Release Date: June 18, 2019
Studio Ponoc’s Modest Heroes is a collection of tales which shows how life must go on despite the obstacles that come what may. They are all heroes in their own unique way. This collection of animated shorts encompasses a wide range of genres, and it honours the precedent Studio Ghibli set in their films, and that’s to focus on vivid characterization.
Originally, this work would include four animated shorts, but the untimely passing of Isao Takahata did not dampen spirits. To make the theatrical experience a touch more worthwhile, a featurette with founder Yoshiaki Nishimura was included in most screenings, which discusses the design of each piece.
I’m glad GKIDs and Shout! Factory is bringing this work to home video and included this additional piece as a bonus. Also included are the press conference, an interview with the Japanese voice cast, and art. This film had a limited theatrical release across America early this year, and not everyone saw this fine work.
With this collection, I was in awe with the undersea world created in Hiromasa Yonebayashi‘s 18-minute “Kanīni to Kanīno” (カニーニとカニーノ). I’m reminded of Ponyo, and the plot feels like an alternate take on Pixar’s The Littlest Dinosaur. It looks at life under the sea. Two siblings lose their father when an undersea storm whisks him away. They embark on a magical adventure to rescue him. Mother is nearby, but she is in no condition to help. She’s pregnant. These kids search for their father and the world they discover is as wonderous as Little Nemo’s.
Understanding life’s many challenges is the focus in this work, and the theme continues in Yoshiyuki Momose‘s 16-minute “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose” (サムライエッグ, Samurai Eggu). Young Shun has an extreme egg allergy, and he has to be careful in what he eats. Mom is very overprotective. He’s a vivacious tyke and is not mindful of what he puts in his mouth, despite knowing his condition. More could be said, but I fear it will spoil the end of this work.
Akihito Yamashita‘s 13-minute “Invisible” (透明人間 Tōmei Ningen) is perhaps the most surreal. The literal translation is transparent human than man (otoko), and the subjective context here is in how some individuals always get passed by, literally ignored, and others get always noticed? That can become a downer. I cannot imagine what their life must be like; it must be sad and depressing. That sense can be felt in the direction of this piece since this person is thin as paper and can die without anyone ever noticing.
After encountering a blind man and his guide dog, a bigger question is raised. What did he say to change things around? This segment deserves an M Night Shyamalan award for its sense of social commentary.
These stories are very empowering. Hope is very much alive since there’s no terrible ending. I look forward to seeing volume two. Studio Ponoc may well bring in new talent to continue this collection with even more inspiring tales.
5 Stars out of 5