Our Review

                Movie:  THE IMAGINARY

 Rating: PG, scary images, peril, thematic                    elements and some violence –                       Japanese with English subtitles`

                          Length: 1:45

              Release Date: July 5, 2024

Jeanne: An extraordinary adventure involving a young girl named Amanda (voiced by Evie Kiszel) and her imaginary friend, Rudger (voiced by Louie Rudge-Buchanan), whom no one can see but her, is a brilliant ride in the hands of director Yoshiyuki Momose, the legendary animator of SPIRITED AWAY (2001). Based on the award-winning novel of the same name written by A. F. Harrold, THE IMAGINARY introduces groundbreaking hand-drawn animation utilizing new techniques of light and shadow.

 

Amanda and her mother, Lizzie (voiced by Hayley Atwell), live above the small bookstore they own. Since Amanda’s father passed away, Lizzie has been struggling to make ends meet so she has decided to sell the store. While Lizzie and Amanda are preparing to exit, a genuinely creepy man, Mr. Bunting (voiced by Jeremy Swift), shows up on the pretense he’s conducting a survey of children.

 

What he really wants is to capture Rudger and he has a Wednesday lookalike from the Addams Family franchise to help. As Mr. Bunting and his sidekick chase poor Rudger around town, an accident in a grocery store parking lot causes Amanda and Rudger to become separated. Lost and alone --- and terrified --- with Bunting lurking around every corner, Rudger is intercepted by Zinzan (voiced by Kal Penn), a wise cat with two different colored eyes.

 

Zinzan takes Rudger to the library, a refuge for the imaginaries who have been forgotten. But Rudger is determined to find Amanda, believing that she has, indeed, not forgotten him. Aided along the way by a darling pink hippo named Snowflake (voiced by Roger Craig Smith), a skeleton called Cruncher-of-Bones (voiced by Courtenay Taylor), and an adventurous, brave girl named Emily (voiced by Sky Katz), Rudger takes his chances on the streets to find his best friend, Amanda.

THE IMAGINARY is quite a moviegoing experience. At times, fun and light-hearted, it turns on a dime, becoming intensely terrifying. Young children may not tune in to the more frightening aspects of Momose’s film and writer/producer Yoshiaki Nishimura’s screenplay, but older children and adults will likely appreciate the diabolical twists and turns of THE IMAGINARY.

 

To write that the animation is phenomenal is nearly an understatement. Studio Ponoc worked together with French animators at Les Films du Poisson Rouge to achieve light and shadow in animation previously thought impossible. Thinking of painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, who utilized these techniques, the crew embraced the challenge making it a pioneering venture in Japanese animation.

 

THE IMAGINARY is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colors focused on joy, hope and most importantly, love --- the kind that maybe only children can understand.

 

                          Only on Netflix

 

Opinion: See It Now!

David: First and foremost, THE IMAGINARY is definitely not an animated film for children. It is too scary and above all, too confusing. Non-Japanese speaking children, especially, will not be able to keep up with the subtitle translations.

 

So --- that leaves adults. The theme of children having imaginary friends and then abandoning them as the young ones grow up to adulthood is not new. In fact, such a theme has just been presented in the animated/live action film IF only weeks ago. Still, adult moviegoers will generally be rewarded with a sweet ending.

 

Directed by Yoshiyuki Momose (heavily involved with PRINCESS MONONOKE, 1997 and a key animator for the 2003 Oscar-winning SPIRITED AWAY), he and a team of animators use an intensive hand-drawn technique which utilizes light and shadows. The animation is occasionally brilliant and the music by composer Kenji Tamai is consistently appropriate. The film merits a second viewing to watch for the subtleties of the filmmaking process.

 

                   Only on Netflix

 

Opinion:  Mild See It Now!