Brave Story is a really long novel written by Miyabe Miyuki. How long? Over seven hundred pages. My copy actually has 816. What’s impressive about it is that the novel has no filler. Everything that happens is important. It’s gotten manga and video game adaptations. As well as a movie version. Which brings up the obvious question, how do you turn a novel that long into a not quite two hour film? Even the game version, though it skips and changes a lot to get into the action right away, has a lot more story than that. Let’s take a look at Gonzo’s version and find out.
Our film opens with two kids sneaking into a supposedly haunted house. They get separated and our hero, Wataru, encounters a strange boy and a glowing portal. Roughly thirty seconds later when he’s in school the next day, he finds the boy in his class. He returns home to find that his parents are separating and he tries to follow his father and ends up finding the strange boy, Mitsuru, being harassed by bullies. He steps in to help and after a short conversation Mitsuru leaves to go back through the portal. Wataru goes home to find his mom lying still on the floor. So he calls an ambulance. After which he finds and enters the portal himself, having heard that he can make any wish come true. And that’s just the first twenty minutes or so.
This leads into one of the major things that breaks the film. The pacing is horrendous. It goes from one scene to the next in quick succession while explaining very little about the plot or the world of Vision. You don’t have time to acclimate to the situation. Most of the scenes in this don’t even last a minute before switching to the next and most of them introduce something new that they don’t adequately explain. If you don’t already know the story, you’re going to be really confused. Another major issue is that the film resorts to a lot of cliches, most of which aren’t present in the book and/or game. I thought that the alterations to the story for the game made it a bit cliche, but the film just goes far beyond that and into the realm of the insipid. The film does have a few funny moments, although I don’t think they’re supposed to actually be funny. The sheer level of stupidity just kind of makes them come off as funny.
Then we have our characters. They’re terrible. Let’s start with Wataru. In the novel and game he has a character arc, albeit a slightly different one than you might expect. In the film, he has no development whatsoever. He’s a complete moron who cares deeply about his “friend” Mitsuru, even though they’ve had all of three scenes together and just wants his family back and he continues to be a moron until the last minute of the film when the plot deems it necessary for him to grow up a little. The rest of the characters are mostly incredibly dull. Again, the extremely rushed pacing hurts the film in this area. In the novel they give you reasons to care about Wataru’s family and understand him. In this you get one introductory scene to them before his dad scarpers, and it’s far too short to serve as an adequate introduction. The only character who retains his personality is Kee Keema, the most annoying character in the book. The worst character assassination happens to Meena. In both the novel and the game, she’s a capable girl who’s motivated and generally awesome. In this, she’s useless baggage who could’ve been removed entirely without losing anything of value. The only decent character in this is Mitsuru. It’s still his weakest incarnation, but he does get some good moments and dialogue.
The art in this is actually pretty nicely done. The world of Vision looks good. The designs of the various peoples within are mostly well done, although I have no idea what they were thinking with the design of Kutzs armour. It’s like Gonzo thinks that women don’t wear proper armour even when they’re in an organisation where everyone else does. The monsters look pretty cool, for what little screen time they get. The action sequences fall flat since they tend to start and end within a few minutes or even seconds.
Gonzo did get some good voice actors for this movie. Saito Chiwa in particular. Unfortunately, the performances aren’t very good. I don’t know if they just weren’t trying, I know I wouldn’t if I saw the script, or it was the direction. The music is just bad. Particularly the song they use for the film’s pointless montage scene.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. This has no yuri.
My final rating for Brave Story is a 3/10. It’s a mess of a film. The pacing is dialed up to ludicrous speed. Most of the characters lost their personalities in the river and the cliche level is simply unacceptable. To be fair, this was a very ambitious project given the length of the novel, but even taking that into consideration, this is just bad. Frankly, this book should not have been a single film at all. If you want exposure to the story done well, read the novel. Play the game, even. But I can’t recommend watching the film.