Tomm Moore’s touching Song of the Sea is not anime, but it shares elements with some of the best anime films of recent years, particularly Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children.
Then again, certain kinds of legends pop up in every culture. In this iteration, young Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) was born on the night her mother, Broanch (Lisa Hannigan), disappeared into the waves surrounding their lighthouse home.
After their father, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), sends the seemingly mute Saoirse and her brother Ben (David Rawle) away for getting too close to the mystery — Saoirse is half-Selkie, a woman who’s human on land but a seal in the ocean — the brother and sister must travel back to the ocean to save Saoirse’s life and possibly all of humanity, discovering along the way that mythological Irish creatures are all around them.
The picture is beautifully rendered in pencils and watercolors, with some CG, giving it an appropriately timeless storybook look, even though it’s set in a mostly modern world of buses and 3-D glasses. The story takes place mostly on Halloween, and while Song of the Sea is about neither horror nor holidays, the anonymous kids in costumes throughout help evoke a world that’s already closer to the fantastic than it realizes.