Anime Review: Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom?

By Drew Hurley 28.12.2018

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Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? (UK Rating: 15)

Anime Limited has been treating fans in the UK to some of the most stunning movies on the big screen for a few years now, licensing major movies like A Silent Voice and Your Name not just for their stunning collectors editions but for theatrical releases, too, and the latest in that line is Fireworks. Based on a live-action show from 1993, this animated movie is adapted by animation powerhouse SHAFT and tells a coming-of-age tale about first romance, friendship, causality, and a little bit of magic, and is out now.

It's coming up to the big summer festival, and this gives Normichi and his friends a chance to finally settle an argument. He and his three friends are interested in just one thing, whether fireworks are round or flat when they explode. They figure they have got a perfect opportunity to find out which; maybe they just look flat from the bottom - if they saw them from the side, they could see… so they plan to climb the old lighthouse together and watch them.

Two of the group have something else to obsess and argue over. Normichi and his best friend, Yusuke, have long had a thing for their classmate, Nazuna, but neither managed to drum up the courage to tell her. When Nazuna's mother plans to remarry and move town, she ends up being the one to confess, looking to elope with one of them. Nazuna takes part in a swimming race with the pair and plans to ask the winner to run away with her, to elope and escape the future she's being forced into with her mother and new beau. Yusuke wins - at least in one reality.

While gazing out over the ocean, Nazuna finds a strange, shiny marble at the beach, and this little McGuffin manages to add a magical spin to the story. It is used throughout the course of the film to rewind time and allow Normichi to right a wrong. Winning the race so Nazuna asks him, altering small actions to ensure they escape - little changes to ensure he and Nazuna get some time together.


 
It's certainly not the first anime to play with the concept of altering timelines and changing the future, and the problem is that it's been done better so many times before. Of course, the measuring stick is the phenomenal Steins;Gate and the reason it is, is not just because of the smart dialogue or captivating storytelling - it's the characters. It's easy to build a connection with Kurisu and Hououin Kyouma, easier still to care about Mayuri… but Nazuna and Normichi? They are practically caricatures in comparison. Normichi suffers from a condition many male anime protagonists do in that he's practically a blank slate. It's the supporting cast that had a chance to stand out - those being love interest Nazuna and best friend Yusuke. Yusuke seems to have an interest in Nazuna and is obsessive over his teacher and her cup size, but never follows through, not to mention a few other personality quirks that would be interesting to explore. None of them are, and he's left as a foil or rival with no development. Worse is Nazuna, who should be the female lead here but is instead just the prize for Normichi. She has serious issues thanks to her promiscuous mother, but again it's not explored; instead, she's a generic teen rebelling.

This is the directorial debut from Nobuyuki Takeuchi, a veteran of the industry who has worked on some of the greatest films ever made, like Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away. Combine this considerable experience with studio SHAFT which is known for its stunning works and you have an absolutely wonderful looking film. The score is also charming, really emphasising the magical look of some of the scenes.

This release comes with both an English and Japanese release. The Japanese cast has some big names that will be familiar for those who watch Japanese live-action shows and films. Normichi is voiced by Masaki Suda, who Tokusatsu fans will immediately identify as Kamen Rider Double himself! The trend of actors of voice actors continues with Nazuna who is voiced by Suzu Hirose who has won numerous awards for her work in films like The Boy and the Beast and Our Little Sister. The English dub has gone a completely different route. Coming from Michael Sinterklaas' animation studio, it has some of the best in Western dubbing behind it, like Stephanie Shah, and this team decided to cast child actors in the main role, with A Silent Voice's Ryan Shanahan taking on the role of Normichi and Brooklyn Nelson as Nazuna. There are some interviews with this English team in a "Behind the Scenes" feature included with this release.

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Fireworks looks absolutely beautiful. SHAFT always puts out quality work but this is especially stunning. If only the story could have lived up to this quality. The themes and premise are promising, but, sadly, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The one-dimensional characters are the biggest let-down - yet another damsel in distress, yet another anime male protagonist who is blander than boiled tofu. It's a film trying to be a lot smarter and deeper than it actually is.

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