What if? These two words have definitely come to our minds when we look back on the decisions we have made in the past. The phrase probes us to reflect on our actions and the possible scenarios that could happen should we choose another option.
These exact thoughts are the main theme in Fireworks, Should We See It From The Side Or The Bottom? as it finds the main protagonist, Norimichi Shimada, using a time travelling device to rewrite his previous actions and change the fate of his high school crush, Nazuna Oikawa, who is running away from her family. Apart from that, the movie also has characters debating on whether fireworks are round or flat upon explosion.
The film was produced by SHAFT and directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi. Those who are already aware of Akiyuki Shinbo and SHAFT would know that both are known for producing famous anime series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Monogatari. The film is an adaptation of Shunji Iwai’s 1993 television film of the same name.
After watching the movie trailer and the music video by DAOKO, which impressed me with the visuals and sounds, I walked into the cinema with high expectations that I would experience something special. But as I walked out of the cinema, I found the film to be a decent work rather than anything spectacular which left me in a strange mix of slight disappointment and contentment. And I shall tell you why that’s so.
What caught my eye in this film was the use of surreal symbolism to convey the themes of the film. In the climax, Norimichi and Nazuna find themselves in a world that emanates ripples, the result of Norimichi’s actions to help Nazuna escape from her dysfunctional parents. Like the episodic video game, Life is Strange, the movie encapsulates on the idea of how our seemingly insignificant acts can bring about significant impacts to our lives and even others. This symbolic use of ripples in the climax visually expressed the idea of actions and consequences as our protagonists frolic by the seaside under the rippling night sky. Another symbolism can be found in the time- traveling ball itself. Apart from being a plot device, it also represents the idea of possibility. This theme was expressed during the climax when a drunken Pyrotechnist launches the ball in the sky. As it explodes, what looks to be shards of glass cascade on the protagonists, each revealing possible future timelines of the characters in the film. The visually fascinating scene focused our attention on the duo reflecting on the what-ifs in their lives and the future that awaits them. I have to commend the creators for using surrealism to convey the themes of the film.
But the plot does have its share of flaws. Some characters in the film were confusing. Norimichi’s friend, Yusuke, was the most notorious of them. His motives in the movie do not make sense. In the early minutes, he proclaims to Norimichi that he has a crush in Nazuna. Nazuna overhears this and announces a race in the pool in which the winner gets to go on a date with her. Yusuke wins the race, only to blow her off because he just does not feel like going with her. In later scenes when Yusuke finds Norimichi with Nazuna. He gets aggressively envious, acting as though Norimichi was Mr. Steal Your Girl. I mean does Yusuke have feelings for her? I could not figure it out.
Unnecessary characters was another problem with the film. One example would be Norimichi’s teacher, Miura-sensei. Her character did absolutely nothing in the film. She was just a character who was there to add a few lines and seconds of screen time. I have to pity Kana Hanazawa for being reduced to doing voiceovers for such an insignificant character. I think that the creators of the movie were trying to add importance to every character that appeared on screen when they should be placing emphasis on characters who were essential to the plot development or character building such as Nazuna’s parents who are the central problem in the film.
Animation & Art
SHAFT did a terrific job in putting up stunning visuals for the film. Some scenes were so beautifully depicted that they could be taken and sold as artworks in anime conventions. The combination of lighting effects and the use of a myriad of colours gave most scenes including the night scenes a vibrant look. Those who have been mesmerised by the works of KyoAni or CoMix Wave would not be disappointed by the visual treat that SHAFT had to offer.
The only visible issue in the film’s animation was its use of CGI, particularly for the characters in some scenes. The CGI models for Norimichi and his friends looked the same with only their hairstyles helping me to distinguish them. The models were like a smudge in the colourful painting that they were in. If not for the CGI models, the animation aspect of the film would have been perfect.
The soundtrack in the film was able to fit the mood in the scenes and convey the feelings the protagonists had. The most memorable was DAOKO’s Forever Friends which was played in the climax. It left me hypnotised in a dreamy atmosphere where the protagonists were in, captivated by the fireworks display in the night sky. The slow and gentle singing was a great addition to the slow-motion climax and it certainly left me in a daze just like Norimichi and Nazuna.
Though it is a shame that the film was unable to fit DAOKO’s Uchiage Hanabi into the plot and was heard during the credits. It was certainly weird that the music was played right after an ambiguous ending, leaving me puzzled about the mood that the creators were trying to set for the conclusion to the film.
After much thought, I would have to give this film a thumbs up. Though the film has several noticeable flaws particularly in its plot and the CGI animation scenes, it manages to save itself through the fantastic visuals along with fitting music playing in the background. Even if the film fell short of my expectations, I will still look forward to seeing what SHAFT has to offer for its next work. By then, they may produce another acclaimed piece just like how they had done in the past. We will have to wait and find out.