This is a wonderful animated film. It serves as a prequel to the live action film Hana and Alice, which was released in 2004. I have not seen the live action film but this animated film makes me want to watch it. The prequel shows how Hana and Alice become friends. The story initially focuses solely on Alice who is fourteen years old. She is a new transfer student having recently moved to the boonies. The girl next door spies on her, which she obviously finds unsettling. That’s not where it stops as Alice encounters even more weirdness at her new school where the students believe a particular desk is cursed because a former student named Judas who sat there was murdered but nobody knows for sure who did it. The girl next door is revealed to be Hana who knew Judas and eventually she and Alice team up to solve it.
The strongest aspect of this film is the friendship that develops between Hana and Alice and the sort of mini adventures and trouble they get into while trying to investigate the mystery, which is personal to Hana. It’s not something of great consequence but the hijinks they get into is often super hilarious. It’s so easy to relate and care for these characters. There’s also a touching moment between the two as Hana reveals a very personal story to Alice which cements their friendship. The girls are quirky and full of energy with witty dialogue. Alice’s mom is also a source of humor early in the film before Hana becomes more prominent in the story.
The animation and artwork are great. The backgrounds in particular are very lovely and detailed. It really looks like Japan and is very colorful. I like the way the characters are drawn, they’re somewhat simple but still expressive going for a more realistic style (no giant anime eyes here thank goodness). I’m not sure if the entire film used rotoscoping but certainly there are a lot of realistic movements, particularly the slow-mo running scene and some of the beautiful but brief ballet sequences too. From the visuals to the characters, this charming film easily gets a full recommendation.
Seen in the theatre at Fantasia 2015