After searching for another film so that I could watch it (I was unable to find it and I don’t even remember what it was anymore) I stumbled across this movie, Mai Mai Miracle. Reading the synopsis led me to discover it’s a post war movie, ten years out from WW2 and so I decided it would be the perfect movie to watch after My Neighbor Totoro.
The film is about a young girl named Shinko who has what she calls a mai mai or as we would call it a cow lick, which she believes gives her the ability to imagine the past vividly. She is the only one who can imagine things with such clarity. One day a girl from Tokyo, Kiiko, transfers to Shinko’s school and the two become fast friends and form a group with other kids called the Destiny Squad (they called it the Suicide Squad in the dubbed version I watched, but Destiny Squad sounds much nicer).
This film was definitely the perfect movie to watch after my neighbor Totoro. It falls in the same time period, mixes a form of magic with the mundane (though calling it magic is a lot more subjective in this movie, its more like the power of imagination), there’s even a scene where they spend a significant amount of time looking for the main characters little sister, just like in Totoro. The film goes much darker though, dealing with things like death and broken promises, but without loosing the childlike innocence that comes with watching kids in a movie.
While I never experienced things, like seeing giant awesome creatures and believing they were real, I did have a great imagination growing up and I did enjoy seeing all kinds of impossible things. The sub story in the movie takes place a thousand years in the past and is about a princess that Shinko imagines. The princess is lonely and is looking for a friend.
Throughout the film Kiiko is unable to imagine this princess as visibly as Shinko can and she believes it’s because she doesn’t have a Mai Mai, but the real reason is because she is stuck on the fact that she can no longer remember her dead mother or imagine what type of person she may have been.
The movie focuses on Shinko’s group of friends, who are a group of kids from the ages of, I would say eight to fifteen or so. I was amazed by how much like kids the children were. They didn’t feel like adults writing how children act, it felt genuine. I also enjoyed that, while not always perfect, the children weren’t particularly naughty or malevolent. Most of the stories I have encountered where the childlike depictions are praised feature incredibly mean children and it was nice seeing a group of kids that weren’t cruel.
The film deals with some tough subjects, such as suicide, so it isn’t a film for children. It isn’t graphic, but it is for the more mature minded. The adult themed moments in the film are handled well and with tact and we see characters go through multiple stages of grief. Aside from that though there are some funny moments that warrant a more mature mindset, such as when the children get drunk on alcoholic chocolates.
I really enjoyed this film. It was something I could enjoy as an adult and it made me nostalgic for my childhood, which is always the perfect combination. The crux of it though was the song chosen for the ending scene and credits. Sing a Song. Sing a Song is a beloved Sesame street song that I grew up loving. I had a cassette tape once that played a bunch of really awesome old songs from Sesame Street and then I lost and forgot about it. A couple of years ago, when I was 18 or 19, I found it again and it was the best trip down memory lane ever. Hearing the song here, in a film from another country made me so happy that I literally burst into tears. I am such a sap.
I highly recommend Mai Mai Miracle, it is imaginative and childlike, but also it deals with tough subjects as well as containing a bit of commentary on social relationships and the differences between traditional and modern society. It’s a whole bundle of stuff and is based off an autobiography as well as partly based off the ancient diary of a court lady. It is definitely a film that makes me even more curious about Japanese culture.
Until Next Time, Always Make Your Heart Rainbow!