Sunday, December 13, 2015

TWELVE DAYS OF ANIME 2015: Anthem of the Heart

Alright folks, it's the start of 12 Days of Anime so have a late movie review post (which works out well for me since I'm not sure I have 12 days worth of material yet....)

I almost didn't see this movie, it was playing only for two days near me (a simultaneous release with the rest of the US so there weren't any advance reviews), tickets are expensive, and while I liked the 30 minute making-of feature it just didn't sell me on it (it has a lot of the same team that worked on AnoHana and while I did like that show it was so melodramatic I wasn't sure I could handle all of that compressed into a single movie). Thankfully some folks started writing reviews on it after they saw it on the first day and that pushed me to go you know, why not? 

Anthem of the Heart

Jun was a chatterbox as a child and, like many, would prattle on and repeat everything she had heard and scene. Sadly this lead to her recounting some painful things and, instead of acting like mature adults, her parents punished her for the fallout and Jun began to fall into despair. Desperate for a chance to prevent everyone from being hurt again she she agrees to an idea proposed by a mysterious egg, to seal her words and heart against the outside world. As the years go on however this only seems to create new troubles but a classmate of hers suggests an odd loophole, using song and music to convey her feelings.

You know, this was actually less melodramatic than I expected! Considering that AnoHana had me tearing up by the end of the first episode, the entire cast crying at least once etc I was afraid that this story would have all of that melodrama compressed into only a quarter of the time which is not the case, it might actually be a little more subdued (which is funny since musicals are anything but subdued). There were only a few parts of the movie that did seem rushed for time, there's a lot of very obvious exposition in the beginning of the movie and there is one relationship that didn't quite come out of nowhere but definitely didn't have all of the build up it needed either. By the end of the movie these moments feel like minor bits however and I really did enjoy the film.

I was also a little hesitant about seeing the movie because of the musical and I'm not a huge fan of musicals and while the premise wasn't unrealistic, I wasn't sure that I could buy into the idea of an entire class of high schoolers being convinced to put one on. Truthfully these side characters are a bit too amicable and friendly in the end, I found it surprising that Jun was the subject of curiosity, not bullying, among them, and just how docile the class was altogether (the other leads were also a bit too reserved but didn't feel too unrealistic for me). Once they got the play going however then one of my fears was unrealized, it did feel like a high school level play where the characters compose lyrics using older songs as a base (I really loved some of them, especially the Greensleeves cover), the scenery was very minimal, and in close ups you could see where the costumers had given up and started taping the outfits together. 

It's a little funny to say that the movie had a believable level of realism given that the entire story starts because of what is debatably a bit of magic. I haven't really seen anyone discuss if the egg was a real, magical creature or just a metaphor so I don't know if I'm in the minority or majority when I say I think it's real. It's true that after Jun starts to reject the idea that this was a real event the egg never reappears (that I remember) but prior to that, there were a few shots of him that clearly only the audience could see and again, I'm familiar with AnoHana, that story had a real ghost in it and while I shouldn't let that inform my opinion here it just did. I personally don't think that the story would work as well if this was simply a psychological problem on Jun's part rather than both a method of coping and an external force, the repercussions when Jun did try to talk were a bit too server for me to buy into, however I can also completely see why someone would think otherwise. 

I feel like I've talked more about the details of this story rather than the big picture but for me that's what this movie was, a story with a lot of nice details. As a cohesive whole the story does work, the characters mature, the plot moves well etc, and it's not so much that those bits are unoriginal as I just simply liked how Takumi's moments were handled, the feeling of loneliness you got when you saw Jun's house etc, I suppose you could call it atmospheric. One final detail I do want to touch on is that this is a story with multiple divorced couples and I saw this the same week I saw Brave Story and thought that this film handled the idea much better. It still doesn't ring true to life for me by a long shot but I did like how it showed the characters living with these choices years down the road and the non-traditional families. It's a good movie all around and I do heartily recommend any fan of romance or slice of life (or musicals I suppose) give it a shot.

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