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Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 26, 2012 by  



Heartwarming, delightful and possibly one of the best looking CG animated films to come from Japan and looks absolutely incredible on Blu-ray!  “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” is another magnificent Production I.G. animated film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2012 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (Hottarake no Shima: Haruka to Mahō no Kagami)

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: All Ages

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 14, 2012

Directed by Shinsuke Sato

Screenplay by Hirotaka Adachi, Shinsuke Sato

Unit Director: Naoyoshi Shiotani

Music by Tadashi Ueda

Character Design by Ren Ishimori, Ryo Hirata

Art Director: Masanobu Nomura

Theme Song by Spitz

Production by Dentsu Inc., Fuji TV, Pony Canyon and Production I.G.

Featuring the voices of:

Haruka Ayase/Chirstine Marie Cabanos as Haruka

Miyuki Sawashiro/Cassandra Lee as Teo

Mitsuki Tanimura/Maki Terashima-Furuta as Miho

Naho Toda/Julie Anne Taylor as Haruka’s Mother

Nao Omori/David Roach as Haruka’s Father

Tamaki Matsumoto/Julie Maddalena as Cotton

Iemasa Kayumi/Patrick Seitz as Baron

16-year-old Haruka is on a mission to find her mirror – a precious childhood gift from her mother that mysteriously disappeared. While following a strange fox-like creature in the woods, she tumbles into a mystical world where once-cherished toys and treasures go when their owners neglect them. Join Haruka and her new friend Teo on a roller coaster ride of adventure as they contend with the island’s greedy ruler, who wants the mirror for his own evil plan!

Nominated for the “Award for Excellent Animation of the Year” at the 33rd Japan Academy Prize and “Best Animated Feature Film” for the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Award, Production I.G.’s “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” (a.k.a. Hottarake no Shima: Haruka to Mahō no Kagami) will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation in August 2012.

Directed by Shinsuke Sato (“Gantz” live action films and “The Princess Blade”) and co-written by Sato and Otsuichi (“Calling You”, “Goth”), “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” revolves around a 16-year-old girl named Haruka who has had a tough relationship with her messy father since her mother’s death.

When she was young, Haruka’s mother (who is hospitalized) would read her a story about a a poor farmer who lost an old comb that was an important memento from his grandmother and how he lost it.

One day, the poor farmer brought eggs as an offering to a Fushimi Inari in hopes for good luck to find the comb and one day, a fox brought the comb back to him.  And from that moment, humans would bring eggs to the shrine in hopes that their missing items would be returned back to them.

But in reality, foxes would take objects that humans have neglected.

A young Haruka promised her mother that she would take care of the pretty hand mirror that her mother would give her.

A few years later, we see Haruka (a few years older), bringing an egg to the shrine in hopes to bring her dead mother back.

Fast forward to a 16-year-old Haruka, who misses her mother deeply and not so happy with her life with her father.  Her father is constantly working and leaves the place in a mess.

While talking to her best friend Miho, Haruka remembers how she had a hand mirror to remember her mother and despite treasuring it, she lost it.

As Haruka plans to visit her grandmother, she stops by the shrine and makes a wish for the mirror that her mother had given her to be returned back.  While at the shrine, Haruka accidentally falls asleep on the shrine’s steps.  When she wakes up, she sees a small creature wearing a mask taking a toy plane and her keys.

When she goes to follow the creature, she finds an egg floating in water and when she goes to grab it, she is whisked to another land.  A land where forgotten items, items that have been neglected are taken.

So, Haruka feels that the story that her mother had once told her may be true and hopes that the young creature named Teo may help her find the hand mirror that her mother gave her.

Teo explains to Haruka that the forgotten items are brought to their land, because they are unable to manufacture things.  But they never steal from humans and old taken things that humans neglect.  And both head to Oblivion Island where Teo lives.  She learns from Teo that the island is ruled by the Baron, a pompous creature.

But as Haruka and Teo go to look for the mirror, Haruka learns that Teo is often bullied by people his age and Haruka defends him.  And the bullies become suspicious towards Teo’s new friend.

Meanwhile the two head to Mabarowa’s store as he may be the only person that may know where the hand mirror maybe.  Mabarowa believes the mirror is a rare magic mirror  with tremendous magical powers someone had stolen it.  And its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Mabarowa becomes suspicious that Teo may have brought a human to Oblivion Island and tells the Baron that a human is in the island may know the whereabouts of the magic mirror.

While with Teo and looking for her hand mirror, she finds her old stuffed animal Cotton (who is now alive in this new land) and the three then go off to find the magic mirror.

Meanwhile, Teo’s bullies find out that Haruka is a human and now are after them to reveal that Teo brought a human to the island and get him in big trouble.

As Teo’s bullies are looking to capture Haruka, the Baron and his thugs encounter Teo and tells him that for bringing a human to Oblivion Island, it will lead to a major punishment but if Teo continues to assist Haruka in finding the magic mirror that he has been long after, he not only will spare him from punishment but give him an amazing award.

Will Teo help his new friend Haruka or will he betray her by helping the Baron?

VIDEO:

“Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” is presented in 1080p High Definition and if there is one thing that I have raved over the years, it’s about Production I.G.’s focus on quality and creating the most wonderful looking environments in an anime film or TV series.

With “Oblivion Island”, the art backgrounds are absolutely fantastic to look at it.  Artistic, very detailed, just gorgeous.  May it be the city environment in Japan to the island environment where Teo lives, everything looks spectacular and I was just in awe of how breathtaking the film looked.

While the CG animation was created in 2009 and the creatures are not as highly detailed compared to an American Pixar film, in terms of skin textures and seeing pores or grime on a character, the CG is still very good, but it’s the details of the backgrounds the characters are in that truly stick out the most of this animated film.

There have been a good number of CG animated films from Japan, but this is probably one of the most detailed that I have seen.   The film is very colorful, vibrant and  looks absolutely incredible on Blu-ray!

But is it perfect?  Well, there is a scene where Haruka meets Cotton for the first time, and there is a good amount of light being changed and you do see slight banding.  While I didn’t recognize any artifacts or edge enhancement, you do notice the details on objects and even on the scenery and mechanical designs.  It’s a very beautiful film and I’m in awe of how Production I.G. once again delivered for this animated film.  It looks great!

AUDIO:

“Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Dialogue on both Japanese and English lossless tracks are crystal clear and having watched the film in both English and Japanese, both are really well-done.  The soundtracks are primarily dialogue and musical driven through the front and center channel.  There was a little LFE and surround channel use for the music but I was hoping the sound effects were a little more immersive and utilized the surround channels a bit more.  But for the most part, the lossless soundtrack was very good.

As for the subtitles, when the Japanese soundtrack is selected, English subtitles show up.  So, the English subtitles are not optional during the Japanese soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes of Oblivion Island – (5:02) A featurette on what inspired the film and what it is about.  Information on the director and Japanese cast.
  • A Visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine – (5:13) Voice actress Haruka Ayase visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine which inspired the animated film “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”.
  • Battleship Island: An Actual Oblivion Island – Voice actress Haruka Ayase and director Shinsuke Sato visiting a Gunkanjima, which are uninhabited islands in Japan, specifically Hashima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture.  A island that was once used for forced labor for coal mining during the late 1800’s to early-to-mid 1900’s but is now a “ghost island” with building structures that were left behind in 1950 when Japan went towards petroleum and away from coal.
  • Greetings at the Premiere – (4:47) The press speeches from director Shinsuke Sato and the Japanese voice acting cast for the premiere.
  • A Word from the Cast – (4:39) Q&A with director Shinsuke Sato and the Japanese voice acting cast after the premiere.
  • The U.S. Premiere – (8:00) Naoyoshi Shiotani (direction) talking about the U.S. premiere of “Oblivion Island” in New York and footage from the New York premiere.
  • Haruka and Teo’s Panel Puzzle – (4:07) A featurette at Izumo Iwai Shrine in Iruma City, Saitama and the Haruka and Teo puzzles that kids including Fuji TV announcer Mio Matsumura have to put together.
  • A Journey Through Fox Foxlore – (25:43) A TV special exploring the fox legends in Japan.
  • Sierra Leone Relief Spots – (:34) Two commercials featuring the collaboration with “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” and helping the children of Sierra Leone.
  • Original Teasers – (1:40) The original Japanese teaser trailers for “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”.
  • Original Trailers – (3:09) The original Japanese trailers for “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”.
  • TV Commercials – (3:20) The original Japanese commercials for “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers.

A delightful animated family film from Japan, gorgeous in visuals and a heartwarming tale that will surely entertain people of all ages.

“Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” is a film that was inspired by the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto and the Inari shrine is one of the most unique shrines in Japan with its black and red torii path.  Inari in Japan is known as the god of rice and many adults visit the shrine for wealth.  At the main gate of the shrine is a fox holding a key in its mouth.  Meanwhile, the view of the shrine is like a mirror.

And so, writers Hirotaka Adachi and director Shinsuke Sato came up with a story inspired by the shrine but a story that would appeal to people of all ages and to focus on the question of what happens to those things in our childhood that are lost.  What happens to them?

And both Adachi and Sato were able to come up with a delightful story of Japanese mythology and childhood memories for “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”.

For many adults, when we think of our childhoods, many of us tend to remember our favorite toys or favorite things while growing up.  Toys that your parents bought you or things that were special in your life.  And what makes “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” so touching is that it revolves around a teenager who lost her mother at a young age.

And because her father was dependent on her mother, having grown up with a father (a single parent) who had to work a lot, she never really understood the sacrifices her father went through to take of her and in her mind, her estranged relationship with him is because he is always working and is messy.

But often in our lives, by finding objects that we have forgotten about, it makes us remember things that we also had forgotten.  May it be a photo of a deceased family member, an object taking you back of a certain time in your life.  For Haruka, it’s revisiting memories that she had lost.

Meanwhile, there is also a story about the importance of friendship.  For Haruka to be in another world and becoming friends with Teo, for Teo and others, humans were looked as bad people, but when he finds out for himself that Haruka was genuinely good and wanted to be his friend, he has to make a hard decision by helping his new friend out or follow on the threat by the ruler of Oblivion Island that if he doesn’t bring the mirror to him, he will be severely punished for bringing a human to their world.

And while you get a delightful story, possibly the most impressive part of this film are its visuals.  Production I.G. is an animation studio I have raved about in previous reviews but for this film, this is one of the most beautiful CG animated films that I have watched from Japan.  Yes, Studio Ghibli are known for their beautiful visuals but Production I.G. is also wonderful at creating scenery and environments for their TV series, OVA and animated films.

And for “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror”, not only are environments painted beautifully and realistically but its integration with its CG characters are also well-done.  Granted, the characters are not as detailed as a Pixar animated character but still, for a 2009 animated film from Japan and having seen a good number of them, the movements are not jerky, the balance between the CG characters and the beautiful environments are well-done!

I’ll go as far as to say that for a non-Ghibli animated film, Production I.G. really delivered with the visual effects.  This film looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray!

And the voice acting, both on the Japanese and English dub are also well-done.  Watched both and was quite pleased with both lossless soundtracks.  Granted, I wish it was a bit more immersive and the surround channels were used much more, but for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is very good, dialogue and music was crystal clear.

As for special features, there are many included on this release.  From the premiere introductions and Q&A in Japan, to the visiting locations that helped inspire the film plus a TV special on fox legends of Japan. So, I was quite pleased with this Blu-ray overall.  From the visual and audio standpoint and special features that are pretty awesome!  It’s an awesome Blu-ray and DVD release combo-pack that fans should be pleased with.

Heartwarming, delightful and possibly one of the best looking CG animated films to come from Japan and looks absolutely incredible on Blu-ray!  “Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror” is another magnificent Production I.G. animated film that I highly recommend!






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