Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes arrives hot on the heels of Makoto Shinkai’s brilliant Suzume. Both animes are admirably ambitious and emotive in their exploration of nuanced themes, but if Suzume was dazzling and fearless in its approach, Tomohisa Taguchi’s film is a little too toned down for its own good.
Kaoru (voiced by Oji Suzuka) meets a mysterious girl at the train station, offering her his umbrella in the pouring rain. Their paths meet again as the girl, Anzu Hanashiro (Marie Iitoyo), joins his class at school.
They strike up a friendship and after Kaoru, by accident, finds a mysterious tunnel, the two begin to explore it further. They quickly deduce that it can potentially grant wishes but three seconds in the tunnel equates to 2 hours in the real world.
Based on a 2019 light novel of the same name was successful enough to grant several manga follow-ups as well as this film adaptation. The film recently won the Paul Grimault Award at the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
That being said, the film’s narrative is a little too predictable to be memorable. The tunnel’s unfortunate ageing powers provide a fascinating canvas for a coming-of-age film but it seems to go mostly unexplored. Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes clearly yearns to be a love story, but for most of its runtime, the film refuses to let Kaoru and Anzu talk about their feelings, only of the tunnel.
With a runtime of barely 80 minutes, the film manages to convey a lot in a relatively short period of time. Without ever spelling out the themes, Taguchi gently examines Kaoru’s obsession and guilt over the death of his sister Karen, an incident which drove his father to excessive drinking.
Anzu’s character seems slightly less developed, even though she is given a juicy arc of finding confidence in her art. Kaoru is the film’s protagonist and is awarded more screen time as well as more care in character development, which ultimately leads to a slightly lopsided film.
The film’s score is also a little heavy handed. It often invades and hijacks the film rather than accompanies it. There is often a disconnect between what we see and what we hear. Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes is much more affecting in its quieter moments and when Kaoru and Anzu explore the tunnel.
Visually, Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes is marvellous. The contrasting worlds of the tunnel and the real world are simply mesmerising. Within the tunnel, there is an almost storm of colours and some very neat textural changes. Taguchi also has a very keen eye for framing and if anything, Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes is eye-catching and visually awe-inspiring.