Every year, I gravitate towards the anime offering for VIFF from classics such as Wolf Children and duds like Red Turtle, every year I roll a proverbial dice. Children of the Sea by Watanabe Ayumi is a bit of an oddball. Fitting an epic manga series into a 100-minute feature can be a bit of a pickle, but Watanabe does a good job spinning a bildungsroman that transcends into a metaphysical journey.
The story starts out simple: Ruka– a haughty girl with an uncanny affinity to the sea — meets Umi and Sora, a duo of strange boys raised by dugongs. After a chance encounter with a mysterious meteorite that set off an exodus of sea creatures towards a waypoint scientists explain as “The Festival of Birth”, the unlikely trio manifest their destinies that explain their strange connection, birth, death, and the meaning of everything.
Did you catch all that? I hope so, because the film is like an uncontrolled jetstream that propels the viewer from one majestic rave of light, color, and sound to the next. The dense lore is delivered in well packaged exposition bombs and metaphysical psychobabble akin to a Continuing Studies contemporary philosophy class. At the end of this film is a well-timed climactic serotonin release. One wonders to themselves, what’s the point? Who needs a plot? Why are there so many unanswered questions? Did you name every single sea creature they rendered in such magnificent illustration? The meditative ride was well worth it and all I’ll probably take away from this film in the end is when will Shinkai Makoto’s Weathering With You release in North America?
Vincent Ternida is an emerging author whose pieces have appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, Dark Helix Press, and was longlisted for CBC Short Story Prize in 2019. Ternida’s first novella, The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo, was published by Asian Canadian Writer’s Workshop. He currently has a collection of short stories in development. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.