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The story didn't do a lot for me, but the animation was absolutely lovely.
This is an unusual production. The animated film was made by a Japanese director and the film is in Japanese, but the project was made in Czechoslovakia (just before the peaceful division of the country) by the Jirí Trnka Studio. In the 1940s-60s, Trnka was one of the few animators who used stop-motion. Now, decades later, Kihachiro Kawamoto, who had done some lovely stop-motion films in Japan, went to work with the studio created by Trnka--combining the best of both talents.
The merging of Japanese and Czechoslovakian elements made for a very unusual film. The Czechoslovakian aspects of the film seemed to be in the overall style of the sets and characters. They appear to be European from about the 15th century and there isn't a trace of Japan in this. As far as the characters go, they are like works of art--truly beautiful and the costumes they wear are amazing. The Japanese aspect of the film is the story. I have watched and reviewed quite a few Japanese films and unlike traditional European stories, the films aren't as predictable and the stories are often more melancholy. Additionally, nudity and sex aren't as taboo in Japanese films and so when there is a nude scene, I wasn't all that surprised--even though the story is ostensibly a re-telling of a fairy tale.
And this takes me to what I think is the weakest part of the film. The story itself wasn't all that satisfying, as the many story elements didn't necessarily create a satisfying whole. It wasn't bad, really, just not the strong point of the story. But, because the film is so visually stunning, I still recommend you watch it. However, you may think twice about showing it to younger viewers.
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