(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!