This is review number one hundred and seventy. As usual, I’m doing a movie this time. This is also a nice way to take a breather since I have a lot more 24 episode anime to finish. One day at a time, I guess. Anyways, I’ll be reviewing a movie titled Rainbow-colored Firefly: Never Ending Summer Vacation. It’s a 2012 movie by Toei Animation about a boy that is stuck in the past for his summer vacation and maybe finding love along the way. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a boy named Yuta who visited a deserted dam deep in the mountains. His father once told him of a good spot to collect beetles and he decided to stop by the area. He met an old man that he gave a bottle of water to. After a sudden storm that endangered Yuta’s life, the old man decided to help him by sending him back in time. The reasons aren’t clear but Yuta is now spending his summer vacation in Showa 52 (1977) in a small village supposedly sleeping at the bottom of the dam.
Taking the Pants Off
I don’t really understand the choice of character design in the anime. I’ll rant about it in the review but getting used to it was really a challenge. I cannot believe a 2012 film by Toei Animation can look so cheap. Maybe it was intentional or maybe Toei just short cut the whole process. If you can get over the art, that’ll be a challenge for sure, then you’ll discover just how wonderful the anime is. It possesses a relaxing tone that draws you in despite the lack of real excitement. It easily brings its world to life by the breath taking sceneries and the amazing details in the background. It is topped off by a lovely story about life back in 1977 and how time has slowly phased out a way of life completely foreign to today’s standard. The pacing is dreadfully slow but the anime’s charm persists and a little patience can go a long way. I’ve never been so amazed by a movie that displays the beauty of nature that isn’t a Studio Ghibli but has the relaxing tone of a Junichi Sato piece. The movie’s one big flaw is the main reason the enjoyment is a bit ruined though.
The movie is adapted from a novel and these types of anime all possess one common trait: they are paced really slowly at the beginning. The plot doesn’t really materialize after a good twenty minutes but the pieces are slowly being put together as it progresses. A little bit of patience is required but the story starts to get good really fast and the pacing is never again compromised. The anime is a bit slice of life so some scenes look really boring and the plot isn’t really focused a lot in the anime. You’ll easily follow the anime but the main story itself is a bit muddled. I think the appeal of the anime though is showcasing the life during the Shouwa era. A similar anime titled “Shouwa Monogatari” has the same setup of the anime and its target audience are old people who once lived the era. It punches hard with nostalgia and a life only people who lived it can truly appreciate. I’m a big romantic though and very sentimental so I can relate a bit. I am also a bit interested in the Slice of Life back in the old days. You don’t really have the force yourself to like the movie though because the visuals is enough to captivate you. Seriously, it’s orgasmic.
The anime has two plot points slowly stretched throughout the movie. They have very little development and honestly, you wouldn’t even think the anime had two separate stories to tell. It’s all wrapped up in visually outstanding package so the plot isn’t really that important. It serves as a structure for the movie but it’s not really something it slowly builds for an exciting climax that takes up majority of the time. The laid back approach of the anime is more dominant and the plot points are just sprinkled on top. It’s a movie though so piecing the story together isn’t that damn hard.
The first plot point is about the life in the village. Yuta is a boy from the city who has lived a pretty urban life and he was suddenly plunged in a rural world where nature is abundant and the people are truly living the simple life. The anime has really set a very wonderful setting that I wish I can experience as well. The village is so cut off from the world that simplicity is a daily way of life. People farm their own food, everything is natural, the children play in some very colorful places with nothing but their youthful energy and everyone is friendly. The village is set to be closed down though because of the dam being built. The people don’t put up a resistance to it. They have all accepted the village’s fate and they have decided to live on with the painful fact. Throughout the anime, the audience is pulled into the world and they experience things Yuta experiences. The thought of the beauty of the place being torn down so they can build a dam is a recurring idea in the anime. You often ask yourself why because the beauty of the place is really captivating.
The other plot point is about Yuta and his relationship to this girl named Sae. Yuta travelled back in time and the old man doesn’t give him a proper explanation. He just suddenly became the cousin of this girl named Sae and he now lives with her and her grandmother. As the anime progresses, Yuta and Sae slowly bond closer. Yuta is often reminded of his dead father though that died in an accident. He later realizes that Sae is suffering from the same personal problem and it is slowly eating at her. Yuta would soon try his best to cheer Sae up. This plot point isn’t as important as the first one. Most descriptions of the movie pointed out the ”romance” between the characters though so I’d figure I’d point out as well. There is no strong romance in the anime though and this plot point actually materializes fairly late in the movie. The first one takes more precedence than anything else. As far as lately developed plot points go though, this one is fairly cute. If the character design was more eye appealing then this one would’ve been more persistent.
The characters are pretty decent. They have enough personality to make the anime interesting but enough to make them stand out among the cast. Yuta is pretty normal. He isn’t the kind of main character you’d expect in a movie though. There is very little told about him and he just a clear cut role. He is just a boy that travelled back in time and experiences the simple life in the village. The rest of the cast is the same as well. Sae is just the leading female character and Kenzou, Yuta’s friend, is just the supporting character. As the anime progresses though, you often get used to the characters and their role in the anime. Some of them maybe even make you smile from time to time. The characters would’ve benefitted on some monologues though. Most novel adapted anime utilizes monologues to make the characters more rounded. It would’ve been nice to know what Yuta was thinking besides his odd dreams about his father. I can see this movie working much better if it was a series.
The story doesn’t really make this anime amazing but there is certainly some potential in it. Novel anime often shine with its story but I guess the short time muddled things a bit. There were still some things completely wasted in the anime though. I feel like it was relying too much on the visuals. On that end, I think the anime is really amazing though.
Sight and Sound
First of all, the character design is absolutely horrific. I’m not going to be nice about it. The characters look like undefined blobs with heavy outlines in them and some face so you can tell the top from the bottom. I hate the use of single colors in the characters and not giving some details to them. I can tell the height of the characters really varies in the movie and the facial features aren’t uniform as well. It just looks so cheap that I feel it doesn’t deserve to be in the beautiful sceneries these dreadful blobs are in. I also hate the fact that there is no shading of gradual differences in the skin tone. When a character touches his face, you don’t see where the face ends and the fingers start. It’s absolutely dreadful. This angers me because you can feel the talent of the background designers in the highly detailed scenes the put out yet it’s paired with cheaply made characters that looks like the movie was sorely under budget. Toei animation isn’t really shy in taking shortcuts though. I did do some research but the movie is so obscure no one talks about it so I can’t tell if the design was intentional or just lazy animators not giving their all because they know the movie wouldn’t fare well.
The animation is decent though. There is a lot of movement in the anime and a lot of characters really fidgeting around. I can tell the movements are smooth and it makes certain scenes in the anime more fun to watch. There are tons of running scenes and climbing scenes where the animation really looks nice. I just really wish the character’s looks were given more effort. Geez.
The sceneries are outstanding. There are a lot of breaths taking scenes in the anime where you can just feel the world within the movie slowly coming to feel. I often have an urge to lie in the nicely painted grass and take a deep breath of the cool air that brushes on the hair of the characters. The sceneries really made the anime a fun experience because of how well done it is. This is a style distinct to Hayao Miyazaki. He has a knack of bringing scenes to life and the people at Toei know how to do it effectively as well. He did start in the anime so I think Toei taught him but who the hell cares. There is no shortage of beautiful scenes in the anime that can really captivate you. They range from simple scenic scenes but the movie also has really highly detailed scenes that you just can’t help but stare at.
The soundtrack in the anime is pretty amazing as well. It brings certain scenes to life and adds some more relaxing tone to the anime. I am a fan of the acoustic instruments and the calming piano arrangements in the anime. It just sounds so well done. The laid back appeal of the village really comes through thanks to the addition of alluring music.
The anime has no OP. The ED song is “Ai to Tooi Hi no Mirai e” by Yumi Matsutoya. The song has a nice sound to it. It feels a bit nostalgic and the piano arrangement is really nice. Yumi’s voice is pretty good. The verse sounds lovely and it builds to a nice chorus. The song also nicely fits the mood of the anime. It’s pretty good.
4/10 “You spend one hour and forty four minutes staring at poorly conceived characters. That’ll certainly ruin the experience despite the stunning visuals in the anime.”
I love this movie but I just can’t get over the character design. Of all the things you’d do half ass, you decide to do it with the characters. It doesn’t feel right. I’m sure Toei can do better. The rest of the movie is pretty outstanding. The visuals compliment the flow of the story that nicely enhances the viewing experience. It’s a great movie if you can accept its glaring flaw. I recommend this anime.