The Last Unicorn
October 15, 2009
The Last Unicorn is an animated film with intriguing restraints. It’s an American production but animated by a Japanese studio called ‘Topcraft’, which went on to animate Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind under Miyazaki’s direction, and their top animators being hired afterwards to form the legendary Studio Ghibli. So there are things like voice acting and narrative structure that feels distinctly western, yet it’s not quite as western as one would believe. Facial expressions and animated movements for example, aren’t wildly exaggerated like that of Disney (although that probably has more to do with limited budget). And while it’s a fairy tale, it’s not exactly intended for children as the film can get very violent (not explicitly, but horrifying for children with active imagination), and there’s an underlying sense of sorrow, content and transience that you won’t find in most American animations. Ultimately it feels like the movie is being restrained from becoming complete, which I am grateful for because it leaves something else behind that void that charms me.
I highly recommend The Last Unicorn to anyone looking for a heart-felt fairy tale that aged like a fine wine. It’s an immortal’s journey towards mortal life, and learning to value regret and love that exists only within death, just like in Casshern Sins.
Another thing that should interest you at cross-cultural level is that its wonderful opening is inspired by the famous Unicorn Tapestries. The animation brings the creatures and flowers depicted in the original tapestry art to life, ever so briefly before fading, phasing in and out of motion. You can check out the youtube clip below the pictures. Absolutely love the fantastic opening, love the song too.
And you can see how the characters are set in a detailed background art, especially those flowers and plants that begs similarities with the original tapestry’s textural qualities. Such examples can’t be found so easily later, mostly because of the changes in setting.