Fantastic Fest Review: MODEST HEROES Is Another Charismatic Win For Studio Ponoc

Studio Ponoc continues to dazzle fans both young and old.

Last year, Studio Ponoc made their way to Fantastic Fest with the ever-charming Mary and the Witch’s Flower (dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi). With their debut film under the belt, the masterminds at Studio Ponoc decided to play around with their options for their next offering, landing on a series of shorts flying under the banner of Modest Heroes.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi returns in the anthology, and is joined by directors Yoshiyuki Momose and Akihiko Yamashita to present Kanino & Kanini, Life Ain’t Gonna Lose, and Invisible. Modest Heroes is exactly what it says on the package; regular people doing small, heroic things to help support themselves and those around them. All of this is, of course, wrapped up with all of the delightful charm of a Studio Ponoc production.

Kanino & Kanini follows the adventures of two children who have lost their father. The two little heroes have to brave all that dangers that come with living in their underwater paradise while on their quest to rescue him. Undoubtedly the most beautifully animated of the three, Kanino & Kanini helps set the tone for the shorts collection with its lovable protagonists.

Next up comes Life Ain’t Gonna Lose with a look at what it’s like to be a child with a food allergy. Little Shun is deathly allergic to eggs, and he and his family work together to navigate that in a world where egg is in nearly everything. The animation of Life Ain’t Gonna Lose is a bit softer than what we’ve come to expect from Studio Ponoc (and Studio Ghibli before it), but not so much that it takes you out of little Shun’s adventure.

Things close out with Invisible, ensuring that you leave the theater with a couple of tears in your eye. We follow the story of an invisible man who, despite being clothed in tangible materials, goes through life completely unseen by those around him. Things will turn around for the invisible man when he is seen by the most unlikely subject, kicking off his whirlwind adventure to become the everyday hero he was meant to be.

Modest Heroes is solid from start to finish, and does a great job illustrating Studio Ponoc’s range. The three shorts are all incredibly different from one another while still nailing the theme of the anthology with flying colors. Studio Ponoc continues to pay homage to Studio Ghibli while still carving out their own niche with these three new offerings, and we look forward to seeing what they do next.