Blu-ray Review: The Wonderland

There’s always a strange feeling when you discover something new in a familiar place. Sometimes you just plain forget that a closet door is in a room. Sometimes you’ve never paid any attention to it. Other times you realize someone else has renovated the space while you weren’t around. But it’s a bit of amazement when you reach for the doorknob and look into this undiscovered space. The Wonderland is all about undiscovered spaces and undiscovered identities. The Japanese animated film from director Keiichi Hara (Summer Days with Coo) based on Sachiko Kashiwaba’s novel is all about discoveries.

Akane (Lisa Reimold & Mayu Matsuoka) is having an issue fitting in with her friends at junior high. Even though she going to be celebrating her birthday, she fears she’ll be all alone. She doesn’t believe her mother gets what’s going on in her life. She ends up at a curio shop run by her Aunt Chii (Anne Watanabe & Allegra Clark). In the middle of her visit, she puts her hand in a sculpture of a handprint. It’s an exact fit. This sets off a chain of events. A door in the floor opens up and out steps an Alchemist named Hippocrates (Masachika Ichimura & Frank Todaro). The mustached man with a top hat lets Akane know that she is Goddess of the Green Wind. This would be a fun announcement except it’s followed by the fact that she needs to come to his world to save it from the evil Zan Gu and restore the rains. This is a rather big burden on a teenage girl right before her birthday. But instead of shutting the door and getting ready to blow out her candles, Akane and her Aunt Chii go into the floor and arrive in The Wonderland. This proves to be both a land of wonders, but quite a few nightmares. Zan Gu is riding around the place in a destructive truck that’s ripping apart metal objects.

The Wonderland is a fun animated film even with the rather intense moments involving Zan Gu and a bizarre royalty ritual. Akane comes off as a real kid who wants to escape from her life and then freaks out when her wish is granted. Aunt Chii is hilarious as she embraces the weirdness of being in this alternate world. Their attitudes seem so natural. The animation keeps the fantastical and the real world in a right balance. The Wonderland is a fine Blu-ray to run for the kids as an after school special when they’re done in the kitchen with the virtual classroom experience. Just don’t be shocked if your children keep looking for forgotten doors around the house.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. You’ll get to enjoy the character design from Ilya Kuvshinov. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA in both Japanese and English. The movie is subtitled in English.

DVD of the film and bonus features

Our Wonderland Cast Interview

Mayu Matsuoka’s Amazing Adventure

Audio Commentary with Character Designer & Concept Artist Ilya Kuvshinov and Eleven Arts’ Chris Platt and Amelie Khuat

Shout! Factory presents The Wonderland. Directed by: Keiichi Hara. Screenplay by: Miho Maruo. Starring: Mayu Matsuoka, Anne Watanabe, Kumiko Asô, Nao Tôyama, Keiji Fujiwara, Akiko Yajima & Masachika Ichimura. Running Time: 116 minutes. Released: October 6, 2020.

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