Colorful: The Motion Picture
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There is a train station on the other side of death, yet not all who arrive on the platform will be judged ready for passage onwards. For one unready soul, there will be both a test and a second chance. Rather than be reborn, this soul will awake in the body of 14-year-old suicide Makoto Kobayashi where it must not only find a way to fit into Makoto's existence, but also unravel two mysteries. What is the secret of the great sin it committed in its own previous life and what were the reasons that led to Makoto's suicide? While some may believe the truth to be as plain to see as black and white, "Makoto" soon finds that the real world is overlaid with so many shades of grey and rainbows of colors that even the most obvious of "facts" are not what they seem. With the soul's time in Makoto's body quickly running out, the answers to all life's mysteries await discovery in the acclaimed animation masterpiece that won the 34th Japanese Academy Prize for Excellence in Animation: Colorful ~ The Motion Picture.
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A lot of the reviews are a bit misleading because the first half of the story makes you think that someone’s spirit is being injected into a stranger’s body, for “reformation”. That aspect is somewhat confusing at first, but becomes clear by the end of the film.
For the non-religious viewer, it will take some suspension of disbelief to enjoy this film, because after all, it deals with the topic of afterlife. One has to put aside one’s philosophical ideas about it and just experience the story, live “in the moment” as you experience, first-hand, the life of Makoto Kobayashi.
The film’s approach to a plot line is very unique. I must admit, I have not seen anything like this before—especially not in the anime genre. To my knowledge, the plot is innovative and unlike any other. The concept of a person’s soul, after death, passing through a sort of “clearing house” where souls get directed either to the “afterlife” or back into an earthly being’s body for another go-round, was intriguing and full of unexpected surprises.
If “you” are not “you” anymore, during that after-death phase, and “you” are injected into a being on earth, you have no memories of your past, or whom “you” were in the prior life. That condition is what makes Makoto’s existence so full of surprising reactions, discoveries and is ultimately the “outside perspective” which gives him new insight into his life, who his family are and how everyone is inter-dependent on one another. It’s an ingenious plot mechanism and Director Keiichi Hara makes it all flow so smoothly and naturally.
There are many moments that make the viewer feel “queasy” as Makoto’s character, in the early days of his “new” life, has a care-free, reckless attitude. His family are like strangers to him, and he simply treats the situation like some sort of curiosity, to be played with as it suits his enjoyment. Gradually, he discovers persons whom, at first, he admires, but then learns that these persons are corrupted, or flawed in ways he cannot accept and he becomes disillusioned and more despondent. But some of these people should normally play a minor role in one’s life and in the big scheme of things, he really has a pretty good life.
I found myself getting angry at this kid’s attitude, because the situation that he was dropped into was a good one: well-off parents, a loving family, a nice place to live (the general vicinity of Tamagawa Prefecture) and all the things that any kid would be happy to have in life. Things weren't perfect, but I don’t think there exists a real-life “Brady Bunch” in reality—not even in Japan. In a way, this film was an honest exposé of Japanese life. Not every marriage is perfect. Not every school girl is innocent. There are some shocking things going on in this film, but I suspect it’s a realistic snapshot of Japan.
Something that becomes apparent in layers, as the film progresses, is that people who undergo “near death” experiences fundamentally change. Their whole sense of perspective changes, as was the case with Makoto. The people that he hangs out with, the activities he enjoys, etc., but in other respects, some things stay the same.
On another level, this film is about the psychological devastation that adolescents can suffer from as a result of being the unpopular social outcast and being victimized by bullies. Those sufferings take center stage in Makoto’s former life and he completely ignores the good aspects of his life—like the wonderful family that cares for him. But his suicide attempt changes them too. And his return to the living gives them new hope, for a while, though Makoto’s indifference and uncaring attitude in the early days of his recovery hurt his family—especially his mother, deeply. There are signals here that something dreadful may happen. There is still one scene in the film which I don’t understand, and seems like a deleted scene that was not removed, because upon seeing it, I got the most dreaded fear of what was going to happen next.
Overall, this is a somewhat bittersweet film, perhaps a few steps above bittersweet, but most of all, it makes us aware of how we are all interconnected and how our actions affect those we love and who love us.
Although I watched for the first time through the pixelated, granular window of Hulu’s bitrate-limited video experience, I could tell that the animation and artwork in this film was at the top of the very best I've seen anywhere. The smoothness and fluidity, the foley work (sound effects) that added a sense of “being there”, and the beautiful cityscapes and environment that puts the viewer right into the neighborhood. The lighting and the dynamic range of the scenery in shade, sunlight, overcast and at night is the most realistic I have seen in anime. I can hardly wait for the Blu-ray of this film to arrive. I want to watch it on the big screen and really drink in the visual details—it’s that stunning.
I don’t know why this film isn't more widely-known, because it’s probably one of the best anime films of all time. That is, if you overlook the fantastic notion of “afterlife” depicted here—which is the only supernatural phenomenon in the film. The rest is just a wonder “slice of life” story with a theme of self-discovery. So if one looks at the vehicle used to make the story have a meaningful context, I’d say that it’s a valid tool to use in fiction. I sometimes wonder if the writer is telling his own life story, because it’s so vivid and intense.
“Colorful” is an absolute must-have for any fan of the Japanese anime genre. It IS right up there with anything out of Studio Ghibli, and I don’t say that lightly—I love and adore Miyazaki’s films, and this is simply testimony to how excellent a film this is. Buy it, go to a friend’s home theater, if you’re fortunate enough to know a videophile, and enjoy this on a big screen. This story will transcend your existence and leave you feeling raw emotions, but left for the better to have gained this valuable experience.
The Movie has a wide variety of emotion to go around and the story progresses and ends on a humbling note leaving you feeling a little lonely but very appreciative of life's greatest gift.
This touched me and I ended up crying for several minutes afterwards. Very few movies whether live or animated have brought me to tears but over the years I've had two co-workers who lost their teenage children to suicide. One to depression from bullying at school and the other to feelings of hopelessness due to suffering from traumatic brain injury so I'm sure that had a lot to do with the crying.
In spite of the sadness this was a wonderful movie that's well worth watching. Being on Hulu it was the Japanese language with subs version so I don't know how the English dub is.
an absolute must see for anyone who is a fan of Japanese film,
right up there with Grave Of The Fireflies and The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya
The animation on this movie is excellent. The image quality and sound is excellent, typical of Japanese releases. A very worthwhile movie.