Ura is a future archaeologist, mining digital archives of the distant past for information. His world is one of endless elevators and passageways, but in the archival images, he sees a long-gone world of green grass and animals and clouds and oceans. His coworker, Riko, is increasingly distracted and absent from her job, while he becomes increasingly obsessed with trying to decipher a strange and disturbing record.
Yasuhiro Yoshiura really badly wants to be Makoto Shinkai.
We have a sci-fi setting, with a pair of main characters with some sort of connection, watching the winter of human existence. Rather than watching the apocalypse, though, Pale Cocoon is about those people trying vainly to regain a long-lost past, most of whom have lost so much hope that they are simply too afraid to face the truth of their very existence.
Yoshiura also does a darn good job of emulating Shinkai in another aspect: the animation is staggeringly good. The visuals are extremely clean, and the future world of Ura and Riko is well-realized. Also, Yoshiura deserves some bonus points for making a music video an actual part of the storyline; that takes serious chutzpah. Occasionally, his use of cinematography is a little unsubtle (practically in love with itself) to the detriment of the storytelling, but generally, it's rather good.
The problem is this: Yoshiura isn't Shinkai; where Shinkai's stories grow naturally, Pale Cocoon moves in fits and starts. Too much of the film relies on voiceovers (including one by the director) rather than actions, and while the climax was vaguely satisfying (if a bit weird), it left me thinking that this film still could've had a few rough edges knocked off. Moreover, the characters are fairly standard, and really nothing to enthuse over.
Never mind that, though: Pale Cocoon is still a good, if short film and comes with a qualified recommendation, but Yoshiura will need to transcend this in order to complete his metamorphosis into one of the greats.
Here's hoping he does.
Folks who care primarily about art and animation can take this up a notch. Otherwise, leave as is and call it a day. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Recommended for ten and up, due to some mild violence, and some dark themes about the fate of humanity.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Pale Cocoon © 2005 Yasuhiro Yoshiura
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