HIKAWA MARU MONOGATARI – A Review By Nick Askam

HikawaMaru_2

 

This film shows the life of a kid named Jiro growing up with a ship called the Hikawa Maru. Their lives parallel several times and tell an interesting story from the Japanese perspective from the World Wars. The animation is stunning at times, but overall has a pretty consistent feel with others in the genre. I will say that I don’t watch many animated films, so I only end up watching the best like Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. I will say that it doesn’t quite reach that level, but it has moments where it contends, for sure. I appreciated the various perspectives in the film and showing that war doesn’t really have any winners and there are no true bad guys. The biggest problem with the film is a similar problem that I had with Beasts of No Nation and that it’s hard for me to get behind the characters knowing they’re completely fictional. It’s just something that takes me out of it and makes me focus on the time period. I’m not saying it’s the worst thing in the world, but it does shift my perspective away from the characters.

The film is about Hirayama Jiro who lost his mother in a terrible tragedy and now lives with his father who runs a soba stand with his father. He doesn’t like running the restaurant but becomes infatuated with this new ship, the Hikawa Maru. The Hikawa Maru is a luxury cruise line that travels to America across the Pacific with little to no problems. By sheer luck, Jiro acquires a job on the ship and begins sailing with it. The film then shifts to later in time and Jiro is still working on the ship and he’s growing up. He meets a nurse, who he immediately tries unsuccessfully to flirt with, and various members of the crew. He even meets one of the most well-known people in the world at the time, Charlie Chaplin. Jiro has no idea who he is and it shows his narrow view of the world. He only cares about the ship and with some help from the engineer can hear it “speak” to him. The film then jumps ahead to various points in the war when the ship has been commissioned to become a warship and the challenges that go along with that. 

My favorite part of the film were the realistic relationships throughout. The relationship between Jiro and his dad feels real. Obviously, Jiro’s dad doesn’t want Jiro to board the Hikawa Maru because he might not be able to run the family business if he’s gone or something happens to him. The apprehension he feels would be the same that every parent feels. He also doesn’t change his mind about how feels for many years. This is a very difficult decision and he can’t fully accept it until years down the line when he sees his son maturing. Also, the relationship Jiro shares with another kid from his hometown. You get to experience the years of them growing up and then meeting again in battle. The best relationship is actually Jiro with the ship itself. Jiro learns to truly understand the ship and its struggles. He listens to it constantly and the ship takes him home. It’s an interesting concept that’s really explored heavily throughout the film. I think the director did a great job making it feel real. Jiro’s huge admiration of ship is shown numerous times and it doesn’t feel overbearing.

The animation was also fantastic. It looks hyper-realistic during the island scenes especially. It’s obvious how much time and effort went into making this movie. The character movements sometimes looked rigid, but it didn’t shift my focus off of the film too heavily. The over the top facial expressions were a nice comic relief. I thought the ship gliding across the water was great. All of the effects were well drawn as well for me. I liked the still frame with the perspective of the camera shifting the best. It really made me understand the tone that it was going for in those shots.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. I liked most of the characters and thought the animation was great. I wish the ship would’ve followed someone in real life because I think it would’ve made me feel closer to the story instead of an outsider. I think there were some minor pacing issues where the film dragged a tad in parts, but I think the relationships between the characters alleviated most of those faults. I do think this film is better than average and I’ll try my hardest to see it again.   

 

Score: 7 out of 10

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