Reviewby Michelle Yu, Aug 21st 2008
When 10 year old Wataru's father leaves home and his mother is taken to hospital, he decides to change his fate by traveling 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 his "mistaken fate."
Do you like adventure?
How do you feel about relying on complete strangers for your personal safety?
What would it take for you to get up and change your destiny?
It is easy to coax the young, sponge-like mind of a child into wanderlust; into embarking on an adventure not dissimilar to the heroes in their bedtime stories. But for primary school-aged Wataru, his wanderlust spawns from the desire to change his unwanted destiny. At no more than eleven years of age, Wataru is forced to watch his supposedly happy family crumble around him. Even at such a tender age, Wataru exhibits behavior of the ideal hero. He jumps in head-first to save a new student in his class from bullies (only to be saved himself) and goes to great lengths to change something that he does not believe is right.
Derived from what began as a novel by Miyuki Miyabe, this anime adaptation strives to bring the magic of an epic journey in the written word over to the world of animation. There is a Wind in the Willows quality in Brave Story, as many of the characters that Wataru meets in the alternate universe “Vision” are anthropomorphic animals. Fans of old-school fantasy and RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons may find Brave Story caters to their liking. It also addresses the debate of “swords or magic?” Those who do not find Wataru's Boy Scout ways appealing may find themselves siding with his friend and opposition, Mitsuru and his sorcery.
The animation is satisfying, with a lot of CGI but some may argue that it is too much of a good thing. The art seems to draw on Ghibli inspirations and I personally liked the way that GONZO brought the European-esque world of Vision to life. The character designs range from downright quirky, to the absolutely adorable, much like the studio from which the inspiration has been drawn.
Unfortunately, there are parts of the film which seem to have succumbed to being lost in the translation from the novel to the screen. It is a fairly long feature, at close to two hours in length. However there seems to be a lot of skipping and “glossing” over parts of the story, and in some parts it feels like that there is too much being thrown at the audience all at once. Sadly, this combination of flaws adds up to the feature appearing as if it has been unnecessarily drawn out. Brave Story could have been better if the orientation had been slower and some more of the back-story behind the world and its inhabitants had been followed rather than used as throwaway lines.
Although Wataru's crybaby ways would prove challenging to the impatient viewer, his character grows significantly as the story progresses. His level of maturity is noticeably higher by the end of his quest, but still the awkward storytelling hinders viewer satisfaction. Thankfully, the audience is rewarded with a sip of darkness in what would otherwise be another cookie-cutter children's fantasy movie.
For something the whole family can watch, Brave Story is not a bad choice. It is not something that everyone would be begging to watch over and over, but it has its moments. Again, fans of Might and Magic and Dungeons and Dragons may find certain aspects of Brave Story enjoyable. Otherwise, Brave Story is one best for younger audiences who aren't afraid of a bit of blood and conflict.
© 2006 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK / GONZO / WARNER ENTERTAINMENT JAPAN / DENTSU / SPWT
Overall (dub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Heartwarming in parts of the story and beautiful in animation.
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