Production Compony: Ajia-Do
What I love about anime is the fact that you never know what can be adapted, and what does get adapted is so creative. From manga, to anime, to video games galore there’s so many stories out there that anime can lend to….even the Magic Tree House children’s book series by Mary Pope Osborn.
This was my jam as a kid. For someone who didn’t like to read it really seduced me with the sense of adventure and time travel that can make a kid’s imagination explode. Each book covers a point in time, say the Dinosaurs or Medieval times, with the main characters Jack and Annie having an adventure and learning while doing so. Not only were these books so much fun to read, but I genuinely learned from them and their companion books that had just the cold hard facts.
This anime movie surprisingly keeps these values I loved about the series, and made my inner child smile like I had a plate full of steaming hot pancakes! I was actually surprised at how much I remembered from those books while watching this movie, and just based upon my vague memory I’d say the movie does a really great job adapting this treasure.
Jack is the big brother who loves to learn and is the being careful guy, while Annie is the rambunctious little sister that doesn’t have a sense of danger, but brings out Jack’s inner adventure spirit. The two play off each other very well, and as you journey with them through time you get some really heart felt moments. Like, no joke, I was starting to tear up at some parts.
You can tell that there was love put into this film, because when they want to show the innocence of these kids, or truly make your heart throb at some of the graphic imagery that the kids have to go through, it’s really impressive that they made a movie out of this concept. And to that I was going to ask where the hell was the West in adapting this series, however, I just read an article today that we apparently are making this a series so I guess my inner ranting fanboy will be pleased for now.
But on to the structure! Like I said before, the series addressed each time period in one book, with the series being over fifty books long, and this movie doesn’t just address the first book, but covers up to four books, specifically books 1,2,4,13 if you wanted to get really sweaty over it. And while I really liked the fact that we’re traveling to four different time periods in one movie, the biggest complaint I had was that we were traveling to four different time periods in one movie. They weren’t cramming all this in, and in fact it almost seemed like they were trying to stretch out the material, but each adapted book has the setup, dilemma, and climax, which means that I’m feeling five different set ups, one from each book and the over arching Morgan Le Fay, and five different conclusions which when you think about it feels like five mini movies loosely tied and put together.
After the second book was adapted I was starting to feel a little drained from two adventures, but by the time I finished the movie I will say that this movie feels longer than it actually is and sadly it’s because it adapted so much material in a way that makes you feel like you’re on a story roller coaster. But like I said, that was my only fault. If I wanted to be really nitpicky, I’d say Jack’s development at the end felt a little rushed and he needed some more time, but he’s a kid and kid’s change their minds and emotions like snapping your fingers so I’ll let that slide.
Sort of counteracting what I just stated, I do like that they give you a lot of time in each world. It really shows you just how much the animators were putting into this movie by showing as much authenticity as they did, while also addressing the different color pallets used for each era. Like the Dinosaur era had lots of colors, but they seemed dull. The Medieval era had lots of shadows and blacks mixed with fire light, and finally the Pirate era had tons of bright colors that popped off the screen, but trying this all back to my complaint with the movie, all these different color pallets also wears on your eyes and by the end your eyes feel assaulted from so much.
Why this still isn’t released in the West I have no idea. Especially since it would be a spectacular film to show to kids, especially the ones who have read the series, but even as an adult I will say that there are two scenes that are super heavy in this movie. By heavy I mean emotional for the characters, and for the viewer. In the Dinosaur era Jack and Annie are chased by a T-Rex, and to my astonishment it’s actually kind of scary. Numerous times the T-Rex nearly bites off Jack’s legs, and to kids I’m sure they would be scared upon seeing that too. Although, I grew up with Don Bluth films, and his films were super emotional so I guess if I turned out alright from them then kids can be alright with this.
However, there is a really mature epiphany in this movie when Jack and Annie visit Pompeii on its last day. Naturally kids don’t know the destruction and horrific nature that the people of Pompeii went through that day, but during their trip there Jack reads a book about how the people were covered in volcanic ash and their bodies have been preserved like that which made Jack have a break down. Totally a great moment, blew me away, but once again I’m wondering if it’s too powerful a thought for kids?
Either way, this movie has been a nostalgia trip. I have watched this many times, and if it would come out on Blu-Ray in the West I would snatch it up in a jiffy. Even if you didn’t grow up with these books to share in this nostalgia, I’d say go check this out anyway, because the sense of adventure, the pure innocence, and some really well done scenes will make you say that you not only had a good time, but it was totally worth the watch. And then after you watch the film you may or may not shake your fist in the air angrily demanding for another one.