GKIDS & Shout! Factory
Sept 1, 2020
I’m sure the themes of life, death and rebirth play into the cinematic adaptation of Daisuke Igarashi’s manga series, Children of the Sea. The story simply begins on how Ruka gets kicked to the grind. She’s a bit of an outcast and being with others really doesn’t bode well for her. One troubled incident leads her to be kicked out of summer activities at school and having a crisis of faith.
Mom is no help (she’s an alcoholic) and Dad is too busy at work. He’s been “recruited” by the military to study the strange happenings going on with aquatic life in the seaside town they live in, and they somehow involve Umi and Sora. They’re slightly older boys and a relationship develops between the three.
If it wasn’t for the reveal that they are Lost Boys, found at sea, I’d assume this modern fantasy would follow along a path visually similar to Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea. Dugongs helped keep these boys safe and I was quick to assume they may be a merman. These mammals were thought to have inspired these aquatic legends. Their relationship to the selkie is one reason why I believe this anime and the Irish movie share similar DNA. This film is more about the relationships humanity has with the world at large and less about how we, as individuals, engage with one another. The conflict introduced between Ruka and a classmate was intentional. Though we understand less about this tween and her mom—there was hardly any development offered—we do get to discover how she is with dad.
This anime’s dissertation on how some families fall apart and eventually recover offers food for thought. While this is happening, Runa, Umi and Sora spend more time together; eventually they take the young lady on a trip to Neverland. Where they go is called the Festival and I am sure there’s no real oceanic equivalent.
While the last act is most likely to fly past the heads of many, I got a sense of what director Ayumu Watanabe and writer Hanasaki Kino were after in this adaptation of the manga. The Polynesian granny only told me about what’s still to come–a very careful look at our relationship with nature. In this story’s case, it’s with the sea and what it provides. The best line of dialogue in the subtitles has to be, “Memories, time, and spirits pass one another in a typhoon.”
There’s more than just an Australian Aboriginal connection with the Altjira (The Dreaming). I’m sure some Polynesian cosmology is involved too, but to understand the meaning in this climax means reading the manga rather than watching the film. I understood the kaleidoscope of visual metaphors being used. It’s not only one very trippy sequence about birth and resurrection in the same style as End of Evangelion, but also knowing how time collides from Chris Nolan’s Interstellar.
To get the most out of understanding this anime, I recommend watching the companion documentary, Turep – Looking for Children of the Sea, that comes with this home video release. This work does the job of explaining the environmental impact the anime wanted to extol.
5 Stars out of 5