Valley of White Birds

44e9925a-3968-44d2-8400-8afa01465f0cTime to get back to my roots and get stuck into a review. Truth be told, I haven’t done a review in quite a while (well, other than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but it’s awesome and incredibly easy to talk about). Like what happens to many bloggers from time to time, I kind of burnt out review wise and started focusing more on my art work. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I feel like I’ve made some progress in bettering my art skills. Anyway, back to the task at hand, I thought I’d ease myself back into the swing of things, by reviewing a very beautiful short film called Valley of White Birds, from Wolf Smoke Studio.

Being just over 15mins long, Valley of White Birds begins with a young man walking through a forest alongside a stream. He is then joint by an old man and they both walk together along the forest path, as white paper-like birds fly around them. They soon reach a village, where suddenly the young man takes an awful disliking to the white paper birds and goes on a mad paper bird killing spree, turning a large number of the birds into Autumn coloured leaves. These actions must displease the forest spirits, because soon after the boss white bird shows up and appears to taunt the young man. The young man attempts to stealthily attack the boss bird but is distracted, by what was most likely a vision of his younger self. The vision quickly vanishes and the young man chases after the boss bird, whilst using his magic bean-shaped pebbles to tries to kill it. The boss bird leads the young man to a shrine, where the young man engages in a boss battle.

As you may have guessed from that description, this short film has no dialogue. In my opinion this doesn’t take away from the film and to be honest, the young man was fighting with a bird. Having him scream things at the bird, would have just been weird and destroyed the peaceful and intriguing feel the film creates. Story wise this film is pretty easy to follow and the creators have done an excellent job of leading you through the tale, with visuals alone.

125fe3f1-8ce1-4182-80cd-518c6f024bb5In saying that however, trying to understand this film on a deeper level (what it means and is about) is another story. I can only guess that it might be based on an old folk tale or book or that the whole thing reflects the young man’s fear of getting old (based on black birds covering the boy, turning him into the old man, then turning him back to a boy when the shrine was destroyed) or his loss of innocence (base on the boy innocently following the boss bird and seemly worshiping it. Then things turning sour, when the boy gets to the shrine. Also, the young man seems more angered and untrusting of the boss bird, than the boy. As if he’s more aware of the boss bird’s intentions). It could also be a play on the stages of life (the bird representing life and each version of the young man representing the common mind sets at each stage in life) or a play on the balance between yin and yang (black and white were used a lot and very symbolically). It’s very hard to pin down exactly what this film is about and these are only examples of conclusions I could come to while watching Valley of White Birds.

One very notable aspect of Valley of White Birds, is how beautiful and visually stimulating it is. The backgrounds are just stunning, you can tell a lot of time and love went into making this film. Without getting all artsy, I’m aware of the techniques you’d need to use, to achieve the backgrounds on actual paper. But the fact this film was probably done digitally, has me completely flabbergasted and makes me love it even more. The amount of work it must have taken to achieve that look, would have been crazy. You can really tell the creators were giving it their all while making this film. Even just on face value the animation and backgrounds, completely suck you in and sets the tone very well. The colour palette and use of shape, is incredibly pleasing to the eye and bring the film to a whole other level. It’s just one hell of a beautiful short film.

Overall, Valley of White Birds may be a little difficult to work out but is definitely worth watching, if only for its beauty alone. It an incredibly cute and stunning film, that will draw you and capture your attention, for the full 15mins. I would highly recommend checking Valley of White Birds out for yourself and seeing what you can conclude from this film.

Rating: 4/5

If you’re interested in watching Valley of White Birds, I’ve left a link to the film here
and a link to Wolf Smoke Studio’s YouTube channel here.

Cat Soup

thumbnail_b10903e2-5c9c-49fb-8df2-8ac93baa5a9aIt’s been a while, since I’ve properly reviewed anime. Truth is, I fell out with anime and needed a break (more about that another time). Now that I’ve finished, having a wee sulk at anime, I’m ready to jump right back into it. No better way to rekindle my love of anime, than exploring its more unusual side. Honestly, I was spoiled for choice of strange anime. Picking one was quite the challenge, so I decided to select one at random. I ended up with a cute looking, short film called Cat Soup. It definitely did not fail to please, in the unusual department. So many WTF moments and questioning my own sanity.

Having no proper dialog and being extremely random, it’s hard to describe Cat Soup’s story. But I’ll give it a shot and say what I seen. To make this description easier, I’ll also give the cats names (I don’t think they had names, in the film).

Cat Soup, starts with a little white cat (Katze) playing in a pool of water. Suddenly Katze falls into the pool and looks to be drowning. However, he manages to pull himself out of the water and looks no worse for wear.

Katze is then distracted by the sound of the wind chimes, coming from outside. He runs to see what the commotion is and sees his sibling Pangur Bán, (who was previously in bed sick) being dragged of by a demon. Instinctively, Katze runs after the demon, to save Pangur Bán and ends up playing a game of tug of war with the demon, using Pangur Bán as the rope. This causes Pangur Bán to be rip in half and you then realise it was Pangur Bán’s soul, the demon ran off with. Not Pangur Bán.

Katze quickly returns home, with half of Pangur Bán’s soul. A doctor has come to see Pangur Bán, but Pangur Bán lies lifeless, in bed and the doctor gives up all hope. Katze then places his half of the soul, back into Pangur Bán’s body. Pangur Bán sits up, but sadly appears to have had a stroke.

In order to make Pangur Bán whole again, Katze and Pangur Bán travel to what seems like, the underworld or land of dead, to retrieve the rest of Pangur Bán’s soul. It is here we get to see Katze do a lot of messed up stuff. Including, very creatively murder several creatures and trap a S&M Mickey Mouse in a pot of soup/stew.

It’s a pretty crazy storyline and may be too much for some viewers. It not very clear what’s happening in this film and at first glance, just seems like a bunch of random weird nonsense. But get past that and with a little thought and imagination, you can come up with a theory, that solves the puzzle of this movie.

thumbnail_8a9788b3-8592-4802-aed8-571b1678ac31My own theory being, that Katze drowned at the beginning of the film and is actually dead (based on the fact that water, is a recurring theme in the underworld and plays a big role in retrieving Pangur Bán’s soul. Also based on the fact that, everyone but Katze disappears at the end of the film). As for Pangur Bán, I’m not sure. Pangur Bán could have been astral projecting, had a stroke, been very close to death or could have sold their soul to the demon. Also, Katze dying mind could have dreamt up the whole experience.

Overall, I’m not sure of this film. I really can’t say if I liked it or not. It was so very, very strange. It made me wonder, if I had eaten some extremely expired cheese and was hallucinating from the toxins. It’s kind of hard to pick out the good and bad point, when you’re not 100% sure about, what the hell’s going on. But that won’t stop me given it a go.

Cat Soup best quality, is that it’s very captivating. It’ll capture your full attention and you definitely won’t be bored, while watch it. There just some many bizarre and thought-provoking things happening, that you won’t be able to look way. Granted you may be staring at the screen, tilting your head like a confused puppy. But that’s all in the fun of these types of short films. They’re not meant to be obvious and aim to get you thinking. It’s like a moving puzzle, that really enjoyable to try to solve.

Cat Soup also has huge cute factor. Seeing little kitty cats do strange things, is just adorable. However, this only least until Katze does something twisted (like use a half-eaten pig as a mode of transport), then you start to question, if Katze is evil and if you’re watching a horror, from the villain’s point of view. On this point, the animation is pretty good. It’s really interesting and colourful, with a lot of weird and wonder creatures and sights. It is very trippy and unique, but you’d expect that from something, as strange as Cat soup.

Best of all, Cat soup is quiet and has no dialog. Meaning you can watch and relax, after a stressful day in the noisy world. Providing some much needed quite time, while still being entertained and not bored. You can literally just sit and watch it all unfold and let your brain turn off and wind down. Or, you can watch and take it all in and get your brain cogs turning. Allowing multiple viewing opportunities.

My only criticism of Cat soup is that, it could have toned down the craziness a bit. At times, I was left thinking “what the fudge is happening” and “Jaysus, that got disturbing fast”. It was a little too much at times. It went from rainbows and ponies to fire, death and dragons, in a matter of seconds. However, if it was toned down, the film mightn’t have had the same impact on the view and might have got boring.

To conclude, I would say Cat Soup is a very unique film, filled with wonder and madness. It has an interesting story and will very easily capture your attention. It would suit viewers, who enjoy or are comfortable with confusion and like watching thought-provoking shorts. But, keep in mind Cat soup has its dark, twisted and messed up moments. Being under 35 minutes long, I would recommend giving it a watch. If anything, it’ll give you a unique experience.
Rating: 3/5