Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt is a 1995 film brought to us by our old friends at Studio Hibari, whom you may recall from their work on Kashimashi & Venus Versus Virus. So, how do these folks handle a children’s film and is it going to be any better than their track record would indicate? Let’s give it a shot and delve in.
Papadoll has gone missing. His smallest human, Meeko, is convinced that he’s been kidnapped by aliens but her brother, Toriyasu, doesn’t take her seriously. In fact, the little brat doesn’t seem to care saying that Papadoll just lay about all day anyway. That’s when Meeko notices a strange cat observing them. That night, three strange cats burst into their room, wanting to take Toriyasu away. Meeko insists on going along.
The big flaw with the film on a narrative level is that it’s paced pretty awkwardly. You get a long, kind of boring scene where the characters plan their next move intermixed with scenes of what the antagonists are doing and ending with an action sequence that’s welcome, at first, but just drags after a while And the film is barely an hour and a quarter long so the way the scenes still manage to drag, even if just a bit, is kind of a big deal.
On the positive side, the concept behind this is fairly creative. I also do like that it makes a big theme of Toriyasu being forced to come to terms with his own behaviour and how it’s contributed to the problem. There aren’t many works of children’s media that demand that level of self-reflection.
The characters vary a bit as well. Some of the dynamics come across as contrived and don’t work very well. The whole conflict turned into a kind of creepily close respect between Toriyasu & ChuChu being the prime example. A lot of the side characters are also pretty one-note. However, I do have to give the film some credit. Toriyasu’s character arc works quite well. The antagonist, Buburina, is pretty terrible but she’s not just the purely evil villain you get in a lot of children’s media. She does have redeeming qualities. She may not be at the level of a Ghibli villain, but it does give her some dimension.
The art also varies. One the negative side, the character designs don’t look very good. That being said, a lot of the backgrounds are creative and interesting. The whole world of Banipal Witt looks like a drug-induced hallucination. It’s almost like Hibari took visual inspiration from Apple Films’ opus, Yellow Submarine. It’s a very strange looking world, but one with a lot of atmosphere. The film’s action scenes also work quite nicely.
The cast is pretty decent. Hiroaki Hori, Sasaki Mirai & Hidaka Noriko all do quite well. Saegusa Shigeaki handles the music and it works nicely enough.
Don’t expect any. To be fair, an emphasis on romance really wouldn’t work for the film in general.
Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt was actually pretty enjoyable. Yes, it could have been better, particularly in some areas. However, it’s also creative and interesting enough in its own right. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Tomorrow I’ll end this year’s film festival week with a look at Mononoke Hime.