Synopsis: Memories is a collection of three animated short stories presented by three renowned anime directors:
Episode 1: "Magnetic Rose" (directed by Koji Morimoto, of "The Animatrix" fame) - An outer space salvaging team receives a mysterious SOS signal, only to be led to the seemingly abandoned ship of a former opera star.
Episode 2: "Stink Bomb" (directed by Tensai Okamura, of "Wolf's Rain" fame) - A researcher ingests an experimental drug which turns him into a walking biological weapon...
Episode 3: "Cannon Fodder" (directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, of "Akira" fame) - A day in the life of a family who lives in a community which thrives on war.
Review: Memories actually puts together not just three, but four of the greatest anime talents ever because Satoshi Kon (of "Perfect Blue" fame, and more recently "Paranoia Agent") is the writer for the first episode, "Magnetic Rose". With these guys at the helm, I was pretty confident that Memories was a good investment the moment I ordered the DVD.
First off, we have "Magnetic Rose", which is, hands down, the most striking of the three. A group of space salvagers zero in on an SOS signal from a nearby ship. Two men are dispatched to the scene, and it is discovered that the ship belongs to Eva, a famous opera star from the distant past. Although mathematically impossible, it would seem as if Eva is still alive somewhere in the ship. As the men search for her, they are somehow absorbed into her memories as various events in her life flash before them. All of this takes place amidst the ruins of a grandiose palatial ship, while Eva repeatedly sings the Madame Butterfly aria "Un Bel Di Vedremo" in the background. Magnetic Rose is a haunting and emotionally compelling tale which showcases Satoshi Kon and Koji Morimoto's penchant for blurring the line between fantasy and reality. I found it creepy in a good way, such that I felt my hairs standing on edge as I took in the stunning visuals and lingering operatic theme music.
Next in line is "Stink Bomb", which I found rather difficult to classify. It's not serious, but it's too morbid to be considered a comedy. A regular joe named Nobuo works in a research lab somewhere in the mountains. He comes in with a rather bad cold, and downs one of the capsules he finds on his boss' table. He thinks it's a new fever-reducing drug, but it's actually something else. Nobuo wakes up and finds everyone around him dead, not knowing he is actually the cause. Nobuo is so oblivious to everything that's happening around him that it gets really irritating watching everyone literally drop dead whenever he approaches. However, the story progresses to such an incredulous level of unrealism that one can't help but be truly entertained. Somehow, combining an exasperating main character with ridiculous premises works for Stink Bomb. The art and animation don't have as strong an initial impact as those in Magnetic Rose, but Stink Bomb's visuals are no less meticulously detailed to perfection.
Last of the three is "Cannon Fodder", which I consider the weakest and my least-liked piece. Cannon Fodder is mainly about a society which thrives on war. Citizens spend each day loading and firing cannons at an unknown enemy for the sake of patriotism. One family in particular is focused on. The father is a cannon loader, while the son dreams of being the one to fire the cannon when he grows up. Father, mother, and son interact just like any other family -- except that they live only to fire cannons. Nothing really special happens in the story, it's simply a slice of a very peculiar yet boring life. The visuals resemble highly stylized pencil sketches that one would expect to see on display in museums, and not in anime. I didn't really care for the unsightly character designs but Cannon Fodder's overall look exuded a certain sophistication that was impossible not to appreciate.
With these three masterworks in tow, Memories is truly a memorable collection well worth a spot on any anime collector's shelf.
Miscellanies: Memories has nearly two hours of running time. There is no English dub track.