Jun 15, 2019
For those that are curious, this is an animated adaption from the manga with the same name, beautifully illustrated by Igarashi Daisuke. For starters, I think the film was definitely ambitious, but in honesty was all round lacking in a sense that the director could not successfully portray the clarity within the material of the original work.

STORY: (7/10) Five whole volumes of plot, filled with existentialistic concepts combining science fiction and supernatural themes, delicate portrayals of the relationship between the characters and the panoramas of sea life- all of these are condensed into a mere 111 minutes, a little less than two hours. Nevertheless, I applaud the teams' effort in trying to follow the footsteps of the manga with their universal and surrealistic message; However, if you are a manga reader like me, I suggest that you don't keep your hopes too high that every detail would be the same. Some scenes were replaced and rewritten in order to fit in the time frame, while others, I really don't understand the choices for such replacements. I also felt that some of the more important and emotional parts were cut out as well, which really takes away the overall tone and message of the manga. (eg, Sora and Umi's backstory with Jim and Anglade, which would have provided a LOT more insight towards their relationship with one another, as well as the plot of the story).
Kaijuu no Kodomo is a free form of expression, but Ayumu Watanabe doesn't seem to be able to grasp onto what is needed in order for the film to have become successful. Overall a promising story which gradually loses it's way to mass targeting. If I had to make a comparison- the film made me think of Finding Nemo or some fantasy related ocean cartoon. I felt comfortable watching the film, and that was the problem; The ocean in the manga made me wonder, doubt, and fear the terrifying beauty of the depths of the sea, as well as the haunting panoramas of the marine life.

ART: (8/10) The character designs stayed true to Igarashi's indie, sketchy style, which I was very delighted to see. Precisions and details elaborating on the eyes of the characters give more emotional depths to our understanding of their roles within the narrative. I could also say the same to the way the ocean and the marine life had been beautifully animated, especially during the "festival" and Umi's "birth". Movements are smooth and stylistically 'wonky', yet again possessing the sentiments of Igarashi's funkiness. I'd say the minor flaw in the art was the use of CGI, which were not the best ones I've seen- it kind of takes away the mysterious feeling of the ocean when you compare it to the manga. The ocean in the film makes everything seem all too welcoming and friendly, instead of haunting and dangerous. Nevertheless, the animation is definitely something worth praising, and it's rare to see water, and movement in the water being drawn so smoothly.

MUSIC: (10/10) It's Joe Hisaishi, nothing can go wrong when it's him. He perfectly captured the oceanic vibes with his use of 'random number technique', and uses the same melody throughout important scenes, just with different variations. The brass instruments give off a more exotic feel and really captures the cultural aspects of the story, while the orchestra as a whole representing life within the sea. I am not a music expert, but his melodies never failed to provoke some emotional response within me.

CHARACTERS: (6.5/10) That being said, major characters such as Jim, Anglade (ESPECIALLY ANGLADE!) and Dede were robbed of their spotlights in the film due to the limited time. They had their defining roles, but were reduced to such labels- Jim was a scientist who merely looked after Sora and Umi, Anglade cooked dinner and did some chores, and spouted some universal nonsense under the starlights, and Dede? She repeated the same 5 lines about 10 times in the film, then drove away on a boat without contributing much to the plot. I was especially disappointed to see that they have taken away so much of Anglade's charm, since he was one of the most important and intriguing characters of the story. Like Sora and Umi, he was an outsider, he was intelligent, sophisticated and complicated- yet they have made him into a pretty insignificant person in the film, cooked some fish then left.
Likewise, Ruka's mother also did not get her backstory, which I felt would have helped a lot with explaining Ruka's natural attraction towards the water. I don't understand the reason for having Ruka's father replace Dede in the final scene when they went to rescue Ruka too. Perhaps this film focused a lot more on Ruka and her estrangement with her friends and family- but I quite liked the idea of her reconciling with the girl she knocked over in the beginning, which is anime exclusive. It somehow added another kind of sentiment and changed the narrative (in a good way), as if to relay the message that life moves on. With the people Ruka met during summer gone, it's like she was being welcomed back to her ordinary life (which in this case, you may argue that it takes away her eccentrics and the fact that she doesn't get along with everyone, but again, they're children).
I had no major problems with the three protagonists, but somehow felt that they were all lacking the charm they had in the manga- the film took all their most obvious traits (Umi and his naivety, Sora and his otherworldliness, Ruka and her curiosity) and made them kind of one dimensional. Ruka in particular became more taciturn in some major scenes, instead of being her usual curious self regarding the two boys who, in the film, were a lot less preoccupied with one another.

ENJOYMENT: (7 or 8/10) Again, this was a promising film considering that the manga was particularly a masterpiece. It's ambitious, it's creative, it could have created something new for the audience- but the choice of director has allowed it to lose its colour throughout the film. It's not as philosophical or complicated as the original material, but nevertheless attempts to recreate the same message in a very condensed animated version. However, I overall thought it was still quite enjoyable. For those that may find the film confusing or constantly feel like it's missing something, I really suggest that you read the manga first, as it will help you understand a lot of aspects and ideas they don't mention and explain in the film. The characters in the manga are portrayed with such raw emotions, and Igarashi miraculously writes their relationship with one another through such vertiginous depths that you can't help but love every single one of their quirks.
I do suggest the film to those that may be interested, but only if you decide to read the manga as well. Trust me, you won't regret it!
Reviewer’s Rating: 8
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