Giovanni’s Island / ジョバンニの島 / Giovanni no Shima (2014)
Director: Mizuho Nishikubo
Screenplay: Shigemichi Sugita, Yoshiki Sakurai
Cast: Kota Yokoyama, Polina Ilyushenko, Junya Taniai, Yukie Nakama, Yusuke Santamaria
The story occurs, soon after World War II, on a small island off the coast of Japan’s mainland. Two young brothers, Junpei and Kanta spend their time playing and exploring the island but that soon ends when Russian soldiers arrive on the shore and occupy the island. The Russian commander’s family takes up the main household, relegating Junpei’s family to live in the stable with their horse. Junpei soon meets the commander’s daughter Tanya, despite obvious language differences they quickly form a friendship. However, the deportation of the Japanese to internment camps means such a friendship will not last.
It seems like whenever I’m in awe of the backgrounds or visuals in an animated film, I can never find many words to describe it. Trust me, this is worth seeing on the big screen if you have the opportunity. The visuals often enhanced by lighting effects and other digital effects but there are some breathtaking images of the island and also nicely executed fantasy sequences. Less impressive are the character designs. I found Junpei and Kenta to look a bit too cartoonish for such a serious story but I ended up getting used to it.
Story-wise the movie is very solid. Much of the joy comes in seeing Junpei and Tanya interact but it of course leads to sadness. This is a story that becomes bleaker and colder as the brothers must deal with harsher conditions. This is reflected in the weather, the film starts off nice and sunny but towards the end, the brothers are trudging thought the freezing winter snow. The emotional moments are well earned although the ending is a bit contrived for the sake of emotion but that’s a pretty minor criticism in the grand scheme of things. This is definitely a recommended watch for animation fans.