A tale of loss and discovery.
What They Say:
The people of Iorph live far away from the lands of men, weaving the happenings of each day into a fabric called Hibiol. They live for centuries while maintaining their youthful appearance. Maquia, an orphaned Iorph girl, lives in an oasis surrounded by friends, yet somehow feels alone. But the tranquil lives of the Iorph are shattered in an instant when the Mezarte army invades their territory on a dragon fleet, seeking the blood that grants the Iorph long life. Maquia manages to escape, but loses her friends and her home in the chaos. She then encounters an orphaned baby who is also alone. Maquia raises this boy, Ariel, with the help of some new friends. But as the era changes, the bond between Maquia and Ariel changes too, amidst a backdrop of racial tensions between the Iorph and the Mezarte. This is a story of irreplaceable time, woven by two lonely people who can only find solace in each other.
The audio presentation for this release works well as we get the original Japanese language in both stereo and 5.1 mixes along with the English dub in 5.1, all of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The film is one that has its moments where it plays bigger with some action elements but it is by and large more of a drama with a lot of great character interacts. The action side works well in utilizing the surround channels and especially the bass considering the creatures and the size of them moving about. But the dialogue is where things move and there’s a lot of good placement and depth here as there are some good locations to play with. It’s all crisp and clear with really good levels used throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2018, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The film has its own disc while there’s a second disc with it in storyboard form. Animated by P.A. Works, the film is a gorgeous work with a lot of detail to it and some beautiful designs. It’s not a big and active film in a lot of ways but when it runs in that direction it’s incredibly fluid and appealing with some breathtaking moments that must have stunned on the big screen. They look really great here as well with some fantastic color design and just a lot of detail that really drives it home in a big way. The encoding captures all of it really well with no problems such as noise or macroblocking going on. Colors are solid and appealing in all their variety and the high-motion fluid scenes are crisp and sharp throughout.
The packaging for this limited edition release comes in a heavy chipboard box that has a really wonderful texture about it. The front cover shows off a lot of the cast in an illustrated form that really makes it feel special and it’s surrounded with a nice bit of light golden framing. The character designs are richly detailed and it has a beautiful look through and through. The spine goes for the log in Japanese with no English, which on busier shelves may be a bit of a problem, while the back panel is empty with the gold framing around the edges and the name in English in small form along the bottom with a couple of releasing studio logos. Within the box we get a simple two-panel digipak that has an appealing two-panel spread showing off the cast together against the green of nature. The reverse side under the discs list what’s on each and how long it runs for both the feature and all the extras.
There are also two pack-ins within the box to really enjoy. The first is a 30-page Special Story from the writer, Mari Okada, as she does it in screenplay form and expands on this world a bit. The other is a gorgeous 80-page book in full-color that delves into lots of interview material, character designs, background settings, the whole shebang when it comes to what went into this original work. It’s a beautiful and fantastic resource well worth digging into and savoring and a huge reason worth getting this set.
The menu for this release goes with a static image design as it uses the main key visual/poster image of the two laying together. Spread out with the soft white background, it’s a visual that lets you ease into the show well enough and sets the tone just right. The navigation is all in a large font along the right where the language selection is part of the top menu (not a fan) with extras in a submenu. The layout is easy enough to navigate and getting around is simple enough. Language setup is easy and everything is clear and concise.
The feature film disc comes with a few extras though they’re all wrapped under the same idea of being promotional videos. We get the original news flash and preliminary announcements for it, there’s a nice selection of Japanese commercials, and we get the promos leading up to the theatrical release. We also get the home video release promos and the inclusion of the US trailers as well. The second disc has a lot more material to it with over two hours of bonus materials. The film in storyboard form is always welcome and it’s broken into seven chapters that you can dip into easily enough. I’ve seen so many storyboard books over the years as well as presented in this split form that I really do enjoy seeing how they bring the roughs to reality and what goes into it all. The other extra is the 22-minute behind the scene featurette that shows how everything came together and a look at specific parts of the project.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The release of Maquia in early 2018 was definitely an anticipated event for a few reasons. Original films continue to draw attention since they’re not focusing on the standard structure that comes from adaptations of manga or novels. P.A. Works was involved as the lead animation production company and it was their first standalone feature-length film. And the film had Mari Okada directing it based on the original screenplay that she wrote, which also marked it as her directorial debut after being so involved in anime for so many years. Bring in some great talent like Akihiko Yoshida working on the original designs that Yuriko Ishii adapted and the always strong scores that you expect from Kenji Kawai and you have all the right ingredients.
The film delves overall into a tale I like to see explored as it evolves over the course of the project. The focus is on a young woman named Maquia, an orphan within the Iorph people. Her people are long-lived as they spend their days weaving a special cloth that it’s best to not think too much about as it’s all about serving as a written chronicle of the passing of time. Living far from everyone else, it’s a quiet and kind of utopian little society who finds itself upended in a significant way when the Mezarte military shows up to capture as many of the women and young as they can from here. Their goal is to figure out how to use the blood (or potential breeding) of the Iorph for their kingdom for reasons that are easy to imagine. It’s a frightening sequence when you have such otherwise peaceful people being scattered about. For Maquia, it’s even more isolating because her being an orphan has always had her feeling separate and seeing her friends taken isolates her even more.
While she ends up away from the village accidentally, it also gives her something that she’ll have for a good part of her life. While wandering away after the event, knowing she can’t go back to where her people once we, she discovers a caravan where a baby had survived when nobody else did. Unable to leave the child, she brings him with her, names him Ariel, and then begins a life in the village of Helm with a few others. Maquia basically adopts Ariel at this point and raises him as her own, beginning their lives together that will eventually take them to another city later on when they’re both older. Or, rather, when Ariel is visibly older and Maquia remains the same. It’s along this way that we see Maquia finding some of those from her past over the years that have ended up in bad situations, such as arranged marriages or military service, and we see the strain of the aging issue coming between Ariel and Maquia as he gets older and older. Teenagers rebel to begin with but something like this introduces its own issues, especially when there’s years of separate forced into it as well.
That becomes one of the themes that I like that it explores as we move across the decades over the course of the film and get to see Ariel at different stages and how his relationship with Maquia changes over it. We do get nods to the issues going on with the Mezarte as they had reason for going after the Iorph but that was minor to me in comparison to seeing the progress of her relationship with Ariel. Watching as he grows up, engages in relationships, has children of his own, and deals with what he knows of Maquia’s past is fascinating to watch. Okada brings them both to life well both through the general story and how the actors portray them, and you really become engaged with that relationship is it expands over the decades. There are a lot of complications that come in during the adult years because of Krim from their homeland who has his own issues after Mezarte invaded and threw everyone to the wind. But at its core, watching the ageless Maquia dealing with the aging Ariel just touches a particular fascination with the right kind of seriousness and emotion.
Maquia was definitely an interesting work nd one that you don’t see often in general. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Mari Okada’s works over the year on the TV front and other screenplays so I’m delighted at seenig her taking on an original work of her own as a director, making it a passion project and really letting that shine through. The end result is a beautifully animated film with some great ideas, excellent execution, and an emotional story that carries through with all the right character points. Nozomi’s limited edition release is just gorgeous with a beautifully illustrated box and a squarebound book that presents a treasure trove of material to sink your teeth into – plus a bonus story. Fans of the film who were lucky enough to see this in the theater will want this edition and it’s one worth chancing on if you didn’t see it before. Definitely recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Announcements, Trailers, Promos
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Eleven Arts / Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: May 28th, 2019
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.