krofire's avatar


  • United Kingdom
  • Joined Aug 8, 2020
  • 55 / M

Studio Tezuka Productions’ 2012 animated adaptation of the 1932 novel by Kenji Miyazawa is overly long and lacking key elements to the story structure. No doubt there is deep affection in Japanese culture for the original works for there is little doubt that nothing quite so ill-conceived as this would have been delivered in this fashion in the West. It has the hallmarks of a fan-flick delivered by a team unable to make the required cuts or story changes. Hence this production exudes none of the appeal of its contemporaries coming out of Studio Ghibli. Despite its characters being anthropomorphic cats, animals and mythical creatures, this is not necessarily child friendly. The story opens with a blissfully happy family who’s live are torn apart by famine. Family members simply walk away and are never seen again leaving the children to fend for themselves. This is not a comfortable place to start a story but it sets the scene for events that take place towards the end. There is a middle section of the story where the main character finds work on a farm before traumatic climate change and disease ushers him out of the rural idyll and into the big city.

This section of the story telling adds little other than to provide motivation for the main characters final act. The action eventually moves onto the Russian architecture of a steampunk city that is simply great to look at and is packed full of eccentric characters. However, disaster is on the horizon and our hero has to make a choice that will have tremendous consequences. Sadly, the story is all over the place and too many story elements simply go nowhere. The final denouement is a drab whimper when it should have been glorious. The film simply finishes leaving the audience to react with the feeling of “so what?” which is a really bad thing in story-telling. You simply don’t care for the main character. He isn’t engaging and the audience has no sympathies for anything that happens. It all seems so pointless. It really needed a rewrite and a good twenty minutes exorcising from the screenplay. The supernatural elements add nothing to the narrative leaving the audience to try and make sense of elements left too enigmatic to be deciphered. This sprawling production won no international awards but did walk away with the Excellence Prize at the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival Awards which is a bit of clue as to which culture this story was tuned for.

5/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
5/10 characters
6/10 overall
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