Sol Levante Review

AKA: Sunrise
Genre: Fantasy/Action/Adventure
Year Released: 2020
Distributor: Netflix
Origin: Japan
Running Time: 4 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-14
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Kai Doh Maru, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Dragon Quest: Your Story, Tales from Earthsea, Children of the Whales, Record of Lodoss War, Guin Saga
Notes: N/A
Fun Facts:
-Sol Levante is the directorial debut of Akira Saitoh. Prior to the work of this short film, He’s worked on visual effects as well as editing Giovanni’s Island and was a colorist for Sand Whale and Me as well as Noblesse: Awakening.

-The soundtrack was scored by British composer Emily Rice. This was her debut making music for an anime work, but she has lent her talents to major films such as The Fate of the Furious, Detroit, Alita: Battle Angel, and the 2017 Power Rangers movie remake.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: The title translates to “sunrise” in Spanish. Wouldn’t it be funnier if it was animated by them instead of Production I. G.?

I haven’t reviewed that many shorts over the past several months. That used to be far more common last year when I had a quicker turnaround time and posted 3 reviews a week in my old schedule. Life has been busier since late last year, so I don’t have as much time as I used to. Besides my schedule, I had moments of depression and anxiety. 2020 REALLY hasn’t helped in that regard even though some of those feelings were irrelevant to the state of the world. I’m sure Netflix has dulled some of the pains of this world since March. It has been a long time since I reviewed a Netflix original work and the last time (coincidentally the only other project which was released this year) I checked something out through them was Sunderland ’Til I Die 2. Well, there’s that and I felt like I haven’t reviewed as much anime as I used to. Maybe it was all the African movies I’ve been watching that’s been getting more attention? Okay, I’m half-joking in that regard, but I still want to offer some content for my aniblogger audience on Iridium Eye. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of those same people read my live action and non-Japanese animated reviews as well, but I didn’t want to come of as abandoning that part of my readership. I mean, several of my most-read reviews have been anime-related on a year-in year-out basis since the inception of this blog.

Now, what does Netflix have in store when it comes to their original anime works? At least it’s something that wasn’t streaming on Crunchyroll before licensing it, so that’s a plus.

Sol Levante takes place in a dangerous world filled with spirits and monsters running amok. There’s a female warrior with her giant crow-like familiar who have to fight against these constant threats as well as some catastrophic environments. She also has to find a treasure in a secret place to grant a wish, but she’ll have to deal with so many hazards along the way.

Production I. G. rarely ever slouches when it comes to animation and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed. The visuals are enthralling with such high frame rates, a full spectrum of colors, breathtaking action sequences, and an overall dreamlike state that would rival anything Ghibli’s done for decades. This was certainly amazing with all of the eye candy as well as the ardent effort shown on display since I have nothing bad to say about the visuals. There was certainly a great sense of danger and fantasy in it’s short run time and it was like a rollercoaster of energy as well as imagination. The music by Emily Rice was also quite fitting as the right tones give as sense of an epic feeling going on throughout it’s runtime.

With all the nice things I could say about the visuals and audio facets of Sol Levante, I still felt underwhelmed. I’m sorry, but all of the animation quality in the world doesn’t mean all of the parts are going to be spectacular. Things were way too vague in the story and happened way too fast, that I barely knew what was going on. The ending made no sense to me with the protagonist meeting a younger character. What was the whole point? Technically, the whole run time is 4 minutes and 30 seconds, but in actuality, it’s 3 and a half minutes of animated content before the credits roll. If Sol Levante was an animation demo project or a trailer for a bigger movie or series, then I would certainly be hooked to find more about it. As a short film, it fails in relying too much on the visuals than the storytelling or characterization. I hate to repeat myself with my Kai Doh Maru review (Spoiler alert: That OVA is the worst thing I’ve EVER seen from Production I. G.!), but I thought Shinesman was way better even though the animation quality is nowhere near as good. Just because it’s a critically-acclaimed studio, it doesn’t mean everything will be great. It just seems like Production I. G. is resting on the laurels of the Ghost In the Shell series or more recently Attack on Titan than to make high-quality stories with premium animation to back it up. If I can go off a tangent here: Am I the only person who thinks the scene of the protagonist soaring above the ocean with that psionic crow looks a little TOO much like that scene with the eagle from The Rescuers Down Under, but in a fantasy setting? Come on, I know you can do better than this. Of course, I feel bad making a Disney comparison again with a Production I. G. since the GITS: Arise prequels with the Ariel cybernetic leg units. Okay, moving on.

Sol Levante is all spectacle, but with very little depth to it. The animation is certainly the zenith of production quality which I don’t deny, but the lack of a story and characterization really hampers this for me. If you want some brief colorful eye candy, then go right ahead, but I prefer things with more effort than just animation. Say what you will about the mediocre animation quality of Yugo the Negotiator or Hikaru no Go, but at least they overcompensate with dynamic characters, unique concepts, and engrossing storytelling. Sol Levante is the opposite of this. While I don’t hate this short film as much as their earlier work Kai Doh Maru or even The King of Fighters: Another Day, but I know Production I. G. is better than this.Production I. G., I know otakudom loves you no matter what, but even you have made flawed works.

Adjustable Point Scores:
-Add 1-5 points if animation means everything to you.
-Add 1 point if you like fantasy works.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want top-notch storytelling.

Pros:
-Phenomenal animation
-Very impactful soundtrack
-Imaginative character and monster designs

Cons:
-Barely any story
-Feels like a trailer more than an independent short film
-Rushed pacing

Final Score: 3/10 points

Content Advisory: Sol Levante got a TV-14 which I agree with. The violence is way too intense for younger viewers as several monsters die. There’s blood, gore, and the monsters are quite scary. Near the end, the protagonist is partially nude and has transparent ribbons covering parts of her body while underwater.


-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Sol Levante is property of Netflix. The poster is from IMDb and is property of Netflix.

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