GAMES - Review
11:00 - 30th June 2014, by Matt Kamen

Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day

Believe it or not, Short Peace may be the trickiest release NEO has ever reviewed. Sure, it boasts a cavalcade of top-tier creators, more often than not an assurance of quality; in fact, part of it is even Oscar-nominated! But Short Peace is really five short parts, four anime movies and one brief video game. Because of the cross-media format of the project, it can't even be fairly compared against other anime anthologies, such as Memories or Digital Juice. Short Peace is wholly unique.

Of the four films, Shuhei Morita's Possessions and Hajime Katoki's A Farewell to Weapons tie for 'most impressive'. Morita's work deservedly earned the Oscar nod, delivering a visually stunning and emotionally beautiful tale of human kindness with a supernatural twist. The use of colour alone is breathtaking, and although the CGI character models are initially distracting, they work marvellously given Morita's design and animation choices. First-time director Katoki funnels every ounce of experience gained as mecha designer for the Gundam franchise into a blistering war epic, one that's as much a showcase for camaraderie and ingenuity as it is for inventive military designs.

Given it was directed by the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo, Combustible is surprising for not being the standout. However, aspiring fireman Matsukichi and his childhood friend Waka hit all the right notes as star-crossed lovers, and the inevitable conflagration that follows leads to some powerful moments. It really needs more time to expand on its characters and themes, though. Hiroaki Ando's Gambo is left with the dubious honour of being the strangest instalment, seeing a giant bear fighting a gruesome demon to protect villagers that fear both. With minimal dialogue, it's left to the viewer to determine motivations and messages, and Ando's use of quivering lines and shifting textures give the piece a bizarre, otherworldly look.

By comparison, the game Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is almost the weak link. It's a meagre 40 minutes long - albeit deliberately so, roughly aligning with the movie segments - and has a plot that borders on the nonsensical, with teen assassin Ranko aiming to kill her father but being distracted by giant Pomeranians and psychic sisters from the future. Gameplay is sharp though, with Ranko racing through platform levels like Sonic in a bridal gown, slicing enemies down and chaining kills for high scores. It's remarkably fun, the brevity allowing for bursts of outlandish brilliance that might grow wearisome or repetitive in stronger doses. Directors Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer is Dead) and Yohei Kataoka (Tokyo Jungle) leverage long-time players' understanding of gaming conventions to create a familiar framework, while still remaining accessible for newcomers who may now 'accidentally' own the game when their main interest lies in the movie.

Issued as a PS3 release, it's worth noting that the disc will play its movie contents in standalone Blu-ray players. Bandai Namco have kept original Japanese audio throughout, although some onscreen text isn't subtitled, leaving confusing information gaps.

Approaching any one part of Short Peace is a fool's errand - it's a package that's very much the sum of its parts. Despite ups and downs in its constituent elements, it proves a fantastic experience as a whole.

Although unified by a theme of 'Japan', to a westerner's eye, Short Peace's movie segments have too much overlap. Three of four are all set in nebulous past era, making A Farewell to Weapons and Ranko Tsukigime seems odd fits. It's an odd package though, and we like odd - especially when that means something as impressive, captivating, challenging and enjoyable as this.
SCORE: 4/5
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