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Old 01-17-2020   #1
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Default Ni no Kuni

I wrote this review on the movie's page originally, but it was longer than I thought, and I thought this was a better place for it, so I nuked it and moved it here.


Honestly the main thing I got out of this movie was basically the main things I had reservations about ended up being true. I watched it both to see and also for the sake of the site and it was... something.

Doing an NNK movie, that's also an original story rather than an adaptation, and also not actually made by Ghibli, really sucks a lot of the air out of the room to begin with. Combined with the fact that the "real world" here is set in Japan rather than the US like the games, it basically ends up just being a regular isekai playing dressup as NNK. That was what I was worried about, and I was disappointed to see that... yeah, it is.

The plot also just tries way too hard to wring drama and emotional impact out of you, so it just throws on plot beat after plot beat and twist after twist, but they're so cliche and unforeshadowed and clearly tacked on that you just end up confused or not caring. The best example is the movie's epilogue. Yu tells you his backstory earlier in the movie, but after the plot itself is all wrapped up we get a bunch of narration that explains his *actual* backstory including the truth of his relationship with Haru, and it really felt tacked on after the fact for a "feelgood" final note. It doesn't make sense within the movie itself and it's seriously not foreshadowed at all, so it really doesn't recontextualize anything. It just throws one last sucker punch at you to be all "Wait what?" just as it ends and you think you've digested everything.

Nothing also really happens in the first 50 minutes of the movie, so they rush to jam in as much drama and villain motivations/speeches as they can and it's all just so halfbaked. There's no time for the villain to really even establish himself. It's just like, "Yeah, we need one, so it's him!" It's a mess.

Honestly I thought it would just be a bland, "yeah, that was okay" movie, but it's just straightup bad. I honestly get genuinely worried that it would scare people away from NNK1 and 2, which are both wonderful games.

There are links and references to the games which I guess are supposed to be nice Easter eggs, but the total lack of context means they really don't add any new layers and don't have much impact whether you've played NNK1/2 or not. For example, (SPOILERS BUT WHO CARES HONESTLY) Old Man is implied to possibly be Oliver from NNK1, but there's virtually no context for those who don't know who Oliver is, and it being him barely adds anything to the movie than if he was just anyone who had crossed to the other world. I'll freely admit I zoned out after a while so I might have missed it, but I don't know if it's actually explained how he got from Motorville to modernday Japan and didn't remember any specific references to his adventure in NNK1 other than the broad stroke of him having crossed worlds before, so it doesn't even really make sense either. But anyway.

Speaking of which, Hisaishi really phoned in the soundtrack, because like 90% of it is just reused tracks from NNK1 and 2. I think they were rerecorded, but it immediately jumped out at me. I don't really blame him for not bringing his A-game, but it really only adds to the "NNK knockoff" vibe.


I guess the big thing that's relevant to the site is the VO. I think NNK is an excellent example of a series that I flatout think is better dubbed, so I didn't watch the movie subbed both because of that and so I could see how it stacks up. The juxtaposition between the real world standing in for the US, and the second world's inhabitants being themed after the UK, is a marvelous localization choice that adds a lot of character and worldbuilding. The variety of accents is rich and gives you so much about the characters in a way that's both easy to get the picture of and lifelike.

The producers of the dub clearly acknowledged that. Despite the real world not being America, everyone from it has American accents. Which is acceptable since most people are used to US dubs set in Japan having American accents. The VO is all fine here. It's nothing new for most of the actors and it kind of shows. The only thing I will really note is I think Haru tended to milk a lot of emotion in his scenes. That is a problem with the movie itself, but in general what I would've noted on would perhaps be to transition between moods a little more gradually rather than like, "flipping a switch".

Now, just like in the games, the second world's inhabitants ARE British... but this is where I think it was clear that dubbing the movie outside the UK was an illfated move to begin with. The accents are all fake and they are *very obviously* fake. There's not a lot of consistency either. For the most part each actor goes with the standard RP "posh" style accent, but each of them vary with how thickly it's laid on. Astrid for example comes off as very haughty, Galeroth wavers between RP and a more everyday-London, and Barton's accent is so light that it's often barely noticeable. Then there are just left-field decisions like the Black Hooded Man, who is voiced with a John Lennon impression. It doesn't even make sense since John wasn't the assassin.

It's doubly sad because the dub forcing actors to be fake lets down so many people who are absolutely capable of much better performances. Gnauss is an excellent example. His accent wavers frequently and his tone of voice ranges from either "smug and condescending" or "ABSOLUTELY OFF THE WALL". It's ridiculously obvious that he's the villain long before the "twist" and it stands out even more because he shares scenes with the King, and his complete stoicism is SUCH a juxtaposition. I think Robbie Daymond is one of the best modern dub VAs, IMO, but this is one of the only times I've ever heard something that makes me go, "Wow, this does NOT work." Stuff like this, Greg Chun's Beatles impression, and hearing Kyle McCarley do a Welsh accent and a leprechaun voice was surreal.

Surreal is a good way to describe the dub in general. It just feels wrong. And I mean that in a way I legitimately feel bad for the people involved in it - it's not their fault, because they *can* do and have done better, but the decision from the top to go with having everyone be so artificial just dooms the whole thing from the beginning. I said before the movie feels like a NNK knockoff, and blatantly having such fake British accents doesn't help. The dub was union, so if they absolutely had to not record in the actual UK, the fact that no actual Brits were brought on board is extremely disappointing. It's just another on the list of dubs that call for actual Brits, decide they can fake it, and ends up totally squandering its cast and crew.

Honestly, I can't recommend this movie to anyone. If you love NNK, the total lack of connection will probably put you off. If you don't know anything about NNK, it doesn't do anything to hook you in on why NNK is awesome. And no matter what, the writing is just too confusing and by-committee. The dub also is a disappointment that lets down everyone involved. I don't really come out of the movie thinking, "Wow, that was terrible and I hate it!" I come out feeling kind of sad. It's like watching the Titanic sink. It was doomed from day 1 and it's too bad it couldn't reverse course.

tl;dr Knights of the Isekaidiac.

Last edited by NCZ; 01-17-2020 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 01-17-2020   #2
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Default Re: Ni no Kuni

It's amazing how this movie started off as mediocre and then completely sh*t the bed.

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