Fireworks, Should We See It From The Side Or The Bottom?: Love story without spark

Norimichi has a crush on his high school classmate, Nazuna.
Norimichi has a crush on his high school classmate, Nazuna.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

Despite its lush imagery, the time-travelling conceit of this animated film feels a little tired

REVIEW / ANIMATION

FIREWORKS, SHOULD WE SEE IT FROM THE SIDE OR THE BOTTOM? (PG)

90 minutes/Opens tomorrow / 3 stars

The story: Norimichi (Masaki Suda) and Yusuke (Mamoru Miyano) have a crush on their junior high school classmate Nazuna (Suzu Hirose). On the day of the summer festival, Nazuna asks Yusuke to go with her to watch the fireworks after she wins a swimming race among the three of them and gets to have her way. Norimichi later finds out the reason for her actions and wishes that he had won the race instead. In frustration, he throws a mysterious ball picked up by Nazuna from the sea - and finds himself back at the moment of the swim.

While it is based on the 1993 live-action movie of the same name, the timing of this adaptation might have something to do with the runaway success of the anime Your Name (2016), a youthful romance fantasy which had body-swopping and time-travel.

And unfortunately for Fireworks, that makes its time-travelling conceit feel a little tired. The animation also seemed more lush in Your Name, though director Akiyuki Shinbo, best known for the magical girls fantasy series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011), comes up with some beautiful shots of colourful fireworks going off at close range.

There are other things to like about the film as well.

The setting is a seaside town and the depiction of giant wind turbines, rocky promontories and students on bicycles tearing down the steep roads anchors the film with a strong sense of place. Perhaps as a clue, the name of the town is Moshimo, a homonym for "if" in Japanese.

The nuances of teenage male friendships and loyalties are sensitively handled: What do you do when you and your bestie both like the same girl?

The awkward silences and denials of Norimichi and Yusuke about this huge thing between them are entirely believable.

In fact, this feels more interesting than the actual romantic coupling as Nazuna remains somewhat opaque beyond being an unhappy figure of desire.

Meanwhile, the title is linked to a discussion Norimichi's friends have about fireworks - are they round or are they flat? It is a question upon which everything and nothing hinges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'Love story without spark'. Print Edition | Subscribe