Bullying Anime Fantasy

Lonely Castle in a Mirror is a fairly clever junior high coming-of-age anime feature exploring bullied teenagers. From director Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai) working with A-1 Pictures, the tender tale is based on the bestselling 2017 novel by Mizuki Tsujimura.

Nominated for Animation of the Year at the 2023 Japan Academy Film Prize, the anime production is aimed at a slightly younger demographic than most films in this category. Mostly satisfying for the younger set, a trite emotional delivery hampers its genuinely heartfelt message.

Seven young teenagers find their bedroom mirrors are portals to an enchanted castle. Shy student Kokoro has been avoiding school for weeks when she finds herself inside the castle, invited to play a mysterious game with other students like her by the Wolf Queen. Actually a young girl hiding behind a mask, the Wolf Queen explains the group has one year to explore the castle and find a hidden room where one of them will be granted any wish they desire. The catch is they must leave the castle by 5PM each day or they will be eaten by monstrous wolves.

Balancing character development with story demands is a juggling act Lonely Castle in the Mirror occasionally drops

The fairy tale premise serves as an allegory for students dropping out of school over bullying, preferring to remain home instead of attending school. The group is supposed to be a representative sample of different personalities all with the same issue.

Lonely Castle in a Mirror relies on a series of twists and surprising reveals for its primary entertainment value. Granted, the twists are clever and imaginative. Unfortunately, the characters are dull and overly simplistic. The finale is quite touching but arrives far too late, bogged down by a slow first half.

Balancing character development with story demands is a juggling act Lonely Castle in the Mirror occasionally drops. The emotional touchstones largely work as Kokoro comes out of her shell and the story ends on a high note, albeit it needs an almost entirely new sub-plot inserted in the final act for closure. One gets the feeling something was lost in the transition from page to screen, as the dense plot and smarter twists lack the punch they should deliver.


A-1 Pictures delivers a bright, if sparsely animated tale which lacks the polish of big-budget theatrical fare. There’s definite eye appeal with its clean lines and vivid palette. The main feature runs 117 minutes on a BD-50, nicely encoded by GKIDS in an error-free AVC encode.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror’s primary visual strengths are pleasing character designs for the main cast and its well-designed settings. Backgrounds lean towards the simpler side with less detail but colors are often striking. The CGI castle doesn’t mix quite perfectly with the hand-drawn characters but otherwise the whimsical flourishes are excellent.

Video quality is high for 1080p resolution, reflecting the pristine nature of modern animation crafted on digital workstations. While lacking the pizzazz of more expensive animation, Lonely Castle in the Mirror produces pleasing eye candy.


Both Japanese and English audio arrive as stout 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtracks. There aren’t big differences between the two tasteful surround mixes and the English cast does a superb job fitting the film’s mood and temperament. Clean dialogue reproduction and polite channel assignments make for a high fidelity atmosphere. Dynamics could be larger but overall this is fine audio made with surround in mind.

The English cast sees Micah Lin as Kokoro, Huxley Westemeier as Rion, Giselle Fernandez as Aki, Kieran Regan as Subaru, Zoe Glick as Fuka, Adrian Marrero as Masamune, Riley Webb as Ureshino and Vivienne Rutherford as Wolf Queen.

The Japanese cast includes Ami Tōma as Kokoro, Sakura Kiryu as Aki, Takumi Kitamura as Rion, Aoi Miyazaki as Kitajima-sensei, Rihito Itagaki as Subaru, Naho Yokomizo as Fūka, Minami Takayama as Masamune, Yuuki Kaji as Ureshino, and Kumiko Aso as Kokoro’s mother.

Optional English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are offered in a white font. The English subtitles provide a proper translation of the Japanese audio.


GKIDS issues Lonely Castle in the Mirror on Blu-ray. The packaging indicates the disc is locked to Region A but press materials mention it being region-free.

Initial pressings include a slipcover.

Aniplex Japan released a limited edition Blu-ray set over in Japan which had three booklets and a card set for goodies.

Art Gallery (15:02 in HD) – A total of 177 images from the production.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror Trailers (04:10 in HD) – Japanese and English dub trailers are available.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


An allegorical anime film primarily designed for a younger audience with bullying as its underlying theme

User Review
4.5 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 33 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:

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