The Infinite Zenith

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Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas): Movie Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” –Sir William Wallace

While at the hospital, the introverted Haruki Shiga encounters an unusually-titled book, “Living with Dying”. He picks it up and leafs through it, before coming face-to-face with its owner, Sakura Yamauchi. It turns out that Sakura is afflicted with a pancreatic disease that will in time, result in her death. After Haruki promises to keep her secret, Sakura recruits him to spend time with her, feeling that he represents a balance between the normalcy that her parents want her to experience, and the reality that she must face given her condition. Unlike her doctors, who give a stark view of her life expectancy, and her parents, who are overcome with emotion whenever Sakura mentions her disease, Haruki is seemingly far removed from things to help Sakura live life normally and experience everyday things. While Haruki is initially hesitant, Sakura is persistent; she takes up a position at the library he works at, and later invites him out to a yakiniku restaurant. Sakura is determined to make the most of her remaining time, and drafts a bucket list of things to do before she dies. As the two spend more time together, classmates become suspicious of Haruki. Sakura later books a trip out of the blue, and during this excursion, Sakura and Haruki learn more about one another. After returning home, Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko, confronts Haruki, wondering what’s going on between the two. Later, Haruki visits Sakura to borrow a book from her and leaves following a misunderstanding. He runs into Takahiro, Sakura’s ex, who demands to know what’s going on and knocks him to the ground. Sakura finds Haruki, and after helping him clean up, asks him to return the book that he’s borrowed within a year. Sakura and Haruki push into her bucket list as summer break continues, although one day, she is admitted to the hospital. While they play cards, Sakura reveals that her outlook on life and socialisation is than one’s interactions with others is what made life worth living, and later, she sneaks out of the hospital, taking Haruki to a hill to watch some fireworks. Here, Haruki realises the extent of the impact that she’s had on him, and now, he has a genuine desire for her to keep living. He agrees to Sakura’s request to go to the beach, but when she misses their date, Haruki heads home, where he learns that Sakura was stabbed. Devastated, he does not attend her funeral, but later visits Sakura’s mother and pay respects to Sakura. Here, Sakura’s mother gives him “Living with Dying”. Haruki learns that Sakura had been curious about him and admired him after meeting him. Despite their short time together, Sakura was deeply moved by Haruki’s choice to stick by her. Haruki promises to Sakura’s mother that he will return to visit along with Kyoko, and also passes Sakura’s final words to Kyoko. Despite refusing to accept this initially, Haruki persuades Kyoko to give him a second chance. A year later, Kyoko and Haruki visit Sakura’s grave, before heading off to the Yamauchi residence.

The unusually-titled Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which is what I’ll refer to the film for the remainder of this talk) is a journey about life that began as a web novel authored by Yoru Sumino, was adapted into manga and then made into a live-action movie. The animated film was produced by Studio VOLN and released in September 2018. Dealing with themes of what life means, and how opposites introduce dramatic changes in one’s world-view, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a sincere and genuine glimpse into what living is about. Haruki begins as an antisocial individual who prefers the company of books over people, but a chance encounter with Sakura changes all of this. Her seemingly boundless energy and optimism despite her imminent death initially has little impact on the stoic Haruki, but as he spends more time with her, he comes to enjoy her company. However, this route has both its ups and downs. Encountering emotions that he had previously been unaware of, Haruki is conflicted by these new experiences; while he becomes closer with Sakura, he must also deal with Kyoko’s refusal to accept him and Takahiro pasting him onto the pavement, Haruki only handles these with a taciturn outlook. However, seeing Sakura’s experiences eventually leads him to realise that he’s now emotionally close with Sakura, and that for everything she’s done for him, he desperately wants her to live. Sakura’s upbeat, outgoing personality stands in contrast with Haruki’s quiet, reserved one, and these polar opposites do much to bring change to Haruki, who begins to understand that life is about interacting with, and caring for people around oneself. While Haruki feels he’s given nothing to Sakura in return, it turns out that being there for her, however reluctantly it was early on, Haruki showed to Sakura that there was someone out there who would come to genuinely care for her, making her feel special and fulfilled. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reiterates that, time and time again, bringing people together, that are seemingly polar opposites, can result in a synergy that brings about undeniable and profound change in their lives as they come to empathise with one another.

While the topic of Sakura’s death is ever-present in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, the movie is about what life means. That life is finite and fragile serves to give it all the more value – the answer to the meaning of life is infinitely varied and diverse. For Sakura, and by extension, Sumino, life is defined by the meaningful relationships that one forms with others. Whether it be caring for others, giving them joy or support, life is to be treasured because one has the potential to make someone else happy. The emphasis on life, rather than death, is emphasised in every aspect of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Sakura is full of life, with her boundless optimism and acceptance of death driving her to make the most of each day. Despite her days being more limited than most, Sakura is resolved to make each second count. The film’s animation and artwork are deliberately crafted to reflect this – scenes are vividly rendered, and every moment is filled to the brim with colour. In this manner, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reminds viewers that there’s value in all life, that all one really has to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to them. Even in death, Sakura’s optimistic spirit endures, providing Haruki the motivation to continue living – a year after her death, Haruki has undergone a profound change and nominally gets along with Kyoko, showing just how far he’s come of his own volition since being motivated by his fateful meeting with Sakura. The film’s title gives insight into the sort of effect that Sakura and Haruki have on one another; early in the film, Sakura mentions that some cultures will eat certain organs to heal a related physiological function or take up its strength. Both Haruki and Sakura, by spending time with one another that becomes highly treasured, eat one another’s pancreas in a metaphorical sense, imbibing the traits from the other that help them mature.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas opens in April, under the blooming of cherry blossoms. It is a foregone conclusion that Sakura will be dying in the movie – Haruki is shown at home, still in grief after her death. However, there is a considerable journey taken to get to this point, and this is what I Want to Eat Your Pancreas showcases. After a chance meeting at a hospital, Sakura takes a keen interest in Haruki, and the movie’s events thus begin. I’ve got a longer talk for I Want to Eat Your Pancreas because there is a bit of ground to cover, and consequently, this talk will have forty screenshots.

  • Sakura explains the film’s title as coming from an ancient belief that eating a particular organ will help alleviate illnesses. She suffers from a pancreatic disease of unknown nature: besides this disease, Sakura is otherwise completely healthy, and in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, is shown to be unaffected by other symptoms that are found in pancreatic conditions (e.g. pain, nausea and vomiting in pancreatitis). Her condition is left ambiguous because it is not relevant to the story; the condition and its fatal nature is more relevant. Despite his initial reservations, Haruki reluctantly agrees to join Sakura to a yakiniku restaurant, where they grill a variety of variety meats.

  • Despite claiming to not be interested in Haruki in a romantic manner, her persistence in bringing him along to finish her bucket list has parallels with Your Lie in April‘s Kaori, who similarly pushed Kousei back into music despite ostensibly not being interested in him. Similarities between Your Lie in April and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are inevitable, although the latter abstracts away the music component in favour of a more direct message about what living means. Eating well is a part of living, and while we take it for granted at times, being able to enjoy good food adds a considerable amount of joy to life. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas places a great deal of emphasis on food moments for this reason.

  • Sakura is every bit as spirited as Karoi, and while walking through the shopping district, they encounter a worker who is bullying an elderly lady after his wares are knocked over. She intervenes, pointing out that the worker is at fault; bikes are not permitted here. After the shopping district’s patrons and vendors’ attention is drawn, Sakura cans the worker before running off, leaving beat cops to arrest the worker.

  • The artwork and animation in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is of a high quality; settings are simply but vividly coloured, bring every moment to life. The film maintains its colourful scenery when Sakura and Haruki are together, emphasising that each moment is a memorable one for the two even in spite of Haruki’s generally gloomy and pessimistic outlook. Being taciturn and unsociable, Haruki would very much prefer to read books, engrossing himself in the admittedly rich and exciting worlds within them rather than spending time with others.

  • Haruki believes that minimising social interactions with others is the simplest way to live: caring very little about those around them thinks of him, he is content to be ignored and not deal with others. In a manner of speaking, Haruki is the embodiment an extreme – I myself find happiness in solitude, whether it be reading, walking on my own and the like, but I’ve also come to appreciate and respect the importance of close social relationships. No man is an island, and having people to fall back on when things get difficult can mean the difference between suffering and finding enough alternate outlooks to approach problems differently.

  • Use of space as a visual brake is a common element employed in visual arts. Towards the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, there is a spatial gap between Haruki and Sakura whenever they meet up. As the film advances on, the time that the two spend at opposite ends of the frame is lessened, indicating to viewers that the two have become very close despite Haruki’s seeming lack of interest in getting to know Sakura better early on. These cues are immensely valuable in giving viewers subtle hints as to what’s going on; Bill Watterson utilised space as a way of conveying an idea in Calvin and Hobbes, where the medium was static and therefore, even mire dependent on placement.

  • Kyoko is very close to Sakura and is disapproving of Haruki, viewing him as an outcast unworthy of Sakura’s time. Sakura’s optimistic and level-headed approach in dealing with Kyoko’s reactions shows that she views both Sakura and Haruki as important: she chooses neither over the other and simply does her best to make things work, befitting of her outlook on life. Sakura is unfazed, and presses on ahead: after running into Kyoko at the desert café, she brings Haruki to the beach.

  • Sakura’s jacket, in conjunction with the subdued hues, suggest a cooler spring evening. It’s much too early to be enjoying warmer waters, but here, Sakura asks Haruki to spend additional time with her and mentions that on her list of things to do before she snuffs it is to become closer to a guy in a romantic fashion. Sakura teases Haruki from time to time about it; from Haruki’s perspective, Sakura’s intentions are ambivalent, and audiences will similarly be unsure of whether or not she’s teasing Haruki or not because he’s so unresponsive. By leaving audiences to guess what’s going on, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas compels the audience to keep watching.

  • Sakura convinces Haruki to take an excursion with her to Fukuoka. With a population of 1.6 million, Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. While Haruki is initially set up for a day trip, it turns out that Sakura had intended for an overnight stay and arranged for accommodations to be made so their absences could be explained away. En route to Hakata Station, Sakura asks for Haruki’s name, and I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that this entire discussion is one big spoiler – I understand that the choice of names underlies the theme of connectedness and fate in the movie, hence the decision to keep his name unknown, but for discussion, it would have been difficult to mention Haruki without his name.

  • Hakata Station is the largest in Kyushu; with over 120000 passengers a day, it acts as the access point from Kyushu to Honshu. The station seen in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas was built in 2011 to replace an older station, and even has its own department store. It forms the starting point for Sakura and Haruki’s trip, the point in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas where Haruki’s character slowly begins changing. After the warm-up, things begin accelerating as Haruki gets to know Sakura better.

  • While exploring Fukuoka, Sakura and Haruki stop at a ramen shop, having what I eyeball to be a Hakata ramen, which features cuts of pork in a milky white broth and thin noodles. The food in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is rendered in great detail, and one feels as though they were there with the two. On the topic of food, Poutine Week is in full swing right now, and last Saturday, I stopped by a steakhouse downtown to try their Big Smoke poutine: this poutine consists of smoked brisket, a special in-house gravy, crunchy bacon, truffle mushrooms, jalapeño, and Chimichurri sauce. The richness of the gravy, brisket and bacon pieces was complemented by a tang from the Chimichurri, as well as a mild spice from the jalapeño. This poutine was accompanied by a refreshing ginger beer, and I subsequently stepped out to pick up Marie Kondo’s The Manga Guide to Cleaning Up.

  • Enjoyment of the smaller things in life is one of the reasons why I can be happy with an afternoon spent browsing through a book store. I feel that amongst my peers, I stand as being a bit unusual in that I believe that experiences and memories (something that Millennials greatly value) can be found even while doing the ordinary. There is value in everything, no matter how trivial, and different scales of an experience simply confers different kinds of happiness, which is ultimately happiness all the same. The montage of Sakura and Haruki exploring Fukuoka shows various snapshots of the two having a good time, with Sakura taking the lead in all of the frames.

  • As the evening wears on, Sakura and Haruki walk through a yatai (night market) – Fukouka’s night markets are known for their food, being counted as one of the best in Asia, and the stalls serve a diverse array of foods, from Japanese street food to French items. Night markets have an exhilarating atmosphere: I went to Kaohsiung five years ago and walked through their night market, which was a spectacular experience for the sights and smells alone. At the time, my constitution was not at full health, and so, I did not eat anything – one of my longstanding goals will be to go back to Taiwan, for the singular purpose of eating the grilled squid at their night markets. While I’m there, I would also love to rent a scooter and overnight through Huadong Valley, waking up in a countryside inn and finding a swift sunset awaiting me.

  • An error in booking results in Sakura and Haruki sharing the same room. Haruki immediately decides to sleep on the couch, giving the bed to Sakura, but Sakura counter-argues that a bed this nice must be experienced. I imagine that some minds immediately wander towards what could go down next, but the context of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, something like that was never going to happen. It was interesting to see how Haruki immediately picks his course of action and how this parallels mine.

  • Sakura and Haruki stay at the Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk: facing west, the Fukuoka Tower is visible, with its distinct profile standing tall in the Fukuoka skyline. Standing at 234 meters, it is two meters shorter than The Bow, the second tallest building in Calgary, but unlike The Bow, Fukuoka Tower has an observation deck, and its glass façade gives the impression that it’s a full office building: the tower only resembles an office building, and actually has no floor space for offices. Rated for magnitude seven earthquakes and 233 km/h winds, the Fukuoka Tower was completed in 1989.

  • It turns out that Sakura’s managed to buy alcohol, and the two immediately set about playing “Truth or Dare”. Haruki presses his turns to learn more about Sakura out of curiosity, while Sakura is a bit more coy and asks questions that gauge Haruki’s impressions of her. Haruki’s choice of questions shows his concern for her, which grows after he helps her grab a bottle of shampoo from her bag; the quantity of medications and needles is a powerful reminder of how serious her condition is, but from her happy-go-lucky attitude, this is not always apparent.

  • Eventually, bored with how straightforward Haruki is, Sakura puts a “rock and a hard place” option onto the table: either put into words what he finds attractive about her, or bridal-carry her to the bed. Haruki goes with the latter option, and they wind up sharing a brief conversation before retiring. The next morning, an irate Kyoko calls, and threatens Haruki with a physical beating if anything happened to Sakura.

  • The excursion to Fukuoka marks a turning point in Haruki and Sakura’s friendship: Haruki’s reluctance to hang out with Sakura evaporates, now that he’s gotten to know her better and also understands the extent of her condition. On the train ride back home by sunset, there’s a sense of melancholy, of departure and longing: I’ve got a sizeable collection of anime wallpapers portraying nearly empty trains, and there’s a certain appeal to them.

  • While I am a PC gamer with a respectable level of skill, on console, I am terrible by all counts, and I’m sure that most anyone could take me out in even shooters. Sakura schools Haruki here in a game while he’s visiting her, on the promise of picking up a book. Sakura is surprised to learn that Haruki’s not read a certain book and decides to lend him a copy on the promise that he finish and return it to her in a timely fashion.

  • Sakura’s feelings towards Haruki is probably tempered by the fact that she doesn’t really feel as though they’ve connected yet, hence her sending mixed signals to him. Confused by this, Haruki is at a loss and responds with frustration, but being kind at heart, he never crosses the line, and runs off into the rain. Here, he runs into Sakura’s ex, whose jealousy prompts him to strike Haruki. Haruki is not the sort of individual to fight back, and Sakura arrives to find Haruki on the ground. After angrily telling her ex off, Sakura reassures Haruki, who comes to understand what Sakura is feeling.

  • After returning to her place to dry off and retrieve the book, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas shifts into high gear as summer vacation kicks in. There’s still a large number of items on Sakura’s bucket list, and with classes over, the two turn their time towards making the most of summer, when long days and beautiful weather make everything seem possible. I’ve always wondered why people, especially those in newspaper comics dealing with workplaces, called them bucket lists – I initially thought they were buckets in a hash table, data entries in a fast-access location, but as it turns out, it refers to “list of things to do before kicking the bucket”, where “kicking the bucket” itself stems from a 17th-century euphemism for dying.

  • Being Good Friday, I had a day off today to really sleep in and regroup: I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn for work, and so, opportunities to sleep in are rare, so when they happen, I aim to make the most of them. Having time off means being able to take a day on more slowly, but as it happens, today is also the second last day of Poutine Week here at home. Hence, I spent a bit of the morning working from home, validated my taxes and then geared up to head downtown.

  • I’m getting up there in the years now, and high on my list of things to do is to spend a brilliant summer day with someone special, even if the probability of something like this happening as I grow older lessens. This moment captures what that might look like in a succinct manner. Besides enjoying various food, Sakura and Haruki bowl, partake in karaoke and eventually, make plans to visit the beach together.

  • I entered I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with no existing knowledge of what to expect, and having avoided all spoilers for the film. This resulted in a more complete experience, and I appreciate why folks are so adamant about avoiding spoilers – not knowing what to expect means that one can get a much more authentic experience. I am generally more tolerant of spoilers in video games and for series I do not have a strong interest in, but for films, I prefer finding things out for myself. Keeping clear of spoilers for anime movies like I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a relatively easy task, since there’s next to no discussions of it elsewhere, but I imagine that for something like the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, it will be a considerable challenge.

  • While hospitals are typically quite saddening places to be, there’s a calm here as Haruki visits Sakura, who’s been admitted after some tests showed a false positive that her condition was worsening. She’s still optimistic and joyful: even a hospital cannot dampen her spirits, and the two continue on with Truth or Dare here. During this game, Haruki learns that Sakura believes life to be worth living based on the time one spends with others, and the emotional worth of the relationships one builds up. For Haruki, this is a bit of an epiphany moment, wherein he comes to realise that being with Sakura has allowed him to open up for the first time and learn about the importance of forming meaningful connections with others.

  • For Sakura, being with someone who is willing to follow her to the ends of the earth in her desires made her feel particularly special, and one evening, having snuck out of the hospital to watch the fireworks, the two share an embrace that captures the warmth and gratitude that they feel towards one another. This is the apex of their friendship; Sakura and Haruki both understand one another now, and both their lives have changed dramatically as a result of the fateful meeting that brought them together.

  • The changes in Haruki’s character are apparent when he accepts gum from his friendly classmate while en route to the beach. Having declined up until now, accepting gum visually represents accepting friendship. It’s an uplifting moment that makes it clear how far Haruki has come since the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and audiences will invariably want to see what happens next. This, of course, foreshadows what occurs next; Sakura is late, but she exchanges messages with Haruki that keep him in the loop.

  • Haruki decides to stop at the teashop he’d first visited with Sakura, but as afternoon turns to evening, he heads home and learns that Sakura was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Earlier in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, news of a violent criminal in the area was presented, and it is likely this same individual perpetrated the crime. While the authorities capture the suspect, it is too late for Sakura, who succumbs to her injuries. Haruki is left in shock and grief in the aftermath, missing Sakura’s funeral.

  • I ended up skipping over those moments in the immediate aftermath of Sakura’s death for this talk, primarily because I had very little to say on said moments. This was one of the toughest parts of the movie to watch: Sakura’s death came out of left field. Having spent much of the movie building up to the inevitable, audiences are initially expecting Sakura to die from her illness, and so, seeing her life end at the hands of some petty criminal was completely unexpected. The aftermath of this is that Haruki eventually regroups and heads off to the Yamauchi residence to pay his respects.

  • Speaking with Sakura’s mother, Haruki is given Sakura’s diary, and reading through the entries, Haruki reaffirms that Sakura was optimistic and a free spirit akin to Kaori Miyazono. However, after the entries come to an end, it turns out there’s an epilogue. Rather like how Kaori left Kōsei a letter, Sakura’s letter explains that she’d long admired him for his dedication to books, and the quiet sense of mystery he evoked in her that compelled her to learn more about him.

  • While most romances and feelings go unfulfilled, Sakura’s condition drove her to live life fully, and this included getting closer with Haruki. Thus, when fate made it so that the two could meet up and talk for the first time, rather than watching from a distance, Sakura seized the moment and set about fulfilling one of the biggest items on her list. The result of this nascent friendship made Sakura feel wanted and cared for, which deepened her feelings for Haruki. Meanwhile, Haruki feels his first emotional connection with someone, and views Sakura as the agent for this change. To have had all of this occur, and then crueley wrested from him made this part emotionally intense.

  • The quote for this post is from Sir William Wallace, a Scottish Knight who was the Guardian of Scotland until being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Seven years later, he was captured and executed, but in death, he became a larger-than-life symbol. His quote simply means that not everyone truly lives their lives in a fulfilling manner, even though death is inevitable for everyone.

  • While Sakura believed that life was defined by the quality of relationships with others, I personally believe that a meaningful life is defined by what positive impacts one can bring about in their relationships with others – I am at my happiest when I am doing something meaningful for someone else, and for better or worse, I’m drawn to helping people out. Having said this, I have less patience for people who act in their own interests even with the knowledge that doing some will come at someone else’s expense.

  • Understanding the extent of Sakura’s feelings for him, and the extent of his impact on her, Haruki allows himself to cry in sorrow and grief for her. He thanks Sakura’s mother for bearing with him, and she makes a request of him: to bring Kyoko over, as well. The final part of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas has Haruki doing his best to honour his promise to Sakura’s mother and reconcile with Kyoko.

  • The reason why Haruki’s name is not given until I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘s denouement is because taken together, Haruki’s given name in kanji is 春樹 (“Spring tree”), and Sakura’s given name is 桜良 (“Beautiful cherry blossom”). When one puts them together, the names are related to one another: Haruki can be seen as the tree from which cherry blossoms bloom during spring, and this is meant to tie the two characters together by fate. Spring is when cherry blossoms bloom, and they bloom from a tree. A tree looks much more beautiful with the blossoms, and the blossoms depend on the tree: this symbiotic dynamic mirrors how Haruki and Sakura mutually benefited from their friendship, however short their time together was.

  • Kyoko is initially resistant, even hostile, towards Haruki’s request, and becomes embittered when she reads Sakura’s diary, wondering why Sakura would keep it from her. Running off, she rejects Haruki’s explanation, but Haruki pushes on, managing to catch her before she takes off. From here, a reluctant friendship develops, and the changes in Haruki serve to make him more sociable and attuned to those around him.

  • A year later, Haruki and Kyoko visit Sakura’s grave to pay their respects before visiting Sakura’s mother. While Kyoko is still somewhat disapproving of Haruki, they get along much better than they had during the course of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Haruki has evidently turned over a new leaf: his new haircut gives him a cleaner, more mature look, and he astutely responds to Kyoko when she asks him whether his words are a kokuhaku. It turns out that Kyoko’s become interested in the friendly fellow who frequently asks Haruki if he’d like any gum, and has also begun finding her own happiness.

  • The greens and blues in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘ final scene create a peaceful mid-morning that shows two individuals who’ve come a long way since the film’s beginning. While I shed no tears during the film, I won’t deny that I enjoyed this one immensely: movies dealing with life lessons can come across as being melodramatic if emotions are too forcefully conveyed, but I Want to Eat Your Pancreas manages to keep everything consistently believable. Between this and the character dynamics, growth and technical excellence, this film was definitely worth the wait.

The setup in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and Haruki and Sakura’s characters are by no means unique; Your Lie in April‘s Kōsei Arima and Kaori Miyazono met in similar conditions, with Kaori suffering from an unknown disease and sharing Sakura’s desire to be closer to the quiet, taciturn male protagonist. However, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas abstracts out the musical component and simply has the characters interacting in the absence of a common, shared hobby: Haruki and Sakura do not particularly align or have any common interests, allowing their personalities to be the sole factor in driving their dynamics, and in this way, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas can be seen as a more general perspective on the themes explored in Your Lie in April. The end result of this is a highly relatable film not dependent on music, that is unique and moving in its own right. As a story, and as a film, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas stands firmly on its own merits, telling a profoundly moving tale of life, of carpe diem and ultimately, what makes life worth living. In addition to a cohesive, focused story, the production values in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are also of a high standard: landscapes are beautiful, and the sakura blossoms are animated with great detail to convey a mystical sense for audiences. In conjunction with a collection of strong incidental pieces, the movie’s audio and visual components bring to life a story that I’ve been waiting quite some time to watch I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Having sat down to finally see it, I can decisively say that the film was well worth the wait: I can easily recommend this film to all viewers, who will walk away from I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with a reaffirmed sense of what living really means.

Tenki no Ko: Remarks on the new Makoto Shinkai Film announced for July 2019

“This is a story about a secret world only she and I know. That day, we changed the shape of the world forever.” –Movie Tagline

Amidst the runaway success of Kimi no Na Wa, Makoto Shinkai found himself staring at a towering white cumulonimbus, standing out against the vivid blue of a summer’s sky on a hot August day. The massive thunderhead’s flattened top resembled an island, and Shinkai thought, what if this was a world of its own? This is how Tenki no Ko (天気の子, Weathering With You in English, literally “Children of the Weather”) came into being: Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, Tenki no Ko follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who moves to Tokyo and finds that his finances are quickly consumed. He eventually takes up a position as a writer for an obscure and objectionable occult magazine. However, shortly after accepting this job, the weather in Tokyo becomes monotonously rainy. Amidst the endless activity in Tokyo, Hodaka encounters Hina Amano, an optimistic and dependable girl who lives with her brother. Beyond her cheerful manner lies her ability to clear the skies. At least, this is what the synopsis for Tenki no Ko is, and recently, a trailer was released, detailing the animation and artwork viewers can expect from Tenki no Ko. Standing in contrast with Shinkai’s previous works, which have colourful, vividly detailed and cheerful backgrounds, Tenki no Ko features much drearier, dilapidated settings in its trailer that resemble Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City. Greys dominate the setting, which is covered with haphazard wiring, overgrowth and crumbling structures. Compared to the cleaner, cared-for settings of Kotonoha no Niwa and Kimi no Na Wa, Tenki no Ko conveys a more desolate setting, communicating ruin forgotten amongst a city’s endless drive for progress. However, shaft of golden light, breaking through gaps in the cloud, suggest an oasis of happiness surrounded by a sea of monotony, and so, in this trailer, Tenki no Ko hints that it is much more than being a mere film about youthful romance and fateful meetings.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote a preview for a Makoto Shinkai movie, it was three years ago, and I was entering the final term of my graduate studies. Kimi no Na Wa came out eight months later, and subsequently, it was an eleven month journey to the other side where I could finally watch and write about it. By comparison, Tenki no Ko‘s first trailer released precisely 100 days before its première date. It opens with closeups of details such as rain falling onto an umbrella, immediately setting the stage for what is to follow.

  • The choice of lighting, with greys, browns and tans dominating the Tokyo landscape, which is focused on older parts of the megalopolis, suggests that Tenki no Ko might be going in a slightly different direction. Each of Makoto Shinkai’s films stand out from one another despite being characterised by themes of distance, fateful encounters and the like; one possibility from the trailer is that themes of urban decay, abandonment and finding joy even among desolation come into play in Tenki no Ko. However, this scene also features a single shaft of light from the sun breaking through the clouds, suggesting that optimism and hope, also exist.

  • Hina maintains a small shrine on the roof of her building, which is evidently aging and overgrown with weeds. The scene feels more like something out of Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a book that longtime readers of this blog will have doubtlessly heard me reference multiple times. I am admittedly curious to see where the film will go with its direction, and the trailer does seem to set the tone for what kind of settings the movie will cover. However, I imagine that as we press further into the movie, more majestic and beautiful locations will also be seen.

  • The chaotic mass of pipes and wiring here remind me greatly of the Kowloon Walled City that existed in Hong Kong: after World War Two, there was a parcel of land in Hong Kong that officially belonged to China, but seeing as how the British and China would not accept administrative responsibility of the area, what was once a walled city and yamen turned into a site for the destitute. Since neither British nor Chinese law applied here, people escaped to the Walled City and constructed their own apartments and utilities. By 1990, the site was the most densely populated site in the world, with some 1.2 million inhabitants per square kilometre, and despite its fearsome reputation as a hotbed of crime, most of the residents lived their lives peacefully.

  • The short synopsis presently provides next to nothing in the way of what’s going to happen in Tenki no Ko, rather like how the body switching of Kimi no Na Wa was only a primer for the movie’s main story – this leaves the film quite free to explore most anything, and for this, I am very excited to see where Tenki no Ko will head. Here, we have a closer look at Hina; she bears little resemblance to Shinkai’s earlier characters, and is voiced by Nana Mori. One of the chief drawbacks about Shinkai’s older works were that his female leads seemed to be ethereal, angelic beings of perfection; by the events of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, his female characters become more nuanced and human, giving viewers more incentive to root for them.

  • Vegetable animals are a part of the Obon Festival: they usually take the form of a a horse made from cucumber and an ox made out of eggplant. These animals symbolise transport for ancestral spirits that return them to the realm of spirits, and traditionally, were put outside one’s door on the first day of Obon with incense. The last time I saw Obon vegetable animals was in Sora no Woto‘s seventh episode, where Kanata explains customs from her area. Emphasis on this suggests that life and death might also be a component of Tenki no Ko.

  • I’ve long expressed my displeasure that there are some out there who view Makoto Shinkai’s films as a justification for pressing the idea that extensive knowledge of the Man’yōshū and other aspects of Classical Japanese literature and folklore is required to fully appreciate his films. During Kimi no Na Wa‘s run, one unscrupulous fellow continued to peddle this idea, all the while putting down others for not “getting” the film to the same level as they did. While it is true that Shinkai incorporates classical elements into his works, these merely serve as analogies and allegories that enhance the story if noticed; the story is in no way diminished if one chooses not to account for these elements.

  • Tenki no Ko remains early in its reveal, and I’ve not seen discussions go in this direction as of yet: personally, I am confident that this film will be quite enjoyable, irrespective of one’s prior knowledge in Classical Japanese literature and folklore. It suddenly strikes me that the trailer’s release is much closer to the film’s actual release than was Kimi no Na Wa‘s, and a part of me wishes that Tenki no Ko will be similarly structured and released as Kotonoha no Niwa: with a shorter runtime of 45 minutes, Kotonoha no Niwa released in May 31, 2013 and became available for home release on June 21, 2013. This made the film exceptionally accessible.

  • The trailer depicts Hina flying through the skies, far above the tops of the thunderheads, which are tinged with green to evoke imagery of islands in the skies: the scenery here is used in the promotional artwork for Tenki no Ko and, while not as iconic as Comet Tiamat’s trail in Kimi no Na Wa, remains quite distinct and grand in scale. The film’s soundtrack will be performed by RADWIMPS, who make a triumphant return after composing and performing the excellent soundtrack for Kimi no Na Wa: the theme song for Tenki no Ko is Ai ni Dekiru koto wa Mada Arukai (“Is there still anything that love can do?”).

  • I am certain I will enjoy this movie, and hope that it’ll see a shorter delay in the gap between the theatrical première. I realise that I’ve been writing considerably less as of late, as well: real life obligations has meant that I’ve less time to write in general these days. Having said this, I am definitely going to be offering my thoughts on Tenki no Ko once it is available, and in the near future, I am also doing a talk on I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, a solid film whose home release became available earlier this month.

Entering Tenki no Ko, expectations are high for a visually stunning film – the trailer and Shinkai’s past works set the precedence for what audiences can expect. From the glint of light on raindrops to flaking paint, dense, unkempt vegetation on a building’s rooftop and the enigmatic world above the clouds, Tenki no Ko will undoubtedly impress with Shinkai’s signature artwork and animation. The story remains unknown right now, and here, I will enter with an open mind – I recall that with Kimi no Na Wa, I expressed a want to see reduced romance in favour of exploring growth. The film delivered this, in a manner of speaking, but with the benefit of hindsight, I ended up eating my words. Tenki no Ko represents a familiar setup for Shinkai, but with a different premise, I look forwards to seeing what new directions the film can explore, especially with rain and its associated themes making a return in conjunction with a bit of magic that manifests in Hina’s ability to stop the rain. While perhaps nowhere nearly as potent as the Infinity Gauntlet, I look forwards to seeing how this ability will impact her and Hodaka’s growth. Aside from a more open mind, I also enter the long wait for Tenki no Ko with the understanding that this film could take a similarly long time to become available for English-speakers: with a release date of July 19, Tenki no Ko will likely see a home release in June 2020, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, if it sees a strong box office performance. This wait is going to be a tricky one, although now that I am entering with the preparedness to endure a long wait, I can pursue other things while spoilers for Tenki no Ko become more commonplace – the Halo: Master Chief Collection looks to be more than acceptable a means of enjoying myself while we wait for the film to become available, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be vociferously griping about my inability to watch this film while I melt through the Covenant, Flood and Forerunner Prometheans alike.

Non Non Biyori Vacation: A Movie Reflection, Full Recommendation and Perspectives from Travelling to Okinawa

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

After Suguru wins plane tickets to Okinawa in a shopping mall lottery, Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsumi, Kazuho, Kaede, Hikage and Konomi prepare for a vacation in the southern islands. Upon arrival, the girls set off for their inn and check in. Here, they encounter Aoi, the eleven-year-old daughter of the inn’s managers, and after settling in, spend a day on the azure beaches of Okinawa. That evening, the whole group enjoys a delicious Okinawan-style dinner at the inn, and after dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton on her own later, and the two strike up a friendship. Before turning in, Natsumi suggests grabbing some instant noodles, saying that the absence of adults makes things taste more intriguing. The next day, the group goes snorkelling. Renge and Kaede see a stingray, while Hikage is stricken with motion sickness. When they go canoeing, Komari and Hotaru are ensnared by a branch; Kazuho rescues them, and later, they climb up to a waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the pond and is soaked. Later, the girls take photographs by a lighthouse as evening sets in, and spend time with Aoi, who mentions that she is available the next day. To help her out, the girls clean their room that morning. They end up visiting Aoi’s school, and she takes them around lesser known spots around Okinawa, including an ice cream shop, a secluded beach and a viewpoint providing a beautiful view of the island. When night falls, Aoi brings the girls to the beach, where they admire the star-filled skies and frolic in the phosphorescent waters. When their vacation draws to a close, Natsumi is saddened to leave, and she bids farewell with Aoi, asking her to stay in touch. The group return home as evening sets in, and Renge announces that she’s back. Released on August 25, 2018, Non Non Biyori Vacation brings Non Non Biyori to the silver screen for the first time, and during its seventy-minute-long run, brings back the familiar elements that made Non Non Biyori such an enjoyable run, while simultaneously providing a new setting that broadens the girls’ everyday experiences.

Despite being a slice-of-life series, Non Non Biyori excels with its focus on the subtle details of everyday life that often are ignored or taken for granted. Non Non Biyori Vacation continues in the path of its predecessors, detailing the wonders found in the ordinary. In this film, Non Biyori focuses on the different aspects of a vacation. The girls (and Suguru) first experience the highlights of Okinawa from the perspective of a tourist, relaxing on the beach, as well as joining a group to go canoeing and snorkelling in the warm, inviting waters of Okinawa. Besides these more tourist-oriented activities that showcase the best of Okinawa, the girls also befriend Aoi, a girl roughly their age who helps out at her family’s inn. In doing so, they are able to gain a much more personalised experience of Okinawa from a local. Having grown up in Okinawa, Aoi knows all of the ins and outs of the island, and so, is able to bring Natsumi, Hotaru, Komari and Renge on an intimate tour of spots she’s enjoyed. The ice cream shop and viewpoint would not be on the list of destinations for a tour group; the girls thus learn that life on Okinawa is both quite distinct, but also quite similar to their homes. This is the joy of travelling that Non Non Biyori Vacation aims to convey to viewers: being able to travel means being able to experience for oneself the different ways of life people have in different corners of the world, but also appreciate that there are also many similarities in how people live. At the end of the day, we are all human and therefore, part of a global community; sharing many commonalities while at once, having unique cultural aspects that are all immensely valuable. Non Non Biyori Vacation presents both sides of this coin in a concise package: for Natsumi, Komari, Hotaru and Renge, going to Okinawa shows them both what is special about the southern island long considered to be Japan’s Hawaii, as well as the aspects of their lives that are not so different.

At the end of Non Non Biyori Vacation, the film portrays two conflicting different angles on the conclusion of a vacation: one is simultaneously yearning to stay for longer and continue exploring, while at the same time, also begins looking forwards to sleeping in their own bed once again. Natsumi channels the former, having had a much better time in Okinawa than she had originally anticipated, and having made a new friend in Aoi, feels saddened that they can’t spend more time together. Conversely, the other characters have had a similarly enjoyable experience (except maybe Hikage, who was beset with an unexpected number of minor grievances during the trip), and while satisfied, are also growing a little exhausted. The feelings of travel are captured well in Non Non Biyori Vacation, and at the film’s end, Renge expresses what I’m certain everyone feels upon returning home. The film strives to and succeeds in capturing the different facets of travel – these elements are accompanied by visuals that are incredibly life-like. Non Non Biyori Vacation bears the traits of an anime movie, featuring impressive visuals that are vivid and photorealistic. Audiences feel as though they are there beside the cast as they travel Okinawa, feeling the intense heat of summer, refreshing cool of the ocean and everything in between. The exceptional artwork is complimented by a very well-done collection of incidental pieces: the soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation incorporates elements of Okinawan music into its composition, but at the same time, sounds distinctly like the Non Non Biyori soundtrack. This further accentuates the movie’s theme, that travel highlights both the uniqueness of another region, as well as the similarities despite our differences, and as such, acts as a solid accompaniment for the film.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Non Non Biyori Vacation opens up in Asahigaoka, a small rural village located in the heart of the mountains and sporting some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in any anime set in the inaka, which is saying something, considering that shows like Ano Natsu de Matteru also have solid artwork. For this post, I’ve given it the full silver screen treatment: besides an extended discussion, I also have sixty screenshots, each of which can be viewed in full 1080p – the movie is gorgeous from a visual perspective, and I absolutely intend to convey this to readers.

  • I’ve opted to spend less time at the shopping mall that everyone visits because this is a post about going to Okinawa, but have chosen to mention it in some capacity: the film establishes for viewers that Suguru manages to win a vacation while the girls explore a local mall. Because Asahigaoka is a small village, going to a mall such as this would be a very exciting experience. The mall itself is named “Weather” (hiyori is also pronounced biyori, 日和 in kanji), and the series’ name seems to be “non non weather”, a reference to Non Non Biyori‘s often nonsensical but genuine humour in everyday life.

  • Character-defining moments are also set early in the film: Komari is very sensitive about her short stature and diminutive figure, being quite jealous of Hotaru, who is seen here looking at belts and unintentionally embarrassing Komari to no end, who is under the impression Hotaru is looking at undergarmets. The dynamic between Komari and Hotaru is a hilarious one, and created some unique humour during the TV series. In Non Non Biyori, such antics are decidedly fewer, being condensed into the film’s opening moments.

  • Natsumi ends up purchasing a game console with Suguru, having pooled some of their saved money to do so. Despite purchasing a last-generation console, Natsumi remains quite excited and is looking forwards to giving it a go. I’ve never been much of a console gamer: the newest consoles I have are a PlayStation 2 and a GameCube. Despite my being a PC gamer through and through, I am well aware of the merits of a good console: for one, being able to play split-screen with friends means that multiplayer experiences are top-tier.

  • Komari is visibly still hot and bothered from the events of earlier, but when Suguru wins a mall lottery, all thoughts suddenly turn towards their impending trip to Okinawa. Non Non Biyori Vacation follows the structuring of the manga faithfully: the events in the OVA “We’re Going to Okinawa” are original and deal primarily with the preparations leading up to the trip, but scenes of the girls and Suguha at the airport are sourced from the manga.

  • It suddenly strikes me that four and a half years has elapsed since I wrote about that OVA, and presently, it’s great to see Non Non Biyori continue along its run. In that time, I’ve flown to a handful of conferences, went out of country for work-related matters and realised my dream of travelling to Japan for the very first time. While the time frames between anime releases are extremely long, and their waits can seem quite unreasonable, individuals with busy, productive lives will find that time passes in the blink of an eye: it only seems like yesterday that I wrote about the first Non Non Biyori OVA while taking a break from developing the Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • After Renge takes off to grab some food, Hikage begs Kazuho and Kaede to allow her to accompany them on the trip to Okinawa, admitting that she was acting nonchalant to play it cool in front of Renge. Unfortunately for Hikage, Renge saw everything go down. Moments of exaggeration such as these form the joy in watching Non Non Biyori, and it also speaks to the characters’ familiarity with one another when Kazuho remarks that she’s already got a ticket for Hikage.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be focused on Hotaru and company’s time in Okinawa: the OVA had covered everything up to their flight, so I’ve jumped ahead to everyone’s arrival in Okinawa. The temperature and humidity is immediately apparent: while the skies are precisely the same shade of vivid azure as they were in Asahigaoka, and the vegetation just as verdant, the tropical vegetation and ambient sounds create a sense of warmth that is not seen in Asahigaoka.

  • The long pauses allow Non Non Biyori Vacation to capture the atmospherics and sights around Okinawa: these visual gaps are intentionally chosen to mirror those of the stills from Asahigaoka, reminding viewers what while Natsumi and Renge are in Okinawa, there are some things that are similar to the sorts of things they might encounter back home. This dichotomy forms the basis for the theme in Non Non Biyori Vacation: travel might be about experiencing new things, but it also provides an opportunity to really see for oneself that there are similarities across the globe in how people live their lives, as well.

  • Upon arriving at their inn, Kazuho and the others check in. They are greeted by Aoi, an eleven-year-old who is the same age as Natsumi. Aoi is unique to the film and was not present in the manga. She is voiced by Shino Shimoji, an Okinawa native who previously played Stella no Mahou‘s Marika Shimizu and Aki from Girls und Panzer. Despite being the same age as Natsumi, Aoi actively helps her family run the inn and Natsumi’s friends point out that despite their ages, the two seem quite disparate as far as maturity goes.

  • After settling into their rooms, Renge decides to show the Okinawan landscape her drawing of home. After Natsumi tampers with the air conditioning (this is a perfectly natural choice of action, and I typically do the same while travelling, since unoccupied rooms usually have their units switched off to save power), the girls subsequently don their swimsuits and hit the beach, kicking Suguru out while they change. The manga has everyone lodging at a more modern hotel, but in the film, the choice to go with a more traditional style inn gives a more distinct character to things.

  • The water effects in Non Non Biyori Vacation are top-tier, comparable to the water seen in the Cry Engine and Frostbite. It looks photorealistic and captures all of the warmth that tropical waters possess. Years previously, I was in Cancun for a conference on artificial life, and during mornings, I would walk the beaches, marvelling at the fact that the water was not bitterly cold. I rather enjoyed that experience, and after delivering a pair of successful talks, one of which was for a colleague’s project, I sat down and sipped a lemon daiquiri under the evening sun.

  • Komari is not particularly skilled at swimming, and while Hotaru is enjoying the water, Komari hesitates to step further out. Everyone is shown as enjoying the beach in their own manner of choosing: Renge sips a fruit cocktail while Kaede watches her, while Natsumi and Konomi play in the waters. Suguha and Kazuho end up resting on the beachside. In Non Non Biyori, the taciturn Kaede is often seen watching over Renge, and despite her disposition, she seems to enjoy keeping an eye on Renge.

  • While it may seem like a paradise that remains confined to the realm of fiction, the beaches of Okinawa do look this nice. Non Non Biyori‘s Okinawa is more vivid and detailed than Harukana Receive‘s Okinawa: here, the setting itself is a character in its own right, while in Harukana Receive, the Okinawa setting was chosen because the warm climate accommodates beach volleyball nicely. Harukana Receive‘s setting is beautiful and well done, but it was secondary to watching Haruka and the others mature – it naturally does not hold a candle to the Okinawa of Non Non Biyori Vacation, whose surroundings are so well done that it does feel like I’m there with everyone else.

  • While it’s a tropical paradise equivalent to China’s Hainan and America’s Hawaii, Okinawa was the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the later days of World War Two. The American forces had advanced via island-hopping to the doorsteps of Japan in 1945, and in April, began a massive offensive to capture the islands. Casualties were staggering, totally some 160000, and by late June, the Allied forces had secured the islands. With ninety percent of the island levelled, and massive civilian casualties, the Allies would convert the island into an airbase from which offensives could be launched against the home islands.

  • Today, the United States maintains an air force base in Okinawa, and the islands have been redeveloped, making it a paradise. Okinawans are among the longest-lived people on earth as a result of their diet and lifestyle, and the karate that I practise, Okinawa Gōjū-ryu originates from Naha. As a result, I would very much like to visit the birthplace of the “hard-soft” style that I practise, and the karate whose principles subtly impacted many aspects of my life. Here, Renge does a sketch of the scene she’s seeing unfold before her: it is pure bliss.

  • This post actually would’ve come out a bit sooner, but this past week has been quite busy, and I’ve had not time to blog: the post about CLANNAD ~After Story~ was written back in mid-February. On my itinerary was a company retreat that saw me visit the mountains with the entire team, and despite being overcast, the weather was very warm. Aside from doing team-building exercises and pushing on with polishing an app for deployment, we visited a frozen-solid Lake Minnewanka, saw more wildlife than I’d ever seen in the National Parks (big-horn sheep and a herd of elk, including one with 12-point antlers), ascended Sulfur Mountain and reached the top as a break in a snowfall occurred, and took a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Louise, where we saw an ice-waterfall.

  • For those wondering, ostrich is quite tough and chewy, with a dull flavour. Kangaroo resembles a very rich, gamy and flavorful steak, while the shark meat I tried is not dissimilar to cod. Alligator meat resembles turkey in texture but has a more fishy flavour overall. The Grizzly House is a Banff institution, although I think that it is only with more adventurous folk, such as my team, that we’d try these: my family would very much prefer a classic cut of AAA prime rib. Tonight, I hit the roads again to visit a local Chinese style buffet, and will need to diligently hit the gym to ensure the food doesn’t defeat me.

  • Following dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton, and then helps Aoi hide this when her mother comes out to check on her. Seeing that Aoi is not so different than herself, Natsumi strikes a quick friendship with her. This particular aspect was absent from the manga, but it adds an additional degree of depth to Non Non Biyori Vacation‘s theme: the story told in the manga alone merely depicts Renge and the others visiting Okinawa for fun, but the movie juxtaposes the differences and similarities of different places to create a much more compelling message.

  • Natsumi decides to pick up some cup ramen after dinner, commenting that no adults around means being able to do the sorts of things they might not normally do otherwise. Her sense of adventure is boundless, and Natsumi is certainly more bold than I am – supervision or not, I tend to be highly rigid, disciplined and quite unwilling to do things that deviate from what I’m used to for the most part. The singular exception is when I am in an environment that allows me to loosen up a little, and I decide that there is no major risk to lightening up a little.

  • Slice-of-life anime prima facie appear to have little by ways of conflict and story, but I’ve found them to be fantastic vehicles for exploring life lessons in a cathartic manner. This is why I have nothing but positive things to say about shows like Non Non Biyori, and why I might be seen as more lenient about such series than most. I particularly enjoy considering personal values and life lessons that these shows bring about: while action-oriented shows might have a more tangible message for its viewers, subtleties in slice-of-life shows make them worthwhile in their own right.

  • Hotaru is ecstatic to be sleeping in the same bed as Komari, but then realises that she always asks her mother for extra time when sleeping in, and then worries Komari might see this side of her. It turns out that she does exactly thus, and then bolts up in embarrassment. Meanwhile, Hikage sleeps on the floor, as they’d run out of beds, and finds herself dissatisfied with the arrangements.

  • For their second day in Okinawa, Kaede and Kazuho take the crew snorkelling and canoeing. They depart the inn under breathtaking weather conditions: the rich colours in Non Non Biyori Vacation give a very visceral sense of being in Okinawa, and I continued finding myself impressed with the artwork, the further I went into the movie. The stunning artwork in this movie is precisely why each and every screenshot can be viewed at full resolution.

  • While Renge and Kaede enjoy the sights of the ocean, even spotting a stingray, Hikage suffers from motion sickness and is unable to explore to the extent that she’d like. It appears that Hikage runs into minor misfortune after minor misfortune during this trip to Okinawa – while this device is employed as a means of comedy, I admit that I am not keen on witnessing people experience low-level problems on a frequent basis: the occasional moment of surprise is what keeps things fresh, and after a while, one would come to feel pathos for individuals like Hikage rather than experience any humour.

  • After snorkelling, the girls join a canoe trip. Komari immediately requests a two-person canoe, citing the reduced risk of falling into the water, but when she boards the canoe, immediately falls in to the water. Dramatic irony and situational irony are abundant in Non Non Biyori: despite its gentle atmosphere, the series is very fond of placing the characters in a series of unfortunate situations to remind viewers that life can sometimes simply be unfair, but in spite of this, there’s plenty of good things, too. Portraying minor misfortunes as something to laugh off, Non Non Biyori shows that looking past these small ills means being able to enjoy things that are truly spectacular.

  • Hotaru and Komari pair up in a canoe and begin to make their way downriver, but while admiring the mangroves, they lodge their canoe in the roots of one of the mangroves. Canoeing down the river of mangroves is a quintessential experience in Okinawa, and the river’s course is smooth enough so that anyone ages three and over can participate. Hence, viewers cannot help but feel a twinge of pity mixed in with their laughs when Komari and Hotaru get stuck and begin panicking in an adorable manner.

  • Movies oftentimes give characters a chance to shine, and in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Kazuho has such an opportunity. Her students can evidently be a handful, and despite her laid-back, lax manner, as well as her tendency to sleep during work hours, she’s actually quite attentive and is mindful of her students. When Kazuho arrives and hears the pair’s calls for help, it’s just another day at the office: she helps Komari and Hotaru extricate themselves from the branches, allowing them to continue on with their adventure.

  • Despite having left their tea and bread in the car from excitement, Kazuho has noticed this earlier and brought the provisions that Komari and Hotaru have left behind. Being able to see another side of some characters in an anime movie serves to enhance the viewer’s ability to relate to them, showing that everyone is multi-faceted. I find that the joy of slice-of-life anime is precisely in seeing characters react and interact under different conditions, revealing a more complex character than one might have otherwise expected. Over time, these interactions shift gradually and the characters mature, mirroring how individuals in reality slowly change over time, as well.

  • After their canoeing adventure, the girls climb a trail leading to a beautiful waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the water, feeling invigorated. It is here that everyone’s adventure begins transitioning from more tourist-oriented activities into a more personalised, self-guided one: Non Non Biyori has long conveyed that the best adventures are often those that occur unexpectedly, and the beautiful scenery surrounding this waterfall gives the cast a chance to explore on their own.

  • Konomi is a third-year high school student who had limited appearances in the TV series: being a ways older than the others, she’s looked up to as a role model and is voiced by Ryōko Shintani, whom I know for her roles in Saki and Love Lab. She takes a photograph of Komari, Hotaru and Kazuho in the water here. In the manga, Kazuho does not jump into the water, and her energy simply results in her crashing subsequently, whereas in Non Non Biyori Vacation, she tires out from a combination of heat and being soaked.

  • As evening sets in, Renge, Natsumi, Hikage and Kaede enjoy the cooling air and darkening skies by the Cape Zanpa Lighthouse. This thirty-metre lighthouse is located in a particularly picturesque area and is suited for photography. Renge sketches the lighthouse here, before joining Natsumi and Hikage in a photograph. The purples of the sunset convey a unique sense of distance to the day’s end: in Asahigaoka, sunsets predominantly have colours in the oranges and reds, but the Okinawan sunsets feature more purples and pinks. This is likely to hint at the different feeling that a tropical sunset might evoke.

  • The page quote for this talk is from J.R.R. Tolkien, whose perspectives on adventure and travel coherently and succinctly mirror my own personality. Being very literal and straightforward, I rather enjoy Tolkien’s style, and in this quote, he simply means to say that knowing there is a home to go back to makes all adventure and hardship more bearable. I admit that I am not much of a traveller; unlike others of my generation, I do not believe that travelling is the sole means to enrich oneself. Justifications for why people of my generation travel include notions that exploring the world is the single most effective way to become a better person, and to this end, travel frequently. While travel does broaden one’s horizon, it is also an endeavour that requires a time commitment. For me, I would much rather put my time into work, developing my interpersonal and technical skills to positively impact the lives of others in a tangible way.

  • While travelling would help me connect with people better, I still would need to prove it with my work experience, and as such, travel is a lesser priority compared to contributing to something much bigger than myself through my work. At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my friends ended up moving to Japan after meeting someone there while doing a home-stay program, leaving behind family, friends and a prospective career. I don’t think I could pull off something like this: I’m rather like a Hobbit in many ways, preferring the comforts of home and a good routine. Having said this, I am okay with adventure in moderation, and at any rate, moving somewhere to pursue matters of the heart is not exactly a good ROI if things should go south.

  • After arriving back at the inn after a day’s worth of adventure, Natsumi greets Aoi. The gentle purple-pinks of the evening skies become more pronounced, and gives a magical quality to Natsumi’s growing friendship with Aoi. Despite different backgrounds, Natsumi finds that she shares similarities with Aoi, as well. I was quite surprised to learn that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura, whom I know best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto: if one listens carefully, a bit of Sakura’s kawaii voice can be heard in Natsumi.

  • Another evening in Okinawa means another scrumptious dinner. Entering this month, the weather was still brutally cold, and as the work week began, I sat down to a hot and tasty fried chicken ramen with miso-sesame broth, charred corn and snap peas, plus a soft-boiled egg at a local pub. Their fried chicken stands as some of the best I’ve had, being crisply fried while maintaining juicy chicken on the inside. In moderation, good food during a cold day is the perfect countermeasure, and after a meal such as this, even -20ºC weather is not quite so cold. Of course, things are now warming up again, and I am quite glad to see the worst of winter behind us.

  • After dinner, the girls invite Aoi to hang out with them, where Renge shows her some of the drawings that she’d made. It turns out that Aoi is free the next day, and she offers to take them around different spots in Okinawa that are far removed from tourists. This is the side of the world that Rick Steves promotes in his series, Rick Steves’ Europe: taken the path less travelled, Steves highlights local cuisines and sights that often go missed by travellers in favour of more well-known attractions. Having a local guide who knows the area helps greatly and serves to create a more authentic experience: folk of my generation wish to experience this in particular, and I cannot fault them for that.

  • The next morning, Aoi wakes up bright and early to meet up with Natsumi and the others. Even at this early hour, the Okinawan heat is apparent: with the temperature averaging highs of 26ºC throughout the year, the humid sub-tropical climate of Okinawa is a world apart from the winters in my area. This year, winter came later: January was unusually mild, and then the bitter cold slammed the city with five straight weeks of cold. Forecasts are showing warmer weather incoming, and this will be a breath of fresh air, to finally be able to walk outside without a scarf covering my face.

  • Mirroring Aoi’s thoughtfulness, Hotaru and the others have given their room a cleaning so that she is not burdened with the task, and this makes it speedier for everyone to go on their day’s adventures. Simple gestures like these show that for their occasional misadventures, the cast of Non Non Biyori are ultimately good people. Some individuals have stated that this creates the impression that Non Non Biyori has no conflict, and in turn, this prevents the characters from developing. However, I find that exploring characters over time and portraying different sides in an individual is equivalent to character development, so it is inappropriate to dismiss Non Non Biyori on the basis that there are no conflicts in a traditional sense.

  • The soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation is a well-composed one, integrating traditional Okinawan elements (such as the Sanshin) into the incidental music. Familiar motifs from Non Non Biyori also make a return, and together, this is meant to accentuate that Non Non Biyori Vacation is about the fusion of the familiar and unfamiliar. I greatly enjoyed listening to the music for this reason: it evokes imagery of Okinawa in the mind’s eye, while at once being distinctly Non Non Biyori in tone, and as such, the soundtrack is a perfect aural representation of the film’s thematic elements.

  • Aoi takes the girls to her school, where she briefly meets up with a friend before showing them around the grounds. Again, minute details in the environment, such as the stains in the walls surrounding the school and cracks in the pavement, give the environment a more realistic, worn sense. This stands in contrast with the near-flawless infrastructure of Harukana Receive – highly clean environments provide less visual clutter, which is excellent where the focus is on the characters. In something like Non Non Biyori, including these details immerse viewers in the environment.

  • While summer in the inaka often evokes feelings of melancholy in something like Yosuga no Sora, Ano Natsu de Matteru and Please! Teacher, the same colours and atmosphere in Non Non Biyori creates a sense of excitement and adventure. A similar palette was used in CLANAND ~After Story~ to great effect: long days are perfect for adventure, and skies of deepest blue that seem to stretch on forever might be seen as acting for a visual representation of this unlimited possibility. What effect the sky has is affected by the nature of an anime, and seemingly unending skies can also signal uncertainty, as is often the case where romances are involved.

  • Aoi gives everyone a chance to play badminton, and after Natsumi plays Komari, an irate Komari asks Aoi to play Natsumi after she’s beaten. With her experience, Aoi tramples Natsumi without much effort, and Natsumi is utterly exhausted after the fact. However, there’s little time for a rematch, as Aoi’s got an exciting itinerary planned for Hotaru and company. I know the excitement of stuff occurring: things have been hectic as of late, and earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go attend a live-event featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama. In his talk, he emphasised the importance of innovation, cooperation and above all, optimism. I greatly enjoyed the talk, and Obama is a very charismatic, presidential speaker: the reality is that in a world ruled by enmity and discord, we overcome it by showing equal bonds of friendship and trust.

  • This is why I am so insistent about optimism and positivity in whatever I do, whether it be in real life or for my blog. Back in Non Non Biyori Vacation, one subtle touch that I found to be pleasant is the fact that each of Hotaru, Renge, Komari, Natsumi and Aoi have different hats that mirror their personalities. Hotari has a simple but elegant sun hat, while Komari’s hat has a ribbon on it. Both Aoi and Natsumi have ballcaps, and Renge has a bucket hat. Having a good hat is essential in places like Okinawa, where the sun is intense and so is the corresponding UV index. While folks often associate pleasant weather with a high UV index, in places with a higher elevation, there can be a high UV index even when it is overcast.

  • Aoi takes the girls to a shop that sells hand-made Okinawan accessories. In a subtle call-back to Komari’s being perceived as a child, the others notice that a pendant looks sharp on Hotaru, who is more mature for her age. Viewers are largely dependent on dialogue to expose this fact: except for Renge and Kazuho, who have a distinct eye shape, the characters in Non Non Biyori have the same facial features. Barring their hair styles and eye colour, they look very much alike, and I have gotten into the pitfall of mixing characters up. In particular, I find that Hotaru looks very similar to Konomi.

  • After visiting an ice-cream shoppe and savouring sundaes, Aoi brings everyone to an observation point looking over Okinawa. While ice cream had previously not been something I was too interested in, I’ve come to realise that it actually boils down to the hardness and flavour of the ice cream; I’m fond of softer ice cream, and maple ice cream in particular hits the spot. During this past week, I had the chance to try a beaver-tail maple ice cream, which is about as Canadian as ice creams can get.

  • Having local knowledge of an area means being able to take in sights away from the crowds: Aoi brings the girls to a quieter beach, where they enjoy the sights of a calm, rocky beach that is quite far removed from path better travelled. I’ve long had a fondness for exploring the more hidden corners of my homeland and discovering local gems that I normally pass over. For instance, it was taking a second look for holes in the walls that I came across the 514 Poutine in Canmore.

  • In the manga, Renge decides to take a shell home, but in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Aoi suggests that the girls take some white sand home with them, having bought small glass vials with her. This is a wonderful souvenir of what was an immensely relaxing and enjoyable vacation, and also brings to mind a vial of sand from Cancún that I bought. This vial also has a few small seashells within, and the vial is stoppered by a glass ball to keep the sand from coming out.

  • By evening, Aoi takes the girls to the beach where, away from the effects of light pollution, Natsume, Renge, Hotaru and Komari are treated to a stunning view of the night sky, with the Milky Way plainly visible. This is perhaps a more optimistic view of the night skies in Okinawa; most of the island is as bright as Cochrane, which is around 36 kilometres from the city center. While the night skies at this distance are more pronounced than they are in the suburbs of Calgary, it’s still bright enough so the Milky Way would not be easily spotted. As Non Non Biyori Vacation is fiction, this is forgiven.

  • Aoi’s brought the girls here to show them a spectacular phenomenon: Noctiluca scintillans exhibit bioluminescence and when stimulated, will emit a blue light. The girls frolic in the water in a truly magical setting, and similar to a moment in Non Non Biyori Repeat, where Kazuho takes the girls to a pond to watch fireflies, Non Non Biyori Vacation sets one of its most magical moments under the night sky.

  • For me, Non Non Biyori represents a film where, despite the lack of a unifying conflict or an end goal, messages about life are nonetheless present in full. The film is working within the constraints of the manga, which presented the trip to Okinawa as a detour from their routine. There is not supposed to be a conflict or explicit lesson: life simply has breaks in it, and the movie has certainly succeeded in capturing this particular concept, bringing it to life with first-rate visuals and sound. Silver Link has done a phenomenal job on the movie, and presently, with an impressive collection of anime in their profile, I am happy that the studio has continued to find a way.

  • While the manga had Natsumi crying for no discernable reason, the film allows this moment to carry more weight: she’s clearly saddened to leave such a beautiful place, but also is saddened because she’s not able to spend more time with Aoi. The format in Non Non Biyori Vacation allows the film to do things that the manga could not, and this creates a more solid story that can be touching, as well as comedic.

  • For better or worse, the time has come to depart, and Aoi bids everyone farewell. Natsumi promises to write her, and improve on badminton in the meantime. A part of every vacation is the part where one must leave for home, and in my experience, this is usually a mixed bag. On one hand, being in another country engenders a desire to continue exploring, but on the other hand, being elsewhere also amplifies one’s appreciation for their own home. There’s nothing quite like sleeping in one’s own bed after a vacation.

  • While Natsumi is probably the rowdiest of the group, seeing her grow in Non Non Biyori Vacation was probably one of the strongest elements. Despite being unscholarly in manner, Natsumi is shown to have a strong knowledge of the outdoors and is also quite active. She tends to create trouble for others, but at heart is caring for those around her. The film offered Natsumi an opportunity to develop in a manner that the manga did not, and by taking advantage of this, helps viewers like myself warm up to her further.

  • The palm trees and pristine beaches of Okinawa give way to the rolling hills and endless fields of Asahigaoka as the group returns home. The deliberate choice of lighting here, with purples and pinks dominating the evening sky, mirror the sunset of the second day; this was done to remind audiences that while everyone might be back in Asahigaoka, they’re still under the same skies as Okinawa, similarly to how Aoi and Natsumi have commonalities.

  • Having the characters walking apart as they wave goodbyes for the present creates a visual break here. While everyone is parting ways for now, they’re still planning on hanging out in the time that is left before summer is over. I imagine that this film segues into Non Non Biyori Repeat: the manga seems to portray things as taking place after Hotaru arrives in a linear manner, but the TV series’ second season suggests that it’s set in between the episodes seen in the first season. With a third season announced, one wonders where it will fit in the timeline.

  • After arriving home, Hotaru shares her experiences with her parents. Non Non Biyori presents the girls as living in a more old-fashioned environment, and so, do not have access to things like smartphones. I usually communicate with my parents while travelling to inform them that I’ve arrived safely by means of WhatsApp. While I prefer iMessage and Skype in every way, I usually aren’t too picky about the choice of tool I have to use.

  • At the Koshigayas’, Komari recounts her experiences in Okinawa to her mother, while Suguru chills. Natsumi is seen in her room, fondly hanging up the image that Renge had drawn of her and Aoi. Everyone’s gotten something unique out of their experience in Okinawa, and come away with what will be memories to treasure for a lifetime. I note that for the most part, Suguru has not been mentioned to any real extent in my discussions: he’s unique in that he has no voice actor, and his presence is quite minimal.

  • When the Miyauchis arrive home, Renge immediately runs into their house and declares that they’re back. Earlier, Renge wonders if they’ll be able to go back to Okinawa, and Kazuho remarks that such a vacation is too pricey to be doing on a regular basis. Renge decides that in the future, she’d like to go back again anyways. Simple details in conversation give great insights into the characters, and I found that while still having a secondary role in the film, Kazuho was given a few moments that present her as being attentive, mindful of those around her and astute, leaving audiences with the sense that she’s qualified to look after elementary and middle school students despite her lethargic appearance.

  • For my readers, I’m also back in full now: I’ve been writing less so far because my priorities have been on work-related matters. With one major milestone now in the books, I look forwards to continuing on with my work, but for the present, this means that I will be blogging with at least a better frequency than I have in the past several weeks. I’ve long anticipated Non Non Biyori Vacation with enthusiasm, and having finished this post, which is this year’s largest (having some seven thousand four hundred and seventy-six words), I look to the future. I have one final post left for CLANNAD ~After Story~, and will be writing about Ace Combat 7 now that I’ve passed the halfway point. Endro!‘s ending is coming later this month, and I still have one more post on Battlefield V‘s campaign, as well. Finally, I do have (tentative) plans to write about Nagi no Asukara. I would like to thank the reader who’ve stuck around long enough to read this entire post.

Taken together, Non Non Biyori Vacation is an excellent film that capitalises on the silver screen format to deliver a bolder, larger-scale theme while simultaneously remaining very faithful to the structuring and atmosphere seen in the original TV series. Like the themes the film conveys, Non Non Biyori Vacation is both familiar and different relative to the TV series. Watching all of the characters sightsee and experience a more personal side of Okinawa was superbly enjoyable. Non Non Biyori has long excelled at conveying subtle lessons on life in its gentle, cathartic run, and Non Non Biyori Vacation continues on in the same manner its predecessors did. This is a movie that I can easily recommend to anyone who enjoyed Non Non Biyori, and for folks who are looking for something relaxing, Non Non Biyori Vacation fits the bill even if one is unfamiliar with the series. Granted, there are some jokes that require some background in the series to fully appreciate, but the film itself is reasonably standalone such that one could enjoy it even without having seen the TV series or read the manga. It’s been a shade over six months since Non Non Biyori hit the theatres in Japan, and presently, having had the chance to see the movie for myself, I find that this is something that viewers should definitely experience for themselves. Finally, looking ahead into the future, I’ve heard that a third season of Non Non Biyori is in the works, and this is exciting news: Non Non Biyori‘s success comes from being committed to its ability to do more with less. By utilising a simple moment and then drawing the fun from the ordinary, Non Non Biyori shows the merits of taking a step back to smell the roses when the world constantly seeks to accelerate – this is something that is most welcome in my books.

Mirai no Mirai: A Review and Full Recommendation

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring – quite often the hard way.” –Pamela Dugdale

Accustomed to being showered with love and adoration, Kun is a four year old boy who lives in Isogo-ku,Yokohama, spending his days with Yuuko (the family dog) and his train sets. When his parents welcome Mirai into the family, Kun grows jealous of the attention his baby sister is receiving. After one tantrum, Kun runs into the courtyard and finds himself face to face with Yuuko in human form: he learns that Yuuko has been left behind somewhat ever since he was born, and subsequently passes along to his parents that Yuuko should be better treated. Each of the more substantial tantrums that Kun throws activates the tree in the courtyard that sends him to another time. He comes face-to-face with a middle school-aged Mirai, who warns him about mistreating her and enlists his help in putting away dolls the family has set up for Girls’ Day. Kun also is transported back in time to when his mother was around four after refusing to put his toys away and learns that she too was scolded for making a mess of things. After Kun’s father focuses his attention on a crying Mirai at the park while they were originally set to help Kun learn to ride a bike, Kun grows angry and runs off. Here, the tree in the courtyard transports him to his great-grandfather’s workshop. His great-grandfather suggests to him that the key to overcoming fear on any vehicle is to look ahead. Later at the park, Kun manages to learn how to ride a bike on his own. When the family prepares to go for a trip, Kun refuses since his favourite pants are unavailable. He is seemingly left behind, finds himself at a train station and boards a train despite an older boy’s warnings. Arriving at a vast station, he grows fearful and tries to find his parents, but the attendant remarks that without verification to his identity, he is unable to help and sends Kun to a train that sends him to Lonely Land. Seeing the baby Mirai about to board the train, he acknowledges his identity as Mirai’s older brother, having refused to do so until now, and the older Mirai retrieves him. She then takes him on a journey through the family history, and when Kun returns to the present, he decides that the pants suddenly don’t matter so much anymore, cheerfully joining his parents and Mirai for their day trip. Mirai no Mirai (literally “Mirai of the Future”) is a film that released in July 2018 and is notable amongst the 2018 anime films for being the first anime film that is not from Studio Ghibli to receive a nomination as Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

Running for an hour and forty minutes, Mirai no Mirai is a fanciful and vivid tale of discovery, acceptance and understanding. In particular, this is a film that all older siblings will connect to: the arrival of a new sibling in a family and the shift in attention is an occurrence that all older siblings must go through, and the feelings of jealousy, resentment and loneliness are universal regardless of one’s culture. Children’s media, such as Arthur and The Berenstain Bears each have their own portrayals of this topic, presenting the transition and gradual acceptance of a new sibling in families as a journey. In Arthur, D.W. comes to accept Kate as her sister after running away but realising that Kate needs an older sister to show her the things that only sisters get. The Berenstain Bears‘ Sister is shown a family video of her as a baby and learns that every baby is given a great deal of attention, coming to terms with how her new sister, Honey, is an integral part of the Bear Family. Both presentations are very down-to-earth, and Mirai no Mirai stands out in applying these lessons with a twist: the film utilises bold visuals to express the tumultuous thoughts in one’s mind during childhood. Whether its a bustling train station or luxuriant garden, Kun’s lessons seem come from within: his own discoveries act as the lessons that push him towards accepting Mirai and his parents. The generous use of these flights of fancy indicate that children are very complex and capable of finding their own answers; whether it be Arthur, The Berenstain Bears or Mirai no Mirai, no adult explicitly explains why babies draw attention away from the older sibling. Instead, the older sibling, through their experiences and observations, comes to terms with things on their own. It’s a journey that has a bit of mystery to it: children are observant and bright, but may have trouble articulating their thoughts, and so, with its imagery, Mirai no Mirai aims to both show how remarkable families are, as well as make tangible something that we otherwise might take for granted. It is a story of the extraordinary amidst the ordinary, and so, Mirai no Mirai is very enjoyable to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Mirai no Mirai is set in Isogo Ward of Yokohama, the largest individual city in Japan by population (with 3.7 million people). Attesting to the film’s incredible visuals, the ward and Yokohama’s downtown area are faithfully reproduced, to the point where it was a trivial exercise to find this spot using Google Maps. The view zooms in on Kun’s house: because his father is an architect, they live in a rather unusual house on a narrow lot, with a courtyard and lone tree visible. This post will have thirty screenshots, and I note that thirty is not enough of a space to cover off everything.

  • Kun and Mirai are the only named human characters in Mirai no Mirai: their parents are only known as “mom” and “dad”, reminiscent of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson explains that their names aren’t needed because from Calvin’s point of view, his parents are mom and dad. Similarly, in Mirai no Mirai, Kun’s parents are only referred to as such because the film is told from his perspective. Kun is a play on the honourific for boys, and is equivalent to The Berenstain Bears‘ Brother Bear, who was known as Small Bear before Sister was born. One wonders how names work in Bear Country, and curiously enough, everyone else has standard names.

  • Kun’s mother is an executive of an unnamed company: the couple leads a busy life that only becomes more hectic as they raise two children, and this chaos is conveyed to viewers right from the start. I’m sure that parents will immediately connect with this; Mirai no Mirai‘s portrayal of a baby and four-year-old child as being tricky to look after has its basis in reality. I’m told that when I was four, my curiosity made me a bloody nightmare to deal with. Up until I was seven, I was constantly in trouble for going out of bounds and doing who-knows-what. My second year primary instructor wondered if I could channel this towards reading, and instead of exploring the world physically, I took to counting on books to sate this curiosity. The “me” of the present day is a consequence of this.

  • Kun experiences a mixture of curiosity at the new baby and also jealousy that attention has now left him. On several instances, he causes Mirai to cry, landing him in hot water. This is one of the hazards about having two children very closely together. While some rivalry might exist if there’s a three to four year gap, the older child is generally more independent and therefore is less prone to jealousy. In the case of Mirai no Mirai, it would appear that Kun’s jealousy is more consistent with a two year gap; his age is presumably chosen so that we have a protagonist with more independence and a larger vocabulary, as well as the attendant personality. It’s not particularly implausible, and Kun is described as being somewhat spoiled.

  • Whenever Kun gets into trouble, the tree in their courtyard begins glowing, and he is taken into an alternate world. Initially, I was not sure of who the scruffy-looking man was, but when he introduces himself as a former prince, the only individual that came to mind was Yuuko, who would’ve been previously the only individual Kun’s mother and father would have looked after. Flights of fancy in Mirai no Mirai, such as Kun becoming a dog after stealing Yuuko’s tail, give the film a more fantastical feeling that elicits a sense of magic in how children might approach the world.

  • Now that I’ve made the Calvin and Hobbes comparison, it does feel like the case that Kun’s mother and father are parallels of Calvin’s mother and father in terms of appearance. Both Calvin and Kun’s father have black hair and glasses, while Calvin and Kun’s mother both have brown hair. The similarities end here: Calvin’s mother is a stay-at-home parent, while Calvin’s father is a patent attorney. I’ve long been a fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and having gotten one of the special collections for a birthday years ago, I gained a unique insight into how Bill Watterson created his comics.

  • Mirai is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and as a baby, Kaede Hondo provides her voice. While I’ve not seen Kuroki’s other works, Hondo has also been Comic Girls‘ Koyume Koizuka and Kohaku Tsukishiro of The World in Colours. Despite the film being named for Mirai, Kun’s development forms the bulk of the story, and I am left wishing that Mirai had a more substantial role. However, it seems that rather than being a direct source of guidance for Kun, Mirai acts more to nudge him along and help him make his own discoveries.

  • At dinner with Kun’s grandparents, his parents discuss how their great-grandparents met. It’s a nostalgic story: the great-grandfather was a mechanic who was injured during the Second World War and convinced the great-grandmother to a foot race; she stipulates that if he can best her, then he may have her hand in marriage. Moments like these show that in every family, there is a great deal of history in the past, of triumphs and trials.

  • Taking care of the housework when one is accustomed to working with a keyboard is definitely a bit of a change: Kun and Mirai’s father is shown to struggle initially, leaving him quite unable to have any time left for Kun. Closeups of his work are shown, and he runs a MacBook Pro: most anime have a pear rather than an apple to indicate an Apple computer. From my end, I treat housework as almost a break of sorts: my mind wanders while I vacuum, iron or cook to some extent.

  • After Kun puts crackers on a sleeping Mirai’s face out of boredom, he is whisked away into a tropical conservatory, coming face-to-face with an older Mirai. She’s come from the future with the aim of getting their father to put the dolls away, citing that each day they’re not properly stowed is another year her marriage will be delayed. There are a great many superstitions in East Asian cultures: attesting to this is that each year, my parents explain to me a superstition about Chinese New Year that I did not know previously.

  • Mirai and Yuuko manage to get everything put away without their father noticing, and Kun helps by providing a distraction. Later, when their mother returns, Kun remarks that he’d helped out, befuddling their father, who’s unsure as to how everything managed to work out. The events of Mirai no Mirai are quite implausible, but they provide a very solid visual representation of how children might see the world. I am inclined to believe that these highly vivid sequences are a highly stylised metaphor.

  • Mirai resembles Mitsuha of Your Name to some extent. Originally, my expectations entering Mirai no Mirai was that Mirai’s older self would have a much more substantial role in the film than what I eventually experienced. However, from a thematic perspective, this makes sense: the future Mirai is more of a guide who helps Kun make his own discoveries. In this way, Mirai no Mirai strongly suggests that self-discovery is a major part of growing up, and that some things can’t be taught.

  • Visuals in Mirai no Mirai are impressive: while perhaps not quite as grand as those seen in Maquia, artwork and animation are still of a superb quality. From large-scale settings to something as simple as pancakes decked out in blueberries and strawberries, everything in Mirai no Mirai is impressive to look at. It suddenly strikes me that we’re now in February, and it’s been the coldest few days of the year so far: temperatures yesterday bottomed out at -29°C, with a windchill of -40°C. Winter has set in now, and ahead of this on Friday, a friend and I got together at one of the best barbecue places in town to catch up. Amidst conversation, I enjoyed a hearty plate of prime rib beef bones (smokey and flavourful, especially with their in-house sauce), plus a side of yam fries, fried green tomatoes and cornbread; this is something I’ve not had since the summer Your Name came out, and a good plate of smoked ribs is precisely what one needs to stay warm in the true Canadian winter.

  • I again fall back on anecdotal evidence for what I was like as a child when it came to cleaning my room. I know that this is a chore for some children, but as far as I can tell, I was always (and still are) a stickler for organisation. My younger brother found it hilarious when I dumped our toys wholesale from their containers, but we’d always clean up afterwards: I think that it was a fear for getting an earful that motivated this, but this eventually became a habit: it’s much easier to find the stuff one’s looking for if everything is nice and tidy (齐整, jyutping cai4 zing2, as I’m fond of saying).

  • Kun’s tantrum over cleaning sends him on a journey into the past, where he runs into his mother as a little girl. At this point in time, she’s fond of cats and remarks that she’d get one; she’s writing a letter and placing it into her mother’s (Kun’s grandmother) shoes, feeling that it could help her wish come across. As it’s raining, the two take off for his mother’s place, where Kun learns that his mother was once as free-spirited as he was. They proceed to make a bloody mess of things.

  • Kun’s mother sends him on his way after her mother returns, and she’s made to endure a tongue lashing. Kun later realises that his mother was once similar to him and realises she’s probably going through a great deal at present. I’ve heard that one’s shortcomings as children will manifest again in their children, which means that in the future, I should probably grit my teeth and find a way to best manage the curiosity in any child of mine.

  • Because Kun’s father is preoccupied in looking after Mirai, Kun grows angry that no one is giving him the attention to ride a bike. I’ve never been much of a physical individual as a child and did not learn how to ride a bike until I was twelve: after my brother expressed a desire to learn, I figured that I probably should, as well. On the second day of his lesson, I joined my parents and within a half hour, figured it out. After that, I took to biking around the neighbourhood during the summer, and found a profound joy in coming home exhausted after a good bike ride.

  • Running off and finding solace in the tree once more, Kun encounters his great-grandfather. His advice is to focus on something in the distance, citing that horse, bike or plane, the principles are the same. This scene is exceptionally well done, fluidly showing a post-war Yokohama as his great-grandfather knew it. Kun notices that he walks with a limp here, and the latter shrugs it off, saying that it’s something he’s come to accept. Later, it is shown that after an Allied bombing during the Second World War, his will to live drove him to swim for safety.

  • To me, biking came somewhat intuitively: I’m not sure I can explain how I learned it, except that after half an hour, I was zipping up and down the neighbourhood. I subsequently got too excited and zoomed down a hill, crashing the bike and landing in some bushes. Kun recalls his great-grandfather’s suggestion, and soon after, manages to figure out the basics. The other children are impressed and invites him to ride along with them.

  • In this moment, Mirai no Mirai‘s theme is abundantly clear: that learning is a very natural process and sometimes can occur without us even realising it. In spite of this, it’s something to be celebrated, and much as how Kun has learned to ride a bike, Kun’s father has acclimatised to taking care of Mirai, who no longer cries when he holds her. I’m told that as a baby, I largely could get along with anyone who held me, whereas my brother could only be held by my parents. The opposite seems true these days: my brother is more outgoing than I am and is more adept at taking the initiative in conversation with people, whereas I am inclined to listen more than I talk.

  • While I cannot speak for all children, I can say that I probably had a few moments like these at Kun’s age. Looking back, it’s pretty foolish, but at the time, I imagine that choice of favourite clothing did make all the difference in the world. Kun’s latest antics indicate that he acts up for attention’s sake, and my parents note that children are rather cleverer than they look: they are fond of sharing the classic story of seeing a little girl throwing a tantrum at a mall, right in the middle of a major area. The parents of that particular child were undeterred and said, “it’s cool, we’re heading off”. Realising that her show had no effect, she packed it in and ran off to join her parents, who’d diffused a situation without raising their voices, embarrassing and inconveniencing no-one.

  • The vast scale of the train station is impressive, bringing to mind the interior of fantastical locations like Platform 9 ¾ in Harry Potter. The golden tones convey a sense of warmth, a world far removed from the extreme colds of today. The weather is expected to persist into the Chinese New Year: tonight was Chinese New Year’s Eve, and I celebrated with the family. We had crispy pork, char siu, roast duck, pork leg, beef tripe, white-cut chicken abalone, pan-seared shrimps, and fat choy with winter mushroom and lettuce, closed off with a refreshing lotus root soup. Each of the items is phonetically similar to something fortuitous and chosen so that when eaten, good fortune follows.

  • Despite the older boy’s warning, Kun gets on the train and is initially awed by the sights. However, when he realises that he is lost, he seeks out an attendant. Without more identifying information (unlike database entries, people don’t exactly have primary keys or UIDs that they memorise off the top of their heads), the attendant is unable to help him and sends him down to what is more or less Hel. I recall that when I was much younger, I got lost at a mall and went to one of the people at the information desk to ask them to make an announcement for my parents to come to the information desk. To this day, my parents are still whiskey tango foxtrot about that particular incident.

  • Kun barely escapes the force pulling him into the dæmon train set to take him to Hel, and when he notices Mirai about to be pulled in, he pushes her out of the way, as well. Wishing none of this had happened, and openly declaring that he’s her older brother, Mirai vanishes before his eyes, reappearing in middle-school aged form. With the powers of flight, Mirai takes him out on a flight out into the city above, rescuing him from a terrifying fate.

  • It turns out that the tree in his family’s yard represents a record of his family’s history: the animators have gone to great lengths to create the family history in a manner reminiscent of the Tree of Life: here, I refer to the biological sciences construct that describes the evolutionary distance between all organisms. Its complexity is deliberate to suggest at the nature of family histories, and while such things might be seen as above Kun’s comprehension, I again stress the wonders in the mind of a child, and a tree is not an unintuitive way of describing family history.

  • It turns out that Kun’s great-grandmother threw the race because she reciprocated the great-grandfather’s feelings. Mirai comments on how everything that has happened now was the result of numerous small decisions coming together, and how it is important to make sure one always does their best to make these decisions so that a better path to the future is paved. During this travel, it is shown that Kun’s father was physically weak and took a while to master the bike, while his mother developed a dislike for cats after a cat killed one of the birds. Many things happen in our lives that shape who we are, and Kun comes to understand that he does have a choice here.

  • A part of growing up is taking increasing ownership and responsibility for one’s decisions and actions. As we push through our daily lives, we often forget just how far we’ve come from our days as children, and films like Mirai no Mirai, which return us to the side of childhood not characterised by rose-tinted memories, are reminders that as children, we each have our own triumphs and failures that help us learn and understand others better. I’m probably not the first blogger to say so, and I certainly won’t be the last – I have numerous flaws, as well.

  • One thing I never captured in this talk were the numerous “funny faces” various characters exhibit, whether it be from anger, stress or joy. I’ve opted to stick to more conventional moments and leave readers with experiencing the hilarity of beholding such moments for themselves. Here, an older Mirai and Kun share a short conversation, giving insight into how Kun is as a teen: he’s more reserved and distant, but given Mirai’s interactions with him, he’s also probably been a reliable older brother, as well. This is what motivates the page quote – older siblings can grow accustomed to protect and look after their younger siblings, making them quite observant and mindful of those around them.

  • The greatest strength in Mirai no Mirai is that it is able to capture the imagination of children and drive a story from the perspective of a four-year-old without losing the viewer’s interest. After his return from the latest journey, the most profound change in Kun is observed: he fully accepts Mirai as his younger sister and begins playing with her as an older brother would. This is the conflict that Mirai no Mirai resolves, and now that Kun is genuinely happy to have Mirai as his sister, the film can come to an end. One of my peers found it to be an abrupt ending, but now that I’ve crossed the finish line, I can see why Mirai no Mirai may end like this: life isn’t characterised by hard stops, but rather, a series of milestones. Mirai no Mirai shows a few notable milestones in Kun’s life that shape who he is, and accepting Mirai is a pivotal point in his life – the film is showing how he comes to reach this stage.

  • The reader who’s gone through this entire post will have learned quite a bit about myself, perhaps more than they would’ve liked or expected – this speaks to the strength of Mirai no Mirai, as it was able to evoke these memories and recollections that I might otherwise not consider in discussions about other series. With seven months between its theatrical screenings and home release, there was a bit of a wait for this movie, and I feel that the wait was worth it: it’s a solid movie that’s earned an A grade. February is a solid month for movies: I will be writing about Penguin Highway in the near future, and Non Non Biyori Vacation is coming out towards the end of the month, so I intend on writing about this in March. Finally, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown released on PC last Thursday, and it is a solid game worthy of all the praise it’s gotten: I naturally will be sharing my experiences here, as well.

Mirai no Mirai is a visceral representation of the sorts of emotion that older siblings go through with the arrival of a younger sibling. As an older sibling myself, I only have the vaguest recollection of what things would have been like: if my parents’ recollections were anything to go by, I was fairly mild (read “not anywhere as vociferous as Kun”), and I certainly cannot remember what the turning point was. What I do know is that the sort of friendship in some siblings can be very strong, and as such, stories like Mirai no Mirai are particularly moving to watch. Mirai no Mirai also deals with Kun’s father initially struggling to do housework and look after the children; his attempts at cooking and cleaning are fraught with accidents, and he’s unable to hold Mirai without her crying. As time wears on, he figures things out and becomes more proficient over time. Mirai no Mirai‘s portrayal of a husband and wife continuing to learn gives the movie additional depth and is another reminder that parenthood is a time of adjustment and discoveries for the parents, as well. It was rewarding to see Kun’s father going from bumbling through household tasks to having more competence: by the film’s end, he’s holding Mirai without any trouble. Themes of family and learning permeate Mirai no Mirai, and in conjunction with the movie’s solid visual component, it’s easy to see why the film has earned a nomination for an Oscar. Even if the film does not win (I expect that Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse will win the Best Animated Feature category), Mirai no Mirai remains an excellent film that offers a refreshing take on families as seen from the perspective of a four-year-old, and for this, I have no trouble recommending this film to readers.

Hibike! Euphonium: Liz and the Blue Bird (Liz to Aoi Tori) Movie Review and Reflection

We’ve such a golden dream
Such a golden dream can never last
My burden lifted
I am free

–Cage, Aimer

After an encounter in middle school led to friendship developing between Nozomi Kasaki and Mizore Yoroizuka, the two joined Kitauji High School’s Concert Band. Energetic and outgoing, Nozomi plays the flute while the reserved, taciturn Mizore plays the oboe. When the concert band picks Liz and the Blue Bird as a piece, Mizore and Nozomi are selected to perform the suite’s solo. At the same time, Nozomi and Mizore are forced to consider their futures; Mizore is recommended a music school, and Nozomi decides to follow her, but realises that her skill with the flute is not comparable to Mizore’s oboe. Meanwhile, Mizore envies Nozomi for being able to connect with others so easily, and at the same time, longs to be closer to Nozomi. After a conversation with Reina, Mizore performs the solo with her fullest effort, bringing some of the concert band’s members to tears. The two share a heartfelt conversation after, promising to remain friends even if their paths diverge in the future. Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in April 2018, focusing on secondary characters; the choice to tell a deeper story about the friendship between Nozomi and Mizore is motivated by the impact they had on Kitauji’s concert band in the events prior to the start of Hibike! Euphonium; the driven and determined Nozomi spearheaded an exodus after realising that Kitauji’s band was a raggedy-ass group disinterested in competing seriously. Mizore ended up staying behind, and Nozomi’s return during the events of Hibike! Euphonium 2 formed the basis for the conflict during its first half. The depth behind each of the characters in Hibike! Euphonium meant that a myriad of stories about concert band’s members could be told, and on first glance, the story between Nozomi and Mizore is one of interest, dealing with two polar opposite personality types, their friendship and how the two each deal with thoughts of parting ways in the future.

Liz and the Blue Bird‘s primary themes is a familiar one – deliberately chosen for the characters’ involvement in Kitauji’s incident, it shows the extent of Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship. Having long admired Mizore’s skill with the oboe, Nozomi’s charisma and fiery personality has a major impact on the band, but it now appears that she went to these lengths to give Mizore a chance to shine. Liz and the Blue Bird thus explores the difficulty both encounter as their time in high school comes to an end. The film is so named after the færie tale that frames the narrative: a girl named Liz finds a bluebird who transforms into a girl. As they get to know one another, Liz comes to enjoy her time with the bluebird. However, when Liz finds that the bluebird periodically sneaks out to fly at night, she realises that she cannot keep the bluebird forever and lets her go to rejoin her winged companions. It is a tale of parting, with both Mizore and Nozomi realising that they’re struggling to part with one another. In the end, though, it is precisely by letting go that allows the blue bird to reach her full potential; Nozomi must learn to let go of Mizore so she can pursue her career in music, and Mizore must let go of Nozomi so she can continue to direct her unparalleled passion and energy towards leading others. Liz and the Blue Bird proceeds as one would expect: by the film’s end, Nozomi and Mizore find their solutions, accepting that they will one day part ways, but this does not preclude their continued friendship.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Liz and the Blue Bird‘s segments with Liz feel distinctly like a watercolour brought to life, attesting to the sophistication of animation. By bringing sound and motion to such scenes, it is possible to really capture a particular aesthetic. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird is a fictional one, being written specifically for Liz and the Blue Bird; I could not find any reference to the story outside of the context of Hibike! Euphonium, even when doing a search for its German name (Liz und ein Blauer Vogel).

  • Unlike Hibike! Euphonium, which is vivid, rich in colours and bursting with life, Liz and the Blue Bird is much more subdued and gentle with its hues. Differences in the animation style are apparent; Liz and the Blue Bird tends to focus on subtle, seemingly trivial details, whether it be the bounce in Nozomi’s ponytail, the girls shifting their chairs together or assembling their instruments. Small moments are lovingly rendered, and while not of thematic significance, shows that Hibike! Euphonium is intended to convey a very human story in that no journey or experience is too trivial for consideration.

  • Old characters make a return in Liz and the Blue Bird; Kumiko, Reina, Midori, Hazuki, Natsuki and Yūko appear as secondary characters. The flatter art style means that everyone looks different from their usual selves, and this reduction in detail has the very deliberate and calculated effect of forcing the viewer to focus on what’s happening to the characters. While the characters do not stick out unreasonably from their environments, their motions and voices immediately draw the viewer’s attention to them.

  • I would imagine there is another reason to utilise a more subdued palette: because Liz’s story is rendered with watercolours, an inherently soft and gentle medium, had Liz and the Blue Bird stuck with the style seen in the series proper, the contrast would’ve been too jarring. Hibike! Euphonium is vivid to convey that music is immensely colourful, and Kumiko’s performances have always been very spirited as Kitauji strove to further their performances.

  • The short of the færie tale is that a young woman encounters a girl with blue hair following a strong storm and takes her in. Over time, the two become close as friends and live their days together happily. However, the blue bird’s nature means that she occasionally sneaks out at night to stretch her wings. Liz notices this and begins to realise that the blue bird longs to fly again. In this context, the bird is taken to represent freedom, and in particular, blue birds have traditionally been regarded as harbingers of happiness and joy.

  • The blue bird in Liz and the Blue Bird, then, suggests to viewers that happiness is found in freedom, and applying this to Nozomi and Mizore, the girls cannot be said to reach or discover their full potential unless they have the freedom to do so. Nozomi and Mizore both see themselves in the story; while Mizore actively wishes her eventual parting with Nozomi will never come, Nozomi puts on a brave front and expresses a desire to perform the piece, hiding her own doubts behind a veneer of confidence.

  • I’m sure that numerous of my readers will have their own memories of picture books from their childhood that stand out. When I was a primary student, I predominantly read science books, and at the age of six, I knew about all of the planets and their compositions. I have a particular fondness for non-fiction and so, did not read very many picture books. However, I do recall greatly enjoying The Berenstain Bears, as well as David Bouchard’s If You’re Not From The Prairie, a beautiful book about things only those living in the grasslands of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba might appreciate.

  • The sharp contrasts between Nozomi and Mizore are immediately apparent; people flock to Nozomi and her energy, and here, she befriends fellow fluatists, connecting with them and becoming a part of their energy. I’ve always found the pronunciation to be a little strange (“flaut-ist”, IPA: flaǔtist), having heard about it while listening to a radio programme about flutes following a concert band practise during my time as a middle school student. It may surprise readers to know that once upon a time, I was a clarinet player and also performed for my school’s jazz band.

  • As a part of the old concert band at my middle school, we went on to perform well in several competitions around the city. The jazz band was strictly an in-school activity, and I learned trumpet on my own to give that a go. After entering high school, I stopped with music, but I have no regrets about both performing in a band, and then choosing to explore other avenues. Here, on the left-hand side, we have Ririka Kenzaki, a new addition to Hibike! Euphonium. She’s a first year oboist who is voiced by Shiori Sugiura and does her best to befriend Mizore, stating that it’d be good for section cohesion if everyone got to know one another a little better.

  • Every event in Liz and the Blue Bird parallels the events Mizore and Nozomi have experienced: the time Liz and Blue Bird spend together are moments of bliss during which both Liz and Blue Bird are living in the moment. However, all things eventually come to an end, with the færie tale foreshadowing Blue Bird’s longing to soar in the skies again, and how this mirrors Nozomi and Mizore’s situations.

  • Mizore’s shyness is her weak point; at several points in Liz and the Blue Bird, Mizore expresses a desire to be physically closer to Nozomi. For much of the movie, circumstance prevents anything from happening. I’ve received numerous complaints about my lack of focus on yuri in my discussions. In general, my counter-arguments are that making the distinction between close friendship and yuri does not alter the conclusion that I reach: in the case of Liz and the Blue Bird, whether or not I chose to count Nozomi and Mizore’s as yuri, the theme invariably is that separation is a real concern for the two, but that they manage to move past it.

  • With almost three quarters of a year having elapsed since Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in theatres, it is unsurprising that discussion about the movie has been very limited of late. As is the case for every anime movie, folks with the time, resources and commitment would’ve watched this movie as it screened in Japan. In a rare turn of events, I agree with most early reviews of the film; these reviews citing the film’s imagery and message as its strengths, and its pacing and outcomes as being weaker.

  • However, an old nemesis appeared amidst the discussions: Verso Sciolto, who’d previously plagued the Your Name discussions, arrived and claimed that folklore and fairytale references were essential to appreciating both Liz and the Blue Bird as well as Hibike! Euphonium, believing that symbolism in the film will “inspire people to re-watch and re-examine the two seasons of the TV series as well”. The correct answer is that if people choose to revisit Hibike! Euphonium, it will be to see the character dynamics, rather than any non-existent literary symbols Verso Sciolto has fabricated.

  • Verso Sciolto goes on to claim that “Ishihara embellishes whereas Yamada distills” in comparing Hibike! Euphonium‘s TV series with Liz and the Blue Bird, and that the latter is an example of minimalism. Both are wrong: Hibike! Euphonium is richer in detail because the details and colours serve to reinforce the idea that music is more than the sum of its parts. It is unfair to grossly reduce a director’s style into one word. I noted earlier that Liz and the Blue Bird deliberately takes its style so it can more seamlessly transition between Nozomi and Mizore’s stories and that of Liz and the Blue Bird.

  • It is of some comfort, then, that this Verso Sciolto has been banned from a variety of avenues for discussion for forcibly injecting psuedointellectual remarks, pointed questions and a know-it-all attitude into discussions wherever they went. While having some influence on discussions, especially surrounding Your Name, their absence will be welcomed, especially now that Makoto Shinkai has announced that his next work, Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You), will hit theatres in Japan on July 19 this year.

  • Over the course of Liz and the Blue Bird, Ririka’s persistent but gentle efforts to befriend Mizore yields results when Mizore consents to help her prepare reeds. Ririka’s personality blends a kind and gentle nature with innocence, and it was rewarding to see the beginnings of a friendship form as she spearheads the effort to create more cohesion among the double-reed instruments.

  • Back in Liz and the Blue Bird, tensions begin growing between Mizore and Nozomi when Mizore mentions that she plans to go to music school. Lacking any idea of what to do with her future, Niiyama sensei suggests that Mizore apply for music school owing to her skill with the oboe.  Mizore is the sort of individual who seems uncertain of her future, but when she applies herself towards making her dreams a reality, she does so with her full efforts. After joining concert band in middle school on Nozomi’s suggestion, Mizore put her all into playing the oboe to keep from being separated from Nozomi.

  • After Reina arrives and bluntly remarks that Mizore seems to be holding back, Yūko, Natsuki and Nozomi see Reina and Kumiko performing the solo with their respective instruments. Noting the emotional intensity but also the balance between the two, Nozomi realises the strength of Kumiko and Reina’s friendship as well as their musical prowess. The precise relationship between Reina and Kumiko was the subject of no small debate when Hibike! Euphonium aired: this particular aspect of Hibike! Euphonium seems to overshadow everything else, even though the point of the anime was to see a raggedy-ass group come together and realise a shared dream.

  • While my school days are long behind me, I still vividly recall all of the instructors who helped inspire and encourage me: at each level, there are a handful of mentors and instructors who stood apart from the rest, and it is thanks to them that I ended up making the most of each choice that I took. Whether it be offering new ways to think about problems, or providing words of encouragement, their contributions helped make me who I am, and to this day, I am still in contact with some of my old mentors.

  • Nothing is truly infinite; in Liz and the Blue Bird, separation soon comes up, as well. When the time comes for Blue Bird to leave Liz, it is a difficult moment. A quote whose source has been difficult to pin down states that one must let go of something if they love it; its return heralds that things were meant to be. It seems counterintuitive, but in Cantonese, there’s a concept called 緣份 (jyutping jyun4 fan6, “fate”), that supposes that if something was meant to be, then it will show up in one way or another.

  • I disagree that Liz and the Blue Bird is a minimalist film from a visual and thematic perspective; numerous closeup of everyday objects are presented to show that despite the simpler artwork, elements are nonetheless present in the environment. They form a bit of a visual break, causing the eye to pause for a moment while one continues listening to the dialogue. Liz and the Blue Bird is simple, but not minimalist: simplicity is something easy to understand and natural, while minimalism is a deliberate design choice that aims to do more with less. Simplicity is not equivalent to minimalism, and in Liz and the Blue Bird, the anime is not doing more with less, but rather, being very precise about what its intents are.

  • While Mizore speaks to instructor Niiyama, Nozomi speaks with Yūko and Natsuki: both come to the realisation that they must learn to let the other go in this dialogue, for holding into the other is to deny them of exploring the future. This is the turning point in the film where the tension rises: for Mizore, she decides to be truthful with her feelings, while Nozomi is a bit more stubborn. I admit that Nozomi is my favourite character of Hibike! Euphonium – for her fiery spirit and figure.

  • In the færie tale, Liz eventually ends up allowing Blue Bird to take flight and join her fellow birds in the sky. Cages form a part of the symbolism in Liz and the Blue Bird: representing security in the present and also constraining the future, Mizore expresses a wish that she’d never learned to open the cage. This imagery is mirrored in Aimer’s “Cage”, a beautiful song that was used during the unveiling of the life-sized Unicorn Gundam at Diver City in Odaiba.

  • We’re now a ways into 2019, and the year’s already been quite busy as I acclimatised to a new workplace. I wake up much earlier than I did before to make the bus ride downtown, and while I greatly enjoy what I do, I admit that weekends have become even more valuable as time to sleep in a little (I get to wake up at 0720 rather than my usual 0600, or 0530 on days where I lift). This past weekend, after karate, I enjoyed the first dim sum of the year: their special included two different kinds of noodles as well as a flavourful salt-and-pepper fried squid.

  • While Liz and the Blue Bird might deal predominantly with Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship, music is still very much a part of the narrative. During one practise, the band reaches the solo, and Mizore begins playing her part with such sincerity and emotion that it brings several of the band members to tears, including Nozomi. It is in this moment that Nozomi realises that she needs to allow Mizore to go free and pursue her future.

  • In a manner of speaking, Mizore and Nozomi are simultaneously Liz and Blue Bird: both long to prolong a friendship with someone special, but both also need to let the other go for the future’s sake. Mizore’s performance shows that she is committed to her decision in enrolling in a music school, and understanding their gap, Nozomi ultimately decides to pursue studies at another institution. She is shown studying diligently for her entrance exams later on.

  • While Hibike! Euphonium is ultimately simple in its themes and all the stronger for it, discussions surrounding this series is much more complex and involved than strictly necessary. Taking a step back and enjoying Hibike! Euphonium in a vacuum, I find a genuine series whose enjoyment comes from being able to empathise with the characters over time and gradually coming to root for them.

  • The film’s climax occurs in the science room by the day’s last light; Mizore and Nozomi open up to one another about their feelings and intentions for the future. Much as how Nozomi envies Mizore’s skill with an oboe and how her musical talents will allow her to accomplish great things, Mizore is jealous of Nozomi’s ability to take charge, influence and get along with numerous people. They voice their dislikes about the other, and with their feelings out in the open, tearfully embrace.

  • The sum of their understanding is mirrored in the environment, which takes on a warm glow as red and pink hues seep in, displacing the cooler and more distant yellows. Kyoto Animation excels at use of light and colour to convey emotions: they are particularly strong in using subtle details to complement the dialogue, and I find that understanding the choice of colours in a given scene contributes more substantially to one’s enjoyment of their works, rather than focusing on objects that end up being red herrings.

  • I’ve lasted thirty screenshots without mentioning thus: the necks of Liz and the Blue Bird were never a visual distraction that some felt it to be. With this post, I’ve finally caught up with Hibike! Euphonium, and the next major instalment will be another film releasing in April 2019. Titled Oath’s Finale, it will deal with the national competition and return things to Kumiko’s perspective. Given release patterns for Hibike! Euphonium and my own habits, I anticipate that I’ll be able watch and write about Oath’s End somewhere this time next year – anyone who’s still around by then is clearly a champion.

Standing in sharp contrast with Hibike! Euphonium‘s televised run, Liz and the Blue Bird has a much simpler, flatter art style. Although environments are still gorgeously animated, the characters’ own conflicts take the forefront: the deliberate choice to create more subdued backgrounds is to place focus on the characters and their challenges, reducing emphasis on the world around them. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird itself is also distinctly animated: Kyoto Animation succeeds in bringing a water colour to life and creates a very compelling style that, while distinct from the events of Liz and the Blue Bird, also integrate elegantly into the story. The choice to use a different visual style than Hibike! Euphonium‘s exceptionally rich colours and details is not a strike against Liz and the Blue Bird; although they might look different, the characters retain their personalities in full. The end result is a very concise, slow-paced story of parting and its difficulties; music still has its focus, and perhaps because of this art style, the music of Liz and the Blue Bird‘s concert band movements also has a much more singular attention on the flute and oboe solos, in a parallel of how the film is about Mizore and Nozomi. Altogether, Liz and the Blue Bird is an enjoyable addition to Hibike! Euphonium; helmed by Naoko Yamada (who’d previously directed K-On! The Movie and Koe no Katachi), Liz and the Blue Bird shifts away from the politics of high school clubs as seen in Hibike! Euphonium and employs Yamada’s preference of returning things to the basics, crafting a story about the intricacies of interactions between individuals. Admittedly, I prefer this approach, as it is much more sincere and meaningful in exploring people; Yamada has succeeded in Liz and the Blue Bird with giving Mizore and Nozomi’s friendship a more tangible sense, making the film a different but welcome addition to Hibike! Euphonium.