Brave Story is a 2006 animated movie by Japanese animation studio Gonzo. It is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name that was also adapted as a comic book and video game.
For the most part, it is the traditional “child who goes into a magical world on a personal quest” story that we have seen since before the Oz books. But there are a few outstanding factors in Brave Story. The first is the beauty of its design and animation; easily the best I’ve seen outside of Studio Ghibli. Also, while the story is predictable, it is harrowing at points, and it contains at least one twist that threw me for a loop.
The main character is a boy named Wataru. He’s a your typical highschooler until his family literally shatters around him- his father leaves his mother for another woman and his mother falls ill (in the original book she tried to commit suicide!) This causes him to go on a quest to another world, named Vision, through a portal he (conveniently) found in an unfinished nearby building. There he’s given a “hero sword” and told he can have one wish granted by the “Goddess of Fortune” if he finds out the five magical gems that fit into the sword’s hilt. He decides to use the wish to regain his family. Thing is there’s another kid from Earth, Mitsuru, on the same quest, and he’s much more ruthless than Wataru. And the reason for his quest is quite shocking when you learn about it.
Along the way, Wataru makes friends, of course: there’s Kikima, a Lizardman who thinks Wataru is his “good luck charm”; Nina, a catgirl looking for her father; and (my personal favorite) Kutz, the leader of the law-enforcer Highlanders and one badass lady!
While the quest starts with your typical challenges such as passing trials and slaying monsters –and more than a few hilarious moments- it eventually turns much more deep. The characters are forced to deal with their true motivations, and the consequences are realistic. And then there’s that twist near the end that had me going “huh”? But I still appreciate it for not turning out like you would have expected.
Brave Story was quite an enjoyable experience, especially for a movie that was barely over an hour long! You’d think it would feel rushed, but the pace worked for me. I recommend it to everyone except to very small children who might be scared by some of the monsters designs (and some of the topics hinted at, like suicide.)