Produced by Eiko Tanaka
Directed by Ayumu Watanabe
Based on Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi
Screenplay by Hanasaki Kino
Starring Mana Ashida, Hiiro Ishibashi,
Seishū Uragami, Win Morisaki, Goro Inagaki,
Yu Aoi, Tohru Watanabe, Min Tanaka, Sumiko Fuji
For the first half of its runtime, Children of the Sea plays like a familiar sort of young adult anime fantasy, equal parts Makoto Shinkai and Studio Ghibli.
It’s beautifully rendered and greatly focused on detail, from the coastal town in which its set to the sea life all around. The young protagonists are mostly awkward, yet charming. And to add to the Ghibli feel, it boasts a lovely score from regular Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi.
The story, based on Daisuke Igarashi’s manga, revolves around Ruka, a prickly teen whose family problems may be exacerbating her family issues. Her parents, both accomplished marine biologists, are separated.
While visiting her father at the aquarium he works at, she meets Umi and Sora, two boys in the facility’s care who were raised by dugongs. Umi is trusting and playful, while Sora is initially standoffish. But they become fast friends and find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving the strange migration of sea creatures and a meteorite that may or may not have hit Earth.
The first half, however, gives way to a second that throws out whatever mystery it was building in favor of becoming a psychedelic trip through multiple planes of existence, employing stunning visuals in the service of speculating as to the nature of life.
It’s not like we weren’t warned. The various supporting characters, including a few other marine biologists and a mysterious, sage-like character named Dede, spend a good deal of time pondering metaphysical concerns, while speculating as to the boys’ true nature and how Ruka may be connected to all of it.
But whatever questions are asked in the first half, including a plot thread involving a shadowy scientific faction, end up mostly unresolved. It’s disappointing if you’re invested in the story.
However, on a visual and even spiritual level, the second half of Children of the Sea might be oddly fulfilling for those more interested in its less grounded, more heavenly concerns, or for viewers wanting to experience a vivid trip. It may not be for everyone, but it’s worth watching at least once, to figure out if it’s for you.
Children of the Sea is available On Demand, DVD & Blu-ray from GKIDS