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A recent 13 episode Japanese Animation television series. Also known as "Ima, soko ni iru boku." It is being released in English by Central Park Media.

Shu's your everyday kid - he practices kendo at a nearby dojo and worries about asking out a girl he likes. Things like that. But one day, when he's walking home from kendo practice, he sees a young girl sitting atop a smokestack. He quickly climbs up another smokestack and tries to make conversation. Eventually, he learns the strange girl's name: "Lala Ru."

Suddenly, the area surrounding the smokestacks is enclosed by a strange sphere-shaped barrier, and a strange woman appears on another smokestack. She says that she has been looking for Lala Ru. Several strange robots grab the girl, and begin to carry her off. Shu attempts to fight back with a broken piece of debris, but he fails and the entire area is teleported to another place and time.

We learn that he has arrived at Hellywood, a strange battleship in the distant future, where the sun is a giant in the sky and the Earth is a barren wasteland. Hellywood is commanded by King Hamdo, an insane man who needs Lala Ru and her pendant to help him conquer the world. He is assisted by the previously mentioned woman, Abelia.

Shu, who has been pursued by Hamdo's forces since his arrival, is quickly captured and beaten by Hamdo and Abelia, who hope to get Shu to reveal the location of Lala Ru's pendant, which was lost in the chaos. Eventually, he is drafted into Hamdo's army - a strange group of men and children of various ages.

And that about sums up the first 4-5 episodes of this dark and violent story (although I have left out many of the details). Don't be fooled by the art style or the credits of the director (most of which are comedy series) - the story is dark and gripping, and I cannot wait until I have a chance to get the next two DVDs in this series. I just hope they live up to the superb first volume.

Now and Then, Here and There is an unusually incisive look (for anime at least} into brutality. A young boy named Shu is introduced to us. He loves his natto beans, playing at kendo and trying to impress his crush. So when he is transported to a battleship called Hellywood after meeting a young girl named Lala Ru, he has no idea of what is in store for him. His naivete gets him in trouble from the start. He tries to rescue Lala Ru from Lady Arebelia, the leader of the troops of King Hamdo, who is the ruler of Hellywood, despite his obvious madness. Note the lovely mecha design at this point, the organic looking silver dragons. That is the only organic thing you'll see in this mechanical world.

This only gets him beaten and hung from the ship in a search for the pendant he doesn't have. Arebelia even suspects this, but says that Hamdo ordered an interrogation, so that's what they'll do. La La Ru is a prisoner of Hamdo, who is doing terrible things to her. In a dank prison cell, Shu encounters Sara, an American who because of a vague resemblance to Lala Ru is imprisoned and tortured. After a horrific battle, Shu is 'recruited' into the troop of Nabuca and Boo, two child soldiers. Nabuca tries to follow orders well, because he believes the sooner the war is over, the sooner he can go home. Boo is just a young child of five, still innocent for a solider

Certainly, this is not another harem comedy or even the typical transported into another world fantasy. This world is truly hell. Thousands will be killed, children forced into armies, women raped, and all for the dream of world domination by a man who plays with a dead cat. This story is said to be inspired by a documentary about child soldiers in Africa. The art style seems Ghilbi inspired, with innocent looking characters suffering and performing unspeakable horror.

An interesting theme of this anime is the change that such horror can cause in a human being. For example, Tabool is said to have been an easy going kid at home. In the environment of Hellywood, he is reduced to beating Shu in hopes that he'll tell him where the pendant is, and thus shorten the assignment of looking for it.

Another interesting feature is that even though there is the anime cliche of the girl with the mysterious pendant, the true fight is over resources. The significance of the pendant is that it enables Lala Ru to control water, which is in scare supply in Hellywood. This is emphasized in the warm, hot tones used for the 'outside.' The sun is huge in the sky, signifying an oppressiveness sucking up all moisture. It is like Hamdo's influence over everyone. Former friends like Nabuca and Tabool at each others' throats, an obviously intelligent woman (Arebelia) reduced to a lapdog, hundreds of children reduced to killing machines. Hamdo is like the dead cat, stinking up everything.

And like real life, I would not expect a happy ending for anyone. This is a study of brutality, and it seems like we're in it to the bitter end

"Because ten billion years' time is so fragile, so ephemeral...
it arouses such a bittersweet, almost heartbreaking fondness"

今、そこにいる僕 - Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku (translated loosely as "Now, There I Am"), and also known as "Now and Then, Here and There" is a thirteen episode anime series that was created by Akitaroh Daichi and began airing on the WOWOW satellite station in Japan on October 14, 1999. It aired on Thursday nights between 7:00 and 7:30 with the final episode screening on January 20, 2000.

I was drawn completely into this series when I first saw it. Over the course of two nights I watched it through from start to finish and I remember wandering in almost a daze during the day in between. The series confronts you with things you would rather not think about. It is set in a fantasy world, with mecha and magic, yet the realities of war and the abuse that can come as a result of it are shown with frightening clarity. Most of us like to believe children are immune to some of the more terrible aspects of human nature, and this anime wakes you up to the fact that this isn't the case.

Many point to Grave of the Fireflies as a comparative title, and I think that is an apt choice in so far as they both deal with the impact of war on children. "Now and Then, Here and There" though delves more completely into the depth of human depravity, subtly avoiding the (often unnecessary) details of the acts themselves to concentrate on the repercussions those acts have. I think it is a very faithful portrayal of what trauma can do to children.

Credits

Director: Akitaroh DAICHI - Kodomo no Omocha (Child's Toy)
Writer: Hideyuki KURATA - Excel Saga, Read or Die
Character Designer: Atsushi OHIZUMI
Music: Taku IWASAKI - Rurouni Kenshin, Read or Die
Production: AIC and Pioneer

Episode List

  1. Tasogare wo Mitsumeru Shoujo
  2. Shounen to Kyou-Ou to
  3. Yami no Naka no Utage
  4. Fukyouwaon
  5. Hitogoroshi
  6. Sunaarashi ga Kieru
  7. Nogare no Yoru
  8. Hitori Bocchi no Futari
  9. Hazama ni te
  10. Konton e no Josou
  11. Houkai Zenya
  12. Satsuriku no Daichi
  13. Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku

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