Review: Aura - Koga Maryuin’s Last War / Cert: 15 / Director: Seiji Kishi / Screenplay: Romeo Tanaka, Jun Kumagai / Starring: Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kana Hanazawa / Release Date: TBC
When returning to school at night, Ichirou encounters a strange girl named Ryouko who claims to be a magic-wielding investigator from a parallel universe; here to locate something called the Dragon Terminals. Her refusal to break character even when at school results in her being ostracised, a situation Ichirou is determined to resolve by getting her to admit her delusion.
A synopsis of Aura could lead you to believe that the plot’s ultimate revelation would be that, after initial skepticism, everything Ryouko is saying would turn out to be true. While such a plot might be expected in anime, it’s really not that kind of film. Based around the hierarchical nature of Japanese high schools, Aura takes a look at the possible consequences of taking escapism too far. While diving into your own fantasy world to escape the mundane reality is something we’ve all done, when doing it to the detriment of real life it can quickly get out of hand, especially in propriety-fixated and rigidly stratified Japanese society.
While there’s never much doubt that Ryouko isn’t who she consistently claims to be, the swift, often spur of the moment manner in which she thinks around the holes poked in the logic of her fantasy is ingenious and occasionally remarked upon as such. Nevertheless, Ichirou indulges Ryouko’s fantasy and tries to work through it in order to bring her back to reality.
The film doesn’t have much characterisation to speak of, other than the mystery of Ichirou’s past and his aversion to fantasy roleplaying. Acting as a bridge between the popular kids and the geeks, he tries to get his peers to behave in a way considered “normal”, not because he genuinely believes there’s anything weird about it – like the cool kids do – but because he’s already been where they are and knows what awaits at the other side.
It’s never made clear if the resistance of the other schoolchildren to Ryouko’s performance is what drives her dangerously deeper into it, or if she was already heading in that direction anyway, but her doing so and in the process forcing Ichirou to accept which side of the otaku line he truly stands on is its turning point. The film doesn’t condemn such behaviour, and considering its target audience it would be a bit hypocritical if it did, but is about the extremes young people go to in order to live how they wish they could, which is something we all – no matter what age – can relate to.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10