Maquia – When The Promised Flower Blooms: Dark in the details

Review: Imaginative, melancholic directorial debut from anime screenwriter Mari Okada

Cast out into the human world, Maquia stumbles upon a baby who she names Erial

Film Title: Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Director: Mari Okada

Starring: Manaka Iwami, Miyu Irino, Ai Kayano, Yūki Kaji, Miyuki Sawashiro, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Rina Satō, Yōko Hikasa, Misaki Kuno, Tomokazu Sugita, Hiroaki Hirata

Genre: Animation

Running Time: 115 min

Tue, Jun 26, 2018, 17:54

   

Prolific anime screenwriter Mari Okada is not an animator and yet fans of the Okada-penned Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and The Anthem of the Heart will immediately recognise her sensibility and preoccupations in Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, her imaginative, melancholic directorial debut.

The titular heroine (voiced by Manaka Iwami) is an Iolph – the Clan of the Separated – an immortal, blonde and beautiful race who spend their days weaving hibbol, a delicate and highly prized cloth.

As with other socially-challenged Okada heroines, Maquia cuts an awkward, lonely figure, even within the balmy Iolph idyll. She’s an unlikely survivor when an army from Mesarte, a mythological medieval kingdom, attacks with their flock of dragon-like Renato.

Mesarte royalty are hoping to prolong their lineage by breeding with Iolph women before the Renato – the source of their military might – die out. This chilling realpolitik makes for one of several narrative strands to touch on mortality and differing lifespans.

Cast out into the human world, Maquia stumbles upon a baby who she names Erial (Miyu Irino). Their relationship becomes increasingly fraught as her adopted son matures while Maquia remains the same.

Forget Top Ten Anime Betrayals. Okada’s Maquia is a delicate creation, with considerably more character development than is the genre norm. The unusual protagonist introduced as an irritating cry-baby, but she slowly blossoms into motherhood and emotional maturity.      

PA Works, the animation studio, has lavished this production with both care and money. Let’s Decorate the Promised Flowers in the Morning of Farewells, as the film is poetically-rendered in Japan, boasts a colourful, richly imaginative world of soaring dragons and clockwork and castles.

Composer Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell) provides a suitably sweeping score. Against the lovely pastel aesthetic, there’s a darkness in the details. Maquia’s childhood friend is forcibly impregnated and the compression of time makes for more than one teary farewell.    

Opens: June 27th