The Other Side of Animation 276: Drifting Home Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Studio Colorido has been a rather surprising animation studio that has put out an eclectic resume of work. From short films and net animations, to working on major properties like Pokemon, they have put their name down as a quality animation studio. Even their film releases have mostly been good. Granted, I prefer Penguin Highway over A Whisker Away, but not every film is going to be a home run for studios. Every animation studio in Japan’s animation industry is going to have a dud and a hit and it’s never going to be 100% consistent. Still, a studio like MAPPA, Science Saru, and Colorido has the clout to make an announcement and you make sure you see it, because they are crafting journeys like Drifting Home for Netflix, and it’s a real gem you should all check out. 

Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida, the film is co-written by Ishida, Hayashi Mori, and Minaka Sakamoto. It stars a group of six kids. They are Kosuke Kumagai, dubbed by Bryce Papenbrook, Natsume Touchi, dubbed by Cassandra Morris, Taishi Koiwai, dubbed by Alex Cazares, Yuzuru Tachibana, dubbed by Ben Diskin, Reina Hama, dubbed by Abby Trott, and Juri Ando, dubbed by Cherami Leigh. As they venture around an old abandoned apartment building that is soon to be torn down, they all end up getting caught in a shift in scenery and location as the apartment building they are on is swiftly sent into the ocean along with them. As they try to find out the situation and what to do about it exactly, they also encounter a boy who may or may not be a ghost named Noppo, dubbed by Elliot Fletcher. Can our group of kids find a way back home while discovering what their friendship and/or relationships mean to one another? 

Do you know those old 80s/90s kids’ films that didn’t do well, but became cult classics and beloved childhood favorites? This is a modern-day take on those types of movies where a bunch of kids are the main focus, and we follow them through their journey on a metaphorical and literal memory of a giant building. A majority of the film is the kids traversing the open sea and checking out other buildings that are floating in the water, looking for food and reminiscing about the relationship each other shares. Now, while this film is at two hours, there are multiple points where they show montages of the kids interacting with one another and growing as individuals. It’s a coming-of-age story about kids who encounter themes of found family, loss, and memories first, and then an adventure film second. Sure, some characters show more growth than others, but the ones that get the focus make sense. It’s an intensely touching story that, while stumbling in how it handles its drama in the third act with how repetitive it gets, when it hits the right emotional note, it can be a real punch into the emotions. What this review is saying is that Its heart is in the right place. 




The film’s animation is more or less what you would and should expect from the talented artists at Colorido. They have always had a knack for having more expressive characters than most studios are willing or able to go the distance with how emotional the characters are on screen. It’s a studio with a distinct style, which is needed nowadays in order to stand out. Still, the combination of character animation, lush colors, beautiful backgrounds, and how it’s able to mix in 2D and CGI with relative ease makes this a gorgeous movie to look at. It takes its time to have moments where you can feel enthralled in the environment around our leads, and absorb the emotional headspace they are in when the story calls for them to have some kind of revelation or epiphany about what exactly is going on with them. It doesn’t hurt either that the cast is great. As mentioned above, you have a fantastic English dub cast of Bryce Papenbrook, Cassandra Lee Morris, Elliot Fletcher, Benjamin Diskin, Abby Trott, Cherami Leigh, and a surprise appearance of John DiMaggio, which is surreal. Not that it’s weird to see DiMaggio in anime dubs because he used to dub a lot of anime back in the day, but to see him again after so long being in mostly US-based animation is just great. Returning from composing the music from Penguin Highway is composer Umitaro Abe, and he brings a magical and adventurous vibe to the soundtrack. I mean, when you are a group of kids that are going across the high seas on a giant building, well, it should be fun and fanciful. 





While a touch too unevenly paced at two hours, Drifting Home is a charming journey a ton of kids take through memories about family, friendship, and dealing with loss and change. It could have balanced out its drama better, but it’s still a compelling and enjoyable ride with Studio Colorido’s distinct and colorful animation style, while also including a cast of likable child characters and a complex story about found family and caring for one another. It might not be as good as the director’s previous film Penguin Highway, but Drifting Home is a stellar experience that anyone looking for good Japanese-animated films to watch should absolutely check out. Now then, next time we will be looking at yet another Netflix exclusive, so be on the lookout for what it is! 

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 247: Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Review

Heads up: I was able to watch this film before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Funimation. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Funimation.

Sword Art Online is one of the most popular and depending on your own personal viewpoint on the franchise, one of the most infamous. And to be clear, it’s infamous among anime fans and not something you would hear outside of anime fans. It’s one of the most profitable franchises around, and is a punchline for being popular and profitable. Granted, a lot of the franchise is not well-written or well-made, but hey, if people enjoy it, so be it. Just don’t be malicious or toxic about loving or hating it. Anyway, you know what also made a lot of money and got a ton of acclaim? The Evangelion Rebuild films. Do you know what industry took note of that? The anime industry. You know what franchise is attempting to do what the Evangelion Rebuild films did to the Evangelion franchise? Sword Art Online! Sure, most franchises do recap films, but Rebuild is different, as it is telling the overall story in a different way. Will Sword Art Online The Movie – Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night do the same? We will have to see. Oh, and before any of you hardcore fans of the franchise get at this review, yes, this is technically a film version of the light novels of the same Progressive name, but since they are essentially a retelling of the original story that expands upon some things, the film is pretty much doing that with recapping the story up to a certain point of the original experience. So, yeah, still a recap film. 

Directed by Ayako Kono, written by Reiki Kawahara, and produced by A1 Pictures, this film retells the story arc of the first floor within the VRMMO Sword Art Online. Our main story for this first film, however, follows Asuna Yuuki, dubbed by Cherami Leigh. She’s an honor student who loves to spend time with her friend Misumi Tozawa, dubbed by Anairis Quinones. One day, Asuna decides to log on to the newly released Sword Art Online, and ends up discovering that her friend Misumi is in the game as well! Sadly, the discovery comes at a cost as every player logged on to the game can now not log out. The game’s apparent creator arrives and explains that he has made sure no one can leave, and if they try to log out and take off the VR helmet, it will fry their brains and kill them. Everyone is now stuck in the game and is tasked with beating the entire game and the main world’s dungeons. The only other catch is if you die in the game, you supposedly die in real life. Can Asuna make it to the top with her friend? Who is this mysterious insert male power fantasy character they run into? What’s his story? 

So, if they were going to go the route of the recap/Rebuild-style retelling of the anime, where do you start? For the first half, they went with building up Asuna and her friendship with Misumi. It’s rather impressive to see a show that is known for not having the best characters in anime, taking its time to really build up the friendship, the betrayal, and the heartbreak between these two. Most recap anime try to get through as much of the show as possible. Usually, they tend to cover the first major arc of the show and then call it a day. They sacrifice the smaller character moments so they can get to the big moments that you all know and love, but hopefully have some of that theatrical animation budget to make them all look good. By the time the first major shift in Asuna and Misumi’s relationship happens, you are heartbroken with what happens, and that helps drive a little bit more of the drama. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve seen the original series, but the film definitely shifts the focus away from the franchise’s male lead Kirito, to Asuna, and it’s for the better. They pretty much make Kirito the side secondary character until the first major raid/the third act when he sadly steals the driver’s seat and takes over the film. 

The problem with making male power fantasy characters your lead is that unless you are careful with how you tackle the power fantasy by either making the characters themself massively flawed in some way or go the One Punch Man route and do some meta commentary on the power fantasy trope, they make for bad lead characters. With how many VRMMO and fantasy anime tend to make the leads ‘boring as tar’ power fantasy for male viewers, why wouldn’t you shift focus to someone else who could actually carry the story, and the story not suffer due to having to contort to the whims of the power fantasy? What also helps here is that they don’t try to do too much at once. With how much focus the relationship between Asuna, Misumi, and Kirito unfolds, they only cover the first two episodes, while filling out those two episodes with the time to have the characters bond. It also lets the stakes rise when the story needs them to, and we aren’t forcing our way to get from point A to point B to point C to point D at a rapid rate. It makes perfect sense for the film to make the first floor raid the third act conflict. It’s not a perfect journey to get from the beginning of the film to the end, but considering what this could have been, it should be admirable with how the director and writer took to retelling the story of the famous franchise. 

Animation-wise, this is where it starts to fumble a little. Not that the animation is bad, because it’s not. It just doesn’t look as good as other anime franchise films. It’s not its fault it doesn’t reach the visual overload and drip of Evangelion Rebuild, but when you are going from show to film, there should be a much more noticeable upgrade. Still, the animation is mostly smooth, there are a few very pleasant shots, and when the action kicks in, it ranges from action-packed to intense, depending on where you are within the story. It’s not the biggest upgrade from show to film, but it looks solid enough. You can turn back the clock and look at much older anime recap films and see how they just didn’t do a dang thing with going from show to film. If you need proof, go find the old Cyborg 009 recap films or the Tatsunoko stuff. In some ways,we are in a much better place than we were back in the day with anime franchise films. The music by Yuki Kajiura is good with some pretty rocking fantasy RPG beats from the training montage to the raid battle having the accurate musical tracks. It sounds a lot like Dot Hack and or something similar to the Demon Slayer series, but that’s also because Yuki helped compose music for both series. The English dub is rather good as usual, and any issues I have with the story are not because of the English voice actors or the Japanese voice actors. Bryce Papenbrook returns as Kirito alongside Cherami Leigh as Asuna, and they do help elevate some of the rougher parts of the script. The other actors are strong as well, and if you are sad other characters and their respective voice actors don’t make an appearance, don’t worry, they will probably show up in the next film. Still, Cherami Leigh and Anairis Quinones carry a lot of the drama on their shoulders, and they do a good job at making you feel connected to their friendship. 

Sadly, the problems keep coming up when you remember that this is Sword Art Online, and 2013 was almost a decade ago now when the original series came out. When Kirito shows up, the story does then turn into more of the typical fantasy/video game action anime that you would expect. The third act falls flat due to a few storybeats that don’t feel properly executed with how the major fight unfolds, and it’s not fully Kirito’s fault that he’s the poster child for boring power fantasy characters, but he sure did reinforce the tropes and how many anime after the original show came out would want to be like Kirito. Asuna also suffers after his introduction to the story, because she becomes less interesting. It’s also a shame that they didn’t change too much else with the story up to this point. They may have cut out some filler pieces, but it sure does feel like this franchise is stuck in the past, figuratively and literally. It’s hard not to dread how little the franchise has changed going forward as well, due to how it all unfolds within this movie. Will the next film not change much? Nostalgia is a very sinister force right now in how our media is crafted, going right back to pandering to the most common denominator. Sorry for the snobbish side of this review coming up, but when you watch the Evangelion films and how much they changed and improved upon the overall story of the original, you can pick up how this one might not go the distance, but we will have to see. It’s not really fair to judge this film due to how we don’t know how the upcoming sequel will turn out, but it’s also fair to point out that while some major changes happened within this film’s take on the original story, not much else has changed either. Like, how did no one at the game studio not know about this creator basically doing a Battle Royale experiment without them knowing? Yes, the game industry is in a really bad spot right now in real life, but if your drama is going to revolve around one individual causing the ruckus, then there better be a good reason he was able to make all of this unfold and happen. 

Listen, it’s not this film’s fault that it came out the same year as the final Evangelion Rebuild film. It’s not its fault that it’s not as good as that last movie. It’s not its fault Sword Art Online is an overall flawed franchise where the spin-offs were more interesting than the main series. However, it is its fault with how this film feels like it’s only going halfway with its retelling of the story. What would have been interesting is if they pulled a Marvel What If?, and killed Kirito in this film or didn’t have him to let it focus solely on Asuna. Sure, that wasn’t going to happen, due to how the creator of the franchise wanted to make sure their vision was going to go as planned and any major changes needed to be decided by them, but when Sword Art Online has been out for almost a decade now, times have changed, and the anime scene is much different for both good and for bad with this film being released. It’s not the worst animated film of the year, nor is it the worst anime-related film of 2021, but when your competition is Evangelion, Demon Slayer, and My Hero Academia, then you had better come to the front lines with something worth investing into. It’s a shame, because the first half of this film was really compelling and interesting. Once the film is available to watch, maybe give it a rent first, but if you are a huge fan of the franchise, you will probably want to buy the blu-ray when it comes out. Now then, we come around the corner to the end of 2021 and next time, we will be talking about Bob Spit: We Do Not LIke People


Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 153: Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Something that’s unfortunate not only in the animation scene, but the theatrical animation scene in general is that there is a huge lack of non- white male directors. At least, I find that to be a major observation. Maybe it’s a lack of awareness for the directors in question, because we know about women like Lauren Faust and Nora Twomey, but it could also be the fact that many powerful male creators for studios like the ex-head of Pixar and other areas of the animation scene have ruined the chances and passion many non-white male had with working in animation. Not every great story is going to come from one type of person. The more diversity we get with animation, the more stories we can tell, and the more voices that can be heard. A darn good example of getting a unique voice that told a compelling and powerful movie would be Mari Okada’s Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom. Released last year by Eleven Arts in the states, Mari Okada’s fantasy drama was her first theatrical directorial debut for which she also wrote the script. This is on top of a successful career of writing, including Anohana, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and The Anthem of the Heart. So then, let’s dive in and see why this was one of the best animated films of 2018.

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The story follows a young woman named Maquia, dubbed by Xanthe Huynh. She is a being known as a Lorph, a race of human-like individuals that stay young and live longer than normal humans. They also weave their stories in these giant cloth-like fabrics. One day, a kingdom attacks her people to take a maiden from her clan to offer to the kingdom’s prince, so they can make long-living children and keep the kingdom afloat forever. Luckily for Maquia, she escapes when one of the dragon creatures the knights rode on goes berserk, and she ends up riding on it out of the reach of the kingdom. She then finds herself in a village that was attacked by bandits. Among the debris, she finds a human baby in the arms of his dead mother. Maquia decides to take care of the infant as the film follows the challenges of raising a child, learning about life, the trials of love, and being a mother.

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So, what really cements Okada’s writing and directorial work in this film? Well, the themes this film tackles of loss, love, and motherhood. We have seen those themes before in films like Wolf Children, which has unfortunately been compared and contrasted with Maquia due to the focus on a mother raising a kid in a unique situation. What makes this film so dastardly with its way of using emotionally powerful moments is how Okada catches you off-guard. It’s like she sneaks up behind you, pokes you with a knife to tell you to get ready, and then when the time comes, stabs you right in the feels to deliver an extra powerful punch to your heart. I don’t think I have seen a film like Maquia that has made me cry harder the two times that I have seen it. Its themes are beautifully woven into the story as you get involved with the trials of Maquia taking care of this child when she is, considering her kind, young herself, and doesn’t really know what to do. You watch as decades pass and she stays the same, but everyone grows up and dies around her. You watch as her son gets older, and the challenge of their relationship and dynamic starts to get in the way of how they come off to other people. Everyone, from the kingdom to the immortal beings, see the rise and fall of mystical creatures becoming extinct and the fall of the kingdom at the end of the film. It’s a brilliantly somber but touching film that, while having incredibly gorgeous animation, shows Okada’s strengths as a writer. You feel heavily invested with the characters and what is going on with them. You want to see Maquia become a mother, you want to see her make sure her son grows up, you want to make sure the son doesn’t get killed, and you want to see her friendships blossom and stay connected. It’s a well-paced story that knows what main plot elements to focus on, and when to sparingly show off what is going on with the other characters.

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Animation-wise, Maquia is a gorgeous movie with beautiful vistas, great camera work, soft rounded character designs, and very well composted CGI. Yeah, once again, a Japanese animated film shows how to do it properly where many anime series fail in regards to the CGI. It can still be noticeable, but it’s not as distracting as say, any of Polygon Pictures’ products or that horrible Berserk continuation. In terms of the original language and the dubbed version, I think you can’t go wrong with either. Xanthe Huynh is incredible as Maquia and simply goes through the gambit of emotions, and you believe her every time. The other actors are good as well with Ryan Shanahan, Eddy Lee, Cherami Leigh, Kevin T. Collins, Brooklyn Nelson, Marc Thompson, H.D. Quinn, Ryan Bartley, and many other voice actors do great with their respective roles. While the music is nothing that you haven’t really heard before, Kenji kawai, the composer for shows and movies like Patlabor, Ranma ½, Devilman, Project A-ko, Burn up!, Ghost in the Shell, Dai-Guard, and Ip Man still delivers a sweeping epic score and soothing tunes that pull you into the experience.

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If I had to complain about something with this wonderfully touching film, I would say that the art direction isn’t all that creative. Yes, it’s a more human and adult story, but when you have the character designer Yuriko Ishii, who was inspired by the artist who did Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Tactics Ogre, Akihiko Yoshida, you kind of expect something more creative. It all looks great visually, but there is nothing that unique or outstanding about the fantasy world that they live in. Also, while it’s not as bad as other films or anime series, you can definitely see when they use CGI. It’s not a major detractor, but it’s something worth noting. I also found a few times where the dub sounded like it got slightly drowned out by the music.

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Even with those criticisms, they are incredibly minor, because Maquia is such a powerful and moving film. It makes me excited to see what other directing gigs Okada will get in the future, and it makes me want to check out what she has done in the past. It’s finally out on DVD, but heads up. You can only get the Japanese dub version with the Blu-ray version of the film. The DVD version only comes with the English dub. Still, I’m happy and hopeful more people can finally check out this classic from Japan. Now then, we travel from Japan to go on a trip around the world! Next time, we are going to check out Laika’s newest film, Missing Link. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials