The Tunnel To Summer, The Exit Of Goodbyes (2023)

Director: Tomohisa Taguchi

Running Time: 83 Minutes

Certification: 12a

Starring: Ouji Suzuka, Marie Iitoyo, Tasuku Hatanaka, Arisa Komiya, Haruka Terui, Rikiya Koyama, Seiran Kobayashi

Beginning life as a light novel, Mei Hachimoku's award-winning story became a manga series before writer/director Tomohisa Taguchi adapted it into an anime feature. An overheard rumour about Urashima Tunnel begins the tale, detailing that anybody who walks through the gate is granted their heart's desire in exchange for years of their life. Tono Kaoru (Ouji Suzuka) initially writes this off as a rumour until, while out one night, he finds himself standing in front of the mysterious tunnel.

Despite exploring it for a short period of time, he discovers that an entire week has passed while inside. Overcome with memories of the sister he lost in a tragic accident, Kaoru returns only to discover new transfer student Anzu Hanashiro (Marie Iitoyo) is following him. After sharing the discovery with his classmate, the pair team up to figure out the tunnel's mechanics before intending to fulfil their wishes.

Upon their first meeting at a train station, where Kaoru shares how announcements of a deer being hit by a train are not unusual, a connection is formed between the lead pair. While Anzu is initially closed off and blunt, the shared time allows the duo to grow closer and open up about their familial pain. Kaoru feels guilty for his younger sister's death in a saddening situation worsened by his father's abusive behaviour, while Anzu is distanced from her parents due to a desire of following in her grandfather's footsteps. A sweet relationship forms between this engaging pairing, leaving viewers to easily root for them to overcome their issues together.

While the pair are ready to achieve their desires, a question arises whether they are ready to pay the required costs. It is tempting for the leads to get what they wish for, although it requires sacrificing the potential for things to become better. They are scared of change and feel uncertain of how to approach their futures, believing they need to return to a simpler past or must better themselves out of fear of not being good enough.

Brought alive courtesy of Studio CLAP, this gorgeously animated tale captures the mood-fitting weather as effectively as the character's expressions. The tunnel contains the most stunning visuals, effectively lighting the journey down memory lane in entrancing fashion. While the story moves towards a bittersweet resolution, the actual endpoint raises uncomfortable questions which leaves a bad taste. It is an unfortunate full stop for an effective story about being lost in nostalgia instead of focusing on the present and future possibilities.

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is available in cinemas now