“Me” (the protagonist) is a withdrawn bookworm who one day discovers the diary of a girl at a hospital. Instantly interested because of his overall interest in reading, he accidentally discovers that one of his classmates is suffering from pancreatic disease. Their coincidental connection of him discovering her secret leads them both down a journey neither of them expected as growth, discovery, and sorrows are learned throughout the process.
The Promotional Journey
Aniplex USA is releasing this movie into the United States, and I was given an extremely unique opportunity to screen the film. Though I usually would not put promotions as part of a movie critique article, I do want to give a shoutout to Aniplex USA for partnering up with a nonprofit organization, The Pancreatic Society, that works to increase aid to those with pancreatic disease as well as spread awareness of this particular disease. My understanding of the disease is far from complete, but I am aware that it is usually terminal and is extremely painful. The fact that Aniplex USA is not only promoting the film but also a nonprofit organization aimed to help victims of this terrible disease is very admirable and important to me, and I thought it too special to not give recognition to the company for doing so.
For those of you who are confused at who I am, I am a film major in grad school. I have not been in the anime world for very long as my primary studies and knowledge of films have come from western films, namely Hollywood. As a result, my perspective of the story, characters, and structures as well as cultural implications might be very different from many of the viewers who are reading this article and are mostly attuned to the anime media. Nonetheless, I do hope you find my insights helpful, and I promise this to be a spoiler free review. Another note to keep in mind: I will start my review with my critiques first before I go into the praises.
Characters and Plot – the Questionable
There were only two things that consistently bothered me throughout the film. I have always been particularly hard on the use of coincidences in any forms of stories, whether it is books, shows, or movies. As a result, the beginning of “Me” stumbling upon Sakura’s diary with no particular setup was a little questionable on the realism to say the least. Though I understand the need to kickstart the entire plot of the movie with a premise like that, I still had wished that there was more background behind the characters’ movements and motivations to have led to such an encounter in the first place.
The second thing that I could not help questioning was Sakura’s character as throughout the story, we are taken on the protagonist’s journey and watched how her carefree, energetic nature changed him. This, unfortunately, fit into the idea of a “manic pixie dream girl” perfectly. For those who are unaware, the manic pixie dream girl is a trope of an independent and quirky girl who is created for the sole purpose of helping a boy change and grow with no depth or development given to her. She is nothing more than a prop to the male character’s journey.
For the majority of the movie, Sakura filled that trope perfectly. She was amazing in the protagonist’s eyes for not only her optimism despite the adversary she faced but her fierce and adventurous spirit. Rather than having need someone to help her, instead, she helped him slowly emerge from his seclusion and to see the world around him. And while she is indeed an interesting character, I am largely aware of the flatness to her spirit that “Me” found to be so inspiring. That was until the very end of the movie, which leads me perfectly into my next section.
Characters and Plot – the Surprising
Sakura being a generic manic pixie dream girl does eventually get deconstructed at the end of the movie where “Me” finds her remaining diaries. A recurring theme to the storyline was the protagonist’s admiration of Sakura’s nature and the desire to become more like her, choosing to stay close to her in his attempt to accomplish that. However, through her diaries, it is revealed that she actually admired him and wanted to become more like him. It detailed how he had affected and changed the person she was. With that in mind, I wish that they could’ve revealed and shown this journey from her perspective throughout the movie rather than having that in the end. Overall, however, I cannot deny that I was happy to see depth added to her character, even if it was at the very end.
Another thing I find myself falling in love with is that while a romantic relationship was teased between the two protagonists, ultimately this was a story about their friendship. Love stories surrounding terminal illnesses have become commonplace, especially after the release of The Fault in Our Stars, a novel by John Green that was adapted to a movie. It has become incredibly predictable on how these love stories end, whether it is a happily ever after or whether it ends tragically with one or both characters dying. To see a movie still centered on diseases but more focused on the pain and strength of friendship rather than doomed romantic feelings is a welcoming surprise that I embrace wholly. Sometimes, in situations like this, a simple friendship is something much more powerful than romantic love.
Animation Technical Observations
Like the few anime movies I have seen before, the animation of I want to eat your pancreas is well drawn and well thought out. Something unique to this movie is its deliberate use of lighting that affects the atmosphere of a scene. I always found the difference between filming the scene vs drawing the visuals to be an interesting topic of discussion. Unlike filmmakers who worry about manipulating an existing setting to the best of their abilities, animators (with the right budget and time) have complete control of how they would like the backdrops to look and complement the script.
In this case, it was clear that a deliberate emphasis was placed on how the light was angled in every scene, and I like how it lent to the feel of not only the characters’ situations but their thoughts and feelings as well. The soundtrack is also well done, though the insert song got a little distracting because of the sudden subtitles in the middle of a dubbed screening. I actually think that they should’ve allowed the song to play without translations as the words ended up distracting me from the scene and the movie as a whole. But I did really like the score and thought it lent itself to the scenes well – just like the lighting did to the characters.
There is an incredibly beautiful ending scene that left me drowning in my own feels. It’s simple and concise, yet it conveys the message of growth and change perfectly in only a few minutes. I just found it so impactful that it was necessary to warrant a section of its own. Please sit through to the end and make sure that you do not miss this scene.
My Personal Takeaway
I want to eat your pancreas is one of the few anime movies I’ve seen so far. It is a touching story with its flaws, but I think that the sum is greater than its parts. Most importantly of all, the movie’s choice to emphasize on how friendship in a battle of against a terminal illness can be just as and possibly more painful than a romantic relationship is what mattered most to me. It is unique and different and stood out to me in a sea of tragic love stories regarding pancreatic diseases, and for that reason, this movie is unforgettable.
I want to eat your pancreas is coming to theaters on February 7th and 10th thanks to Fathom Events and Aniplex of America.
*Review contributed by Shauna