Modest Heroes (Chīsana Eiyū: Kani to Tamago to Tōmei Ningen): Three Heartwarming Stories – Netflix Anime Review

I take a look at a collection of shorts about unlikely heroes.

SUMMARY

This movie is a collection of three stories which have no connections as far as I can tell.

The first story is “Kanini and Kanino.” Kanini and Kanino (Fumino Kimura and Rio Suzuki) are tiny anthropomorphic freshwater crabs. Their mother goes away to give birth, leaving their father to look after them. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in the stream and the pair must face fish and other predators on their way to find him.

The second story is “Life ain’t gonna lose.” It tells the story of Shun (Sōta Shinohara/ Henry Kaufman), a young boy who is allergic to eggs. His allergy is so great that even incidental contact with them is almost immediately fatal to him. One day, unfortunately, while he is alone, Shun accidentally gets exposed, and has to struggle to stay alive.

The last story is “Invisible.” A businessman (Joe Odagiri) finds people ignoring him so strongly that he starts to become invisible. Eventually, he’s given the chance to do something noteworthy.

Three very different groups of protagonists.

END SUMMARY

So, this is the second film to be released by Studio Ponoc after the film Mary and the Witch’s Flower. If you haven’t seen that one, it’s a fantasy story about a girl who finds a magic flower and ends up joining a School for Witches and it’s pretty darn cute. Studio Ponoc was founded by a producer from the legendary Studio Ghibli, Yoshiaki Nishimura, following his consecutive Oscar nominations for The Tale of Princess Kaguya and When Marnie was There. At the same time, Ghibli took a break from releasing films which they’ll hopefully resume soon. Ponoc has since picked up a number of people from Ghibli, including the three directors of the shorts in this film. There were apparently originally supposed to be four shorts, but Isao Takahata, the acclaimed director of Grave of the Fireflies, died before he could make the fourth one. Because of that, this movie is actually only 53 minutes long, rather than the 80 minutes that it likely was supposed to be. 

The animation in their first feature was amazing.

The first segment is the most surreal. It’s a nature story about freshwater crabs, however, the crabs are portrayed as being tiny humans. Their claws are represented by weapons that they carry with them. Apparently this species of freshwater crab, which lives in mountain streams, only gets a few inches wide. The world we see is scaled to them, so fish, birds, and even rocks are all massive. They can fight, but mostly, they just have to hide and hope to be ignored by the bigger animals. We see the two children having difficulty doing things like catching minnows, showing their helplessness. That raises the stakes all the more when we see them set off on their own to find their father, who is depicted as a strong provider. The animation in this segment is great, but the water is particularly impressive. It looks almost real when we see it from above. It is a little weird that the crabs are humans and the dragonflies are humans, yet the fish are fish, but it’s still a cute story.

Admittedly, this makes crabs much easier to find cute.

The second story is the most grounded and ultimately the darkest. We’re given an inside look at the life of a person with a fatal allergy. Shun has been allergic since he was a baby, meaning that he has never known a life without constantly being in mortal danger. He has to take precautions around literally everyone, including avoiding having his classmates touch him if they’ve handled eggs. A part of the segment revolves around him trying to work out how to go on a field trip, something that most everyone else takes for granted. Then, we finally see him have to survive when he’s having an episode all by himself, straining to stay alive. It’s a hard story to watch in some ways because it’s real, but it also is more inspiring because it’s a thing that people really have to overcome regularly. 

If you’re a parent, this will be so very hard for you.

The last segment is about a relatable feeling for many of us, being ignored. However, here, the man is ignored so much that he literally starts to become invisible. As he shrinks further and further away from any other people, he then starts to become untethered from the world, making him start to physically float away. Finally, he manages to find one person who can recognize his presence and have a real human connection, which leads him to finally be able to do something that makes everyone else recognize him. While the short is heavy in metaphor, it’s still very powerful when it gets going because it’s a metaphor that most people can easily relate to. Also, the animation of the invisible man is just brilliant. It’s not animating a thing, but instead the absence of a thing and, honestly, it works better in animation than it does in live action films. 

The less of him there is, the cooler it looks to see parts of him.

Overall, solid film and it takes less than an hour to watch it. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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