OUR teen years can be a time of great possibility, discovery and optimism. It can also be a time for youthful mistakes, for naivety and regret.
One word that sums up this turbulent and exuberant time in life quite nicely is: if.
It is the word at the heart of SHAFT’s endearing coming-of-age animated tale Fireworks – out in cinemas on November 15. Norimichi (voiced by Masaki Suda) is a high-schooler who hangs out with a group of testosterone-charged guys. They pester teacher Miura (Kana Hanazawa) before spending lunchtime debating whether fireworks are flat or round.
Norimichi, meanwhile, is distracted by a crush on his lonely classmate Nazuna (Suzu Hirose). It is the type of bright-eyed infatuation that many of us have in our youth, adding a relatable spark of adolescent charm to Fireworks.
One day, Nazuna gives Norimichi the chance to win a dream date with her to watch the town’s fireworks show. That is – ‘if’ – he can beat his friend Yūsuke (Mamoru Miyano) in a swimming race. But the two boys are oblivious to Nazuna’s plans to elope with the winner (she uses this word to sound more adult) because she is disenchanted by home life.
After losing the race, Norimichi is left despondent until he later crosses paths with an upset and stood-up Nazuna. Wishing to put matters right, Norimichi uses a mystical object to replay the day. ‘What if I had won the race?’ he asks.
This is where things begin to go – in Norimichi’s own words – a bit ‘gw-ahh!’ The object allows Norimichi to reverse time and try to create the perfect day with his crush, but each time jump takes the young lovers into a new reality, including one where fireworks are flat and another where the town is surrounded by a translucent dome.
With this, the final fantasy-laced act provides numerous smile-inducing moments. Most memorably, Norimichi drifts off into a crystal land, riding on a flying horse-drawn carriage, as Nazuna sings for him. It is all part of the quirky fun and charm which only gets more enticing as the film progresses.
Fireworks, adapted from a 1993 TV movie, also benefits from the beautifully animated backdrop of a leafy, seafront town – like those seen in Your Name and When Marnie Was There. One unbroken shot of a train gliding alongside water while Nazuna and Norimichi talk inside stands out as particularly enchanting.
Fireworks is the summery sparkler to warm your heart this November. An explosive blend of youthful romance and fantasy. Effervescent animation.
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