“Anime” >> Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells

Note: I’m filing all animated features under the tag “anime” for convenience’s sake.

First off, one must remember that the visual artistry of this film is its major draw. I’ll ramble a lot about its plot and characters, but in the end its mind-blowing, hand-drawn animation steals the show. The glorious curves of both the natural world and the calligraphied page reverberate and enrich each other in the world of Kells, leaving no stone unbeautified.

Basically, The Secret of Kells relates the heroic history of a young monk by the name of Brendan, who will later go on in the film’s universe to illuminate vast portions of that great Irish Gospel manuscript, the Book of Kells. To give a brief plot outline: Brendan’s uncle, the Abbot (and essentially lord) of Kells, has apparently spent the vast majority of his tenure there as a foreman for a building project of vital importance–a wall to protect against the inevitable hordes of “Northmen” (the Vikings, envisioned as unstoppable killing machines by the filmmakers). Due to their dire circumstances, the Abbot Cellach keeps a tight rein on his nephew to prevent him from wandering to his doom outside the village built up around the abbey. Going against type, the Abbot is portrayed as an almost scientific fellow–unlike the usual cinematic depiction of the misnomered “Dark Ages,” Brendan is portrayed as parroting not the Abbot’s credulousness, but his skepticism of whatever might go bump in the wood.

But, of course, Brendan gets sent by the monk Aidan (later St. Aidan) to retrieve some berries from the forest interior… er, and also the legendary “Eye of Columcille,” a “magic” crystal used by the abbot Columcille (later St. Columba) to transcribe 300 books at once. In the wood he meets the winsome gal (read: manic pixie dream girl) Aisling… and the bloodcurdling monster Crom Cruach.

As I mentioned earlier, Christians aren’t uniformly portrayed as dour fools in the village of Kells… heck, look at the wacky multi-ethnic band of monks that follow Brendan about during the first scenes. And furthermore, pagans and faery folk aren’t uniformly innocent and magical: besides the inhuman Vikings, we only have Aisling and Crom Cruach for reference. The small clutch of main characters all have rather unique turns, making this far more than just another cartoon. But then again, I’m sure you’d expect me to say that given the rest of the content in the blog’s “anime” category.

Final Grade: A-.

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