Haruka and the Magic Mirror
Have you ever lost something, and you turn the whole house upside down trying to find it, and yet, it still doesn't turn up and you're endlessly frustrated, shaking your fist in he air?
Well, maybe the fox took it, while chanting "you neglect, we collect."
Oblivion Island clearly looks like a first attempt by Production IG to produce a "Pixar-like" children's film that can be enjoyed by children, parents, and teenagers equally. It's an unusual combination of 3D animation, hand-drawn backgrounds, animatic techniques, and "Wizard of Oz" magic, but in a uniquely Japanese way, it ends up looking a little Miyazaki-ish, but not enough that Studio Ghibli has to worry. But to be fair, it doesn't feel 3D-ish either, and this may be due to the wonderful backgrounds, which have a real oil-painting beauty to them.
The story involves a young girl's search for her hand-mirror that leads her down the rabbit hole to a whole unknown world. In other words, it's not "Alice through the Looking Glass" it's Alice looking for her looking glass... sorta.
Haruka, a latch-key-kid from single parent household who has a strained relationship with her father as a result of his long working hours, seeks to reconnect with the memory of her mother, who had given her this hand-mirror that's now misplaced. When she sees a fox-spirit take her keys while she's at a Shinto Temple, she follows the fox into the world ruled by "The Baron", where all this misplaced stuff goes.
The fox turns out to be Teo, who reluctantly agrees to help find the mirror with her. Mirrors in this world contain some kind of magic, which leads them into one adventure after the next as the search progresses. The touching climax resolves many issues that were brought up within the film, and ultimately it was enjoyable.
However, the mirror and the plot around it play second fiddle to the real charm of the film which is the unique and unusual world these characters inhabit, created entirely out of things other people have discarded or lost or misplaced. There's a moral to the madness, which is that if you want to keep something, don't forget where you've put it, or it will become lost.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2012
Below: Scenes from Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror .