With the Edinburgh Film Festival having only a few animated films (with the biggest being Toy Story 3), Mai Mai Miracle, directed by Sunao Katabuchi, is the sole anime film showing at the festival.

Even though this does not compare with the Studio Ghibli films, this has become one of my favourite films of the festival and of this year.

Being based on the autobiography by Nobuko Takagi, it follows Shinko Aoki’s (Mayuko Fukuda) simple life living in the outskirts of a nearby town. We witness her life embellished by her own imagination, which works particularly well, especially with her invisible imaginary friend and the moment she tries to picture the town a thousand years ago and the young princess who lived there.

Her life starts to change when she befriends the shy Kiiko Shimazu (Nako Mizusawa) who has recently moved into Aoki’s town and their friendship slowly grows. We see how they both become friends with their classmates and the audience also gets to see how the story of the princess a thousand years ago becomes the focus of their interest in what becomes a lovely side-story.

For an anime production that was not from Studio Ghibli, it still manages to look beautiful, and features a compelling, visionary display from director Katabuchi.

Having previously directed episodes of a number of anime television shows, Sunao Katabuchi manages to do a great attempt at directing a feature-length anime film, especially since he has chosen such a visually complex debut.

The gorgeous scenes include the story of the one thousand year old princess and where the two main characters spend their time around a pond that they make for a wild goldfish, and though they lack the charm and accuracy as the Studio Ghibli output, this does not stop Mai Mai Miracle from being one of my favourite animated films of the year.

My only complaint is the occasionally slow frame rate of the film, for example the way that the insects and floating petals seem to move in jerky motions, belying the overall quality of the rest of the animation, which does look wonderful.

Overall a gorgeous film to watch, here’s a trailer