Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To Make You Feel My Love

Hotarubi no Mori e: An Anime Movie Review

Length: 45 minutes
Genre: Romance, supernatural
Source Material: One-shot shoujo manga by Yuki Midorikawa

One of my favorite things about watching an anime movie is that compared to an anime series, a movie is shorter, more concise, and is usually a one-shot affair that gives me something to enjoy when I don't want to invest too much time and effort into memorizing complicated character relationships or get lost in a drawn-out plot line  But don't be fooled by the 1 to 2 hour time limits on anime movies, because even given those restrictions, an anime movie can be as deeply moving and beautiful as a full length series. Hotarubi no Mori e (translation: Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light) is an example of quality over quantity, and if you're looking for 45 minutes of respite from mechas, love triangles, moe blobs, and tsunderes, read on and give this movie a try.
**May Contain Spoilers**

The Plot: Being only 45 minutes in length, Hotarubi no Mori e tells a simple love story efficiently but elegantly from beginning to end. It starts with 6-year old Hotaru getting lost in the forest, where she meets a silver-haired boy named Gin, who wears a fox mask and claims to be a "spirit of the forest."

Unbelieving at first, and just so relieved at being found, Hotaru innocently tries to hug Gin, only to be smacked on the head by a wooden stick that Gin is carrying. After claiming, "you must not be human because no human would hit a little girl like that," Hotaru learns that Gin, a forest spirit, cannot touch humans or else he will disappear forever. Surprised, but also intrigued, Hotaru happily accepts Gin's help in finding her way out of the forest by holding onto a wooden stick that Gin is carrying. When she is safely out of the forest, Hotaru
eagerly asks Gin if they can meet again, and Gin begrudgingly agrees. What follows is a series of summers that Hotaru and Gin spend together, with Hotaru growing up and coming of age while Gin stays in the same form as when Hotaru first met him.

As Hotaru and Gin spend more and more time together, they begin to develop feelings for one another. However, their romance is complicated by the fact that Gin is not human (and cannot leave the forest) and that the two can never touch. As the movie quickly wraps up, we are eager to see just how Hotaru and Gin will overcome such insurmountable obstacles to be together.

The Characters: Gin and Hotaru are really the only characters in this movie, but they are good characters and likable as well. Although 45 minutes is not quite enough time to flesh out either of the two leads, we get a sense of who they are by their genuinely joyous and sweet interactions with one another over a period of many summers together. Hotaru and Gin are, I think, designed to be simple but still multifaceted, and we see bursts of their personalities through Hotaru's maturation and Gin's increasingly difficult internal struggle of not wanting to disappear versus wanting to hold the girl he loves in his arms.

Overall Impressions: I'm not going to go and spoil the ending for you, but I really did enjoy Hotarubi no Mori e. One of my favorite aspects of the movie is how it deals with the fact that Hotaru and Gin can never physically touch each other. This movie really makes you painfully aware of just how important human contact is--even when that physical action is simply touching someone's hand in comfort or giving them a hug. To be able to hold the person you love in your arms is a luxury Gin and Hotaru are not allowed in this film, and although they are creative in their means to stay "connected," we see how strongly the situation affects them and how much they want to be able to touch--even though they know it is an obstalce they cannot (and must not) overcome.
I find myself thinking about what I would do in that kind of situation (if someone you loved could no longer fully be with you--see you, touch you, hear you, etc). Would I be strong enough to keep it together? Would you be?

If you're a fan of the romance genre and are looking for a sweet movie to watch, I highly recommend Hotarubi no Mori e to you!

Rating: 8/10

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