The Other Side of Animation 254: Child of Kamiari Month

(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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

With the Oscars once again dismissing and ignoring the Japanese animation side of things, stagnating as usual with what they actually nominate over what they should be nominating for awards, let’s keep reminding ourselves that not getting nominated doesn’t mean the film in question isn’t good. Who’s favorite film is actually ever in the Best Picture category? Anyway, just because the award shows announce their nominees, doesn’t mean films stop getting made. More movies are going to come out and they will continue to be interesting, good, bad or everything in-between, no matter the awards they are or aren’t given. So, let’s get down to it with one of the first animated films of the year with Child of Kamiari Month

This film was directed by Takana Shirai, written by Ryuta Miyake, Tetsuro Takita, Toshinari Shinoe, and was produced by Liden Films. The story revolves around a tongue girl named Kanna Hayama, dubbed by Mia Sinclair Jenness. Her life has been upended due to the death of her mother and she has lost her passion for running. That’s a touch unfortunate because she is also participating in her school’s marathon with her supportive dad being there. Sadly, due to the emotional baggage that she has been carrying, she doesn’t quite do well at the marathon, and runs away before her father can help comfort her. She runs to a shrine that she walked past with her friend the other day, and while there, her mother’s keepsake starts to activate. Time slows down around her and she realizes that something is up. Kanna can see the spirits that inhabit the shrines now! She encounters a talking bunny spirit named Shiro, dubbed by Luci Christian, who comes just in time to help her with an encounter with an oni boy named Yasha, dubbed by Mark Allen Jr. After the encounter, Shiro tells Kanna that she must go on this journey across Japan and gather the offerings from different spirits for Kamiari Month, a mystical holiday that is a celebration of the gods and spirits. Reluctantly, Kanna accepts the quest to traverse all over Japan to get all of the different gifts and complete the run. 

So, a recurring theme seen in so many foreign animated films that have been covered in multiple reviews and brought over to the states has been the main character going through some kind of coming-of-age story of getting over their grief or dealing with the loss of a loved one. It’s not an original concept, but they execute it well, with a much smaller-scale story about Kanna dealing with the loss of her mom and the growing depression and bitterness that has been caged up inside of her since that incident. The other side character that starts out as a rival to Kanna, the oni boy Yasha, has his own arc and reasons for wanting to do the run for Kamiari Month to regain the honor of his family that was dragged through the mud and banished from the heavens above. It’s a quieter experience as a couple of the montage sequences are just visuals set to music. The overall story might have some wonky and familiar elements, but it’s a good reminder, as usual, that not every film needs to be a groundbreaking mind-blowing experience. Sometimes, you just need to dial back your expectations 

The animation is pretty solid. It’s not super-flashy, and personally, when you are coming out after Belle, Josee The Tiger and The Fish, and Words that Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, it doesn’t quite compare to those, and not every film needs to, but don’t expect this to be on the same level as those films or upcoming films like Bubble and Drift Away. It does have some nice flourishes like when they encounter a giant dragon god, and when the film wants to have some distinct visual moments, it does deliver on those aspects with some waterloo flourishes that have elements of those Japanese ink paintings. The voice cast is also pretty rock solid with Mia Sinclair Jenness, Mark Allen Jr., Luci Christian, Kirk Thorton, Keith Silverstein, and Michael Sorich all bringing their usual top-level talent. 

In terms of criticisms, the film takes a lot of time to talk and explain everything about Kamiari Month. It’s not well-paced, because instead of spreading out everything throughout the runtime, they upload a ton of exposition about the lore and how everything works, and it becomes a bit much. Once you get past the film’s first 15 or so minutes, it ends up flowing much better, but you have to be careful about doing that story build-up upfront. It’s because most will be ready to switch to watching something else if the story is not paced well. It would be better if they were able to spread everything else around the run across Japan as they were doing it instead of wasting so much time in one spot to save money and time on new environments. 

While not perfect, and Netflix once again not promoting this film that they spent money on outside of a single trailer, Child of Kamiari Month is a solid spiritual experience of getting over loss and becoming spiritually stronger. Personally, Sing a Bit of Harmony is the better of the two Japanese animated films released this year so far. Luckily, it was able to get some attention on Netflix and on the web before it got buried or overlooked by Studio Wit’s upcoming animated feature Bubble that’s coming out on Netflix in April. If you need something to watch and to get your anime fill that’s not a weekly TV series, then definitely give this show a watch. Next time, we will be talking about a new spin-off series based on one of Netflix’s most controversial and popular series.

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: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 67: The Boy and the Beast 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!)

Finally, I get to talk about one of my favorite new directors in the animation scene, Mamoru Hosoda. Even though I say he is “new”, Hosoda has actually been around the anime/animation scene for a while, starting all the way back in 1999 when he had a hand with working in both minor and key animation roles on the Digimon Adventure series, Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie: Poltergeist Report, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming, Galaxy Express 999 Eternal Fantasy, and Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie to name a few of the projects on which he worked. Only in 2006 after some directing gigs with the Digimon: The Movie and One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, did he finally get to work on his own original projects. His first release was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but essentially started to get more popularity among animation viewers when he released Summer Wars and Wolf Children. However, I’m going to look at those three films at a later date. For now, I want to talk about his newest film, The Boy and the Beast. This movie was originally released last year in 2015, but was brought over in 2016 by Funimation. So, how does Hosoda’s newest film stack against his previous works? Well, let’s dive in.

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The story is about a young boy named Kyuta, voiced by Luci Christian, and Eric Vale when the character is older. He is currently unhappy with a rather upsetting family incident where his mother passed away, and the father isn’t anywhere to be found. Kyuta runs away, and accidentally ends up meeting a humanized animal being named Kumatetsu, voiced by John Swasey. As a result, Kyuta takes the offer of Kumatetsu and follows him into another realm known as Jutengai or Beast Kingdom. After being shocked at running into a world not his own, he becomes the apprentice to Kumatetsu, even though Kumatetsu’s two friends, a monkey man named Tatara, voiced by Ian Sinclair, and a pig man/monk named Hyakushubo, voiced by Alex Organ, are concerned about the situation. The story also involves a fight between Kumatetsu and a boar man named Iozen, voiced by Sean Hennigan, about who becomes the new lord of the land. Will Kyuta train and become a great warrior? Will Kumatetsu be able to train Kyuta, and what will happen between the Beast Kingdom and the human world?

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I’m going to, of course, start off with the positives of The Boy and the Beast, since I really love this movie and want to talk about how great it is. First off, the animation is fluid with more realistic movements, but nothing that feels stiff or awkward about it, like when they do all cgi or rotoscope. It leads to some pretty beautiful animation with some outstanding fight choreography. I think what helps make the fighting in this movie so fantastic is that it’s more grounded and not flashy. The punches and kicks feel real, with actual weight behind the blows that characters give each other. Yes, there are some mystical elements, but it’s mostly punches and kicks. It gives Hosoda’s films a unique and iconic look, which is hard to say about anime these days with how generic and homogenous it can all look.

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Some of the other great aspects are the themes The Boy and the Beast tackles. The film deals with stuff like different family situations, not letting hate take you over, what true strength is, and what is probably the film’s greatest message, being upfront with your children. Yeah, we actually have an animated film that essentially tells the viewers that parents should be upfront with them and not lie to them. It’s a rather refreshing message, since so many films these days rather follow something generic and something we have seen before. It leads to some great parallels to the characters and their chemistry among the entire cast.

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The voice cast is also very strong. I felt like everyone had the right voices connected to their characters, and I love how natural the dialogue feels. It isn’t like in Ghost in the Shell where no matter how good the cast is, the dialogue is not organic, and feels robotic and unnatural. The music is once again extremely beautiful, and fits the mood in each scene. This is due to the talented Takagi Masakatsu, who also did the music for Wolf Children. It’s elegant, beautiful, atmospheric, and upbeat when the time calls for it.

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If there was really one major nitpick about the film, it’s the pacing in the second half. For the most part, the pacing is perfectly done, but some areas later on could have been better. It’s like how in Kubo and the Two Strings, in how there was no build-up for Monkey. She just appears and it’s like “um, okay.” The second half isn’t horrible. It still has a lot of plot-relevant moments and some really touching scenes, but its pacing is more noticeable in terms of how the story progresses.

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Even with the minor pacing problem, The Boy and the Beast is one of the best animated films of 2016, and one of my favorite films of the year. It’s touching, funny, mature, creepy at times, and an all-around endearing experience. If you can find the time to purchase or rent a copy of this film, I highly recommend doing so. Well, next time, we will take a look at the first in a month of Christmas-related animated films with The Magic Snowflake. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials