I almost don’t know what to say about Yutaro Kubo and Satomi Maiya’s The Girl From The Other Side (Japan, 2022). The film is an animated, feature-length adaptation of Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún (Seven Seas), a manga I loved and have written about for The Cultural Gutter. The film adaptation builds on Nagabe’s already beautiful art. Where the comic is primarily black and white, the film adaptation adds very carefully considered color. It overlays textures on water, mist, and, in a montage at the beginning of the film, burnt film stock to the destruction of a village. The artists recreate multiple other visual media from watercolor and ink to paint on canvas to even graphite in a stunning tour de force. And while philosophically I don’t mind style over “substance” in a movie, all this thoughtful, beautiful art is in service to the story.
One night, Shiva (Rie Takahashi) falls asleep in the woods. She is a little girl, a human, and she seems to dream of catastrophe. Shiva is found, still sleeping, by a man she decides to call, “Teacher” (Jun Fukuyama). He believes he’s human, but he has long graceful horns, a face that looks like an animal skull, and a tail. He is covered in black fur, but wears an elegant suit, coat and cravat. Shiva is injured and Teacher takes her home with him. But he tells her she cannot touch him. Teacher has been cursed and if they touch, the curse will spread to Shiva. Shiva is from the Inside, where humans who have not been cursed live. Teacher is an Outsider, but he tells Shiva he will not spread the curse like the other Outsiders do. And so Shiva and Teacher live in a house in the woods for a time—between the Inside and the Outside.
If you are looking for an allegory about Fascism, it’s right there in The Girl From The Other Side. But if you need a break from our world and want to let a gorgeous animated film wash over you, The Girl From The Other Side is an excellent choice. I cannot stress enough how beautiful a film it is and how well crafted. And I cannot recommend it enough if you’d like a quiet Gothic fairy tale about a lost little girl and a dapper man keeping each other human in a world of fear and mystery.
Read more of Carol’s thoughts about The Girl From The Other Side here.