Your favourite teddy bear. That model kit that took so long to complete. The picture book you used to read over and over again. The shining stone you found that day in the park. Where do all your childhood's treasures go when you grow up? In this story, we meet fantastic creatures that gather all these little objects that fall into oblivion as they are forgotten by their owners when they step into adulthood. These creatures sneak into our world from a different dimension, and unseen by humans, they take all the ditched and forgotten "treasures" into their world. Here, they use their booty to build their own city, a fairy tale-like place called... Oblivion Island!
Anime, like many other media, is a veritable Pandora's Box when it comes to finding something entertaining. What you think about a given show may range from outright loathing to blissful wonderment - you never know until you start watching.
Every so often though, something will come along that will give you hope for the future of the medium.
For starters, Hottarake no Shima ~Haruka to Mahou no Kagami~ (or, Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror), is possibly the most visually arresting 3D movie I have ever seen (and before you ask, yes, I have seen Avatar, and no, I wasn't overly impressed by that Dances
with Wolves crossed with Battle for Terra rip off). Over the years the 3D genre of anime has been woefully misrepresented, however Oblivion Island looks set to not only change the rules, but the entire game.
The story, in brief, is about a girl called Haruka, her accidental meeting with a young fox spirit called Teo, and her subsequent adventure in a land where forgotten things are taken.
One of the nice things about Oblivion Island is that its based on a concept that is both very simple and very familiar. Everyone has, or knows of, something that may have been treasured during childhood, something that has become lost or forgotten along the way, and everyone who has lost something will wonder where it went. It's to the credit of writers Adachi Hirotaka and Sato Shinsuke (who also directed the movie), that they were able to use this premise to create a tale that is both charming and wondrous.
Given that this is a movie one would expect there to be a certain "shallowness" to the actual plot, and while this is true to a degree, Oblivion Island posits a fantastic, yet strangely plausible (in terms of stories that is), idea for the viewer to ponder once the film has ended. That said, there is a certain amount of predictability in the story that may not sit well with some people, however I found that when taken alongside the visuals these moments were nothing to be overly concerned about, especially given that the screenplay was designed with the visuals in mind (the scene with the gramophone is one example of this).
The area where this movie really shines though, is its visuals. Oblivion Island is quite simply breathtaking in many respects, and the viewer may be forgiven for thinking that Production I.G. is simply showing off (yes, it is that good). The movie makes extremely clever use of 3D and CG to fool the viewer into thinking that certain scenes were produced by "normal" animation practices. Once the story shifts into Teo's world though, the whole thing changes from visually clever to drop dead gorgeous. In terms of design, Oblivion Island is right up there with the best in its usage of colours, shapes, textures, objects and characters, and throughout the film it's apparent that a great deal of thought has gone into its production. The quality is so good in fact, that it easily rivals the other visually sumptuous shows like Iblard Jikan.
Oblivion Island is also no slouch when it comes to animation. The characters move well, and possess some of the most emotive features and faces I have seen in 3D animation - ever. Creatures and vehicles also move in a very fluid manner, and while there are moments when the action is nothing short of dizzying in its complexity, the quality of the visuals is nothing short of superb.
Sound is another area where Oblivion Island really excels. The seiyuu perform extremely well throughout the movie, and bring a degree of individuality to each of the characters. One thing that did surprise me is that the role of Haruka is actually played by Ayase Haruka, who is a fairly success live action actress in her own right. The usage of a screen actress rather than a voice actress works well though, and the Ayase performs the role with aplomb.
The movie also makes very good use of music which varies from playful ditties to dramatic scores. That said, the film is notable for the scenes when there is no music as this not only allows the tracks to have more of an impact, but also creates another difference between Teo's world and the real one. In terms of effects, Oblivion Island really pushes the boat out. While there are numerous noises and sounds used throughout the movie, each is crystal clear to the ears, and it's because of this clarity that the sound doesn't degenerate into a cacophony when voices, effects and music clash.
Now given that this is a movie, it's fair to expect that there would be little in the way of development where the characters are concerned. Oblivion Island is surprising then, in that both Haruka and Teo receive a fair amount of development over the course of the film. In many respects this is actually a coming of age movie for both Haruka and Teo, and while there's a certain amount of formula to their growth, it's nice to see it done well (for a movie that is).
In all honesty I found this a surprising film, in particular because of its visuals. The story is engaging, and the characters have a charm and appeal that is rare in a 3D movie. One thing that I did like was the fact that the film had a certain "dark" quality that, when taken as a whole, reminded me of shows like Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" and "Mirrormask", and Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "The Corpse Bride".
Probably the most surprising thing though, is that while everyone has been raving about Hosoda Mamoru (Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo, Summer Wars), being a contender for Miyazaki's crown, Sato Shinsuke along with Production I.G. have appeared from left field with a movie that is at least as good as anything made by either Hosoda, Ghibli, or any of the other contenders.
Only time will tell if the game has truly changed, however with Oblivion Island both Sato and Production I.G. have most definitely levelled the playing field.
Oblivion Island is a movie that pops a question in my mind after I saw this movie; Why can't we get original and creative films like this on Hollywood? Well that's because nowadays, Hollywood is nothing more than a bunch of lazy dumbfucks that rather make garbage for the audience, while original movies get the middle finger by the audiences and they don't ever get mentioned again for generations to come. Oblivion Island gives hope that originality in filmmaking isn't dead and Production I.G has created a film filled with so much wonder and creativity that it deserves to be seen by the whole world
and not just the US.
The story is about Haruka, a 16- year old girl who lost her mother at a very young age and forgot all about the mirror that she had as a gift from her mother. Feeling guilty for not taking care of it, she decides to visit the shrine to pray for the return of her mirror to Lord Anari and which according to a real life Japanese legend, if a precious item was lost to you, an offering to Anari may bring your precious item back to you. Later on, she follows a strange little fox into the woods and when she founds a small pound between the rocks, she gets sucked in into Oblivion Island, a world where everything is built around objects and items that were neglected by their rightful owners. Now, Haruka and her new friend Tao decide to find the mirror before The Baron, the ruler of the island, gets his hand on the mirror first and use it to destroy the island in order to make a new world.
While the story in Oblivion Island is not incredibly complex, it does have an incredibly deep theme that is rarely seen in movies these days: The theme of neglect. Oblivion Island's message is about never neglecting our precious childhood objects, since this film takes place in a world where items like broken dolls, mirrors, stuffed dolls and other kinds of objects are abandoned by their owners for no reason and that is sadly true to be honest, since nowadays parents buy toys for their kids cause it's "hip" and "cool" like the commercials advertised, instead of being gifts that you're suppose to take good care and treasure them like when you were a kid back then. The story combines real-life Japanese folklore with a mix of Alice In Wonderland storytelling to the film and it does feel like I'm watching an anime film of Alice In Wonderland, but about a world of abandoned objects instead. The main characters are pretty good. The chemistry with Tao and Haruka is heart-warming and their friendship develop well enough throughout the movie that you will care deeply for them, even that little plush doll Cotton is a very simple yet deep symbolic character in the film (which you have to see for yourself in order to understand it since I don't wanna spoil the film for you). The other characters are mediocre at best, plus the villain is weak and uninteresting, as he just wants to take over the island in order to make a new one.
The animation by Production I.G is breathtaking. The amount of creativity and effort put into the animation will make Studio Ghibli jealous and the designs of the characters are magnificent. The island is also a stunner, the way the place is made is just unbelievable and did I mention that this film was in 3D when it was released in Japan? Cause if I watched this in 3D, my eyes would have been blown away with so much color and detail. The music is good, but not as jaw-drooping as you would have thought it would but to give credit, it does offer some gorgeous piano tracks that brings a lot of emotion to the story. The English dub for Oblivion Island is not that bad, Christine Marie Cabanos and Cassandra Lee were perfectly cast with their roles as Haruka and Tao, while Patrick Seitz delivers an awesome over the top performance as The Baron that gives the character enough charm than the Japanese version and Julie Maddalena gives a heart-warming performance as the doll Cotton. As for the other voices.... Well, they were ok, but their voices did not even fit for the characters at all and they come off goofy and bland.
While it's not a masterpiece like other anime films, Oblivion Island has enough charm, originality and effort that some of the flaws can be overlooked, thanks to the charm of the story and the message it's trying to tell to it's audience. If you want a movie that's rich with imagination and creativity, I highly recommend this film to every animation fans of all ages. See this film cause we won't get a creative film like this in the US for a long time. As for the Oscars and The Academy Awards, they better nominate this movie or bad things will happen to them...
Oblivion Island isn't so much a movie as it is a 90-minute revealing of some impressive cgi technology - or perhaps just a really long toy commercial.
The movie begins with our young protagonist, Haruka, being read a children's fantasy by her bedridden mother. The book tells a story of a man whose treasured comb was returned to him by a fox after offering an egg at a shrine. The townspeople begin offering eggs to the shrine in hopes of having their items returned as well, but little do they know that the foxes are actually responsible for stealing the items that are considered 'forgotten' by
the people. Haruka assures her mother that the hand mirror she received as a present won't share the same fate, since she'll treasure it forever.
Flash ten years into the future, where Haruka is now a teenager. Her mother is no longer around, and she seems unsatisfied with her workaholic father and her disinterested friend. For a change of pace, she visits the shrine to pray for her hand mirror to be returned, since, as expected, she forgot about it and subsequently it had been lost.
Haruka falls asleep at the shrine and wakes up to a scrounging fox-like anthromorph. The fox grabs some stray items, including Haruka's keychain, and scurries off. Haruka follows the creature into a parallel dimension, where the fox panics and tries to disguise her, or else he could get into trouble for leading a human to their world. After escaping danger, the fox tells Haruka to return to the human world, but she insists on staying to look for her mirror.
Haruka promises to give the fox, who introduces himself as Teo, her keychain if they find her mirror. He agrees and they set off to search for it. On the way, Teo is bullied by three street-gang members, and Haruka helps him get away. The bullies guess - correctly - that Haruka is a human, so they head off to expose her.
There's a pointless scene where the bullies chase Teo and Haruka which leads to the only funny moment in the movie, where their cylindrical vehicle flies off a roof, lands sideways on a tower, and slides down it, like a ring-toss game at a carnival. Teo and Haruka escape to a theater that is performing a play with one of Haruka's forgotten toys - don't ask why - and the bullies bust in, despite not knowing that their targets were in the theater. Haruka reunites with her toy, named Cotton, and the bullies chase her while causing a lot of property damage, even though she had already revealed herself to be a human, which calls into question the bullies' motive for chasing them in the first place.
The duo escapes and retires to Teo's house, where Teo reveals that the mirror is in a underground thieves lair - why he doesn't reveal this earlier when they're searching for the mirror is anyone's guess. Teo then steps outside where he's kidnapped by the evil Baron, who tells the fox to use Haruka to get back the mirror so that he can steal it. Of course, Teo will be rewarded handsomely.
The next day, the pair travels into the lair and the movie is tragically cut short when their cart derails and a giant stuffed monster forces Haruka into a pit of lava, killing her instantly - that is, until the lava is revealed to be syrup. The teenager climbs out and rips the stuffing out of the monster to discover that her mirror is inside of it. She retrieves the mirror and attempts to escape with Teo, but they are headed off by the Baron, who kidnaps Haruka to be a slave and steals the mirror.
The Baron reveals his plan to use mirrors to control a robot army (mirrors are like a power source), and then proceeds to administer an amnesia gobstopper to Haruka by means of a Rube Goldberg machine. This gives Teo ample time to sway the townspeople into committing treason against the Baron, and they use Teo's reward money to build a plane that will propel him to the Baron's dirigible.
Meanwhile, Haruka's toy, Cotton, rallies an army and inexplicably boards the Baron's airship without having any means to do so. The baron dismembers the sentient toy, and Haruka escapes into Teo's airplane. Then, amidst cannonball fireworks and balloons, Teo's airplane crashes into and disables the Baron's airship. The film then goes into a metaphysical sequence which explains the moral of treasuring memories, after which the Baron is defeated and Haruka retrieves her mirror and returns to the human world.
So that's Oblivion Island. Haruka and Teo are the only characters who have more than a few lines, the plot is full of holes, and the story, for the most part, is unoriginal. For a children's movie, Oblivion Island is not charming, interesting, or funny. There are no attempts at puns or jokes at all, and since there is hardly any gripping drama, the movie ends up being a sort of fantasy adventure - the kind you might see if you had a high fever. However, the visuals are absolutely stunning, essentially making the art and animation the only attractions of the film.
Oblivion Island is a CGI animated film that was released in 2009 to commemorate Fuji Television’s fiftieth anniversary. As it mentions boldly on the DVD case, it went on to win three animation awards, and became nominated for two others. This is quite a feat, seeing how it’s basically another Alice in wonderland type story, and those have become pretty much a dime a dozen in recent years. But looking past that, when the film is taken at it’s own merits, did it really deserve those awards? Let’s take a look.
The movie opens with a stylized piece of animation that tells the audience about a
race of fox spirits who sneak around your property, stealing any of your possessions that’ve become neglected or unloved. This story is being told by Haruka’s mother, who’s being visited by her husband and daughter on what will soon become her death bed. Haruka says she won’t get visited by the foxes, because she takes care of her possessions, including a beautiful mirror that her mother gave her. I wonder where this is going.
Fast forward about ten years, to when Haruka is a sixteen year old student, her father is working hard to support her, and right off the bat, Haruka comes off as a very unlikeable character. She walks into the house with a friend from school, sees that it’s still a mess, and complains that her father doesn’t clean the house often enough. She’s pissed that he drank her ginger ale, as well as at the fact that he’s rarely home. Because of his job. Where’s the Facebook Parenting guy when you need him?
Looking at her clock somehow reminds her of her mother’s mirror, which she lost several years ago, so she visits a shrine to the fox spirits to ask for it back. Her keys fall behind the stairs to the shrine, so she crawls underneath to get them back. She places them on the step, but before she can get out, a fox spirit runs up and takes them, offering us our first actual plothole of the movie(wait for it). She follows him to the base of a tree, where she gets sucked into the Land of the Lost. At least that’s what i’m calling it. She meets up with the terrified fox, and accuses him of theft, but he reassures her that he doesn’t steal. He reclaims abandoned and neglected objects.
Okay, so there are two plotholes here. First of all, yes, he just STOLE her keys, which had only been on the step for a few minutes. not abandoned, not neglected. And despite being a fox, he didn’t notice her there less than a foot in front of his face. DidAalan Grant write that scene? And I’m sorry, but if these fox spirits were really this careless, we’d have captured at least one by now.
Okay, back to the story... She promises to give him her keys if he helps her to get her mirror back, which she believes must be down here. This is where the plot finally takes off, and trust me, it has more holes in it than Spongebob Squarepants eating swiss cheese in the middle of a shootout.
Production wise, Oblivion Island is pretty underwhelming. It’s a fully CGI movie, so it doesn’t have the typical anime problems... Like low frame rates and frozen images... But it’s still really cheap looking. The style and quality of the animation seem like an awkward cross between Mr.Stain in Junk Alley and a Kingdom Hearts cutscene. The artwork is colorful and highly detailed, but at the same time bland and gummy looking. There are times when it breaks away from this happy color palette long enough to really shine, like the real world scenes, and a giant skeletal beast that they deal with late in the movie, but for the most part, this movie is visually unremarkable.
The story is well paced, and never boring, but the amount of contrived plot twists and broken physics rules that they had to use to tell the story is just absurd. Despite his species being prevalent in the opening animation, and the basis of the entire japanese myth, Teo’s the only fox spirit we ever meet. At one point in the movie, Te’o has to give a speech about humans not being all that bad, although he’s the only character in the movie who was ever afraid of her. He shows them a wind-up toy plane she built, and they react like they’ve never seen one before. Her mirror was supposedly stolen from the Baron by some mysterious underground thieves, but when they go underground to retrieve it, there’s nobody down there who looks capable of such a feat. Just creepy dolls, slimy bugs, and a sorta-cool giant monster that looks like a cross between a rancor and an ugly quilt.
But my real problem with this movie, above all else, is the ending. As ridiculous and dumbly-plotted as this movie was, it could have been saved by having a smart ending. As it turned out, when they came back to the surface with the mirror, the Baron was waiting at that location... Somehow... and takes it, along with his new prisoner Haruka. Now, this is what I was hoping would happen;
Upon entering his castle, Haruka notices that the Baron really does love and treasure her mirror. It’s like a comfort blanket to him. Being without it for so long has driven him mad, and having it back, his life is complete again. She realizes that she doesn’t need some mirror to remind her of her mother, because the memories in her heart are enough. She agrees to leave this world empty handed, but not empty hearted, as she’s taking a valuable life lesson, and several steps towards maturity, along with her.
Of course, that doesn't happen. A won’t tell you exactly what actually happens, but to put it in broad strokes, The Baron is a Bond villain, and the mirror is a MacGuffin. The entire third act of this obviously eastern-inspired movie is nothing but an explosion of westernized cliches. Haruka learns to appreciate her father and her possessions, but she never really grows or develops as a character, because *Spoiler alert* she got exactly what she came for.
I own a 12 inch stuffed Bulbasaur that my father won for me at a carnival when I was little. I love it, treasure it, and still own it. It’s on my dresser as we speak. But if one of my little cousins saw it and fell in love with it, I’d surrender it in a heartbeat. Why? Because when you grow up, your childhood relics deserve to be with someone who needs them more than you. Toy Story 3 nailed this idea, and in a different way, so did Labyrinth, both of which are American movies.
Overall, it’s a pretty bad movie by all accounts, but it’s not terrible. It’s watchable. It’s safe and entertaining for younger audiences, at least those who are young enough to watch The Santa Clause without asking any questions. I give this movie a 5/10. I don't think it really deserved any of those awards it won, but it's worth a rental.
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There's hate, and then there's the white hot, seething hatred anime fans have for CGI anime. Look, none's denying there have been some atrocious missteps in the past when it comes to CG in anime, but it can be done right!