If there’s one thing Japanese storytellers don’t lack, it’s imagination. It’s a culture which allows room for a fertile mind to run riot. The result is a myriad of books, comics, television series, films and video games which astound and astonish. Often taking a common social issue and generating a fantasy world around that theme. This is the case in Birthday Wonderland, Keiichi Hara’s film adaptation of Sachiko Kashiwaba’s children’s story, Strange Journey from the Basement.

It’s the eve of her birthday and Akane (Mayu Matsuoka) is dismayed to discover that she must visit her aunt Chii (Anne Watanabe) in order to collect her main present. She finds her aunt distracted and muddled, and then they’re interrupted by the sudden appearance of a master alchemist Hippocrates (Masachika Ichimura) and his student Pipo (Nao Tôyama). The pair whisk them off through the basement to a magical world.

Birthday Wonderland is bursting with creativity and ideas. Whilst the kind of template it uses might be (a little too) familiar for many fans of Japanese animation, there’s no doubting that it’s an engaging and entertaining story for all the family. Brimming with clever little touches and a warm hearted bonhomie, Birthday Wonderland is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face without necessarily blowing you away.

Birthday Wonderland is available to watch on Screen Anime from 25 August.