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While my introduction to anime was via the magical, fantastic world of Hayao Miyazaki, I am also quite the fan of the super-realistic simple slice-of-life anime movies like Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday. This is definitely reminiscent of those two films, especially the latter film. Like those flms, this has a really simple plot. It’s basically just a tender recollection of memories from a year in high school. It’s surprisingly similar to Like Grains of Sand in that here again we have a relationship triangle between three friends, albeit of a less complicated variety than the other film.

Another thing that’s common to both films is that they are both, at their core, movies about friendship. Not teenage romance, not love triangles, not homosexuality (or otherwise) but just friendship – how it develops, how it can challenge us and how it can save us. And both movies do this really well. Here again, we start off by seeing two friends Taku and Matsuno and the story of how they meet and become friends is just really endearing. Then of course, a new girl joins the school and much drama ensues. So you know how this turns out, right? Maybe not.

While the plot itself may not be new, the way the story is told is totally fresh and inventive. The characters are developed really nicely and it’s really just this sweet tale about being young and falling in love and not being able to understand yourself or others around you properly. It’s about growing up and just beginning to understand that the world is more nuanced and complex than you had originally thought.

Another huge highlight is the animation which is detailed and beautiful to look at. The scenes of nature and the cityscape stand out especially. The soundtrack is pretty nice too and suits the mood of the movie.

I loved the ending school-reunion sequence. This is not your typical movie school-reunion. People are not still harboring old grievances and coming to extract revenge from those who tormented them in the past. Instead, like in real life, the characters here have grown and evolved and moved on. They are happy for each other’s successes and eager to reach out and patch up old wounds. Plus, the drunk guy is really hilarious.

I think my only complaint with the film is that perhaps on account of it’s short length, some of the plot remains underdeveloped. In particular, we don’t really get to see much of Matsuno or get to know how he feels about everything that’s going on between Taku and Rikako. At the start of the film, I got the impression that Matsuno is just really cool and I was pretty disappointed to not get to know him any better. Similarly, some of Rikako’s actions were a little inexplicable to me from time to time. Given that the whole movie has a voiceover narration, we only get to see Rikako from Taku’s PoV and this might be why I never felt like I got to objectively get to know Rikako and form an opinion about her.

Still, a good experience overall.

Grade: B

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