The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, is an intriguing drama fantasy anime film that aired earlier this year. It scratched an itch I didn’t know I had as a viewer and critic, despite the film having a highly limited scope with an equally limited cast.
The Tunnel of Love
The anime film takes place in a universe where a mysterious, fantastical tunnel called the Urashima Tunnel exists. This inexplicable tunnel is based on an urban legend in the anime’s world where whoever ventures into it will get a wish fulfilled but at the price of time passing significantly. Every minute is several hours and hours are several years. However, it is made clear early in the film that not many people have ventured into the tunnel.
The anime follows two high school protagonists, Kaoru Touno and Anzu Hanashiro. We learn early on that these two characters have had a rough life due to their complex family situations. Stricken with the loss of his sister, being abandoned by his mother, and the constant verbal and emotional abuse from his mentally ailing father, Kaoru is understandably a very gloomy person who fails to make connections. One day, he meets Anzu, an equally gloomy and antagonistic teenage girl who quickly becomes an outcast at school. He gives her an umbrella in the rain the day they meet and the two become reluctant acquaintances.
One day, Kaoru unknowingly ventures into Urashima Tunnel and discovers it has the ability to bring back dead loved ones, but at the price of the time spent in the present. Despite this, he decides he has little to lose, and plans to risk it all to go into the tunnel and bring back his sister.
Unknowingly, Anzu notices him going into the tunnel and decides to join him in his quest, but with her own motivation of getting “real talent” in order to be a successful manga artist. While their motivations may be a bit shallow, we eventually learn why they are so determined to achieve their goals. The film heavily emphasizes several common themes, such as the importance of family and acceptance, the impact of neglect and grief but moving on, forming connections from mutual pain and learning to live past it.
An Excellent Production
These themes and messages are fantastically told through beautiful narrative moments in the film that are surprisingly only portrayed by the two main characters and its melancholic atmosphere and direction through isolating linear shots, moody weather to match the dreary characters, and its impeccable soundtrack whose songs are only ever played when they are needed to emphasize the more dramatic moments in the narrative. Most of the film and dialogue between the characters are very noticeably done in silence, with the music only occasionally invading these moments when it successfully strengthens it.
A prime example of these scenes can be seen halfway into the film when the two leads reenact how they first met in a very wholesome yet humorous way. Without spoiling too much, this fantastic, heartwarming scene is only portrayed by the impeccable voice acting from both the English and Japanese cast, done in a simple, solemn, yet impactful way. This scene was the moment the anime distinguished itself from the several fantasy romance anime dramas and is where I started truly liking it.
The Good and Bad
There isn’t much that makes The Tunnel to Summer unique compared to its counterparts. Still, It’d be disingenuous to not note how it combines all its excellent elements in a highly engaging and memorable way. The film is relatively short, but it leaves an impact regardless. However, this isn’t to say the experience it provides is one without flaws, as many of them are seen in its executions.
While it’s easy to understand that many of the film’s scenes are symbolic and have more meaning to them, many of them become highly flawed the more you look into them. As a result of its short run time, several parts of the film are left vague and unexplained. An example of this is the Urashima Tunnel itself. Its origin and how its mysterious powers work are left unexplained, no one aside the characters acknowledges its existence, and how the characters just accept its existence and decide to use it is quite strange. Additionally, without spoiling too much, the film gets a bit messy towards the end when Kaoru eventually gets closer to his goal. How he goes back in time but still retains his memory and knows things about the future is not explained at all.
However, despite all these flaws, the film still provides a great viewing experience that’s unlike many anime films. Studio CLAP also does a great job with crisp, consistent animation, which I would have appreciated more if HI DIVE’s watermark had not hindered the experience as much as it did.
Overall, The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, though not without its flaws, is a great anime film with endearing characters, a beautifully melancholic aesthetic, and excellent animation. If you’re a fan of fantasy romance anime, then you might want to check it out.
A screener of this film was provided by HI Dive for this review.
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The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, though not without its flaws, is a great anime film with endearing characters, a beautifully melancholic aesthetic, and excellent animation.
- Excellent direction
- Excellent voice acting
- Great themes
- Narrative falls apart near the end
- Painfully short