Hottarake no Shima / Oblivion Island Haruka and the Magic Mirror – Review

This is something I hadn’t heard of at all until, during the Funi panel at Anime Expo this year, I saw a short trailer. It looked kind of eh and I wasn’t really interested then either, but the main character was a really cute girl so I figured eventually I might look into it. The other day I saw a tweet from funimation saying the movie was up on their stream, I don’t usually do streaming for anime but it’s not out on BD/DVD yet (however I did end up pre-ordering it just after finishing) and it wasn’t something all that important to me, so I sat down and watched it and…it was a really big surprise.

This movie is like a mix of all the good parts of Ghibli films, minus the save-the-earth and feminist crap, mixed with extraordinarily well done 3D CG animation and I’d personally say much better writing, directing, and music. It’s extremely nice to look at and the characters and story are, while not the most original things in the world, extremely charming. It’s things like this that should be winning big awards – not Miyazaki-panders-and-whines-for-the-100th-time the movie, and DEFINITELY not the complete garbage Disney/Pixar push out.

The film itself is pretty simple, the plot follows what you’d expect as it gets going and never really veers away from that – but the charm, delivery, and animation of all that is done so well that it ends up not mattering at all.

The story is basically about a (very moe) girl named Haruka trying to find something she lost that was more important to her than she realized, and on that path she ends up meeting a fox spirit and ending up in a world where neglected things are collected. It’s a simple story – but one people can…well, in some ways, relate to. Everyone has something they cared about that they forgot about or lost or neglect(ed). The story takes that simple concept and makes it a really enjoyable and touching little experience that I think both kids and adults would really love. The story is nostalgic and a bit sad later on for adults, even bringing up the fact that humans not only neglect the important things, but even their own important memories – while for kids it would teach them how important it is to never forget the things you cherish, no matter what they are, the value of the small things and the things you overlook or treat as a ‘given’ – and of course the huge importance of not forgetting the important memories you’ve created. Actually, that whole last part applies to adults too, given people tend to forget just how important those things are, especially as they get older. To me this is a really great theme because it’s something important for everyone in the world to understand – and most people don’t – and luckily the film pushes it without being annoying or sappy about it.

As a bonus you get to see Haruka in a couple weird masks. She was pretty cute here, showing it off like she thought she was adorable in that…thing.

As for animation, this is by far the best looking 3D animation I’ve seen, I thought it’d be a little to get used to but right from the start it was already just great looking – even in crappy 420p streaming on youtube the quality manages to come through, I can’t imagine how it’ll look on the blu-ray. The actual animation and not the art quality or whatever is also done really well, everything is extremely smooth and fluid while being realistic, there are no strange or jarring bits that make you think, you know, no person would ever move like that or something. Also, because of being 3D CG there’s no crappy quality random parts done with less budget that you see often in normal 2D anime, such as characters being far away having no details and looking silly as hell. Here you can really see how great 3D animation can look compared to the crap Pixar and other big names pump out. Production I.G. is, of course, also a big name, but you get what I mean in the global sense of things, and they aren’t even primarily a 3D production studio yet they did an amazing job with this.

The music was really well done as well, and surprisingly – bringing me back to when I last watched Honey & Clover – Spitz (スピッツ) did the ending credits song. I happen to love them so that was a nice little way to end such a good film. But the OST throughout was really good and always fitting very well to what was going on and it had the same kind of feel that the whole movie gave off, keeping the atmosphere really strong and consistent the whole time.

The characters were all really well acted and believably crafted. Haruka really feels like your typical teenager from start to finish and is easy to connect with and get attached to quickly right off the bat which only makes the later scenes more impactful because of how “real” or human that she seems thanks to being so well written. Teo, while at first looking and seeming annoying, grows really fast on you and is also really well crafted and also shares that ‘real’ feeling even being some sort of rat-looking fox spirit thing. Haruka is obviously my favorite, given she’s pretty much perfectly crafted to my tastes so I can’t help but find her amazingly adorably cute, and even putting that aside, she’s a really great character regardless.

The voice acting was also really well done, starring the wonderful Miyuki Sawashiro as Teo the fox spirit and oddly starring as the main lead Haruka, a woman who is known for her actual acting – not voice acting, yet she did a perfect job and really fit the character and got the emotions across…well, just as well as you’d expect a professional actress to. I can’t speak for the dub as it’s not out yet, but I imagine it’ll be fine for anyone who isn’t into reading subtitles and for the younger audience you (should) might show this to.

I did actually end up tearing up a little bit near the end, and I’m not usually one to get emotional, so that also really showed me how well done all the simple things in this film were done. Anyway, with that, I’d really say to watch this if you haven’t. It’s really charming, cute, touching, and has a great meaning to it that it gets across while looking damn beautiful. Seriously, it might not look like it but it’s a good movie and worth the time. Thanks to it’s art and animation, along with being dubbed soon, it’s also very accessible to anyone – not just anime fans or kids. I couldn’t help but preorder it right after and then immediately come over here and write this.

You can actually watch the whole thing (though not in HD) subtitled on Funi’s official Youtube here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auvZnateBQ4 Given the quality of animation I’d suggest doing otherwise, but just saying for those who don’t want to spend the money and don’t want to pirate it. This is also how I watched it, but really I think the BD is going to be the only way that gives the quality of the art and animation full justice.

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4 responses to “Hottarake no Shima / Oblivion Island Haruka and the Magic Mirror – Review

  1. I have a hard time taking you seriously when right out of the gate you are hating on Miyazaki, and the fact that you seem mostly concerned with the pubescent girl character

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    • I have a hard time giving a shit when you likely dont have nearly the same experience with the medium and knowledge on the industry as I do. Miyazaki has been a hindrance for ghibli for a very long time and has factually pushed his personal political views and feminist agenda in all his work. It’s pathetic and causes bad writing. It’s bioware level bullshit and you ate an ignorant casual if you believe he has any talent or skill.

      As for finding a girl cute, I’m not a homosexual or some kind of pedophile such as yourself, so I can’t pretend to understand being upset over talking about a character being well made and fun to watch just because of her gender and age. You’re projecting your disgusting attraction to children onto me just because I appreciate her design.

      If those two things are all you managed to get from my post, you may want to stick to reading dr.seuss and other such works. Apparently this is too complex for you somehow.

      Thanks for reading. Next time if you don’t want to be treated like a fucking retard, try actually saying more than just baselessly and childishly crying about disagreeing with me and being passive aggressive. You don’t have to agree with me, but your comment is pure fucking stupidity.

      :)

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