Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Review | Netflix movie review: Child of Kamiari Month – Japanese anime with voice of True Mothers star Aju Makita offers a sombre examination of grief


Takana Shirai’s clean and uncluttered animated feature is a surprisingly dark examination of grief and its lingering impact, especially on the young

The story follows 12-year-old Kanna who discovers that her deceased mother’s duties as the god of running have now fallen to her

Kanna is a troubled 12-year-old who has lost her passion for running since the death of her mother. But upon learning that her mum was in fact an “Idaten”, or god of running, Kanna discovers that those duties have now fallen to her.

Blending the mundane with the mythological, modern life with ancient tradition, Takana Shirai’s animated feature Child of Kamiari Month is a surprisingly dark and sombre examination of grief and its lingering impact, especially on the young.

Throughout Japan, October is known as Kannazuki, and considered to be a month without gods, as all the Shinto deities head to Izumo Shrine in Shimane prefecture for their annual matchmaking gathering.

Young Kanna (voiced by Aju Makita, True Mothers) has always considered it something of a sick joke that she was named after this barren period, but when she absent-mindedly slips her dead mother’s amulet onto her wrist, time appears to stand still.

She is greeted by her spirit guide, who has possessed the body of her pet rabbit Shiro, as well as a puckish young demon boy, Yasha. They explain to Kanna that her mother, Yayoi, was in fact part of their world, and tasked with delivering all the regional delicacies to Izumo Shrine in time for the Kamiari month feast.

That task now falls to Kanna, but she had better hurry, as the festival is that same night. Leaving her understandably worried father at home, Kanna and her new friends set off, visiting all the different shrines along the route, and collecting offerings from the various gods who resided there. But tailing them is an ominous and nebulous force, eager to enshroud our young heroine.

Funded by Cretica Universal through a series of crowdfunding drives in 2019, Child of Kamiari Month enjoyed a theatrical release in Japan in October 2021, somewhat appropriately, before being released worldwide this week on Netflix.

The film follows a well-trodden path that recalls everything from Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro to Mamoru Hosoda’s recently acclaimed Belle. It might also argue that youngsters should embrace their low-level service-industry jobs, like delivering food to revelrous high rollers, and look to find pleasure in these arduous exertions.

Primarily, of course, it is a film about coming to terms with loss, and the importance of channelling your grief into something positive rather than wallowing in crippling guilt and despair.

Shirai’s approach is laudably unflinching, while the animated style is clean and uncluttered, resulting in an earnest and heartfelt tale of facing up to life’s toughest challenges.

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