Reviews | Written by JAMES "MAGIC" PERKINS 27/07/2022


A grand tale of timeless conflict between the Zol and Aquafa people rages on whilst a deadly disease known as "Black Wolf" fever is spread by wolves. Aquafa resistance fighter Van, mourning the loss of his wife and daughter is bitten by the rabid creature but instead of succumbing to its effects, is granted the ability to alter the earthly nature around him in The Deer King.

Based on the novel by Nahoko Uehashi, the story centers around Van and his developing bond with the young Yuna after she is left orphaned following a tragic attack on the wolves with Black Wolf fever. The film is helmed by Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji of Production I.G and supported by other legends of the old Studio Ghibli days and that flair that made Ghibli so special is definitively on display here. However, even though the relationship narrative is heartfelt and the animation gorgeous, the lengthy source material bogs down the film's runtime because of how much it has the explain in a short space of time. Various moments are ruined by heavy exposition but thankfully that core thread of Van and Yuna keeps the whole films head just above water.

Whilst The Deer King boasts great traits such as a gorgeous art style and grand-scope world-building, the sheer magnitude of the complex story is hindered by its two-hour runtime and would have possibly been better suited for a 25-episode TV show run to allow a lot of the more intricate details of the characters and history to be explored in greater detail.