Little Ghostly Adventures of Tofu Boy is directed by Gisaburo Sugii and to put it point blank; this is a sweet little anime that can be enjoyed by the whole family. It’s like a Hayao Miyazaki film with more fluff added, less depth and a weaker storyline. But considering that Miyazaki is THE master and that his movies are unreachable for most anime filmmakers, this is a pretty good film. According to traditional Japanese folklore, a boyish spirit waits along country roads and tricks travelers into eating a piece of deadly tofu. In Kyogoku’s retelling, Tōfu Kozō is a spirit in search of his own identity; he wanders the countryside to discover the reason and meaning for his existence. The diminutive spirit embarks on a series of thrilling adventures and encounters many other supernatural denizens.
It is quite funny to know such a morbid tale got a childish twist to it and put out there for families to enjoy. It also has a good message for kids about nature and not to be couped up in the house playing Call of Duty all day but to let their imaginated be rejuvinated once more. Sure, humans that are no longer in awe of nature or spirituality is almost a textbook theme in Japanese animation, but its a good theme, and one I like seeing again and again. It was a nice film to watch in 3D, although I think it would be better in the the old fashion anime way. Overall it’s a charming story (but not much new) with cute, funny and lovable characters.
The plot isn’t just this one-dimensional aspect either. In Edo period Japan, yokai monster Tofu Kozo always balances a tofu on a tray or he will vanish into the air. He is so timid and non-threatening, that he cannot frighten other people. His father Nyudo Mikyoshi, the lord of the yokai, is embarrassed of him and always solds him. He is also teased by the other yokai monsters. Only his guardian Daruma comforts him Tofo Kozo misses his mother who he has never seen and then sets out to find her. Along the way, Tofu Kozo and Daruma gets transported into the present day. Although he begins his journey as a feeble weakling with a silly outward appearance and no discernible talents other than carrying tofu, he experiences significant growth along the way. Kids will get a kick out of the films message.
It tempts viewers with its tease of an idyllic story – maybe the humble forest creatures will defeat the evils and live happily ever after – especially with such intimidating supernatural powers! But Ghibli’s films, as fanciful as they are, always have one foot firmly planted in reality. There is never a clear black-and-white, good vs. evil story with this studio’s excellent output. Somewhat reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s brilliant Spirited Away, the film mixes images from Japanese folk tales, popular culture and the imagination. This one is a winner, and moreso because it will most likely dip below the radars of most anime watchers. I tell you now, to put this on your list and track it down as it gets closer to a video date. Highly recommended.