If Playing Animal Crossing Is As Boring As Watching The Movie, I'm Out

This past week saw the Western release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the 3DS. Despite having never played an Animal Crossing game myself — largely due to its part in the most heartbreaking gaming tale I have ever heard — I decided it would be fun to sit down and watch the 2006 Animal Crossing anime film.

This was, frankly, a bad idea as it turned an otherwise enjoyable evening into one of the most boring 87-minute chunks of my entire life.

Good — True to the Games

If one good thing can be said about the Animal Crossing film, it's that it does a good job in bringing the game setting to the silver screen. The town is filled with familiar characters ranging from Tortimer — the mayor of the town — to Tom Nook the shop owner. Many of the game's locations appear as well like the coffee shop in the museum and the town hall. Even events from the games, like K.K. Slider's Saturday night concerts and the various festivals, are shown in the film. There is even a new vocal version of one of Slider's songs in the film — though while everything else in the film is in Japanese, his singing voice has been converted into highly digitized-sounding Animalese.

Bad — Not As Much a Story as a Collection of Random Scenes

Unfortunately, there is a downside to being an accurate representation of Animal Crossing: it's not exactly a game known for its plot. More than anything else, the Animal Crossing games are about making your own story within the game's setting. You interact with the other characters and basically live how you want. This does not make for a compelling or particularly interesting movie.

When the main character of the film, a young girl named Ai, comes to the town, she has no motivation or back story. The first third of the film is simply her wandering around and meeting the town's inhabitants. After that, there is still no overriding plot but there is at least a cast of known characters we follow from scene to scene in a weirdly boring slice of life tale.

Bad — Hanging Plot Threads

[*Skip to “Final Thoughts” to avoid spoilers.] And as these scenes are largely unconnected, many obvious plot set-ups are left unresolved. Take for example Blathers the Owl. He mentions his dream is to finish his dinosaur fossil collection by finding a seismosaurus skeleton. Indeed, our heroine does find one but never even mentions it to him — in fact this plot point is never mentioned again. This means he is less a character and more of a tool to tell Ai about the existence of such a fossil so that when she comes upon it, she'll know what it is.

Even worse is the case of Margie the Elephant. We spend nearly every scene she's in seeing how dedicated she is to becoming a fashion designer. Eventually, she leaves the town to pursue her dream in the most emotionally devastating moment of the film. But once Ai comes to terms with her sadness resulting from it, Margie's dream is never addressed again. Sure, Margie returns near the end of the film, but her professional success or failure is never once mentioned.

Bad — Teaches a Horrible Life Lesson to Children

[*Skip to “Final Thoughts” to avoid spoilers.] Most of the problems with the film would no doubt be overlooked by the film's obvious target audience: young children. However, the fact that it is a film for children actually makes the film worse as the Animal Crossing movie teaches a horrible lesson to children.

The film’s big dramatic moment is when Margie the Elephant leaves town without telling Ai. The next day, Rosie the Cat berates Ai for not saying goodbye to Margie on her final night in town — this is how Ai finds out she may never see her best friend again. To make it worse, Ai discovers that every single other person in town knew that Margie was leaving. So after spending the day in crippling emotional pain, Ai gets a letter from Margie stating she didn't want to start her new life being sad so she decided to skip saying goodbye to her best friend all together.

Which translates to: “I decided to be selfish and make you feel horrible so I wouldn't have to be sad. And since you are a good friend, you'll forgive me because that's what friends do.” And, of course, Ai immediately does.

This is not a good lesson to teach kids. Shouldn't we be teaching them to do the right thing even if it's sad? That it's important to face the hard moments of our lives instead of running away from them? Or that even friendship has its limits on what is forgivable?

I'll say one thing for this part of the film, though, it got me out of my bored emotional state — and into one of affronted disbelief.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, I spent the vast majority of my time watching Animal Crossing being bored out of my mind — and when I wasn't bored, I was offended. It is a pretty terrible film that suffers from not really having a point — be that a plot-based one or a thematic one. While I suspect fans of the game series may enjoy seeing their favourite characters animated, I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone, especially children. There are plenty of better films for them out there that do more than teach poor lessons about friendship.

Animal Crossing was released in Japanese theatres on December 16, 2006. The film has never received an official release outside of Japan.


    I think it should be said that the 'Animal Crossing' anime is definitely something more for people who've invested into the game beforehand. I enjoyed it immensely and there is no way that any of my friends who haven't played an entry would care for it as much as me.

    To understand why, here is the story of how I ended up watching the anime:

    In 2005, I bought a copy of 'Animal Crossing' for the GameCube that was at clearance price. I'd always been tempted to give it a try & here was my chance.
    For the next 4 months I was hooked. I'd play it everyday before uni to interact with all the townsfolk and keep the place clean of weeds. I fell in love with many of the personalities & treasured anytime I had to talk to them. But of course, I had my favourite: Rosie.
    I loved Rosie's personality. She was the only "peppy" villager I had, as all the others were either "cranky", "snooty", or "jock". She made the game just that extra bit engaging with her cute & childish personality.
    After a while I had my first villager move away to be replaced with another. My first thought was; "What if it had've been Rosie? How can I keep her from potentially leaving?". I looked up online with most answers being to keep your villagers happy. And so I talked to her everyday & made sure I did all the fetch quests she wanted done. But in the end it was to no avail...
    ...After 4 months, I logged in to find her gone & a letter stating she'd left.
    I was gutted. I was sad. I was angry. I turned off the game and didn't touch it for a year. When I finally did play it again, I couldn't invest the same as I had & stopped shortly after.

    Fast forward to late-2007. I was moving interstate from Sydney to Perth. One of my best friends suggested picking up 'Animal Crossing: Wild World' for my DS so that we could chat on that & see each others town. I told her I'd think about it whilst memories of my first romp in the series flashed in my head. I decided to at least look up info on the game online as to what new features there were & how the online multiplayer worked.
    That's when I found out about the movie.
    At the time I was really into anime, so for a bit of nostalgia I watched it. I saw this new character Ai doing all the same activities I'd done. Saw her meet new friends like I had.
    And there was Rosie. She was just how I remembered her & it was fantastic.
    Then came the scene where Margie left.
    It was like watching my reaction to Rosie's departure from my game. And it made me think of something: I was leaving my best friend behind in Sydney and I didn't know when I'd be back to visit.
    The next day I bought a copy of 'Animal Crossing: Wild World' and told my friend. We then would occasionally set up a time to visit each others town & chat. I was never able to be invested in the town to the extent as before, but it was great fun until the novelty wore off and we switched to just using Facebook & phone calls. Typing this up actually makes me want to set it up again for nostalgia-sake though...

    You see, to watch this anime is to relive and remember your own playthrough. Your villagers. Your experiences. Your choices. Different, yet at the same time similar.
    To watch it without having experienced the game will never give the same satisfaction as one who has gone through the highs & lows of an actual playthrough.

      Agreed: felt it was just a huge nostalgia trip but anime-ified

    It's okay to be wrong.

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