Based on the light novel of the same name by Mei Hachimoku, The Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes follows Kaoru (Oji Suzuka), a high school student who lives in an abusive household and whose sister has passed away.
One day, he stumbles on what he thinks is the Urashima Tunnel, a mysterious tunnel which locals say will grant wishes to those who find it, but at the cost of time speeding up. During this time, Kaoru meets a girl who has recently moved to his town, Anzu (Marie Iitoyo), who also learns of the location of the tunnel. Throughout the movie, both teens try to experiment with the secrets of their new discovery while developing a friendship that turns into something more.
Recently, the anime film market has received something of an increased interest thanks to recent releases by Makoto Shinkai, and while there are no doubt going to be comparisons to the hit 2016 film Your Name, they aren’t quite the same. Both films feature a pair of teens who form a friendship that blossoms into a romance, with an element of the laws of physics being defied, and while it may certainly feel inspired by its spiritual predecessor, there are aspects of this film that make it stand out.
For one, the sub-plots surrounding Kaoru and Anzu. Both come from broken families and want to use the tunnel for the loved ones they have lost. Kaoru is driven by the desire to see his sister again, while Anzu wants to become a famous mangaka in memory of her grandfather. The setup for these characters is a lot more tragic compared to others within the genre.
Another thing worth discussing is the gorgeous animation. Animated by studio CLAP, the film has a nice polished look, which is amplified whenever the pair step into the tunnel, with all the vibrant colours adding to the otherworldly nature of this metaphysical dimension. Even if the story feels similar to things you have seen before, the visual aspect is stunning.
However, compared to similar films of its kind, like Mamoru Hosada’s The Girl Who Lept Through Time and the aforementioned Your Name, this film feels like it’s missing something. The main plot functions well enough as a YA romance story, and the leads are likeable and serve their purpose in the story. Perhaps it could be that the tunnel doesn’t feel like a tangible challenge to overcome, instead functioning more as a gimmick rather than something with serious ramifications.
The Tunnel of Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes is a good movie, just not a particularly great one. In an industry that is gravitating towards the mainstream more and more, though it’ll be an enjoyable experience throughout the running time, it most likely isn’t going to be one which you think about years later.
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While there are better anime love stories within the same genre, The Tunnel to Summer is a pleasant enough watch.
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