Anime Expo 2018 held the US premiere of Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, an anime film by P.A. Works. Having always been a big fan of Mari Okada, screenwriter and director of the movie, I was also fascinated with the plot itself. To this day, I have yet to hear a story where it follows the journey of a girl, ageless and naturally resistant to the flow of time, who adopts a normal human boy. So excited I was for the premiere, I literally dashed my way to the showing so I would not miss having good seats.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms takes place in a fantasy world of kingdoms and castles. There lives the Iorph people, a unique clan of people whose bodies are resistant to the tests of time, remaining forever young. They are hidden away from the rest of the world, spending their days in beautiful peace and weaving their histories and stories within unique fabric. However, their lives descend into chaos as the humans invade their land. Maquia, an orphaned Iorph, is forcefully separated from the rest of her people. Frightened and alone, she finds companionship with an orphaned baby boy and decides to raise him as her own child. This is a story of a mother who never ages, and a boy whose time begins to catch up.
I have personally always been biased towards stories that focus on love beyond the romantic shade. Love is a complicated emotion with many dimensions and many angles, and so often the stories only like to focus on one. The bond between a mother and a child is arguably one of the most powerful and most unbreakable love in the history of humanity, yet it is rarely portrayed or focused upon in media. So for the movie to focus on something so powerful and so internationally understandable yet so rarely explored immediately elevated my opinion of the story.
Unfortunately, I am here to give you all an honest opinion on the movie without spoiling the actual story. With something so complicated yet so simple at the center of everything, I simply cannot go into too much detail. As a result, all I will say is that the emotions of motherly love and familial love run deep and are portrayed so painfully yet lovingly accurate that its effects continued to linger over the audience even after the showing. In fact, when fans were given a chance to ask questions to Mari Okada, they instead chose to share their own stories about how the movie reminded them of their mothers, their fathers, and even their beloved pets. They were stories that made the audience members cry all over again, and stories that made Mari Okada cry as she shares her own experiences and what the movie means for her personally.
Without a doubt, there are flaws to the story as every story will always contain imperfections. One I found is the use of coincidences. Sometimes things happen just because of being there at the right time. Though there were only two or three instances of it, as an experienced anime viewer, I cannot help but question the validity of storytelling when things simply “happen” without anything to backup these situations.
Another flaw is the translation of Japanese into English. At times the audience chuckles at a scene that is not even meant to be funny because the words translated had a funnier connotation to it than it might’ve been in Japanese. Other times, the script was confusing. I know from personal experience that subtleties in connotations are simply lost in translation and cannot be reclaimed. In fact, when I translated the Japanese into Chinese, I found the “confusing” lines understandable and the “funnier” lines not funny at all. Even though this is an unavoidable situation, it does bite into the experience as viewers can’t help but get confounded by lines that simply sound weird or don’t make sense in the context of the story and the characters.
However, at the heart of it all, these flaws matter little to the execution of the story and the underlying theme that accompanies the movie. I love it just as much with these imperfections. I also loved all the main characters. They were complex, realistic, and well-portrayed by their fellow voice actors. And though I could sense that some of the viewers were annoyed with Ariel, the boy Maquia adopts, I personally emphasized with him as a character. Just imagining myself as someone who grows older as my own mother continues to remain young is not only confusing but, in a sense, painful. His demeanor and actions might be undesirable as the audience learns to love and support Maquia, but they are realistic to not only the circumstance but also his teenager age. The only characters I actively disliked were the antagonists who invaded the Iorph’s peace in the first place. It’s to the point that I literally wanted to see them engulfed in flames. Granted, as they are antagonists, this could only mean that they played the part well.
Story and characters aside, this movie is a masterpiece just on visuals alone. The animation is fluid, the backgrounds are meticulously detailed and accurate to the fantasy time period, and the character art as well as costumes piece themselves perfectly into an artwork that paints the movie screen. The orchestral music enhances all the work and details, and I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best animated anime movies I have seen in a while.
There is a beauty in the simplicity of 2D art that can no longer be found today in animated movies from Hollywood. It is through this 2D animation that created one of the most awe inspiring movie scenes that I have ever experienced on the big screen. The interconnection of separate events as they blended together left me literally shaking uncontrollably in my seat from adrenaline and attests to the power of emotions that drawn art can elicit from people. I can only hope that the western audience will admire and love the medium just as much as Asians had growing up.
All in all, I think every element Maquia utilizes in its story, characters, and visuals create a movie that can be talked about for years and years to come. I highly recommend everyone to go watch this series and support the hard work that P.A Works, Mari Okada, and the rest of the team have put in to share with the world.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms hits US theaters starting July 20th. Please check out the Eleven Arts website for release date as well as the showing location for your state.