During Ireland’s War of Independence, English soldiers ravaged townships on a daily basis. A five-year-old girl knows her own village will soon succumb to the threat. Her only hope is based on farfetched rumors of a skilled swordsman living in the nearby ruins of an abandoned castle. This black swordsman is said to only accept payment in the form of books of a particular genre. With book in hand, our courageous girl journeys to the alleged warrior’s home to plead for help, her life dependant on exaggerated hearsay.
summary by Kjeldoran
Highs: Fascinating style and effects; smooth recitation; compelling ambiance
Lows: Too short for comfort
You would need a very twisted sense of humor to find Comedy funny. The name of this short film will sound deceiving at first and is only the first of many surprises. The studio that perfected the fusion of computer generated imagery and hand drawn animation hatched this little gem with their usual poise. “Little” is indeed the right word here; this anime is only ten minutes long but does what most features have trouble doing in two hours. The imaginative camera work, the mesmerizing Ave Maria soundtrack and the intimate narration build the perfect ambiance two minutes into the film and leaves you engrossed until the fat lady stops singing.
The gripping visuals are hard to describe. They comprise of strong contrasts, beautiful backgrounds made with vaporous watercolors and fluid animation during the few fast-moving scenes. Comedy does not lose its artistic values when action sets in; the only fighting sequence is short but dominant and is perfected in part by the fact you have no idea what to expect as the bloodcurdling English horsemen are advancing. The name of character designer/animator Nakazawa Kazuto can inspire fear (Fatal Fury, Landlock) or optimism (El-Hazard: The Magnificent World), but he did a lovely job as director of this short film.
Comedy develops as smoothly as it can, but ten minutes is still too short to wrap up everything properly. I ached for a longer climax and ending, even if it may have drastically changed the overall feel of this anime. One thing is for sure; it would have certainly helped make it more complete and fulfilling.
If you enjoyed short, short films like On Your Mark and The Animatrix‘s Beyond, wherein character development can only be observed by paying close attention to the small details and keeping the blinking to a bare minimum, then Comedy will be just as entertaining… if not more.
Highs: Masterful and original storytelling; brilliant visuals; Ave Maria
Lows: Could use another minute
A college professor of mine once said that you’re supposed to “show, not tell” in storytelling; the focus should be on feeling and understanding the experience rather than the actual words and thoughts. Anime cheats traditional storytelling because it has a visual aspect, but rarely does anime take full advantage of this fact. However, Comedy does just that remarkably well and in a mere ten minutes.
The manner in which Comedy is relayed is that of a classic folk tale. The legend of the Black Swordsman is related through a young girl’s perspective, giving both an audio and visual recreation of everything that occurred. Using both concrete and significant detail in the narrator’s script, the anime makes it so you could easily close your eyes and see everything that transpires without actually watching any of the animation… but then you’d be missing out on the stylish art. It isn’t everyday that you find an anime intentionally making each frame grainy and slightly blurred, or an anime progressing smoothly like a storybook. The fusion of good seiyuu and script helps to craft the story from the ground up, and the use of Ave Maria as background music brings out the desired lax, yet antiquated, atmosphere. This composition is one of my favorites, but it would’ve easily ruined this vignette had they not been well suited for one another.
But it would’ve greatly helped Comedy had it been extended just another minute. As it is, you need to take note of all of the little details hinted at throughout the entire ten minutes in order to take in everything that this anime has to offer; an extra sixty seconds would’ve done wonders to explain more about either character or even to allow some more breathing room for such a fast-paced vignette. But as it is, it still achieves a lot in so little time.
Studio 4°C has accomplished quite a bit in the past with its short anime in such features as The Animatrix and Memories, and after watching Comedy, I’m eager to see if they can pull off future titles in this genre just as well as this one. If you ever have an opportunity, watch this anime, and be prepared to be amazed.