‘The Tunnel To Summer, The Exit Of Goodbyes’ Review: “Familiar Fantasy Highlighted By Gorgeous Animation”
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, has all the makings of a must-watch for romance and fantasy fans. The feature film adaptation is written and directed by Tomohisa Taguchi and paired with absolutely gorgeous animation from studio CLAP. Great chemistry between the two leads and a familiar but enjoyable sci-fi plotline highlight the project.
Based on the light novel and manga by Mei Hachimoku, the story follows the quiet high school student Kaoru Tono. While out one night, Kaoru discovers the Urashima Tunnel, which local legend claims holds your heart’s desire on the other side, at the cost of years of your own life. Longing to bring back his sister Karen, whom he lost in an accident years before, Kaoru thinks he has found a way to do so. Only he is joined by a new transfer student, Anzu Hanashiro, who promises to help him explore the tunnel’s secrets. And with desires of her own, Anzu hopes to grant her own heart’s desire with the tunnel’s powers. Ultimately, along the way, the two begin to connect and find love.
As for the leads, neither Kaoru nor Anzu are revolutionary in terms of character, but their relationship and its development throughout the movie are a highlight of the film. Kaoru starts as the typical quiet and reserved male lead found in most romance anime, while Anzu seems cold until warming up to Kaoru. While their friendship begins due to their shared interest in the tunnel, they quickly grow closer over the course of the film, giving way to love, and seeing this unfold is sure to delight romance fans. Additionally, in terms of characterization, Kaoru and Anzu were not the only ones limited in the film. Regarding side characters, the movie never takes any time to develop them or flesh them out beyond their basic two-dimensional roles. Their classmates are only meant to offer some basic exposition, and as for Kaoru’s father, he is nothing more than a cruel backdrop to help motivate the lead.
Another weak point of the film was the time travel mechanics of the tunnel, which felt overly familiar. However, this did create some enjoyable tension, which benefited the story. Some viewers may compare the dynamic to similar films such as Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, which, to be fair, is never a bad thing. But it does limit the story and feels like it holds it back from being truly great. On its own, it doesn’t break any new ground in the genre, but it still makes for an interesting watch.
All of this considered, though, the true star of the film is the beautiful animation. Every frame of The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, is a work of art that easily draws the viewer into the story. The atmosphere it creates serves the film well as it develops not only the otherworldly realm of the tunnel but also the familiar town they call home. The backdrops stand out, especially when laid next to the character’s rather plain designs, as the colors and lighting pop. Viewers will especially appreciate the look of the tunnel with its eye-catching design.
Ultimately, while the movie treads familiar ground, its beautiful scenery and engaging central romance craft a story that will please many. Kaoru and Anzu are like most leads, and that is where the film draws its strength as it gives way for their romance to flourish. The fantasy elements of the story were nothing new, but they still helped to develop some needed tension to help Kaoru and Anzu grow. Propped up by the fantastic animation The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes stands on its own as a worthwhile watch.– Jacob Campbell
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, opens in US theaters on November 3.