Genre: CG Animation
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
Cast: Riho Yoshioka, Ryō Yoshizawa, Shion Wakayama, Atsumi Tanezaki, Fukushi Ochiai, Ken Matsudaira, Yō Taichi
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 12 December 2019
Synopsis: The film's story is set in a town nestled in the mountains. Second-year high school student Aoi Aioi is an aspiring musician Aoi Aioi. Her older sister Akane's ex-boyfriend Shinnosuke Kanomura is a struggling guitarist. Aoi and Akane's parents passed away in an accident 13 years ago, and Akane gave up her ambition of going to Tokyo with Shinnosuke to take care of Aoi. Since then, Aoi has felt indebted to her older sister. One day, she is invited to perform at a music festival as a session musician by a famous enka singer named Dankichi. At the same time, Shinnosuke returns to Aoi and Akane's town after a long time away. Then, Shinno mysteriously appears— who is actually Shinnosuke from 13 years ago after traveling from the past to the present—and Aoi falls in love for the first time.
The later part of this year seems to be a strong one for anime. First, we have Makoto Shinkai’s highly anticipated Weathering With You, this was followed by Hello World in October, Ride Your Wave in early December and we are going to end the year with Her Blue Sky, a meaningful anime about lost love, teenage angst and the reality of grown-up life.
After the tragic death of her parents, Akane has to learn to take care of her younger sister, then a nursery school child, Aoi. Because of Aoi, Akane has to give up her dreams of following her then boyfriend, Shinnosuke to Tokyo to pursue his dream of being a guitarist. Years later, Aoi has grown up to be a teenager. Obsessed with playing the bass, Aoi hopes to escape from her small hometown to form a band in Tokyo after high school while Akane works for a living at the local tourism board.
One day, Aoi encountered the younger self of Shinnosuke in an abandoned temple. Apparently, he is not a ghost, just a living spirit that is left behind by his physical body and is now trapped in the house although the movie spends no time explaining this odd occurrence. At the same time, the current Shinnosuke returned to his hometown for the local music festival with a travelling band. It’s complex enough for Aoi to deal with two Shinnosuke but the biggest problem lies in Aoi developing a crush on the senior school Shinnosuke.
It’s a bit like Back to the Future but Her Blue Sky is a lot more complex as the past and present actually do meet up together. What begins as a coming-of-age drama between two sisters, Akane and Aoi soon turns into a complicated fantasy tale about human relationships, dreams and love. Shinnosuke in the present world is a weary, burnt out musician. Instead of making it big as a rock singer in a successful band, he is stuck with a small-time travelling band, too embarrassed to return to his hometown and reuniting with Akane. His younger self however is full of positivity and ambitions, a huge disparity considering they are both in fact the same person.
Mari Okada who wrote the script filled the story with believable intense and volatile emotions between Akane and Aoi that this ought to be the true stand out factor. The ever patient and loving Akane who sacrifices her own happiness just for the sake of Aoi will have you sobbing in tears. Aoi on the other hand is the typical resentful teenager who see things only in black and white.
Of course, Shinnosuke is a well-developed character as well as he represents many of us- the mere mortals roaming the earth. The disgruntled ones that lost the desire to realised our dreams once we stepped into the workforce. Are we living a life full of regrets? Are we being unhappy most of the time? It’s a nice life lesson coming out from the younger Shinnosuke.
Though rewarding, it sure going to take a while to warm up to the story of Her Blue Sky. The living spirit is a gimmick that works even though it does stretch itself a little too much near the end. The voice cast and filmmakers of Her Blue Sky handles the material, emotion pretty well and the animation generally combines real-life photos and the hand-drawn animation perfectly.
(Anime is not just for kids. If you find all the current slate of live-action titles very unappealing, why not catch Her Blue Sky)
Review by Linus Tee