A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes importance of telling others the truth if you're being hurt or bullied. No one deserves to be treated that way, and all students should feel safe at school and home. Tweens and teens should have trusted adults they can turn to when they need help. Themes include empathy, perseverance, teamwork.
Positive Role Models
The kids all grow to be loyal friends and learn from one another. They're empathetic and want to help the other castle kids. Kokoro is quiet but kind.
The movie features all Japanese characters (voiced by Japanese actors in the original audio). The main character is a girl, but boys play prominent supporting characters.
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Violence & Scariness
Shows the sometimes disturbing ways in which Lonely Castle kids were bullied or mistreated. One upsetting sequence shows a stepfather pursuing his stepdaughter in a way that makes it seem like he's about to sexually assault her. A flashback shows a character's dying older sister on a hospital bed. A killer wolf devours some of the children, but they're eventually saved.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One boy has overt crushes on the girls and asks them whether they have boyfriends. One girl discusses having a boyfriend. Two characters stare at each other and obviously like each other. They touch hands. Kids awkwardly blush in one another's presence.
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Insult language like "stupid," "idiot," "coward," "I hate you," "damn it," "drop dead," "freak," "losers," "ugly girls," "stupid brat," "crap."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lonely Castle in the Mirror is an animated adaptation of Mizuki Tsujimura's Japanese fantasy book and Tomo Taketomi's manga. The story follows a bullied girl who discovers that her full-length mirror is a magical portal to a castle where she meets other middle schoolers who've been summoned there for a quest. Flashbacks include scenes of upsetting bullying and violence against children. One character's past includes implied sexual assault by a family member. Students prank a classmate, call her names, and trick her into humiliating situations. A fantastical wolf devours some of the characters, but they ultimately survive. Infrequent insult language includes "damn it," "stupid," "coward," "crap," "ugly," and more. The story includes themes of empathy, perseverance, and teamwork. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The entertaining but thinly plotted adaptation explores mature themes, focusing on misfit teens who need a safe space to make friends and be themselves. Directed by Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai), the movie works best when the castle kids are getting to know one another, proving that these "outcasts" are capable of experiencing friendship and camaraderie. It's painful to watch the flashbacks of Kokoro and the other castle teens, who understandably don't want to share why they're all available to visit the fantasy location when their classmates are at school. They play games, talk, and just spend time together. The Wolf Queen pops up occasionally to answer questions and ask why they aren't searching for the key, but she's a somewhat mysterious figure.
The animation is memorable, but a couple of disturbing scenes switch the style, blur faces, and make use of the soundtrack in a way that detracts from rather than enhances the seriousness of the action. The fantasy elements don't extend beyond the castle, and the big reveal will be easy for eagle-eyed viewers to guess. Although younger audiences might be drawn to the film, it's firmly a young-adult story aimed at older tweens and younger teens.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.