Ever since the original Toy Story came out, Computer Generated imagery has ruled the big-screen animation output in the west. Fantastic as some of these films may have been, for lovers of the art of traditional animation, it’s hard not to feel something has been lost. Luckily for 2D fans, Japan has continued to fly the flag of traditional animation, even while incorporating the latest digital techniques. There have been a few Japanese studios who have tried to take anime into three dimensions, but the results have been at best, mixed. Enter Oblivion Island, the latest CGI anime to see release in the UK.
Oblivion Island has a better chance than most, coming from the legendary Production I.G. The studio has been pushing forward Japanese animation for more than two decades, but this is their first shot at a fully CG feature.
The film follows sixteen year-old Haruka, who having lost her mother at an early age has a rocky relationship with her father. Heading to a shrine for a good teenage sulking session, she encounters a fox-like creature named Teo and follows him through a magical portal. There she finds Oblivion Island, inhabited by the fox-thingies and built from people’s lost property. From then on she sets off on an adventure to try and find the lost mirror that was left to her late mother, before the villainous Baron can get to it first!
You might have guessed from the plot synopsis that this is aimed at a younger age group than your usual Production I.G release. If you’re looking for explosions, robots and fan-service then you’ve come to the wrong place. On the other hand if it’s good, clean family entertainment you’re after then Oblivion Island more than fits the bill.
It’s a pretty simple story – Alice in Wonderland meets the Wombles – but a solid one, so if you have little people to entertain you can’t go far wrong. It’s not afraid to go into emotional territory either; Haruka’s mother’s death is not just brushed under the carpet, but dealt with in believable terms you don’t often see in kids’ movies. It’s nothing worse than you’ll see in the first ten minutes of Pixar’s Up, but it’s still impressively handled.
Visually the film is a treat, with gorgeous animation and design that look fantastic on Blu-ray. The characters look great, pulling off the ‘anime in three dimensions’ look with real panache. Oblivion Island itself is wonderfully detailed and imaginatively designed, constructed from the objects people have lost and long forgotten.
This arrived without much hype or buzz, so you might be forgiven for suspecting the worse. In fact though it turned out to be something of a pleasant surprise. This is easily the best attempt at CGI anime we’ve seen so far. While it may not be giving Pixar any restless nights just yet, it certainly shows a lot of promise. Overall this is cracking family entertainment, and an enjoyable watch for just about any fan of animation.