Maquia - When the Promised Flower Blooms

Japan 2018, 115 mins
Director: Mari Okada

The vertical threads are the passing days. The horizontal ones are the lives of mankind. The people of Iorph live far away from the lands of men, weaving the happenings of each day into fabric called Hibiol. They live for centuries, yet maintain the appearance they had in their late teens, and are known as ‘The Clan of Partings’ and treated as a living legend.

Maquia, an orphaned Iorph girl, lives her life peacefully surrounded by friends, but somehow feels ‘alone’. But the peaceful lives of the Iorph are shattered in an instant when the Mezarte army, seeking the blood that grants them long life, invades on beasts called Renato. Amidst the despair and chaos, Leilia, the most beautiful of the Iorph girls, is kidnapped by the Mezarte, and Krim, a young boy who Maquia secretly has feeling for, goes missing. Maquia manages to escape, but loses her friends and her home… As she wanders through a dark forest with an empty heart, she encounters a baby who is ‘alone’, after just having lost its parents. Ariel grows into a young boy. Even as time passes, Maquia retains the form of a young girl. The same seasons, but different flows of time. As the era changes, the bond between them changes too. This is a story of irreplaceable time, woven by two people who are alone.
Production notes,

For all the prevalence of young women protagonists in Japanese animation, female directors remain something of a rarity. Following Naoko Yamato’s A Silent Voice (2016), Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms becomes just the second anime feature directed by a woman to receive a UK theatrical release. Working from her own original script, first-time director Mari Okada presents a heartfelt allegorical fantasy that posits motherhood as a supernatural gift, yet ultimately a lonely business. At the beginning of the tale, the eponymous heroine lives a carefree if cloistered existence as a member of the Iorph clan, a mystical people famed for their longevity and the legendary magical cloth into which they weave their memories, emotionally connecting themselves to one another.

The plot unfolds over the course of a lifetime: not that of Maquia herself, but of the baby boy she discovers abandoned in a forest after she has been wrenched from her homeland by an aggressive and thoroughly masculine invasion. In accordance with Iorph custom, Maquia’s loving embrace of this outsider infant, whom she names Erial, sees her become one of ‘The Clan of the Separated’, raising the foundling as her own in the enemy city of Mezarte.

Maquia’s entry into the world of motherhood happens without any intimation of sexual activity, in contrast to the trajectory of her childhood friend Leilia, who is abducted to serve as consort to the Mezarte tribe’s Prince Hazel. When the child of their loveless consummation fails to manifest Iorph powers, Leilia is forcibly separated from her offspring, and takes to tending instead the dragon-like creatures kept at the foot of castle, whose powers, harnessed for the purposes of warfare, have similarly waned in Mezarte captivity.

Okada’s background as a prolific screenwriter with two decades’ experience in the anime world comes across in this by-and-large tightly constructed chronicle of Maquia’s relationship with her ward. If there is occasional confusion, it is due to the sheer timespan covered and the large number of peripheral figures popping in and out of the narrative. The animation – a first theatrical feature from the new P.A. Works studio – is generally impressive, if slightly generic. The character designs by Akihiko Yoshida, best known for his work on the Final Fantasy videogames, adhere to the anime standard of limpid blue eyes and paedomorphic features – though the script provides some justification for this, since the Iorph characters’ physical form becomes fixed once they reach adolescence. The locations and costumes are drawn from a Hanseatic-era Middle Europe, with the Iorph homeland, rendered as a prelapsarian Rivendell-like utopia, providing a stark contrast to the industrial-military base of the Mezarte city, crammed with grinding cogs and Boschian jets of steam and flame.

Maquia is clearly aimed at a young to mid-teen demographic, but its underlying idea – that the maternal spirit is eternal and cyclical, unlike the transient physicality of men, and endures in people’s memories right up until the point of death – results in some undeniably affecting moments.
Jasper Sharp, Sight & Sound, July 2018

Director: Mari Okada
©: Project Maquia
Produced by: Project Maquia
Production Company: Bandai Visual
Producers: Naoko Endo, Tomomi Kyôtani, Nobuhiro Takenaka, Nobuhiro Kikuchi
Chief Director [1st Assistant Director]: Toshiya Shinohara
Screenplay: Mari Okada
Director of Photography: Satoshi Namiki
Visual Effects Supervisor: Michiya Kato
CG Director: Tomohisa Shitara
Core Director: Tadashi Hiramatsu
Chief Animator Director: Yuriko Ishii
Main Animator: Toshiyuki Inoue
Animation Production: P.A. Works
P.A. Works (Animation Producer}: Kenji Horikawa
Editor: Ayumu Takahashi
Art Director: Kazuki Higashiji
Character Design: Yuriko Ishii
Original Character Design: Akihiko Yosida
Concept Designer/Art Setting: Tomoaki Okada, Katsue Inoue
Music: Kenji Kawai
Music Producer: Terunari Yoshie
Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi

Voice Cast
Manaka Iwami (Maquia)
Miyu Irino (Erial)
Yôko Hikasa (Tita)
Hiroaki Hirata (Baro)
Yoshimasa Hosoya (Lang)
Yuki Kaji (Clear)
Ai Kayano (Leilia)
Misaki Kuno (Medmel)
Rina Satô (Mido)
Miyuki Sawashiro (Rashine)
Tomokazu Sugita (Isol)

Japan 2018
115 mins

Early Days of Anime Shorts Programme 1917-1946 + intro
Tue 29 Mar 18:00; Mon 11 Apr 20:40
Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei)
Wed 30 Mar 21:00; Wed 13 Apr 18:30
Exploring Anime: Panel Discussion
Thu 31 Mar 18:15
Fri 1 Apr 18:15; Sun 17 Apr 12:10
Kimba the White Lion (Jangaru Taitei)
Fri 1 Apr 20:45; Sat 9 Apr 12:40
Belladonna of Sadness (Kanashimi no Belladonna)
Mon 4 Apr 20:30 (+ intro by Helen McCarthy); Mon 18 Apr 15:30

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
Mon 28 Mar 20:35; Fri 29 Apr 18:00
When Marnie Was There (Omoide No Mani)
Tue 29 Mar 20:40
My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)
Tue 5 Apr 18:20; Fri 8 Apr 20:50

Steamboy (Suchîmubôi)
Sat 9 Apr 20:20; Fri 15 Apr 20:30; Wed 20 Apr 18:10
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa)
Tue 12 Apr 18:00; Sat 23 Apr 20:40
Patlabor: The Movie (Kidô keisatsu patorebâ: Gekijô-ban)
Wed 13 Apr 20:40; Sun 17 Apr 18:20; Thu 28 Apr 18:15
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no tobira)
Thu 14 Apr 20:45; Sat 16 Apr 20:30; Fri 22 Apr 20:40
Patlabor 2: The Movie (Kidô keisatsu patorebâ: The Movie 2)
Fri 15 Apr 18:15; Thu 21 Apr 20:30; Thu 28 Apr 20:45
The Case of Hana & Alice (Hana to Arisu Satsujin Jiken)
Sat 16 Apr 18:35; Tue 26 Apr 20:55

This season was co-programmed by writer and academic Hanako Miyata

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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