Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

An overlong high-fantasy anime released this year. It concerns a race of immortal weavers who isolate themselves from the world and record its history through the reams of tapestry they produce. The main character Maquia is warned off forming attachments by the clan's chief, who says such entanglements end in unhappiness. To love is to be alone.

The story is set up to refute this thesis. Maquia's home is attacked and she finds herself stranded far away from her country. Moreover, she finds a newborn child whose mother has been murdered, and decides to adopt and care for him. The immortal is brought down to earth, and has to deal with the real-world pressures of motherhood. Although the anime wanders off into a steampunky Laputa-esque fantasy narrative about clashing kingdoms, that stuff ultimately provides a backdrop for Maquia's relationship with the growing Ariel, who she looks over as he matures, falls in love and has children of his own.

Parenting is therefore the central theme of the story. The decision to have children is a way of ending your detachment from the world. You have skin in the game in a way you don't when you dispassionately look over events from an ivory tower, as the weavers (literally) do. It's significant that the director Mari Okada is one of the few female creators making internationally-fêted anime films. It's a valuable perspective to have in what is mostly a male-dominated industry.

The anime strains very hard to build to an emotionally powerful ending, slipping into melodrama if not bathos in the effort. I found this a bit cloying and wearying, and note that the understated approach of masters like Miyazaki and Takahata is often more effective. Okada also doesn't effectively integrate the personal story of Maquia and Ariel with the wider tale of the kingdom they live in. Instead there are awkward leaps between one and the other, making the whole thing feel longer than its 115 minutes. It's not perfect, in other words. But then again, there's also nothing quite like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment