Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Fantasia ’22: The Girl from the Other Side

Supposedly, fairy tales are written for children, but you would never want to be a kid in one of them. Shiva’s case is no exception, but at least she has a mysterious protector. In their divided world, he is considered a monster, but he often exemplifies the best of humanity in Yutaro Kubo & Satomi Maiya’s animated feature, The Girl from the Other Side, adapted from Nagabe’s manga series (and produced by WIT Studio), which screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Like a zombie’s bite, a mere touch, skin-on-skin, from an Outsider will turn an “Insider” human into a [so-called] monster too. Humans remain inside the “city,” except when they venture out to conduct military campaigns against the “cursed” Outsiders. The latest excursion has gone tragically wrong, leading the destruction of a borderland village. Only a lone girl survives, but the soldiers are not interested in her.

Yet, the forlorn sight of Shiva stirs something inside one mysterious Outsider. Presumably, he was turned relatively recently. Although he no longer remembers his previous life or his name, the former human she calls “Sensei” still clings to some ties to his past, like a locket. He also treats Shiva with humanist patience and compassion. While caring for her wounds, he scrupulously avoids any physical contact. Thinking more long-term, Sensei also worries for her future education and socialization.

Other Side
is a darkly stylish fable that sounds like a heavy-handed allegory, but it plays out on-screen as something much more sophisticated and engaging. The animation evokes the look of traditional watercolor painting more than typical manga-derived anime, but some of the Outsider figures appear somewhat reminiscent of Belladonna of Sadness.

Like most fairy tales,
Other Side has a relatively simple story. Somehow, the otherworldliness of the third act still manages to get confusing at times. Nonetheless, the way Sensei clings to his humanity is deeply poignant.

The Girl from the Other Side
is beautiful and sad, in ways similar to the best Studio Ghibli films. It often presents a childlike POV, but it definitely not childish. Recommended for discerning patrons of animation, The Girl from the Other Side had its Canadian premiere at this year’s Fantasia.