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Lonely Castle in the Mirror (2023) movie review

The Wolf Queen (Mana Ashida), a fierce, commanding little girl in a wolf mask, appears. She tells them that they have been selected to play a game. They all have about a year to find a key lying in the castle. Whoever finds the key is given a congratulation. But if someone breaks a rule, that person is eaten by a wolf as a death sentence. Throughout the year, Kokoro and her peers try to live their double lives freely, going to school one day at a time and then reuniting at the castle.

Based on the novel of the same name by Japanese writer Mizuki Tsujimura, this animated adaptation of The lonely castle in the mirror wears her good intentions on her sleeve. Its elements of fantasy and realism hold steady ground and offer a mature observation about the struggles of adolescence, including the cruelty teenagers face at school or at home and the deep loneliness that stems from such ingrained trauma.

Months deep into visiting the lonely castle, Kokomo learns that, like her, every teenager has little or no control over their lives or their environment. But the longer you spend there, the more it feels like a peer-led recovery group offering comfort and safety than an enchanted castle. When the movie details the other issues that everyone but Kokoro has, it swings from merely sad to horrifying.

Good animation from A1-Pictures (“Fairy Tail”, “Sword Art Online”) offers unique background scenery, some 3D shots and an attention to scale when the teenagers are against the massive halls of the castle. But despite the positives, there is hardly any justification for its overall presentation. Compared to “Fairy Tail” and the multi-featured “Sword Art Online,” “Lonely Castle” is a more subdued dramatic offering than A1-Pictures’ other features that often have vivid sheen. Regardless of genre and tone, The Lonely Castle was in desperate need of a shine.

In coming-of-age fantasy stories of similar tone and maturity, such as “The Chronicles of Narnia” or “Bridge to Terabithia,” a refreshing burst of whimsy that captures the joy of youth can balance the gloom of the everyday. And yet director Keiichi Hara lacks the potential to add a stylish factor that would have given weight to the film. The only decent time the animation is stunning is around the climax, which is already late.

The ensemble of teenagers are all quite likeable. But they lack much personality and complexity beyond their traumatic backgrounds, preventing them from feeling like a natural group of friends. Their camaraderie is weak, especially since their dialogue is basic conversation that fits stereotypical anime archetypes—the quiet type, the more confident sister type, the nervous type, the mysterious type, the aggressive type, and the romantic type. stereotype. the only activity is to work together to find a key. But as time passes, the mutual relationship between Kokoro and her teenage friends barely progresses.

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