The Deer King (The deer king), is the directorial debut of Masashi Ando (1969), animation director in three of the five highest-grossing films in the history of Japanese cinema: Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away (both of Hayao Miyazaki) and Your Name (of Makoto Shinkai). And as co-director with Masayuki Miyaji, Miyazaki’s assistant director on Spirited Away.
Two experienced and respected artists who have also collaborated with other great directors such as Hiromasa Yonebayashi (in Mary and the witch’s flower).
From all those wonderful movies there are things in this Deer King, which is a beautiful environmental fable about man’s relationship with nature, about inner growth, the fight against adversity and about fatherhood. And it hits theaters this Thursday, June 9.
Unfortunately, plot-wise and emotionally it doesn’t live up to those great titlesespecially that of his greatest source of inspiration, Princess Mononokand. And it must be recognized that he had it very complicated with those references.
But that doesn’t stop it from being a wonderful and recommendable film in which the main protagonist is nature and whichdeals with two very current topics: a global pandemic and a war.
After a long period of drought of anime in cinemas, recently we are getting used to seeing Japanese animated films on the big screen and we must recognize that With titles as spectacular as this one, it is a real joy.
Three characters in a world ravaged by a pandemic
The movie is based on the bestseller The Deer King, by Nahoko Uehashiwhich was recognized in 2015 with the Japan Booksellers’ Grand Prize and the Japan Medical Association’s Literary Grand Prize. It has sold more than two and a half million copies to date and remains one of the most popular works on the current literary scene.
The film tells the story of soldier Van, which was part of an army of defenders of nature that fought on the back of large deer (a tribute to Princess Mononoke and her enormous wolf). When his tribe was defeated by a powerful empire, Van was the only survivor, although he was taken prisoner and sent to work in the salt mines.
One night, a pack of strange dogs attacks the mine and a mysterious disease begins to spread. Van takes the opportunity to escape and finds a little girl named Yuna. Both will forge a close relationship as father and daughter, even though they have no blood ties.
Furthermore, Van seems to be the only one immune to this plague, so he will be chased by everyone, including Hossal, a medical genius willing to risk his life to unravel the mystery of the disease and find a cure.
These three characterswill achieve will change the destiny of the world and the delicate relationship of man with nature“.
Some irresistible characters
It should be noted that the main characters are great, starting with Van, that warrior who has lost everything but who regains his enthusiasm for life.when he unexpectedly becomes the father of little Yuna. Thanks to her he will regain the strength and determination to become a warrior again and, above all, a great father.
And this girl, whose mother dies from the pandemic, is absolutely irresistible; an adorable and simple girl who wins everyone’s hearts and who is the opposite of the repellent and know-it-all children that have become fashionable in fiction. I guarantee you that you will fall in love with her as soon as you see her. And the father-son relationship between the two is wonderful.
Hossal is a physician-scientist who He risks everything to find that cure that stops the disease. A character that is a beautiful tribute to all the healthcare workers who have saved (and continue to save) millions of lives during the current COVID-19 pandemic. And those we have so quickly forgotten.
The fourth character in the film isan enigmatic warrior who pursues Van and that will end up being decisive for history. Without forgetting that beautiful and huge deer that the warrior rides, which is nothing but the representation of nature.
A great animation
The beauty of the film is almost hypnoticespecially in that representation of nature, which is highly inspired by Miyazaki and Princess Mononoke. And it is that The Deer King (The deer king), is a production of one of the great Japanese animation studios: Production IG responsible for such popular animes as Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Psycho-Pass either Haikyu!!
The Deer Kingreaches more than 100 cinemas throughout Spain after its premiere in Japanese cinemas and being a success at the Annecy (Official Selection), Sitges (Official Selection) and Fantasía (Audience Award for Best Film) festivals.
In short, a film that isa great show that will amaze you with its stylistic and formal beauty and its unforgettable charactersbut that, narratively, fails to develop the potential that the approach held.