Did you know Rick Astley did ads for Mitsuya Cider? Snapshot transition.
Takumi lives in a traditional Japanese home from the outside looking in, but a step inside reveals culture divided across two stories in the wake of a divorce. Surrounding a father’s forget-me-nots are sliding doors traded for the sound of a turning door handle and in turn, sumi-e painting for American musical. Tatami mats disappear in light of a western approach to minimalism, stripped down to the wall paneling, leaving the richest color in the room to emanate from what’s contained by the shelves. Filled to the brim with classical records, modern values are internalized on the same page as the music teacher’s office. While a tambourine or a harp wouldn’t be unexpected in a standard orchestra, Shimaccho has also accumulated more atypical instruments like the balalaika and djembe, reflecting a desire to escape conventionality and embrace other cultures. This appreciation of diversity is further emphasized in the wall posters, ranging from realistic floral art to stylized iconography and the multi-colored fabric hanging in between.
Homeroom is similarly split between a traditional view by the windows and the anomaly of trusses above the doorways, but these converging support pillars defy dissonance for the sake of sweet harmony. At nearly every place, each interior is shaped by disparate elements drawn together with amazing grace. The speechless compliment the outspoken and warm abstraction breathes life into a bed of fading flowers. A modern mattress lit by stained glass hums to the tune made by a crescent moon and its crimson counterpart. Everything comes back to the title as a series of anthems, sung by various groups, whose members function as differently as the left and right side of the human heart. Reaching its pinnacle when the musical is held inside the school gymnasium, all this attention on interior spaces gets the most mileage out of the Wizard of Oz allusion with a band of four unlikely companions ultimately finding their answers from within.
Unlike Takumi’s house, Jun’s family situation is see-through from a far. Dried grass is everywhere under the sun, except in front of home sweet home, colored by the lush greens of Hotel Sheep and the comfort knowing the bliss of cherry blossoms remains fenced off in the distance. As someone simply trying to make the exterior reflect the interior, Jun inadvertently leads the way for the rest of the students holding back unsung feelings at their fingertips. The Community Outreach Event evokes imagery of hands extending to one another in hopes of creating a connection as strong as the power lines, stretching throughout the town and beyond. The ugly duckling’s story transcends its exception to speak for the collective experience and one girl’s glow grows into a network of light. Hands joined together can tell time and make music, suggesting strength lies in our combined forces or better yet, the cross bracing of individuals which build the bridge between Emerald City and pink pleasantries.
Despite how Beethoven is low hanging fruit for lazy filmmakers, Pathétique is featured in an inspired soundtrack of primarily American and European influences from Gershwin to Burgmüller. Even considering that Dorogoj Dlinnoju is of Russian origin, the folk song was eventually modernized into Those Were The Days by Gene Raskin and Mary Hopkin for an English audience. The same goes for Greensleeves and What Child Is This, which is precisely what the film does in both the DTM Research Club recreating Jun’s voice with audio editing software (an offshoot of blending Mina Aoe’s 1968 classic Isezakicho Blues with the contemporary Miss Mint, who is already an updated version of Miku Hatsune) and on a grander scale, Japanese lyrics repurposing melodies from the west. The final act sees a fusion of songs, no longer separated by over a century’s worth of changes in the musical landscape, striking a surprising balance between Pathétique and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. By pairing a sonata’s passion conveyed through emotional expression alone and a ballad communicating the power of words, the stage is set to encompass the highs and lows of Jun’s character arc all in one stroke.
Black and white piano keys are a testament to how such a happy union can arise from the ashes of conflict. Likewise, the Daruma doll and rabbit charm embody eastern and western representations of luck, but become bound by their differences. Harmony is an old man riding a new bicycle on the way to the juxtaposition of pulls for budding relationships. Stairs of separation may soon unite the divided, since the school mascot, a butterfly, is emblematic of change. As autumn leaves emerge halfway through the credit roll, the opposition looks more attractive as your significant other and the look on your face is enough to explain the joy of falling upward.