Now and Then, Here and There is an unusually incisive look (for anime at least} into brutality. A young boy named Shu is introduced to us. He loves his natto beans, playing at kendo and trying to impress his crush. So when he is transported to a battleship called Hellywood after meeting a young girl named Lala Ru, he has no idea of what is in store for him. His naivete gets him in trouble from the start. He tries to rescue Lala Ru from Lady Arebelia, the leader of the troops of King Hamdo, who is the ruler of Hellywood, despite his obvious madness. Note the lovely mecha design at this point, the organic looking silver dragons. That is the only organic thing you'll see in this mechanical world.
This only gets him beaten and hung from the ship in a search for the pendant he doesn't have. Arebelia even suspects this, but says that Hamdo ordered an interrogation, so that's what they'll do. La La Ru is a prisoner of Hamdo, who is doing terrible things to her. In a dank prison cell, Shu encounters Sara, an American who because of a vague resemblance to Lala Ru is imprisoned and tortured. After a horrific battle, Shu is 'recruited' into the troop of Nabuca and Boo, two child soldiers. Nabuca tries to follow orders well, because he believes the sooner the war is over, the sooner he can go home. Boo is just a young child of five, still innocent for a solider
Certainly, this is not another harem comedy or even the typical transported into another world fantasy. This world is truly hell. Thousands will be killed, children forced into armies, women raped, and all for the dream of world domination by a man who plays with a dead cat. This story is said to be inspired by a documentary about child soldiers in Africa. The art style seems Ghilbi inspired, with innocent looking characters suffering and performing unspeakable horror.
An interesting theme of this anime is the change that such horror can cause in a human being. For example, Tabool is said to have been an easy going kid at home. In the environment of Hellywood, he is reduced to beating Shu in hopes that he'll tell him where the pendant is, and thus shorten the assignment of looking for it.
Another interesting feature is that even though there is the anime cliche of the girl with the mysterious pendant, the true fight is over resources. The significance of the pendant is that it enables Lala Ru to control water, which is in scare supply in Hellywood. This is emphasized in the warm, hot tones used for the 'outside.' The sun is huge in the sky, signifying an oppressiveness sucking up all moisture. It is like Hamdo's influence over everyone. Former friends like Nabuca and Tabool at each others' throats, an obviously intelligent woman (Arebelia) reduced to a lapdog, hundreds of children reduced to killing machines. Hamdo is like the dead cat, stinking up everything.
And like real life, I would not expect a happy ending for anyone. This is a study of brutality, and it seems like we're in it to the bitter end