To the ends of the earth and back

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Truth be told, I didn’t have anything special planned for Global Shinkai Day 2012. With a long week of hard work just behind me and the thought of yet another week at the white-collar salt mines clouding the horizon ahead, I felt in no mood to celebrate anything and frittered away a good chunk of the daylight hours playing Final Fantasy XIII-2. (A monumental waste of time, that game . . . but let’s save that horror story for another day.) Moreover, Shinkai’s films have rarely failed to send me into a state of unaccountable melancholy and, under the circumstances, would have been more akin to poison rather than antidote where my depression was concerned.

Achingly beautiful they might be, but a cure for acedia they are most assuredly not.

Then I remembered that I’ve had a Blu-ray copy of his latest work for months now, and I was reminded of the fact that after a quick unboxing session (read about it here) it’s done little in that time but gather dust in a bookcase somewhere in my library.

Well, that’s the problem of “what to do for Global Shinkai Day” all sorted out.

I shan’t burden the readership with a full review at this point, but I’d like to briefly set out some of my thoughts here. (Needless to say, watch out for spoilers.)

First, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The reactions I’ve read before today were something of a mixed lot, so my expectations were not particularly high – a contributing factor, perhaps, to the substantial lag between the time I ordered my copy and the time I actually played it through to the end. The plot was fairly interesting, the music unremarkable but nicely done, and Shinkai’s hand is evident in the beautifully executed animation (though as before, he still does better with backgrounds and still-life scenes than with figures in motion.)

Having said that, I do feel that there was a lot of potential in this film and much of that had gone unrealised. The pivotal scene at the Gate could have been fleshed out more, with Asuna and Shun (and the choice she made) front and centre rather than being relegated to the periphery in favour of the lunatic Morisaki and his utterly uninteresting wife. The ending brought no clear resolution; just a series of vague parting scenes nearly drowned out by the film’s theme song. Also, I am no huge fan of fantasy and I certainly wish that this particular work does not herald a new long-term direction for Shinkai. Where his next film is concerned, I earnestly hope that he keeps his talented director’s feet firmly planted in the real world (perhaps a nice historical drama this time?).

And as for the Ghibli comparisons I’ve read about elsewhere – well, let’s just say that they are not entirely unjustified.

But overall, not a bad film, and not a bad way to spend Global Shinkai Day. Cheerio.

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