Oblivion Island : Haruka and the Magic Mirror
Urban legend has it that things that are not cherished by humans will be taken by fox spirits to another world and that is why things are frequently lost. Haruka was given a mirror by her terminally ill mother that she treasured deeply. However, as time goes by the mirror was forgotten and her relationship with her father had also taken become estranged as he had to work long works and frequently neglect her. One day, she went to a local shrine to pray for the return of the mirror and encountered a masked spirit that was removing forgotten items and followed him back to search for her mirror.
Directed by Shinsuke Sato, Oblivion Island is a 99-min kaleidoscope of high speed roller-coaster chase and touching moments as Haruka travelled to the land of lost items to retrieve her lost property. It's been quite a while since I have enjoyed a good movie-length anime, the last being Sky Crawlers that turn out to be utter rubbish. The main thing I want to emphasize about Oblivion Island are the wonderful characters that I felt connected very well with the audience. It fits so well in our current context of modern times. Haruka, a latch key kid from single parent household. Strained parent-child relationship as a result of long working hours. We are also introduced to Teo, the spirit who act as the guide for Haruka in her search. It would appear Teo is from the lower class in his society and frequently picked-on and bullied. And they perform the most manual of tasks of transporting lost items from the human world back to their island. The interaction between Haruka and her very reluctant fox spirit guide has a very good development and growth througout the movie and the pacing is just nice. The plot is very cleverly build around urban legend that, although is not reality, gave the movie the solid base that it needs to tell a good story. As audience, we all share Haruka's sense of wonder at how human items have an improvised use on the island. And Teo's fascination and joy at the item's true usage and functions when revealed by Haruka.
Production IG comes very close to telling as good a story as Ghibli did with Spirited Away. Although Oblivion Island is not as ambitious as Spirited Away in disecting and exploring the loss of the Japanese culture, Oblivion Island did have (a simpler) moral value to impart to the audience in the end. In a very touching climax, we are shown the memories stored in the mirror and the writers gave it just sufficient weight and coverage to show Haruka's resolve to put things right. That we should treasure our memories (and belongings, of course!) less they fade away and we loss a piece of us forever.
I think special mentioned should be given to Sawashiro Miyuki for her role as Teo. After her turn as Celty in Durarara! and Busujima Saeko from High School of the Dead, I didn't think Teo could do with a sultry and husky voice. But she pulled it off perfectly to give Teo an initial sulky disposition and later a change of attitude towards Haruka as their friendship developed.
I read that Oblivion Island is Production IG first foray into a fully 3-D animation and I think they did a swell job. I love the wonderful mosaic of colours like patchwork quilts that is the most outstanding feature of the Teo's world, since everything is built from mix-and-match stuff from the human world. But I would like some of the lines to be sharper. The music is appropriate and be sure to stay for the credits for the upbeat ending theme.
A good and touching story combined with some adrenaline chase sequence and comedic moments - and we have a winner! — Diane Tiu
Recommended Audience: Nothing really objectionable. I have seen parents with their children in tow in the theatre.
Version(s) Viewed: Theatrical release @ Singapore Animation Nation 2010
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Oblivion Island : Haruka and the Magic Mirror © 2009 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK / Production I.G / DENTSU / PONY CANYON
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