Chibi Maruko Chan (ちびまる子ちゃん）was a quite popular anime series oriented towards young children that was produced for many years by a woman with the nom de plume of Momoko Sakura (real name Miki Miura). Unfortunately, Miura-san died recently of breast cancer, most unfortunate news indeed.
However, along with the anime series that went along for many years, a couple of feature length films were released. This one was released in 2015. Loosely, the plot is that her rich friend, Hanawa-kun, decided to bring some children who could speak Japanese from all over the world to do a cultural exchange with some of the main characters of this series. A boy from Italy named Andrea is paired with Maruko, because her name reminds him of the name of his uncle, Marco, who died.
Many hijinks ensue, but the main plot is basically that they are looking for an eatery that his uncle worked in called the Nonkiya Nonbe, in Oosaka. They don’t find it, but following some clues, they find some people who knew his uncle in Ueno. Somewhere in the story, they kind of have a children’s romance.
I’m not really a huge fan of anime, if I’m honest – much of what I review on this site I will be watching for the first time, and I rather doubt I’ll be overly kind to a lot of it. But I loved this.
One thing I love about the Chibi Maruko Chan series in general is that they don’t shy away from difficult topics, and they aren’t afraid to explore childhood emotions and motivations. Maruko is a lazy, troublesome girl who bounces back and forth between whatever bee goes up her bonnet at any particular time, and still has a heart of gold and never truly intends to cause anyone harm. This movie is very emotionally real, even as told from the point of view of a nine year old girl, and I love that about it.
One of the criticisms that could be fairly leveled on this movie is that their depictions of the foreign students are somewhat racist. The Brazilian girl Julia, for example, is always dancing and whistles are playing in the background whenever she speaks. But I wasn’t really all that offended by that. I think it was just the Japanese being Japanese – many of them really don’t have much experience with foreigners, so I think it’s their misguided way of trying to introduce foreign culture. Is it inappropriate? Sure, I guess. But intentions matter for a lot, in my opinion, and they really didn’t mean any harm.
As with all animes of the series, the animation isn’t good. In much of the anime I’ve seen, the Japanese producers had an incredible attention to detail (I’ll review Nodame Cantabile) at some point, but in this one, they seem to much more prioritize the story. There are glimmers of true talent in the animation, such as when the shinkansen is shown approaching, so I know they could if they wanted. It’s just a stylistic choice. It’s not impressive, but I also think that’s deliberate, so it just is what it is.
Oh, and I love the music too. Absolutely love it. In the very first scenes of the movie, when Maruko is dreaming of eating some kind of treat, there is this flute solo that is quite literally haunting. And there is a love song in the middle that is on par with pretty much any Disney song you’ve ever heard.
Let’s give it a lone star rating.
The music was absolutely amazing.
Very age-appropriate and sweet plot, a tearjerker.
Animation is typical for a children’s cartoon.
Prioritizes story over production quality.
Absolutely, 100% kid friendly.
Pretty much average.
Total Lone Stars
Gets the first 5 star rating on this site.