Maboroshi (2023) Movie Review – The unfortunate ways an incredible premise is ruined

The unfortunate ways an incredible premise is ruined

Coming-of-age movies will always be relatable, thanks to their themes of growing up, facing dilemmas, and going to the next stage of life. Mari Okada’s newest film, Maboroshi, focuses on those aspects while creating a teenage romance story.

The movie starts with a group of friends studying and cracking jokes together. Suddenly, they hear a loud noise outside and see the city’s steel factory burning. However, everything restarts, and they find themselves in the scene from a few minutes ago. They know something is different and leave the house to understand what’s happening. There, they see cracks in the sky and dragon-like smoke correcting them, returning things to normal.

Maboroshi has a confusing start and takes time to entangle everything happening in the town. That makes us even more eager to understand the story.

Soon, we learn the city is completely isolated and stuck in time. The seasons don’t change, neither do the characters. In fact, they have to monitor themselves and avoid any kind of change. The students send a report every week, and the elderly hold a meeting to talk about themselves and their health. This last one is very interesting. If they perceive anything different, the government officers say they’ll try to turn it back to normal somehow.

It’s an incredible premise for a coming of age. After all, how can you mature if you can’t change? The movie can develop this into many things and explore how it’s impossible to always stay the same, the feelings that well up inside those people, etc.

One of the best aspects of the film is its animation. Moments like this make you feel more because its style is gorgeous. It’s hard to get tired of seeing all the beautiful but dangerous cracks forming while certain characters express their desires, making for a perfect combination.

And it’s because of all these things that it’s so sad to say Maboroshi is an incredibly disappointing movie. As we see some characters disappear, we also watch others change and burst out with many feelings without repercussions. So, what exactly makes the smoke go after you? The film never fully explains that.

The more the movie breaks its own rules, the shallower its message becomes. With the characters admitting to falling in love and crying their eyes out about their lives, we should see an immense amount of cracks in them. Instead of exploring if that would be a disaster or some kind of freedom, the film chooses to ignore everything. By the end, it’s hard to tell what it’s trying to say.

The worst part is that the characters and the movie apparently want to make you see that they can change even in that world. Of course, that could be a powerful and emotional conclusion. However, the loose ends turn the story incomplete and steal the ending’s impact.

However, there’s still something even worse about Maboroshi. The movie has a completely unnecessary plot, which is filled with incest. Masamune and the girl he likes, Mutsumi, take care of a little girl a few years younger than them, Itsumi. She needs to stay locked in the remains of the factory for some reason. With time, Itsumi develops feelings for Masamune and even jumps at him and licks his face (her lack of knowledge is represented in a baby-like and animalistic way). But he learns that she is his daughter. He and Mutsumi get married and have a baby in the real world, but she goes to their fake world somehow.

Although Masamune never responds to Itsumi’s feelings, the fact that she likes him is relevant to the plot. We even see Mutsumi say she is competing with her daughter, and an older Itsumi mentions the factory is where she met her first love. During the movie, It feels like something keeps stinging you and making everything more disturbing.

Maboroshi had the potential to be an excellent film, but its loose ends and weird relation with incest ruin what could’ve been a great story.


Read More: Maboroshi Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 3/10 - 3/10

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