REVIEW: Her Blue Sky is a romantic anime with time travel element

Marcus Goh
Contributor
PHOTO: Encore Films

It may be a hoary cliche to hear about "love stories that span the ages", but that's a literal and apt description for romantic anime Her Blue Sky. The fact that it's not a metaphorical description should signal that there is a fantastical element to the film — otherwise that premise wouldn't be possible. Yet it still manages to stay mostly grounded, giving us a cozy tale about love, appreciation, and dreams. 

The film is about the story of an aspiring musician and his supportive lover. After he leaves her to pursue his ambitions, the duo reunite more than a decade later. The lover's sister has now grown up, and has discovered a bewildering mystery — a younger version of the musician somehow exists in this era.

PHOTO: Encore Films

For the story to work, there must be a time jump in the film. That is not a problem in and of itself, but the character designs are. Many of the major characters have two character designs - one to represent them in their late teens, and another to represent them in their early 30s. Hence, the differentiation to ensure that audiences can immediately identify what time period the story takes place in.

Unfortunately, the design differences push the boundaries in terms of believability. Characters who are supposed to be in their early 30s (the film even states they are 31 at one point) look like they’re in their 40s, with wrinkles and grey hair. It's supposed to show how time has taken its toll on them and also makes it easy to tell them apart, but it gets a little ludicrous at times. How on Earth do those characters look so old in such a short span of time? Wouldn't clothes have been a better way to tell them apart? It's an odd choice for an anime, given that they're not working with live actors (who have to be aged with make-up) and that they have complete control over the visuals. 

PHOTO: Encore Films

However the film more than makes up for the character designs with beautiful painted backgrounds. Almost every scene takes place over a richly detailed matte painting, that captures the sense of living in a suburban town. It straddles peaceful, relaxing nature and the progress of civilisation, adding a great deal of flavour to the location. 

If you're wondering what the the title of the film references — it's the name of a fictional song in the movie. But such a title also pulls double duty as a reminder of how much nature is a part of the movie, with forests and mountains being an important part of the film. However, for a movie that's about a musician and is even named after a song, music plays a surprising small role in the film. 

PHOTO: Encore Films

The fantastical element is also played down, to the point where it needed a bit more exposition on its mechanics. What exactly is red-haired Shinno (Ryo Yoshizawa), the younger version of brown-haired Shinnosuke? The movie does devote some time to speculate on Shinno’s origins, but there’s ultimately no conclusion to it and the characters get on with their mundane lives surprisingly quickly. But make no mistake — there is some sense of magic, and it does adds a sense of fairy tale wonder to the movie. Playing down the wonder of it all appears to be a conscious decision of the producers to ensure that the more grounded aspects of the film are not overshadowed.

But the themes of the film, that of love and appreciation, of chasing one's dreams and not losing hope, of carpe diem and growing up, ring true. It's a touching reminder of what we all lose as we grow up, and how that is ironically what we must cling on to, even as the world passes us by.

Her Blue Sky may have some artistic oddities,  but it's ultimately a feel-good story that everyone can relate to. While it may not be as fantastical as other anime films are, it connects to audiences in a way that few can. Ultimately, it's about lost youth and broken dreams, and the healing of such emotional wounds.

Score: 3.5/5

PHOTO: Encore Films

Running time: 108 min

Her Blue Sky is a Japanese romantic anime film.

PHOTO: Encore Films

The film is directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai and written by Mari Okada. It features the voice talents of Shion Wakayama (Aoi Aioi), Riho Yoshioka (Akane Aioi), Ryo Yoshizawa (Shinnosuke Kanomura), Ken Matsudaira (Dankichi Nitobe), You Taichi (Masatsugu Nakamura), Fukishi Ochiai (Masamichi Nakamura), and Atsum Tanezaki (Chika Outaki).

Her Blue Sky opens in cinemas:
- 12 Dec, 2019 (Singapore)

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “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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