Review of Child of Kamiari Month (2021)

Moving picture, 99 minutes

Seen in 2022.

12-year-old Kanna thinks she was named after the river Kanna, but in the old lunar calendar, there’s a month called Kannazuki, literally “the month with no gods”. In Izumo, a traditional centre of the Shintō religion, the same month is called Kamiarizuki, “the month with gods”. That is because every time that month rolls around the Shintō gods journey from their dwelling places throughout Japan to go to Izumo. When time stops and the loss of her mother feels too heavy, Kanna takes on a mission: The catering.

An entirely formulaic production. The premises, the screenwriting, the character design, the backgrounds, the animation, the music, the voice acting: It is all typical of cheap Japanese animated feature films for tweens, as they were made in this period. Like corresponding US films, it even has a talking animal, in this case a rabbit.

The film most closely resembles Okko’s Inn (2018), including the choice to show the death of the mother as part of the climax. Compared to Okko’s, Kamiari is more heavily influenced by the supernatural quest of Spirited Away (2001), but it maps poorly onto the developmental metaphors of old fairy tales.

There are a couple of smart choices that almost save the film. Time slows to a crawl for the quest, which lets the October rain hang in the air as it would have in “The New Accelerator” (1901), but this trick has no interesting consequences, for the physics or otherwise. It’s not even used to explain public ignorance; there is a less elegant invisibility cloak for that. Though the halted rain drops resemble Kanna’s tears, stopping time doesn’t even lead into Kanna’s meeting with a false image of her mother, a kind of siren who, Sakamoto Maaya belatedly explains, is a fake god for the fake age of selfishness and atheism. Not having Miyazaki’s guts, the director pulls his punches with this dark premise and quickly moves on to a similarly conservative conclusion.

moving picture Japanese production animation fiction