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I’ve had the chance to learn and grow
From where I was ten years ago,
And though time’s neither fast nor slow,
It’s galloped past me even so.

I know,
I know,
I’m not that old.
Not old enough to be consoled
For past regrets and words untold
When still on destiny’s threshold.

Yet worry knows no age or race.
It’s but a trace time can’t erase,
Not even at its breakneck pace.
And such are truths we all must face
As past and future we embrace.

Rating: TV-PG (nothing objectionable, just themes best appreciated by adults)

For those who loved Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, it’s naturally a grueling wait for his next anticipated feature, but in the meantime, CoMix Wave Films, the production studio for Shinkai’s movies, has filled the gap nicely by teaming with the Chinese animation house Haoliners. In place of Shinkai, Flavors of Youth has three different directors, each delivering a dramatic entry for this Netflix anthology film. Surprisingly, the result is a satisfying substitute that boasts both visual beauty and honest emotion in equal measure (as well as a solid English dub).

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While the names and settings are clearly Chinese rather than Japanese, Flavors of Youth has all the aesthetic quality of a well-crafted anime film, and while Japanese animation can so often be associated with explosive battles and yelling, this belongs to the more introspective and relatable side of anime. The first of the three short stories revolves around a young man’s memories of the San Xian noodles he ate while growing up, which may seem overly simple, but the true-to-life details and poetic narration by narrator extraordinaire Crispin Freeman (of Haruhi Suzumiya fame) added to its impact. The second film was a bit less engaging for me, focusing on two sisters in the fashion world, but the story ended nicely and didn’t detract from the film overall. The third, though, entitled “Shanghai Love Story,” is especially affecting with its likable characters and sad irony, and any fan of Shinkai is bound to admire it.

While the themes are far from niche, I felt that the individual stories were aimed precisely at people like me, twenty-somethings uncertain about the future and nostalgic for good ol’ days which weren’t all that long ago yet seem to be fading before our eyes. The first story best encapsulated these sentiments and the way that memories and regrets always outlive their source. Cherished businesses close, loved ones die, and modern replacements never quite reach the glory of our recollections and hopes.

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Yet unlike some other films I could name (I’m looking at you, 5 Centimeters Per Second), Flavors of Youth doesn’t settle with being depressing and finds hope in the promise that comes with building off those precious memories. This anthology may fall that little bit short of greatness, but those who enjoyed Shinkai’s work, such as The Garden of Words, should not miss it; just don’t expect another Your Name, and certainly nothing supernatural. I feel like I’ve grown fonder of this film since first seeing it, thanks especially to an after-credits scene that barely tied the stories together, and it’s a gratifying sign that Shinkai’s influence is clearly spreading. There are several anime films I’m dying to see this year, especially Maquia and Mirai of the Future, so I’m grateful that Netflix supplied this wistful little film while I wait.


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2018 S.G. Liput
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