This film is either called The Wonderland or Birthday Wonderland depending on what country you watch it and that’s certainly a choice. I suppose it makes sense how this film was locked away and forgotten on Tubi instead of being apart of any major streaming platform as a boon of some kind. With that note, I hope people in Jon Spencer’s server don’t jump on me too much for writing about yet another thing we watched on his discord server. Especially since all of our opinions aligned when it came to this film. That film that really doesn’t know what to do with itself or at least didn’t connect as well as it could have. The Wonderland just doesn’t live up to any sort of potential it could have had.
To me, The Wonderland is like a classic sort of isekai fairy tale. Something on the bounds of Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, or even the Narnia books. At time period where kids travelled to another world into learn some sort of lesson. At least, that is what The Wonderland tries to do. The one day when Akane just decides not to go to school to support/help one of her friends, her mother sends her over to her cousin Chi’s shop to acquire some kind of gift. What happens eventually warps Anne and Chi alongside the alchemist Hippocrites and his companion/student Pipo to say the world known as “Wonderland”. That’s about it really. Akane is apparently a chosen one who is meant to save it.
I can only say that I am so bored by how this story went that I don’t need to tell you want happened in any sort of detail. The Wonderland is a pretty typical sort of fantasy road trip adventure story with a lot of self reflection and motivation along the way except not really. Akane just develops as you would expect her too and she saves the day. Hippocrites is such a creepy guy that there is a wrong energy through most of the film. At least Pipo, by being a non human and companion is interesting. Chi is honestly the most interesting character of the main four because this isn’t her story and she owns a business, yet has such child like wonder. Almost every moment of Chi being on screen is a delight. I just, yeah. It’s so paint by numbers that it’s very boring and unappealing with its story telling alone.
The Wonderland’s story is so basic that it should be hard to really screw or at least easy enough to make interesting in some way. Especially since, from a story perspective, there is a lot of things worth digging into. The villain of the entire film has a very technologically advanced piece of equipment which eats metal and the guy has the makings of being complicated in some way. The guy’s side kick has some comedic potential considering that he continually misuses magic in some interesting ways. Attach the usual sort of girl grows up and learns something adventure through the entire film and there is something there. Especially with environmental and “advanced technology vs the farm life” sort of themes in it? I mean, there is supposedly a drought in progress. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot actually. Especially since this movie just doesn’t work because the visuals don’t sink up with the story the anime is trying to tell. For all the mention of their being a drought, the anime certainly doesn’t show that there is a drought in progress. There was a snowy location with tons and tons of snow on the ground, lots of greenery, and tons and tons of lakes that were full of water. If there was a drought, maybe show it more? There are literal water sources all over the place in a lot of the beautiful background shots over the four’s adventure. Definitely makes the film look like a beautiful road trip movie and not an adventure story where Akane and others are out to save the world.
The technology talk does not make any sense either. This film could be like Lord of the Rings where the bad guys are all about industrialization versus the noble farm lands of the world around them. There is even some talk about technology in Wonderland just stopping after a little while. If that is the case, then why are our protagonists driving around in what looks like a Volkswagon Beatle? One could not argue against the technological aspect if they rode on a horse and carriage vs the spider walking machine the bad guys were using. Was that just an advertiser thing considering that a Mac book showed up at Chi’s business location? I just…why? Why did the script and visuals not meet up?
If there was a reason to watch this film, the visuals of The Wonderland are overly good. Like, the animators and artists are actively flexing so many small details that this must have been a passion project for someone. Every small motion is an extension of the luxury of this film. There are even full crowd shots through out the entire film where all the background characters move in such human ways instead of being just there to fill the background. The film really is alive with all sorts of colors and life that it could be the reason why one was to watch it. Too bad the film is just average. It feels like it could have been something, but maybe they tried too hard. I really had to struggle in order to remember anything about this movie when writing this post. So, I’m just going to give The Wonderland an ok. That’s the territory it lives in until the end of time. No journey can change that fact.