The Diary of Tortov Roddle: The Red Berry Review

Tortov Roddle Red Berry
AKA: Aru Tabibito no Nikki: Akai no Kinomi, The Diary of a Certain Traveler: The Red Berry
Genre: Adventure/Experimental
Year Released: 2003
Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: Japan
Running Time: ONA, 6 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: The Diary of Tortov Roddle
For Fans Of: The House of Small Cubes, Golden Time [Takuya Inaba short film], Kino’s Journey, Fantastic Planet, Rain Town, Song of the Sea, Haibane Renmei, Cat Soup
Notes: N/A

Fun Facts:
-This is the only part of Tortov Roddle that has no subtitles or dialogue titles.

-Robot Communications has also helped produce for live-action films. They’ve assisted with the live-action remakes of Space Battleship Yamato, Assassination Classroom, Parasyte, and Marche Comes In Like a Lion.

After watching the Tortov Roddle series, I didn’t realize that there was another separate ONA that was part of that surrealistic world from the mind of Kunio Kato and Robot Communications. This got me a bit excited given that director and studio’s track record with how great their projects are. I’ve certainly given them lots of positive reviews, and we’ll see if that trend continues.

The Diary of Tortov Roddle: The Red Berry takes place in one idyllic orchard where Tortov and his swine steed lounging around while eating some of the local fruits. He eats these aforementioned red berries and sees a rabbit-man running around. The two of them hang out and see all these weird things happening.

This was an even trippier take on Tortov’s adventures. The animation actually improved compared to the original series and even the animation in that one was still quite notable. The coloration is certainly sunny and idyllic before becoming very psychedelic after the characters eat the berries as the imagery because quite bizarre even for this series. There are fairies flying around, transmuting environments, and gigantic quasi-deity goats braying around as the short film gets farther into it’s run time. It certainly caught my attention the whole time and is quite imaginative with how everything played out.

The Red Berry did have an awkward aftertaste. For starters, I thought the story was the worst of all the episodes I saw before. Most of the other episodes of Tortov Roddle had some kind of story or thought going on, but it was basically Tortov and the rabbit man goofing off while eating the berries. Also, I can’t be the only one who thought that those two characters acted like they were drunk or stoned while they were running around (the imagery and psychedelic imagery REALLY doesn’t help in regards to their body language). I don’t want to think that this is some avant-garde Cheech & Chong skit that happened to be animated, but it got to be that way at parts which is a shame. The lack of dialogue cards actually hurt this short. At least they made sense in the original series even despite the weirdness that happened.

This iteration of Tortov Roddle wasn’t spectacular, but it was still enjoyable. The production value increase was a very nice touch. The music and sound design was great much like the original episodes. However, there are some parts that got too wacky for me with how Tortov and the rabbit man acted after having too many of those berries. If you’re into experimental animation, then you can certainly do far worse.

Just enjoy berries responsibly, please.

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like Robot Communications’ works or the other Tortov episodes.
Subtract 1-4 points if you want more traditional animation and storytelling.

-Improved animation and creative visuals
-Great soundtrack and score
-Lots of twists and turns in the story

-Gets too bizarre and cryptic
-Drunk/stoner implications hurt the artistry
-No dialogue cards wasn’t something that worked

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Warning: The Red Berry is mainly innocuous, but the imagery gets very bizarre. After Tortov and the rabbit man have berries, they totally act like they are on some questionable substances.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. The Diary of Tortov Roddle: The Red Berry is property of Kunio Kato and Robot Communications. The DVD cover is from Filmaffinity and is property of Robot Communications and Geneon.

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