The Other Side of Animation 35: Nocturna Review

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Last time we looked at a GOYA Award-winning animated film, it was the less than stellar Tad: The Lost Explorer. I know I was admittedly harsh on the award system for not having enough high quality films, but I was being harsh for a reason. When you have such great movies like Nocturna, Wrinkles, and Chico & Rita, they set a standard of how good these films should be, but they seem to either not make a lot of animated films over in Spain, or the barrier of entry is low. When your list of winners includes Planet 51, The Missing Lynx, Pinocchio 3000, and the previously reviewed Tad: The Lost Explorer, then you need to start making the barrier of entry higher and more controlled in terms of quality. That is why I wanted to talk about today’s film, Nocturna, because it is simply one of the best animated films to come out of Spain. Nocturna was originally released back in 2007, and was brought over by GKIDS in 2014. It was created by Filmax Animation, and was directed by Adria Garcia and Victor Maldonado. So, was this film worthy of winning its GOYA Award? Well, let’s find out!

The story revolves around a young boy named Tim, who lives in an orphanage. Every night, he sleeps by the window in the moonlight since it protects him from his fear of the dark. One night, after some kids decide to become jerks, Tim runs out to the top of the building, where he usually likes to be during the day. That night, though, changes when he realizes that a star that he has called his own, vanishes. After almost falling to his death, he is saved by an unknown being called the Cat Shepard, a humanoid balloon-like being that herds cats around the night. Tim then finds out that there is a whole other world at night known as Nocturna, where these unusual characters and creatures do different things during the night. Accidentally, Cat Shepard tells Tim that Moka, the ruler/boss of Nocturna, can help him with his problem. Will Tim be able to solve what is going on before the entire world of Nocturna is destroyed by a big shadowy monster? Well, you have to watch to find out!

Let’s get started with the animation and creativity, the film’s strongest elements. The 2D animation is amazingly smooth. It’s gorgeous to look at, and the character designs are whimsical. The entire world of Nocturna is creative. Think of it like M.I.B, but for nighttime situations. How do you get messy hair? They’ve got individuals for that! What about fresh dew? They’ve got people for that. Those cricket sounds? Well, they are beings that ride bikes that sound like crickets. Heck, dreams are basically TV/movie scripts that are read to you by specialists. It’s such a creative world, and they take advantage of any trope that goes on at night. The film does take its time to invest you into the world in which the story takes place. The entire art direction is just gorgeous. It looks stylized, and it reminds me of if Tim Burton did something more lighthearted. I also like the idea of the overall twist in the film being that Tim’s fear of the dark is what is causing all the problems. It’s not just a villain who wants to take over the world or anything of that caliber. Something that I have liked about foreign animated films is that they want to be more about the characters, the world, and the stories. Even the little clichéd elements like the “the lie that breaks the two apart” is done better with no huge amounts of moping around. Both Tim and Cat Shepard go do their own thing, but still end up together. It’s not drawn out or boring.

One of my few problems with Nocturna is the sound design. I don’t know if it was a transfer thing for the Blu-ray version I have, but at some points in the movie, the English dub is hard to hear. It’s like watching a UK-based crime drama. Sometimes they can speak clearly, but other times, the accents get in the way. It’s actually like that joke in Hot Fuzz! Anyway, another nitpicky problem I have with this movie is the way the big twist is handled. So, the main villain is Tim’s physical manifestation of his fear of the dark. It’s interesting in terms of design, and is beautifully animated. But Moka, the big boss of all Nocturna, is really unwilling to help or tell the boy about the situation. I guess the story wanted to be like “you need to face your fears by yourself” and all, but it doesn’t feel fully fleshed out due to Moka being so curmudgeonly about the whole situation. At first, I thought it was Moka who was making the stars disappear, but in the end, it wasn’t. I think this is one element of the story that could have been developed more.

I really love Nocturna. It’s pretty to look at, has a fleshed-out world, and any time we can get traditional 2D animation is a good thing to me. You can either get a Blu-ray version or a DVD version. I think pick your personal choice, since most video game consoles and DVD players can play both. I wish GKIDS did a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, but you deal with the cards given to you. Well, that was a lot of fun looking at another GKIDS film. Let’s take a look at a DC animated film next time with Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Thanks for reading, I hope you like what you read, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

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