NOW AND THEN, HERE AND THERE (1999-2000)

 

Format: 13 24-minute episodes on 3 DVDs

 

Rating: R (AC, AL, GV)

 

American Production: U.S. Manga Corps

 

Japanese Production: AIC/Pioneer LDC

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A

Story:

A

Writing:

A

Character Design:

A

Animation:

A-

Artistic Merits:

A-

English Dub:

B+

Musical Score:

A-

Opener:

B

Closer:

B+

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

A-

Drama Content:

A

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C

DVD Extras:

C

 

 

OVERALL:

A

 

Synopsis

Two young modern teens - a Japanese boy named Shu and an American girl named Sara - get caught up in a dragnet cast to find an escapee from another world (or perhaps a distant future) called Lalaru. Transported to the once-mobile, now-stranded fortress Hellywood on a different planet, they find themselves severely abused and subjected to the machinations of the fortressís mad king. Separated, they each eventually escape by different means but follow ultimately convergent paths as they struggle to make sense of the seemingly insane world around them and find a way home.

 

The Long View

Once you get past the first few minutes of the first episode, NTHT is the antithesis of a light and funny tale. It is a grim, serious story where a lot of really bad things happen to a lot of people, whether the people are basically good or not. The unnamed world is a harsh, desolate place desperately short on water, one where a madman named Homdo continues to rule because of his ruthless discipline and because his chief underlings remain unwaveringly loyal to him even in the face of his clear insanity. (One gets the sense that they continue to act out of loyalty and duty because they canít imagine acting otherwise.) Both of these factors influence the story greatly; children are conscripted to fight as soldiers, and there are numerous instances of beatings, torture, and other unmentionable abuse, and there are killings, including the shooting of children. So why am I giving such a strong rating to such a seemingly ugly story?

Because itís also one of the best anime series made to date, and I know Iím not alone in this opinion.

NTHT is a masterpiece of execution. Its story is a simple and straightforward one that stays firmly focused on where itís going; the only thing that even approaches a flaw in the writing is the lack of explanation about how Hellywood came to be where it is. (Neither of the main characters ever expresses any interest in knowing that, though, so the writers were correct not to force the details in.) Despite the grim overtones, the story does maintain a much more positive undertone. ďNever give up hope, no matter how bad things get,Ē it tells us, mostly through the voice of Shu, and that hope is represented in the story by young children. The artwork and animation parallel the nature of the story: clean and crisp, favoring substance over style. Yes, the content is sometimes graphic, but no worse than a typical R-rated American action movie. The musical accompaniment also strikes just the right tone and perfectly sets up the mood, as do the opening and closing numbers. The English voice work is quite good.

The biggest selling point for NTHT, though, are the characters. Shu is reckless and overly talkative, but his irrepressible optimism and enthusiasm carry him through even the worst of circumstances and the nobility of his soul - this is a person who not only abhors killing and cruelty, but refuses to compromise his principles under any circumstances - gives him an undeniable appeal. Then thereís Sara, whose early fear and later hatred and despair at the loss of her innocence (in virtually every sense) are palpable things. In stark contract to both is Lilaru, who looks like a human girl with strange eyes but is actually a mythical being thousands of years old. Her ability to draw vast resources of water from her pendant (but at a price) has made her an invaluable commodity over the ages, but so much strife has swirled about her that she cannot look upon the world with anything but emotionless pessimism. Among the key supporting characters is King Homdo, whose megalomaniacal insanity is well-portrayed without going overboard, and his chief subordinate Abelie, a woman who seems completely resigned to the fact that she is giving her unswervingly loyalty to a madman. Also thereís Nibaku, the teenage leader of one of the childrenís barracks, who is so devoted to earning a trip home via loyal service that heís willing to sacrifice his principles. Sis, a motherly character, shows up late in the story but plays a key role from that point on.

NTHT is ultimately a story of powerful emotions. Watching it can be a very cathartic experience; it will shock you and dismay you, make you angry or relieved or sad, and in at least one place it will quite probably break your heart. In the end you may find yourself completely overcome, and I donít mean this in a bad sense. It is a series worthy of the effort to track it down and check it out.

 

DVD Extras

††††† Extras for the DVDs are limited, but beyond that I cannot provide details at this time.

 

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Shu

Ed Paul

Sara

Kayzie Rogers

Lilaru

Lisa Ortiz

King Homdo

Jack Taylor

Abelie

Dana Halstead

Nibaku

Dan Green

Sis, Boo

Rachael Lillis

Tabool

Crispin Freeman

Elamba

Scottie Ray

Soon

Kerri Williams

 

 

 

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