Now And Then, Here And There (1999-2000)
“No matter what happens, it will all be ok.”
Directed by: Akitarô Daichi
Written by: Akitarô Daichi/Hideyuki Kurata
In Hong Kong they like to kill kids in their movies. Wong Jing has made a career out of it. If you don’t believe me, just check out Return To A Better Tomorrow (one of the most grammatically nonsensical titles ever). Or High Risk (called Meltdown over here in America for some reason). But ol’ Wong has nothin’ on the Japanese. They torture, kill and maim kids all the time in their movies. But Now And Then, Here And There is the grand-daddy of all kid killing anime series.
Not that that’s a bad thing. In this case it just makes the whole thing more unbearably tragic and horribly heart-wrenching.
Shu is a happy-go-lucky kid who has just lost a kendo match to a kid who is much more serious about his martial art. But no one can match Shu in the heart department.
After losing the match he meets up with a mysterious girl named Lala Ru. Her big blue eyes tell us that she has secrets that this world could never know. Shu instantly tries to make conversation, but to no avail. The girl is too far away, in proximity and in spirit. She is watching the sunset and that’s all she cares about.
Then all hell breaks lose. Suddenly the air is filled with robots and men with guns. What do they want with little Lala Ru? And what’s up with the pendant that she carries around her neck? Can Shu save her?
Shu gets dragged into Lala Ru’s world. It’s Earth in the future where most of the water has disappeared and one man wants control of what is left. Mad King Hamdo is the ruler of a giant, flying battle ship called Hellywood. He is perfectly insane, but all of his men (especially his second in command, a woman named Abelia) are beholden to him no matter what. Of course, most of those men are children who have been promised that they could return home after the war is over. Once Hamdo and Abelia figure out that Shu really doesn’t have anything to do with Lala Ru and her pendant they throw him in with the soldiers and tell him to fight or die. It’s up to Nabuca, another young soldier, to whip him into shape.
And things just get worse for everyone after that. There’s Sara, who is from Shu’s time. Her life gets worse and worse as the series goes on. Just when you think she’s hit rock bottom, the writers find a new level of hell for Sara. There’ Boo, who is the closest thing to a friend that Nabuca has. He’s just a little kid who doesn’t want to fight, but he looks up to Nabuca, so he feels that he must. And Nabuca doesn’t really like what he’s doing, either. He just does it so that he can get back home. And there’s Tabool, a kid from Nabuca’s village who seems to hate everyone and will do anything for Hellywood and it’s evil leader.
It’s difficult to really sum up the plot of a series like this, but there’s the gist. Basically, it’s a bunch of kids being forced to kill so that they can get back home. But home may or may not exist anymore.
In just 13 episodes, Now And Then, Here And There makes you care about each of these characters. Even the ones that seem to be evil have a side to them that makes you wonder if they’ll turn on their king. With this kind of three dimensional character development you can’t help but get involved. You want everyone to rebel and take turns beating Hamdo into submission.
The animation is pretty awesome, too. It’s not necessarily flashy, but that works for this kind of post-apocalyptic story. And the decision to not give any of the characters pupils (except for Lala Ru and, I think, Hamdo) give them a strange kind of soul that works in their favor.
The only real problem I had with the series was actually its antagonist. King Hamdo is just too fucking loony-tunes to have any followers. At one point he is banging his head on a desk repeating, “Lala Ru! Lala Ru!” over and over again. He also stabs his hand with a sharpened rose to drive a point home to Lala Ru. Any sane person who sees this kind of behavior would run soon after killing this guy.
Abelia is not insane. Why does she not put a cap in this guy five minutes into the first episode? I got the feeling at one point that she may have been in love with him, but they didn’t do much to exploit that possibility.
Other than that the series is a great allegory of our times. It was made in 1999, but it almost seems to mirror the American government of today. A mad king trying to take over numerous small villages in order to gain control over the only fuel source that he knows of. He uses his gun power to force others into “helping” him.
Or perhaps I’m just a governmental cynic.
At this point I haven’t seen very many anime series, but this is one of the best that I’ve even heard about. It’s a human tragedy told with heart. The machines may be big, but they don’t overtake the real power of the story: the characters.