For a movie that seemed to be universally loved, what’s there to debate about? Well, let’s find out!
Positive Canne: Hello everyone! It’s been a while. Today, I am going to review a wonderful movie called ‘Hotarubi no Mori e’ or ‘Into the Forest of Firefly Lights’. It was produced by the same people behind the equally wonderful Natsume Yuujinchou series. This anime is mainly about Hotaru who falls for Gin, the forest spirit. The twist is that they she cannot touch Gin lest he disappear. Every summer, Hotaru and Gin meet in the forest. As years go by, Hotaru turns from a girl to a woman while Gin remains the same. When the bittersweet story like this is joined by the slow, breezy pacing and beautiful scenery, Hotarubi no Mori e is like a dream, really good dream.
Negative Canne: You know what, the part where the girl grows up and the boy remains the same reminds me of that movie…you know, the one that girls are so crazy about…oh yeah! Twilight!
Positive Canne: Saying things like that can easily turn half the world’s population against you. Now back to our review, with all due respect to Negative Canne here, I don’t think we need him at all. I mean, this is a wonderful movie! And as I read around the aniblogsphere, everyone seemed to agree.
*Negative Canne snatches the mic from Positive Canne*
Negative Canne: With all due respect to Positive Canne, I believe that I, as a self-proclaimed amateur anime critic, have a responsibility more than just to recognize and praise good anime. I also have to point out what could have been done to make the show even better. So here I am, doing what I am supposed to be doing. I know that Hotarubi no Mori e is good but is just ‘being good’ good enough for you?
Positive Canne: I don’t understand what you are saying. Good anime is good! Why are you acting like a hater all the time?
Negative Canne: I’m trying to be a critic and critics are a bunch of haters, haven’t you heard? Anyway, I am sure that we all have seen Natsume Yuujinchou and loved it. Hotrubi no Mori e is created by the same people. It featured ‘forbidden love’ theme which has been used quite a lot even in Natsume series itself. The looks and the sounds are also identical to Natsume Yuujinchou. What I am trying to say is Hotarubi no Mori e is the work of someone who is so afraid of taking risk or does something out of his own familiar territory. They know they did something right with Natsume Yuujinchou and this time they are content with just doing the same. Watching Hotarubi no Mori e is like watching another episode of Natsume Yuujinchou but without Nyanko-sensei! Why make a separate movie at all when you can just make another Natsume episode?
Positive Canne: Alright alright! I get it. I know that this movie is a bit too similar to Natsume Yuujinchou even in production value. But in its defense, there’s a reason that this movie must be made separately. I know that the spiritual aspect and even the love theme could have been used in Natsume series, but not the ‘coming of age’ aspect. Don’t forget that this movie is not just about the forbidden love but also about Hotaru’s journey from childhood to adulthood. All the little things that Hotaru does during summer with Gin, they change as she grows up. It’s just beautiful.
Negative Canne: Your arguments would have sounded much more solid if this anime had put more work on its characters. Last I checked, having the characters standing silently gazing upon the gorgeous landscape does not count as character building or development. Gin seems like your average nice guy and Hotaru seems like your average high school girl. The only thing distinguished about their relationship is the ‘no touching’ rule which results in Hotaru’s multiple childhood injuries. The coming of age concept is evident enough but it is still underdeveloped. I don’t see much challenge in Hotaru’s growing up except to her desire to touch Gin. This is one of a few times that I wish the movie were longer than it was.
Positive Canne: OMG, you are so heartless! Characterization is important, I know that. You can nitpick the anime all day long and end up missing the whole fun. Hotarubi no Mori e is not exactly a characters’ movie. I think the movie is meant to be enjoyed for its tranquil atmosphere. The creators clearly want the audience to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the show and everyone more or less understands that, except you.
Negative Canne: Speaking of beauty, I couldn’t help noticing several lazy shots especially during the festival scene. Most of the people in the background were completely static. Nevertheless, most of the scenery was quite amazing.
Positive Canne: You are unbelievable, you know that? Sometimes I wonder if you like anime at all. But being as open-minded as I am, I will admit that this anime generally played it safe…maybe a bit too safe that it could not create much impact or challenge to us who have seen large number of anime before. But after all is said and done, Hotarubi no Mori e is like a nice cup of tea; it cannot fill your stomach but its taste and smell will calm you and make you smile. My rating is A.
Negative Canne: Believe it or not, I still like anime. And like I said before, Hotarubi no Mori e is a good anime and it hardly has any fatal flaw. The thing that bothered me is that it could have been much more if it took more risk and gave the characters more time. As things stand, I still don’t see any point in watching this anime if you have already watched Natsume Yuujinchou. My rating is B (see, I am not that heartless).
Title: Hotarubi no Mori e (aka Into the Forest of Firefly Lights)
Genre: fantasy, drama
Released date: September 17, 2011
Director: Takahiro Omori
Animated by: Brain’s Base
Late to the party as always. Apparently many bloggers have written about this anime already. Here are some that I think are especially insightful.