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The Life of Guskou Budori. A young cat lives in the forest with his family. A harsh, ongoing winter comes to their village, leaving Budori’s family and the rest of the cats struggling to find food. After his father and mother disappear into the forest, Budori is left alone to take care of his sister Neri. One day, a weird cat shows up and steals Neri away. Thus begins Budori’s journey to save his sister.
The Life of Guskou Budori is one part old school Disney, two parts Ghibli with a good dash of Watership Down style creepiness. The colour palette is quite subdued, shying away from vibrant colours, which lends to the somewhat surrealness of some scenes. However, that does not stop the art and animation from being generally wonderful. Everything from the wood grains in the doors to the way steam moves has been lovingly rendered with exquisite attention to detail. There are also some rather cool visual effects in the latter half.
Musically, the score has some nice pastoral pieces, including some very cool flute pieces. I really liked the circus-esque themes in the latter half of the movie. One thing that took me a while to get used to, however, was Budori’s voice. He sounds a lot older than I thought he would be at the start of the movie. Perhaps that’s because I imagined him to be younger than he actually was meant to be, but he sounded a lot like an adult to me. However, as the years go by and he grows older this becomes less of an issue.
But enough of the technical side, what about the story? The characters? I must say, Budori doesn’t have much of a personality. Sometimes this can be a bit detracting. For instance, when he was yelling for his sister during his trial, I hardly felt any emotion in his voice, yet his blandness and his ability to just go with all the weird stuff that he sees adds to the film’s uncanniness. In fact, I’d say that Budori’s...blandness was a purposeful move. In a world of eccentricities, Budori grounds you.
Personally, if there was one thing I loved about this movie it was the general weirdness of it all. The first twenty or so minutes features the normal struggles of a family trying to get by. Everything after that is a chronicle of events that is part a documentary of Budori’s life and part a surreal adventure not unlike Alice in Wonderland. The best way to enjoy the movie is not to ask too many questions, sit back and enjoy.
Certainly, I found some parts more interesting than others. I admit, did like the dream-like sequences more than the bits to do with the volcano and I’m sad that nothing really came of it. In fact, my biggest disappointment with the film was that Budori’s family just disappeared (probably died) and we never learned anything concrete about their fate. The weird cat/magician was another thing that just showed up in the film and was never explained. However, despite my complaints, I was satisfied with the happy, if disjointed, ending.
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