According to Oblivion Island: Haruka And The Magic Mirror (ホッタラケの島 〜遥と魔法の鏡〜 Hottarake No Shima: Haruka To Mahō No Kagami), there is a magical place where all of the neglected items of mankind go.
Populated by fantastical creatures, it’s here that Haruka, a grieving schoolgirl, finds herself having to go in order to retrieve her late mother’s precious mirror – much to the shock of its scavenging inhabitants. That, however, is the least of their worries: as those scavengers are, soon enough, also going to have their work cut out with a load of poorly animated, sickly-sweet DVDs.
Pitched between Alice In Wonderland and its more relevant counterpart, Spirited Away, it’s not that Oblivion Island is exactly terrible, it just isn’t anything special. A surprise, really, given that its visual style of glossing modern CGI with a traditional anime style certainly sets it apart from its inspirations but, ultimately, works against it.
Directed by Shinsuke Sato and devised by Production IG, who produced the Ghost In The Shell TV series, the animation’s novelty works well with grand fantasy backdrops (the island itself is impressively imaginative) but less so with its actual characters. This especially applies to Haruka, who comes across like a poorly rendered video game avatar. Emotional connection with this protagonist is hard enough without her looking as though she’s dead behind the eyes.
For yes, Haruka is the downfall of Oblivion Island, with her trials, tribulations and goals faltering underneath the fact that she’s so poorly developed.
We’re told, for instance, why she wants the mirror/Macguffin and how she got it from her dying mother but this is just presented as information – nothing more. The script tells you what you should feel but never really why you should. And even when it does attempt to flesh out Haruka’s personality by depicting her relationship with her endearingly hard-working, single parent father, she just comes across as petulant and bratty.
This, combined with the animation and a limp English voiceover, makes her an eerily soulless creation in what is, overall, a tedious tale.