On an island, legend has it that monsters have lived there since ancient times. Because of this, the residents have named the island “Monster Island.” In actuality, the monsters living on the island are friendly, but live in fear of humans. A child named Kotake wanders onto the island. A grumpy red ogre named Naki ends up taking care of the child. What strange things might this encounter cause?
Allow me to inform you of a seemingly overlooked gem in the anime community. Time and time again I have watched children movies from Japan, and time and time again they astound me with how well-done they are. While some are talked about (Magic Tree House, One Stormy Night) and others are rarely brought to the West (Oblivion Island) this is the first one I have watched where I couldn't find anyone talking about it. Barely any information on MAL and not a single comment to be seen on tumblr or other similar sites. I find this sad.
Friends: Mononoke Shima no Naki (Naki of Monster
Island) is a fun, emotional, and heart-warming movie. I can loosely compare the plot to Monsters Inc., where a young child is left with a couple of monsters who try to send it home and in the process develop caring feelings for it.
200 years ago, monsters and humans were at war, and the monsters were driven to a different island where there numbers have diminished significantly. Humans are more afraid of them than ever and never dare go to the island, where monsters never dare go to the human island in fear that what little is left of their population would be massacred. However, one day, a young boy goes to pick mushrooms from the trove of them the monster island has. After a couple of monsters chase him down, he desperately escapes, leaving his younger brother, Kotake.
We are then introduced to the two main characters, Naki and Gunjo, who lost their parents in the Human Vs. Monster war and consider humans to be terrible beasts. They handle the child in exchange for sole rights to the mushrooms for a year. The story simply takes off from there, and becomes an enjoyable and emotional ride.
The animation can be a little stiff, especially more obscure background characters. However, overall, the animation is very good quality. The scenery of the islands, and the stark contrast between them, really shows in a beautiful display of colors and atmosphere. Facial expressions are also done very well.
The soundtrack is quite amazing. I would definitely have every track from the movie on my computer if it weren't for a lack of places to find it. The music really sets the mood of any given scene. Sounds effects are executed nicely, and the voice acting is superb.
The characters are where the movie shines the most. Seeing Naki's character development over the course of the movie is touching, as well as his relationship with Gunjo. Gunjo is a fun character and by the end of the movie will tug at your heartstrings. These two alone make the movie worthwhile, but their development and interactions with Kotake and the other monsters on the island, as well as humans later on, is really well-done and written excellently.
Overall, this movie is a shining gem, as are most movies from Japan aimed at children in my personal opinion. I urge everyone to give this movie a try and spread the word. Maybe even if you don't like it someone you know will.