Script - A boy learns magic to defeat an evil witch. It's a simplistic black and white tale that only children would appreciate in terms of writing. Historic anachronism isn't something I'm a fan of and the film surely had value for its time, where japanese people were still trying to restore their cultural pride. But it's simply unavoidable to not ignore the silliness in which the plot is based. The protagonist goes after the witch and means to defeat her because she harmed one of his animal friends, but instead of facing a specific struggle, everything is quite easy if you think about it.
Apparently, he has the talent, the bravery and intelligence to do as he wants and, at the end, everything is solved without a drop of poignancy whatsoever. It has a way more natural dialogue than its predecessor Hakujaden and the pacing is also faster and will probably not bore one to death, but that also doesn't help beyond it not staying more than necessary. Some stories simply age better, some don't. Time is cruel and simplism is not by far my cup of tea, regardless of period.
Cinematography - Considering its predecessor for some reason is more famous and regarded, I must say it's actually better visually than Hakujaden. The faces are thin and sometimes very weird, but overall the care is notable and impressive most of the time. It's a movie and it was surely ambitious technically speaking. The movements are more natural than Hakujaden as well and less idealized. Good stuff.
Sound - The voices are ok for its time. They're less annoying and more tuned to the mood of the show. Forced, but not bad for sure. The soundtrack is fine, the sound effects are actually very good, and I was surprised. It's common to hear a lot of buzzes and outplaced tracks here and there, so it's a plus.
1234 - I prefer not to nitpick about this, I feel like it's a waste of my time. Whatever I've noticed as flawed or weak is not gonna pass unnoticed by anyone else. However, something that always bugs me and for some reason persists until this very day is the lack of interest in subverting the trope 'ugly bastard'. Seriously, it's impossible to imagine a show from the time doing something out of the rule 'good is pretty, bad is ugly' and honestly, something like that is what could have made this show a lot better. Wanna make a faithful adaptation, cool, but you can change some minor details in order to surprise your viewers as long they make sense. Try it.
This is a show you can watch and will probably not be a bad experience, but time has ruined its intent. Its moral values and messages are as poignant as the more mediocre Disney movie ever and besides the aesthetics, there's nothing to it at all. Still, I respect the ambition and understand the intent pretty well. The End.
I would like to state first and foremost that this is an extremely important anime historically. This was one of the first theatrically released feature films from Toei Animation. It was also one of the first colored anime features films. The impact that this film had on anime as a whole is huge. That said, this film has not aged very well.
The story is all over the place. It takes forever for the main conflict to get started. First we follow some woodland creatures until one of them gets killed. Then we follow Sasuke as he goes to train and learn magic. Then there's
something about bandits. And then the bandits disappear for a bit. But then by the time Sasuke's done training, you've forgotten why he left in the first place. Then we have to worry about his sister that got kidnapped. The pacing is inconsistent, and conflicts are thrown around until you forget about earlier ones. Also be careful of which subs you watch. Sometimes the subs are flat out wrong. Even with my limited Japanese, I could tell that certain phrases were incorrect. This can lead to further confusion if you can't catch the errors.
The art on the other hand is the best part of this movie. The character designs suffer from weird anatomy and creepy faces. You could tell they were trying to copy Disney, while still making the film "Japanese." However, they hit a slightly uncanny valley in that regard. It's not too bad. But it does take out some of the immersion in some scenes. The animals on the other hand are done very well. The backgrounds are also nice. I absolutely love the way the animation things like fire, teleportation and liquid.
Another highlight of the film. Aside from some inconsistent lip sync (which is more an art problem than a sound problem) the sound is integrated very well into the film. The voice acting isn't anything to write home about. But things like whip cracks, lightning and other sound effects are very well done. The soundtrack is appropriate and well done.
The characters have little to no character whatsoever. Sasuke is a generic determined boy. His sister doesn't even have a name (or at least in the subs I saw she didn't.) The prince and witch are generic as well. Oddly the side characters have more character than most of the main cast. There is a side plot about a girl that won't leave these two bandits alone after they stole her trunk. That plot point gets forgotten about. But the lengths the bandits go to try and make her go away were entertaining. The girl however was annoying as hell. Most of the animals have their own quirks. But it's not enough to carry a whole movie.
In spite of this movie's flaws, I did enjoy it a bit. There was a final showdown between the witch and Sasuke that was very well done. The bandits and girl side plot was funny, even if it never got resolved. There was a scene involving a deer trying to follow Sasuke that I liked. There are things to enjoy about this movie. If you are an enthusiast I could see somebody being mildly entertained. The film is also made more fun by trying to point out all of the Snow White and Sleeping Beauty tropes that were probably being borrowed in this film.
Like I said before, this film is historically important. If you are a film historian, then this will not be the worst film you've ever seen. However, this movie still has not aged well at all. You could tell a lot of effort was put into this film. And in some areas like animation and sound, that hard work has paid off. I just wish more thought was put into things like pacing, character and story.