BAMBI IS NOT HERE
Since the total or partial withdrawal of Hayao Miyazaki at the forefront of the Japanese animation scene, the Western press has never ceased to want to find its heir, a new standard-bearer. Reality seems to be happier and more complicated, at a time when the creations of Makoto Shinkai, or Mamoru Hosoda, are flourishing in French cinemas, and when a new opus of the adventures of Detective Conan is about to be released in dark cinemas. With the release of King Deer by Masashi Ando, the parallel with the master of Ghibli studios may seem obvious, but again, it would be simplistic to stick to this simple parallel.
After years of war, the empire of Zol reigns supreme, especially over the people of Aquafa. But the eruption of a mysterious epidemic generates renewed tension between the two factions at loggerheads. A veteran, narrowly survivor of an attack by wolves transmitting the plague, as well as the little girl who accompanies him will find themselves at the center of a conflict which only asks to be reborn from its ashes. Impossible not to see in these beginnings, as in the artistic direction in general, a relationship with a certain Princess Mononoke.
A universe much more original than it seems
And for good reason, Ando collaborated on the latter collaborated on the latter, as well as on the Spirited Away. Reducing him to a traveling companion of the two masterpieces would nevertheless be a mistake, as his career as character designer and animation director will have taken him to various shores, the influence of which can be found in his first feature – footage. Of Paprikaat Paranoia Agentwithout forgetting Evangelion 3.0 or Your Name, it is a whole section of Japanese animation that will have accompanied and partly given birth, the artist. Witnessing the maturation of this journey via a first film as ambitious as the one that interests us is all the more exciting.
WAR AND PEACE
So, here is Van, a mysterious warrior who seems immune to the plague that ravages his fellows, flanked by the very young Yuna. The brilliant scientist Hoshalle is dispatched to his side to extract a cure from this man. We fear for a time that this first movement of the plot will bring us back to a technology/nature or civilization/gasoline opposition that is a bit hackneyed. But quickly, what is striking is the ability of the story to marry a number of symbolic lines, much more varied. His taste for mystery, for example, which could be confusing, turns out to be a great experience, as evidenced by the treatment of Van’s powers, never frontally explicit, letting the spectator guess how he articulates himself with the rules of a universe in form of perpetual discovery.
According to the discoveries of the trio of protagonists, it is an eminently political world, in which spiritual, but also institutional questions are intertwined with great intelligence. The social interactions of the various secondary characters are always established with a clarity that commands respect. This a mix of rigor and efficiency in setting up the stakes as their development is remarkable in the dialogues, striking and removed, including when it is necessary to strike at the spectator quantity of information.
A story that takes no prisoners
We may regret that the formidable capacity of the King Deer giving flesh to a rich fantasy universe is done in places to the detriment of emotion. The latter is more than once smothered by a narrative architecture that never plays easy, prefers the unsaid, as if it immersed us in an already known world, reinforcing the immersion at the risk of making it too demanding. But to regret this occasional lack of accessibility would once again be to miss another quality of the whole.
If the worlds reinterpreting legends and mythologies are sometimes characterized by their welcome taste for excess, Le Roi Cerf plays the card of restraint. A risky orientation, but ultimately paying off, as we emerge from the film with the desire to dive back into it, a sign that Masashi Ando has managed with promising mastery to breathe powerful life into it.
We want to thank the author of this short article for this remarkable material
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