“Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a touching film about the pains of growing up. It addresses bullying in an authentic way while combining fantasy elements into the story. This film sends a positive and hopeful message.”
Lonely Castle in the Mirror (かがみの孤城 (Kagami no Kojō)) is a Japanese anime film based on the novel of the same name by Mizuki Tsujimura. The film was released last December in Japan by A-1 Pictures. It then made its way overseas across Asia, Europe and America in festivals and in cinemas.
Kokoro (Ami Touma) has been avoiding school as she is victim of bullying. One day, she discovers a portal in her bedroom mirror. This transports her to a castle where she is welcomed by a girl in a wolf mask, Wolf Queen (Mana Ashida). There, she is joined by six other students who crossed their mirrors too. Wolf Queen explains them that they have been invited to play a game. These kids must find a key that will grant one of them a wish.
Sometimes you stumble upon a film that you don’t expect much from but in the end it surprises you. Lonely Castle in the Mirror is this film. I would actually say for me, this is this year’s best surprise in anime. Indeed, this film has truly impressed me in ways I didn’t expect. It’s a story about the pains of growing up. These seven kids are all victims of bullying at school (and even at home for some). In fact, this story goes to some dark places. Bullying is never an easy subject to talk about. But I think this film addresses the issue in an authentic way. It doesn’t shy away from the difficult moments. As you watch the film, you will understand Kokoro’s pain and feel for her and the other characters. It’s really emotional.
And this castle where they find each other serves as their safe place to get together. This is their light within the dark. These kids slowly realize that they have more in common than they thought. They are not just in this castle to play a game, there is more to it than it seems. It’s wonderful to see the story going full circle by the end. It’s a wholesome moment. When I think of a perfect film ending, I’ll think of this one now.
Having a fantasy element with the castle counterbalances the more heavy elements of the story. It’s a clever way to address an important subject (bullying) while also trying to reach as many people as possible. This film sends a positive and hopeful message. You are not alone. The reveals that are made at the end really strengthen the message of it does get better when you grow up.
Furthermore, this film has gathered a talented voice cast that includes Ami Touma, Mana Ashida, Aio Miyazaki, Takumi Kitamura and Rihito Itagaki. Miyazaki has a gentle voice that perfectly fits Kitajima who is a teacher at a special school. The voice actors for the seven kids all bring something to their character. Nevertheless, Ami Touma is the real beating heart of this film, she delivers a heartfelt performance as Kokoro.
VISUALS & SOUNDTRACK
Moreover, Lonely Caslte in the Mirror is visually so beautiful. The design of the castle really transports you to another world. The scenery is delightful, the wide shots of the castle really help building this fantasy atmosphere. It does remind me of 7 Days War‘s designing style both with the characters and scenery.
The score was composed by Harumi Fuuki. She had previously worked on the first season of Tsurune. She has done an outstanding work with this film. It’s a melodious score that is both emotional and hopeful like the story. Fuuki’s use of a guitar with the violin family in some tracks creates something truly beautiful. Her track ‘かがみの孤城’ (Kagami no kojō) is a pop track that conveys the optimism of the end of the film in a striking way. Finally, Yuuri performs the theme ‘Merry Go Round.’ This is a fabulous song that feels just right for the end credits.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a touching film about the pains of growing up. It addresses bullying in an authentic way while combining fantasy elements into the story. This film sends a positive and hopeful message. This story is actually so much more than what it appears to be.
If you are bullied, this film will lift your spirits and tell you that you are not alone, it gets better when growing up. And if you are not bullied, I think this film will make you want to pay more attention to people around you and maybe reach out to someone who might need help.
Collectables Editor at Future Of The Force.
Star Wars and Marvel specialist, anime expert