The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Nerawareta Gakuen

Title: Nerawareta Gakuen aka Psychic School Wars
Genre: Drama
Company: Sunrise
Format: Movie, 110 minutes.
Dates: 20 Oct 2012

Synopsis: It’s the start of a new school semester for a junior high school in Kamakura, which welcomes a new transfer student by the name of Kyougoku Ryouichi. Handsome and enigmatic, he immediately becomes popular with his classmates, but in truth, he is a time traveler from the future with special telepathic ability. He uses it to fulfill his mission of scouting latent psychics. As time passes by, Kyougoku learns that Seki Kenji, an air-headed classmate whom he met on first day of school, is the only one immune to his power. Why is that so, and how is Seki going to stop Kyougoku from carrying out his plan?

The Highlights
Visuals: Dreamy; resembles Shinkai Makoto‘s art style, albeit a bit overdone.
Premises: Unoriginal; banal character archetypes and relationships.
Story: Well written but poorly executed; gets convoluted toward the end.
Ending: A tad melodramatic although nicely presented.

Director Shinkai Makoto is perhaps one of the most talked-about anime directors in this age. His breakthrough brainchild Voices of a Distant Star demonstrates his talent for telling sentimental stories about bittersweet young love, but he is also well-known for his artistic prowess, from his signature visual style of clouds to picturesque drawings of nature-oriented backdrops. He has established quite a strong reputation in these two fields, and there aren’t many other anime productions that quite resemble his works … that is, until director Nakamura Ryosuke‘s debut full-length movie Nerawareta Gakuen. While Nakamura‘s debut is perhaps not as adeptly handled overall as one of Shinkai’s works, Nakamura has proven that he has the potential to rival Shinkai at his own game.

Nerawareta Gakuen invokes the same vibes as Shinkai‘s works mainly because of two things: one is the art style and the other is the overarching theme of the story. The movie is artistically gorgeous; a lot of attention is paid in the meticulous details of the visuals from the cherry blossom petals being blown in the breeze to the gleaming rays of light shining through classroom windows. Another outstanding feature is the use of color hues and tones to accentuate and render scenic clouds and evening skies. The only problem, though, is that sometimes it’s aesthetically overdone. Some scenes such as the constant flurry of cherry blossom petals are over-stylized and thus distract the eyes. It occasionally crosses the line that separates masterful artistry and artistic overload, and the visuals would have complemented the story better if they were toned down.

The other notable feature of Nerawareta Gakuen is the overall theme. It cleverly builds its story around the cell phone, which is used as the central motif, and expands into the idea of connecting with people. From there, the theme is weaved with the central plot, and the story explores the themes of bittersweet adolescence and unrequited love. It is an emotional ― albeit a little melodramatic ― story of sense of belonging and how humans as lonely creatures depend on one another for existence. What is unfortunate about the story, though, is that it gets convoluted toward the end, and the pacing is inconsistent throughout. Furthermore, the story’s premise lacks originality, with time travel and budding romance between two childhood friends perhaps being two of the most common clichés in anime.

Nakamura has somewhat demonstrated both his strengths and weaknesses in Nerawareta Gakuen. On one hand, like his previous works “Run, Melos!” in Aoi Bungaku and Mouryou no Hako, pleasing aesthetics and emotional storytelling are his fortes. On the other hand, he still has quite a long way to go when it comes to telling a coherent and well-paced story. Despite its flaws, the movie is nevertheless beautifully presented and a good start for Nakamura for future movie endeavors. A promising director who has the potential to offer so much more in his future work, he has illustrated in this movie the beauty of youth and the unforgettable memories that come along with it.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: AC

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