I'm Pretty Sure It Isn't Technically Anime
If nothing else, this is for once a movie where a Young Boy's Coming of Age isn't completely about sex. There's a girl, and I kind of started to feel as though there was more between the two boys that the movie was entirely telling us, but mostly, it was a boy learning how to deal with the Adult World. This is refreshing, if nothing else. I really get tired of these Classic Movies where the only way they work as a story is if you can accept that sex is the most important milestone in a young boy's life. And while I do freely acknowledge that young boys think an awful lot about sex, I think there's more to becoming an adult than just developing sexuality. In fact, I tend to think that the development of sexuality is the most boring part of growing up. I can't help wondering if this is another Guy Issue. Though I never really talked to guys about it when we were all Coming of Age ourselves, of course.
Namoo is finding life difficult. His father is dead. His mother has a boyfriend. His cat keeps running away. His grandmother talks about dying. His best friend, Jun-ho, is going away to school in Seoul. The Tough Girl doesn't like him. Even when people try to include him, he doesn't feel as though he belongs. Through a series of events which I didn't entirely follow but which don't entirely matter, he discovers that taking a certain marble to the top of a disused lighthouse will cause a magical Thing wherein he ends up in another world entirely. There, he encounters Pale Flying Girl Mari. Jun-ho doesn't believe him, but Namoo keeps returning to the other world. Things are better there for him, even if he doesn't entirely understand what's going on. He just goes flying on the back of this big fuzzy thing through a beautiful landscape where no one is abandoning him. Jun-ho doesn't believe him; would you? But Namoo is happier there than he's ever been anywhere else.
His grandmother tells him that his mother needs a boyfriend, because his grandmother is going to die and he's going to grow up and move away, and his mother should have someone. And I can accept that. I'm sure Namoo didn't want to think about it that way, but it is a decent point. I've often wondered how different things would be now if my mother had found a boyfriend, whether before or after we left the house. (Well, two of us did.) A lot of kids never quite learn how to think of their parents as people, and it's just as well that Namoo learn that now, because it might come as a horrible shock later. In a way, this is one of those Coming of Age moments, the moment when you realize that your parents' lives do not begin and end with you. Jun-ho's family is sending him off to Seoul because they think it's better for him; arguably, it is. But no one ever asked him. His family needs to learn that he is a person with feelings as well--and he needs to learn to take on his own fate.
I wanted to be more impressed with the art than I was. It was lovely, but it also felt somehow incomplete. It was as if the characters were paper cutouts that had been drawn on. The world Namoo enters was exquisite, but the Real World didn't grab me quite as much. It was kind of like all the vision available for the movie was taken up by its specific unreality, and there was none left for reality. And yet some of the places shown ought to be quite lovely. There's that lighthouse through which Namoo enters his fantastic world. It's on a bit of shore some distance from the city, far enough so that it ought to be really beautiful. But it isn't visually interesting much at all. The art looks better from a distance than up close, not in the way that pointillism, say, does, but because if you're far enough away, you can't see how much it looks like bits of it are missing. It fades into a pleasant blur.
It's true that I've had a busy day, and that may have been part of it. I went to a memorial service and a birthday part both today, and it's my ninth anniversary with Graham. I'm pretty wiped out physically and emotionally. So maybe it was me, but I really had a hard time concentrating on this movie. I wasn't all that interested in the characters or what they were doing. There was this whole big Thing a while ago about how boys won't watch stories about girls, but stories about boys are somehow universal. I do not believe this is true. I will say that I think most of what Namoo is going through is still pretty typical, but I also did not think all of it was very interesting. Again, maybe that was me. But there was nothing about him which grabbed my attention. Honestly, I just found this movie kind of boring, though it was able to distract me at least a little in several places. I liked it just enough to give it a positive review, and I'm wondering how much of that was that it was a story of a pubescent boy that wasn't obsessed with sex. Am I the only person who finds our cultural fascination with that storyline a little creepy?