Review of Now and Then, Here and There (1999)
A clumsy optimist from modern Japan gets transported to the extreme far future along with a semi-human pessimist whose magical powers make her attractive to an insane ruler. The madman tortures the pessimist to make her produce the water necessary for the operation of a hypertechnological fortress. Meanwhile, the optimist is trained as a soldier, along with brainwashed boys abducted from wasteland villages, in a parallel to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Another kid from our modern world happens to be female and so comes to serve the madman’s belligerent empire in the capacity of a sex slave for adult soldiers.
It ain’t Narnia, this dystopian SF tragedy. Unofficially it’s the most orange moving picture ever. NTHT borrows a bit from Dune (1965), Conan, the Boy in Future (1978), Castle in the Sky (1986) and Green Legend Ran (1992), but it’s far darker than any of them. Unfortunately, the darkness hinges upon the implausible madman and his lieutenant. How did Hamdo come to power, and why does nobody challenge him from within? Why does Aberia serve him? Real paranoid megalomaniacs sometimes come to possess similar power, but they are typically less raving, demanding and obviously pathetic. There is an assassination attempt, but it’s implausibly crude.
The original title, ｢今、そこにいる僕｣, can be translated brutally as “Me There, Now” but should be taken to mean “This is my life now that I’m over there”. It points to the contrast against Shū’s original home life, as shown in the first episode: An ordinary boys’ sports drama, brash and carefree. Unlike the Narnia stories, this contrast is meaningful. Shū remains an optimist, but his journey is anything but glamorous wish fulfillment.