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ADVENTURES IN ANIMATION: 'Mind Game'

by Eli Kroes

The realm of 'adult' animation is an interesting one. For a lot of people, it begins and ends with the Adult Swim channel or 'The Simpsons.' Some associate the genre with gross-out borderline-porn flicks like 'Fritz the Cat.' To be sure, this is only a small chunk of the animation that's not intended for children. In fact, the earliest cartoons were meant for an adult audience, and there is a lengthy list of terrific animated features you don't have to be twelve to enjoy. 'Adventures in Animation' will feature reviews of such films... 

'Mind Game' - 2004, Directed by Masaaki Yuasa

I don't watch a lot of anime. Or any, really. The only things I've ever enjoyed were 'Akira' and the Studio Gibli stuff. I guess that's pretty standard for people who aren't 'into' anime. The thing is, you never know if you're going to walk into a pornographic film by accident, or if you'll even understand what's going on. A lot of the stuff that makes its way over to America is also quite silly. Before you get mad at me, let me say that I am not opposed to anime, I just have no idea where to start. 

So, for those in the same boat as me, I would recommend this demented film. More akin to a Dali painting than 'Dragonball,' Masaaki Yuasa's surrealist adventure flick is the fastest 100 minutes I've ever experienced.

It starts with a head-trip montage of all the characters and their lives. I mean, it literally sums up each character's life in about  a minute or so. A lot to digest on a first viewing, but oh well. Then, we're left with Nishi, a 20-year-old bum who runs into his high school girlfriend by chance. They go get drinks and catch up, but her current boyfriend and sister meets up with them and kill the mood. Well, actually, the two Yakuza weirdos who show up afterwards REALLY kill the mood. One of them goes crazy and attacks Nishi's ex, and he gets shot and dies.

Somehow, he tricks God into giving him another shot, and he relives this situation. This time, however, he grabs the Yakuza's gun with his butt(!) and kills him. Now he's alive at least, but he's got to protect the girl and her sister from some really angry Yakuza guys. Then, they get trapped in a whale and meet an old guy who's been there for something like 30 years. Like I said, this is fairly demented. I won't tell you anymore of the plot because there's just WAY too much. 

If you like the Gibli films (i.e. 'Spirited Away') this will be right up your alley. Although, as a warning, it is MUCH more adult-oriented than Miyazaki's work. It's not NC-17 material or anything, it's just got a lot of cursing and some violence. 

Seriously one of the most creative animated features I've ever seen. It's like a graphic novel coming to life. And then punching you in the brain.

Photo by Animation Stuff.