The COVID-19 Pandemic shutdown movie theaters in mid-March and there’s no clue not only when they’ll be open, but what time people will feel safe sitting in a room with strangers for two hours in the dark. As much as I enjoy a night at the cineplex with a bottomless bucket of popcorn, it’s the right thing to do. But it hurts knowing that certain films are having to skip theatrical release and go straight to home video. A major case in point is Children of the Sea that was supposed to play theaters back in April. The adaptation of Daisuke Igarashi’s Manga is a fantastical aquatic adventure that fills the screen with image and emotion.
Ruka Azumi (Mana Ashida) is a school girl who isn’t doing well getting along with her fellow students during their summer break. During a sport that seems to mix handball with soccer, she tangles with a more popular girl on the field. After Ruka gets taken to the dirt and scrapes up her knee, she gets physical and knocks her down. But the popular girl gets her nose broken. The teacher-coach is furious and doesn’t seem to care about Ruka’s knee. She needs to find something else to do for the summer since things aren’t going to get easier on the field. Home is not an answer since Ruka’s mom has a serious drinking problem. Not to spoil anything, but the large bag of recyclables is full of empty beer cans. The label is in Japanese so it’s an easy thing to not grasp initially. Ruka goes to the local aquarium where she remembers having a strange connection with the fish in the largest tank. She also goes there because this is where her father works as a marine biologist. Dad can’t handle being around her self-destructive mother. But instead of getting a father-daughter bonding film, she encounters Umi (Hiiro Ishibashi). He pops out into her life and into the tank. The story goes that Umi and his brother Sora (Seishū Uragami) were discovered being raised by dugongs (version of a manatee). The boys are part aquatic creatures and both form a bond with Ruka. Thing go into overdrive since a scientist is studying the boys and seeing how it links to a sea life event that has whales showing up around New York City and now more having an impact in the ocean near them. Is there a giant secret about to be revealed with a meteor splashes down and Umi and Sora want to take Ruka to be a part of the underwater festival. Is she merely going to be a spectator?
The last third of this film is a trip that goes up their with the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey in freakish images and transformations. There’s so much going on, it’s tempting to just play it a second time after the credits to just take in the visual majesty. You’re going to want to invest in a digital video projector so you can see this Blu-ray on a big screen even if it’s in your backyard. There’s so much going on that you need a screen larger than five feet. Director Ayumu Watanabe and his animation went beyond expectations with the details. There’s a scene where Ruku is hiding under a bridge so that you could see the water flowing by her feet and the glittering reflection on the ceiling above her. This is not limited animation. Children of the Sea is a dazzling tale that allows you to submerge into the animated imagery.
The video is 2.39:1 anamorphic. The 1080p resolution brings out the trippy element of the film that makes this a film you’ll want to watch with pals when this pandemic is over. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 in Japanese. The movie is subtitled in English.
Exclusive feature-length documentary “Turep – Looking for Children of the Sea”
Interview with director Ayumu Watanabe
Interview with composer Joe Hisaishi
Behind the Scenes featurette
Shout! Factory and GKIDS present Children of the Sea. Directed by: Ayumu Watanabe. Screenplay by: Daisuke Igarashi. Starring: Mana Ashida, Hiiro Ishibashi, Seishû Uragami, Win Morisaki, Yû Aoi, Sumiko Fuji and Gorô Inagaki. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 111 minutes. Released: September 1, 2020
Tags: anime, Children of the Sea, GKIDS, Shout! Factory