Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Alt title: Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou

Movie (1 ep x 115 min)
4.252 out of 5 from 5,987 votes
Rank #221

A gentle, enchanted race of weavers, the Iolph pass the many centuries of their lives crafting their traditional fabrics in their idyllic, isolated village. Among this perpetually youthful tribe is Maquia, beloved by all but touched by loss and loneliness. The peace is shattered when soldiers arrive astride dragons, dispatched by the King of Mesate to wrest away the spoils and secrets of the Iolph. Maquia succeeds in escaping, only to find herself cast into the unknown wilderness. When she discovers an orphaned baby boy, as lost and forlorn as she, Maquia feels compelled to care for him as they seek their way in the world of humans – a world in growing turmoil. The bond between Maquia and her ward Erial, however, is one woven with threads of tragedy.

Source: Fantasia Festival

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Disclaimer: I did like this movie, but this review is going to focus more on the criticism than the praise since there’s already lots of reviews saying about how great the movie is, but not as many pointing out its flaws. Mari Okada is going to be one of the great anime directors of our time, eventually reaching the prestige of legends like Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and Makoto Shinkai. However, she isn’t quite there yet in her directorial debut. While Maquia - When the Promised Flower Blooms is by no means a bad movie, it doesn’t quite compare yet to the all time great masterpieces of the established masters (e.g. Spirited Away, Wolf Children, your name). This is to be expected in the directorial debut of even the most talented creators, as most people would not consider Nausicaa, the second Digimon Movie, or The Place Promised in Our Early Days to be the best works of their respective directors. In essence, Maquia showed moments of greatness and was an overall entertaining anime, but there were two major problems that derailed it from being one of the best anime movies of all time. 1. Crying does not by itself make scenes more emotional or dramatic For those who are familiar with Mari Okada’s previous work, particularly as a screenwriter on Anohana and The Anthem of the Heart, it won’t be a surprise that Maquia tries very hard to be a tearjerker. The main problem is that the movie goes way too far with this idea, having dramatic scenes with characters crying in what seems to be every 10 minutes. “Poor pacing” is such a generic and cliche criticism in anime reviews, but in this case there are concrete examples as to why this is the case. With so many dramatic peaks, so many “crying moments” the audience doesn’t have time to build up emotional tension. What made the emotional moments in Okada’s other works so effective was that they served as climaxes to intense dramatic rising action. Instead Okada seemed to believe that more crying from the characters = more crying from the audience, and by the time that the true climax of the film is reached, the audience has already run out of tears. I found myself asking “am I supposed to be crying right now? What makes this emotional moment more special that the other 10 in the movie?” 2. Krim could have been deleted as a character and nothing would have changed about the main story Krim (or Klim) served as the central character of a subplot in Maquia involving a revolution against the kingdom of Mezarte, the kingdom that attacked Maquia’s homeland at the beginning of the movie. This subplot was, in my opinion, confusing and unnecessary. The main focus of the story is between Maquia and her adoptive son Ariel as well as the contrast with Leiria and her circumstances as a mother who can never see her child. The whole motif of overthrowing the kingdom and reestablishing the Iorph’s homeland didn’t have nearly enough time to be fleshed out. There were two possible solutions to this problem. One is to make the movie into a 12 episode series that gives more chances for the complex motivations of the characters and parties to be fleshed out, which unfortunately would have taken budget away from the strong visual elements of the movie (animation/character design/backgrounds). The other is to trim down the story and not try to juggle as many subplots. I think this was the correct solution and that Mari Okada was simply too ambitious in trying to cram such a dense story into a 115 minute runtime. I thought a lot about this movie, and in the end, I decided I liked it at about the level of some of the earlier works of master anime movie directors of the past in particular Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue and Makoto Shinkai’s The Place Promised in Our Early Days. These movies are raw, and while not without significant flaws, show the potential that these great masters of anime eventually would grow into. That’s why I’m confident that 3-4 years from now Mari Okada will be a household name in the anime community after she takes what she learned from directing Maquia and produces a true masterpiece.

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