So this girl sees these monsters and is saved by a boy from the underworld. And she goes there, and she is chased around by some freaks and… WHAT IS THE POINT IN ALL THIS?
Disappointed! This is how I felt after I finished this film. Wanna know why?
1) The director
Makoto Shinkai is quite famous for his tragic romantic tales. Voices of a Distant Star and 5cm per Second are amongst the few romances even an uncaring bastard like myself enjoyed. So it was reasonable to expect yet another film regarding a tragic romance. Because, duh, Shinkai never made anything else. And to my amazement he now did. And it wasn’t good.
2) The studio
Studio Comix Wave is new but has made an impressive work so far. The thing is, with this film it feels like it is trying to rip-off Ghibli Studio instead of trying to find an identity or style of its own. I had to check three times to make sure this WASN’T a Ghibli production. I mean, IT IS SO ALIKE! In my mind there can be only one Ghibli and now I see someone trying to become its copycat? This is an outrage! Yes, pretty damn good visuals and soundtrack, but they all look and sound like a damn robbery from one of the most famous studios around. I couldn’t enjoy the overall film because of it.
3) The story
You think the similarities to Ghibli stop only at the visuals? Heck no, the story itself was a mix of various Ghibli works. At the same time it is hardly as captivating as those films, with far less context, complexity, interesting situations, and plot. So not only it is an imitation, it is also a bad one. If you just sit back and think of the plot of the film you will immediately realize how linear, simple, and eventually forgettable it was.
4) The characters
Not even one of the characters in the film is memorable or interesting. They all play their generic roles to the fullest yet none of them manage to stand out from their counterparts in a myriad other children fantasy stories. To the most part all you see is the heroine being chased around by monsters and being saved by a handsome fighter from a magical land. It couldn’t get any cornier. I saw fifty times more in the far similar premise of Escaflowne, where everyone there was far more complicating than he appeared to be at first. And in case you try to excuse it by saying this is a movie and not a series to demand drastic character development, then I will reply that in this case a movie should not be full of useless characters. Yet look at this, there is a whole school filled with children, a whole village filled with people, a WHOLE MAGICAL LAND FILLED WITH CREATURES and you get NOTHING out of them. They are just standing there, irrelevant to the main plot, and boring since they are not doing anything.
5) The motivation
There is no clear goal for most of the movie. The characters are running around almost apathetically, without really caring or making us care about whatever they want to accomplish. And even when they accomplish it, it feels hollow and pointless, without nothing interesting for you to remember about. There is absolutely no emotional engagement with whatever is going on in it.
Furthermore, the movie hardly tries to convince you of whatever happens. Monsters attack our world, the army attacks them with helicopters, and nobody in the surrounding areas besides the heroine takes notice of them. And then the movie ends and she returns and her mother has apparently popped in the story, and she keeps living her life like nothing matters. SO WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ALL THAT?
Although most viewers will probably just stare at the cool visuals and vote this a 9 or 10, I am a far harder to please man. I expect emotional engagement, development of the initial concept, some plot twist to be taken back for a few seconds, some characters who manage to escape their stereotype, something that doesn’t feel like a lesser rehash of older productions. Well I got none of the above in this one. It was hollow, boring, and made Makoto Shinkai to look like a failed Miyazaki wannabe when he always had his own style and identity. His specialty always was tragic romances, he was so good at it, he had no reason to stray off to something far more childish and stupid like this. Although he tried to pull of something similar here with the myth of Izanami and Izanagi, he failed completely to make it plausible and engaging. His previous works were all quite realistic to the most part, without silly magical powers to offer panacea to any problem encountered. But this? This is a stupid romantic fairy tale for little girls (yes, girls, not even boys) and one so generic that you will forget as soon as you watch the next generic fairy tale that comes along. Heck, watching a low-budget stupid Barbie 3D movie is more than enough to get over it!
COMPLETELY DISAPPOINTED! GO BACK TO REALISTIC ROMANCES SHINKAI! LEAVE BEHIND THESE STUPID MAGICAL LANDS! And above all DON’T TRY TO GROW A BEARD AND ACT LIKE MIYAZAKI! BE YOURSELF!
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 2/2, Visual Effects 2/2
SOUND SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 3/3
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 1/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10