If you are given a chance to reclaim any object you lost a long time ago, what would it be? Would it be a toy, a favorite book, or something else? For sixteen-year-old Haruka, it would be a mirror given by her deceased mother. On one fateful day, she spies a small, mysterious creature stealing her keychain. After following it through the woods, she quickly finds herself in a whimsical world that is built from nothing but forgotten objects of human beings. What begins as a simple quest for her to obtain the lost mirror soon turns into a journey of self-discovery. Four years in the making and with over two hundred people involved in its creative and technical process, Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror is surely a must-watch for visual aficionados. It floats on an interesting premise while successfully tackling perpetual themes of loss, friendship and family.
Oblivion Island is, in one way or another, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Starting with the familiar down-the-rabbit-hole scene, the story fortunately kicks off to provide us with a fresh take on the tale, showing us a vast breathing world filled with eccentric characters collecting lost objects for a living. I am simply being hypercritical, however, when I point out noticeable weaknesses in the narrative. There is an eyebrow-raising scene where Teo, one of the main characters, manages to force an entire crowd to construct an airplane without bothering to explain why. A main villain is present, but I felt he is weakly envisioned and his insertion in the plot feels forced. Finally, the titular magic mirror is one obvious MacGuffin, something which the movie fails to fully explain its importance.
Saying that the movie looks good is like saying birds can fly. The character designs border between awesome and minimal, highly comparable to those of Square Enix’s Crystal Chronicles games. Each frame is filled with the brightest of hues. Doing so creates a sort of connection between one’s childhood and the vibrancy of Oblivion Island. Children frequently come into possession of colorful objects which are more likely to get lost due to youth’s natural negligence. This connection, combined with its overall presentation, makes the film as child-friendly as possible, but I am not saying adults will find nothing to love here. There are a few visual combinations I find peculiar, though, one of which is the seemingly watercolored backgrounds of Haruka’s real world, but still, there is no denying the splendor each scene presents.
If there is a lesson learned from watching the film, it is that loss is an entirely normal part of our lives. The colors of things long gone will never fade as long as it is remembered. Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror is about coping with demise and realizing the importance of memories. People will surely find something to like during its visually astounding hour-and-a-half run. Everyone will lose something at one point in his or her life, but hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?