Another Japanese animation but it’s back to Ghibli. This studio has become a byword for quality animation, in terms of both rendering pictures and storytelling, and they’ve not let me down yet (though The Castle of Cagliostro was a let-down by their very high standards). In fact, this offering is a little different from the others I’ve seen, each of which have had a fantastical element very strong in the mix. By contrast, this film is quite mundane in its setting, a young man discussing his transition from school to university and friendship and first love en route. There are no talking animals, no magical curses, no ethereal spirits, witches, other worlds or disguised royalty, just ordinary young people trying to get by.
It has that nostalgic, bittersweet slightly sad yearning that I got from (the book) Le Grand Meaulnes, Alan Bennett’s 1972 TV drama A Day Out or Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, though it is not dark like any of them. It also picks up on the complexity of relationships, how young people grow and change, sometimes in ways that confuse and enrage one another, and how, still, early friendships can endure. The passage of time, of a significant if not enormous span in people’s lives, is lovingly depicted, and overall felt real to me.
It has, of course, the attention to detail and visual beauty you’d expect from Ghibli. I’m sure that, lacking as it does all the magical stuff, it won’t be so attractive to younger children, who will probably find it boring. I’m not even sure it will speak to the age group it’s portraying; but, to me, it was one of the very best I’ve yet seen.