Anime Limited certainly do not rush things. Back when I discovered that my special edition of Durarara was plagued with missing subtitles it took them a year to post replacement discs. Their release of Mai Mai Miracle wasn’t any speedier either. I backed the English language release of this movie back when it was announced in February 2014 and only received my copy at the start of this year. Delays like that really put me off from supporting projects on Kickstarter, not to mention that some companies are abusing the generosity of customers. Just recently Anime Limited went back to Kickstarter asking for £4,500 to localize Mind Game. What? Are you telling me that one of the UK’s biggest anime distributors can’t afford that sum of cash? Just because the company is based in Scotland doesn’t mean that they have to be so tight with their money.
Mai Mai Miracle takes place in a tiny rural town named Hofu during the 1950s. The film follows the daily life of nine-year-old Shinko Aoki who is blessed with an overactive imagination. With no television to keep her amused Shinko spends her time fantasising about what her hometown was like during the late Edo period. One of her many daydreams stars a lonesome princess who moved to the region and now finds herself without any friends of her own age. Early on in the film Shinko befriends an affluent transfer student named Kiiko Shimazu, who has moved from Tokyo to Hofu due to her father’s work commitments. Unlike the boisterous Shinko, Kiiko is quiet and shy… although she does open up after consuming some liquored chocolates. Under the effects of alcohol the timid lady even manages to see the funny side of her mother’s tragic passing.
The source of Shinko’s fantasies is her cowlick, which she has christened Mai Mai. I too possess unruly hair that can only be tamed with strong gel. Perhaps my locks are responsible for the hallucinations I see? It’s that or the twenty beers I drunk. Hic. Anyways, this carefree tale forgoes plot in favour of showcasing Shinko and chums enjoying their youth. Using discarded lumber we see Shinko’s group construct a pond where they hang out caring for a vagrant goldfish. Viewers also witness the protagonist bicker with her baby sis. Like most siblings the two argue, but do care for each other as evidenced in a scene were the toddler goes missing. Over the ninety-five minute running time we also see Kiiko bond with her new classmates. After a rough start she mellows out enough to forgive the scruffy kid who carelessly turned her coloured pencil into splinters.
My rating for Mai Mai Miracle is four and a half stars. I have felt rather low this week, due to undesirable department restructures at work, so a sweet slice of life movie was just what the doctored ordered to perk up my spirits. As someone who resides in a concrete jungle I cannot relate to the rural lifestyle presented in this Sunao Katabuchi directed flick, but I still felt nostalgia watching Shinko and friends onscreen. Their exploits aren’t all that different to the adventures my pals Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy got up to during our preadolescent days. One summer I remember exploring an island with them and tangling with thieves who were after gold housed within the hold of a sunken ship. Oh wait a second. Did that really happen or am I mixing up my childhood with Famous Five plots again?
Overall I had a pleasant time watching Mai Mai Miracle. The only thing that didn’t click with me was the flashbacks (featuring a young royal) that would occasionally interrupt proceedings. Had that footage been removed I don’t think the movie would have been any weaker for it. Perhaps the clips could have been fashioned into a short story and repackaged as a DVD extra instead? Either way I can recommend Mai Mai Miracle as good wholesome family entertainment. The folks at Madhouse have managed to capture the whimsy Studio Ghibli is known for with this adaptation of Nobuko Takagi’s novel. Although I started this review bemoaning the time it took for this release to hit my mailbox it must be said that I am very satisfied with the final product. Like the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait.