Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fantasia 2018.60: Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Having missed this one at Fantasia, I was glad to have the opportunity to catch up, even if the only theater it played in my area was something of a hike. I think it played a somewhat broader range of theaters when it had its US premiere in July, but, well, I was in Canada then, and the situation basically boiled down to being able see two of Maquia, Hanagatami and Under the Silver Lake (with the bonus that the second screening of Hanagatami would have wiped out Laplace's Witch. I guess it worked out for the best, in that I could catch this later, but Hanagatami was enough of a mess to make it seem like a less-than-ideal choice. Then again, actually getting to see it on the big screen a couple months later argues for "good choice", so you never can tell.

On the other hand, going to Revere just wrecks a day. This was a 1pm show, but I had to leave the apartment at around 10:30am to catch the first of two buses, including a wait at Sullivan long enough for an MBTA employee to ask if I was loitering. Then the 3:30-ish bus back didn't show up by 4pm, so I took another route which might have been a bit longer. That's roughly seven hours to see a 120-minute movie, so it's a good thing it's a comfy theater with what is unquestionably the best cinema pizza in the general area. And that the movie was good.

Here's hoping it's out on Blu-ray soon enough. It's the sort of smart anime that often seems to get kind of smothered by the entries in long series with weird punctuation, and anything that makes me say that it's the best someone has done something since Satoshi Kon - here's hoping the recent cinema presentations of Perfect Blue imply his stuff is about to get HD releases! - is obviously doing something right.

Sayonara no asa ni yakusoku no hana o kazarô (Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 9 September 2018 in Showcase Cinema de Lux Revere #17 (special presentation, DCP)

Maquia reminds me more than a bit of the anime that captured imaginations when I was younger, fantasy that takes some time revealing its details before integrating them into the background, building up a human story that nevertheless came quite be told the same in any other world. It's epic and intimate all at once, meticulously constructed.

It opens in the mythic land of Iorph, where the long-lived "Clan of the Separated" record the knowledge of the world by weaving it into Hibiol cloth. Maquia (voice of Manaka Iwami) is fifteen and a capable apprentice, though far more timid than best friend Leilia (voice of Ai Kayano) and her boyfriend Krim (voice of Yuki Kaji), and when soldiers from the city-state of Mezante arrives riding the dragon-like Renato, she is sent to find the elder, only to find herself carried away when both she and a Renato get tangled by the cloth. She winds up alone in the outside world, though not for long - she soon discovers an infant who has also lost everyone due to war, whom she names Ariel. A friendly widow (voice of Rina Sato) with two boys of her own takes them in, although it can't last: It's one thing to look like a teenager when your son is a baby, quite another when he's six.

Other events push Maquia and Ariel to hit the road that first time, and it's some canny writing on the part of filmmaker Mari Okada, intertwining what are big moments in Maquia's development as a person with larger-scale fantasy storytelling without ever feeling like large groups of people are fighting and dying so that one young woman can learn a moral lesson. Okada jumps forward several times, usually by just enough that the audience can see time has passed but only once by so much that there's a sharp discontinuity to Maquia's life, and the sweep of the movie shows up interesting ways: The pristine fairy-tale kingdom of Mezante industrializes, the dragons burn up from within, and Mido's dog dies, reminding the audience early that some lives happen faster than others. Okada connects fantasy, the end of an era, and personal maturation in an elegant manner.

Full review at EFC.

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