"Children of the Sea" has achieved the impossible.

The new animated film from Studio 4°C adapts the manga of the same name by Daisuke Igarashi — whose idiosyncratic, wispy illustrations, with their huge numbers of flowing lines, always seemed impractical, if not downright impossible to bring into the world of animation. But director Ayumu Watanabe and his team have somehow pulled it off. No shortcuts, no compromise — just Igarashi's art translated directly to anime. This is one of the most beautifully animated films I've seen in years.

Like the manga on which it is based, "Children of the Sea" revolves around Ruka (Mana Ashida), a headstrong 14-year-old girl who lives in a coastal town near Tokyo. Ruka's means of escape from her household — made up of a caring but largely absent father and an alcoholic mother — comes from participating in her school's handball team. On the first day of summer vacation, though, a tussle with an older student on the court gets Ruka tossed off the team for the entire summer. Lamenting her bad luck while wandering the town, she visits the aquarium where her father works and witnesses something incredible: a boy swimming among the whales.