What They Say:
The people of Iolph are known for two things: their youthful longevity and peaceful lives weaving tapestry. When that is disturbed and their home thrown into chaos by those believing that their blood gifts longer life, Maquia loses not only her friends, but a place to return to. Lost in both mind and body, she stumbles into a dark forest and happens upon Ariel, an orphaned baby boy. Together, the two embark on an emotional journey of the bond between the ageless and the mortal.
Contains the film on Blu-Ray with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles. Presented in Collectors packaging.
As it is a movie version it has 5.1 options for both English and Japanese and thus there were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. It is actually interesting as the options for subtitles means you can have it in French as well as English (the Japanese audio being the default) and the voice work is superb (I watched it in Japanese first, English second) with no issues timing with the subtitles (which at times can be slightly off-putting as they are pure-white combined with a lot of the white background can be a slight problem), it really stands out on the Blu-Ray as much as the animation.
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio on a single disc with widescreen and full-screen format like a movie styling, the Blu-ray format does not suffer from any grain effect or blurring whilst pausing, making it one of the clearest releases I’ve seen in a while. The Blu-ray version as expected doesn’t have any problems and is gorgeous to watch through considering how flowing the animation is – making it one of the best non-Ghibli releases in that respect for anime movies. As mentioned, sometimes the subtitles can be a little off-putting when it is white on white so makes it a little off-putting but otherwise is a pure spectacle to enjoy.
The menu is very classy – we have clips from the movie playing in the background with the menu selections below it on a white background – options being Play, Scenes, Audio, Extras and Credits. When watching the movie you can access a pop-up menu which gives you access to scenes and audio switches and goes instantly as most Blu-Ray menu selections do. Straight forward, nice to look at, works well.
There are no extras for this release bar some trailers for the movie in Japan, France, and the UK (It did get a limited release over here).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms is the first feature film produced by P.A Works, who has given us a range of titles, including some of the more personal favorites like Charlotte and Shirobako, along with other well-known fan-favorites like Uma Musume, Another, Angel Beats and Harasaku Iroha. This movie fell under the radar but garnered quite a reaction among people, and seeing people involved with it included Mari Okada (Anohana – one of the top 5 anime that made me cry)…I was expecting waterworks.
The movie is truly a visual spectacle, which combines a fantasy setting into some real-world drama that you can easily identify with, as well as some awkwardness, some really tragic moments, and definitely a few tears. One of the first lines said to our lead is “You cannot fall in love with someone from the outside. If you fall in love, you will become truly alone.”This sets the tone for the whole drama and it is one heck of a ride…
Our lead lady, Maquia, is a member of the lorph people, an out of world area which is known to outsiders as the Clan of the Separated. Their specialty is making Hibiol, a valuable cloth and the fact they are very long living…not immortal, but they age very slowly. Along with Maquia, we have two other lorph of note, Leillia – a highly energetic strong woman to counter Maquia’s shy withdrawn nature (keep a note of this, this changes in a way not expected and definitely not pleasant) and a male one named Krim, who is stern but clearly in love with Leillia. Again, important considering what happens…
Suddenly, the nearby kingdom of Mezarte led by the one seemingly noble soldier general Izol, visit as they wish to know the secret of the Lorph’s longevity. With no answer forthcoming, the army attacks them with their dragons named Renato and they kidnap Leilia, as a way to use her to give birth to an heir to their kingdom to rule for a long time….
…yeah, it gets dark pretty quick.
Maquia gets caught up when one of the Renato goes made when catching an illness known as Red Eye and flees the village and accidentally gets Maquia caught on it, before crashing into a forest. Maquia survives and finds a merchant and a dead mother with a newborn baby boy crying. Despite remembering the words above, she takes the child and decides to try and raise him as his son. And after a few obviously struggles, she finds help in the form of Mido, a woman who decides to help raise them with her two sons Lang and Deol. Maquia names him Ariel and thus, the journey begins for Maquia to grow in her own way….
So the time passes and Ariel goes into a child, but elsewhere Mezarte are struggling with the Red Eye illness of the Renato, and instead focus on managing an heir with the Lorph’s long life…which with the implications is definitely not pleasant (especially when we see the once happy Leilia’s mental state). Maquia meanwhile thanks to her weaving skills seems to be doing OK, but once she finds out about Leilia’s forced marriage and child, she goes to try and save her (leading to a small moment when Ariel seems to be teased by some of the kids and his adopted brothers, with one girl named Dita feeling bad about it, so when she goes to apologise she is told they are gone…again, important for later) and also meets up with Krim, though his state seems to be more obsessive in saving her and almost acts like a foil to Maquia, who is growing into a person with her adopted son and the love for him is making her better, whilst the love Krim has for Leilia is slowly descending him into madness…even when they do reunite, it seems Leilia is also changing, as she is pregnant and whilst the state of her mind isn’t the best, she wishes for the child to be born and helps them escape (Izol in particular seems to let them go, as again, he seems to be the one nice member of the kingdom for the moment)…
With some bonding and struggling moments with Maquia as a young mother for Ariel, there is clearly still love between them as step mother and child. However, Maquia’s long life suddenly makes things more…awkward. We next see them with Maquia not looking any different working as a waitress, and Ariel, now a teen, pretty much looking more like her brother rather than her son. This causes some tension and struggles, not just Ariel actually going through puberty and really not wanting to look at Maquia that way, but the fact she is hard working and he wants to help/protect her now he is older. To make more troubles, Leilia’s child apparently doesn’t have the long life of the Lorph, making the kingdom neglect her yet Leilia was never able to see her. It leads to one of the other son’s when they were adopted named Lang who is now a soldier in Mezarte’s army, with Ariel wanting to step away and protect her in his own way, asks to join (making these two the 2nd and 3rd nice members of the army)…whilst Maquia is suddenly and mysteriously vanished…
…fast forward to 10 years later, and everything comes to place. We see Ariel has reunited with the girl who never got to apologise Dita, and the two are now in a relationship with them expecting their first child but Ariel still wondering what happened to his step mother. Maquia in fact had been kidnapped by Krim as a way to look into overthrowing Mezarte (and a very creepy scene that you wonder if we was going to kill her for the sake of the fact she was able to have a happy-ish life) keeping her with him. However, it doesn’t really go according to plan…
It leads into a scene of reuniting and once again of birth, as Maquia manages to find Dita in labor and helps her out (Dita also recognizes her as Ariel is fighting), the fight both physically and mentally when Leilia and Krim reunite, the very sad moments from it and the aftermath when Leilia finally sees her daughter…only for some hope and sadness to arrive at the same time at the end without spoiling it, the ending happens many years later (the merchant from before being a bit of a deus ex machina as well)…which is what led to my tears and the conclusion if the quote at the beginning was right or not…
It is a truly wild ride of a film. The idea of someone outliving your child is throughout with the theme of death and rebirth throughout, with the positivity and tragedies that come through it. Maquia is quite a tragic character at first glance, a shy, withdrawn girl who gets caught in a tragic situation, yet manages to begin to change herself to try and make the most of it. She actually becomes the rare case of making a positive of her life, whilst the two other main Lorphs’ have mostly tragedy with a slight hope (Leilia’s seeing her daughter, Krim wanting to save her) after being mostly positive characters prior to the attack. The children of the story, of course, grow up as well but whilst Leilia’s child is also tragic (never sees her mother, mostly a recluse due to not getting the Lorph’ genes), Ariel has his own problems as he will outlive his mother, and the idea that at one point it is rough enough due to getting drunk and trying not to go on his impulse as yes, whilst not his real mother it is still very taboo, which leads him to leaves her to join the army, so when they reunite and Maquia is now a ‘grandmother’ his last line to her before the far future – his character development is true to someone growing up but in a more unusual setting.
This is why the movie is very unique as whilst the idea of the Lorph as being very long living (not immortal as they can be killed as has been demonstrated horrifically throughout) is very fantastical, the reality of life in the kingdom is definitely there. We have adoption, teen mother (not just Maquia, but Mido a single mother looking after her two sons on top of Maquia and Ariel being taken in by her) abandonment, stress, potential rape (Lellia’s child is very strongly hinted not to have been a consensual arrangement), obsession, arson, suicide…there are a lot of real-life moments which make the bittersweet ending even more tearful. It is definitely a happy ending, but with a lot of heartstring-tugging.
This might be just my favourite anime movie of all time – and I don’t say that lightly. The animation and music are superb, the characters are great (Maquia grows as much as Ariel if not in age, in definitely characterization), the development is outstanding, the story is well told, the drama is real and despite the fantasy setting, the reality of all the situations makes them stand out. Other heart welding stories are out there which are good of course (Anthem Of The Heart, Silent Voice, No Name, etc) but this caught me off guard on how good it was, and definitely recommend to anyone.
The animation is amazing, the drama is wonderful, you feel for Maquia, Krim, and Leilia from the get-go, whilst later it’s Ariel who gets your heart ready to burst. Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms is an understated masterpiece that should be required viewing for most fans…though whether your heart can take it is another story. But this story is still worth the watch. Highly recommended.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: June 17th, 2019
MSRP: £16.29 (Standard) £39.99 (Collectors)
Running Time: 114 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.