Initially I had no plans to see this movie, it just didn't sound like my thing, but when I came across it at the local college's library I grabbed it anyway since, once it was sitting in front of me, I was just curious enough to see what it was like and if my initial guess on whether or not I'd like it was spot on.
Summary: The spirit of a recently dead person is slowly trundling towards the afterlife when they're stopped and told that miraculously god has chosen to give them a second chance in the body of a boy named Makoto who just committed suicide. The spirit doesn't remember anything about their past life but figure out what great crime they committed to end up dead and to unravel what was going on in Makoto's life that made him kill himself.
The Good: Do you like complicated characters that feel wholly realistic for their failings?Then you'll most likely like this film, the story shows that Makoto's life before his death was more complicated than you would first expect and how the new spirit reacted to dealing with family problems and school felt rather realistic (even if he was an ass for at least half of the movie and unsympathetic because of it). I suspect that many people's enjoyment of the film will depend on how much they can sympathize with "Makoto", personally my middle school (and high school) life was complicated in rather different ways so while I could see why he was lashing out to all those around him I wasn't rooting for him to figure everything out for the first half of the film or so.
The Bad: Clocking in at just over two hours I found this film a tad bit too slow for my taste. I understand why it was so deliberately paced, to show how "Makoto" was reconnecting with the world and finding a reason to live again (which helps set up the answer to why both of them died in the first place, and thankfully the movie doesn't treat either of those reveals as some great twist but rather as something the viewer should have figured out as they went along too). But I still wish it had been a tad snappier, it just seemed odd to have the main character's life at stake and see them not actively doing anything to figure out what happened even if that was their personality.
The Production Values: I thought the film looked fine for a DVD playing on my computer but I seem to recall that Justin from ANNCast (for the life of me I can't recall which episode) saw the blu-ray version and said that some of the scenes at the very climax looked terrible. I'm not sure if these were simply BR only problems and that's why I didn't seem them, or if because I'm not as sensitive to flaws as someone who works in the BR authoring business is but I would encourage people who are thinking of buying the BR to look more into that. As for what I did see, again I thought everything looked fine from the character designs to the backgrounds, for a movie that starts with a supernatural event it's rather down to Earth and grounded and I was glad to see that the movie reflected that in it's attention to details in the setting. I found it rather appropriate that Purapura looked bright and colorful in the underworld but rather grayed out in the real world considering his non-mortal status, heck the fact that the movie is set in winter, when the world seems gray and lifeless was exceedingly appropriate and helps to highlight how much thought went into every aspect of it.
In the end my initial guess was correct, I didn't hate the movie but it isn't one that I'll go out of my way to recommend to others (unless someone asks for a rather specific recommendation) or even rewatch anytime soon. I'll give it three out of five stars however since it's more than competently done, just not my thing. And for those in the US the movie just popped up on Hulu (literally, I found it yesterday and saw someone else who normally keeps me up to date on those things mentioning it after I had found it, perfect timing!).