If pens are mightier than swords,
Then speaking what they write is too.
And words no pen or page records
Can leave impressions deep and true
While those who spoke them have no clue.
Invisible, words plant their seeds,
Perhaps to not mature for years.
The flowers can be choked by weeds,
From tactless slurs to whispered fears
That did not settle on deaf ears.
We cannot know their full result
And may not live to see them grow,
But whether child or adult,
Our words outlive us here below.
Beware the seeds that you bestow.
MPA rating: Not Rated (a safe PG for light innuendo)
I always like to include at least one anime in my Blindspots, and this is one that I had just never gotten around to watching. The Anthem of the Heart has a strong pedigree with scintillating animation from A-1 Pictures and a screenplay from the queen of emotions herself Mari Okada (who would go on to direct the heart-shattering Maquia). It’s a sweet and sad story that ends up being much more of a teenage romance than a fantasy, and there’s something endearing about its simplicity.
When Jun Naruse was a young girl, she caught sight of her father exiting a love hotel with another woman, and he outright blames her when her big mouth leads to her parents’ divorce. Overcome with guilt, she encounters an egg-like prince who offers to curse her and prevent her from ever hurting others with her words. Years later in high school, Naruse is known in her class and neighborhood for never speaking. When a teacher encourages her and three other classmates to collaborate on a community outreach event, they end up putting on a musical, and Naruse learns that the curse does not limit her when she tries singing her feelings, which include a growing crush on one of her new friends.
Like Sunshine on Leith, I feel like this is a film I ought to love more than I did, what with the lovely animation and the plotline of putting on a musical, which includes original lyrics added to familiar tunes like “Greensleeves” and “Over the Rainbow.” There’s a half-hearted effort at planting doubt as to whether Naruse’s condition is truly fantastical or simply a psychosomatic result of her childhood guilt, and the result is underwhelming albeit more realistic. Likewise, the love triangle/square between Naruse and some of her classmates indulges in dramatic clichés while also trying to buck them in a way that does satisfy but not in the expected way, accentuating the theme that the real world is messier than fairy tales.
Nevertheless, The Anthem of the Heart had its fair share of strong and sincere emotions, with the climax giving me chills the way good musical drama does. Naruse’s concern about words hurting others affects more than just her story, and I liked the way it influences the supporting characters and helps her come out of her shell. The film ends up feeling like a small-scale story worth telling, one that probably would not have gotten as much love and detail put into it outside of the world of anime. It may not be a new favorite of mine, but I certainly hope to see more like it.
Best line: (Naruse) “Don’t tell people to disappear like it’s nothing. Words can hurt people. You can’t ever… You can’t ever take them back! Even if you regret, you can never take them back.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
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