In my spare time (that is, about once every six months or so) I dabble a little in working on my tabletop fantasy RPG system and world. Part of it is quite intricate magic system which allows to mix spells with art. Painting, music, dancing, performance – magic can be woven into whatever form of art. That notion is something generally very close to my heart also in our world, as I believe in our scentific, measurable reality art is the closest we get to actual magic.
And this movie is about that.
It started wonderfully: a gripping intro, a very clever voice over (which will return like an echo in just the right places), thrilling visuals and a piece of magical music (or musical magic) right away. Then there were really touching – and brave, for a kids movie – scenes of mother and her son taking care of each other, but the moment the movie bought me completely was when the child started telling a story to the people in a nearby village using his shamisen (a three-string Japanese) guitar to animate it with origami figurines, and his interactions with the audience. This is when I knew I’m in for something special.
And special it is. The beyond beautiful stop-motion animation, the every-frame-a-painting aesthethics being one giant love letter to the classic Japanese art styles (the movie isn’t Japanese, but sure as hell feels like it is, right up to the Moon-centered story), the music is gorgeous. The only thing I take a little issue with is how some characters that show up later are characterized (they’re a little too Hollywood-y in this very Japanese story, similarly to the completely unnecessary character of Soup Ghost in “The Tale of Desperaux”) and what happens to them (ROT13 Spoiler: V zrna, ubj znal gvzrf pna n puvyq ybfr uvf cneragf???). And the plot twist is as far-fetched as it is predictable (but still, kids movie).
But in the end the story is really touching in all the right places for the whole family, I can’t wait to watch it with my daughter (still may be a few years, though), and, as a very last cherry on top of all the wonders, there’s the end credits song. See, there are two chords played on the shamisen that sounded familiar, and after the third and fourth it was obvious: it’s a beautiful classic Japanese-style rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, sung by Regina Spektor! Itself a song about the magic of music! For this alone the movie deserves another half of a star 🙂