Even as I type this, I’m sick of my own go-to thought being something like ‘compare this one to Ghibli’, because that’s lazy of me.
Moreover, Studio Ghibli hasn’t released a non-CGI feature for six years or so. And nor do they own ‘awe and whimsy’. No studio does, of course! (Having said that, I know Wonderland has been compared to Ghibli and Miyazaki films in particular.)
But it is different in terms of tone and execution.
The Wonderland is an old-school portal fantasy (or ‘Isakei’ to use the anime lingo) where characters are led into a fairy-tale world (rather than a game), which makes sense considering that it’s based on a children’s story from 1988*.
And the world that Akane and her aunt must save is a real draw for me since it’s got plenty of surprises and fun, whimsical settings, characters and moments. There’s also a classic ‘reluctant hero’ plot and it’s nice to see Akane quickly become less selfish as the story progresses.
(Of course, there’s an understandable reluctance – being asked to save a magical world you never knew existed would be worrisome to say the least).
As much as I enjoyed most of the film, there was something missing from the narrative. Perhaps strong ties to the central problem Akane is being asked to solve? Or maybe I wanted more from the villain too?
Still, the art and animation was beautiful and Chii was an interesting addition to the leads, and so I didn’t mind. And there were funny moments to balance the menacing ones too (without spoilers) like with Akane and the cats or Hippocrates’ transformation.
The Wonderland is aimed at younger audiences but it’s not G-rated either, so there’s violence but I don’t actually remember blood. Having noted the target audience, I found it interesting that an adult from the real world was allowed to come along for the adventure, which is kinda rare in YA fiction.
Directed by Keiichi Hara, (Miss Hokusai), this adaption was only released a few years ago now but I don’t remember hearing about it, not back then and not very often now either. I’m curious if anyone else had a chance to see it?
Maybe 4 Stars is a little generous in terms of a rating but for me, in a visual medium the visuals sometimes make up for other issues 😀
*Chikashitsu Kara no Fushigi na Tabi (Strange Journey from the Basement) by Sachiko Kashiwaba