After finishing this half-hour auteur by manga artist and author Atsuya Uki, I’m still trying to formulate my own opinion of what I’ve just seen. Cencoroll is the type of independent production I applaud. It’s fantastic to see a single individual produce something almost entirely alone, delivering not only a commendable technical effort, but also a story that has potential too. Coming from an art and design background, I can fully relate with the tendency to prioritise on the technical execution, placing the script secondary. However, Uki has managed to provide an extract of what is seemingly a much larger story.

The opening scene features a young schoolboy resting casually atop an amorphous creature that I can only assume is an alien life form of sorts (this is never explicitly stated), with another appearing from a dimensional portal across the city. The background artwork seemed photographed and then filtered (a live trace of sorts), likely to save time and production cost. At first glance, the city looked uncannily similar to Sapporo, only to find upon quick research that it was. Anyway, the young schoolboy seemed prepared to attack or acquire the newly appeared alien, naming his own one Cenco. After this point, I was expecting the all too similar premise of the ordinary schoolboy protecting the city from an alien life form, but Cencoroll strayed from this during its half-hour session.

The pacing was unexpectedly slow, almost slice-of-life, and yet provided enough development to remain engaging throughout. We are introduced to three characters: Tetsu (the schoolboy mentioned before), a schoolgirl named Yuki, and lastly the semi-antagonist of Shu, none of which received much background, only that both Tetsu and Shu have acquired ownership or partnership of their respective alien life form and are using it for whatever purpose they wish. They didn’t seem to have much of a goal; possibly power, if anything. The appearance of these alien life forms aren’t common in this city, but aren’t exactly rare either, as evidenced by Yuki’s reaction, which seemed more of intrigue than shock. Although the premise was far from original, nor the scripting, the independent production of Cencoroll was rather refreshing. The fighting sequences, for example, seemed less typical of the shounen genre; reminiscent of Akira. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, there wasn’t much closure to speak of or an explanation for anything that happened. In this respect, it’s a necessity on the viewer’s part to draw their own conclusions, which are subtly shown throughout the movie. That said, I don’t wish to give the wrong impression, Cencoroll is not at all complex and is clearly, first and foremost, a visual project for Uki. The soundtrack was minimal, but when there was music, it was of the electronic variety, straying from dark ambient to progressive drum and bass, which I appreciated (a rarity in anime, on the whole). The voice acting was not polished or especially significant, seeming more amateur than professional, but this actually helped to give the characters a level of authenticity, particularly Yuki’s voice actress.

I think the main problem with Cencoroll is its lack of realisation, which is attributed to its length. There’s sense of ambiguity which could have been clarified better. Due to this, I can’t view this film as anything more than a visual and production achievement on Uki’s part. From this angle, I commend the styling and approach used, but the lack of a substantial story-line prevents me from rating it higher. I would recommend this to anyone who has a particular interest in the production side of animation, or to a lesser extent, simply someone who has a half hour to spare. This should entertain.