Maquia is the latest film to be written by Mari Okada, but this also marks her directorial debut. A light novel writer from Japan she has written the scrips to some of my favourite anime over the last few years, including Anohana and more recently Iron-Blooded Orphans which has become one of my favourite Gundam series. Even in some of her scripts which don’t completely work for me for example A Lull in the Sea has some great moments in it, but unfortunately it suffers from a few weird moments and a few script decisions that don’t entirely work, but even then, I still acknowledge some merit to it. So, I was actually interested to see what her directorial debut would be.
If you are planning to see this film, you are probably now going to have to wait until it is officially released on DVD. Since the film was in cinemas it almost certainly had a license, so it will probably be getting released late this year, or early next year. Before you do that, I think you should read this review.
Maquia is essentially a story which follows a race of beings. Most descriptions list them as being immortal, though its more they live 100s of years and retain their youth. After the nation is attacked a girl named Maquia finds a baby of another race after the carnage, and adopts him, naming him Erial. She must come to terms with the fact that despite the fact she has adopted this child she will inevitably outlive him. This sounds like it should be really major drama, which is why I’m really saddened to say Maquia left me feeling very underwhelmed. This is a film that really feels like it really should have been a TV series at least since it feels like the story has been gutted. There are several factors that aren’t addressed, for example the villains are so thinly revealed, I have no idea what they are, a kingdom that wants to seek the immortals blood, but really, I don’t understand what they want to do with them, they want to use them in their weening abilities, maybe to extend their lives. They certainly did explain it in the film, but I really don’t remember.
What’s more I really hated the use of time skips in this film, granted it was going to be necessary to do time skips, but for the love of god there is very little to show the transition of over what time things have actually happened, in one of them a lot has clearly happened which really should have been explained more.
This film is weird in its writing, not only is there tonnes of plot development which has been missed, some of the characters are really lacking in certain departments, the film is so light on its character development, things just kind of happen, the one thing I will say is there is effort to show some emotional weight to these moments. If there is one thing that I will not say against Maquia is that there hasn’t been no effort put into it and the concept of the story is a very good idea, the whole idea of immortality, is a great idea that can be explored. sadly, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Several stories have done this, and it doesn’t really stand out for the right reasons.
Now it does have some real moments where it tries very hard to create this genuine emotion and genuine ideas, but it doesn’t quite succeed.
There’s certain parts of the ending for example where it should be a big deal but doesn’t quite work. What’s more this film has been phenomenally mis sold to the public, this film is far from its description. I was seriously shocked when I saw the IMDB plot synopsis when I got back from seeing the film, you are going to be going into this thinking you are seeing a completely different film.
Now there is a few areas where I think the film succeeds. Some of the animation is actually quite good, granted it’s not quite as good as some of the other recent Japanese anime that have received a cinema release, in fact I very much noticed this film wasn’t shown in wide screen which is rather worrying. This is actually a film where I think the animation works better at a distance. The background shots are actually done very well, and the location designs are great, the problem I think is with the character designs, they all really blend into one, you can only really identify from hair colour which even then is still a struggle to identify them.
I was also unimpressed with the sound track, which again I am sad to say as it was talented people that worked on this soundtrack. What’s more is this film really is an example of why 3D computer animation doesn’t always work in an anime format.
This is seriously where I think the film does try its best, it fails miserably though in several regards, and it’s really down to the fact that the plot is not quite good enough, just a few extra pieces of information might quite do it. What’s more I think this film would have suited better as an ensemble piece about several characters, rather than focusing on just a couple. In fact, several characters do get that treatment, but they are tossed aside later down the line. There is one character which really builds up to be very important but is then out of the film for long periods of time. There is also another character I was expecting to have a big moment, but it never really happened. It’s just moments like that which take me out of the film as a whole.
The voice actors do a very good job. I saw the original Japanese version, since a dubbed version had not been commissioned at the time of this film’s release however I would say judging by the companies licensing anime at the moment expect there to be a dub in the future, so if you would prefer to see the film in the English language you will probably get one with the DVD.
I hate to criticise this film, I really do, because I am a fan of Mari Okada’s writing, she’s written some amazing scripts, but this just needed a bit more development.
This is kind of the opposite to my view on Lull in the Sea, where although Lull in the Sea had similar issues it ironed these out quite well. Maquia doesn’t quite manage this, and don’t take that to think I really enjoyed Lull in the Sea, I’m actually not a huge fan of that series.
Despite all this, I would say I’m going to watch whatever she writes next.
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