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Drifting Home review: Netflix’s anime celebrates change, with a fantasy spin

As a child, moving to a new home might not sound like more of an adventure than facing the destruction of the known world. That apocalyptic feeling might seem too dramatic in hindsight, but Penguin Expressway director Hiroyasu Ishida takes it seriously and gives it a literally incredible face in his second animated feature, Drifting homecurrently streaming on Netflix. Drifting homeThe protagonists of elementary school students Kosuke and Natsume are faced with the loss of their old apartment house, when it suddenly heads out into the middle of the ocean with them and their friends on board.

In a neighborhood on the verge of renewal, with old housing estates gradually being replaced by water towers and new industrial buildings, the Kamonomiya apartment complex is a remnant of 1960s post-war development. Kosuke and Natsume used to live in this “haunted apartment”, which is now scheduled to be demolished and is said to be inhabited only by ghosts. From the very beginning, the slow disappearance of their home is clearly symbolic of a friendship threatened by change and time. The two have drifted away from each other, due to a choiceless exchange of words, combined with different interests and priorities.

A beautiful yet simple opening scene that recalls the friendship they once had, traveling back in time to when the neighborhood was full of life. Scaffolding, mold, rust and mild weather disappear as the photos turn to the past. After a quick setup at school, Kosuke and some friends journey through old apartments in search of the ghost that is said to have haunted it. Instead, they run into Natsume and her strange new friend Noppo, who claims to be a former resident.

Floating apartment in the middle of the sea in Drifting Home

Image: Netflix

Before long, a sudden downpour separates them from the real world, and the dilapidated apartment complex begins to drift across the ocean like a raft, with what seems hopeless of rescue. As with Penguin ExpresswayIshida takes the coming-of-age story on the porous boundary between fantasy and mundane, with the world disappearing suddenly, but seamlessly. It’s an eerie moment that feels like real magic, connected by brief editing. That eerie feeling is maintained throughout the film, thanks to the good instincts of Ishida and co-writer Hayashi Mori to avoid getting bogged down in the mechanics of what’s going on. The story is simply guided by feelings, not explanations.

The journey becomes a trip back in memory and the final confrontation between two old friends about what is to come between them. As they seek mutual understanding, their friendship takes on more complications than either of them realize, due in part to their shared relationship with Kosuke’s recently deceased grandfather Yasuji, who lived in apartments since they were first built. Yasuji gets both kids involved in her hobby, photography, and becomes Natsume’s surrogate for her own dysfunctional family. When Yasuji died, so did the apartment, and Kosuke and Natsume’s friendship reached a breaking point. Natsume struggles to let go of her attachment to the place, which could cost her a future relationship with Kosuke.

Change is so foreign to two children at this point in their lives, so leaving a home and the memories it contains feels like amputating a limb. an idea that Ishida and Mori used in their script. The symbolism of young people becoming fugitives at one point in their lives – even the specific idea of ​​inescapable buildings – has appeared a number of times in the past. anime, most recently in the series Sonny BoyDirected by Shingo Natsume.

But Drifting home is different, because of the way Ishida and Mori also ask: What if the characters’ feelings for the place were mutual? Noppo is the movie’s weirdest magic trick: He’s a tall, hazy boy who seems to be the embodiment of the apartment complex. Noppo’s true nature is heavily foreshadowed, but the depth of his connection with the children is both novel and moving. So is his pain level. He laments his abandonment: “Everyone is gone now, but I am still here.”

The anthropomorphization of the entire residence – who has his own journey to reconcile the process of losing Kosuke and Natsume to new apartments – threatens no small amount of magnificence. But the slightly morbid details of the story make it work: His bones are made of concrete rebar, and his skin is being restored by plant life, like an abandoned building. Wild disappears under grass, moss and mold. Through Noppo, this postwar architectural presence becomes something of an ephemeral, and it’s exciting and often emotional to see Ishida tackle how children deal with ideas of impermanence. , for people and places.

Handsome animation production from Studio Colorido (Penguin Expressway, Away Away) do a lot to sell exotic premise. Structures shift and break with believable weight, though the driving action is about a building drifting across the ocean like a raft. Likewise, the young characters are all drawn with light, gentle lines. Akihiro Nagae’s designs remain pristine even with more fanciful characters appearing for children. Realist background art contrasts modern with medieval, post-war architecture, but Ishida’s direction isn’t obsessively realist. It never feels contrary to the film’s sense of danger when the director uses extensive, sometimes very elastic physical comedy into the characters’ interactions with these environments, as when Kosuke apple violently used a makeshift tow rope to reach an adjoining floating building, pierced the corrugated iron roof, and bounced across the room below like a battery ball.

In exploring both the fickleness and sensitivity of children, Drifting home continue the work of Ishida Penguin Expressway: Both films do a great job of portraying children, in all their abilities, of selfishness, selflessness, and even wisdom. Moments of enlightenment are reliably interspersed with immature impulses. Even seemingly mature perceptions will quickly sink into more childish feelings, like Kosuke unable to help reconcile with Natsume because of petty jealousy.

Three kids clinging to each other outside in the heavy rain as one looks defiantly towards the camera in Drifting Home

Image: Netflix

Again, Ishida is interested in the characters bickering and conflicting, without necessarily being wrong. Each of the characters has a different, less obvious side to their personality, and the film’s journey towards them is more self-aware of their feelings and more empathetic to their friends as they go through their trauma. a strange look at the world that accompanies childhood. One girl, Reina, who becomes increasingly the focus of the film, is interestingly contradictory this way – she plays the adult, pragmatic member of the group, but she’s also obsessed with roller coaster. She shows herself off by constantly bragging about her upcoming trip to Florida (even wearing a Miami t-shirt as a constant reminder), but is quick to clarify that blushing is a common occurrence. pay childish prices for Kosuke’s attention. As a result, she became tempted to shoot down Natsume every now and then. Reina is a window into Ishida’s fascinating approach to writing for children – often capable of becoming pretentious children because of their ability to deliver their minds straight and never be taken for granted. .

There’s enough vibrancy to Drifting home that two hours in a single location with minimal context doesn’t really feel like overkill – the apartment is made to feel spacious and the kids end up drifting through the otherwise abandoned buildings. opportunity for adventure. The movie doesn’t quite manage to maintain the plot in the same way Penguin ExpresswayThe delightful hijinks do just that, especially with the film’s gradual, non-final science approach to its fantasy. But the adventure in Drifting home is fascinating regardless, compensating for the absence of process with some very real danger, as the kids must search for food to survive as fugitives.

While the character’s work is generally strong, Ishida and Mori still hit repetitive notes among the other characters, as they become tighter from panic and yell at each other with frequency. increasing. That stress causes profits to drop pretty quickly. But at least such moments feel like a pretty believable portrait of children stuck alone, especially in a race against time for food.

While the overall journey is intelligently and sensitively realized, there are points where Drifting home really feels (appropriately!) a bit lost at sea, as its characters grapple between youthful urges and empathy for their friends. Despite that, the film is admirable for its patient commitment to unpacking the children’s feelings about each other, the building, and other relics from their past, all as they learn to bring their attachments and memories to new places.

Drifting home streaming on Netflix right now.

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