Welcome to the next double feature! This time, we are looking at two foreign animated films. The first is one that was previously reviewed as a part of the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon and originally posted over at my co-host Drew’s Movie Reviews’s blog for Your Name. The second is a Chinese animated film by Light Chaser Animation Studios called The Guardian Brothers (on Netflix, but called Little Door Gods everywhere else), which is their debut movie from the studio before getting to one of my favorite movies of 2019, White Snake (review).
Your Name. (2016)
Director (and writer): Makoto Shinkai
Voice Cast (English ver.): Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh, Kyle Hebert, Cassandra Morris, Ben Pronsky, Ray Chase, Laura Post, Glynis Ellis, Catie Harvey, Scott Williams
Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart? – IMDB
There’s no doubt that when we think of Japanese animated films, Studio Ghibli is the first one that gets the most recognition. Yet in the sea of Japanese anime, there’s a lot of smaller films with a lot of great ideas that are starting to appear on the international film market and Your Name is one that definitely had a lot of recognition when it was released. Adapted from director Makoto Shinkai’s novel of the same name which was published only one month prior to the film’s premiere, Your Name stands out because of all its elements being done very well: story full of reveals and twists, emotional moments, music score and of course, its rich animation.
Your Name has incredibly rich animation. Each scene has a lot of intricate details. Whether its setting up how the sunlight beams through a scene or how the night sky and the comet and lights contrast in its night scenes, every scene is set up to look beautifully authentic, especially in its outdoors nature scene that almost looks like a realistic snapshot full of colors, instead of an animation. Paired with its music score by Radwimps which runs fittingly throughout all the scenes, especially during the montage moments between the two main leads and the little things that happen to go through time quickly, it adds so much to each scene and tone.
The story here written by the director Makoto Shinkai is based on his own novel which makes it even more of a personal offering and easier to portray the film the way that he wants. Your Name carries a rather complex story packed with swapping bodies, time elements and a few surprises along the way. Its execution is possibly the most important element put to the test in order to make each of its reveals timed perfectly to make it have the most impact and Shinkai does it so masterfully that it manages to make each one unpredictable and pulls the story into another direction and packing in a lot of emotions and tugging some heartstrings as this is at the centre of it all, a love story by the end. At the same time, props to Shinkai who also starts off the story in a light and fun way of introducing these two characters, Taki and Mitsuha with their different backgrounds, locations and genders who learn to discover each other physically and emotionally, adding a lot of charm and humor. At the same time, every supporting character also has its own purpose in propelling the story forward and making sure that some conversations help explain the odd predicament that they find themselves in.
Overall, Your Name is an outstanding animated film. While I only managed to listen to the English version and would have preferred to see the original Japanese version with English subtitles instead, the story doesn’t lose anything because it has some unique ideas and excels in so many elements that put together, it becomes a memorable movie experience. Yet again proving that 2010s brings forward an eye-opening offering of international films and expands into some unique ideas outside of the big American studios like Disney and Pixar offerings.
The Guardian Brothers (小门神 , 2016)
Directors: Gary Wang & Paulette Victor-Lifton
Voice Cast (Eng. Version): Dan Fogler, Edward Norton, Bella Thorne, Nicole Kidman, Mel Brooks, Meryl Streep, Steve French, Cristina Pucelli
There’s a crisis in the Chinese Spirit World — humans don’t believe in gods anymore! A Door God, facing unemployment, ventures into the human world to prove his worth, leading to unexpected encounters and transformations for humans and spirits alike. – IMDB
Much like its recent film offering, Light Chaser Animation Studios creates stories that play with certain Chinese beliefs, traditions as well as stories. In this one, it uses the belief of spiritual guardians just like how American movies would use Santa Claus and the loss in belief, affect the future in the human world and pulling the two worlds together. At the same time, it also surrounds the story during Chinese New Year and a familiar tale of a creature called Nian that is the origins of why many Chinese New Year traditions are now used like firecrackers and such. Light Chaser Studios, using these source material, creates a rather fun story which is very much fittingly a fantasy comedy and has equal doses of both, while still managing to add some family drama in between of a mother and daughter relationship and carrying on their family restaurant against the more popular commercial restaurant.
The English version of The Guardian Brothers is packed with a great cast. Right off the bat, Meryl Streep has a unique voice that I’ve always loved and she does a stellar job as the narrator which carries the story really well. The brothers are voiced by Dan Fogler and Edward Norton who fittingly also has one who is more funny and the other much more serious respectively. While Bella Thorne definitely does show up in a lot of different movies more and more and her voicing the role of a little girl, Rain really has its own fun. I talked about her roles a little when I reviewed Midnight Sun (review) and yet again, it is wonderful to see her take on something other than the norm and further breaks her out of this acting box that she was stuck in for a while. Of course, it does help that Nicole Kidman is casted to voice her mother. Of course, I can’t leave this without talking about the villain or just the evil corporate businessman voiced by Mel Brooks, which really is present but more as hurdles and gets whats coming to him as with most animated films aimed towards children (maybe not too young as some darker elements here and there) do to emphasize the importance of being good.
If there was anything to criticize for this one, it might be just the pacing and at times the execution feels like the story jumps around a little too much that pads out what could be a fairly straight forward story. However, the animation is really colorful and imaginative. It manages to grab a good color palette suitable to the atmosphere and what is going on. Its a nice offering and one that is incredibly suitable for Chinese New Year (which was actually when I first watched it not knowing that it was a Chinese New Year movie).
That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these animated films?