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The Tunnel To Summer, Exit To Goodbyes (2022)

Magical Realism is a device that is used effectively both in literature and film. It's a genre that has been employed frequently in anime, in films such as Your Name and Mirai. Mixing realism with more fantastical elements, it often helps create a more relatable whole.

The Tunnel To Summer, Exit To Goodbyes is based on the light novel of the same name by Mei Hachimoku published in English by Seven Seas Entertainment. The film is written and directed by Tomohisa Taguchi and is the second feature film to be produced by Studio CLAP (Pompo The Cinephile). The film was released in cinemas in the United Kingdom and Ireland on July 14, 2023, by Anime Limited. Sentai Filmworks have licensed the film in North America.

The film follows high-schooler Kaoru, who stumbles across a mysterious tunnel. Local legend has it that the tunnel can give you anything your heart desires. The catch is that time moves at a much slower rate within the cave, so that while mere minutes might have passed for you, a whole week might have passed on the outside. One day the new girl in Kaoru's class, the feisty Anzu follows him to the tunnel. Together they decide to investigate the tunnel, each hoping to get their most longed for desire.

As concepts go, it's a pretty compelling one. It can't help but cause viewers to wonder what they would do in the same situation. Would you trade time off your life to get what you most desire? The thing is though, although the film may tease the idea of a thousand years passing, it never actually depicts more than a few days difference. In terms of a film exploring the effects of time dilation, this isn't Gunbuster or Lightyear. We don't really see how things have changed on the outside. The film just isn't really interested in pushing its sci-fi element too hard.

Kaoru is quite a down-beat character- stuck living with his drunkard dad and still haunted by the death of his sister. It means the film itself can also be a bit glum, as it explores the effects of grief. Anzu is definitely a bit livelier and brings a bit more life to proceedings as well as Kaoru's life.

Luckily, both leads are likeable. It would be a bit of a problem otherwise- it's almost a two-hander at times. Other characters get very little in the way of screen time or characterisation.

Visually the film is solid if nothing spectacular. It has attractive enough character designs and fluid animation creating a whole that is pleasant to the eye. One stand out is the design of the inside of the tunnel itself, which is eye-catching and memorable.

"Solid if nothing spectacular" is actually a pretty accurate to describe the movie as a whole. It's an engaging enough teen romance with a sci-fi twist but its time-twisting element is a bit undercooked. You'll be entertained. but it's not going to change the world.


IN A NUTSHELL:  A sweet teen romance with a sci-fi twist, even if it doesn't linger long in the memory