Maboroshi Review – A teenager and town in crisis in Netflix’s new anime film

By Romey Norton
Published: January 15, 2024 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
Maboroshi Review
Maboroshi | Image via Netflix


In a town where time is frozen, a young boy’s reality is collapsing all around him. With creative characters and content, if you’re not hyper-focused this film’s busy plot might leave you confused.

From the animators of Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen comes Mari Okada’s Netflix anime film Maboroshi. Masamune Kikuiri has been in an endless winter from the tender age of 14. In a town where time has stopped, Masamune, a naive teenager, finds himself caught between multiple girls — especially a classmate called Mutsumi, and then Itsumi, a girl who acts like a wild wolf. He’s on a journey of self-discovery and self-worth whilst trying to navigate his feelings in a town where he’s not allowed to change. 

Due to an explosion at a steel-work factory, all exits are sealed off from the town, so no one goes in and no one goes out. With the hope that everything will return to normal one day, everyone is forbidden from changing. It’s a sad, gloomy existence. That is until Masamune meets these two girls and their impulsive love upsets the balance and begins to destroy everything they thought they knew. 

What is obvious in this film is the link between their world and our reality during the COVID-19 quarantine years — being locked away, waiting until the world heals and turns back to normal. It brings the question, do we conform or do we revolt? There are strong themes about change, grief, loss, and love, all of which seem scary at first, but then blossom into something beautiful. 

At times the story isn’t clear for the audience and becomes confusing. This is due to a lack of backstory explanation and many underdeveloped threads running throughout the film. A lot is going on, and the focus changes and shifts multiple times. The town goes from believing they need forgiveness from a “sacred machine”, to then fearing the “sacred wolf”, and then being in an alternate reality. We then flit between following a group of kids, to adults, to Masamune and his family, and the story leads to rescuing the wolf girl with no clear outcome. 

This all can reflect our current accelerating rate of being dependent on technology for everything in our daily lives, and how we are in an ever-changing world that is hard to keep up with. If anything, it made me concentrate hard on the film, and with distractions everywhere, that’s difficult for a modern film to do. 

The characters are entertaining and likable, especially the wolf cub girl. Her entrance is weird and freaky. Itsumi is childlike — a child in an adult’s body, definitely bringing another dimension to the storyline, however questionable. Masamune is a personality in crisis and is trying to discover what love is. His character is well-written and could have been stronger, I think, through the flirting with his masculinity and what that means for him. 

The visuals are great, eye-catching and colorful, and have a pleasing charm about them. 

Maboroshi offers its viewers impressive animation and thought-provoking content. However, you will have to pay attention to keep up with its many changes to not get too confused. It’s a thought-provoking piece, with entertaining characters and a relatable storyline (to some degree). While sometimes difficult to follow and understand, your perseverance will be rewarded.

What did you think of Maboroshi? Comment below.

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