Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms film review: a heartfelt anime epic

Mari Okada’s directorial debut is an intimate and emotional fantasy

Genre fiction has many explorations of romantic love between an immortal being and a human protagonist – vampire stories are especially good for it. What’s less common is a focus on familial love between someone who’s fated to live forever, or at least several centuries more than most, and a human who won’t be alive for nearly as long.

Maquia isn’t about vampires (and it’s not a horror), but does follow the parent and child relationship between a woman of fantastic origin and the mortal boy she takes under her wing.

The somewhat elfin people of the village of Iolph are known for two things. One is their weaving of the Hibiol cloth, a fabric that holds memories. The other is that they never seem to age beyond a certain point. The belief that the villagers’ blood might gift longer life drives the actions of a faraway monarch, and an attack by bandits, riding dragon-like creatures called renato, sees Iolph women captured for their use in extending a dynasty.

Title character Maquia gets away from the bloodshed, escaping with the accidental aid of a rogue renato, but becomes stranded in a forest far from her homeland, under the impression that all her loved ones have perished amid the conflict of the village’s attack. While trying to find her way in the unfamiliar outside world, she stumbles upon another lone soul: an orphaned baby, whose parents have been slain. She names him Erial and tries to raise him herself as she starts a new life.

As the years pass, this loving mother-son relationship becomes strained as the boy becomes a man, while his carer still looks like a teenager. Meanwhile, war is raging, and a group of Iolph survivors seek to rescue a loved one Maquia thought lost forever.

Maquia is the feature directing debut of Mari Okada, one of modern anime’s most prolific writers, and it flows between tender intimacy and epic fantasy with impressive ease. It’s a surprisingly violent feature at times, but it’s the tear-jerking qualities that leave the deepest cuts.