The story is set in 1955 in Kokuga, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
One thousand years ago it was the site of the ancient capital, Suo no Kuni, and traces of the Heian Period (year 794-1185) are passed down to us in the form of ruins and historical place names.
The protagonist is Shinko, a third grade elementary school student, who was born and raised in one of the town's venerable families. She is a little girl whose characteristic is a strange curl on her forehead (she calls it her "Mai Mai"), and her love for playing in the fields. On the other hand, her secret joy is to imagine and to daydream about the world of one thousand years ago. Her fantasies travel far into the days of the Heian Period...
One day, a girl called Kiiko transfers from Tokyo and enters Shinko's class. This girl from the big city has difficulty feeling at home in this small town, but gradually her friendship with Shinko deepens.
Before long, the two of them become engulfed in a strange incident of one thousand years earlier...?!
The film was nominated for the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
Mai Mai Miracle won the 2010 Audience Award for the Best Animated Feature for adults at Anima, the Brussels Animation Film Festival (February 2010 in Belgium). It also won the BETV Award for Best Animated Feature at the same festival. It won the Best Animated Feature Film award in the Jury Prize categories at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montréal, Canada (July 2010). The film won the Excellence Prize for Feature Length Animation at the 2010 Japan Media Arts Festival (the 14th festival edition).
I wonder why none of the fansub groups till now never even bothered to look up to this movie. Its been released in 2009 and has been out for a while now. But it is only this month (July 2011) that a proper fansub group released the english version.
A simple but wonderfully executed story of a countryside girl and her everyday fun adventure. Well people have said it has a typical ghibli atmosphere but its definitely not a copy. The taking of the movie has its own distinct way of keeping you engaged in watching further.
Story [10/10]: Shinko, the main protagonist, who imagines
all kinds of people and places based on her grandfather's stories of 1000 years ago, meets Kiiko who has comes from Tokyo and who is attending the same schol as Shinko. Quickly due to her appearance and the coloured pencils Kiiko has all other kids in the class become curious. So does Shinko. She follows Kiiko to her home where she sees all kinds of foregin objects and is quiet fascinated. Their freindship develops. Shinko tells Kiiko about the how the countryside they are living in used to be a capital a thousand years ago (which her grandfather has told her about). Shinko also tells her that she believes there was a princess, about her age only, who lived in this country. She wants to meet her to play with her. This is were the alternate story begins. The princess in the story is lonely and wants someone to play with. From what I understood from the story the princesses feelings somehow reach Shinko. And maybe that is why Shinko to is able to imagine what kind of a girl the princess could have been and where and how she might have been living. From there follow the little games that Shinko, Kiiko and their school friends have. To sum it all the sotry ends with both Shinko and the princess in the alternate stories finding their best friend. The story has a very rich base plot, being set in a countryside and of a historical date. So lots of space for innovation with the characters. And it has been very well executed in the direction.
Art [8/10]: The landscapes are beautifully drawn. They aptly bring out the beauty of the countryside and the overall atmosphere. Though the charatcres could have been a bit better drawn. But overall they definitely have a good impact on the viewer.
Sound [9/10]: Background music is typical of a childrens movie in a good way ofcourse. Voice of Shinko could have been better if it had been a little more girlish and sounding of her actual age. The current voice sounds like that of a tomboyish girl (which Shinko is kind of) which issometimes a bit annoying.
Character [10/10]: Loved the way all the characters have been portrayed. The runny nose boy, other classmates, teacher, Shinko's grandfather, mother- watching everyone makes you believe that they are actually typical countryside people.
Enjoyment [10/10]: Enjoyed the movie thoroughly.
Overall [9/10] I deduce 1 mark only for a bit of disappointing voice for Shinko and the art of the characters themselves. Other than that its a perfect score on the story. Just go and watch *thumbs up*
Mai Mai Miracle is a wonderful movie that primarily focuses on a friendship and its development between two girls. As well as the friendship, little adventures and resolution to conflicts for the two girls and the people around them ensue.
The art and sounds for the movie are remarkable. I was thoroughly impressed by the attention to detail that included things like the sound of wind and tall grasses. Based on the countryside of Japan in the 1950s as well as the Heian period included beautiful landscaping.
Characters were definitely my favorite part of the movie. With simple yet lovely character designs, the two main girls, Shinko
and Kiiko, are illustrated with natural personalities. Shinko's outgoingness and Kiiko's progress with gradual progress as a new kid were heavily developed. Along with that, the supporting characters get enough screen time that you get a feel on who they are.
I enjoyed watching this movie but, to bluntly say,this movie was just an "alright" movie and one of those films I'd recommend to watch during some free time [if nothing else is on your to watch list]. Some aspects of this movie are rather weak in my opinion such as its story line. From the synopsis, I was expecting more "magic" as it says "the two of them become engulfed in a strange incident of one thousand years earlier" -I took it literally.. My reasons for giving the movie a 6 in "Story" is because I felt that the anime was too jammed pack; the 1000 years and Tatsuyoshi thing seemed a little unattached/removable.. and my reaction to the ending was "wtf?"
Mai Mai Shinko and the Thousand Year Magic explores the wonder of childhood through the imaginative minds of Shinko and Kiiko as they create friendships and marvel at the world around them. Set in 1950s-era rural Japan, a small group of elementary school students must rely on their imaginations and the local farmscape to pass the time.
There isn't any one central conflict to string the story along, but the characters learn to make friends, express themselves, and admire their prolific ancestors who once made the land a mighty cultural center. An imagined story of an ancient princess runs parallel to the lives of the characters
as they must struggle with issues like death and abusive fathers. The story isn't a tragedy, however, as the kids must simply learn to deal with reality and see the best in things and in each other.
Mai Mai Shinko draws obvious comparison to My Neighbor Totoro, with two young female main characters, the rural Japanese setting and predictably a little sister getting lost along the way, but unlike a typical Ghibli film, Madhouse has strayed away from the fantastic, restricting it to the minds of the children. It still draws recommendations from Ghibli fans, and anyone who wants to reminisce about their energetic childhoods.
Those of you who have lives and don’t pay attention to all but the most famous of anime directors may not know who Sunao Katabuchi is. Well, I’m sure most anime fans have at least heard of the name: Black Lagoon. Yep, the man responsible for bringing all the kickass in both seasons and the Roberta arc was him, so you’d think he’d have a genuinely successful career in the industry with his talent. Well, he sorta does, but it’s mostly underground.
Despite the popularity of his foray into action, he’s mainly a Ghibli-esque storyteller with the majority of his resume being family friendly stuff that
contain very familiar plot points to those who’ve watched Castle in the Sky or Future Boy Conan. And by the majority of his resume, I mean his three other anime (one series and two movies) that no one even knows exists, because he’s not actually associated with Ghibli bar assistant work on Kiki’s Delivery Service, and it’s not like their are many other options in terms of anime studios with Disney-levels of success willing to throw the amount of money and resources needed to properly get his name out there. Even though he’s now under contract by Mappa to make a movie adaptation of the historical manga, In This Corner of the World, the combination of a not-very-popular manga and Mappa not being able to appeal to the mainstream crowd in terms of blu-ray sales makes it hard to secure funds for the project and I’m not even all that sure it’ll come out in 2016 like MAL says it will. I really hope it does though, because it looks like a solid historical drama.
Anyways, this review is centered on Mai Mai Miracle, his lesser known 2009 film with Madhouse that can basically be summarized as his own version of Ghibli’s more slice-of-life-y affairs like My Neighbor Totoro and Only Yesterday. And by his own version, I mean a slice-of-life anime centered on the countryside with an increased focus on realism and, ironically, an increased amount of diabetes.
The story is centered on Shinko, an elementary-school girl with a cowlick on her head that she calls “Mai Mai” – hence the title of the film – who likes to daydream about what her town was like in the past, reminiscent of the dream sequence from Whisper of the Heart if it was channeling Air: The Motion Picture. One day, a Tokyo girl named Kiiko moves into the countryside and immediately stands out due to wearing what’s basically the equivalent of royal clothing in the middle of Somalia, resulting in the fish-out-of-water nervousness you’d expect from such a situation. But that doesn’t stop Shinko from befriending her, and from then on, we follow the two as they hang out with the other kids, deal with personal problems, and even share the same daydream – although trust me when I say it doesn’t really lead to anything of significance.
It’s pretty damn easy to see why Mai Mai Miracle never drew a big audience considering that it itself draws most of its appeal from showcasing countryside life as well as the tribulations of youth passed through a giant “it’s for kids” filter. Hell, apart from Madhouse’s production values, I’m not really big into the movie myself. The story leans a wee too hard on nostalgia and the calmer parts of youth in general to the point that it’s like an Eternal Sonata-level JRPG: it can be fun to actually experience the thing, but watching someone else do it is about as interesting as watching grass grow. And it doesn’t help that not all the plot points come together very well to begin with. Aside from being friends, the plot point regarding a girl’s dead fish could not be any less related to the plot point involving one of the boys’ role models dying.
At its heart, Mai Mai Miracle is about reality clashing with youth, but because it’s a kids’ movie, it can’t go all the way with it. There’s a particular scene in the finale where Shinko and one of her male friends go to a red-light district for reasons I won’t spoil other than it involves the death of a minor character. And whilst it’s aesthetically rough on the surface from the prostitutes to the yakuza, said scene ends with the crooks they encounter sympathizing with the kids and allowing them to go free. Not that I’d want anything worse to occur from said confrontation because I don’t like seeing people that young getting put through the ringer and another one of the movie’s main points is that reality isn’t all bad anyways, but it’s a very good example of how Mai Mai Miracle doesn’t have the bite I prefer when it comes to these types of stories. Even American Graffiti had more of an edge in regards to its take on reality versus youth – and whilst it was good for its time, American Graffiti is kind of plain by today’s standards.
But of course, if you’re watching this for the visuals, you’re in for a treat. I wasn’t kidding when I said Madhouse’s production values interest me, because Mai Mai Miracle really does a good job at nailing the calm atmosphere it’s going for with its imaginative dream sequences and lush cinematography, even if said atmosphere isn’t too my taste. This is a beautiful-looking movie with an appropriately soothing soundtrack that complements it pretty damn well. They even throw in a kiddy version of The Carpenters’ “Sing a Song” into the mix, which got a smile out of me. I may come off as a sap for saying this, but I really like that song. It’s cute in all the right ways.
For those of you who like slice-of-life/light-hearted anime, Mai Mai Miracle should definitely be right up your alley, as I can’t seem to find many faults in the product for lovers of the genre. But then again, I wouldn’t know how to separate your Arias from your Dog Days, so what do I know? Nevertheless, whilst some of the plot points could have been handled better, it has a genuinely heartwarming and relevant story that’s good for its target audience, it’s well-made, and the characters are likable enough as well – acting close to real kids during the time period this movie takes place in. Doesn’t appeal to me personally, but then again, I’m the asshole who thinks Azumanga Daioh became boring eight episodes in. At best!