Length: 66 minutes
Cast: Yoshihiko Inohara (narration), Manami Honjo (narration)
3 out of 5 stars
Sumikkogurashi: The Movie, as its name suggests, is a story about the popular, fluffy-looking San-X characters, the Sumikko friends who love to reside in corners. Although there are many characters featured in the Sumikkogurashi (loosely translated to life in a corner) series, taking the limelight on the silver screen are Shirokuma (polar bear in Japanese), Penguin, Neko (cat in Japanese), Tokage (lizard in Japanese), and Tonkatsu (pork cutlet in Japanese).
One day, the Sumikko friends decide to grab some food at a cafe managed by Mame Master (mame is beans in Japanese), who is said to make the best coffee in the world. In the basement of the cafe, they chance upon an old pop-up story book and are mysteriously absorbed into the book!
In the world of the book, they meet a lonely Hiyoko (chick in Japanese), who does not know where it is from or who it is. The fun-filled journey begins as the Sumikko friends hop through various fairy tales — Momotaro, The Little Match Girl, Arabian Nights, The Little Mermaid and The Little Red Riding Hood — comically transforming into characters in the stories with special costumes to help their new friend find its home.
Despite the impression that characters like the Sumikko friends are just meant to look cute and cuddly, they are actually characters with diverse personalities! Contrary to its appearance, Shirokuma is a bear who hates the cold. Penguin, who lacks self-confidence and has doubts about being a penguin, is in search of his identity. Neko is an extremely shy character. Tokage is actually the last of the dinosaurs but pretends to be a lizard to avoid being hunted. Tonkatsu, who is the end of a pork cutlet with 1% meat and 99% fat, is considered too oily to be eaten by anyone.
Making an appearance alongside the five main characters are: Furoshiki (wrapping cloth in Japanese), who is Shirokuma’s luggage; Zassou (weed in Japanese), who always cheers up Neko; Ebifurai no Shippo (leftover tail of a fried shrimp in Japanese) who is good friends with Tonkatsu; Tapiocas (as in the tapioca balls in bubble tea) who share the same “leftover” fate as Tonkatsu and Ebifurai no Shippo; Hokori (dust in Japanese) who often pile up near corners; Nisetsumuri who is a slug pretending to be a snail and lives a fake life similar to Tokage; and Obake who is a ghost working part-time at the cafe.
Because Sumikkogurashi originated as characters by San-X, who also produces the famous Rilakkuma, they do not have a voice, unlike the usual anime characters with voice actors. It may take some time to adjust to the narration, which happens throughout the movie. In fact, it feels like you are watching someone reading a children’s graphic novel.
That being said, it is not entirely a bad thing either, for the one narrating the story is Yoshihiko Inohara from Japanese idol group V6. Sumikkogurashi: The Movie also marks Inohara’s first venture into voice narration for an animation movie. Supplementing his narration is Manami Honjo, who is well-versed in both acting and voice-acting.
Winner for Best Animation of the Year at the 29th Annual Japan Movie Critics Award, Sumikkogurashi: The Movie is an enjoyable short film (66 minutes only!) most suited for the little ones and fans of Sumikkogurashi.
Release date: 19 November 2020 (Singapore)