June 13th I treated myself to a movie at an actual movie theater instead of my home entertainment system…okay, I’ll level, my ‘entertainment system’ consists of a portable DVD/Blu-Ray Player, a 6-pack of cheap beer and whatever free time in the evening I set aside for watching a feature.
Taking my own advice for once, I escaped the Florida heat for the coolness of the cinema. My last time visiting one being pre-lockdown, it was long overdue, and I am glad that my choice was 2019’s Children of the Sea, the aforementioned Fathom Event from a prior article of mine, bringing it to local screens.
In complete premeditation I chose the dubbed showing.
Judge me as you will…
The film opens with oceanographers at various locations communicating about what is surmised to be whale song, and peculiar activity from ocean life, priming the viewer with a bit of a mystery before bringing them to an ocean side city in Japan to meet the main character, Ruka.
A tomboyish, and athletic junior high school girl, she’s looking forward to her Summer vacation playing sports with her peers at school and staying away from her alcoholic mother. When Ruka retaliates physically against a school mate who purposefully hurt her during a game, she’s ejected from activities until she apologizes.
Choosing not to is the inciting incident for Ruka, as she finds herself at the aquarium her father works at (he’s estranged from Ruka’s mother). There she meets the rather free spirited, and playful Umi, a boy her age who was raised by dugongs, and is acclimatizing to life on land after having lived his entire life at sea, requiring a wet blanket wrapped around himself when traveling any significant distance from the aquarium.
The two witness a meteor fall into the ocean one night, then later Ruka meets Umi’s older brother, Sora, a more sullen individual not adapting as well as his younger brother to life on land, but wise and observant beyond his years.
The three proceed to have misadventures, avoiding Ruka’s mother, exploring the significance of the meteorite, as well as the strange whale song and sea life activity, eventually meeting up with the marine biologist Anglade, who, along with the enigmatic woman Dede, seem to be the only ones with an understanding of what is occurring.
Visually, Children of the Sea is a spectacular masterwork from Studio 4°C, and it is the animation that keeps one in the seat. Story wise, it resembles the typical adolescence faced with the unknown premise, but the compass on it never finds a north, wandering like a good jazz session, but is charming enough to make you care for the characters even if their resolutions feel underdeveloped or incomplete.
The most tedious aspect of Children of the Sea is trying to understand what it is conveying. Playing darts in the dark, the film never quite hits the board. This leaves interpretation wholly to the viewer as to whether they are witnessing a coming of age story, a thesis on space, nature and spirituality, or birth and rebirth. It is quite possible that Children of the Sea is trying to wrestle with all of these concepts at once, but its 2001 Space Odyssey-esque montage of abstract animation towards the end while leaving one dropped jaw awed, it also leaves one scratching their head, wondering what the Hell they just witnessed.
Still, it is my opinion that Children of the Sea managed to impart something more important, whether it intended to or not.
It doesn’t always matter that you understand something profound, but that you felt something profound.
But that’s enough gibberish out of me. See you all again here soon! Catch you all next time!