Mai Mai Miracle
This is a relatively simple, slice of life tale that focuses on Shinko who lives in 1955, rural Japan, and on secondary lead Kiiko who has recently transferred from the city and whose life seems pale in comparison with Shinko's vivid imagination. She especially loves imagining what the land was like a thousand years earlier when Nagiko Kiyohara (Sei Shonagon, authoress of The Pillow Book) was growing up as a young, noble girl and draws Kiiko into these "what if?" moments which play out with as much realism as any other part of the movie for the viewer.
The story fits neatly into the "where the characters and viewer are charmed by life in rural Japan while dealing with life changing and yet very personal tragedies" pool of animated movies like Letter to Momo, Wolf Children, or even My Neighbor Totoro I suppose. In that respect this feels like a very "safe" film, both safe to take relatively young children to see but I also didn't feel like it told a story I hadn't seen before. There was nothing new about the setting, the characters, the themes, or even how the story progressed, in a way I can see why this movie was passed over by the US anime companies for release, there's just not enough here that's either new or done well/differently enough for me to say that this is a movie you really have to see.
The story had two, simultaneous climaxes which I both thought didn't quite work which aso doesn't help. The first was an odd tie-up of the semi-plot regarding the girls imagining Nagiko's early life, I just didn't think it was necessary at all and had a really forced "message" to it (plus it seemed like the story was trying to make Kiiko happier, ie there can be good in life, to balance out what was happening to Shinko, ie that life can be messy and hard). The second "realistic" subplot came out of practically no where and had this very odd, messy feeling to it, like events happened but I had a hard time believing that even a single one would have happened the way it did, much less connected. I know that this movie is based off of a memoir and I'm really curious how these particular events all played out there. Were we missing some build-up that the author realized in hindsight?
Honestly this makes me not-so-keen on director Sunao Katabuchi's in-production work To All The Corners Of The World. Not only am I a bit tired of WWII stories (as I alluded to in Giovanni's Island) but since I was so unsatisfied with the wrap-up of both slice of life plot lines here I don't really want to see him tackle it again!