It was really hard to make Colorful sounded attractive. The anime overall was incredibly somber. Grey and blue made up for most of the film’s color template. Despite that, Colorful talked about how complex people could be and seriously explored several issues in our society. This review contains minor spoilers.
Colorful followed one rejected soul, who was given a second chance to redeem himself by living in the body of a junior high school student, Makoto Kobayashi. Makoto had recently committed suicide by overdosing himself with his mother’s medicine. This soul in Makoto’s body had to live through Makoto’s life and learned about the context behind his eventual suicide.
People are full of colors. Clearly, this was the main point of the film. The anime tried to display the wide range of colors in life and its characters; from the darkest of colors to the brightest. Despite its young protagonist and juvenile-looking style of animation, Colorful did not shy away from disturbing subjects, or sugarcoat them in any way. One of Makoto’s classmates, Hiroka, bought expensive clothes using money earned from selling herself to rich men. Shoko, another classmate, was eccentric and ugly. His brother, Mitsuru, hardly spoke to him and probably hated him. His quiet father was paid less than he deserved at work but did not complain. Meanwhile, his mother had an affair and was ridden by guilt. These people in Makoto’s life at first seemed to provide nothing but bad influence to him. And we could easily understand why he was so miserable. But Makoto himself was also far from perfect. He was bullied and had low self esteem. He hated his family for what they did and punished them with apathy and resentful words.
But these bad things were actually not the real problem for Makoto. The problem was that he only saw the bad colors in people around him. May be he was too young to see that these people also displayed other colors as well. The second half of the film showed that Makoto’s friends, despite their faults, were far from being bad people. His parents and brother, despite their flaws, loved him very much and would support him in whatever he chose to do. Hiroka was later revealed to be insecure and surprisingly caring. And Shoko was actually the one who had the best understanding of Makoto’s feeling.
Every person was multifaceted, full of colors. And they should not be defined by their worst colors, but rather by all the colors they had. Realizing this truth was all it took for Makoto to turn his life upside-down. He did not undo anything that had happened. He did not change anyone around him. He only changed the way he looked at them and his own life. Suicide was his own failure. It was neither his escape nor solution.
I loved the minimalistic style of character design used in this anime. Despite the fluid animation, I occasionally felt stark contrast between highly detailed background and the simple character design. The landscape shots depicting different places in the city were used to emphasize on how lonely Makoto was. As we frequently see him walking alone through lively places. The original score consisted mostly of quiet piano pieces, which suited the overall atmosphere of the film well.
Colorful was a masterfully crafted anime. It won a number of best animated film prizes in Japan, and rightly so. Its key message about life and nature of human was nothing new. But the way this film handled these universal issues were interesting and easy to understand. The ending also managed to deliver a surprisingly effective revelation. Colorful is highly recommended for anime fans, especially those into rather serious, contemplative titles.
The curious case of Makoto’s revival: additional nitpicking
In the beginning, Makoto died of drug overdose. The drug belonged to his mother, probably some antidepressants since she was clearly depressed. These drugs suppressed the nervous system and Makoto should be in a coma. For someone who had been in coma, he should have been placed on ventilator to support breathing. Instead, Makoto was seen on a regular bed, in a regular room without any life support. It’s as if they just let him sleep and die. Plus, after he woke up, Makoto appeared to be in perfect health. But in reality, patients suffering from drug overdose usually had some degree of damages on other organs, especially the liver and kidneys. These issues were trivial but they distracted me somewhat while watching the film. Of course, I did not took them into consideration while rating the film.
Genre: drama, supernatural
Released date: August 21, 2010
Running time: 127 minutes
Director: Keiichi Hara
Animated by: Ascension, Sunrise studio