The Anime Realism of 'Run, Melos!'
Exploring one of history's most underrated anime features.
Happy Thursday! In this issue of the Animation Obsessive newsletter, we look at Run, Melos! — a hidden anime gem.
This is an obscure one. Melos is a theatrical feature from 1992, but it may well be new to you. Even in Japan, it hasn’t had a proper re-release since the LaserDisc days. We stumbled upon it ourselves just a few years ago, and it shocked us — both because we’d heard so little about it, and because it’s really, unexpectedly good.
Melos breaks away from the cliches of anime. You won’t find a trace of high school or superpowers here. It’s set in the ancient Mediterranean world, and its focus is, above all, on realism. This was an ethos, a philosophy about what Japanese animation could be. The film’s director, Masaaki Ōsumi, said in 1992:
We still can’t compare to Disney at fantasy, but Japanese realism anime far exceeds the world standard. If that’s the case, you make the most of it by carefully avoiding conventional anime patterns. … Run, Melos! was an ideal subject for such a film.1
Helping Ōsumi to achieve this goal was an all-star team — including a young Satoshi Kon, years before his debut as a director. Their work demands to be explored, and that’s what we’re doing today. Enjoy!
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