Went to see this yesterday. I have conflicting thoughts on it.
For one, this film made the lines between a “Studio Ghibli film” and a “Hayao Miyazaki film” very clear. This was directed by Miyazaki, but not Hayao: it was his son, Goro. The animation is there (we get the classic Ghibli delicious food and big goop tears) and the backgrounds are gorgeous, but the story was less… climactic.
The story was fairly typical and the stakes never seemed high. The main characters are on a quest to save the school’s clubhouse (which is a wonderful set piece and the best part of the movie: dozens of school clubs all meeting and working simultaneously in one huge mansion, I would watch a TV series about that place). Meanwhile, the female lead learns about her family and tries to come to terms with her father’s death in the Korean War.
It takes place in 1963 Japan in a high school and contains no fantastical elements. As a result, the majesty of the artwork seemed wasted. I realize this is a negative reflection on a film only when held within a specific context, but I kept thinking “Give us some giant wolves, already!” I had to come to terms with the grounded, day-in-the-life plot to allow myself to enjoy it. There’s some great music that kept me intrigued, but I occasionally found myself anxiously waiting for the next plot element.
There are elements that seem unnecessary (it was based off a graphic novel, so maybe they were important in the book) and points where the plot seems stalled, then quickly moves along through montage (something that always bothers me, though I understand it is often required). It also lacks a certain level of comedy I’ve grown to expect from the studio. I recommend it for Ghibli completists or people intrigued by the concept, but not for anyone else.
Two stars? I guess? It’s hard to say. These movies are never a waste of time. Also, I saw it with subtitles, which I regret: when it’s animation, I generally favor dubbed over subs. (Live action should always be subtitled, though. Dubbed live-action looks absurd.)
I’d like to hear what other people thought, though.