Colorful is an anime film that tells the story of a soul given a second chance at redemption, which has received high praise for its art and animation. Having won or been nominated for several awards and earning special distinction at a film festival, the film is sure to be pleasing to the eye. Though the one question that stands is, “Does Colorful offer more depth than its surface of pretty pictures?”
A recently deceased soul has arrived at the depot to be transported to their final destination, but before being able to get their ticket and depart something unexpected happens. They are granted a chance to return to the realm of the living to try and make amends for their past sins and prove themselves worthy of remaining in the cycle of rebirth. Initially uninterested the soul is non-the-less coaxed/forced to take the second chance. There is of course a catch, as these things always do, they will be placed in the body of a young Japanese schoolboy who has killed himself and prove their worth by living his life. While doing so, the soul must remember what they did and discover what led the boy, Makoto, to kill himself.
Provided with a guide in the form of a youth looking boy named Purapura, the new Makoto quickly finds himself pleased with the home life, until Purapura tells him about everything that happened the die before he killed himself. This in and of itself is interesting and makes the film resonate well. The idea of being happy to be back in the land of the living only to be dashed with the reality of what happened before and souring the experience feels like a very realistic interpretation of the situation. Faced with the reality of the home life the new Makoto decides to go back to school.
The main narrative of trying to find out what happened to Makoto kicks in after the new Makoto starts going to school. Given a time limit of 6 months to prove whether or not he deserves another chance in the cycle of rebirth, which happens to coincide with junior high school graduation, the new Makoto is less interested than other students in getting into a senior high school and more focused on trying to enjoy his new found life. In terms of moral lessons there are a some, though what really shines with these lessons is that they are also fairly realistic in terms of how they are presented. The film never seems preachy, instead presenting a fantasy situation and filling all the roles with very real characters.
As stated before, Colorful has some great art and animation. It also has very well done juxtaposition as well, especially with the opening scene. The opening scene at the station with the dead souls moving on to their next destination is done in a completely different animation style, using 3D animation except for the guide Purapura. This not only gives everything in the scene an otherworldly quality, but the drab colors mar the expectations given the accolades of the film. This is completely reversed when arriving in the realm of the living, with a sweeping bird’s eye view of the city in amazing detail that was probably enhanced with it being on Blu-Ray.
Art in general plays an important part in the film as a whole. Makoto was a very talented artist and the art that he’s done is shown in great and realistic detail. Paintings have nuanced details like creases and ridges formed by paint strokes, as well as sketches showing individual lines. While all of the characters maintain the traditional animation style this level of detail everywhere else provides plenty to look at, even the images here show a little of what viewers can hope to expect in the film.
The voice acting for Colorful is very well done with a cast that fits well in all of the roles in both the original Japanese and English dub. Makoto’s voice is suitably sullen to fit the role of the character, though the best performance is probably both actresses of Shoko, the stammering, nervous girl that seems to know Makoto the best. Though something can also be said with knowing where dialogue is not necessary. The opening scene features only dialogue from Purapura, with the souls line delivered solely in written lines reflecting the empty nature of the location, in addition to other scenes flashing back and developing without the need for explanation.
The music is another great asset to the film, utilized to add depth to scenes and never stuck to a single style. With a wide range of expression, the music is able to convey and fit the varying changes to Makoto’s situation and personal feelings, especially trip into town to find out the truth about the event leading up to Makoto’s suicide. There are two songs in the film that stood out more than anything else. The first is a choir version of “Tegami ~ Haikei Juugo no Kimi he” played during the resolution with one of the characters, the song fits perfectly within the film and the scene itself. Those that don’t remember it was utilized as a PSA to help prevent youth suicide during a sudden increase, the choir version is just as good if not better than the original especially here. The other is the ending theme, “Aozora” by miwa, which plays over the credits, while not quite as moving as the other song “Aozora” stills fits well with the film’s themes of feeling out of place and wishing to move on to the next life.
With the Blu-Ray release of Colorful, the additional features are unfortunately limited. Included are trailers for some other releases like Phi-Brain and Ino x Boku, though it would have been nice to see some additional material related to the film itself. While the film was originally released to theaters back in 2010, especially with all the exceptional art and music throughout the film.
Colorful presents a great film with a good message that comes off far more real and honest than preachy. While having received high praise for the animation, this isn’t just a one trick pony as it also contains a deep story and outstanding music. While some may find parts of the anime to be out of place, as a more slice of life style everything works well to add more depth to the characters and their interactions. Colorful is a movie definitely worthy of its praise.
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