I must admit I am normally not much of a fantasy fan. I find the stories can often get lost in the settings and lore making what should be exciting rather dull and plodding. So you can imagine my pleasure when I thoroughly enjoyed the new high fantasy anime film Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms from director Mari Okada. Not only is this film extremely ambitious but it is also a sweet heartfelt story about the bond between a mother and her adopted son.
Maquia tells the story of a woman from an immortal race called the lorph, who stop aging after they are teenagers. One day her tribe gets invaded and Maquia is separated from her friend Leilia, the most beautiful girl in the clan and her crush. As she is fleeing the invaders, Maquia stumbles upon a woman who has died clinging onto her baby boy. Maquia decides to adopt the baby, naming him Eriel, and raises him knowing she will eventually see him grow old and die.
What follows in the film is a beautiful story of a young woman struggling to be a mother and figuring things out along the way. There are highs and lows that any parent will relate to but, of course, these are combined with dragons, bloody warfare, royalty, and revenge. Much of the darker side of the story is seen through scenes with Leilia, who is forced to become a bride to a prince who wants her only for her immortal blood to be passed down to his heirs.
Maquia is obviously not for children but teens and adults should enjoy the fantasy adventure. It is wildly creative and told with real heart. The animation is stunning, and Mari Okada has created worlds full of light and darkness that surround our characters. Each moment is immersive and stunning, whether it is a battle scene or Maquia caring for Eriel.
The downsides to Maquia is the pacing can be a bit sluggish at times and some characters are more hero/villain archetypes, which makes them very predictable. However, Maquia is an interesting character and so I was willing to forgive these problems. I like that Maquia is not a kick-butt hero girl; she’s not the most smart, capable, sweet, or brave character. Leilia is all these things and we see her diving off waterfalls at the beginning. This makes Maquia learning to be a mother interesting and Leilia’s forced marriage devastating.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is being released in the states starting July 20th. Even if you don’t love anime, if you love female-centric stories or fantasy films I recommend checking it out. Rarely do we get movies with so much ambition and artistry, and they deserve an audience. Mari Okada has done a wonderful job making a beautiful film and hopefully people will seek it out and reward her for her tremendous effort.