***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Birthday Wonderland. Reader discretion is advised.***
As a reminder: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. Films and other posts under the Out and About: Eigakan label are watched in Japanese with NO English subtitles. Therefore, misinterpretations and misunderstandings are possible. With that said:
I just got out of Birthday Wonderland…
And I must admit, I have misjudged a movie before.
For example, I originally saw Mary and the Witch’s Flower in theaters, in Japanese. Upon walking out, I thought I had seen a pretty good flick. Then once I got a hold of the English subtitled version, Mary and the Witch’s Flower turned out to be not my kind of film.
Perhaps the same will be true with Birthday Wonderland, except in reverse.
Before I say anymore, here’s a brief synopsis of the story — as per the best of my understanding.
Akane was a standoffish elementary schooler who didn’t like to go out of her way for anything or anyone. Then on the day before her birthday, Akane went on an errand to her family’s friend’s shop. That friend was world traveler Chii (someone who, now that I think about it, might have actually had a familial relation to Akane).
While at Chii’s shop, Akane found and touched a strange-looking artifact. Upon doing so, a portal to a magical world opened up, and from it, an emissary named Hippocrates informed Akane that she was the legendary goddess who would save the prince and bring the rain back to the land.
What followed was a mystical adventure through many fantastical locations where Akane, Chii, and Hippocrates met a vast array of people and creatures.
If nothing else, I must say Birthday Wonderland was certainly beautiful to look at. This film embodied the reason why phenomenal animation looks immensely more impressive when viewed on the big screen. Thus, if you can — legally — obtain a free viewing of this movie, the art style will be a treat in of itself.
As such, I cannot and will not deny Birthday Wonderland’s imagination. Anything that could have been big was made large. Anything that could have been grand was turned magnificent. And anything that could have been magical was.
That said, in combination with what I could catch with my limited (but what I like to think is improving) Japanese and my overall experience with anime, Birthday Wonderland was far more flash than it was substance.
While I was watching, there were many scenes which were as gorgeous as they were pointless. There was a segment in the film where Akane and Chii needed to cross a lake. To do so, they drove their vehicle onto a gigantic lily pad so that they could float across. While they waited, the two women swam and explored under the water (magic allowed them to breathe). There, they saw many amazing sights, and it was all very awe inspiring.
Unfortunately, I found it hard to appreciate this scene because by then, I was already quite bored with the movie.
Before ever reaching the lake, Akane and Chii had already done so much stuff, and I am not convinced most of what they did had any relevance to the story. This film was a bit of a slog, and unless my perceived non-essential narrative scenes contained either fun or compelling character-building dialogue, I don’t see how I will be able to review Birthday Wonderland favorably.
I do want to watch this movie again because I am curious about certain parts of the story. Mainly, what was going on during the ending – which felt insanely long, by the way. Did my confusion stem from a lack of understanding or did I legitimately no longer care? Here’s hoping for the latter.
But you know what? I could be wrong. We will just have to wait and see.
Thank you all so much for reading. Please comment down below if you have anything to say – positively or negatively – about this post. Also, if you have seen the film, I would love to hear your thoughts.
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