Genre(s): Romance, Drama, Slice of Life
Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (some smoking)
Episodes: One 1-hour movie (of 3 22 minute episodes)
TheAwersome Rating: 6.1 / 10 (Everyone starts somewhere)
Premise: What happens when two people love each other but just aren’t meant to be together? Takaki Toono and Akari Shinohara are childhood friends, but circumstances beyond their control tear them apart. They promise to stay in contact, and although the progression of time widens the distance between them, the chain of memories remains ever-present.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: This was lauded as one of Makoto Shinkai’s (Your Name, Weathering With You, Garden of Words) “Make you cry” movies so I was ready to immerse myself. Some day I will learn to stop going into things having set expectations. The movie is split into three “Episodes” of 22 minutes each, taking place at varying periods of time. The first one is gorgeous, beautiful, immersive, and emotional. Music, animation, and direction felt very cohesive.
The same can’t be said for the next two episodes. The second one was well done but I felt it didn’t have much to do with what we established to be the main story, and I felt that it dragged. It didn’t help that I got as connected to a one-off character as I did to the main ones, only to have her not show up or have any effect really later on. The third episode was a little hard to follow, and I honestly had lost interest at this point. Maybe that was the point of the piece on an artistic level, but there’s a difference between evoking the feeling of ennui and just being un-interesting. If I want boring, authentic, reality I can always just go eavesdrop on people at the Starbucks. I wouldn’t classify it as entertainment or art, though.
TLDR: Interesting to see this director/writer/producer/animator’s earlier work, but this is certainly before he got his groove.
I’m fine with a tragedy or when things in a story don’t end up happy or ideal. Many times, I’ll feel cheated when everything works out well and resolves happily. “Come on, that character should have died!” I’ll find myself saying, specifically in a Shonen or something similar. There’s value in grief and loss in that it adds weight to when things work out. It keeps the danger real. If Superman can just come back to life, if The Doctor can just fly the Tardis into a black hole and reset the universe to “Happy good mode,” and when Shonen hero’s friend doesn’t actually die from abusing hidden, forbidden, dangerous techniques then I won’t feel any real sense of peril for the rest of the story. Every conflict is “well, if they do get killed, they can always just come back,” and I’m no longer gripping the edge of my seat. I’m no longer invested.
So why am I complaining about this movie? Because while I enjoy the verisimilitude that misfortune adds to a story, (Agent Smith from The Matrix was on to something with his “Human beings define their reality through misery and suffering” speech) I like there to be a point or purpose in what I watch. Be it comedy, warm fuzzies, mind-bending psychological aspects, a different viewpoint on a theme, gorgeous animation, or evoking emotions, there are reasons we tell stories. I can appreciate a classic tragedy because to some degree there’s poetic justice, be it the effects of hubris realized too late, or at least “Terrible things happen when people are terrible.” In many tragedies there’s some form of a life-affirming or hopeful message, such as in Final Fantasy X. Maybe the message of a tragedy is “hardships can turn people rotten, so be careful of that.” And if not even that, then hopefully I at least feel my sad emotions because I’m attached to the characters. Sometimes I like to feel sad and have a cry.
I felt that in this, however, the main characters weren’t very interesting past the first episode, and I couldn’t really latch on to them. So, when not just circumstances of moving, but their inaction, indecision, and apathy causes them to grow apart and move on, I don’t feel any sympathy for their “longing for the one who got away.” If I wanted to feel just sorta kinda melancholic about friendships and relationships that have distanced and aren’t as close as they used to be, with a side dash of “Well yeah, that’s what you get” I’d just scroll Facebook memories from High School or College.
Interesting review. I don’t think it’s Shinkai’s best work, but I still enjoyed it.
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I found the story was boring in the way it was executed, with Takaki droning his way through the exposition over how he and Akari were meant to be and all. But you pretty much hit the nail on the head wrt characters and themes.
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