Now and Then, Here and There Review

Title: Now and Then, Here and There / Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku
Length: 13 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Thriller, drama, isekai, sci-fi
Year of release: 1999

It’s all push-and-pull. Force and resistance. It can even be mathematically presented – the force to overcome a resistance must be larger than the resistance, otherwise it’ll just go back in on itself. That’s a fundamental concept with any theme in any narrative; if the opposition is overwhelming, well, it’s just gotta be more overwhelming. Now and Then, Here and There is an anime who deals in ‘hope’ and ‘despair’, crashing against each other with violent magnitude. If these things could be as simple as numbers… well, Now and Then’s are infinitesimal on both accounts.

Now and Then indeed has a near infinitesimal amount of despair. Shu, the plucky pre-teen protagonist of this anime, is transported from his comfortable, modern Japanese world into the deep future; a horrifying landscape, where the sun has expanded and will soon consume the Earth. It is a world where a fascistic dictator, Hamdo, controls one of the final water supplies, and commands an army of child soldiers to maintain his monopoly. Shu is thrust into this world, and within his first day, is beaten, tortured and imprisoned. In the cell next door, a girl only a little older than him is raped, again and again, by the older corps of Hamdo’s army.

But Now and Then doesn’t exhaustively paint this picture of hell to shock you. It never tries to surprise you with its revelations of darkness; it doesn’t revel in momentary lapses of terror. No, Now and Then is much more methodological than that. It employs long, pained shots of its characters grappling with the situation, and wide landscapes to emphasise the insignificance of any one moment of hell. Its soundtrack revolves around a single 20 minute piece called ‘Standing in the Sunset Glow’, with an iconic first movement that regularly plays behind Now and Then’s most deepest cuts; slow strings move through their notes with distress, but try, try, try to touch a beautiful melody as they fall.

Before the halfway mark, I was done in. Now and Then, Here and There makes you feel hopeless. Its existential treatment of terror leaves a hole in the stomach that cannot be filled, one that cannot be moved, one that can only be accepted. It feels nigh impossible to carry on, and giving up is the only option left. You feel you must accept this darkness. There is no fighting it, no possible move you can make to escape. But you must.

Shu refuses to give up, no matter how much he is beaten or tortured. Shu insists we must maintain hope, no matter the situation, and that it can always be made better,

Nabuca, a top ranking soldier in Hamdo’s army, quickly comes to hate this little shit that is put into his unit. He hates Shu’s optimism, and sees him is an ignorant fool that is trying to ruin whatever Nabuca does. Nabuca has seen people die. Nabuca has seen his friends escape, only to be mowed down. Nabuca realises there is nothing you can do but make the best of this situation, of trying to keep his unit safe. He cares deeply for Bool, the youngest soldier, and tries his best so shield him from death. But he knows there’s nothing more that can be done, and he beats Shu down with reason and fists in anger that this privileged brat dare think there is more he can do.

And his argument is so damn compelling. But Shu still refuses.

When Shu is eventually imprisoned again, he is given enough time to converse with the girl in the cell next door. Sarah is also from the deep-past like him, and is thought to be deeply related to the ‘water witch’ that Shu met at the beginning. She obviously isn’t, but the madness of this world hasn’t let her say no. Shu’s scattered somehow plan works and he manages to escape, and he brings Sarah with him. But Sarah drags her feet behind him. She wants to be away from the pain, but she has truly given up. She has no hope that anything can be better, and she struggles to emote. One of Now and Then, Here and There’s greatest scenes revolves around her trying to violently abort the child inside her and commit suicide, but Shu pulls her out of the water and shouts at her that it can only get better.

Sarah screams at him with the most emotion that this broken girl has found since the series began. She is fuming. Shu has no idea what she has had to endure for so long, how can he possibly think it can be better? He has no idea what scars she holds deep inside of her, and Now and Then shows that she will never, ever recover from this. It is fucking insulting for him to pretend it can be better.

Hope can be stupid. Hope can be worthless. Hope can be dangerous. But hope cannot ever be given up. Shu learns this, and keeps trying, trying, trying, trying and trying some more until the world is better. He refuses to give up. Hope cannot be thwarted. It can be better. It must be better. No matter how much pain we go through to achieve that… we must persevere.

Eventually, Shu finds a way to topple Hamdo’s empire. Many people die along the way. Even as the group of survivors look out at the setting sun, a beautiful scene of the gigantic sun spilling golden light over the ripples of the final sea Earth may ever see, there is the distinct feeling that this little saga has only been one small footnote in the Earth’s history before it is finally swallowed up. There is no future for the survivors, so how can it be better?

But that’s the thing with hope. You don’t necessarily know where it’s going to end up, or if you’ll even see the happy ending. Hell, half the cast don’t get to see this happy ending, but they die knowing they had full agency of their actions – not a slave to despair, but somebody proud of themselves for dreaming to be better. That’s what it’s all about – doing your best, as best you can, to make it better. Shu begins the series as an idiot, and he may well end the series as one, but he realises that fundamental lesson – never, ever give up. He learns that perseverance can be a horrible, ugly, dangerous and stupid trait, but he learns that with enough hope, misguided or not… it can topple empires, and it can vanquish the darkest darks.

Now and Then, Here and There is an anime that propels this message with brilliant force and crushes the darkest darks it conjures. So put your chin up. Stand tall. Hope must prevail against despair. It’s tough. It can be downright impossible. But it can be better. And all it takes is a little bit of hope, a dash of perseverance, and some faith in the future to not be as murky as the hell it looks like now. Chase that glimmer of a better future. Chase it with all your might. Don’t ever give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.

15 thoughts on “Now and Then, Here and There Review

  1. I don’t normally go into the comments, but if you can’t tell from the glowing review, this is PROBABLY my favourite anime of all time. It packs a real punch.
    Talking about Super Cub the other day, moving up there with my favourites, really drove home that I need to review this anime…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful review space! 😃😃. I can testify to how persevering can be ugly, tough, have your face piled in to the dirt over and over again. Yet still get back up, sometimes I feel like I should stay down, yet I somehow always get back up. This anime does feel it would resonate with me to a certain degree.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this and it became your favourite 😃😃. Whenever you feel down, hang in there, just like now and then. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a tough old watch. Putting the inspiring perseverance message in is made so compelling because of how difficult the anime makes it all. I know some people struggle to accept that, since it is SO dark, and SO painful, but I found it really earned that hopeful message. I was absorbed from start-to-finish and it stuck the landing.
      Inspiration is one of the greatest things I can take from anime, and I love that this anime can really touch me so deeply.
      If you give it a try, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I do get around to it xDD. Trying to watch something late at night, especially when a young active little kitty who goes for my foot when I try to watch something from netflix, is amusing and tiring. I have to hide my foot underneath cushions. I kid you not space, he comes over, looks at where my head is, jumps up and makes his way to where he thinks my feet are. Then proceeds to “sniff” it out – that means double claw attack on my poor foot. Can I ask something, I read that you’re in to metal music, besides metal and anime what else are you in to :D. Also a cheeky question, where you from xDD. I’m from the UK.

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  3. It’s a very interesting review and it’s fascinating that someone is talking about this tragic work. This anime was one that I thought was a sleeper hit and had a really powerful, yet depressing story. It was VERY disappointing hearing about the allegations against Akitarou Daichi since it is hard for me to separate the art from the artist. This isn’t a knock on your review at all. I was just bringing information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooooph. Just had a quick skim read online about this director. Had no idea such a thing had happened. It really makes you wonder how many other incidents have occurred with voice actresses who weren’t willing to say no. Showbusiness sucks.
      It’s one of the most powerful anime I’ve seen, definitely. I’ve read that it was dreamed up after Daichi discovered the many genocides going on during the ’90s (in Africa and Eastern Europe). It’s a shame such a man could be empathetic to war survivors, but not women.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was heartbreaking and I didn’t know that until late last year when I was thinking about re-watching and reviewing it. I was unaware how Daichi got #MeToo’d over in Japan. Show business is a scary field. Now and Then, Here and There is powerful, but knowing the allegations is rough. I heard that about Daichi researching Rwanda, the Bosnian conflict and the Sudanese Civil War where child soldiers were used (side note: I’ve actually met some of the Lost Boys of Sudan at a documentary premiere at college). That’s a powerful quote right there about Daichi being empathetic to war survivors but not to women especially who worked for/with him. Such a shame.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow! That’s a really interesting bit of experience you’ve got there. I’m extremely sheltered on the other hand, and have never had a chance to meet people like that (knowingly, I guess?).
          In any case, I am fully in the boat of separating the art from the artist. It’s much easier to do that in anime too, since many are conglomerate productions where one person can almost never have an overwhelming influence. But that doesn’t make me feel any better knowing I think a horrible person’s art is so beautiful.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It was an eye-opening experience with the documentary (It’s called God Grew Tired of Us) and meeting some of the Lost Boys in that film. I knew about some things like the Darfur Genocide in regards to that country, but I didn’t get any firsthand accounts until that day. This year is also the 10th anniversary of South Sudan seceding to become it’s own country.

            I was curious if you separated the art from the artists. You’re not the first blogger I follow who has that mindset and I’m glad you don’t excuse any of the horrible things Daichi did. That argument can be the same with a lot of mainstream works as well and I’ve had a conversation with someone else about a certain mainstream animated film that has problematic things in and outside of that movie. Knowing about that with Now and Then, Here and There REALLY hurt even though I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore fan of his directorial work.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That sounds like an unforgettable moment. I always want to experience more poignant moments like that, though at the same time, I don’t want atrocities to exist in the first place.

              I have a background in metal music, so I have to separate the LYRICS from the music just to get my foot in the door! Music is a little different since I only have to vibe to it, mind you, but with narrative media – if there is a problematic message then I’ll stamp my foot down (with metal lyrics, I just sort of turn a blind-eye to shallow gore and such, seeing the humour in it even, but rapey or abusive lyrics are a Big No No). If the person is problematic, it does make me second guess their works, perhaps no longer giving the benefit of the doubt on vague moments that could be misconstrued or what the underlying basis for the work really is.

              Working in an opposite manner, for example, seeing Higehiro’s author tell audiences that his main character – a 30-something that takes in a teenage girl who makes advances on him – is actually a criminal… it makes me consider that the narrative of the main character genuinely having the best interest for the younger girl at heart, and wanting her to heal from her domestic abuse (I think?) isn’t a bi-product of of a deviant’s sexual fantasy. Who the artist is, fundamentally, definitely makes me look at the work in a different light, but I can’t see Now and Then being clouded because of this.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. It really was. I totally understand and I certainly don’t want to see any more atrocities happen. It gets rough especially when I’ve researched atrocities that I never learned about in school.

                I hear you right there. Some people and bands may act as characters of sorts while their real-life selves would never do heinous things, so that makes sense. There are times that it does get too far with some controversial songs. Those were good examples of what songs to avoid. If someone really is problematic, things get worse.

                I wasn’t aware of that example since I’ve never heard of that series before. I can see how that could cloud someone with the psychology of the works and authors.

                Liked by 1 person

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