Magazine article Screen International

'Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?': San Sebastian Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?': San Sebastian Review

Article excerpt

A high-school love story with supernatural elements from the team which released ‘Your Name’ last year

Fireworks, Should We See It From The Side or the Bottom

Dir: Akiyuki Shinbo, Nobuyuki Takeuchi. Japan. 2017. 90mins

One could be forgiven for assuming that this clumsily-titled animated feature is an attempt to cash in on Makoto Shinkai’s gender-swapping teen romance Your Name, which since its August 2016 release has become the biggest selling Japanese anime film of all time.Fireworks too centres on a shy high-school love story with supernatural elements. Signed once again by hot young producer Genki Kawamura, and backed by the distribution muscle of mega studio Toho, it too debuted on home territory in the teen-friendly school summer holiday break, one year on from Your Name.

There are more engaging fireworks, or at least small sparks, when the film begins to dig into the feelings, friendships and jealousies of its two main protagonists

Fireworks’ fair to middling Japanese box office result since its 18 August release seems about right for a fair to middling anime that packs a lot of cuteness into its regulation 90-minute running time, but delivers little of Your Name’s gender- and generation-bridging magic. Other Asian territories should respond warmly to the its tender and refreshingly realistic portrayal of high-school love, but here and elsewhere it will suffer by comparison with Your Name. In Fireworks, instead of the teasingly and evocatively developed boy/girl body-swap premise, we get a Sliding Doors time-travel trope that feels more laborious than charming. Anime aficionados may also turn their noses up at the film’s odd and sometimes jarring mesh of 3D and 2D animation.

The film’s bizarre, lost-in-translation title is shared with its source material, a 1993 live-action TV series by writer and director Shunji Iwai, which many Japanese thirty- and forty-somethings still remember fondly. What the title refers to is an argument that will recur with baffling frequency throughout the film, between a group of male classmates at a believably real provincial high school in some unnamed seaside town. The nub is: “are firework rocket bursts round or flat when you see them side-on? …

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