Anime version of A.F. Harrold novel marks Studio Ponoc’s return to feature-length theatrical anime.

There’s a remarkable consistency to the quality of Studio Ghibli’s anime, but the same can’t be said about the pace of their releases. So during the extended blank that followed the release of 2014’s When Marnie Was There, a number of key creators left Ghibli and banded together to create Mary and the Witch’s Flower, the first anime film from the newly formed Studio Ponoc.

Ponoc, though, has since been on a sort of hiatus itself. Since Mary, their only releases have been Modest Heroes, a 53-minute short film anthology, and Tomorrow’s Leaves, an eight-and-a-half minute production to help promote the Tokyo Olympics. Now, though, Studio Ponoc is finally returning to feature-length theatrical animation with the announcement of a new anime film, The Imaginary.

The title might sound familiar to fans of children’s literature, as the anime is an adaptation of British author A.F. Harrold’s children’s novel of the same name. Serving as director on the project is former Studio Ghibli member Yoshiyuki Momose, whose credits include key animation and visual design on Spirited Away, Whisper of the Heart, Pom Poko, Only Yesterday, On Your Mark. As a director, he helmed the 2019 Ni no Kuni anime movie, and well as Ponoc’s Tomorrow’s Leaves and one segment of Modest Heroes.

▼ The film’s poster, featuring its Japanese title Yaneura no Roger, or “Rudger in the Attic.”

Studio Ponoc describes the anime’s premise with:

Born from a young girl’s imagination, Rudger is a boy no one can see who lives in a world where imaginations can live and be eaten by others. The Imaginary is an extraordinarily touching and beautiful hand-drawn fantasy film in which Rudger and his new friends in “The Imaginaries Town” embark on an adventure no one can see at the risk of the futures and fates of those they love.

This will be Ponoc’s second time adapting a British children’s book, as Mary and the Witch’s Flower is based on Mary Stewart’s The Little Broomstick). In regards to his novel being picked up for a full-length anime film, Harrold says:

“I’m delighted and honoured that Studio Ponoc saw something special enough in my and [novel illustrator] Emily [Gravett’s] novel to commit their time and talent to translate it to the big screen. I’m excited and intrigued in equal measure to see how they manage the job of squeezing a book-shaped thing into a film-shaped thing. Knowing Studio Ponoc, though, I don’t doubt that this story is in safe hands.”

An additional Ghibli connection comes in the form of The Imaginary’s producer, Yoshiaki Nishimura, who was also the producer for Studio Ghibli’s two last hand-drawn anime, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There.

The Imaginary’s English-subtitled trailer

While no announcement has been made regarding an overseas release, the presence of an English-subtitled trailer and English-language official website indicate that distributor Toho is keen to let audiences outside Japan see the film as soon as possible. For those in Japan, The Imaginary is scheduled to open mercifully soon, in the summer of 2022.

Sources: The Imaginary official website via Comic Natalie via Otakomu
Top image: YouTube/東宝MOVIEチャンネル チャンネル
Insert image: The Imaginary official website
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