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July 14th, 2019

FantAsia II: The Wonderland (Japan, 2019)

Teenage Akane is unmotivated and moody, just like any teenage girl. She always feels put out by her mother's requests, never more so when she's sent to see her shopkeeper aunt Chii to pick up her own birthday present! Once there, however, Chii and Akane are visited by strangers from the basement, Mr. Hippocrates and his apprentice Pipo. But Mr. Hippocrates is an alchemist, Pipo is an elf, and the basement is a portal into another world, one that desperately needs Akane's help to avoid utter destruction.... A few years ago I saw another animated film by director Keiichi Hara, "Miss Hokusai," and was very taken with the incredible beauty of the work; the director works the same magic here, with some stunningly gorgeous backgrounds (and foregrounds for that matter), along with a story filled with imagination from an evil mouse-shaped monster machine to oversized sheep who provide wool *and* protection, to the very real crisis that the Wonderland is facing, that of running out of water. Oh, and there's an enchanted Prince, too! Even if the viewer isn't taken by the story itself (based on "Strange Journey From the Basement," a children's book by Sachiko Kashiwaba), s/he will certainly enjoy simply watching this very colorful feast for the eyes.

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