What It Means To Be A Hero
Anime is a medium that regularly features some of the most creative and interesting stories coming out of Asia. Dating way back to the early 20th Century, this medium has constantly poured out timeless gems including Death Note, Dragon Ball Z and Attack On Titan. Modest Heroes is unlikely to be as prolific as those titles of course, but what it does do is showcase some of the artistic tricks of the trade, with three very different short films created with three very different art styles.
Clocking in at 50 minutes, Modest Heroes is a fleeting experience as best but it does do enough to whet the appetite and leave you hungry for more. The three stories themselves get better as they go along, but lack that distinct edge that some of the more recognisable animes have. The first story, Kanini and Kanino, is about a colony of humans that live underwater and two kids, Kanini and Kanino, forced to go on a perilous journey.
The second story, Life Ain’t Gonna Lose, revolves around a Mother and Son’s relationship defined and strained by Shun’s egg allergy. The story progresses nicely and works much deeper on a character-driven level, with the plot progressing at a decent pace. The third story is my personal favourite, Invisible, and focuses on an invisible man and the struggles he endures on a daily basis. It explores the realities of what this life would be like and has a good range of emotion stuffed into its short run-time.
Plot-wise, there isn’t a whole lot here to get excited about. The shorts are engaging enough to watch and there’s a nice variety in tone that keeps this watchable but to be honest, Modest Heroes works better as an artistic showcase. Admittedly, the first short film feels a little janky at times as it merges CGI with 2D animation but there’s some nice water effects used and at times the transition between the two art styles works pretty well. The second short deliberately avoids using black outlines for any of the characters or backgrounds, giving the feel of a much more soft and inviting world that dreamily merges together in a concise way.
The final film, Invisible, arguably has the toughest job out of all three films and it’s partly the reason the film works as well as it does. How do you portray character and emotion on a person no one can see? This question is tackled head-on here through the visuals, which uses a range of animated body movements and extreme close ups to try and emphasize emotion. It works pretty well too but as the rain lashes down midway through, the rain droplets and subtle inclusions of blood and leaves stuck to his head help to really humanize him. It also works well to symbolize his changing fate, which adds much more depth to this short.
Tying all three films together is an interesting underlying theme around heroic deeds, big and small. It’s an interesting concept and all three films showcase this is a completely different manner. I won’t divulge what these heroic acts are, for fear of spoiling each short, but suffice to say it works well to anchor the films to a single common goal and the anthology is all the more stronger for it.
It’s not perfect, and at times the shorts fail to really ignite that excitement and awe that other animes have achieved in the past, but it does do well to convey the impressive artistic tricks of the trade. The stories are okay, with the best reserved for last, and the general tone and pacing of each short keeps the momentum going at a steady rate. This family-friendly feature is worth checking out, although if you’re looking for something as action-packed or diverse as Love, Death and Robots, you’re unlikely to find that here.