Almost two months ago, when I wrapped the third part of this four part series, I said that “no matter how things shaped up going forward, I think we can call this experiment a success”.

That might have been a bit pre-emptive.

An unexpected side-effect of this task I took upon myself was discovering not only that I like anime, but that I even have a preferred style. I’m not sure what it says about me, but THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME is clearly cut from the cloth of anime I enjoy most. It’s themes feel human – even while being clearly fantastical. Who amongst us hasn’t wanted to go back and have a do-over, even if it’s just a few minutes? What’s more, like many of the best time-travel films, it deals with consequences; proving that even if we could alter physics in such ways, we probably shouldn’t.

The artwork had flashes of beauty, but it was largely subtle, hinging mostly on a spirited protagonist. In an ideal world, I would have ended on this note, because the two films that followed did not endear me to the genre any further.

The penultimate selection in the series was TEKKONKINKREET, which Alex pointed out was actually the first anime film to be helmed by a non-Japanese director. I really don’t have a strong leg to stand on here, but part of me thinks that might have been what contributed to this film feeling…off.

It had an arresting visual style that reminded me very much of PAPRIKA, but for me it didn’t bring with it the wild imagination that made PAPRIKA feel so unique. Instead, it overlays that brushwork onto a crime story that seems like it would make a great double-feature with CITY OF GOD. The kids talk about Treasure City being “their town”, but for so much of he film, that struck me as these two kids being deeply in over their heads.Admittedly, they seem to have some otherworldly abilities, certainly enough they manage to escape certain doom a few times…but shape of their characters felt rather undefined.

This was the first film I watched that came with any sort of grit, and I couldn’t give myself over to that. Something in my DNA does not want magical and violent at the same time. I can only liken it to my dislike of tzatziki: I like garlic, and I like yogurt, but I don’t like the two of them mixed together.

That didn’t bode well for the final film in the series.

Before I get a few dozen angry comments, allow me to be perfectly clear:

I am not saying that AKIRA is a bad film – I am only saying that it wasn’t for me.

The story has grand vision, the visual style is miles ahead of anything that was being done at the time, and infuses the animated genre with a bleakness and violence that seem both enthralling and repellant (in the best possible way). It was deliberately left until last because it was agreed that the film wasn’t an entry-point into the genre – it was something that needed to be built up to.

For me, it’s a good thing it wasn’t chosen as the entry point, because I might never have made it past AKIRA into the films I truly did love.

It’s difficult to articulate why, but back when I was hesitant about anime, it was built upon preconceptions fuelled by AKIRA. Growing up, every art studio I studied in had some kid in the corner watching AKIRA on videotape (ask your parents kids). The aesthetic seemed grimy, and the story almost came with a fetishistic quality to it. Nothing about it drew me in, and if as I mentioned it made me hesitant towards the whole genre.

Going back to it now, armed with a healthy diet of counterpoints, I wanted it to finally “click”, and to be able to repent for that 16-year-old art student who always moved to the other side of the studio.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. The aesthetic still has that grime, which when compared to the sheen of SPIRITED AWAY or 5CM PER SECOND feels even grimier. And if the grit of TEKKONKINKREET was off-putting to me, then I was in for a rough night with AKIRA, since it’s even grittier. I come away from AKIRA and  its descendants seeing them less as art and more as fetish property: Something that you are either into, or you aren’t.

So where does that all leave us? By my tally, I loved five titles, liked four more, and disliked the last three. If you can hand me a list of a dozen films to watch, and I come away liking three-quarters, then you have pulled together a fabulous list…and in this case proven a point.

What I know for sure is that there are entries into the genre which I adore. Amongst the films that spoke to me the most were both the wondrous with supernatural flourishes, and the stories very much grounded in the real. I know that I will always be a sucker for beautiful animation, even if the story doesn’t completely speak to me. And I know that there is a subset – possibly a very large subset – within the genre that stoked my original hesitation, and even after giving it a fair shake, still does nothing for me.

Not to pat myself on the back, but I believe one of the keys to how much I enjoyed this series was in the staggering of their watching. The course was set back in late October, and peppering the selections over six or seven moths avoided the films blurring together and allowed time to cleanse the palette.

Most of all, I’m happy that I took this cinematic journey, and even happier that there are still titles that seem up my alley left unseen (PONYO, TOTORO, ARIETY, etc). I’m a lucky dude to have friends like Allison, Helms, and Alex who would give me such a thorough introduction…hopefully someday I can pay the favour forward.