(Not yet released in US)
Story = C-
Video = A
Audio = A
When 11 year old Wataru's father leaves home and his mother is taken ill to hospital, he decides to change his fate by travelling through the door shown to him by his friend Mitsuru. In a land of magic and monsters, Wataru must summon all his courage and embark on a journey with several comrades to meet the Goddess of Destiny and change this "mistaken fate". (Source: ANN)
This movie has a pretty average "kid travels off to a fantasy world and has an adventure" type of story. But honestly, that's exactly what I was hoping it would be. I've always liked those kind of movies because they remind me of the fantasy adventure movies -- like Neverending Story -- that I watched when I was younger -- and still have a nostalgic fondness for.
And to its credit this movie does have some great fantasy elements. As the movie starts out, Wataru stumbles upon a door to another world called "Vision". He discovers that if he enters that world and completes a quest, he will be able to have one wish granted. So, after his mom falls ill, he decides that he will take up the journey in order to cure her. During this quest, he meets all kinds of odd creatures, fights monsters, and even gets to travel on the back of a flying dragon.
The problem is that the story is so rushed that it never gives the story enough time to develop the plot or characters. It introduces a character or story arc and then moves right on to the next thing without ever providing a natural transition from one event to another. For example, you see that Wataru's mom collapses but the movie never explains what her illness is. So throughout the movie I was actually wondering if she was sick at all. At another point, Wataru is in the world of Vision, and is imprisoned. He is subsequently released after his innocence is proven, and then, for no reason in particular, the woman who imprisoned him makes him an honorary "Highlander" (i.e., soldier of Vision). No explanation, she just does it out of the blue. As I was watching the movie I got the feeling that the writers knew exactly how much ground they wanted to cover and exactly how much time they had to do it, so they paced each scene accordingly, but provided only the bare minimum necessary to show each event or introduced each character. As a result the movie seems like the outline of a story instead of one that is fully realized.
The other thing that bothered me is that this is supposed to be a story about Wataru being brave in order to earn his wish, but it seemed to me that 9 times out of 10, whenever he was in trouble, it was someone or something else that saved him -- whether it was his sword (which appeared to act on its own at times) or his friends. But none of which had anything to do with his own bravery. So again, both plot-wise and theme-wise the movie failed to satisfy.
From a purely visual standpoint the movie is incredible. From the designs of the setting to the characters to the costumes, everything is simple, but also lush and colorful and just fun to look at. The designs of the large monsters and especially the dragons alone make this movie worth watching.
The soundtrack is exactly what I would want for a fantasy adventure movie. It is a full, booming, emotional track that could practically carry the movie all on its own.
So overall, I would say that this movie could have been great if it only dedicated more time to making a fully fleshed-out story and characters. But at the same time I have to give huge kudos to the incredible visuals and music, which are phenomenal.