Review: ‘The Echo of Astro Boy’s Footsteps’

Traversing the worlds of early anime and Japan's experimental music scene, "The Echo of Astro Boy's Footsteps" reps a treasure trove for otaku (geeks). Subject Matsuo Ohno called himself a sound designer long before the term came into vogue, and this unassuming docu illustrates how vital his work was to anime's legacy. Pic's quaint style, including the narration's over-familiar intimacy in the manner of Chris Marker's "Sunless," will annoy some Western auds, but others, especially fanboys, will be enticed. Asian and music-themed fests should tune in.

Traversing the worlds of early anime and Japan’s experimental music scene, “The Echo of Astro Boy’s Footsteps” reps a treasure trove for otaku (geeks). Subject Matsuo Ohno called himself a sound designer long before the term came into vogue, and this unassuming docu illustrates how vital his work was to anime’s legacy. Pic’s quaint style, including the narration’s over-familiar intimacy in the manner of Chris Marker’s “Sunless,” will annoy some Western auds, but others, especially fanboys, will be enticed. Asian and music-themed fests should tune in.

Interesting if standard interviews with Ohno’s colleagues explain the sound pioneer’s impact on them and their art form. Generous anime clips beguile, but the film’s interest level skyrockets when it’s revealed that the revered genius, discussed in the past tense, is actually alive. With typical Japanese politeness, helmers Yuta Tsukinaga and Masanori Tominaga gloss over details of Ohno’s lost years, but the peek into the subject’s current life brims with compassion. Tech credits are a bit rough, although Pardon Kimura’s sound design comes through OK. Archival material, including “Astro Boy” clips, scenes from Ohno’s own helming efforts, and hypnotic music visualizations, save the day.

The Echo of Astro Boy's Footsteps

Japan

Production

A Cinegriot production in association with the Japan Arts Fund. (International sales: Cinegriot, Tokyo.) Produced by Atsuko Ohno, Masashi Sakamoto. Directed by Yuta Tsukinaga, Masanori Tominaga.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Tominaga; music, Open Reel Ensemble. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Oct. 31, 2011. (In Tokyo, Jeonju film festivals.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Matsuo Ohno, Kenji Shibasaki, Ichiki Takeuchi, Sadaji Yamato, Masami Sugiyama, Iwao Takahashi, Atsumi Tashiro, Open Reel Ensemble, Yasuto Yura, Rei Harakami. Narrator: Maki Nomiya.

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