B1 中級 美國腔 664 分類 收藏
If all my years of watching anime have taught me one thing, it's this:
never trust a Mari Okada project involving flowers.
Iron-Blooded Orphans, Hanasaku Iroha, especially Anohana,
if it's got her name on it and it involves any kind of flower symbolism, especially in the title,
you just know it's gonna deliver a precision targeted strike right to your feels.
As a writer, Okada has a remarkable talent for making her characters suffer in the most beautiful ways
and for translating concepts and experiences that are clearly rooted somewhere deeply personal
into stories with broad emotional power.
It wouldn't be fair to reduce her talents to just one aspect -
she's shown phenomenal skill at writing action and comedy
and at world-building -
but when Mari Okada wants to make you cry,
A lot.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms proudly continues that tradition.
Its last few scenes took me from tearing up to bawling uncontrollably
and the ride to that end was an emotional rollercoaster in the best sense of that cliché.
It is, perhaps, the most pure example of Mari Okada's vision ever put on screen,
which was apparently exactly what P.A. Works president Kenji Horikawa wanted
when he asked her to write and - for the first time in her career - direct her own film:
a 100% Okada anime.
It's unusual, to say the least, for a writer to make the jump to directing anime.
Studios tend to want people with animation experience in that demanding role.
But Okada isn't your usual writer -
she's one of the most prolific and respected writers in her field,
and with her excellent autobiography having just been optioned for a film,
she's about to become an anime character herself.
And she's not your usual director, either.
At a time when anime films are clearly trending towards surreal, sad tales of contemporary teenagers,
Okada has chosen to make a decades-spanning hard fantasy epic,
set in a remarkably well realised world,
thankfully free of any super obvious Tolkien influences,
with an equally well-thought-out and original plotline.
Fittingly, Maquia tells the story of Maquia,
a lonely young girl from Iolf, a legendary clan of immortals who stop ageing as teenagers
and who record the histories of their long lives by weaving their stories into special cloths called Hibiol.
One night, dragon-riding soldiers from a neighbouring kingdom attack Maquia's homeland,
hoping that one of the immortal maidens can bear their prince and equally long-lived heir.
Maquia is forced out into the wider world of mortals,
and shortly afterward finds an abandoned human baby who she decides to adopt as her own,
naming him Ariel.
The film follows this found family throughout their entire lives,
as Ariel gradually ages and Maquia stays ever young.
As time goes on we see small moments that reshape the dynamics of their relationship
and larger ones that reshape the very world we live in.
It's rare to see a fantasy film that feels at once so intimate and grand in its scope,
concerning itself with both the daily lives of the world's people
and events as monumental as the fall of ageing empires.
Though there's a lot going on here,
and it would be very easy to lose the narrative thread between all of the timeskips and high-fantasy concepts,
Maquia is held together by a tight focus on the core theme of motherhood.
The film's long time scale allows it to thoroughly explore what it really means to be a mother and all that that entails.
From protecting and providing for your child when they're young
to the bittersweet experience of watching them grow into adulthood and ultimately become their own person.
And that Hibiol cloth that I mentioned earlier acts as a sort of metaphor for the legacies that people leave behind.
It's heartwarming, heartbreaking and a little bit Freudian,
but only just Freudian enough.
Which is good, because this is an anime specifically about a mum who stays 15 forever
and it could easily go WAY too Freudian.
Thankfully, while this rollercoaster hits a lot of emotional peaks and drops,
it never takes an Usagi Drop,
and if you don't know what I'm talking about, do yourself a favour and never ever look it up.
Not only does this underlying theme make me really, really want to call my mum,
it also helps to ground the film's more fantastical and alien elements in very relatable, emotional territory.
And as we see echoes of motherly moments that we've experienced with Maquia in the lives of other characters,
specifically her kidnapped childhood friend Leilia, who is kept apart from her daughter,
we're able to understand some of their emotional journeys through that context
without actually having to see it on-screen.
And this helps Maquia's story move along quickly as well.
Reincorporating and twisting the meaning of prominent plot points and key lines
such as Maquia's repeated comments about how Ariel "smells like the sun"
allows us to quickly grasp where the characters are emotionally every time we jump to a new location or time.
The narrative feels perfectly coherent and tightly paced
when by all accounts its unconventional structure should make it a stilted mess.
It takes really clever writing to pull that off.
But of course the script was gonna be phenomenal, this is Mari Okada we're talking about.
The real question is how everything else holds up.
While first outings this ambitious have felled lesser directors,
just look at Goro Miyazaki's disastrous Tales From Earthsea,
I am happy to report that Okada knocked this one out of the park in every respect possible.
The film features breathtaking shots and animation cuts,
tender scenes of subtle - and not so subtle - emotions,
all of which hit almost perfectly.
I'm particularly impressed by the way Okada uses lighting and colour to punctuate the steps of Maquia's emotional journey.
From the almost pure white innocence of her life with the Iolf
to the more complex palettes that we see as she begins to mature and Ariel begins changing her world,
the film does a great job of using colour to set the tone and emotional context of each scene
without those choices ever feeling forced or unnatural.
And you've been staring at clips from the film for long enough at this point
that I don't need to tell you that generally speaking,
the characters, the CG backdrops and the shot composition are all beautiful.
The CGI allows for some really powerful, dynamic camera moves
although thankfully they use those sparingly so we don't get that Hand Shakers effect.
And for those of you who like complaining about CGI character models,
you'll be happy to know that for the most part, when they're used you don't even notice.
In general, the compositing in Maquia is really well done,
and its world feels cohesive despite using disparate visual elements that could very easily clash with each other.
If there's one criticism that I could levy at Maquia,
it's that it doesn't quite have its own visual identity
the same way that a Miyazaki, Shinkai, Yuasa or Hosoda production does.
It feels like a proper fantasy anime,
and the rounded character designs and soft colours and lighting suit its setting and tone well.
But its visual style doesn't really stand out that much, either.
And while that's to be expected, to an extent -
Okada comes from a writing background
where those other directors define their styles as animators first and foremost -
I can't deny that it kinda holds the film back.
Beautiful though Maquia may be,
nothing really left my jaw on the floor like a Shinkai wide shot or a bombastic Yuasa cut can.
Perhaps if Okada can keep working with character designer and animation director Yuriko Ishii on future films,
she'll be able to refine the stylistic elements on display here into something more striking and unique.
But, failing that, my one concern for her moving forward is that her films won't have the same immediate visual draw
as her contemporaries and competitors do.
Likewise, while the film's score by legendary composer Kenji Kawai is powerful,
especially during its big emotional climax,
it's not particularly unique.
You've heard this sort of dreamy mix of woodwind, strings and percussion in fantasy films and JRPGs a dozen times before.
It definitely works, but it's nothing special.
And that's a little disappointing coming from the guy who composed the OST for Ghost in the Shell.
Ultimately, Maquia thrives on the strength of its storytelling,
not its spectacle.
It's impeccably edited and shot to convey information and emotional context to the viewer effectively
and on a script level, everything just works.
Both the lore of this fantasy world and the characters who inhabit it are fascinating and remarkably fleshed out.
And the film definitely has its moments that can grip you and leave a hell of an impact,
they just come from your investment in the story,
not the raw technical prowess on display.
This is one of the best stories that I've ever seen a director tell with their debut film.
As a piece of cinema it's a triumph.
But those looking for stunning anime spectacle may be a little bit disappointed.
Still, on the whole, I can't recommend Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms enough.
This film swept me up in its world
and ultimately got me to cry even harder than the last episode of A Place Further than the Universe.
Which is saying an awful lot.
I'm giving this film a gold medal rating,
which is an honour that I reserve for films and shows that I would personally force a close friend to watch at gunpoint.
If you wanna take my recommendation and see Maquia for yourself,
Eleven Arts, who provided me with the screener I watched for this review,
are bringing it to select theatres across the United States and Canada for one-time showings toward the end of July.
Check the link in the doogly-doo to find out where and when it may be playing near you.
And pro-tip: bring a box of tissues.
I'm Geoff Thew, professional shitbag, signing out from my mother's basement.


你一定要看朝花夕誓-無雷評論 (You Gotta Watch Maquia (And Call Your Mom) - Spoiler-Free Review)

664 分類 收藏
irene Hu 發佈於 2019 年 2 月 27 日    irene Hu 翻譯    Evangeline 審核
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