Aniplex’s Kokosake, or Anthem of the Heart, is a well-put-together youth drama. If anything the most challenging aspect of this movie is that it follows a typical youth drama format. To me, that’s like trying to make sushi, in the sense that you are a Japanese chef. There may not be a super-long and storied tradition to that art but it sure has honed to a katana’s edge in recent times. You are making something that will get compared to well-acclaimed, top quality works.
What’s great about sushi is that if you are a foreigner who loves Japan’s cultural output and have no qualms about raw fish, you probably already love it. In Kokosake’s case I think we weebs will eat it up like sushi. How good is it is no longer the primary ask–perhaps it never was when it comes to western consumption of anime. Well, I think it’s safe to say that Kokosake qualifies as quality at an acceptable level, at least. I will still dream of Jiro after such a meal, so to speak, but this movie makes a good time, that will match its asking price.
In this case, in a Manhattan theater on a sleepy Monday evening, the price was $15 plus whatever Fandango charges. That’s fair. To me, having a chance to hear Tenchan and Inorin do realistic acting in the contrast of borderline-too-much-exposure Uchiyama is sort of worth it already. Way more special than your garden variety rolls-in-a-takeout-box.
Just to memo some key takeaways that I found enjoyable. First, the setting is very spot on for outskirt Saitama prefecture. I happened to spent like an hour or two rolling in a car around Saitama, which is where the movie is set in, while I was out there during IM@S 10th. I can confirm! Second, there was a side character in the show that talks just like the dirty 2.5D idol prpr-ists that I know. And frankly it is an indicator that otaku fandom has wholly switched gears in this way the past 6-7 years.
To go back to the acting, Amamiya Sora’s character is awfully level with just a shade of tsundere. I think this plays too well into her wheelhouse. The result is competent but leaves me desiring more as a seiota, something more exciting. On the flip side Inorin’s character exhibits a wide range of moods and emotional swings that you’ll find it hit many of her prior roles. Kokosake gives her that opportunity to make a memorable performance, but I don’t know if she’s gotten that far. It feels kind of like they put Minase Inori in this movie both for its sake and for her sake. It’s a dynamic role that took someone dynamic like her to pull off. At the same time I don’t really know if there was that one watershed moment where we really got to hear her in a way that leaves Inorin’s mark.
I wonder if this is more a directorial decision, given the movie’s rather lifelike take on character acting. The voice acting, as a result, is somewhat less exaggerated than the usual fare…except the main heroine.
On the production side, there were some interesting cuts featuring not so much dancing, but full-body and choreographed movements of many characters. It looked subdued yet impressive. There was a scene where it felt like they phoned in Inu Curry or something. I really need a credit list to confirm, because I didn’t really pay too much attention during the credit scroll for some reason. There were a bunch of CG/ML seiyuu in there, as you’d expect. I think I heard Shiraishi Ryoko? There was Suwa Ayaka who I was only able to spot from the credit, along with Marietti, at least as far as reading scrolling kanji goes (ie., not very far). There was a piece of the music in the movie that had a choir arrangement of a bunch of seiyuu, and that could be interesting…
As for the Okada x Nagai connection, well, let’s just say there’s nothing that’ll surprise you. There are all these flairs that clearly comes from her, but none of it really stand out unless you are totally in this movie for the meta game (and I was, to a degree). To take one example, the aforemention seiota is probably the blurriest of them all. Another one is the way how the final romantic resolution happens, and and the way things end up. Hope that didn’t spoil things for anyone LOL.
Finally, to go back to the sushi making figure-of-speech, make sure you watch Whisper of the Heart before you watch this movie. SAME STUFF. I don’t know if the people who localized this movie realize this or not, but even the English name now is…a little too close? Close enough for a homage, and at least no more Country Road and more just classic showtunes.