Here we are at the end of this year’s film festival week. Aki no Kanade was created as a part of 2015’s Anime Mirai project. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that is, it’s designed to train young animators. Harmonie was also created as a part of it, just for the 2014 Anime Mirai. JC Staff headed the project. Yes, the Toradora, Azumanga Daioh studio.
We open with a drumming performance. Then we cut to the performers having some beers and chatting. One of them, Aki, seems to be feeling down. Probably because all of them have to have side jobs. The next morning she gets a phone call from her former teacher asking her to return to her home town in order to teach the drums. She agrees and quickly takes the train back.
The biggest flaw with this film is simply that it tries to do a bit too much. There’s this ongoing theme about past traditions being lost. There’s also quite a bit that ties into the difficulties of pursuing your dreams as an artist, specifically a musician in this, in the modern world. And all of that gets tied into flashbacks about how Aki became enamoured with the drums. And this isn’t a decent length film. It’s about as long as an ordinary episode of an anime. Which, basically, means that it can’t handle all of those ideas in any amount of detail. So, we get a cursory handling of the topics that basically relies on them being immediately relatable. Which, to be fair, they are.
That being said, what we do get of them is really well done. You get enough of a glimpse of Aki’s troubles as a musician to make it relatable. You see enough changes to convey the idea of traditions being laid to rest in the name of progress. And you see enough of Aki’s journey as a musician to give you a decent idea of what the drums mean to her. And it’s good enough that you want to see more. Seriously, I would watch a full anime that was just this as a more fully fleshed out narrative. It also does have a good amount of charm to it.
The main focus is on Aki herself. And she is a very strong character. Her arc of returning to her roots and regaining her passion is well handled. The characters around her are, fortunately, developed enough that they have verisimilitude. They might not be the most complex characters of all time, but they have enough to them to make them feel like real people. And they’re probably the best you’ll get from a twenty five minute film.
I’ll give the young animators full credit on this one. The film is well animated and the art just looks great in general. With nice backgrounds, good looking musical performances and characters that look pretty nice. About the worst it gets is that the driving animation is a bit hovery due to them not liking to show the wheels.
JC Staff got some strong actors. Satou Rina takes the leading role. Nakahara Mai & Kugimiya Rie take secondary roles. And they all deliver strong performances. The music is really good as well. There are some nice, traditional drum performances.
Aki’s friends, Megumi & Akane, hang onto each other in a way that’s pretty homo-erotic.
Aki no Kanade is a solid short film. For twenty five minutes, it does everything it needs to do and handles its themes as well as it can given the time constraints. I quite enjoyed it. Ultimately, I give it an 8/10.