Maboroshi Movie Review Rating:

Star Cast: Junya Enoki, Reina Ueda, Misaki Kuno, Koji Seto, and Kento Hayashi.

Director: Mari Okada

Maboroshi Movie Review ( Photo Credit – Netflix Anime / YouTube )

What’s Good: The quality of the animation is quite impressive and proves that MAPPA is just working at the peak of its abilities.

What’s Bad: The story never manages to set up characters and stakes in the proper way. Thus, when the climax arrives, it feels hollow.

Loo Break: The second act is a perfect loo break as the plot meanders between different characters and struggles to get to the point.

Watch or Not?: Watch only if you’re a MAPPA fan.

Language: Japanese (with English subtitles).

Available On: Netflix

Runtime: 112 Minutes.

User Rating:

It is without question that MAPPA is the most famous and most important studio in the anime medium, thanks to their many popular adaptations of famous manga, which display the team’s amazing abilities with animation and direction. However, they are not perfect, and on top of having clear mismanagement issues, their newest original film, Maboroshi, lacks a story that hits in the way the many anime series from the studio do every single week. Maboroshi is not a bad movie, but it might be quite disappointing.

Maboroshi Movie Review ( Photo Credit – Netflix Anime / YouTube )

Maboroshi Movie Review: Script Analysis

Maboroshi is a very strange film, as it comes as an original story from Mari Okada, one of the most respected and prolific screenwriters in the modern Japanese film industry. You could say that Mari Okada is a complete veteran, having worked in many solid films as a writer; however, she seems to have less success as a director, creating films that feel scattered and confusing in the way they tell their stories, and sadly, Maboroshi is one of those films. Mari Okada keeps being incredibly talented, but she might need some help when it comes to directing a film.

From the moment the film starts, we are introduced to a situation that changes the characters’ lives in huge ways, but this event is never properly acknowledged by the characters as something that should be life-changing. The event just happens, and for the first two acts of the film, the event is only briefly mentioned, and everyone seems to ignore it rather than deal with it. There must be some commentary here on how society works, and you can’t help but feel that the event is a sort of stand-in for the COVID-19 pandemic, but because it is never fully developed, it feels convoluted at best.

If the premise of the film is vague and underdeveloped enough, then the way the film tries to convey the character arcs is even strange. With many of the characters being teenagers, you would expect them to have a lot of angst and behave in illogical ways, but Maboroshi takes these aspects of being a teenager to the extreme, and with backstories that are just as vague and confusing as the event that starts the film, then all the characters seem rather dumb for behaving in such a melodramatic way every chance they get.

As the movie reaches its end, it tries to go into an emotional path, but because it never managed to set up the stakes in the first two acts, the ending falls flat. The themes of isolation, repressed feelings, and social expectations are all there, and they are easy to recognize, but one thing is to know that these themes are there, and another is seeing the movie doing something with them. Maboroshi doesn’t know what to do with its themes, and this results in a narrative that lacks focus, and without focus, there is no impact.

Maboroshi Movie Review: Star Performance

While most of the story falls flat because the execution is vague and aimless, most of the performances are quite nice. Junya Enoki, most of all, is a great example of someone trying to elevate the material with their performance. Yes, he sometimes also falls flat because the direction of his character is too erratic, but he tries his best. Reina Ueda does the same when playing the character of Atsumi, one of those cold but interesting female characters that anime loves to portray so much.

Misaki Kuno also stands out from the rest of the cast by playing the character Itsumi, a weird beast child that acts like a dog but is also a bit horny, and it is just weird, really, and Kuno has to play her by fusing both animal and baby qualities. The performance can be quite cringe at times, and because it is unclear how the character will end up at the end of the story, you are just confused about her most of the time. Kuno does give the role her best, though.

Maboroshi Movie Review ( Photo Credit – Netflix Anime / YouTube )

Maboroshi Movie Review: Direction, Music

Okada has served mostly as a writer in many films and series, but this time, she sits in the director’s chair, and the result is quite erratic. There are many scenes that seem to be almost incomplete and plot points that are disregarded, while others take too much time. There is really no balance between the strange drama the characters are facing and the exterior conflict of the town’s citizens being trapped inside of it. This is when you realize that the movie is aimless, and it seems to be throwing these themes to the wall to see what sticks. There is definitely a better movie somewhere in here, one that focuses clearly on one theme and tries to develop it as much as it can.

The isolation themes serve well to the music as composer Masaru Yoyokama goes into the most tragic music he can compose, and the result is melodies that feel like coming from the end of the world, both in a negative and positive light, as the music tries to enhance the feelings the film is trying to convey but at times it goes to hard in that direction, and you can feel the manipulation, and it only ends in rejection of it.

Maboroshi Movie Review: The Last Word

Maboroshi seems like another stumble from MAPPA, but this time not in the realm of management issues, like basically treating their employees badly or paying too little for the amount of work they do, but this time is a creative stumble into the dirt as the movie simply fails to tell a coherent story with proper themes and characters and just tries to hint at these things instead of revealing these to the audience. Maybe next time, it would be great to see a better director behind one of Okada’s scripts, as it seems she needs someone to edit her and give her focus.

Maboroshi Trailer

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