Review: 'Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?' is a deceptively complex romance

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Purple Plan

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. But there are obstacles to their love.

The ostensibly simple premise for Japanese romantic anime “Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?” later evolves into a surprisingly deeper and more complex story that requires a fair level of thinking and processing from audiences. So don’t go in with the idea that it’s just another stereotypical romance — there are some unexpected elements in this film.

The anime is adapted from a ’90s Japanese live-action telemovie of the same name, although it’s unlikely that local viewers will have caught the original before. This anime version modernises the story with updated pop culture references and, of course, less voluminous hairstyles. It uses a combination of traditional 2D hand-drawn animation and 3D animation for vehicles and mechanical objects.

Story-wise, main character Nazuna (Suzu Hirose) is revealed to be more than a pretty face. Her backstory and circumstances make you empathise with her far more than with the other two boys, even though she can be a little passive at times. Nonetheless, with family units taking on ever more diverse forms in today’s society, Nazuna’s situation is perhaps more relevant to audiences now than back in the ’90s.

The two boys, Norimichi (Masaki Suda) and Yusuke (Mamoru Miyano), are emblematic of pubescent teenage boys, what with the constant sexual innuendo in their conversations and sometimes frank discussions about what they find physically attractive in females. Even though their conversation topics can be somewhat risque, the dialogue is done tastefully and humorously, perfectly capturing the naivete and bawdy exchanges between teenage boys in any society.

But if you must know, the film does feature fan service by including well-endowed female characters who defy the laws of physics.

PHOTO: Purple Plan

Unfortunately, the 3D animation sticks out like a sore thumb. You’ll notice it the very first time the film pans across a shot of 3D-animated wind turbines on a 2D hand-drawn grassy landscape, because it’s of a significantly lower quality. The subpar 3D animation is made worse because the cel shading (a colouring process that makes 3D objects look flatter, and thus less obtrusive in a 2D world) is awful, so you can see every awkward movement of those objects. The textures of the 3D objects are noticeably less detailed than the beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds, and it’s a pity because this detracts from the otherwise wonderful 2D drawings.

Were it not for the jarring 3D objects, you’d be marvelling at the fine details of the artwork. Small details like food, furnishings, and even water help to immerse you in the world of “Fireworks”. Unfortunately, soon after seeing gorgeous hand-drawn water effects, you’re subjected to horrendous 3D water spouts. The traditionally animated bedrooms give way to a shot of an awful 3D-animated room with a spiral staircase, and said room is used repeatedly as an establishing shot for a particular location thereafter. This means that you’re constantly reminded of the huge gulf between the two types of animation in the film.

Nevertheless, “Fireworks” is a high-concept film that’s exceptionally rewarding for thinking audiences. The fact that it leaves you to come to your conclusions about its themes, rather than having characters explicitly state its message, is proof of its exceptional depth. It’s more than just a simple romance, leaving you with haunting insights about destiny and acceptance.

PHOTO: Purple Plan

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes for anime-lovers.

Score: 3.75/5

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 90 minutes (1.5 hours)

“Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?” is a Japanese romance anime that is based on the 1993 Japanese telemovie of the same name.

The film is directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Nbouyuki Takeuchi, with a screenplay by Hitoshi Ohne. It features the voice talents of Suzu Hirose (Nazuna Oikawa), Masaki Suda (Norimichi Shimada), and Mamoru Miyano (Yusuke Azumi). It is rated PG.

“Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?” opens in cinemas:
– 30 November, 2017 (Singapore)
– 30 November, 2017 (Malaysia)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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