Year Released: 2014
Distributor: Unlicensed (Streaming distribution via Netflix)
Running Time: 21 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-Y
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The Brave Little Toaster, Toy Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The House of Small Cubes, Rain Town
-Culture Bonus: Golden Time refers to the Japanese term for Prime Time television which happens from 7-10 PM in their time zones. Yes, the term “Golden Time” is used in English.
-Golden Time was animated by Robot Communications who also animated The House of Small Cubes, The Diary of Tortov Roddle, and they have animated elements of the Professor Layton game series.
-This is the debut of director Takuya Inaba.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: The wind-up cat gets jealous of a brand new toy which is totally a Mickey Mouse parody. I think this is kind of funny because he’s an older toy that happens to be a black cat. Could this toy cat be an analog of Felix the Cat who is literally one of the biggest inspirations of the Mickey Mouse character himself?
I never expected to check out something from Robot Communications so soon. I guess after watching and enjoying The House of Many Cubes, I just had to check out more of their filmography. That must be an underrated studio because I don’t know too many other anime fans who know about them. It’s quite fascinating that this little Japanese studio has an Oscar to their name because of that aforementioned short film I watched and reviewed. That’s something bigger studios like Sunrise, Production I. G. or even Trigger can’t even say. This film just happened to be on Netflix and I streamed away at it.
Golden Time is about a very old TV that is taken to the dump. He has failing parts and is quite miserable living there. Some broken toys and appliances such as a wind-up toy cat, a bucket with a hole, a razed house fan all live there awaiting their demise as damaged goods. This rabbit-eared TV tries to escape, but to no avail. Stuck in this wasteland of garbage and defective products, he wonders how he can survive it.
The animation quality from Robot Communications is great much like the last project I’ve seen from them. There’s a really earthy quality to their style of hand-drawn animation that one doesn’t see too often. The designs of the characters really come alive despite the dismal setting of the junkyard. The setting itself has a very dystopian feel to it which lends to the despair of the TV. Sure, I admit that this short film reminded me of The Brave Little Toaster during it’s darkest moments if it was handled by the creators of Welcome to the NHK, but that doesn’t do Golden Time justice.
Golden Time made me care about an old-school TV. That’s a sign that the characterization is right. With no dialogue from any of the characters (unless you count the muffled Japanese talking when the channels are changed), I can still tell the emotions of everyone involved. I could feel the depression and hopelessness from all the broken toys and appliances. The giant magnet was so threatening and to these characters, they looked like they were about to experience a catastrophe on the levels of Akira or End of Evangelion with how the situation was framed. When the TV loses it’s screen to the recycling truck, I felt it’s depression for trying to be functional. There was one really dark moment where the TV willingly stands on a pile of trash awaiting the magnet which was a metaphor for being saddened to the point of suicide. That subtext maybe lost on kids, but adults will definitely pick up the nuances. Despite this, the ending is very hopeful and quite poetic with what happens to everyone. Also, stick around after credits. Something else happens that should definitely be noted.
While Robot Communication’s story about an old TV was better than I expected, not everything hit the mark. I would’ve liked to have seen some more focus on other characters. The TV and the cat do get their fair share of attention, but I didn’t know that much about the rest of the island of misfit appliances (reference intended). What’s up with the fan and bucket for example? I also would’ve liked to have seen more flashbacks with the TV’s past. There are a couple of brief ones where the animation changes and there was a funny Ultraman cameo, but I don’t know much about how many owners the TV had or how it felt about the families that watched it. There were a few plot holes like that around.
Golden Time was a great watch. The animation quality is superb and Robot Communications should be lauded for their work on this. The characterization with the TV and cat was amazing despite no one being able to talk. The actions and movements really speak for themselves. The storytelling left an impact even though there were some plot holes. Trust me, this is totally worth spending twenty-one minutes watching. Major kudos to this tiny studio for this work.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like experimental animation
Subtract 2-3 points if you want your anime to look more traditional
Subtract 1-2 points if you can’t stand silent animation
-Amazing hand-drawn atypical animation
-Great characterization with the main protagonists
-Nice usage of subtext and nuances
-Lack of backstory elements for the TV
-Can be too weird for some people
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warning: Netflix gave Golden Time a TV-Y rating which I find to be quite interesting despite some of the darker elements involved. There’s no swearing, sexuality, or blood in it. The characters are sentient and it’s implied that if they get to the magnet, they will die once they’re scrapped. The scene with the TV waiting to get magnetized and scrapped is quite morbid even though kids wouldn’t get why. It is safe for families to watch this together, but this is certainly more edgy and surreal than something from PBS Kids or Nick Jr.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Golden Time is property of Robot Communications. The picture from Golden Time is from Netflix and is property of Robot Communications.
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