"Obayashi Nobuhiko’s three-hour swansong is a pop-art paean to pacifism and unity in the form of an exploration of Japanese film history and, in particular, its many depictions of armed conflict. Never knowingly realist, Obayashi (1938-2020) delivers an extended fantasia spiked with motifs and ideas from his own long filmography, including time-travel, young sweethearts in peril, interactions between humans, fictional characters and ghosts, a tribute to hand-drawn animation and pastiches of silent-movie grammar. The pace is unrelentingly frenetic until the film reaches the days before the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima in 1945 and slows down to focus on the director Maruyama Sadao, dying of pleurisy, and an imaginary plan to save his itinerant theatre troupe from the blast.
The sheer density of the references to history and cinema – and the way they are playfully jumbled together – makes the film pretty daunting to viewers unfamiliar with Japanese specifics, though Obayashi smartly anchors the ensemble in quotations from the poet Nakahara Chuya (1907-37, a translator of Rimbaud), describing his poems as both attuned to the zeitgeist of the 30s and presciently relevant to our own neo-militarist times."
Read Tony Rayns' full review for Sight and Sound