The S is only optional if you want to make my brain tear itself in half. Thank goodness I can just use the Japanese title and avoid that problem.

Ibara no Ou is a movie from 2010. It’s one of those action-packed survival-type shows, but with lots of mystery elements mixed in. The mystery elements do, in fact, make Ibara no Ou a little different from your average movie of this genre (since typically when those movies do have mystery elements, they’re more of an afterthought than anything actually crucial); but unfortunately it does not magically make it an awesome movie. It’s okay to not be awesome, though, as long as you’re good. I have no idea what to write for an introduction to this review, so let’s just jump right in. For my sanity.

First, the music. All my praise! My favourite thing about this movie! Toshihiko Sahashi composed it, so you know it’s probably pretty good, right? But it’s not pretty good. It’s awesome! There’s one track in particular, played near the beginning and again near the end, that was just really beautiful, and contributed a lot to the atmosphere. It made the beginning, at least, feel really special. And when it plays near the end? Well, it probably would have felt just as amazing had you not just sat through an hour being paranoid about when you’ll next see an unnecessary CG person.

That was really the worst thing about the movie. In spite of all the wonderfully detailed background art and good animation that the movie shoved into your face repeatedly in the first 20 minutes, it felt the need to switch to CG models randomly for many scenes in the middle part of the movie. And it’s not like it was good CG or anything, either.

I was okay that they used CG for the monsters, since that makes them look all otherworldly and they’re not supposed to be these squishy things with skin like people are. Exoskeletons everywhere, and they used a different shading/coloring method for the monsters anyway. But I’m not okay that they used CG so much for actual people. It’s the typical use of CG in anime: framerate issues, completely different shading, and the general stiffness of movement (in particular when a person stops moving — way too sudden and it just makes them seem like they’re made of stone).

You know they’ve done a particularly bad job when you can tell it’s CG just by looking at still images. It’s not like they really needed to use the CG to cut down on costs that much, either. I can totally understand not wanting to animate an entire army, for example, but Ibara no Ou has nothing like that. Not involving people, anyway; and once again I didn’t see a problem with them using CG for the monsters. That worked. The people didn’t. The seagulls didn’t work either (what the heck is the problem with animating seagulls normally anyway? they weren’t even on screen long enough that they’d have to actually flap their wings).

I’ve probably said enough about the visuals. Review over guys, go home.

Ibara no Ou’s characters seemed like they could have been extremely interesting had they been given more time to flesh them out. But because there wasn’t enough time, all we got was hints at interesting pasts for all of the characters except for the main (who we did get a decent amount of backstory on, or at least enough to appease me).

The story itself is difficult to judge. It gets very confusing near the end, but that happens with almost every work of fiction that declares dreams as one of its main themes, and with good reason. When I think about the motives behind how everything in this story started, though, I feel disappointed. I feel like it’s boring and generic. But looking at what we actually got to see, in particular near the end, I was left with a positive overall opinion on its story, even though I’m still not entirely sure I understood everything correctly.

Overall it’s a worthwhile watch, especially if you’re in the mood for its genre mix. … If you can see yourself not minding all the sudden sloppy CG, that is. I found it to have a fourth wall-breaking effect on my immersion so I didn’t enjoy the middle part as much as I likely otherwise would have. On the bright side, though, the best parts of the movie, even ignoring the CG issue, were the beginning and the end.

tl;dr this is a pretty decent movie and it has sad whale sounds, but don’t watch if CG-phobic.