Drifting Home is the newest anime film to come to Netflix. The streaming platform has been investing heavily in the anime medium because it is clear that there is a huge untapped audience for it. Only Crunchyroll seems to be the main option for anime fans, so Netflix knows they need to invest in acquiring new shows and movies for the platform, In this case, we are talking about a film produced by Studio Colorido. The studio is fairly new, but it has the chops to create beautiful visual flair.
However, the movie feels a bit tepid when it comes to its story. The way the characters express their feelings is too abstract sometimes or too simplistic. The movie is not capable of finding that middle ground that made Studio Ghibli films so famous around the world. The movie also feels a bit stretched out. The film runs for two full hours, and it feels like it could have been so much shorter. The film ends up being entertaining, but you won’t be finding an instant classic here. If anything, the movie is quite unmemorable.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Drifting Home. Read at your own risk.
How Did The Kids End Up Drifting At Sea?
The film begins by introducing us to the characters of Kosuke, and Natsume. These two are our main characters, and they knew each other for a long ago. At the beginning of the film, it is a bit unclear if they are family or not. But Kosuke and Natsume grew up together, living in the same apartment complex. Now, years later, that apartment complex has been declared too dangerous to live in, and so both kids had to move somewhere else. They still see each other at school, but they barely talk to one another. It seems the relationship has been hurt a lot.
At school, the kids barely talk to one another, but they do have a relationship, and it seems that everybody in the class knows about it. They have a bunch of shared friends between them, and so it is hard to not find them in the same room or in the same conversation. One day after school, the group of kids decides to go to the abandoned department complex. Natsume is against the idea, but they all go anyway. There, Kosuke discovers that Natsume has an old camera that belonged to a person they know as Grandpa. Grandpa is dead and they both grieve for it.
At that moment, when Kosuke and Natsume are fighting, a huge wave appears and crashes against the entire group of kids. When they wake up, they realize that the entire city has become an endless ocean and the only thing that remains is the department complex. The building drifts across the ocean as if it were an abandoned ship. The kids freak out, but Natsume soon tries to calm them down. Natsume introduces everyone to Noppo, a tall kid that wasn’t with them at the time of the crashing wave, and she shows them some ramen boxes and drinks.
Natsume reveals that she has been in the building on the sea before. So she assured the rest of the group that once they go to bed and wake up, they will find themselves at home once again. However, this doesn’t happen, and the group spends days drifting aboard the building. It is clear that their situation will become desperate as they are running out of food and water. Kosuke notices that other buildings drifting at sea come around once in a while, so he plans to board one and look for food for the rest of the group.
How Do The Kids Come Back Home?
Kosuke prepares to execute his first boarding of another building, and when he does, he realizes that Natsume has followed him. The core conflict of the film seems to be that these two need to reconnect themselves somehow. They fight and bicker, but it is clear that they care for each other. After that first incursion to look for food in other buildings is successful, Kosuke and Natsume begin to do it constantly. On the horizon, they can also see what seems like dry land. It seems their adventure might be coming to a close soon enough.
In the meantime, they discover that Noppo isn’t actually human, but more of a ghost. He could be the ghost that people always said was haunting the building. Things go awry when Natsumen decides to stay in the department building because she thinks she is the reason everything fell apart. In her relationship with Kosuke, with Grandpa, and with the rest of the kids, she blames herself for all those things, and it is a rather sad scene. However, Kosuke arrives to save her and says that she is worthy, and that she needs to come with him. The suffering for what happened to Grandpa needs to end.
The film ends with Noppo using the last of his magic to send the building back to dry land. He stays in the sea, but the kids are able to go back to their normal lives. The friendship between Kosuke and Natsume ignites once more. The group sees the end of summer together as they prepare themselves to leave childhood behind and grow up helping each other out.