The Case of Hana and Alice Movie Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Written and directed by Shunji Iwai
2015, 100 minutes, Not Rated
Played at Fantasia 2015 on July 19th, 2015
Anne Suzuki as Hana Arai
Yu Aoi as Alice
Tetsuko Arisugawa is a transfer student at a new middle school. Her parents have just divorced, and Tetsuko isn’t yet used to going by her mother’s surname. One of her classmates gives her the nickname “Arisu”—Alice—and it sticks. The students in Tetsuko/Alice’s new class are a weird bunch: they believe a former classmate, “Judas”—Yuda—was murdered, and his spirit haunts the classroom.
We quickly discover—it’s really fairly clear from the beginning—that this is nonsense, that one of the more unpopular students cultivated the legend of Yuda’s angry ghost as a way of improving her status in the class. Still, Alice learns that there was a Yuda, and something happened to him. She learns this from her new neighbor, the hikikomori (shut-in) named Hana, a former student in her class. The two gradually become friends and set out to learn what really happened to Yuda.
If all of that was a little confusing, don’t worry: none of it is really important. Or it is, but only secondarily. This is very much a film about the proverbial journey rather than the destination. The Case of Hana and Alice is a lovely, sweet, quiet little movie about a precocious and fearless young girl and the new life she builds for herself. In their quest to learn about the vanished Yuda, Alice and Hana encounter a number of people who treat them with beautiful, simple kindness. Alice herself is witty and a bit rough-and-tumble, but ultimately warm and sympathetic, and without seeming to try, she pulls the reclusive Hana out of her shell. The whole film is suffused with gentle, subtle humor, and while not much really happens, not much really needs to.
A gorgeous animation style, somewhat reminiscent of (but vastly superior to) Disney’s rotoscoped Snow White, and a pretty, melancholy soundtrack invest Hana and Alice with a slightly Miyazaki-esque feel, emphasizing the inevitable sadness of growing up but celebrating the beauty of youth at the same time. Evidently this animated film is a prequel to a live-action movie from 2004, which I haven’t seen, but now I think I might.
It isn’t for everybody—it’s quite slow, and far more about minute character interactions than about a forward-moving plot—but The Case of Hana and Alice is a beautiful film. If you like animation at all, appreciate character studies, or just enjoy nostalgia (in a positive sense), though, you may find something here to love.