For probably the most half, Animal Crossing: The Film is fairly easy. The 2006 animated movie (which was by no means launched outdoors of Japan, although the adventurous can discover dubbed and subtitled variations on-line) relies broadly on the favored online game sequence. As within the video games, the central village is populated by acquainted characters such because the owl Blathers, the hedgehog Ready sisters, and the aged tortoise Tortimer. All people nonetheless loves the musician canine Ok.Ok. Slider. And when characters shake the timber, fruit falls out of them. It’s so just like the sport that Animal Crossing followers may tune out whereas watching it, in favor of really enjoying one of many franchise entries, whether or not it’s Pocket Camp or New Horizons. Nevertheless it’s value staying centered up till the film’s finale, which is past perception.

At first of Animal Crossing: The Film, a younger woman named Ai strikes to Animal Village, and the tanuki businessman Tom Nook instantly takes her beneath his wing as a supply individual. As a pure a part of the job, she involves know all her animal neighbors, together with Yu, a younger human boy from a unique village. Characters plant timber, breed flowers, catch bugs, go fishing, design patterns for the Ready sisters, and even react to issues a lot as they do in-game, emitting flowers once they’re completely satisfied, experiencing private gusts of chilly wind once they’re sad.

Principally, Animal Crossing: The Film looks like a indifferent model of enjoying the video games. It’s the sort of spin-off challenge that principally appears designed to make viewers assume, “Oh, proper, I keep in mind that character,” or, “Hey, I can try this within the recreation.” These types of Easter eggs grew to become small highlights, as the remainder of the film progresses at simply as sedate a tempo as the sport, with the thinnest thread of a narrative holding all of it collectively. Although the village is rendered extra realistically, the characters are virtually completely 2D replicas of their 3D recreation fashions (besides Ai, whose options are rather less dead-eyed within the movie model). Watching the film feels lots like watching another person play an Animal Crossing recreation, with faint touches of a youngsters’ film. Even the musical themes are pulled proper out of the franchise.

A few of the movie’s particulars are a bit of unusual. Taking part in Animal Crossing leaves an viewers with a lot to try this they could neglect to consider the character particulars. However given the film’s gradual tempo, the identical questions linger. As an illustration, Ai is 11 years outdated. Had been the sport’s villagers at all times meant to be youngsters? And the way outdated are the animals? The alligator Alfonso behaves like a toddler, and Ai makes mates with the cat Rosie and the elephant Margie, which could put them in an identical age vary. However the wolf Whitney and the eagle Apollo appear to be adults with full lives already lived, as they provide recommendation to the youthful characters and are addressed with extra respect than friendliness. (At one level, Rosie tells Ai that there are rumors that Whitney and Apollo was a pair, which brings up the query of animal romances.) The cat Kaitlin and her daughter Katie additionally seem within the film, which raises the query of the place all the opposite animal youngsters are.

A competition scene in Animal Crossing: The Film.
Picture: Toho

However all these questions come up by common gameplay, too, so it’s not as if the film is taking the franchise in a very radical course. If something, it’s a bit of behind the occasions — New Horizons doesn’t require gamers to evolve to any gender identification, however the film attracts a transparent line between ladies and boys and what’s thought of applicable for each. Yu is allowed to put on costumes and run round catching bugs or discovering fossils; against this, Ai is anticipated to be demure, sporting principally the identical garments and shaking her head at what Yu will get as much as.

The film’s compliance with recreation lore ends when a UFO crash-lands within the village. At first, the incident looks like a typical a part of the franchise. As in Wild World and Metropolis People, Gulliver the seagull crashes his disc-shaped spaceship, then asks for assist recovering its misplaced components. Ai and her mates get better what appears like a gear, however as a substitute of being a misplaced half, it seems to be an alien being that morphs into numerous shapes — a gear, a blob, a large model of Ai’s head — sort of just like the unusual mirror-creature in Annihilation. Because the alien’s brethren arrive to take it house, it briefly envelops Ai in a kind of house capsule, surrounding her with hazy stars and nebulas earlier than taking its depart.

a girl holds a strange, shiny shape

a girl is confronted by a larger version of her head

The alien, in numerous kinds, in Animal Crossing: The Film.
Picture: Toho

The alien is bizarre, and albeit a bit of unsettling. Its default form is a shiny gray blob, and it has an unknown vitality that nearly comes throughout as malevolent within the in any other case staid world of Animal Crossing. That sense of strangeness is much more hanging provided that the alien being has no equal within the video games, and hasn’t been labored into the sequence for the reason that film’s 2006 launch.

That implies that possibly the introduction of an outright alien was too large of a step outdoors the video games, that are by and enormous about bettering your on a regular basis life relatively than something so actually alien. Fairly than replicating one thing within the recreation or introducing a brand new function, the alien is supposed to up the cinematic stakes past the sport’s tranquility, making the film a bit of extra thrilling than a play session for folks acquainted with the sport, and making it extra accessible to those that aren’t.

Translating a recreation to movie when it has no actual story past paying off your house loans requires the introduction of one thing new into Animal Village’s sleepy world, therefore precise aliens. The alien encounter additionally feels just like the sort of occasion which may happen if the Animal Crossing video games ever ended. As an alternative, they embody seasons, years, lifetimes. The film, which solely covers a blip of time as compared, wants this type of eccentricity to make a mark. Sadly, it’s not sufficient to make it a draw by itself. Whereas the film is a nice diversion for Animal Crossing completists, and it’s much less of a large number than video-game film variations like Prince of Persia and Murderer’s Creed, your time can be higher spent making your individual Bells to repay Tom Nook.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. For extra info, see our ethics coverage.