Review: The Deer King

Review: The Deer King

March 6, 2023

Life means freedom. This said freedom is a big focus of Production IG's new anime film The Deer King After the adaptation of Nahoko Uehashi's fantasy novel premiered in Japan in February 2022, KSM Anime secured the license for a home video release in the German-speaking realm. The Deer King has been available in Germany on DVD and Blu-ray since December 15, 2022. I watched the visually stunning film to judge whether it lived up to the consistently positive response. Pascal Walter

ATTENTION: Any statements in this review only reflect the personal opinion of the author and not (!) those of ITweakIT and its partners.

A king of nature

The story begins, like many other endings: with the aftermath of a war between two great nations. The Zol Empire fought against neighboring Akhafa, with the latter eventually losing and being occupied by Zol. The war may be over, but its effects are still being felt. Not to forget that there is also a mysterious disease, black wolf fever, that plagues the local people. This disease killed thousands and no one knew exactly where it came from. Yet the wolves that spread them disappeared as quickly as they came. They withdrew to what was known as Fire Horse territory, the only part of Akhafa not occupied by Zol.

Years after the war and plague ended, ex-soldier Van is forced to work in a mine operated by Zol. There he digs rock every day and is almost at the mercy of the sadistic guards. However, he does not care much for them and because of his imposing stature, the guards hardly dare to stand in his way.

One day the mine is suddenly attacked by the wolves that transmit the disease. While trying to save a young girl from one of the wolves, he is bitten and loses consciousness. But Van doesn't die, on the contrary he wakes up from his sleep stronger than ever. The girl also survived the wolf's bite and is glad that Van is still alive. Together with the girl whose name is Yuna, he embarks on a journey around the world. The two are looking for a place where they can lead a quiet life. After some time of the journey, through a fortunate encounter with a jumping deer breeder, they discover a settlement where they settle. But the peaceful life does not last long, the wolves find her and are after Yuna.

What follows is a trip into Fire Horse territory to unravel the origin of it all. But this time, Van and Yuna are no longer alone. They are joined by the mysterious assassin Sae and the doctor Hossal, both of whom have their own reasons for being part of the journey. However, these different motivations do not make this journey with an uncertain outcome any easier. Still, Van and Yuna must reach their goal, which has more than the fate of two warring nations at stake.

image and animation  

The Deer King was created by Studio Production IG and directed by Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji. The plot is based on the books of the same name by author Nahoko Uehashi, which were originally published by Kadokawa in 2014. The film celebrated its world premiere at the Annecy International Anime Festival on June 14, 2021 before being shown in Japanese cinemas from February 4, 2022 after some delays due to Corona. In this country, KSM brought anime The Deer King to the cinema once on September 15, 2022. As of December 15, 2022, The Deer King is now available on disc.

From a visual point of view , The Deer King is a firework of wonderful natural images and landscapes. The animation in this area is undoubtedly outstanding and cannot only be explained by the fact that the directors previously worked at the renowned Studio Ghibli. In fact, many of the images and settings are reminiscent of popular classics like Princess Mononoke .

As far as the depiction of nature is concerned, there is hardly anything to be found that has grounds for complaint. Apart from the fact that the human protagonists are sometimes neglected due to the sheer details of the same. Masashi Ando's character design is outstanding and, like the setting, is reminiscent of previous Ghibli films. However, the characters are sometimes overshadowed by the beauty of nature, making them seem a little less alive compared to the landscape. Nevertheless, the general quality of the production does not suffer significantly. In fast-moving scenes, the animation stays fluid and there's no loss in quality or detail. However, nature remains the star in terms of animation than in the image recognizable at first glance.

German translation and music

The German dubbed version of The Deer King was created by Kölnsynchron under the dialogue direction of Daniel Käser, who also wrote the dialogue book. A total of 17 speaking roles are available, among which David Nathan particularly stands out. Van's voice actor in this film is commonly known as the voice of stars like Johnny Depp.

The German dubbing can without a doubt be described as of high quality, which I normally only expect from Hollywood films. This may also be due to David Nathan, among other things, whose voice made me hear Jack Sparrow or even Batman (Christian Bale) again and again, because I associate his voice very much with these two characters. However, the rest of the German voice cast also delivers a very good performance, which definitely doesn't have to hide behind the Japanese original.

The dialogues in the film are close to the original, which suggests a well-written dialogue book. Personally, I like the original better, but I'll check out the German version again in the future. As for the music composed by Harumi Fuuki, it sometimes takes a backseat due to the stunning scenery. At least I often had the impression. An exception is the melody that played whenever Van is reminiscing about his past or making an important decision. It always manages to send goosebumps down my spine.


The Deer King is a visually stunning epic that focuses on the beauty of nature and bears the signature of the two directors Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji from their time at Studio Ghibli. So at times it feels like watching a slightly different version of Princess Mononoke . Due to these impressive nature pictures, however, some other aspects, such as the design of the acting characters, are somewhat neglected.


The plot itself is a beautiful story about family and nature, but leaves certain open story lines in some areas. The German dubbing stands out from other anime dubbings because of its high quality, although the music occasionally takes a back seat. In summary , The Deer King is a touching anime film with rich animation that will delight every nature and Ghibli fan.

short conclusion

Anyone who loves nature and appreciates great animated films should not miss The Deer King . And fans of Ghibli classics should definitely take a look at this masterpiece.

Images: ©2021 “The Deer King” Production Committee © KSM Anime, Koch Films

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