“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.” ― Lorrie Moore
Announced April 9, then screened theatrically on June 5 and later released on August 19, Taifuu no Noruda (Typhoon Noruda) is somewhat of a curiosity. It was announced, screened and released for home quite quickly, and the “movie” itself runs for a short twenty-seven minutes. Dealing with one Azuma as he plans to quit baseball amidst the eve of his school’s cultural festival and his fight with his best friend, Saijou, Taifuu no Noruda introduces a mysterious, red-eyed girl named Noruda whose appearance coincides with a massive typhoon that hits their island. Driven by his desire to help this girl, he learns of a plot to terraform the planet and, in trying to help this girl stop the process, reconciles with his friend, as well.
Speaking openly, Taifuu no Noruda did not need to be a theatrical production. Its greatest limitation is its short length, which precluded the possibility of exploring the characters further. One must wonder what Azuma’s background is in baseball, and its significance to Saijou, if it was serious enough to warrant fisticuffs. Similarly, Noruda’s origins, backstory and objectives are ill-explained owing to the time constraints. The short length of this movie stymies any possibility of constructing a meaningful connection between the characters. Without understanding what drives each of Azuma, Saijou and Noruda, their endeavours seem empty and underwhelming. From the perspective of someone expecting a feature-length film, Taifuu no Noruda comes across as a disappointment: though there is clearly an intriguing world that awaits development and exposition, the time-frame presents constraints that prevent these aspects from being adequately explored. However, it’s not all disappointment through Taifuu no Noruda‘s run. Though the characters look and sound uninspiring in design, the backgrounds and landscapes look fantastic. What is shown during the twenty-seven minutes is not an unreasonable glimpse into life on a high school student on one of the smaller islands off Japan, offset with Noruda’s implied extraterrestrial origins. These elements mean that Taifuu no Noruda is presented in the same manner as a short story; the condensed narrative is able to stand on its own. Sharing limitations with the short story format, Taifuu no Noruda ends on an abrupt and open note, lacking a clearly-defined moral or practical lesson.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The visuals in Taifuu no Noruda are breathtaking at times, depicting vast landscapes of great scale and beauty. Drawn with an artistic style reminiscent of older anime, Taifuu no Noruda is a visual treat to watch. This reflection has twenty screenshots for the reason that there is not much to talk about over the film’s run, but in spite of this, I imagine that it’s one of the first collection of screenshots around.
- While I’m tempted to say that this is Enoshima island of Tari Tari, the island in Taifuu no Noruda appears to have a smaller surface area and lacks the Enoshima Sea Candle. The setting, lighting and events are remarkably similar to the extraordinary events that often occur within short stories that one might read for English literature class. In these short stories, storms often accompany the characters’ as they experience something unusual.
- Taifuu no Noruda therefore would constitute as a film equivalent of a short story; the latter make numerous assumptions and oftentimes do not bother building more of the world they’re set in. Instead, the focus is on a small group of characters during very peculiar times. Taifuu no Noruda follows this model closely, being set on the eve of a typhoon, while students are actively preparing for a culture festival.
- Because of its structuring, audiences find that Taifuu no Noruda was quite underwhelming: things like why Azuma is leaving baseball is never explored, but given that it’s serious enough to warrant a classroom brawl with his best friend, Saijou, audiences are forced to draw the assumption that baseball meant a great deal to both Azuma and Saijou.
- “Typhoon” is a term referring to a tropical cyclone forming and affecting the Pacific. The word itself originates from the Chinese 颱風 (“táifēng“, a pronunciation variant of 大風, or “great wind”), but is also said to have Persian origins, as well. The storm is said to be a “category eight” in Taifuu no Noruda; to the best of my knowledge, Japan does not use a ten-point system. Such a system is unique to Hong Kong, where they are used to gauge the threat level: a category eight would deliver winds of up to 180 km/h, but the storm itself is not directly over Hong Kong itself.
- Students escape back into the safety of their school as the storm approaches and the skies darken. Typhoon season in Japan runs from May to October, but on this side of the world, the weather has been more favourable. The smoke from the Washington state forest fires have abated owing to a week of cooler weather and rainfall, and this week, summer skies return for one final stand before autumn arrives, perfect for stepping out and picking up a bacon waffle with a hot chocolate.
- My aim for the remainder of this year is to construct additional content for my simulation, as well as begin drafting out the introductory chapters to my thesis. I’ve got no other courses this term, which makes things somewhat more relaxed, but I imagine that time will soon be spent on working on my research. We’re now finished the first week of lectures, and because this usually is the most relaxed period of a term, I decided to step out for lunch at Billingsgate Seafood Market: I’d been meaning to try them out since the summer and ordered the batter-mixed shrimp and chips. The fried shrimp was delicious: the batter was light and crispy, while the shrimp was quite juicy and flavourful.
- Autumn is drawing nearer, but I do not imagine that we’ll get any more thunderstorms for the present. Because the atmosphere would not otherwise be as effective, a chance lightning bolt strikes a power line and knocks out power to the school, shrouding it in darkness. This turn of events is as familiar as Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “It was a dark and stormy night”, which has become a cliché as a means of setting up a dramatic scene.
- One of the instructors arrives with a flashlight, and the intensity of the typhoon has picked up, keeping the students locked down at their school.
- The scene where a sign smashes through the school windows might be regarded by some as unrealistic, but during hurricanes and typhoons, ordinary objects can become lethal projectiles after being picked up by the wind. Straw becomes impaled in trees in as little as 80 km/h winds, and historic records show objects like records being embedded in telephone poles after a tornado’s passed.
- Taifuu no Noruda switches between the mundane and fantastical: here, Noruda herself is standing on a power line while her necklace emits an unearthy light. The tower is soon struck, and she plummets, prompting Azuma to check things out. He finds her fallen in a field nearby and carries her to an abandoned structure close to their high school. It’s clear that Noruda is not human, but what she is, and the organisation she’s working for are never explored.
- So, while I savour the saltiness of the bacon and sweetness of the maple syrup in my Belgian waffle while watching this, my thoughts return to Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below when I see this water-filled hole: it reminds me of the path to Agartha that Asuna took. The whole in Taifuu no Noruda is supposed to lead to the planet’s core, thereby cementing this film’s status as a fantasy: as scientists discovered with the Kola Superdeep Borehole, drilling beyond a depth of fifteen kilometers becomes prohibitively difficult on account of the heat, so the creation of deep holes would remain in the realm of fiction for the present.
- It turns out that Noruda is on Earth to fulfill a mission of some sort, involving the terraforming of Earth for an unknown organisation. Terraforming is a hypothetical process at present, supposed to alter a planet’s atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to match that of a favourable world such as Earth. Such a process is envisioned to require a vast amount of resources, even if the means are within humanity’s present technological level, and consequently, is unlikely to be undertaken. In most works of science fiction, fantastical devices operating on unexplained principles (such as the World Engine in the DC Universe).
- Though some have compared Taifuu no Noruda‘s artwork to that of Makoto Shinkai’s, I find that to be a gross exaggeration, provided that the level of detail varies between different scenes. In Makoto Shinkai’s films, the level of detail is consistently high throughout, whether it be the landscapes, interiors or cityscapes. With that being said, Taifuu no Noruda does have highly detailed, beautifully animated clouds, and this is the aspect of the film that stands out the most.
- Despite Azuma’s insistences at helping her, Noruda dismisses him. Soon, unknown forces pull her into the air and propel her back to the borehole in the abandoned building.
- Azuma and Saijou’s reconciliation occurs rather quickly given the scope of their conflict, and succeed in pulling of Noruda’s collar, halting the terraforming process. indeed, audiences did remark that characterisation was not one of the strong suits of Taifuu no Noruda, as everyone felt shallow in the absence of more development.
- The method of terraforming seen in Taifuu no Noruda feels similar enough to the World Engine, although the power supply coming through the clouds must be travelling through a portal to a different dimension. The overall effect is reminiscent of the beam seen at Minas Morgul in The Return of The King. Once the
One Ring collar is destroyed, the process immediately stops, and sunshine breaks through the clouds. Apparently, the typhoon was meant as a cover for this operation.
- Noruda comes to, reveals that her name is Noruda, and then enters her spacecraft to leave Earth. One must wonder about the organisation she’s affiliated with: Noruda seems quite cheerful after she’s freed from the collar and thanks the pair despite having failed her mission, suggesting that she was working with them against her will.
- Seen earlier when Azuma accidentally activates it, it appears that Noruda’s necklace is a star map of some sort. This brings Taifuu no Noruda to a close, and while it was fun as a short story, there are also numerous questions that the film leaves in its wake. A longer film would have definitely have had a more substantial impact, allowing for more elements to be explored in greater detail. Consequently, I chose not to do a standard thirty-image commentary as is customary for a theatrical release: finding more things to talk about would have been a challenge.
- Noruda’s smile is warm, and of all the characters, I found that Noruda’s voice (provided by Kaya Kiyohara) was quite suited for her character. Admittedly, she sounds like San of Princess Mononoke (voiced by Yuriko Ishida). That’s pretty much it for this post, and in the upcoming weeks, I will be aiming to write about the final few episodes of Non Non Biyori before beginning my journey with Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? (the second season is denoted with a pair of question marks, so that’s the standard I will adopt from here on out).
With this consideration in mind, Taifuu no Noruda is not a poor anime per se: instead, the audiences’ disappointment would stem from the expectation that Taifuu no Noruda would be a feature-length film, rather than a short story. This arises from the fact that in general, short stories typically do not possess the same complexity compared to a novel (or in this case, a feature-length movie) and therefore, do not intrinsically aim to fully flesh out their world. For what it is, Taifuu no Noruda remains a modestly enjoyable watch, allowing a glimpse into the life of a high school student in a small island in Japan. Short stories have always given a mysterious, incomplete and even wistful feeling to them because of the author’s usual decision to focus on specific events, and were very much a staple of my old English literature classes during my high school days: I certainly didn’t dislike the short stories (even if I did think some of them lacked a clear purpose). As such, when everything is said and done, Taifuu no Noruda earns a weak recommendation for viewers looking for something akin to a short story that also possesses relatively good artwork; it’s certainly not for everyone.