Giovanni's Island

Film, Animation
Giovanni's Island

Following World War Two, the Japanese inhabitants of the contested island of Sakhalin and its outlying archipelago were forcibly removed by Soviet soldiers. This animated coming-of-age tale – heavily inspired by Studio Ghibli’s 1988 masterpiece ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ – follows two young brothers as they witness the invasion of their homeland before being shipped off to an internment camp.

There are moments of real beauty: the characters in the foreground may be standard big-eyed anime figures, but the backdrops are painterly and immersive. The script takes many of its cues from Kenji Miyazawa’s 1927 cosmic Christian treatise ‘Night on the Galactic Railroad’, a staple in Japanese schools, which might confuse those not familiar with either the book or its 1985 big-screen adaptation, but also makes for some dizzying star-scapes and explosions of psychedelic colour.

But the film also has a sentimental streak that too often feels crude and manipulative, particularly in the cruelly dragged-out scenes of tragedy that close the story.

By: Tom Huddleston

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Release details

Release date: Friday October 10 2014
Duration: 102 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Mizuho Nishikubo
Screenwriter: Shigemichi Sugita
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