The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Colorful (Movie)

Title: Colorful (Movie)
Genre: Drama
Company: Sunrise
Format: Movie; 127 minutes.
Dates: 21 Aug 2010

Synopsis: A dead soul, before being sent to the afterlife, is given a chance to briefly return to life by possessing a young middle school student. The possessed boy, named Kobayashi Makoto, is a gifted painter, but he has no friends and mainly sticks to himself. He has recently committed suicide after seeing his crush enter a hotel with an older man, promptly followed by his mother leaving the same hotel with her dance instructor. As the once dead soul adapts to its new body’s life, it must discover the grave sin it committed before it died.

The Highlights
Premise: Useful in setting up but forces the story to resolve the issue.
Atmosphere: Contributes immensely to individual scenes.
Characters: Appropriately flawed, but some seem extraneous.
Ending reveal: Predictable, but not correctly built up to.

A story like Colorful is not often told with animation. Unlike most other works in the medium that take an exaggerated or stylistic approach to storytelling, Colorful aims for verisimilitude to deliver its pathos. Standard drama rife with family issues and social failings account for a significant portion of the movie, and most of its strength is derived from nuanced touches and typical internal conflict. As such, it seems quite peculiar that Colorful was made into an anime instead of a live action movie. A possible justification for this may be the premise, which stretches the boundary by taking its main character’s nature as a lost soul literally. This makes for an interesting addition to what may have been a typical tale, but begs the question of whether it is truly necessary. Many similar stories have done the same without needing such a supplement.

Luckily, Colorful’s initial presentation of its premise works well, at least at the beginning. The soul is dropped into Makoto’s body with little explanation of what it should do, lending an air of sufficient confusion. This establishes the character’s personality quickly, as he approaches his new life with significant hostility. He cares very little for the consequences of his actions and is quick to form judgments of people. It’s these defining traits that set into motion the conflicts that drive the movie, as the new Makoto is quick to learn the uncomfortable truths of the people around him. The premise is thus an effective way to set the movie without much buildup.

Colorful continues its momentum from there by meticulously building its atmosphere during character interactions. By playing on the subtle cues more commonly seen in its live action counterparts, the story conveys the characters’ personalities clearly. Particularly striking is the interaction between Makoto and his mother. Composed of purposefully stilted dialogue and long silences, the confrontations bring out the worst of both characters, highlighting their extremely human flaws. This care towards the atmosphere alerts the audience to the crucial development of Makoto’s character as he realizes his problems, shifting the second half into one of self growth.

Sadly, particular issues begin to crop up during this phase. Makoto’s change in character comes to pass through a well executed scene with another character, but the interactions after with many others feel particularly forced. Some events seem to only transpire so that a character can extol a virtue or force Makoto to admit his mistakes. This becomes rather obvious around one character, whose role in the movies seems to be to merely say a small piece to the main character near the end. Another character seems to suddenly changes her view on her life without letting the audience see the change themselves. This change allows Makoto to explain what he’s learned, but his maturity seems to develop too suddenly, causing his development to seem abrupt instead of gradual.

The issue culminates in a return to the premise, which seems all but neglected at this point. Makoto finally realizes why he was incarnated into this body, but the revelation only seems natural to the audience. This is because Makoto lacks the knowledge that his life is a story construct that is limited by the viewers’ expectations of a cohesive end. Thus, the answer feels empty because it was merely tailored to fit into the story, putting the use of the original premise into question. The movie merely seems to drag a plot device it doesn’t really need.

Ultimately, Colorful excels in presenting its conflict. Its main characters are clearly outlined, and its emphasis on atmosphere magnifies this clearly. The consistency in portraying these flaws and the changes some characters went through to overcome them imprints in the audience’s mind some scenes memorable for their execution. Sadly, its rush to tie the main issue up as well as the side plots mars the end considerably. Equally disappointing was its premise, which set up the story perfectly but then seemed to end up as dead weight. Colorful may have delivered a riveting message if it had been more carefully thought out. Instead, it presents a story that is fantastic in its character depiction but is pulled down by the shortcomings of its plot.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Elineas

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