Hotarubi no Mori E (To the forest of Firefly Lights)
Summary: Six year old Hotaru has gotten lost in the forest near her uncle's house and the mysterious spirit Gin leads her home again. He has a rather fragile existence, he will disappear if he ever touches a human, but seems happy enough to play with her. As the years go by though their relationship begins to change and Hotaru wishes that she could see him more than just every summer.
The Good: For a story that eventually ends up being a love story with a large age difference (Hotaru grows from 6 to 15 and Gin ages very slowly so he's easily decades old) it never once felt creepy which amazes me. Of course, the relationship started out as friendship and didn't become romantic for a very long time which probably helps, but I can't remember the last time I saw a relationship like that where there wasn't a little voice in the back of my head going "but she's ____ and he's _____! Ack!" It's also quite well paced, I almost hesitate to call it a film since it's only 45 minutes long, but regardless it's designation it flowed well and the parts that were added/expanded upon were worked in seamlessly.
The Bad: It would have been nice if some of the other manga from the same volume (there were four one-shots all published in the same volume with this title, Hotarubi is also the title of this specific work) had also been animated and made the movie longer but I'm not crushed that they weren't.
The Audio: I didn't notice much about the background music in this short film, except for one section early on which was much more upbeat and cheerful than I expected. Other than that, slightly dissonant, moment everything else sounded the way I expected and it worked. Don't have any real comments on the voice acting either, more because this film was only 40 minutes long and that's not long enough for me to really get a feel for the acting, it certainly wasn't bad or anything like that!
The Visuals: Yet again there are a lot of similarities to Natsume here, the characters have the same, cleaned-up-sketch look to them but the backgrounds are much more detailed than Natsume's were, probably due to a bigger budget. Just look at that poster, true it's promo art so they'll put even more work into it but I was surprised at the level of detail in the props and backgrounds.
With something so short it's hard to say much but this was sweet in the way Midorikawa's works often are, something that makes you sad and happy at the same time. I can easily recommend this to fans of Natsume and non-fans who like romance or supernatural elements quite easily, with such a short length it won't take time to watch yet you still feel satisfied by the end.