/Anime about exile: Giovanni’s Island

Anime about exile: Giovanni’s Island

Animation can be used not only to create a fairytale, a beautiful world that enchants children’s audience. It is also a language that can express the inexpressible trauma. Japanese creators use animated films to talk about painful events from their country´s past. Polish viewers are familiar with Studio Ghibli productions that in a very moving way present the experience of Japanese people, among others: Isao Takahata´s Grave of the Fireflies (1988), the works of Hayao Miyazaki – Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) or Ponyo (2008). At this year’s Etiuda & Anima Festival we will present Giovanni´s Island by Mizuho Nishikubo from 2014, which forms part of the mainstream animation for adults and refers to the history of Japan.

Giovanni Island, anime

Giovannis Island is a story inspired by true events. Nishikubo´s film is set just after the World War II and concerns a dispute between Japan and Russia on the Kuril Archipelago to which belongs the Shikotan island.

Japan has lost the war to Russia. Two brothers, Junpei and Kanta, live on Shikotan. Their peaceful life is disrupted by the arrival of Russian troops on August 15th, 1945. Junpei and Kanta, who live with their grandfather, a fisherman, and their father, the head of the firefighting force of the village, are forced to move out to the stables while the Russian commander’s family, among them the commander’s daughter Tanya, move into the main house. In the ethnically divided school, the daughter of the commander and other Russian children begin to mingle with Japanese students. While playing in the yard Tanya and Junpei bump into each other and become friends. From that moment on, the two brothers become frequent guests at the commandant’s house.

Giovanni's_Island_2By the end of September 1947, the population of Japan is forced to leave the island. Junpei and Kanta decide to leave, but their grandfather decides to stay on Shikotan and spend there the last moments of his life.

Only after 56 years Junpei returns to Shikotan to visit the graves and pay his respects. At his old school a ceremony is being held to commemorate the fate of the inhabitants of the island. Tanya´s granddaughter invites Junpei to dinner and hands him a notebook with his drawings of Tanya. In return, Junpei offers her his old copy of the Kenji Miyazawa´s book – Night on the Galactic Railroad. The story of Giovanni´s Island frequently refers to Miyazawa´s novel. The film’s title comes from the Night on the Galactic Railroad main character´s name – Giovanni.

Giovannis Island (dir. Mizuho Nishikubo, Japan 2014, 102’)

Malopolska Garden of Arts (large screenig room)
27th November (Friday), 9 p.m.