Jobanni no shima (2014) Poster

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Beautiful, Affecting Anime from Japan
Alison27 July 2014
Junpei and his little brother Kanta are growing up on a small, far- northerly island of Japan, near the east coast of Russia, during and after World War II. After the Japanese are defeated, Soviet soldiers and their families take over the island, forcing the Japanese inhabitants to live in barns and to get by on small rations of rice smuggled to them from their former military posts. At first, Junpei and his family resent the Russians, but then he and Kanta meet Tanya, the daughter of the Soviet commander who is living in what was once their home. Children being children, they soon are playing together, learning each other's language and maybe, just maybe, falling a little bit in love. But when Junpei's father is betrayed to the Soviets, Junpei blames Tanya, believing that she told her father a secret with which he had entrusted her. There are other possible suspects, but by the time Junpei learns the truth, he and all the other Japanese are being moved off the island into internment camps, far away from Tanya....

This is a really beautiful animated film, filled with both humour and loss, all told on a human scale where nobody is all-good and nobody is all-bad. One of the most affecting scenes involves the Japanese schoolchildren singing a folk song (in Japanese, of course) while in the next school room, Russian children are singing a Russian folk song; by the end of the scene, the Japanese kids are singing the Russian song and vice versa. Just one example of how this film shows the resilience of youth and the common humanity of everybody in the world. Perhaps my favourite film at Montreal's Fantasia Festival this year; a real gem.
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Powerful, Heartbreaking and Sweet at the Same Time
arorashadow_200318 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Giovanni's Island" takes cues from other acclaimed movies such as "Grave of the Fireflies" and "Barefoot Gen" telling a wartime movie from the perspective of a child. This film is set in the first two years following Japan's defeat and surrender in World War II and how the Soviet Union occupied the northern island and with troops have come their families. This evolves into a a story of childhood friendship between brothers Junpei and Kanata who give their names as Giovanni and Campanella from "Night on the Galactic Railroad" by Kenji Miyazawa and a Russian girl named Tanya. What evolves from there is a seemingly simple story of a boy-meets-girl friendship crossing cultural and language barriers. For the first half, the second half of the movie goes into the deportation of Japanese residents and the boys desperately wanting to find their interned father. While the story does divide into two different plots it still keeps the emotion and power going.

The magical feeling between the children's relationship is captured with the visuals as the boys emulate and recite their favorite story of "Galactic Railroad" showing all the imagination of small children. Playing with the train set for the first time just gives that magical feeling that will leave you feeling uplifted.

The heartbreak and tragedy all come out in the second half of the movie as the boys lose their father as a prisoner, are forced to deport their home and eventually little Kanata dies of a serious illness. But the movie rebounds with a uplifting ending of seeing the older survivors return once more to their old homeland to be given their diplomas for primary school and we see Junpei unite with Tanya's daughter and grand daughter.

The film is visually striking being a very stylish hand-drawn animated film even with hand drawn and painted backgrounds. The character designs are all unique and will bear a resemblance to those of Studio Ghibli's work. The imagination and fantasy sequences are beautiful and will capture your own imagination.

Personally I would have liked to have seen a little more time with Junpei and Tanya. We get a fair amount of time with them but the second half of the film they are torn apart. It's understandable but I think that portion of the film could have been a little shorter. We never did get any real closure on the fate of Junpei's father either.

The film goes the extra mile by using real Russian and Japanese dialogue intermixed with each other but at times it seems the characters understood each other just a little too well.

"Giovanni's Island" is a very inspired and impactful post-war character drama with a few minor flaws but otherwise it is a wonderful film that will tug at your heartstrings quite a bit I know it tugged at mine.
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The consequence of the WWII on the two Japanese children.
Reno Rangan24 September 2015
The latest Japanese anime, based on the fictional account. Following the Japan's surrender during the World War II, the narration concentrates how the people are affected by the consequences of the war. The movie opens with the two elderly people heading towards their childhood village, recalling their memories. The entire movie was from the children's perspective of what they have seen.

The story of two young boys living in a remote island of the Japan. Who are obsessed with the toy trains and hopes see them in real one day. When Soviet invades the island and forced to live under their rule with coexist. The life remains unaffected, the children go to the school as usual, where these two boys meet the young Russian blonde girl and befriends. What comes after is the struggle that becomes a lot tougher by the days come and surviving becomes challenging.

It was not a top notch anime as I was expecting, but had a decent storyline and the characters. Still, it was a traditional presentation and so pleasant to watch. Somewhat it reminds the 'Grave of the Fireflies', but comparable with that, it was only the less emotionally appealing. The end really got me, I felt the depth. The strong conclusion was the movie's strength, otherwise I would have not liked the flick this much. Yet, I am not sure whether everybody going to like it or not, but still I suggest it only if you're convinced by other than my review too.

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