In the aftermath of the most devastating conflict mankind had ever experienced, the tiny island of Shikotan became part of the Sakhalin Oblast... and on the unhealed border in this remote corner of the world, friendship among children from two different countries timidly blossomed, striving to overcome language barriers and the waves of history. Inspired by true events.
On August 15th, they told us we had lost the war. At that time, we did not really understand. Then one day, everything changed. Many soldiers, wearing uniforms we had never seen before, arrived on the island. That was the day I met Tanya.
Giovanni no shima is a beautiful film about dreams, hope and love. Taking place at an island called Shikotan in Northern Japan during the end of the 2nd World War, Giovanni no shima displays a unique milieu even for the most studious anime-watcher.
Siblings Junpei and Kanta are very young when the Red Army comes and takes control of their dear home island. But even on the hard times, when food is scarce and scary armed men watch every move they take, the two have something they can always rely on: their imagination. ‘The Galactic Railroad’ is their way to escape difficult situations, taking them far
away where ever they dream to, even if it's only for a moment.
Soon they come to think that everything’s not that helpless after all. The culture the Russians brought with them is interesting, so different. As time passes the language sounds less and less strange in their ears. The fair-skinned kids they go to school with have become their friends. Maybe it’s possible to live along like that, in peace. Or is that only naivety of the youth? There are far bigger things happening and waiting to happen, things invisible, yet incomprehensible for Junpei and Kanta.
Giovanni no shima relies on simple character design but interesting enough for everyone to look clearly different and recognizable. The colours and views of the island are beautiful, but a little plain. However, the ‘Galactic Railroad’ colours up not only Junpei and Kanta’s life, but the film’s looks too. Like the film overall, those dreams of Junpei and Kanta are beautifully animated.
The voice acting is great. The children are really played by children, and the Russian characters by native speakers. We also hear some Korean in the film. All nationalities are shown to have both good sides and bad sides. The soundtrack is also beautiful, especially those few songs we hear sung by the children.
The story told in Giovanni no shima is heartwarming, but also tragic. It’s an epic story of survival and loss, but also love, family and friends. Even though the story is fictional, it teaches you a lot about history you might not have heard about before, and makes you think. This interesting piece is definitely worth watching.
1945, Japan was defeated in WWII. We find ourselves in the beautiful greenery island of Shikotan, and the Russian army has taken the land as their own. Junpei and Kanta are two little brothers who find themselves in the spoils of war and have to face this cruel reality. When two countries collide, we happen to discover different cultures, distinct features, language barriers and ruffling history. “Giovanni no Shima” takes us onto the railroads of a train, and stopping at every station, it shows us how to break those obstacles and teaches us about longing and loss, but also bravery and determination to achieve one’s
goal, in a destroyed and homeless Japan.
Miyazawa Kenji’s words and reveries play a major role in the story, thus Junpei and Kanta are named Giovanni and Campanella, two main characters of Miyazawa’s “Night on the Galactic Railroad” book. Some quotes are often taking part in the narrative with Junpei’s soliloquies. A tangible imagination guides us in yet, another lovely Production I.G; the art is well conceived, although one might refer to it as a bit kiddy and dull, but remember, this is a movie for the whole family, therefore, you will find its funny moments with chibi expressions and scribbled backgrounds. Nonetheless, i believe it to be of a very delicate caliber. One fascinating aspect is the voice actors, and i have to say that is extremely well exerted. Not only we hear new exquisite Japanese talent, but, as well, Russians voicing the Russian characters, like Tanya. You may also enjoy the coalescence of Russian songs with the Japanese ones, it gives a profound and unique ambience, i think.
Overall, “Giovanni no Shima” is a beautiful and powerful movie that should’ve earn the appreciation of everybody, and such will makes realize that the errors we committed in the past, cannot be repeated now, as well as in the future.
Giovanni’s Island is an emotionally gripping film that depicts life in Japan near the end of world war 2 known as the Soviet-Japanese War. The film unfolds around our main character Junpei/Giovanni, who is a young boy living in one of the Islands in Japan, whose father is the commander of the firefighting force in the village (he’s basically the head honcho of the village). The soviets are invading their hometown and our adventure begins from here. Before I progress, I have to say I really loved this movie, but this film is very one-sided, it makes you feel empathetic toward the Japanese, and it
brushes of and ignores what the Japanese did before this period. I get that the film was made in Japan, so naturally there is pride when making a film about one’s own country, but I felt some recognition of history at the beginning of the film would have been appropriate. Though they do make one subtle reference to how they treated the Koreans in this time in one scene.
A beautiful soundtrack, I would give it an 8/10, the instrumentals were very appropriate and really set every mood in the film. The real beauty in this soundtrack was the vocal choir done by the children in this movie, involving both Russian children and Japanese children. The song Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru (Hoshi-meguri no Uta) is one of these choir type songs played in the film. I was very impressed that they used children to sing in this film rather than adults, there is an innocence and purity in the voice of children that really just made you heart melt during these scenes.
Animation: This section is a bit tricky, I am sure some people who felt like the animation designs for the characters could have been better, I too felt the same in the beginning of the film. However, as the movie progressed I realized that these characters, mainly children were made to be real, they were simple, but real. The characters didn’t have perfect figures, or perfect eyes, sure that stuff looks great in most anime, but that type of design wouldn’t fit in well with the harsh realities of this time. Moreover kids are imperfect, well everyone is, but it’s much more obvious in children and I felt the animation reflected that well (it’s a very delicate time in life where your struggling to find an identity and a place within your family). The backgrounds were always top notch and were visually satisfying, some scenes remind me of Makoto Shinkai’s work.
Our main man Junpei is our star here, but really the whole event/movie is about children and what they experienced and felt during this time. Not only was the focus on Japanese children, but also Soviet children who were stationed in residential Japanese areas with their parents who were invading Japan. 2 other important child characters I feel I should mention in this film are Junpei’s younger brother Kanta and a soviet girl (about the same age as Junpei) whom Junpei interacts with. Giovanni is very confused about how he should feel toward the Soviet (she is the enemy, but she is just a child too, could she be “evil” like the adults?), and it’s very interesting how things play out between these two characters. The 2nd third of the movie is more focused on the relationship between these two characters. Our final arc of the film is really about Junpei and his brother and really about Junpei’s sense of family. This final arc is very intense and invokes so many emotions in you, grab some tissues if you cry easily, I didn’t cause I’m heartless moron, but yeah.
The film supposedly makes make references to a book called “Night on the Galactic Railroad” written by Kenji Miyazawa, the book itself is referenced in the film many times. You may like to read this book if you have access to a copy, to have a deeper understanding of the film, though by no means is required. Overall the film had very strong plot, pretty good characters, and a great soundtrack, I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Some themes or ideas that circulate this film are loss, confliction with change, confusion towards society, family, regret, the power and dynamics of a family unit, and the longing to be back home.