This past week, a new clip of director Keiichi Hara’s upcoming film Birthday Wonderland, marketed as The Wonderland in the west, became available for streaming on Warner Bros JP’s Youtube channel. The movie will release in Japanese theaters April 26, and although there’s been no formal announcement for a western release yet, the fact there’s already a western specific title bodes well for fans. Uniquely, the film features the first industry work of Russian internet sensation Ilya Kuvshinov who’s personal spin on a modern anime style has left her with over a million fans on social media. Check out a clip of Hara and Kuvshinov’s combined powers.
Birthday Wonderland itself centers around a girl named Akane, voiced by Mayu Matsuoka, who gets whisked away by the alchemist Hippocrates to find ‘Wonderland’. I find that the above clip makes Birthday Wonderland look pretty intriguing. Whether this was purposeful on Keichi Hara’s part or through Ilya Kuvshinov’s European influences, there’s almost a western cartoon film essence to the animation. The segment currently streaming makes me feel like I’m watching Anastasia by way of Tokyo Godfathers. Hopefully, The Wonderland gets an international release soon under either name.
Keichi Hara’s always been a somewhat underrated director. His most recent film Miss Hokusai, a story about the daughter of the famous Japanese illustrator, received some praise and awards but he doesn’t have the acclaim of a Makoto Shinkai or Mamoru Hosoda. It’s a shame, his 2010 film Colorful absolutely ranks as one of the best anime films from this generation, but barely anyone has seen it. I hope Birthday Wonderland leaves enough of an impression on his existing fans that they make all their friends see it, causing a big chain reaction and push for Keichi Hara in the future.
Birthday Wonderland, or The Wonderland, releases April 26 in Japan. Stay tuned for more information.