Nov 8, 2010 Comments Off
Yes, I am still writing best of the decade retrospectives. In fact I will soon be writing my first Best Anime of the 2010′s and then I plan on going back to the 1990s. I’ve decided there’s no point in restricting yourself to a “top ten”, sealing off a decade when you see something from that decade after the decade has past or having to wait until the decade’s over before declaring something’s greatness.
Trapeze is an adaptation of a number of short stories written by Hideo Okuda, all featuring the character of the psychiatrist Ichiro Irabu and his nurse Mayumi. This being a Kenji Nakamura show the visual story-telling takes things a little further than a straight adaptation.
For starters, Irabu, a pale overweight man in the short stories, is represented by three different character designs in the anime. One is overweight and has a giant bear head, the second is tall thin bespectacled man with bear ears and the third is a young boy carrying a bear soft toy. Often he will switch between all three within a scene. I’ll let you decide if they are the id, ego and superego or just a neat visual trick.
Moreover, it’s a mixed media piece with elements of live action, rotoscoping and traditional animation all used together. It’s not as polished as Masaaki Yuasa’s experiments in the same, but once you acclimatise to it pays off. There’s elements in the visual storytelling that would be impossible in just live action (and there’s already many live action interpretations of the material so a straight adaptation would be foolish). For instance the representation of the “common man” as cardboard cutouts and how that ultimately pays off in episode 10 is very clever, and I’d quite like to rewatch sometime to see if the various visual metaphors spread across episodes in a similar fashion (in checking episode one to get the screen shots above it looks like they do).
The reason for those visual tricks spreading through the separate stories is because the stories all take place with the same time frame (roughly the week before Xmas). Each episode deals with a different patient of Irabu’s, but often characters and events make cameos or have direct effects from story to story. Like Nakamura’s own Medicine Seller character from Mononoke, Irabu is a detective of sorts. A more obvious comparison would be with Gregory House, only with mental health problems being the target of his investigation. Each episode involves him getting to the bottom of his latest patient’s problems and then providing a treatment.
Despite the psychedelic, cartoonish approach to the visuals and some of the slapstick, the show deals with mental health quite sensibly. The story is frequently interupted by the talking head Fukuicchi who explains the science behind the various symptoms of the patients, but more importantly not everyone is “cured”. Often the patient has to manage their symptoms rather come out the other side as “normal”, or even just admit that they have problems in the first place. Like the real world, nobody’s perfect.
Unfortunately it’s another noitaminA show that’s unlikely to get licensed, and while it’s not Nakamura’s best, the subject matter and execution still make it worth checking out. Though do check Mononoke first.