By Joseph Calamia
A young girl staggers across the forest and discovers a ruined village pillaged by bandits, meeting a drunk trader inside. She sees is a baby boy crying as he is clinging to the arms of his mother, dead from protecting him. The trader gloomily looks at the sight saying “Mothers are pretty amazing. Even in death, they try to protect their children” and advises that the woman should leave him, saying it would be better than for him to live alone. Unwilling to leave the baby to die, the woman to take the boy and raise him as her son, even if she outlives the young boy as her legacy. So begins a journey of companionship, gaining and reflection on the legacy we leave in the world through our interactions and lives.
“Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” is the first anime film directed by acclaimed Japanese screenwriter and director Mari Okada, who is noted for being a prolific female writer in Japan for anime series such as “A Lull in the Sea”, “Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans”. “The Anthem of the Heart” and “AnoHana”. The film was in Japan on February 24, 2018, and distributed to America by Eleven Arts with English subtitles in late July of this year. Eleven Arts is producing an English language version of the movie and distributing the film this coming September. Maquia has receive international acclaim from critics and fans for its heart-wrenching story, beautiful artwork and exploring the themes of motherhood, prejudice and life.
The film centers around a young woman named Maquia, who lives in a clan of immortal villagers called the Iorph, who spend their time weaving a cloth that dictates the live of a person throughout time and acts as a sort of language. She’s warned by the elder of the village not to form any attachments with people outside her village, stating that she will feel loneliness. One evening, an invading army possessing a race of dying dragons attacks the village seeking to secrets of the Iorph’s immortality, causing Maquia to be separated from her friends in the forest. She comes across an orphaned baby boy she names “Ariel” and moves to a village to raise the boy as her own where he ages, and she does not.
One of the challenges presented to Maquia is potential prejudice from other people by her appearance, which forces her to move with Ariel every now and then to avoid being killed since she doesn’t age. Along with the challenges of childhood and politics leaves Maquia to adapt and strive to be a mother regardless of her immortality, eventually worrying about Ariel eventually dying of old age. This also creates an exploration of prejudice and loneliness as an Iorph named Leilia is forced into being a consort to a kingdom to use her as a means to secure immortal offspring, only to lock her away in isolation when it fails while another Iorph named Krim obsessively clings to the past tries to rescue her. Despite the threats of potential loneliness, Maquia strives and meets Ariel throughout the years and comes to appreciate raising a family and fondly remembering the memories she made.
On the characteristic of animation, “Maquia” is a beautiful film with each of the locations and motions of the characters moving expressively and enveloping the audiences in the world thanks to the studio P.A. Works. The setting gives familiarity of a medieval fantasy world with knights and dragons that gives the world a sense of life and creativity with the kingdoms and lives of the villagers. The animation helps the characters express their feelings to each other with genuine emotion and help get the audience invested in the story. One of the best moments of the films are that feature Maquia raising Ariel throughout his youth and adolescence, which is conveyed without any dialogue. This allows the characters to tell their feelings and emotion with their actions and the accompanying music of medieval and orchestra to deliver a somber yet loving environment.
Motherhood is one of the key themes within the film and Okada expertly showcases the challenges of being a mother throughout the years with the main character. She endures the idea of raising Ariel and bonds with him throughout their time together, sharing a number of tender moments together to remind the audience of family. One adorable moment early on in the film is she pats her tummy and promises that she won’t cry because she’s a mother, making Ariel smile and giggle at her defiant gesture. You get to see both characters grow up together and face hardships, but find quiet and loving moments to relax and find comfort in each other.
“Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” is a beautiful film that tells the story of motherhood within its fantasy setting and the legacy that a person can make through children and the rewards of life. By the end of the film, you’ll probably want to call your mother and tell her how thankful you are of her job of raising a family after crying during the credits.
“Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” has no rating, but has instances of violence, alcohol and tobacco use and references, and strong themes. Eleven Arts will release Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms soon on Blu-ray and DVD.