Thursday, 29 January 2015


Generously suffused with a sweetness that has shown to be so prolific in Japanese animation over recent years that it has taken on the characteristic of a defining component of the genre, Giovanni's Island is a touching portrait of childhood under trying circumstances. None more trying than displacement and effective enslavement, as the inhabitants of Shikotan island are evicted from their land by invading Soviets; the film depicts the crushing torment that this separation effects on this community, so intrinsically connected to their home, since it innately understands their suffering. Stronger still is the emotional pull of Giovanni's Island as it intelligently sees youth from the perspective of youth, though not without the sombre, wistful hindsight afforded by time and maturity. Nishikubo Mizuho perhaps lets the child-centric storytelling get the better of him, artistically - Giovanni's Island is peppered with achingly beautiful moments throughout, moments too often spoiled by cumbersome indulgences, a garish whimsy and a stylistic restlessness that upset the film's mood and tone. It's an effective tonic against the depressive details that inevitably overwhelm the film, however - these details are essential to the narrative, and well-handled, as Nishikubo juggles the various elements required to advance the story alongside evoking sharp sympathetic emotion fairly successfully. The sweetness comes to a gaudy peak just when you feel it shouldn't, yet its effect is unexpectedly moving.