eyes

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The life story of Japan's Whitman or Thoreau, as directed by one of the lead designers behind the 'Macross' franchise, is both appropriately stylized and spiritually true to the story it wants to tell

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'Violet Evergarden': Words From The Heart

Netflix's coproduction with Kyoto Animation is gorgeous and has a story worth telling, but maybe melodrama wasn't the right mode for it

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The problem with Violet Evergarden is not that it's a bad show, but that it's a good one that tries too hard and in the wrong ways. It gives us a character and a dilemma that I was curious about and wanted to see unfolded, and delivers it with gorgeous production values that's a hallmark of both Kyoto Animation generally and much of Netflix's co-sponsored anime in particular. But the show tries to stack the deck in favor of us needing to adore and pity that character, to the point where I wanted to walk out of the casino altogether.

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'After The Rain': Two (Broken) Hearts Beat As One

What starts as an unlikely (and potentially squicky) romance becomes a more ambitious story about kinship between those with buried dreams

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I didn't want to see this show. I admit, the premise alone turned me off: A girl in high school discovers she has an crush on her forty-five year old boss at the family restaurant where she works after class. Don't we already have more than our fair share of that kind of icky male-wish-fulfillment fantasy in our entertainment? But After The Rain, from Jun Mayuzuki's manga of the same name, isn't about romance, but something subtler and harder to come by: sensing, and responding, to the need for connection and empathy in a hollowed-out life. For them to just "fall in love" with each other would be the easy way out.

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© 2012 "A Biography Of Gusuko Budori" The Movie Production Committee / Hiroshi Masumara budori-gusuko-00.jpg

'The Life Of Budori Gusuko': One Against Nature

Kenji Miyazawa's fantasy about human beings at the mercy of the natural world receives a flawed but still immensely impressive adaptation, by way of a director who did great justice to his 'Night On The Galactic Railroad'

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There is much to like and admire about Gisaburo Sugii's The Life Of Budori Gusuko as a fantasy and as an adaptation of one of the works of Kenji Miyazawa, Japan's Thoreau. It is less a straight-up story than mythmaking, fantasy, fairy-tale logic, and that makes sense in the light of how Miyazawa himself operated in his fiction and poetry. Its ambitious intentions seem to work against itself at the end, but that's no reason to sleep on it. Passion projects like this don't come around often enough.

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