Studio Ponoc’s new anime lacks imagination

Produced by Studio Ponoc, the film is directed by Yoshiyuki Momose (a former Studio Ghibli animator) and written by Yoshiaki Nishimura (a former Studio Ghibli producer), and is based on a series of popular British children’s novels from the past decade. Imagination undermines much of its breathless narration of the imagination by tracing the footsteps of the giants of children’s entertainment in a transparent and schematic way. It opens by introducing us to a pastel-colored, Ghibli-esque English town where a lonely but free-spirited girl named Anna (voiced by Suzuki Rio in the Japanese version and Evie Kissel in the English version) lives with her hardworking single mother in a quaint, family-run bookstore. Anna has quite the imagination, as we see when she puts on her favorite tune and magic literally emanates from the CD player, followed by garishly animated fantasy scenes that literally transform her real-world surroundings into a colorful (albeit mundane) fantasy world. First, there’s Christmasland in the attic, complete with reindeer, sleighs and yetis.

But the story isn’t told from Amanda’s point of view; in fact, she spends most of the time off-screen. The main character is Rudgar (Terada Kokoro in Japanese, Louis Rudge Buchanan in English), who appears as a blonde-haired boy, but is actually a literal imaginary friend of Anna’s imaginary reality. All Rudgar wants is to play with Amanda, but when a traumatic event separates him from his childhood, he discovers a parallel world of imaginary friends, some of whom are almost human. They can all see and communicate with each other. In Pixar’s eerie style, Monsters Inc and Inside OutThe collective unconscious is actually a tightly controlled post-industrial workforce in which “imaginary beings” report to a boss and receive work assignments from an app-like UI that rents out mercenary labor as playmates for young children. Rudger wants to be reunited with Amanda, but for reasons that don’t make entirely sense (though it could make sense), he is constrained by the rules and procedures of the imaginary business model as he continues his quest.

In fact, an inexplicable amount of time ImaginationThe middle part of is spent laying down the legal rules and regulations of the imaginary friendship. This is mostly done through heaps of verbose exposition as bright colors flash on the screen and Teletubby-like characters dance and play in a variety of whimsical but unmemorable settings (a samurai castle, a vague spaceship fantasy, etc.). Fantasy characters must stay within a certain range of their assigned child, or they will run out of imagination and start to disappear into a golden glow. Children create fantasy characters. If a child forgets about them, they return to the fantasy hub and can be reassigned (sometimes, but not always, as in neo-from-the-world).matrixImaginary friends sometimes morph into other imaginary friends. When an imaginary friend dies in fantasy (the “imagination”), he or she dies in the imaginary world. In fact, we are expected to feel anger or pity when an adult character explains to a child that their imaginary friends aren’t real, because we know they are real from our subjective experience, even though the film explains that they are imaginary. Screenplays contain a huge amount of plot, not to mention that the stakes are not always clear.

Great fiction that deals with the child’s imagination tends to abstract and contextualize its fantasies through metaphors of folklore and myth, as in some of Miyazaki Hayao’s films. Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro In particular, they present a reality that is richly ambiguous and fluid, in keeping with the vague boundaries of children’s minds. For example, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes Pixar constantly teases the reader with the Schrödinger’s cat paradox, which asks whether the sarcastic stuffed tiger in six-year-old Calvin’s world is real or unreal. Pixar’s method of literally anthropomorphizing the objects, toys, animals, vehicles, and fantasy creatures associated with humans at least serves to alienate the world of the audience, gently mocking the utilitarian, anthropocentric worldview of industrial capitalism. Imagination It seems to be aiming at all these angles at once, and in doing so it descends into a confusing irreverence: rather than accepting the free-flowing emotional logic of a child’s imagination or contextualizing it into a coherent worldview, Momose and Nishimura seek to assault the audience by industrializing the unconscious. Inceptionstyle, a make-believe world with a convoluted plot and nonsensical make-believe rules, and characters who are literally make-believe within the context of the story. Why? The age group most interested in watching a pink hippo pilot a toy spaceship will not be able to keep up with such nonsensical stories, and will not be deeply revelatory if they are bluntly told how precious their imaginations are. (They already know this, they live it.)

They would also probably be uncomfortable with some of the imagery and themes featured in the film. Imagination The movie doesn’t just feature pink hippos, it features dead parents, kids who get run over and shot by cars, and a pedophile villain named “Mr. Bunting” (played by Issey Ogata/Jeremy Swift). Mr. Bunting is the link between the fantasy and human worlds, a plump, bald, mustachioed middle-aged man dressed in business casual who chases kids home, blends in with their parents, and literally sniffs out and eats their imaginary friends with his oversized nose and mouth. Mr. Bunting has an imaginary friend who has the supernatural ability to find and capture other imaginary friends, and in a symbolic and cryptic reference that kids will love, that friend is a lookalike of Sadako from Star Wars: Episode I: The Last Jedi. ringThe film’s most visually inventive scenes are actually Bunting’s grotesque, demonic transformations and the transformations he imposes on his surroundings, turning solid textures like wallpaper and skin into liquid quagmires and otherworldly swirls floating in his shark-like gaping maw. These are the parts that really show off the caliber of Momose’s animation. Princess Mononoke and Spirited AwayIn both works, the darker aspects of the story blend easily into the grandiose mythological settings. Imagination (The pink hippo part) could easily be dismissed as “baby-friendly” by anyone approaching the age of 10.

This is a bigger problem Imagination: Anime is very keen to make visible the careers and inspirations of its creators, but it is rarely compared and praised. Momose’s soft, rounded, quasi-realistic character designs are clearly reminiscent of Ghibli, while his combination of vibrant colours and innovative shading techniques creates a dollhouse-like three-dimensionality that he calls his own style. But the differences in direction are striking. The clean, airbrushed images have none of the painterly depth or contrast of the films of Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata that Momose brings to life. The mundane movements of the human characters are largely formulaic and statuesque, without the meticulously studied specificity or delicate fluidity. While his masters, more influenced by adult dramas than Disney, planned shots and scenes, sometimes patiently, to bring the audience to life with the worlds of their films, Momose follows Hollywood conventions, cutting formally to highlight the action of each scene’s key storyline and nothing more. The frolicking inhabitants of fantasy worlds – tiny skeletons, anthropomorphic eggs and sunflowers – are nowhere near Gothic, myth-inspired creativity. Spirited Awaythe supernatural creations of the characters as they enter the textureless, vague world of children. Buck RogersIt’s a sci-fi fantasy of the ilk, but it doesn’t come close to the angular, baroque alien world visited by Spaceman Spiff. The film’s aggressively preachy sentimentality and evocations of childish whimsy embrace the caricatured sappiness that even Ghibli’s most popular hits have managed to avoid, but the onslaught of arbitrary stakes and schematic storylines seems to thoughtlessly trample the whimsy and leave it broken in the middle of the road. The end credits are accompanied by an excruciatingly slow duet with a chorus of characters singing, “There’s a place where nothing is impossible!” (This English-language atrocity is on Netflix, clearly hoping for a family hit, but Studio Ghibli’s work remains tantalizingly fixated on Max.)

The film isn’t for lack of effort, nor is the crew at Studio Ponoc lacking in talent (as is evident in the short film anthology). Humble Hero). but Imagination The film seems decidedly lacking in the very qualities that one breathlessly praises: technical ability without imaginative vision, and a deep understanding of children.

Imagination is in theaters now and will be available on Netflix on July 5th.

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