Cinema-Maniac: Animal Crossing: The Movie (2008) Review

In the world of video game movie adaptations the existence of an ‘Animal Crossing’ movie escaped my knowledge. I never played the video games therefore never followed the franchise, but to those who haven’t either here some condense background. ‘Animal Crossing’ is a video game franchise developed and published by (the almighty) Nintendo. It’s a popular series made famous by it’s opened ended gameplay in which players have no defined objectives, but are instead encouraged to spend their time in the village performing any number of activities, which include collecting items, planting plants or other items, and socializing with the village’s residents. A life simulator that isn’t known exactly for its plot, yet work s as a fun and relaxing film even if it doesn’t have a cohesive story.

Animal Crossing: The Movie is about Ai, a self-reliant girl that moves to Animal Village. Simplicity is the route taken with a slice of life format to its narrative. It’s not so much telling a story as it is stringing together a series of random scenes. This is made evident in the first twenty minutes of the film as Ai unwillingly accepts a job to make delivery in Animal Village literally minutes after arriving. Throughout her delivery run we’re introduced to a colorful cast of characters without tying this plot point to anything in the grand scheme of things. All the inhabitants in Animal Village have a kind heart even if at times the hard shells says otherwise. Giving off a sort of utopia vibe as the community provides a sense of welcome and warmth presence to anyone who visits. Inviting the viewer to just lose themselves in Animal Village. Something that’s easy to do with likable characters each with a charming quirk to them from the major whose lousy in publicizing himself for an election to a human boy who likes dressing up in different costumes. It’s easy to get lost in a film that is so welcoming with humor and drama added into the mixture. Flaws are apparent without requiring much thought to point them out. Like Ai (our protagonist) background is left vague and her motivation to move to Animal Village is not fleshed out. Conflict is non-existent in the film until the climax, but even then to resolve the conflict is voluntary with no consequences for the central characters nor any supporting characters involved. The same applies to introducing several subplots and leaving them hanging for long durations even going as far as forgetting to resolve a couple of them. Misdirecting lessons it was trying get across possibly being interpreted negatively.

The film has a chibi art style to which basically means all characters have over sized heads. Animals are anthropomorphic with human traits. Although it’s never made clear in regard to clothing as some animals wear clothes and other don’t for reasons left unexplained. Sure the animals don’t have genitalia, but they are still walking around naked. Color palette is lush and colorful. There’s hardly any usage of dark colors in the environment. Always looking pleasant even if the event in the plot says otherwise. Movement is minimalistic looking chopping at times. Backgrounds offer variety changing along with the according season in the film subtly showing the progression of time. Kazumi Totaka score normally gives the feel of a summer environment, with its use of mellow acoustic guitars, accordions, and bongo drums among others. Voice acting is nothing noteworthy. Yui Horie who voices Ai gets across the character innocence and eager personality. Sounding exactly like a ten year old would. Other voice actors are in the same line of playfulness in their performances. There’s a couple of voice actors (one of them oddly being director Takashi Miike) that speak regularly without exaggeration to their voices that work in the film more dramatic scenes. Compare to the other actors the less exaggerated voices don’t leave much of impression, but do appropriately add range in a energized cast.

Animal Crossing: The Movie doesn’t offer a cohesive story, but is a pleasant slice of life film. It has a cast of likable characters and the atmosphere is calming right down to the pleasant music. A cohesive story won’t be found in Animal Crossing: The Movie, but does serves as a nice distraction for anyone looking to lose themself in another world.

7/10

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