This is a surprisingly good film. Despite the mediocre quality of the visual animation it didn’t affect the entertainment value of the movie not so much. Initially my biggest fear was seeing this cartoon sourcing or stealing ideas from all other existing cartoon films as I noticed some of the creatures had characteristics ‘borrowed’ from the Madagascar Penguins, Powerpuff Girls and so forth. Fortunately, it had enough ideas, interesting elements and sense of humor (which was sometimes very lame in my opinion) to sustain itself.
At the elite St. Claire’s Elementary School it’s day 1 of term, with a whole lot of new students entering through the gates for the first time ever. Among them are Mako, Mi and Mu, three little girls who wander through the vast corridors of the school – though “wander” may not so aptly describe their doings. Mako, to be sure, is zooming and bouncing about with seemingly inexhaustible energy and in complete over-excitement about the life she is about to start, while Mi, proudly of rich descent, is inspecting the hallway decor (Greek marble) only to find it doesn’t quite measure up to her standards. And then there is Mu, whose face we can barely discern behind that curtain of long, dark hair and bangs, her sharp, hidden eye fixed on that insect that’s whizzing about, golden fly swatter poised for attack. Near the old Science Room Blabbermouth, Little-Miss-Luxuries and Geek Girl run into each other and are warned by builders not to enter the place – words that of course have zero effect on three curious kids. In they sneak and stumble across a human anatomical model, soon taking him apart and beautifying him, Renaissance-style.
It is a commendable effort from an unknown anime production house. The major flaw that I see is that the progression of the plot is not clean cut. Never mind the visual quality as of course I don’t expect a film such as this to be of the same standard with blockbuster Disney/Pixar cartoons. But I feel the animators had squeezed in too many big actions at a very fast pace – even the dialogues got mixed up and confusing for the audience at times. As a matter in fact, the whole movie looked like a very messy party. Whether this was the intention or otherwise, I feel they had slightly ignored the importance to keep things a little less messy, and allow more focus on the plot that matters, which would have made this movie easier to follow and hence more memorable.
There are also some definite adults-only jokes, including a strategically placed (and shaped) elephant drawing and a scene that involves an umbrella grabbing some balls that would have never survived in a USAmerican animation. A straightforward and simple story it may tell, yet by getting its characters right and taking care to serve up some amusing details and a good mix of – uncensored – humour and intelligence, Hōkago Middonaitāzu turns out to be more than just a fun ride for the kids and has its heart in the right place with some of the subtler messages it contains.