Director: Mari Okada
Production: P.A Works
Distributor: All the Anime
Platform: Reviewing the Blu-ray Version
Release Date: Out Now
Around the time I saw A Silent Voice, I also watched Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, another fantastic anime film which impresses with style and substance. So, as I did my first 500 word review on the former, I’m following up with one for Maquia!
The film opens with smart, snappily-paced world-building; in this fantastical reality, Iolph is home to the Iorph, a long-living species that maintain youthful appearances over their centuries of existence. They’re skilled weavers of Hibiol, a precious material with an abstract quality of documenting time. Sadly, there are those after these traits for their own means; invaders from Mezarte break into this wondrous locale and forcefully take Leilia (Ai Kayano). In the chaos, the young Iorph Maquia (Manaka Iwami) is unwittingly separated from the others as she evades capture.
In an unfamiliar locale, Maquia discovers a child stranded in the arms of his deceased mother. With determined spirit, she takes it upon herself to be a maternal figure for this child, named Ariel (Miyu Irino – who voices Shôya in A Silent Voice, how’s that for a coincidence?!). The following years are relatively peaceful; they’re taken in by a farmer family, providing Maquia with further human support. It’s an endearing section of the film, where we gain empathy for these characters before emotional friction arises as Maquia grows up at a visibly different pace to those around her.
The Iorph warn themselves not to get invested in human relationships, due to how the difference in lifespan shall likely cause heartbreak. For Maquia, the most evident visual change is her hair turning sunset orange/brown (see image above), but for Ariel, he is growing into a young man and dealing with conflicting thoughts about Maquia as a mother and a female; it’s handled delicately, with no scenes being unnecessarily provocative.
Elsewhere, we see how other scattered Iorph are handling themselves, as an ambitious and dramatic plan brews to save Leilia from her imprisonment. The insight into different situations and perspectives adds depth to the family themes, but I’ll that none of these dynamics are as well-developed as that of Maquia and Ariel, and the film suffers for it at points.
Visually, Maquia is very proficient, but I’d say it lacks that final edge of refinement that, say, Your Name has. It just appears a smidgen dated, but still, it’s often beautiful, especially when using the visual motif of weaving. The music is traditionally elegant, with a soft, melodic feel carried throughout.
If it isn’t clear yet, the idea of family is central to Maquia, in particular the many alternate forms it can take from generation to generation. Not all the relationships are given as much attention as that of Maquia and Ariel, which slightly limits the impact of certain plot events and their subsequent payoff later on. However, the overriding commentary on relatable relationships is interwoven with a world of magical possibility, one which sweeps you up for a journey speaking to how family goes beyond any one person.