The anime films I love to watch the most are the ones that leave you feeling something when those credits begin to roll. It’s why Mamoru Hosoda film’s attract large fan-bases. It’s why Your Name is my favourite anime film. And it’s why I’ll remember and continue to enjoy I Want To Eat Your Pancreas for a long time.
Now let’s address the title right away. Yes I’ll agree on first glance it’s pretty weird and eye catching. But once you’ve watched the film you’ll see it makes perfect sense and no it’s not a film about a bunch of high school kids turning cannibalistic. It’s a touching coming of age tale that will likely leave you a little teary and thinking about life in general upon it’s conclusion.
I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is the debut film from Studio VOLN and almost exclusively follows the lives of it’s two lead protagonists Sakura Yamauchi and the person who for the sake of spoilers i’ll refer to as ‘Male Protagonist’ for the remainder of this review. The story around his name is a large reveal in the film and I’d hate to ruin that moment for you.
When the male protagonist stumbles across Sakura’s diary in a hospital waiting room and discovers that due to a diseased pancreas she is dying. While the two go to the same school they have barely spoken to each other at all. Largely due to the male protagonist being a mostly silent, gloomy loner type that we’ve seen numerous times in anime series’ and films.
Outside of her family, no one knows about Sakura’s illness because she’s deliberately kept it secret. Now that the male protagonist knows about it Sakura is glad to have someone that knows and immediately elevates him to the best friend status even though he makes it quite clear at first he doesn’t want to involve himself in her life at all. Throughout the course of the film he progressively comes around to the idea of liking Sakura more and more and eventually comes to terms with her, her situation and attempts to enrich the life she has left by helping out with items on her bucket list.
The thing that makes I Want To Eat Your Pancreas special are it’s lead characters. They are completely opposite which leads to some engaging story telling and fuels the humorous moments in the film. I will admit though that for the first 30 minutes or so of the film I wasn’t a big fan of the main protagonist at all. He starts off as a moody and bored teenage character I’d seen numerous times before in anime that tries to close himself off from the world and interacts with the bare minimum when in conversation with others. Thankfully by the end of the film he’s done a complete 180, opens up and is quite well developed when the film concludes.
Sakura as mentioned is the complete opposite. She’s incredibly bubbly and outgoing and tries to put the male protagonist in situations that make him feel uncomfortable to help bring him out of his shell. I got the impression that the overly bubbly personality was her way of coping with her illness and tried to portray to others on the outside that everything was a-ok while she was dealing with some really serious issues in her personal life. This gave a lot of depth to her character and allows the viewer to empathise with her character and situation from the very first scene she’s in.
I did find the later parts of the opening act to be a little slow on the pacing side, with it reinforcing the character tropes of both lead protagonists numerous times. But once it gets past that, it’s a very entertaining watch through to the end.
The final act of the film hit me with a plot twist i wasn’t expecting at all. I had thought, based on the first hour and 20 minutes of the film that I’d have a pretty good guess at how things would play out and was preparing myself for it. Then the twist happened and the end of the film went in an unexpected direction. I don’t think anyone out there could get through the film without at least tearing up by the end but don’t let that deter you from experiencing this touching and heartwarming tale.
While Studio VOLN have worked on anime series’ before, this was their first feature film. And the animation and artwork here are really great. The character designs and the world of I Want To Eat Your Pancreas are very pleasing on the eyes and the colours used help convey emotions in various ways, whether that be via darkly lit tragedy scenes or the softly coloured spring sequences that are used in the film’s heartfelt moments.
The film uses CG in subtle ways to enhance a number of it’s scenes. I often mention the use of CG in my reviews because where it’s used heavy-handedly it can really ruin the flow and immersion of a film. But that’s not the case in I Want To Eat Your Pancreas. It’s used to animate cars, do some psychedelic effects in a dream-like sequence but the best use of it was in the beach scene where it was used to render incredibly realistic water.
Upon finishing I Want To Eat Your Pancreas you’ll realise it’s actually a tale about life and not one focused about death. Although it starts a little slow and it’s male protagonist is quite unlikable in the opening act it comes full circle by the end and I walked away with it resonating more with me than I thought it would going in. It’s packed full of emotion but celebrates life and it’s visually pleasing art style and respectful use of CG makes it enjoyable from start to finish.