If you get the chance, watch the feature-length anime The Case of Hana & Alice (aka The Murder Case of Hana & Alice).
It’s a rotoscoped anime. That means it was filmed with real and talented actors first and then animated over. The word “rotoscope” always makes me think of the barely-animated scenes in Lord of the Rings (1978), but this anime is nothing like that. In fact, if I hadn’t been told before watching the movie, I would never have suspected. It looks just like a typical anime but with a brilliant level of subtle body movements and gestures.
Why such a strong recommendation? Simply put, The Case of Hana & Alice is up there among the most skillfully told stories in anime history. The characters are delightful, and the plot magically understated and elegant.
Yes, the plot is understated. In fact, you could even argue that nothing much really happens. There might be Satanists. There might be ghosts. There might be abductions. There might be all sorts of drama, but there’s certainly no killer robots, bikini princesses, time-travelling ninja or schoolboys who turn into barbarian priestesses at night. You have to have an appreciation for the art of storytelling to enjoy the antics of Alice, then Hana, as the two girls meet.
This is a prequel. I’ve not seen the original and doubt I ever will. Why would I watch a Japanese movie? 15-years after the famous original, the creative team couldn’t get the original actresses back (too famous) and so solved the problem by moving to anime.
I’ve no idea whether knowing the original movie enhances the pleasant experience of the anime even further. I can, though, safely say you can enjoy the anime thoroughly without even knowing its a prequel.
The anime starts with a young girl and her mother moving houses only to discover their neighbour is a weirdo curtain twitcher. There’s a new school to find and the embarrassment of mum as she almost immediately begins to hit on the first teacher the two encounter in the building.
It’s not easy joining in mid-way in school, especially not in the suburbs of conservative Japan. Imagine finding out that someone’s drawn a pentagram around your desk, though. Imagine if people seem scared of you too, rather than openly hostile.
It’s not a dark anime. In fact, The Case of Hana & Alice is now my default suggestion for culture vultures or sceptics who dismiss anime as an adult form of entertainment. It’s all above board… even if it is full of brilliantly cringe-worthy scenes.
With characters called Judas and Moo and being Shunji Iwai’s first animation, the reasons to pay attention to The Case of Hana & Alice increase the more you look into the movie.
Overall? The ingredients are oh-so-simple. The execution is flawless. Proof that you don’t need gimmicks to tell mesmerising stories.
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