Directed by Masayuki Yoshihara, Komada: A Whisky Family follows Rui Komada (voiced by Saori Hayami) and Kotaro Takahasho (Kensho Ono), the heir to a family-run whisky distillery in Japan and the novice editor shadowing her respectively. As the pair work together to create a series of whisky-themed articles for Kotaro’s publication, Kotaro soon becomes aware of Rui’s own personal quest – to revive KOMA, the distillery’s signature label with a recipe that has been lost to time.
Getting past the obvious joke of a whisky anime film hosting its world premiere in Scotland, Komada was a pleasant entry in this year’s Scotland Loves Anime lineup (the film is due to premiere in Japan on November 10, 2023). The animation studio P.A Works is no stranger to projects focused on a particular workplace – the Shirobako franchise, for example, focuses on the inner workings of an anime studio. However, this latest project focuses on the biggest cultural tie between Scotland and Japan – whisky production.
Going into Komada, you may notice that the animation isn’t as high quality as other anime films may be. Also, the characters aren’t groundbreaking by any means, with Kotaro being the archetype of a newbie in a world that’s strange to him, while Rui is the charming optimist who has the weight of the world on her shoulders.
However, if you can get past these details, the rest of the film is an enjoyable watch. It is an intriguing workplace / family drama, coupled with the fact that the creators have clearly done a lot of in-depth research into the main theme of Komada. There is an obvious sense of passion that has gone into creating this movie. The smooth jazz soundtrack by Tatsuya Kataou pairs quite nicely with the voice performances and animations. Following the characters as they conquer obstacles big and small to create something they feel so passionate about is a joy in and of itself.
Komada is a slow-burn movie, but that matches well with the film’s tone – as is referenced many times by the characters, whisky takes a long time to make before anyone can enjoy it. This in turn ties into another theme of Komada – that of dreams and hope – with Rui banking all her memories of her family’s successful past and gambling with the company’s finances in the present for a hopeful future. At the same time, Kotaro, a character without any goals in life, starts to find something he can dedicate himself to as he – and in turn, the audience – continues to get more familiar with the whisky trade.
While it may be considered just another entry in the niche sub-genre of anime that focuses on a particular hobby, Komada: A Whisky Family is more than that. In an industry that’s overwhelmed with manga adaptations, this original movie provides something fresh and new – both literally and figuratively – through its narrative, despite lacking slightly in animation quality compared to its contemporaries.
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Komada: A Whisky Family is a lovely fictional exploration of one of Japan's most successful alcohol exports.
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