Miyori no Mori is an extremely simple, yet welcomed addition to the ever growing library of anime surrounding youkai and the countryside of Japan. It’s a fantastical adventure, with eleven-year-old Miyori as the heroine. Forced to move to her grandparents’ countryside village after her parents divorced, she wanders off into a grand forest only to meet a colorful and friendly group of youkai. She soon learns that they call her the guardian of the forest, and is asked for a helping hand in saving not just the forest, but the majority of the village from a destructive dam project.
The story may not be something new or entirely refreshing, but it’s still a charming ride. Miyori starts out as distant and cold, unsure of what to do with herself or her new life after being made to leave her home and now being called on to save the forest. She rejects everything at first, but comes to find her place in the village as she slowly understands what she can do. She’s not very appealing at first, being quite bratty, but she soon turns out to be clever and quick to take action, earning her a position of respect among her new classmates and the spirits (who weren’t sure of her at first).
Miyori no Mori’s spirits are for the most part friendly and lovable, and are a joy throughout the story. Some of them are made-up creatures, while others borrow from classic myths such as the zashiki warashi. Regardless, they’re all very sweet and want nothing more than to save their home. It’s not until the end that we see some serious action from the spirits and what they can do, but it’s at least amusing along the way. Miyori’s classmates are somewhat in the same boat, although we see even less from them than the spirits. Still, they help add to Miyori’s development as she gradually makes friends.
The whole idea behind the story isn’t new or mind blowing, but for me it was refreshing. You see a lot of youkai stories where the creatures are mean-spirited or against humans, but it’s always nice to see one where they bumble about, wanting nothing more than to live their life in peace. It reminded me greatly of Miyazaki’s works; family friendly and filled with magic, wonder, and child-like adventure. The ending shows this greatly. It’s a bit of a slow and sometimes uneventful ride to get there, but I’d say it’s worth the wait, as you’re rewarded with a lively and quite magical performance befitting a theater. Miyori no Mori isn’t overwhelming or incredibly powerful, but it’s enough to make you smile and remind you just how magical the world is.