Now Available on Home Video
Shout! Studios & GKIDS
Fans of Mizuki Tsujimura‘s Japanese fantasy book are more likely to purchase the animated adaptation of Lonely Castle in the Mirror than others, and honestly, I feel it shouldn’t be avoided. It deals with a difficult narrative in how to deal with life when it deals you lemons. It’s not just about bullying. And what’s taught here is that there are ways to find empowerment.
Although what’s shown doesn’t get deep into self-improvement, perhaps I should look at Tomo Taketomi’s manga instead. This movie follows the misery Kokoro (Ami Tôma) faces daily. She’s been teased, intimidated and perhaps more. With nowhere to retreat, how she manages at home is equally isolating, and it’s a shame.
But one day, a magical mirror appears in her room, and its ability to take her to a castle where she can feel safe (hence the title). The concept is sort of like The Breakfast Club. She finds others who have been granted a portal to this safe house. Aki (Sakura Kiryu), Rion (Takumi Kitamura), Subaru (Rihito Itagaki), Fūka (Naho Yokomizo), Masamune (Minami Takayama) all have some kind of troubled life, and it’s up to them to support each other if they’re going to make it. While much of this melodrama makes for a long film, only one can be granted a wish to either take it all away, have a second chance or something else. But they have to locate the key in order to be granted that.
As for the others, they can be eaten by the big bad wolf or something else happens. Lonely Castle in the Mirror recognizes that to be bullied is tough. To find someone who can help, perhaps be their inspiration, isn’t easy. It’s all about trust. And the friendships formed are more at the heart of this film than anything else. Despite the heavy topic that drives this narrative, I hoped some John Hughes style moments would lighten things up. Sadly, there wasn’t any.
However, what’s said by a mysterious young girl wearing a wolf’s mask is scary. She’s like a gatekeeper, and enough isn’t revealed about why she’s the mistress of the lonely castle. Anyone who breaks the house rules will be eaten by her! They’re all required to “play the game,” and have a full year to locate the key. When Aki proves she doesn’t want to continue, her fate is, well…..
One detail I must have missed is in how they can’t stay overnight here. At home, they have nothing to live for, but here, they’re able to be themselves and grow as people. These moments are more meaningful than being on a quest, but if the performance can’t sell it, I had trouble understanding. Even with another view, I feel the issue lies with how I could relate with these seven characters.
Had this home video release included a featurette interviewing directors Keiichi Hara and Takakazu Nagatomo explaining the film, I’d appreciate Lonely Castle in the Mirror a lot more. This work is not like Miss Hokusai, a historical drama I adore. As a video rental or title to stream, I wouldn’t hesitate to check it out. To own it, it depends if you’re a fan of this print version or not.
3 Stars out of 5