During the late-70s and early-80s, North Korean spies abducted numerous Japanese citizens from Japanese soil. Among them was then 13-year-old Megumi Yokota, whose family has continued to fight for her return. Their story was chronicled in a manga titled Megumi, on which this short movie is based.
Initially, the film depicts Megumi’s life growing up. Starting with her birth up to the grim day where she was abducted. From there, the story moves on to her family’s struggle to persevere and their efforts to have the government take action.
It’s a deeply aggravating story. One that I was unfamiliar with until watching this anime, but which left a deep impact on me. Megumi’s parents were involved in writing this story and real pictures of her are frequently used to supplement the animation. It makes for a very personal story that does a great job at getting the family’s anguish across. The helplessness, the desperation, as well as the solemn realization that their countrymen are largely indifferent to it.
It’s genuinely heart wrenching to watch. Especially when it inspired me to learn more about these abductions afterwards, and I discovered the full extent of the injustice inflicted upon these people. If you’re the kind of person who needs tragic stories to have a happy ending, then you may be better off not digging too deep into this one.
Unfortunately, this animated version of Megumi’s story is not on the usual level for an animated drama. Certainly not for 2008. The animation is stilted and awkward, with mouthflaps that rarely align with what is actually being said. This issue is amplified in the various dubs. The English voice acting is already outright atrocious, but made all the worse by how frequently dialogue plays while characters are not even shown to be talking.
If you’re looking for an anime that is engaging for traditional reasons, then Megumi is not that. It’s so clearly a different kind of product from typical anime, with different priorities for production values. You watch it to better understand a piece of history. Not to have fun or admire a well-produced animated movie. This makes the appeal quite niche, though I do sincerely recommend looking up the movie or otherwise reading up on the story of Megumi Yokota.
Though I caution to only do so on a day where you can afford to be incensed.