I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (Cert PG)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 108 minutes approx.
Before we get to the main review it is necessary to disappoint anyone drawn to the wonderfully inviting title of this anime film, it is in fact NOT a horror story. Sorry, no zombies or other forms of flesh eating nasties here, instead an enigmatic high school romance with a metaphoric twist.
It opens with an unnamed high school boy lamenting his weakness in not being able to attend the funeral of popular classmate Sakura Yamauchi, though he has his reasons. The story then jumps back in time to our protagonist waiting in a hospital when he notices a diary left on a chair entitled Living With Dying. Coming to claim the book is Sakura, who for some reason feels comfortable to confide in our man that she is dying from a pancreatic disease.
This is quite an admission for Sakura to make to someone she barely knows, despite being in the same class, but our man is noted for being an aloof loner, interested only in books and not people. Sakura is undeterred and joins the school library to get closer to the boy, and holding her secret over him, encourages him to help her fulfil her bucket list, getting him to lighten up in the process.
You will have to watch the film for yourself, based on the novel by Yoru Sumino, to understand the deliriously provocative title as I won’t spoil it here but I will say it comes from a good place and is not the product of twisted mind. Usually, the only human organ referenced in a romantic context is the heart, thus making the connection between the pancreas and teenage affection is quite unlikely.
Director Shinichiro Ushijima has no intention of teasing the audience with any ambiguous gruesome misdirection related to the title at the start of the film but doesn’t give too much away either. Opening by announcing one of the main character’s death is always a bold move, but allows us to be curious as to how and why they died, along with the young chap’s reticence to attend her funeral, laying the foundation for what we hope are some valid explanations.
Not giving the lad a name is actually deliberate but is something that could only work in Japan because of how their names also mean something else, though it makes it hard for reviewers to discuss the plot and having find alternatives for “him”. Anyway, as the main protagonist we have a seemingly insular lad, lacking in empathy and warmth for others, but isn’t a nasty person, just unable to and unwilling to connect with people.
Sakura is the complete opposite, which she notes at one point, making this something of a clichéd dynamic except the usual path of the introvert being taken to extremes in dragging them out of their shell is eschewed here. Perhaps not delineated as clearly as it could be, Sakura’s motives are far more subtle, as if she knows turning this boy into something he isn’t won’t work but is keen to bring out his friendly emotional side.
Meanwhile, Sakura’s best friend Kyoko resents the amount of time Sakura is spending with the class loner and takes it out on him when Sakura insists she knows what she is doing. This is dangerous of Sakura, as she hasn’t told anyone outside of her family about her condition, not even Kyoko, making the eventual revelation of a relative stranger being told over her a combustible situation waiting to happen.
For someone well aware her days are numbered, Sakura is amazingly upbeat, especially for a 17 year-old who should be angry she won’t get to live a full of life. That she would like to spend her remaining time with someone so emotionally shut off and disinterested in reality harks at a deeper plan for Sakura to do something good and change a life in her wake.
The problem really is that we are not fully convinced the reasons to why she chose this particular lad are as genuine as finally revealed, relying a little much on contrivance than any deep rooted, selfless altruism. This doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on Sakura, as her motives seem noble enough, rather the script tries a little too hard to inject a sense of whimsy to the explanation that it detracts from the logic.
Yet there is a very important message being imparted here despite this clumsiness about not being afraid to let people into your life, as not everyone will let you down or hurt you, and you can make a difference to their lives in return. This is ironic given Sakura kept her best friend in the dark about her illness but maybe she did it to spare Kyoko the pain of knowing she was to die, knowing she would have put her life on hold for her.
Whilst the characters might prove difficult to connect with for some, the sentiment of the story and lack of cynicism behind it is actually quite affecting, with a poignant post credits scene to end things on a magical note. Ushijima avoids going all mushy on us, in keeping with Sakura’s cheerful disposition, but I’m sure many will be reaching for the tissues in the final act.
Visually, the relatively new Studio VOLN have done an excellent job with the artwork and animation, echoing Makoto Shinkai’s attention to detail in the backgrounds with the soft lighting and striking colours of a KyoAni production. Whether it is the ubiquitous cherry blossoms or the Tokyo skyline at night, there are numerous treats for the eye, whilst the character designs are more realistic compared to other anime.
If the title wasn’t already a dead giveaway, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is a hugely enjoyable example of how to subvert a genre whilst staying true to its remit in gaining wider appeal. Not everything convinces plot wise but nothing too detrimental to its heart-warming themes of celebrating life.
Japanese Language 5.1
English Language 5.1
Trailers and Commercials (Japanese and English versions)
Opening Theme Song – “Fanfare” Anime Film
Theatrical Release Special
English Dub Bloopers “We Want To Eat Robbie’s Pancreas”
Rating – ****
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