REVIEW: The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (2023, dir. Tomohisa Taguchi)

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 83 mins

UK Distributor: All the Anime

WHO’S IN THE TUNNEL TO SUMMER, THE EXIT OF GOODBYES?

Marie Iitoyo, Ōji Suzuka, Arisa Komiya, Haruka Terui, Rikiya Koyama, Seiran Kobayashi, Tasuku Hatanaka

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Tomohisa Taguchi (director, writer), Akenosuke Kanazawa, Makiko Mameda and Keijirô Taguchi (producers), Harumi Fuuki (composer), Kô Hoshina (cinematographer), Akinori Mishima (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Two teenagers discover a mysterious tunnel that grants wishes, but at a devastating cost…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE TUNNEL TO SUMMER, THE EXIT OF GOODBYES?

Anime is a truly beautiful artform, with countless Japanese artists sketching out some of the more visually fascinating worlds, characters and action set-pieces in animation and cinema as a whole. Sometimes, though, the medium doesn’t have to stretch its creativity, and can be used to elevate much more grounded and intimate stories like in The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, a film that isn’t without its own share of imagination but shows it in far quieter and occasionally quite emotional ways that, say, a typical Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai feature.

Taking place in 2005, the film – an adaptation of the light novel, and later manga, of the same name – follows two young high school students in a small countryside town who wrestle with their equal share of issues. Kaoru (Ōji Suzuka), for instance, is still reeling from the unexpected death of his younger sister Karen (Seiran Kobayashi), whom his abusive alcoholic father (Rikiya Koyama) regularly pins the blame on. Meanwhile, new girl Anzu (Marie Iitoyo), who’s just moved from Tokyo, is the anti-social type who resists new friendships and even whacks a bully across the nose on her first day, but in a much deeper sense lacks confidence when it comes to putting her manga out in the world.

Both soon become intertwined when they stumble across the Urashima tunnel, a mythical passageway said to grant anyone who walks through it their biggest wish, but there’s a catch: mere minutes spent inside the tunnel will equal hours, days, weeks, and even years outside at a time. Kaoru, who wants to wish for Karen to come back alive, and Anzu, who seeks creative greatness to stand out among other artists, both decide to team up and find a way to have their wishes come true without sacrificing too much time in the real world. However, as the two begin spending more and more time with each other learning about their fears and backstories, something starts to form between them that could jeopardise their time-diluting mission before it even kicks off.

The film has a very nice simplicity to it, kind of like reading a pleasant and straightforward book that immediately gets to the heart of the story rather than bog itself down in the details. Everything that one needs to know about the tunnel is dropped within the first few minutes, in a slightly rushed bit of exposition that nonetheless paves the way for the main focus on the blossoming connection between its two main characters, neither of whom are by any means the most fleshed-out protagonists in the world but have clear enough goals and desires for you to get behind them. For a lot of the film, we are by the side of both Kaoru and Anzu as they share emotional and sometimes traumatising memories, express deep feelings of regret about their guilt and lack of self-confidence, and genuinely become closer as they open up more and more. Their company is very pleasant to be in, whether they’re hanging out at a summer festival or experimenting with how long it can be on the outside while someone else is inside the tunnel, making this a romantic couple that you’re fully on board with as well as deeply interested in.

It shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise when it comes to anime, but the animation in The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is nothing short of gorgeous. Once again, there is such a gentle simplicity to the character designs, the scenery, and the overall colour palette, all of which are presented with hand-drawn bliss that you feel as though you could easily get lost in, while still feeling familiar with a lot of these locations and their inhabitants. Even when there is the occasional computer-generated image, predominantly whenever one enters the tunnel itself, it is still utilised in a creative and visually fascinating way that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the domineering hand-drawn style.

At times, the film’s story tends to fall into conventional practises, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but does make it a bit predictable as to where it’s going to go. It subtracts an element of surprise when certain plot points are heavily foreshadowed, meaning that your interest may start to wain the further it approaches the inevitable conclusion, even when there is some very emotional stuff happening in its lead-up that can be quite heartbreaking in places.

On that end, it certainly isn’t as narratively complex as some of the much larger-scale anime features out there, but since it is so pleasant and likeable in a lot of other areas, it is a flaw that is easy enough to forgive. While not among the strongest in recent years, The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is a decent reminder that anime can still charm on a much smaller level.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is a pleasant anime romance that targets a smaller-scale narrative that occasionally falls into convention, but still manages to charm with its simple structure, charming characters, and gorgeous hand-drawn animation.

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is showing in cinemas from Friday 14th July 2023

Click here to find showtimes near you!

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