Ni No Kuni, the movie not the game, was actually already released in Japan back in August. The fact that a movie with a full theatrical release is coming straight to Netflix for its Western adaptation is very telling.
Ni No Kuni was a great game. The first title was released on both PS3 and Nintendo DS. It told the story of a boy who loses his mother and must travel between worlds to save her. With the help of studio Ghibli, it was transformed from a fantasy JRPG with some Pokemon-esque elements into a straight-up masterpiece.
The sequel from 2018 was also pretty great. Ghibli was no longer involved, so it lost some spark in that area; but it still had a classic story line. If you’re a fan of the series so far, you might be excited about the upcoming movie. Well, buckle in for some disappointment because it’s going to suck.
The first red flag should probably have been when Ghibli abandoned the IP. The legendary animation studio clearly saw the way this was headed. As great as the first game was, it was very self-contained. If the series has just ended, then no one would have been shocked or upset.
Ni No Kuni, the movie not the game, was actually already released in Japan back in August. In the land of the rising sun, it actually got a full theatrical release too. Over here in the West, it’s only going to be released via Netflix. That’s already not a very promising start.
If you need any more signs of despair, then you only need look at the movie’s reception in Japan. The Japan Times reviewed it back when it came out, and it did not go down very well. Apart from some decent music by Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi, it was a flat and boring generic fantasy adventure. It’s almost as if the same would have been true of the original game without Ghibli’s help.
The fact that a movie with a full theatrical release is coming straight to Netflix for its Western adaptation is very telling. It seems pretty clear that Level 5, the studio behind the games and movie, is struggling to keep their flailing IP above water. Netflix is the best possible way to get as many people as possible talking about their movie.
Of course, it’s probably not going to work. If Ni No Kuni is as bad as it sounds, no one is going to care, at all. The only people who might get some mileage out of the movie will be reviewers looking for a new sack of straw and awfulness to kick around. Besides, this year sees the Western release of Weathering with You, an infinitely better film by famed director Makoto Shinkai. Ni No Kuni doesn’t stand a chance.
Hopefully, this will stop Level 5 from trotting out Ni No Kuni again in the future. While the first game was a masterpiece and the second was enjoyable, it doesn’t need to be milked dry. Sometimes an IP just comes to an end, and that’s okay. At least the Ni No Kuni movie isn’t the most depressing thing to happen to anime over the past year.