Children of the Sea {Melbourne International Film Festival} – Film Review

Children of the Sea is a 2019 Japanese animated film, directed by Ayumu Watanabe, produced by Eiko Tanaka, animation production by Studio 4°C with music composed by Joe Hisaishi, known for his compositions for Studio Ghibli. Although the film is based on a manga of the same name by Daisuke Igarashi, I had not read the manga prior to seeing the film. I believe, had I done so, perhaps this film would have made more sense to me.

The film follows character young girl, Ruka Azumi voiced by Mana Ashida who find herself on summer vacation hanging at the local aquarium where her father works. Unwittingly, she befriends two boys, brothers named Umi and Sora (voiced by Hiiro Ishibashi and Seishu Uragami) who both seem to have an affinity with the ocean. The three children share a strange bond, linked to a strange supernatural phenomenon, which seems to be affecting the world’s marine life in a mysterious way.

At first, I enjoyed Children of the Sea with seeing Ruka befriend Umi when she meets him at the aquarium. I felt that this film would be about a budding friendship that would be adorable. Umi is shown jumping in and out of the water tanks and seemingly gets along swimmingly with the marine life at the facility. Plot wise, I felt it was a bit strange to have the marine biologists study a kid who loves water at the aquarium, but the characters end up spelling out for you that these boys (characters Umi and Sora) who love the sea are different, even though the scientists don’t really understand how exactly the brothers are different, as they can’t find any scientific evidence to prove anything.

But things started to get weirder, more colourful, more psychedelic, and more philosophical the more the film went on. And that’s when Children of the Sea lost me. By the time Ruka’s character had decidedly eaten a comet (yes, a freakin’ comet), I was pretty frustrated and couldn’t wait for the film to end. What’s worse is that none of the characters ever seem to have a conclusion to their story arcs. I’m not sure if this is because the manga is still on-going, but this inconclusive ending sure made this movie really unsatisfying.

Perhaps the message behind Children of the Sea was lost in translation, but I did not understand nor enjoy this film. My only positive is that Joe Hisaishi’s composition for the film score is beautiful, but it still wasn’t enough for me to label this animated feature as a ‘good’ film. And trust me, no-one is more disappointed than me.

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