Riding hot on the success of the last year’s Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, producer Genki Kawamura dished out yet another animated, fantasy high-school romance film this year – but as highly expected as it was, the remake of the 1993 live-action TV drama of the same name, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?, directed by Shimbo Akiyuki, falls quite a few steps behind the enchanting Your Name.
The start of the drama is both faithful to the original and promising – in a small, coastal town, summer is in full swing and the school is almost out – Norimichi Shimada (voiced by Masaki Suda) and his friends are looking forward to seeing the fireworks as they strike a debate on whether fireworks are round or flat when seen from the side; they decide to watch the fireworks from the town’s lighthouse to see whose theory is correct. At the same time, Norimichi gets involved in a strange romance with the class idol and his crush, Nazuna Oikawa (voiced by Suzu Hirose), who has some trouble at home and decides to elope with the winner of the swimming race.
(Spoilers ahead!) In a mix of 2D and 3D animation, story suddenly goes full-on fantastic as a mysterious, prism-like orb gives Norimichi a chance to relive the day again and again, sending him back to correct the key moments in which his date with Nazuna went wrong – we do not relive the entire day, but pick up at those key moments, with Norimichi reacting in a different way, and the story proceeds to evolve down a different thread. As we return back and get closer and closer to the famed fireworks event, the story development starts to feel tiresome, with some serious logical inconsistencies at large – for example, Norimichi’s friend, Yūsuke Azumi (voiced by Mamoru Miyano) first turns Nazuna down (she approaches him first as the winner of the swimming competition, which Norimichi then changes when he goes back in time), and it’s unclear why, since he is supposed to like her as well; there is even some subtle BL tension there to be detected by those of BL-sensitive hearts, but then a few time travels later, he suddenly acts jealous and professes his love for Nazuna.
Added to that, while 2D animation holds a simple charm, the 3D parts come off as too boisterous, and the imbalance between the two takes away a lot of the film’s magic. And the ending… It’s hard to even say what happened there. It felt like someone by accident clipped 5 minutes of the film that were necessary for any of it to make sense. We are given zero explanation on what it all even was, if it was all imagination, hallucination or a (day)dream, and the film doesn’t even play it out to give it an open ending, it just… ends. The entire animated feature feels like it was done in a haste, with no time to polish out all of the sorely-sticking-out edges.
Still, not all of it is terrible. Voice acting – especially by Suzu Hirose and Masaki Suda – is completely on point, and the soundtrack complements the emotions of the story. The fans of animated films might find it helpful only as a void-filler while you – we – wait for the next great animated feature; unlike the works of Miyazaki, Your Name or the like, this is most definitely not an animated feature that will be mentioned as one of the standards for years to come.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © TOHO CO., LTD.