This was an anime movie that I had been wanting to watch for several months now. Last night, I decided to pop my blu-ray copy into my Playstation 4 and see what all the hype was about.
I never imagined that this movie could be so brilliant. And I’m going to tell you why.
In Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, a slowly-aging race called the Iorph (or, the Clan of the Separated) that weave stories into their cloths called Hibiol that transcend time much like them, is attacked by a kingdom on the outside, who take some Iorph denizens captive in order to learn the secrets of their immortality. One girl, Maquia, is pulled from her home by coincidence and stumbles upon a newborn that has lost his mother. Knowing loneliness herself, Maquia adopts the child to raise as her own, naming him Ariel, and starting their life together.
When I first entangled myself with the plot, I was reminiscent of another movie of similar style and basis: Wolf Children. Which I thought was a fantastic portrayal of a single mother taking care of her children, the struggles of everyday life, and working to become a better person for it. This was very insightful, especially for those in the age range where parenthood becomes rounded. But Maquia took that to a whole new level.
This movie saga has a noticeable fantasy/medieval edge to it, and it makes the story feel less wholesome, but more impending. It feels as though the world puts the characters at stake far more than the characters themselves could. And as a fan of fantasy myself, it gave it more impact for me to watch.
I loved the story from start to finish. I even cried at the very end, and it is rare to ever catch me crying about anything in media. Take that as a sign.
Normally, I detail as much as I can about each individual character and how they play into the story, but this time, I’m going to take a different approach. I’m going to talk about Maquia, and how she influences every other character, using her as the catalyst of this topic.
Maquia is an Iorph, essentially an immortal, and she is alone in the world, being raised by her clan’s elder until her home is attacked by kingdom guards. After she comes across a newborn boy, she realizes that he is more alone than she is, and takes him in as her own. Adopting Ariel and trying to care for him as early as he can leads her to a family consisting of a single mother, Mido, and her two sons, Lang and Deol. Mido does her best to show Maquia the ropes on living in society and being a mother, and as time goes by and Ariel grows, Maquia sees just how rough, yet worthwhile it is.
Living with Ariel takes Maquia across several world borders, and eventually, she meets with other Iorphs that she grew up alongside, including Krim, her first crush. She also learns that her close friend Leilia is being held at the castle to have the secrets of her immortality stripped away from her. Krim, who is deeply in love with Leilia, is desperate to save her, even as fate and circumstance rips her away time and again. His desperation grows so deeply that he ends up leaving Maquia behind, considering her son to be a burden on his overarching mission.
As Ariel grows into a teenager, he comes to realize based on Maquia’s slow-aging that she is not his natural mother, and becomes exceedingly cold and distant from her. Maquia understands his reasonings, though she is also devastated by his behavior. It briefly quells when she reunites with Lang, now about twenty-four years old and a member of the guard. Shortly after their reunion, Ariel confesses to Lang that he feels like he should be protecting Maquia, not the other way around, and decides to enlist as well. And life… only becomes more fun.
But I’m not going to say anything more from here.
I think that the characters were all immensely well-rounded, even if they were more minor characters. Everyone played a purpose, and everyone carried themselves in a way that is unmistakably brilliant, especially Maquia and Ariel. I also thought that Lang was well-written and lovable, and he quickly rose to become one of my favorites in the movie. There is so much depth to them that it’s going to be fun watching the journey unfold for yourself through their eyes.
I’m going to say first that I watched this movie in the English dub, and I was blown away by the cast’s performance.
Xanthe Huynh, who voiced Maquia, completely blew this role out of the water. I was already attuned to her sweet voice after listening to Haru Okumura from Persona 5, but this role solidified her skill for me. There were many layers to Maquia, from the naive child that knew loneliness, to the spirited mother that would do anything for her child no matter how much stress built on her, and they were so well portrayed.
Ariel went through three different voices in his stages of growth, Barnaby Lafayette (child), Ryan Shanahan (teen), and then Eddy Lee (adult), and each one gave a different life to his growing personality. My favorite iteration of him was his child self, as he was so bubbly and fun, even when his own world was still developing. But I also love the determination and maturity that comes with his adult self finally understanding life, and how to live it. He was so well-rounded in each and every stage of his life, and I loved it to pieces.
Notably, I also really loved listening to Krim and Leilia. They’re two different sides of a bent coin, and they come to fall apart around one another as the years pass them by, but it’s so… naturally fluid and tangible to witness. And then there’s Lang, whom I loved watching grow into this captain after being a comforting brother figure to both Maquia and Ariel.
As far as the animation style goes, I’ve always admired the landscapes and scenery that P.A Works has to offer. They’re always so clean and breathtaking. And the OST was fruitful, yet simple, which seems fitting for an everyday life. I’ve also grown to love the ending song.
Overall, this movie… literally was one of the best anime movies I’ve come across in a long time. It left a visible hole in my heart, and it’s one that I would love to watch again and again. I feel like it’s a bit underrated compared to more well-known titles, but I think it deserves a place on a higher tier for these films.
Very strong 9.5/10. I definitely recommend this to anyone that is a fan of slice-of-life with a fantasy edge (yes, I do mean that, it contradicts, but it’s accurate), and stories of family growth and togetherness.
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