Anime Review: Anthem of the Heart (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 29.06.2017

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Anthem of the Heart (UK Rating: PG)

Simple words can often cause more damage than any act of violence, and that's certainly the case for young Jun Naruse. When Naruse was in junior school, she was a real chatterbox with a vivid imagination; the main source of her imagination was the magical castle on the hill above her town, and telling simple stories of what she saw ends up turning her life completely upside down. Years later, Naruse finds a real prince and the strength of beautiful words in a beautiful world. Anthem of the Heart comes courtesy of Anime Limited and is out now.

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The thing Jun saw was her father visiting the castle, visiting with a princess - a princess that wasn't Jun's mother. The castle is not really a castle, of course - it's a love hotel, and when little Jun rushes home to tell her mum all about it, so begins the end of her family. Her father is kicked out and her mother files for divorce. On the day her father is packing up into a moving truck, Jun doesn't understand and asks her dad where he's going, if he's fought with mum, and if she can help. Dad tells Jun "It's all your fault." Jun is, understandably, heartbroken and wishes for her prince to finally come and take her away. What comes, instead, is a moustachioed egg that places a curse on her, locking away the words that ruined her family and would ruin the rest of her life. Jun stops speaking.

Cut ahead to years later, and Naruse is now in high school; her silence has stayed with her to the point that her class thinks she's mute, the neighbours are gossiping, and her mother is ashamed of her. Matters get even worse when Naruse is pulled out of her comfort zone when she's forced onto the Community Outreach Committee to produce some sort of performance for the town. Naruse is joined by three others on this committee - a beautiful and popular cheerleader in Natsuki Nito. Then there's Tasaki Daiki, the school's old baseball ace who has become a sulking giant after an elbow injury put him out of action. Finally, there is Sakakume Takumi. Takumi is as much a focus of this story as Naruse.

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When Naruse stumbles on Takumi singing a song about giving his words to an egg, she feels a connection to her secret and thinks he is speaking directly to her heart, and after she reveals the truth to him, she finally finds a way to give voice to the words bursting to get out… in song. When Naruse tries to speak, it's with considerable effort and she experiences huge stabbing pains in her stomach, but when she sings, it all flows easily.

Conveying true feelings through song is a big part of the story and, quite fittingly, the committee decides to put on a musical. Naruse makes an original story based on her history; Takumi then takes that story and turns it into a musical play for the class to perform. Takumi's father taught him to play the piano and he takes classic musical songs to overlay Naruse's words.

While Naruse's story is the heart of the story, there are many touching tales told alongside hers. Takumi is just as big a part of the story, and his family history unites him and Naruse. There's something of a love triangle between the characters - Nito and Takumi were together once, and there's a story to that history. Daiki has a crush on Nito now, but she apparently likes someone else, and, of course, there's a certain spark between Takumi and Naruse. Each of the story threads delivers some truly surprising and touching moments over the course of the film.

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The quality of the production is pretty standard fare in the visual department, but there is the occasional moment that really conveys the emotions of those on-screen. There is a signature look to the style, though, and for those who have seen Anohana, it will be a very familiar one. This film is made by the same trio that produced Anohana: written by Mari Okada, directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai and with characters designed by Masayoshi Tanaka. The audio is again standard fare, other than the fantastic music. The big standout moment for the music is the use of famous musical themes, overlaid with Jun's words to make for some original and beautiful songs. The voice actors do a fantastic job of delivering heartfelt performances.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
The best slice of life anime are the ones that feel real; the stories that pull their audience to remember the things that happened to them - to relate. Anthem of the Heart does that, in spades. There may be plenty of magic in this story, but it still manages to be down to earth and tell a heart-warming childhood tale that is filled with unpredictable developments and builds to an absolutely fantastic finale somewhere over the rainbow.

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