Like art-house movies, I have a love/hate relationship with anime. Sometimes I'm treated to a magical Miyazaki film, a quaint comedy like "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time", or an excellent romance like "5 Centimeters Per Second." Other times, however, I'm forced to sit through boring tripe like "Serial Experiments Lain" or "Grave of the Fireflies." I'm disappointed to report that "My Beautiful Girl Mari" safely rests within the latter category.
The big problem with this movie is that there's no development for any of the characters and all of the relationships are wafer thin. You barely get to see the boy spend time with his family, which is allegedly the primary cause for his discontent with his personal life. It might have been a good idea to spend a little more time within the household so the viewer gets a better understanding of why this kid is so depressed all the time. And what's with that girl at his school? Did she serve any purpose whatsoever in this movie?
It's no understatement to say that 90% of the running time is dedicated to showing the kid and his friend doing all sorts of dull activities like sleeping, walking around an old lighthouse, and other trivialities. Some of the swimming scenes were good, but that's about it. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid I would actually have fun when spending time with my friends, and a lot of the games we invented could easily fill a number of movies. A child's imagination is quite impressive when attempting to find something fun to do. It's too bad the filmmakers here were content with unimaginative wandering and dull-as-dirt filler material.
But I still haven't even gotten to the worst part of this movie. And let me tell you, it's a definitive black eye to the filmmakers of "My Beautiful Girl Mari." What is it? Quite frankly, there is virtually no time spent in the fantasy realm with Mari. This completely cripples the entire premise of the movie, and one scene in particular makes this perfectly clear. At the 50-minute mark the kid worries about how "all of this might end" even though he had literally spent less than 2 MINUTES with the girl throughout the ENTIRE FILM! That, my friends, is HORRIBLE relationship development.
Don't believe me? Try this. Imagine that you're on a first date. You meet this person at a restaurant, introduce yourself, and then sit at the table. While waiting for the server to bring you your drinks you say, "Gee sweety, I don't know how I'd live without you." Rest assured that you'll never get a second date.
It's really a shame, because the animation in this film is gorgeous at times, but the whole project falls in on itself with an uninspired script. Did the filmmakers not know that the premise they're attempting to sell is the conflict between reality and fantasy? Don't you think it would be a good idea to fully develop the difficulties of reality and fully develop the comforts of fantasy? Neither of which is given enough attention here. What we end up with is lots and lots of dull filler. Why do some filmmakers feel the need to make anime films as bland as humanly possible? It's no exaggeration to say that the title of the film should be changed from "My Beautiful Girl Mari" to "My Boring Life."