When I opened up my package from Funimation, I admittedly frowned. Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror did not sound like something something I was going to jive with. Even if is a children's movie, it's a pretty generic sounding title. A 3D children's features sure sounded like a task I wasn't going to have the stamina for, and planned to scan the movie while playing video games --sending it to one of my poor editors for review after.
As you can probably guess, as usual… I was wrong. Was this movie Production IG's move towards becoming the next Pixar? No. Oblivion Island is its own picture, and has the luxury of borrowing from both American 3D features, and Japanese anime story telling, with unique results. Check out my non-spoilery review after the jump, and why this is one of my most recommended films of the year.
Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
The plot of the film is actually quite simple. The story follows an adventure of a young girl Haruka, who's actually been though quite a bit in her life. She's not an outwardly misbehaved girl, nor is she all that lovable at first. However, it's easy to see why she acts the way she does. Haruka is missing things from her life, both physical and sentimental. The question is, "Where do these things go as we grow up?"
Along her adventures she meets some new friends, and is reunited with some old. She literally runs into Teo, the collector. Teo is some kind of mole.. maybe? Anyway's the whole process in which Teo develops in the film's playtime is fantastic. Also, in my opinion, Tro is one of Miyuki Sawashiro's best voice acting roles to date. Their adventure is full of gut wrenchingly emotion moments, and of course plenty of good times. The characters are all surprisingly well developed, and like any good kid's movie, their motives are well explained.
So, let's face it, Pixar and Dreamworks are the masters of 3D children animation. Oblivion Island looks fantastic, but I wouldn't put the animation on the same technical scale as what those studios have put out lately. What Production I.G. and Dentsu do bring to the table is an extremely imaginative, and whimsical usage of the medium. While the models can look simple, they still hold what I could would consider to be anime style, while also subscribing to a transitional child friendly 3D style. Technically, what probably most impressed me about the animation was the usage of light, and how much it really effected the mood of the film. Shadows from flames, illuminating crystals, and blaring suns and set the stage for some really memorable scenes. The small details in certain models that give them that extra nostalgic feel, show why a movie like this could only be made in Japan.
The American release is unfortunately not available in 3D, which is a bummer. Perhaps Funimation will start selling 3D Blu-Rays? Regardless, it still looks great.
I'm probably guilty of saying a movie or show has a lot of "heart" a bit too often in reviews, but that really is the best way to describe a film like this. I'm not familiar with that many modern children's movies, however from what I've seen, they don't make them like this anymore. A story like this fits well as a feature length film, and I don't feel they cheaped out in any spots. It's a complete adventure, that feels like you get just the right amount of closure. This is the kind of films kids should be watching nowadays. The kind of movies that recognize that world's not always as perfect as you would like it to be, but it's important to treasure what you have. It could also be that I have a soft spot for these kind of things.
Underneath it all, Oblivion Island's message can hit you like a ton of bricks. The ideas of how we remember people and things, how what we find precious changes through time, and of course appreciating what we do have --are all dealt on both an adult level, and a child's perspective. I often can enjoy a children's movie, but I rarely get caught up in the sense of wonder and innocence that films like this present. I would't say it's on the level of a Hayao Miazaki movie, but it reaches those levels at points.
The review sound a bit light? Well, part of the magic of the film is how things unfold, it's just part of the the way the movie pulls you in. If you want some slightly spoiler details, head on over to Jeff Chuang's review of the film, when he saw it in theaters a few years ago. Make sure you do check this film out, even if it's a Christmas gift to your niece, it deserves to be seen. Now excuse me as I watch some ultra-violence and hentai to go balance out my karma.
[9.0 - Yup, I loved this flick. Warm enough to melt the heart of the Ice Queen herself]
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