Drifting Home tries to defy the fantasy of the Penguin Highways and its ambiguity

Drifting Home tries to defy the fantasy of the Penguin Highways and its ambiguity ...

In his second anime feature, Drifting Home, which is now available on Netflix, Kosuke and Natsume, both elementary schoolers, deal with the loss of their previous apartment building.

The Kamonomiya apartment complex in a neighborhood on the verge of renewal, which is slowly being reclaimed by new water towers and industrial structures, was a remnant of postwar postwar development. They used to live in haunted houses that were eventually demolished, which were evidently occupied by ghosts from the start. The exchange of unsuitable words has resulted in a disagreement between the two.

As the shots shift towards the past, Kosuke and his friends go looking at the old houses in search of the ghost that haunts them. Instead, they meet Natsume and her strange new friend Noppo, who claims to be a former resident.

The crumbling apartment complex is left floating on the ocean floor like a raft, with no hope of survival before long. It's an uncanny moment that feels like real magic, tied up in concise editing. Ishida and co-writer Hayashi Moris have an excellent instinct to keep the story moving without explanations.

The journey becomes both a journey down memory lane and a last-ditch argument about the issues that stand between the two old friends. In part because to the friendship between Kosukes and her recently deceased grandfather Yasuji, who lived in the apartments since they were built. The apartment is at a point of its entropy, and Natsume struggles to let go of her attachment to the place.

At this stage in their lives, the two children are shocked by change, and leaving a place and the memories it contains feels like removing a limb, an idea Ishida and Mori explore in their script. Even the specific notion of impossibly castaway structures has been explored in anime, most recently in the series Sonny Boy, directed by Shingo Natsume.

Drifting Home is different, because of the way Ishida and Mori pose the question: What if the characters' feelings toward this place were reciprocal? Noppo is the film's most surprising magic touch: He is a lanky, vaguely creepy kid who seems to represent the apartment complex's true nature, yet his depth of pain is both new and profound. He laments his abandonment: Everyone is gone, but I'm still alive.

The anthropomorphization of an entire housing complex that has his own journey to reconcile the loss of Kosuke and Natsume to new apartments isn't a 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 beneath grasses, moss, and mold. It's interesting and often moving to watch Ishida tackle the ways the children are confronted with these kinds of imper

The stunning animation by Studio Colorido (Penguin Highway, A Whisker Away) manages to sell the compelling thesis. Structures shift and break with believable weight, even though the driving action is about a floating structure in the ocean like a raft. But Akihiro Nagaes direction never shy away from expressing himself through bold physical comedy, like when Kosuke jumps through the corrugated iron roof of a pinball.

Drifting Home continues the work of Ishidas Penguin Highway in exploring childish sensitivity. Both films have a comparable hand in portraying children in all their potential for both selfishness, selflessness, and even wisdom. Even seemingly grown-up findings will quickly fade into more childish emotions, like Kosuke's inability to help derailing reconciliation with Natsume over petty jealousy.

Ishida is interested in characters bickering and clashing, without either side necessarily being in the wrong. Each of the characters has their own personal flaw, and the film progresses toward becoming more self-aware of her feelings and more sympathetic toward their peers as they shed the childhood fantasy of the world.

Drifting Home is such an enjoyable film that two hours in a single location against a minimalist background does not feel overkill. The children discover other abandoned structures that provide opportunities for exploration, especially as the films slowly unraveling the scientific approach to its fantasy.

Ishida and Mori do hit repetitive notes between the other characters, as they become more engulfed in anxiety and scream at each other with increasing frequency. That tension tends to manifest itself quite swiftly, but at least they provide a fairly plausible account of children being trapped on their own in a race against time to scavenge food.

Drifting Home does feel (appropriately!) lost at sea at certain points, because of its patient commitment to unraveling children's opinions about themselves, the structure, and other relics from their pasts.

Drifting Home is now available on Netflix.