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Ni No Kuni Movie Release Date, Trailer, Characters And Plot

The latest chapter in the breathtaking and ambitious Ni No Kuni universe is coming to Netflix.

Based on a popular Japanese role-playing game series first launched in 2010, the fantasy adventure film is the first cinematic adaptation out of the acclaimed universe created by the world-famous Studio Ghibli, composer Joe Hisaishi, and game developer Level-5.

The award-winning Ni No Kuni franchise has been celebrated for its signature visual design, its well-developed and empathetic characters, believable and complex storytelling, and sweeping soundtrack. With mobile and console releases, the games feature different leading characters whose narratives are connected by only a single yet magical mirror-world known as Ni No Kuni. Often after facing tragedy, characters journey to this alternate realm full of faeries and familiars where they seek answers to problems in their world — from lost kingdoms to lost parents — while battling enemies and evil.

Directed by Studio Ghibli animator Yoshiyuki Momose, written by Level-5 president Akihiro Hino, and once again composed by Hisaishi, the Netflix animated film follows much of the same and highly-praised formula of its gaming predecessors. The 106-minute movie centers on two teens who go on a magical quest to save one of their friends and her other-world counterpart.

The Netflix release is an English dub of the Japanese film produced by Tokyo animation studio OLM, Inc. and distributed by Warner Bros. If you're looking to enter (or re-enter) the beloved world of Ni No Kuni in a brand-new way, here are all the details about its official release — including the day it drops, its trailer, and what you can expect from both the animated film's story and its characters.

What's Ni No Kuni's release date?

If you're one among a sea of hardcore Studio Ghibli fans or merely a general lover of anime, you probably already know the film's big release secret: it's already out.

Ni No Kuni's world premiere took place last year in Japan on August 23, 2019, following an official release announcement from Warner Bros. several months earlier. No official news of a Western premiere had been shared at the time of the film's press conference. That remained the case until Ni No Kuni popped up on the list of January 2020 Netflix releases, which revealed the release date for the film's English dub: January 16, 2020.

Dubs can take anywhere from several weeks to several years to complete, depending on what company has distribution rights and whether the anime is a series or movie, so there was potential for a severe gap between Ni No Kuni's Japanese wide release and its English dub. Luckily for fans of the game and the story's general universe, the wait for an English dub wasn't excruciatingly long. For those looking to join yet another set of characters on their journey as they're transported from their real-world to a much more magical one, you can catch it streaming on Netflix mid-January. 

What are the Ni No Kuni games about?

With the first installment conceived back in 2008 as a 10th anniversary project for developer Level-5, the Ni No Kuni console games have followed only two main characters in their 2010, 2013, and 2018 releases. Those characters are both young boys, Oliver and Evan.

Oliver appeared in the series' first two installments, Ni No Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn and its more popular follow-up Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. After the death of his mother, Oliver is transported to Ni No Kuni, where he searches for a way to bring his deceased mother back. In the process, the boy must face an evil wizard named Jabou in Dark Djinn and Shadar in White Witch, who has caused pain for many in the mirror-world. Wrath of the White Witch became one of the best-selling PlayStation 3 games and was mostly an extension of the first release with character name changes and a new, expanded ending.

The third release is set hundreds of years after Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and centers on young king Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum who's forced to flee his kingdom after a plan for his assassination by Mausinger, an advisor to Evan's late father, is revealed. Joined by his loyal friend Roland Crane and later the daughter of a leader of air pirates, Tani, the young royal sets out on a quest across Ni No Kuni to find a way to save his kingdom. 

What's plot of the Ni No Kuni movie and who are the characters?

The Ni No Kuni film shares fundamental narrative elements with the console trilogy stories, including themes of love and loss, but it diverges in enough significant ways that it doesn't feel stale. 

An original story, the Ni No Kuni movie follows a small group of high school teens and long-time friends. There's Yuu, who uses a wheelchair, and his basketball-star best friend, Haru. Haru and Yuu are also close friends with Kotona, who happens to be dating Haru. The three are virtually inseparable, but when the young woman is attacked, both Yuu and Haru attempt to save her life before they're suddenly transported to Ni No Kuni.

The magical world is full of lively, fantastical creatures and lush, expansive locations rendered in the signature style of Studio Ghibli, despite the studio having no technical involvement. It's also home to alternate versions of each character. Once in the mirror-reality, they discover Kotona's counterpart, Princess Asya, and develop a friendship — and for Yuu, something more — with her. But when the Princess' life is put in danger, they discover the worlds aren't just connected through parallel people. There's a balance that must be maintained, and if the two boys want to save Kotona, it's going to cost Asya her life. That truth pits the two friends against one another as they work to decide and eventually fight to keep the version of their love alive. 

With Studio Ghibli veteran Yoshiyuki Momose working as the character designer and Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi composing, the Ni No Kuni movie is a version of a familiar story with a classic Ghibli twist. 

Is there a trailer for the Ni No Kuni movie?

Since Ni No Kuni isn't actually a new film, there's been a trailer out since April 2019, with its English-dubbed counterpart a near-exact copy of the original, Japanese-language footage

Both trailers open on the studious Yuu in a classroom and Haru at a basketball game as a crowd of adoring fans cheer him on. Next, viewers get a glimpse of a waving, short-haired Kotona before she, Yuu, and Haru can be seen jovially walking their school halls. Right after, Kotona is limp in Haru's arms as he dashes madly into the traffic, with Yuu pulling him out of the way of a truck just in time. That moment transports them to Ni No Kuni amid a bustling scene of vibrant fantasy creatures who resemble animals and even humans from our reality.

Soon after, they stumble upon the world's big secret: it's full of doppelgängers, including one of Kotona. Here, she's Princess Asya, who appears to be quite sick. Yuu is next seen pulling a sword from a bed-ridden Asya's stomach as light shoots out from the wound, enveloping him. A voiceover reveals that to save a life in one world, another must be sacrificed in their place. Kotona is then seen being stabbed by a masked figure as Yuu jumps to catch her collapsing body.

The rest of the Ni No Kuni trailer offers a glimpse of the story's various characters, including the spectacled Yoki and rabbit-like Danpa, while foreshadowing an impending battle between Yuu and Haru as they decide whether it will be Kotona or Asya — someone Yuu has fallen for — that lives.

The classic elements of anime with the beloved and often emotional Ghibli touch is sure to make Ni No Kuni a story as beautiful as it is compelling.