‘Maboroshi’, or ‘Alice and Therese’s Illusory Factory’, is a 2024 anime film directed by Mari Okada and produced by Netflix. The film follows the story of Masamune Kikuiri, a 14-year-old boy who lives in Mifuse, a town that is frozen in time after a mysterious explosion at the steel factory. Masamune meets Itsumi, a feral girl who seems to have a connection to the time freeze, and Mutsumi Sagami, a classmate who takes care of Itsumi. Together, they try to uncover the truth behind the phenomenon and their own feelings.
The film has a complex and ambiguous ending that leaves many questions unanswered. Who is Itsumi and what is her role in the time freeze? What happens to Masamune, Mutsumi, and the rest of Mifuse? Do they escape the illusory world or do they die? In this article, we will try to explain the ending of ‘Maboroshi’ and its implications for the characters and the themes of the film.
Plot Summary & Explanation of ‘Maboroshi’ Ending
Mifuse’s frozen time
The film begins with a normal night in Mifuse, where Masamune and his friends are doing homework at his house. Suddenly, they hear a loud noise and see a huge explosion at the steel factory, which is the pride and heritage of the town. They rush outside and witness the sky cracking and wolf-like smoke coming out of the factory to repair the cracks. They soon realize that something has changed in Mifuse: time has stopped and they are trapped in the town. No one can grow up or die, and no one can leave or enter the town. The only way to survive is to maintain their emotions and feelings as they were before the accident, as any change can cause the sky to crack again and threaten their existence.
The townspeople follow the guidance of Mr. Sagami, the father of Mutsumi and a worker at the factory. He claims that the time freeze is a punishment from God and that the smoke is sacred. He instructs everyone to fill out self-monitoring forms and to avoid any contact with the outside world. He also forbids anyone from entering the factory, where he secretly conducts experiments to find a way to reverse the time freeze.
Masamune and Itsumi’s meeting
Masamune is bored and unhappy with his life in Mifuse. He has no interest in school or girls, and he hates Mutsumi, who teases him and annoys him. One day, he accidentally accompanies Mutsumi to the factory, where she introduces him to Itsumi, a girl who looks like a younger version of Mutsumi but acts like a wild animal. Mutsumi tells him that she found Itsumi in the forest and that she is taking care of her. She asks Masamune to help her, saying that he has a girlish face that can calm Itsumi down.
Masamune agrees to help Mutsumi, and he gradually develops a bond with Itsumi. He teaches her how to speak, how to play, and how to smile. He also learns more about her mysterious origins and abilities. Itsumi seems to have a connection to the time freeze, as she can create rifts in the sky that show glimpses of other realities. She also seems to have a connection to Masamune, as she calls him “Papa” and has a pendant that matches his.
Itsumi’s true identity
The film reveals the true identity of Itsumi in the climax, when Masamune and Mutsumi try to escape from Mifuse with her. They are chased by Mr. Sagami and his men, who want to use Itsumi for their experiments. They reach the train station, where they find a train that can take them to the outside world. However, they are confronted by Mr. Sagami, who shoots Masamune in the chest. As Masamune falls to the ground, he sees a rift in the sky that shows his grown-up self and his wife, who is none other than Mutsumi. He also sees a girl who looks exactly like Itsumi, but older and happier. He realizes that Itsumi is his daughter from another reality, where he and Mutsumi got married and had a child. He also realizes that the pendant that Itsumi has is a gift from him to her.
It is implied that Itsumi somehow traveled from her reality to Mifuse, where she regressed to a childlike state and lost her memories. She was drawn to Masamune and Mutsumi, who are her parents in her original world. She also caused the time freeze in Mifuse, as she unconsciously tried to recreate the happy moments of her life with her family. However, her presence also destabilized the illusory world, as she created rifts in the sky that showed other realities.
The Fate of Mifuse and Its Inhabitants
The cause of the time freeze
The film does not explicitly explain the cause of the time freeze in Mifuse, but it hints at some possible explanations. One is that the explosion at the factory triggered a quantum anomaly that created a parallel world where time stopped. Another is that the factory was secretly experimenting with a device that could manipulate time and space, and that the explosion caused it to malfunction and create a temporal loop. A third is that Itsumi’s arrival from another reality caused a paradox that disrupted the natural order of time and space.
Whatever the cause, the time freeze in Mifuse is shown to be an unnatural and unsustainable phenomenon that is bound to collapse sooner or later. The cracks in the sky, the smoke, and the self-monitoring forms are all signs of the fragility and instability of the illusory world. The film also suggests that the time freeze is a metaphor for the stagnation and isolation of the townspeople, who are unable to grow, change, or connect with others.
Will Itsumi return to her reality?
The film ends with a hopeful note, as Itsumi manages to board the train and leave Mifuse. She is accompanied by Sonobe, a shy girl who has a crush on Masamune and who decides to join Itsumi in her journey. As the train departs, Itsumi smiles and waves goodbye to Masamune and Mutsumi, who are lying on the ground, wounded by Mr. Sagami’s bullets. She also says “I love you” to them, indicating that she has regained some of her memories and feelings.
It is implied that Itsumi will return to her reality, where she belongs and where she can be happy with her family. The train represents a portal to the outside world, where time flows normally and where other possibilities exist. The film also implies that Itsumi’s departure will end the time freeze in Mifuse, as she is the source and the key to the phenomenon. The final scene shows the sky clearing and the smoke disappearing, suggesting that the illusory world is dissolving and that a new dawn is coming.
Masamune and Mutsumi’s Relationship
Do they end up together?
The film portrays the relationship between Masamune and Mutsumi as a complicated and bittersweet one. They start off as enemies, but they gradually become friends and allies. They also develop romantic feelings for each other, but they are unable to express them openly. They are constantly interrupted by external factors, such as Itsumi, Mr. Sagami, and the time freeze. They also face internal conflicts, such as their fear of change, their guilt over their feelings, and their uncertainty over their future.
The film does not give a clear answer to whether they end up together or not, but it leaves some clues and hints. One is that they are destined to be together, as they are shown to be married and have a child in another reality. Another is that they are doomed to be apart, as they are separated by the time freeze and by their injuries. A third is that they have a choice, as they can either stay in Mifuse and die, or leave with Itsumi and live.
Do they die?
The film does not explicitly show the fate of Masamune and Mutsumi, but it implies that they are mortally wounded by Mr. Sagami’s bullets. They are shown to be bleeding and losing consciousness, as they hold hands and watch Itsumi leave. They also say their final words to each other, expressing their love and regret. The film also suggests that they are ready to die, as they have fulfilled their roles and their wishes. They have helped Itsumi return to her reality, and they have confessed their feelings to each other.
However, the film also leaves some room for hope, as it does not confirm their death. They are still alive when the film ends, and they may have a chance to survive if they receive medical attention. They may also have a chance to escape Mifuse, as the time freeze is ending and the train is still running. The film also implies that they have a connection to Itsumi, and that they may follow her to her reality, where they can be together as a family.
‘Maboroshi’s’ ending leaves audiences with more questions than answers, but that lies at the heart of its brilliance. The film invites introspection, prompting us to grapple with the complexities of grief, memory, and the very fabric of time. While the mysteries of Itsumi and the time anomaly may remain unresolved, the film’s emotional resonance lingers long after the credits roll, offering a profound meditation on the transformative power of letting go.