Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Hotarubi no Mori e (2011)

One summer day, the child Hotaru gets lost in a forest known for its mystery and is said to be filled with youkais. In the middle of her crying, a mask-wearing boy named Gin appears and guides her get out of the forest. He lives in the forest and describes himself as not exactly a youkai, but he's not a human either. He has a body held by magic and will obliterate when it makes physical contact with a human. Despite the danger of being friends, Hotaru goes back to the forest everyday every summer to visit Gin.

It's hard to describe Hotarubi no Mori e because the character starts out with a brother-younger sister relationship then slowly shifts to one that's romantic. Hotaru realizes that she seems to grow older every passing year while the mythical Gin seems to age much, much slower than humans. As their age inches closes, Hotaru starts to feel the need to see and touch Gin even during other seasons.

This movie has its flaws but I cannot help but love it still. Summer is often depicted in animation bursting with color and energy. But there's tranquility in this movie that's only made possible with the narrative the story follows.

I seem to like stories where the characters aren't allowed to make physical. It's emphasized in this film how young Hotaru will happily run towards Gin with open arms, and Gin will return this enthusiasm by hitting Hotaru's forehead with a stick. As they grow older, Hotaru ends up wanting to touch Gin due to the feelings stirring in her. This time, Gin wants the same thing.

Beautiful and oftentimes melancholic, there's warmth in the quiet moments in the film. There are funny moments, but it's mostly the subtle actions and the transition of time that make it such an engaging watch. The ethereal tones and underlying emotional ones build the layers in the relationship of the two. It's not just the lack of physical contact that hinders them, but the three seasons they don't see each other and one being human and another mythical don't help either.

However, it's the conclusion that disappointed me, even depressed me. The entire time they know each other, the question of taking that one step of reaching out to touch each other hangs in the air. But it's just sad that the choice is taken out of their hands. It also saddens me that Hotaru isn't given the time to grieve, or if she did, it happened on screen. Gin is not just Hotaru's first love. He's her most cherished fried, too. I need to see the emotional toll the conclusion had on Hotaru, but I only got snippets of it.

Their story feels a tad too short, and it made me want more.

Hotarubi no Mori e is a pretty good adaptation of the manga (which I read after watching the movie!) since it follows the story thoroughly. Some scenes are stretched but not much has been added. I don't think I've seen a more faithful adaptation to be honest.

The film is a little less than an hour long, but it's enough to make Hotaru and Gin a really easy pair to love.

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