Studio Ghibli is known for its whimsical fantasy movies, featuring fantastic creatures (literally) and colorful characters.
But the studio is also really good at producing calm, slice-of-life films featuring nothing other than regular human beings.
Kokuriko-zaka Kara (From Up on Poppy Hill) is such a movie, following the lives of high schoolers in 1968 Yokohama, Japan, who are trying to save their run-down and decrepit club house from demolition while dealing with personal problems in the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War.
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I chose to watch Netflix’s Drifting Dragons practically on a whim. It had airships, and it would allow me to partially fulfill my desire to get more into anime, given how much it has influenced my social circles. I watched the whole thing in a single night, about four hours or so.
In terms of the ‘punk aspect, it is on the boundary between steam and diesel. The series is set in a fantasy world separate from our own, but the technology is familiar: you have the helium zeppelin and the small helicopter that it dispatches to fight dragons.
Given that it’s in the very title of the show, I feel I must comment on the dragons. These are not the dragons of European fairytales, nor are they the dragons of Chinese myth; these are more Lovecraftian monsters than anything else, with a sort of otherworldly horror to their design that made my skin crawl. They’re not just inhuman; they almost feel as if they were not designed by humans.
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If you’ve ever searched for steampunk art, there’s a good chance you’ll have found James Ng’s “Imperial Airship”. But did you know this is only one in a series of artworks? Called Imperial Steam & Light, they depict a world in which China, not the United Kingdom, industrialized first.
The Hong Kong-born Ng imagines the possibilities:
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Maybe skyscrapers would look like Chinese temples? Cars would look like carriages? Perhaps China will still be in imperial rule? And maybe we would have fantastical machines that look both futuristic and historical.
Proposals for unification of the Arab world are more than a century old. Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca, the steward of the holy cities of Islam, was the first modern Arab leader who sought independence for his people from the Ottoman Turks.
The British, who at the time controlled Aden and Egypt, promised to support Hussein’s ambitions if he would revolt against the Ottomans during the First World War; a promise Britain infamously reneged on.
It would be the first of many disappointments for pan-Arabists.
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It’s 2045. War is the main industry and cryptocurrencies are invalid, leading to even more conflict and civil unrest.
Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 doesn’t start with a bang. It takes several episodes before the plot gains momentum and you’ve seen enough of the world, and the people in it, to really get into it. But it’s worth sticking with it.
Unlike such dystopias as Mad Max, the post-apocalyptic world of SAC_2045 is familiar to ours. It’s about real people. The series shows the impact of a large economical crisis and currency devaluation on average people.
The impact of the United States as a global power on other countries is another nice touch. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale, and this aspect of the anime is very well done.
What is less well done is the animation. I am not a fan of this style of cheap and basic-looking CGI at all, and I feel the anime deserves better.
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Tokyo-based Steven Wen is a game developer in real life, but in his spare time he regales followers of his social media with beautiful inked and sketched-style pieces of dieselpunk and steampunk worlds that seem to have stepped right out of our imaginations and the pages of beloved tomes.
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Panji Andrian is an artist from Indonesia, whose work includes steampunk versions of London, Paris and Venice.
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Rupam Raaj J. is a Japanese concept artist, whose personal work includes large World War II-era fighting machines.
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Andrew Suryadi is a digital artist from Indonesia, who specializes in cityscapes and scenery. Some of his artworks are the perfect setting for a steampunk story.
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Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri, or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, is a beautifully done anime, set in a post-apocalyptic Japan.
At the time of industrialization, a mysterious plague broke out, turning corpses into kabane, a kind of blood-drinking zombie that is extremely hard to kill. Get bitten and you turn into one. Die and you turn into a kabane. Or, if you’re lucky, a kabaneri, a halfbreed of man and kabane. Survivors live in stations along the route of heavily armored trains, known as iron fortresses.
It is in these stations and on these trains that we find the characters of this story.
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