FunAstrologyAnime „The Deer King“ im Kino: Wolfsblut

Anime „The Deer King“ im Kino: Wolfsblut

Created: 09/14/2022, 4:53 p.m

Sparsamkeit ist Trumpf: Ausdrucksvolle Gesichter in kaum bewegten Großaufnahmen. Plaion Pictures
Thrift is the trump card: expressive faces in close-ups that hardly move. Plaion Pictures © Plaion Pictures

A hauntingly old-fashioned anime in the footsteps of Miyazaki: “The Deer King” by Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji

For Studio Ghibli fans, the wait will be long. Old master Hayao Miyazaki had already announced his farewell work “How Do You Live” for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Then came a pandemic, and a new date was never released. The animation director’s first directorial effort on Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away comes at just the right time: Masashi Ando directed The Deer King alongside Miyazaki’s assistant director on the latter, Masayuki Miyaji.

In fact, it would be difficult to distinguish the lush green forest landscapes in their lavish richness of detail from the background gouaches of the Ghibli films. Miyazaki and his congenial Ghibli partner Isao Takahata could also have been interested in the story set in an undefined, pre-industrial time based on a template by Nahoko Uehashi. Two despotic monarchs are at war, and as if their subjects weren’t suffering enough, a plague has also broken out.

In fact, with this “black wolf plague” nature seems to be raising itself as another evil to make the human powers forget their war. Mysteriously, however, it only affects one of the hostile nations – and the poorest first: slaves who work in a mine are victims of a wolf attack in a dramatic scene right at the beginning.

The search for the serum

The sole survivor, a former insurgent named Van, and the girl Yuma he picks up are the heroes of the story. Van’s obvious defenses make him a beacon of hope for a serum – we have to take this for granted as a medical perspective, which is considerable at the time. A tracker and a doctor are on the heels of the fugitives – and show the direction of the odyssey.

But it is less the external action that keeps the film going than an almost meditative soundtrack made up of pensive dialogues, which sometimes digs a little for philosophical depth (“Your body is no more than a shell for your ego …” ). A second “Ghost In the Shell” will not come of it, but there is a strange pull from the sound level of this epic adventure – largely thanks to a beguilingly melodic score by the composer Harumi Fuuki (“Miss Hokusai”). It is then more voices from memory than visible dangers that afflict the quite fearless hero.

Even in the classic anime series of the 1970s, such as Isao Takahata’s “Heidi”, the sound level had an often underestimated effect. Excellent screenplay work compensated for production-related limitations in animation at the time. On a significantly smaller budget than their Ghibli films, the filmmakers remember these virtues from the days when frugality reigned supreme in anime. But less is more when it comes to animation: Faces unfold their expression in close-up shots that hardly move, just through the drawing.

In meditative blue

Clever color dramaturgy uses the deep blue tones of the night scenes for meditative effects. In the impressively animated attack of the wolves, purple streaks run through now surreal landscapes. And the detailed background painting creates a retro-futurism clearly developed by Miyazaki for the technically advanced fantasy Middle Ages. It’s a celebration of classic 2D animation, which is only part of the film industry in Japan – including the picture-perfect spatial illusions of multi-plane camera journeys through the deep forests. Whenever dangers can remain vague, they are in their element. For example, when the survivors of the wolf attack are pursued right from the start by shadowy beings who apparently fear that their survival might reveal the origins of the plague.

However, the possible background of the story also remains vague – obviously only an excerpt of a longer epic is being told here. The film also gives away a certain dramatic potential by quickly turning the distinguished hunters of the fugitives – the shamanic tracker and the doctor – into friendly travel companions. On the other hand, the meditative narrative flow also tempts one to pay little attention to the narrative ballast. Either way, what you see is a voluptuously old-fashioned film that more than appreciates the beauties of this art form.

The Deer King. Animationsfilm. Japan 2021. Regie: Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji. 114 Min.

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