Rain Town Review

Genre: Art House/Drama

Year Released: 2011
Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: Japan

Running Time: 10 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: G

Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Song of the Sea, My Neighbor Totoro, Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei, Boy and the World
-There is no dialogue in this film.
Fun Facts:
-This short film was the graduation project of animator Hiroyasu Ishida.

-Rain Town was animated using the software TVPaint Animation. This is the same program used to animate Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, and even The Peanuts Movie.

-This was a student project at Kyoto Seika University which is famous for it’s animation program. One notable faculty member is Gisaburo Sugii. Some of his work as an animator involved some of the Lupin III movies, the 2003 Captain Harlock remake, and the original Astro Boy series. We’re talking about over fifty years of animation work here.

I’ve been checking out more short films whenever my schedule gets too tight. Life always happens such as work and doing adult things as I try to make it in this world. As I’ve viewed short films, I realized that I haven’t reviewed any of them that were student projects.

I guess there’s a first time for everything, right?

Rain Town is a story about a little girl living in a rain-soaked environment. She meets a lonely robot outside. The robot saves her drowning after she falls into a water-logged manhole. They become friends, but there are circumstances that tear them apart as they try to survive this rainy ruin of a city.

I was certainly impressed with the visuals. The usage of cool colors really lend to the somber and rain-drenched atmosphere that is Rain Town. The character designs are simplistic, but they really work in all it’s glory and tragedy throughout the plot of this ten minute short anime film. The artwork and direction reminds me of something Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, The Breadwinner, Song of the Sea) would probably do if he was asked to team up with Yoshitoshi ABe (Haibane Renmei, Serial Experiments Lain, Texhnolyze) which is a huge compliment from me as I’ve enjoyed the works of those two. Now it would be awesome if they collaborated in real life, but that’s a pipe dream. Back to Rain Town, I enjoyed the understated dystopian feel of this shot film. 

The plot was quite simple, but there was some subtle complexities. Viewers will definitely pick up on some things after multiple viewings such as a very subtle time skip with the girl and how there was an older woman sitting down in the beginning. The realization was heartbreaking and once it gets to the part where the robot and girl separate, it just becomes sad. There was a heart-wreching aspect of separation, but loyalty. It was strongly implied that the robot had no other friends and his fate hit me in the feels. You might want a tissue with you when you experience this film.

Rain Town was a great project that goes beyond being just a student film, but not everything connected. Despite having an original concept, I will admit that it got derivative a few times. The scene with the lamp post with the robot and girl standing by each other totally resembles that iconic scene from My Neighbor Totoro. It came off as Miyazaki fanboying to me. The plotting can be a bit confusing although it does make more sense later on. Rain Town can come off as trying to be artier than what it’s trying to be at times.

Rain Town is more than a worthy watch. The animation quality was superb with the watercolor type visual style. The minimalist piano soundtrack was also quite haunting and it accentuates the whole film. The story itself will certainly play with your emotions here. I do wish there was some more original identity instead of trying to ape aspects of Ghibli at their darkest moments, but there is enough effort for it to stand out. Hiroyasu Ishida is certainly an animator to watch and I await his future projects.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1 point if you like subtle dystopian elements
Subtract 2-3 points if you prefer spoken dialogue in short films

-Powerful characterization
-Great animation and coloration
-The piano soundtrack

-Miyazaki fanboy moments
-Confusing plot elements at times
-Too short for it’s run time

Final Score: 9/10 points

Content Warning: It’s safe for all ages, but the atmosphere is darker than several movies aimed at kids. The most disturbing thing is the robot breaking apart and his body does look like a metallic skeleton. That could certainly creep out anyone regardless of their age.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

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