Review: 'I Want to Eat Your Pancreas' is a romance with a brutally emotional twist

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Encore Films

If you’ve ever watched any trashy romance film, you’ll be lured into thinking that I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is more of the same — just in anime form. The film is based on the novel of the same name, which has also seen a manga series and a live-action film last year. The film revolves around a terminally ill girl, Sakura Yamauchi (Lynn) who makes friends with a reclusive boy, voiced by Mahiro Takasugi. What seems to be the typical doomed teen romance turns out to be even more heart wrenching than expected, simply because it lulls you into a false sense of security with the standard romantic tropes.

PHOTO: Encore Films

Admittedly, Sakura is a rather shallow and one-dimensional character — whose sole purpose is to help the male protagonist grow. However, it’s this straightforward cheeriness of hers that is what makes her slowly endear herself to the audience, even as she stealthily worms her way into your heart. It’s the hero of the story who gets the bulk of the character development though, because it’s his relationship with Sakura that drives his transformation from a moody, introverted recluse to an oddly chirpy and sociable character in the end.

PHOTO: Encore Films

Thankfully, the voice acting for both the main characters is superb, with each voice talent perfectly matching their animated personas and playing off each other’s characters well. There’s palpable chemistry behind those two voices, which is what makes the relationship between Sakura and the male protagonist so organic and believable.

PHOTO: Encore Films

In addition, what helps to immerse you in the world of the story is the attention to detail in the artwork for the settings. Every room is painstakingly furnished and props are lovingly drawn in all the locations, to the extent that it even rivals the thoroughness and completeness of live-action films, showing you just how much research and work has gone into every location that has been drawn.

PHOTO: Encore Films

The art direction, combined with the creative camera angles and unique perspectives, serves to create a beautifully illustrated film that pleases the eye on multiple levels. From an aesthetic point of view, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is simply a delight to watch.

PHOTO: Encore Films

But more importantly, it’s the plot that draws you in. It’s more than just a high school romance that you think is going to end in the typical fashion. A brutally emotional twist sends shockwaves through the lives of all the characters, causing them to re-evaluate their lives in a way they never thought they would. Although many films would fall prey to melodramatic antics at this juncture, it’s what is unsaid and implied that makes the story even more poignant. This is where the movie shifts from some Nicholas Sparks ripoff to an absolute tearjerker, which had this writer sobbing multiple times as the film progressed through the third act.

PHOTO: Encore Films

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas may be an anime, but that doesn’t stop it from being as beautifully directed and constructed as a genuine romance would be. More importantly, the dramatic beats catch you by surprise, delivering a powerful and touching narrative. Bolstered by top-notch voice acting, it’s probably the best romantic film of the year.

PHOTO: Encore Films

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

Should you watch this more than once? Yes, to appreciate all the details you didn’t catch earlier.

Score: 4.75/5

Secret ending? Yes.

Running time: 108 minutes

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a Japanese animated romantic drama that’s based on the novel of the same name.

The film follows the relationship between a girl with pancreatic cancer and an emotionally stunted boy. As their relationship progresses, the two learn more about each other and themselves. However, this may not be enough when an unexpected disaster rocks their lives.

The film is directed and written by Shinichiro Ushijima, with a story based on Yoru Sumino’s original novel. It features the voice talents of Lynn (Sakura Yamauchi), Mahiro Takasugi (Haruki Shiga), and Yukiyo Fujii (Takimoto Kyouko).

PHOTO: Encore Films

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas opens in cinemas:
– 3 January, 2019 (Singapore)

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”,  “Crimewatch”, “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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