NINOKUNI / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: YOSHIYUKI MOMOSE / SCREENPLAY: AKIHIRO HINO / STARRING: KENTO YAMAZAKI, TUCKER CHANDLER, RAY CHASE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (NETFLIX)
Based in the same world as the video game, this is an anime set in both present day Tokyo and the fantasy world of NiNoKuni. Two best friends are both in love with same girl, who's stabbed by a mysterious assailant. Whilst trying to save her life, they're magically transported to a medieval fantasy realm where they set out to see the princess, who looks exactly like their love interest back home. It then becomes apparent that the fates of people in the two worlds are linked, but do they share the same or opposite fates?
Anyone who's played the first 20 minutes of the game will already know the answer to that question. However, the world itself is presented as a fairly generic fantasy world, so no knowledge of the video games is really necessary. It is an interesting concept, but one that's executed horribly and nothing about it feels particularly original. The story should be paced better, spread out over maybe a 12-part anime perhaps but as a film it simply doesn’t work and feels a disjointed mess. A lot happens throughout the film, travelling back and forth between the two worlds, but little time is dedicated to the characters themselves.
The NiNoKuni games and their world look beautiful, and are full of quirky anime fantasy that you'd expect from something designed by Studio Ghibli. The film however is far from it, without Ghibli’s influence it just feels generic and lacklustre. The animation itself is decent and has some nice special effects, but like everything else about then film, it feels like something you've seen countless times before.
Character development seems to happen, but it's just so rushed and poorly executed that it seems to come out of nowhere and makes it impossible to relate to anyone. Making it even harder to empathise with them is how ridiculous their reactions are to things. "Why are you holding her like that?" is not an appropriate response to finding your girlfriend with a large knife sticking out of her covered in blood, nor is picking her up and attempting to carry her to the hospital in a modern city full of vehicles and mobile phones. These are just two of a series of silly decisions made by the unbelievable characters in this film.
The predictable, choreographed plot twists are overly explained through flashbacks and dialogue, which together really patronises the viewer, indicating that maybe this film is aimed at a much younger audience. The dialogue is often poorly written and drably executed with one irritating character torn between a bad Irish and Scottish accent. At times it’s hard to tell if it's just lost in translation or an awful script.
The concept for NiNoKuni is interesting but lifted straight out of the video game without a good plan on how to further explore it. It becomes an accidental parody of its own genre brimming with clichés. At times it falls into to the so bad it's good territory, but for the most part, it's just bland and forgettable.