Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? (打ち上げ花火、下から見るか? 横から見るか? Uchiage Hanabi, Shita Kara Miru ka? Yoko Kara Miru ka?) is a 2017 Japanese animated romantic drama film produced by Shaft and was released by Toho. It is based on the 1993 Japanese live-action television drama and film of the same name by Shunji Iwai. Fireworks was directed by Nobuyuki Takeuchi, produced by Genki Kawamura, with a screenplay written by Hitoshi Ohne featuring music by Satoru Kosaki. The film stars the voices of Suzu Hirose, Masaki Suda and Mamoru Miyano.
A few weeks ago, in December 2017, I was dragged to the cinema by my younger cousin to watch this film. Albeit reluctantly, I let myself sit in front of the silver screen with her to give it a chance. I used to love animes and anime films are just one of the few things I take pleasure of if given the opportunity to view it, but most likely not at the cinema. Perhaps I’ll either stream online for it or download a copy. I’m that lazy. I usually think, too, anime movies aren’t something you normally pay for to entertain yourself. Most likely, I’d rather pay for an English movie, considering we love Hollywood films.
What got me a little bit excited about Fireworks, though, was my cousin demanding that this was another movie produced by the same person as the one which produced the smash hit anime film of 2016, Your Name, Genki Kawamura.
Anyway, that aside, this is going to be my first time reviewing an anime movie on my personal blog. Check it below if you are interested to read through my opinion of the movie.
Suzu Hirose as Nazuna Oikawa
Masaki Suda as Norimichi Shimada
Mamoru Miyano as Yūsuke Azumi
The story takes place one day in summer. A group of young men are planning to watch fireworks from the town’s lighthouse, wondering if fireworks are round or flat when seen from the side. Somewhere else, the class idol Nazuna asks the boy who likes her, Norimichi, to elope with her. What fate awaits these two in a day that keeps repeating itself?
Norimichi has a secret crush on Nazuna the same way his buddy Yusuke does. They both deny this, but secretly knows its true deep down. When Nazuna initiates a bet at the pool–where she declares the winner can ask the loser to do whatever–and the three of them dives in, Norimichi unfortunately injures his ankle, causing for him to come third place in the race.
Randomly, Nazuna decides the person who wins second place will have to take the role of being her date during the festival that night and the crown goes to Yusuke who is utterly flustered by her bold request.
Later, though, Yusuke ends up ditching Nazuna and Norimichi becomes the bad news bearer to the poor girl who actually planned to elope with Yusuke (since he is second place during the race). Feeling bad for Nazuna, Norimichi follows behind her and finds out about Nazuna’s plan to escape town. Unfortunately, her plan eventually backfires once her mother finds her and Norimichi finds himself useless the moment Nazuna is dragged away by her mother.
Consequently, when his group of friends finds him in the middle of the street with all of Nazuna’s belongings scattered on the ground, Norimichi throws a punch at Yusuke out of blame, saying Nazuna couldn’t have been taken away if Yusuke just came with Nazuna as planned.
Out of anger, he throws the crystal ball that Nazuna left behind towards the poster with the picture of the fireworks for the festival–causing for him to be magically thrown back to the time of the race at the pool. And just as he realizes what happened–that he traveled back in time and is given another chance to change their fate–Norimichi is determined to win the race, which he eventually does. However, things just doesn’t always go as planned and so he tweaks every wrong turn until they are right.
Eventually, every scene shows him a different view of the Fireworks. Sometimes they are flat, sometimes round. But then, he remembers what he is told about the fireworks. That you can’t find the fireworks any other way but round; not, if it isn’t in this world. As realization sinks in, he realizes how every time he travels back to right things, they are thrown into a different parallel world, which at first he didn’t take quite well. But then, Norimichi realizes that these world give him more time to be together with Nazuna and accepts that it is fine wherever they are as long as they are together.
The animated film, Fireworks, received a lot of exceeding expectations after it rapidly made noise for being a remake of the 1993 Japanese live-action television drama and film of the same name by Shunji Iwai and being produced by Genki Kawamura who was behind the hit animated film of 2016, Your Name. But received mixed to positive response for its middling potential in terms of the whole production, plot, character development, CG and other aspects.
In comparison to Your Name–they have also attempted to incorporate in the story a time-travel element while the innocent love story of two students blossom in the middle of finding out whether fireworks are round or flat when viewed from the side or below and a deeper dilemma the heroine, Nazuna, is facing as her mother plans to remarry for the third time and move away from the small town she grew up in–Fireworks has its own share of flaws than things to celebrate about. I dare say it unfortunately didn’t live up to the depth and beauty of Your Name at all.
Because, while the time-travel element was greatly explored in Your Name, it is vaguely explained in this film how the flow of time and parallel worlds came to exist. It didn’t show much how the time-travelling came to be–no theories or history at all–or how it relates to the fireworks (for it doesn’t at all). The movie only showed what the crystal ball can do and the infinite possibilities that accompanies it. It is great that they used this element to move the plot to a direction, but it prevented the plot from growing.
For all I know, the story could have been great with just the fireworks and romance of the two teens or the time-travelling and the romance without the fireworks.
I truly wish that they just stuck to one or two elements so the story could have gained more depth in it. For 90 minutes screen time didn’t give enough justice to the content of the film. It didn’t also give much significant character development to all of them, not even to Nazuna or Norimichi. The love story, much to my chagrin, is underdeveloped and stays stuck being a puppy crush.
The plot is very simple, but could have been better written. It’s so simple I don’t think I am satisfied with how the story panned and only revolved with the shape of fireworks, their elopement, and time-travelling. The potential is there but is not greatly explored, same goes for the means that aren’t really used more creatively to give an even more astounding masterpiece.
Plus, as many are pointing out, I think the 2D and 3D effects fused in one slate didn’t go so well together. Instead of appreciating the beauty of the CG and effects, it only made me sort of dizzy.
On a good note, I think that Norimichi’s character is kind of cool. He’s shy but is loyal. This is shown, albeit in small amounts, when he learned Yusuke secretly likes Nazuna and he kept mum of his own feelings. More so, the fact that he feels like he didn’t want Yusuke to hate him because he followed Nazuna, was another example. This loyalty extends to how much he can do for Nazuna despite how young he is. He does everything for her as long as she is happy. I think that’s the kind of character you’ll find lovable.
The love story isn’t that solid, but I guess this has something to do with the plot leaning more on the coming-of-age element, explaining more (albeit little of) of the struggles that teens their age experience and how they normally react to these situations. How could it have felt like to get away from the place you came to consider your home. Or How ones curiosity could fuel many other decisions.
Nonetheless, the film is fascinatingly told in a colorful modern classic way.
Rating this film, I’ll give it a safe 2.8 out of 5.