It’s something that’s bothered me a little – but it wasn’t until I watched Children of Kamiari Month that “young girl finding joy in her hobby after the death of her mother/other loved one,” is basically its own genre.
You’d think they’d run out of hobbies after a while, but apparently not. In this case, the hobby and special bond between the character, Kanna, and her mother is…running. Which is a weird choice in my opinion…But hey, at least her not wanting or being able to run is directly tied in with her feeling responsible for her mother’s death and not some weird ableist narrative…
Overall, the story is pretty weak and has some inconsistencies – it’s a cute film but pretty forgettable and mediocre. Netflix has some awesome anime, it’s a pity that Children of Kamiari Month isn’t among them.
The plot of this movie is simple – a year after her mother dies, Kanna learns she is an Idaten, a descendant of the god of footraces, and that she must deliver foods to the gods at the Izumo-Taisha Shrine. Armed only with her mother’s bracelet that can slow down time, she, a rabbit named Shiro, and a demon boy Yasha must make the journey in time for the harvest festival.
Along the way, Kanna must gather foods from different shrines across Japan and figure out how to reclaim her love of running. It’s a pretty classic hero’s journey tale. While the film doesn’t really tell a new story – but the story it tells is good enough for a rainy afternoon.
I like the general concept of the movie – not necessarily the theme of grief, which I’ve seen done better in numerous other anime movies – but rather the idea of the main character being a messenger for the gods.
In real-time, she only has about 5 hours to make the journey but her mother’s charm gives her several days to make the journey. I did some research and found out that it’s about 517 miles from the Sumida ward (where Kanna lives) to the Izumo-Taisha shrine in the Shimane prefecture.
That’s assuming they took the route on Google maps – but they had to make detours at several shrines along the way, so likely it was a lot further. But Google says that’s about a 173 hour or week-long journey at minimum.
This gives the characters enough time to get to know each other and bond, while still ensuring there is a tense and upcoming deadline.
Normally, the main characters in this kind of anime seem kind of unnecessarily bratty – but Kanna really isn’t. Sure, she initially only undertakes the journey because she thinks she’ll be able to see her mom again – but she doesn’t act out so much.
When it’s revealed that she blames herself for her mother’s death – by losing a race while her mother was ill – it makes sense. Especially considering she’s only like 11 years old. And the film treats her grief with care and respect.
It also allows grief to be the main “antagonist” of the film, while there are characters who act as obstacles to Kanna’s success there is no singular outright villain who is trying to stop her. I think this is great because it really allows Kanna to focus on and overcome her grief.
Unfortunately, that’s about all there is to her character.
THE BAD AND CONFUSING
The characters in this film are pretty bland. The only thing we really ever find out about Kanna is that she used to love running and now doesn’t; demon boy Yasha wants to reclaim his clan’s position as messengers, but that motivation kind of disappears halfway through.
Shiro has basically no characterization and just kind of exists to explain things to Kanna and by extension the audience. And there’s just so much focus on running, but never about techniques or stretching or anything like that.
Running isn’t really that interesting of a subject unless you’re racing against someone. When a person’s lost joy is something like music or singing – it’s a lot easier to show the joy it brings to the character. You can get more into it.
While there are a few good scenes that express the freedom and happiness running brings Kanna…mostly the virtues are extolled by spirits. It’s just kind of boring.
The movie doesn’t expect you to know anything about the premise, like the old Japanese lunar character or anything about mythology – which is fine – but the way they go about discussing these concepts feels like Intro to Japanese Mythology.
In a book, I’d be more accepting. But this is a movie. Show don’t tell.
Also – this may be a personal thing but it seems like Kanna’s mother was sick for a while and died around the same time the previous year…Did she make the journey while she was ill? If not – who did? If she was seriously ill why didn’t she tell Kanna about the responsibilities? What would have happened if Kanna didn’t put on the bracelet?
Also – how the heck did she get home from Shimane without suspicion? I suppose the gods could have transported her home because I think an 11-year-old riding the bullet train alone would still raise a few eyebrows in Japan.
I know these are all questions that can be answered by: don’t think about it…this is the way things needed to go for the narrative to happen…but it bothers me. I don’t know why. It feels like some focus could have been placed on these aspects, rather than everyone talking about running all the time.
This is a cute, if simple movie. It does have some very nice backgrounds that are beautifully drawn. It’s a good movie for the younger crowd; they’ll probably get a lot more out of it than I did. But, you’re also not missing much if you decide to skip it.
Grade: B –
Year of release: 2021 (Japan)/ 2022 (Netflix)
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Takana Shirai
Writers: Tetsurou Takita, Ryuuta Miyake, Toshinari Shinoe