The Birthday Wonderland is an isekai story about eleven- year old Akane, a somewhat bratty kid in need of an attitude adjustment. It’s really pretty and light and a bit silly, and would be OK to share with little kids.
Akane’s mother tells her to go see her aunt to pick up her birthday present. I got the sense that mother knew what was going to happen – perhaps she was the previous Goddess of the Green Wind. But off Akane goes on her bicycle, riding in the lovely Japanese countryside to visit her aunt the curio shop owner, who greets her with an overpowering hug.
Aunt Chii follows her into the dimensional portal in the shop basement exclaiming “I have lived here my entire life and never knew this was here!” Adventures ensue, worth the journey if for no other reason than the humor and beautiful art.
In most coming-of-age stories the pre-teen is chastened by terrible adversity; this one is different in that the change of attitude is brought about by exposure to overpowering beauty. And she saves the Wonderland not by some act of heroism against peril, but by empathy for the villain, who is a prince accidentally transformed into a monster by his incompetent magician friend.
After three days in the Wonderland, Akane and Chii return to our world happier for the experience, and desperately in need of a nap. Akane emerges kinder and more self-confident, and always deferential to cats.
- In the UK, this film is called “The Birthday Wonderland,” but internationally it’s just The Wonderland.
- Directed by Keiichi Hera (Miss Hokusai, Colorful), the film is based on a children’s book, which in turn was inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
- I have not seen Colorful, but can definitely recommend Miss Hokusai – a much more serious tale about the daughter of Katsushika Hokusai, the famous Japanese painter.
- UPDATE: I just looked up Colorful and it’s nothing serious, just a tale about a man who commits suicide, but then is granted another chance in the body of a teen who committed suicide…