Monday, March 11, 2013

Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror Anime Movie Review

Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror
Movie - 100 minutes - 2 discs
$19.98 (2012)
$24.98 (2012) Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
ISBN 704400067426
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Shinsuke Sato
Studio - Production I.G

Synopsis: Haruka's mother passed away when she was very young and gave her a special hand mirror. It was cherished by Haruka for many years, but then put away and forgotten.  There is a tale where spirits collect forgotten and misplaced items from the human world and bring them to the spirit world.  Like most fairy tales this one has some truth to it.  Haruka's mirror was taken to this world.

Haruka visits her mother in the hospital
Now Haruka is sixteen and she is disappointed by her single father.  He always works late and never has time for her.  She thinks about the mirror her mother gave her, but can't find it.  She visits a small shrine where people leave offerings of eggs to the fox spirits who can return lost objects.  While there she witnesses an amazing phenomena.  A small creature picks up her keys and then disappears into the surrounding forest. She follows it and is transported to a magical world where little creatures have taken neglected objects from the human world.
Haruka makes an offering at an old shrine to find her lost mirror
The creature's name is Teo and humans are not allowed in his world.  He tries to get Haruka to leave, but she's bigger than him.  She asks him to help her find the mirror her mother gave her and he reluctantly agrees.  His world is a brightly colored junkpile filled with forgotten treasures.  The powerful and wicked Baron floats in a skyship above Oblivion Island, the name of the land where neglected items are collected.
Haruka comes face-to-face with Teo
The Baron has a nefarious plot to use Haruka's magic mirror to break into the human world and take more than just forgotten items.  He will stop at nothing to get the mirror!  Teo is uneasy teaming up with a human and unsure of is allegiance.  Haruka must protect him from bullies and navigate the strange landscape of his world.  She comes across Cotton, her favorite toy when she was a little girl, but forgotten along with the rest of the items on Oblivion Island.  Can Haruka recover her mirror or will she end up a mindless slave of The Baron?
Teo lives on the brightly-colored Oblivion Island made of forgotten items
Pros: Brightly colored and imaginative, computer animation is surprisingly competent, lots of exciting chase scenes and characters, some cool extras including trailers and featurettes
Haruka is reunited with Cotton, her long-lost lamb doll
Cons: Not for very young viewers (younger than five years old) because Haruka's mother has passed away and Cotton gets ripped in half by the evil Baron, not on par with a Toy Story or Monsters Inc.
The Baron's airship floats menacingly above Oblivion Island
Mike Tells It Straight: Oblivion Island is a full-CGI movie produced by Japanese anime studio Production I.G.  They're well-known for creating many hit anime works including Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East, Blood the Last Vampire, xxxHolic, and many others.  I was a bit wary of a full-CGI movie from outside of the U.S. and didn't have very high expectations (check Netflix - there are a ton of them).
These three like to pick on Teo - until Haruka steps in!
Visually this movie was a pleasant surprise.  It was highly competent and had great design details.  The chase scenes were kinetic and exciting.  I liked the character designs and the humans looked human.  Production I.G did a great job on the graphics.  They're not in the same league as Pixar, but could face off against some of the other studios.
The Baron prepares to launch his nefarious plot
The story was very Japanese with fox spirits and a father who works long hours - Haruka was basically taking care of herself.  It was a lot darker than I had expected with the denizens of Oblivion Island wearing strange masks and several underground scenes with creepy crawlies.  The maturity level of the story was also rather high with Haruka's mother dying while she is still young.  This story is definitely not all-ages.  I would keep younger viewers away and suggest this for ages 5+.
Haruka and Teo go on an exciting thrill ride trying to stop the Baron
One particular scene where Cotton, Haruka's long-lost lamb doll who is alive on Oblivion Island, gets ripped in half would be quite traumatizing to a small child.  Imagine if your beloved stuffed animal could walk and talk, but then gets torn apart while still struggling against a creepy villain.  Pretty harsh stuff.  I would say Oblivion Island is a cross between Pokemon, 9, and a Miyazaki film.  It's an interesting movie, not a classic in my opinion, but worth checking out.

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