The thrill and friction surrounding Penguin Highways are doubled down on Drifting Home

The thrill and friction surrounding Penguin Highways are doubled down on Drifting Home ...

Moving to a new home can be less of an adventure than a fear of the unknown world as a child. In his second anime film, Drifting Home, which is now available on Netflix, Hiroyasu Ishida takes the feeling seriously and gives it a shockingly literal visage. The characters from Drifting Homes are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their previous apartment building when it suddenly departs into the ocean with them and their friends.

The Kamonomiya apartment complex in a neighborhood on the verge of renewal, which is slowly being demolished by new water towers and industrial buildings, is a remnant of postwar postwar prosperity. From the start, the slow disappearance of their house is evident as a friendship threatened by change and time. The two have drifted apart due to an exchange of ill-choiced words and differing goals.

As the shots shift toward the past, Kosuke and some friends walk the area backward in time to when the area was bustling with life. Instead, they meet Natsume and her strange new pal Noppo, who claims to be a former resident.

The crumbling apartment complex begins to float through the ocean like a raft, with what appears to be no hope of life. Its an uncanny moment that feels like real magic, tied up in concise editing. Ishida and co-writer Hayashi Moris have a natural tendency to stay stymied by what's happening.

The journey becomes both a trip down memory lane and a last-ditch argument over the issues that lie ahead of them. Part of the difficulties shared by Kosukes and Natsumes is the death of their recently deceased grandfather, who lived in the apartments until they were constructed.

The two children's lives are shockingly unfamiliar, so leaving a place and the memories it contains feels like removing a limb, an idea Ishida and Mori explore in their script. Even the explicit notion of impossibly castaway buildings has seen a number of iterations in anime, most recently in the series Sonny Boy, directed by Shingo Natsume.

Drifting Home is different because of the way Ishida and Mori discuss the situation: What if the emotions the characters have towards this place were reciprocal? Noppo is the film's most mysterious magical touch: He appears to be the personification of the apartment complex, yet his vulnerability is both profound and profound. He laments his abandonment: Everyone is gone, but I'm still alive.

The anthropomorphization of an entire housing complex who is going through his own journey to rebuilding his coffins threatens no small amount of corniness: His bones are made of concrete rebar, and his skin is being reclaimed by plant life, much like an abandoned structure disappears under grasses, moss, and mold. It's fascinating and often moving to watch Ishida tackle the ways the children encounter these notions of impermanence, for both person and place.

The striking animation by Studio Colorido (Penguin Highway, A Whisker Away) adds to the film's sense of danger. Structures shift and break with believable weight, even if the driving action is about a building floating across the ocean like a raft. The younger characters are drawn with light, gentle lines, but Akihiro Nagae's direction never obsesses over realism.

Drifting Home continues the work of Ishidas Penguin Highway. Both films show an even hand in portraying children in all their capacities for both selfishness, selflessness, and even wisdom. Even seemingly grown-up notions will quickly morph into more childish sentiments, like Kosuke's inability to prevent Natsume's reconciliation from falling into a shambles.

Ishida is interested in characters interfering and clashing, without either side necessarily being in the wrong. Each of the characters has a different, less obvious side of their personality, and the film progresses toward them becoming more self-aware of their feelings and more compassionate toward their peers as they shed the myopic perspective of childhood.

Drifting Home is a film with enough liveliness that two hours in a single location against a minimal background does not feel like a lot, and the children end up drifting past other abandoned houses that provide opportunities for exploration. However, the film does manage to maintain suspense in the same way that Penguin Highways amusing avian jokes do, especially with that films gradually unraveling scientific approach to its fantasy.

Ishida and Mori do hit repeated notes between the other characters with increasing frequency as they become more tightly wound from panic and scream at each other with increasing frequency. That tension wears out fairly quickly. However, at least these moments feel like a fairly plausible portrayal of children stranded on their own in a race against time to scavenge for food.

Drifting Home feels (appropriately!) lost at sea in sections as its characters wrestle between youthful desires and adult empathy for their peers, all while learning how to carry their attachments and memories to new places.

Drifting Home is now available on Netflix.