Review: Ni no kuni (2019)


Ni no kuni (2019)

Directed by: Yoshiyuki Momose | 106 minutes | animation, action | Original voice cast: Kento Yamazaki, Mamoru Miyano, Kenjiro Tsuda, Maaya Sakamoto, Kouichi Yamadera, Yuki Kaji

First there was the game. Then there was the sequel to the game. Then there was the movie, in the form of a sequel to the game sequel. Complicated? Just wait until you read the plot.

In the Japanese anime ‘Ni no Kuni’ we meet three school friends: Haro (m), Yu (m) and Kotona (f). Haru is Kotona’s boyfriend, but the disabled Yu is also madly in love with her. The friends’ lives are suddenly turned upside down when Kotona is attacked by a creepy apparition, after which Haru and Yu disappear from Earth and appear in a whole new universe.

This new world is a fantasy land with medieval features. There are inns, castles and knights. But there are also talking dogs, life-sized cats and all kinds of strange creatures, including a pole-dancing elf type. That world is ruled by an old king. His daughter Astrid resembles Kotona, the friend who left Yu and Haro in a coma on Earth. Stranger still, everything that happens on Earth affects what happens in the other universe and vice versa.

Complicated all, but in a film of almost 2 hours still reasonable to follow. Those who are less interested in the story can marvel at the beautiful fairytale animation. Beautiful use of color, fantastic architecture and a kind of swept clean medieval decor with shiny paths and smooth wide roads. That the animations are completely in the Ghibli style is not surprising. Although studio Ghibli did not produce this film, they did make the games on which the film is based.

In terms of atmosphere, style and adventure, it is therefore good. The story is less successful. During the first half of the film we continuously switch worlds and characters. There are exciting scenes, funny events and there is even a romantic interlude. There is no change in the second half. It is entirely devoted to the (much too) grand finale. A war breaks out in the new world and there is (too) much clattering of weapons and (too) much explanation about how the fork works exactly.

Just as the set consists of two completely different worlds, there is also a world of difference between the two halves of the film. Enjoying the first part, checking your clock too often in the second. Careful recommendation then.