Fireworks . . . review: Magical girl genre with avant garde animation
Temporal loops and magic balls make for a strange, colourful combination
Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?
Film Title: Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi
Starring: Suzu Hirose, Masaki Suda, Mamoru Miyano, Shintarō Asanuma, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Yūki Kaji, Kana Hanazawa, Takako Matsu
Running Time: 90 min
The record-breaking success of Makoto Shinkai’s enchanting body-swap comedy Your Name has inspired a raft of young adult sci-fi clones wannabes, including this new adaptation of the 1993 Japanese live-action drama of the same name by Shunji Iwai.
Trading the body-swap formula in favour of the temporal loop, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? chronicles a teen romance between Norimichi (Masaki Suda) and his long-time school crush Nazuna (Suzu Hirose). Nazuna is unhappy that her mother is remarrying a year after her father’s disappearance and hopes to run away to Tokyo or Osaka. Norimichi, having injured himself in a swim race with best pal Yusuke (Mamoru Miyano), ends up with a chance to elope with the object of his affections. But then her mother arrives and drags her away. So Norimicho throws an ill-defined magical ball in the air and the day starts over, walking to school, followed by impromptu swim meet, followed by, oops, here comes Nazuna’s mother again. And so on.
There are some interesting variations on the laws of physics that govern the Groundhog repetitions, notably with the titular pyrotechnics and the question that troubles Norimichi’s peers: are fireworks most effectively viewed from the side or the bottom?
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Against this, there are inconsistencies in how characters behave between renditions of the same fateful day. Nazuna’s familial drama is never properly resolved. And, as plot devices go, the ball thingy eventually requires a full-blown deus ex machina intervention.
Since 2005, under the direction of Akiyuki Shinbo, the anime studio Shaft Inc has become synonymous with the magical girl genre, cutesy-pie character design and a madcap, avant garde animation style.
Fireworks bursts on to the screen with terrific 3D backgrounds and none-more-fluffy clouds. Still, the house style can seem at odds with the material. A big, splashy fantasy denouement, featuring flying, pink-bridled ponies and 2001: A Space Odyssey flourishes looks to have been grafted on from another film altogether. The constant use of upskirt shots of Nazuna, a character who is underage, is uncomfortably Larry Clark-ish. And, not to harp on the ball thingy, but we’re still completely stumped. Eventful, though.