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The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (Film Review)

3 min read
©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

We are potentially living in a golden age of . With popular artists like Makato Shinkai and Mamoru Hosoda putting out consistently strong work, the forthcoming return of Hayao Miyazaki and streaming compilations like Star Wars VisionsJunji Ito: Maniac and Love, Death and Robots giving a variety of animation houses a long-deserved focus. No longer is anime simply confined to being a niche interest, it is well and truly globally mainstream.

The latest potential crossover success is , , the fourth film directed by , his first original film (having previously directed two Persona 3 movies and Tunnel… coming sandwiched between Digimon films) and also his debut feature screenplay. It concerns two teenagers, small town boy Kaoru Tono (Oji Suzuka) and new girl from Tokyo Anzu Hanashiro (Marie Litoyo) and their interactions with the Urahsima Tunnel, a mysterious structure on the edge of town where time progresses differently.

©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners
©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

Taguchi cut his teeth working over lengthy anime TV series' but here he is really working with a cinematic budget and scope and puts it to good use making an economic but impressive piece of visual storytelling. Every frame is filled with little details that really showcase the added care and attention cinematic animation can bring. This creates some stunning images and a particularly powerful use of empty space and stillness. In fact, so good are these still images that it almost makes it feel a shame that when it gets into motion, it can occasionally feel less fluid than you might hope for.

But its use of colour is equally impressive. Given the deep, almost bloody reds of the inside of the tunnel and how it contrasts with the vivid blues and greens of the town, a lesser production might seeks to drain the colour from the everyday sequences to create a greater visual difference but Taguchi seems thoroughly aware of the potential for beauty in normality and knows how to wield it.

As successful as it is visually, and this is supported by an enjoyably bittersweet soundtrack by Fuuki Harumi, the character interactions, outside of Kaoru and Anzu who share an easy chemistry and a satisfying growth through both their character arcs, the only other character who is given adequate room to breathe is Kaoru's father and even he feels like a somewhat archetypal cruel, paternal figure for this sort of film. But somehow, any shortcomings in the script seem oddly trivial when considering how well-executed the vibe is.

©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners
©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

There can be any amount of arguments about the individual merits of The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, it's somewhat more than the sum of its parts, its pros more than outweighing its cons. It is a tight 76 minutes (without credits) never feeling either sludgy or rushed and it fully sticks the landing delivering an emotionally charged and rousing climax. Equally, it never feels a need to bog down proceedings in over-explaining why the Urashima Tunnel has time-travel capabilities. With these types of stories, how is never particularly interesting but as a piece of storytelling, The Tunnel… is never less than thrilling.

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is out in cinemas on 14th July