What is motherhood like? How does one create his own family? Is everyone destined to find their own place in the world? These are difficult questions to answer. All living creatures are destined to part in a certain way, but in a scenario where this is impossible, can human relationships really change the way you see life?
Maquia – When the Promised Flower Blooms is the directional debut of Mari Okada, an acclaimed screenwriter, known for titles such as Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and The Anthem of the Heart. If you are familiar with her work, you know that her stories bring tears in your eyes, and this filmis no exception. It is a deeply poignant fantasy tale that will make you question the meaning of maternity, immortality, and remind you how awfully heart-breaking farewells can be.
A peaceful race named Iorph pass the many centuries of their lives crafting a fabric called Hibiol in their isolated village. Maquia, an orphaned young girl, is surrounded by friends and people that care for her, yet somehow she still feels alone. One day, their tranquil life is ruined when the Mezarte army invades their territory on a dragon fleet, seeking their secret of everlasting life. Maquia manages to escape, only to find herself cast into the unknown wilderness where she finds a baby boy and decides to raise him. As the two seek their way into the unforgiving world of humans, their relationship goes through immense hardships and tragedy.
Plot & Story
The main story follows Maquia and her attempt to raise Ariel. At the same time, we see the sad tale of Leilia, Krim, and the kingdom of Mezarte. Maquia tries to face reality and struggles to cope with every situation as she comes to understand that she is cursed to outlive her ‘son’ and Ariel has to deal with his own confused feelings as he grows up and realizes that the person that he calls a mother seems now more like a little sister. Leilia gets captured by the King’s army and is forced to give birth to a worthy heir to the throne, while Krim, her lover, is obsessed with the idea of rescuing her. The Mezarte kingdom tries to exploit the gift of immortality to conquer the nearby countries, which brings the nation to its ‘demise’.
Although the plot is touching and beautifully executed, I found a lack of focus on the individual stories. The time skips aren’t properly explained, and the coincidental and highly convenient encounters of the characters are a bit silly, if you take into consideration that Maquia lives in a massive metropolis. Especially after Ariel enrols into the royal army and Maquia is taken away by Krim (I am still unsure if that is exactly what happened), everything seems to go on unexplained. I mean, he mentions that her hair is too long (implying that she is pregnant) but where exactly is she and who impregnated her? Is she in a nearby kingdom? Was it Krim that did the magic or was it Lang? Does she give birth later or what? We get the general idea of what is going on, but the plot holes are very apparent at this point of the story. Overall, the concept is rather intriguing but I would have loved to see more character development. The good thing about having so many characters is that we get to see several different themes and at least one character to resonate with.
Art & Music
The art in Maquia – When the Promised Flower Blooms is astonishing.
This film is hands down one of the most impressive projects of P.A.Works. They did an amazing job in creating beautiful backgrounds and presenting a rich world to discover. From the beginning of the film (where we see the village, the Hibiol cloths, the Renato dragon flying in the sky with the Red Eye disease) to the final scene with the dandelions and the amazing fields, everything (including the CGI) is just so well-done and detailed. The water looks like a mirror, the color pallets are exceptional, and the lighting brings every scene to life. The character designs are also good: even though Maquia seemed a bit weird at the beginning, her facial expressions blew my mind as the film was ending. Also, can we take a minute to appreciate the astounding work done on the clothes (that are super stylish and diverse)? I can honestly keep on praising the visuals of this film forever.
The soundtrack didn’t particularly stand out to me, but you could hear the solid composition and distinct style of the renowned Kenji Kawai. It id match the pace of the movie and intensify the emotions of the characters. I also found the voice acting to be very fitting to the characters. The seiyuu of Maquia and Ariel offered so much personality and gave emotional performances.
Themes & Trivia
The Iorph lifespan was inspired by cats: According to an interview of Mari Okada, she mentions that her cats influenced and inspired her in creating the Iorph. ‘I think the fact that I have cats plays a big part in that. Because I know that these cats I’ve had since they were kittens, unless I’m in an accident or am sick, they’re going to die before I do. Loving these animals, but knowing that at some point they’re going to cause me pain…you do think it may be better to never have cats in the first place. But at the same time, you want to be with them, and that’s a feeling I wanted to work with.’
Before I comment on anything else, I have to say that Krim is the exact same design of Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, when he gets older. Every time he was on the screen I wanted to scream ‘Edooo!’.
I really enjoyed the movie. It was a political thriller, war, drama and a story about the everyday struggles of a young single mother. Also, the way it portrayed willing and unwilling relationships between the races really struck me. Maquia choosing to take care of a human child and Leilia raped by the prince to give birth to a child that she can never see again puts you into a lot of thinking.
‘Once you love someone, you’ll truly be alone’
Amazing animation and overall visuals
Nice voice acting
Intriguing characters and beautiful costumes
Funny moments (When they hit their bellies saying that’s what it means to be a mother as well as Lang burning his lice in the fireplace)
The plot gets weird after a while
I wanted to see more of Barlow
Ariel sleeping with his shoes on the bed (MAQUIA, you didn’t raise him well enough)
A wonderful film that I would recommend to anyone up for some drama. With such a glorious production behind it, even if the plot might leave you a bit confused at some points, you will certainly be impressed by how well made and polished this film looks.