Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
Our unnamed protagonist happens to find a diary in a hospital one day. The diary belongs to his classmate, a girl named Sakura Yamauchi, who is revealed to be suffering from a terminal illness in her pancreas and only has a few months left to live. Sakura explains that the protagonist is the only person apart from her family who knows about her condition, so he promises to keep Sakura's secret. Despite their completely opposite personalities, the protagonist decides to be together with Sakura during her last few months.
“I Want to Eat Your Pancreas” doesn't sound like the title of a romantic drama. It also doesn't sound like the kind of novel that would originate from Syosetsuka ni Narou, the website that has originated so many isekai light novels in recent years, but there you have it. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is full of surprises like that.
This animated film adaptation is actually my third time experiencing the story of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Not only have I read Yoru Sumino's novel, I also watched the popular live-action film adaptation last year. So I was puzzled to see an anime version retreading the same ground only a year later. The plot, which is a boy-meets-girl story about a girl who will die because of her failing pancreas, always struck me as a better fit for live-action anyway.
This isn't to say that the anime film is a poor adaptation. It's a perfectly good movie in its own right, and I don't intend to compare its merits to the live-action version. However, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas does have some noticeable failings as an animated film.
For one thing, the character animation doesn't quite match the level of expression in the voice acting. A film like this with only minimal fantastical elements lives and dies by the quality of its character animation. Because the animation needs to express the nuances of the characters’ emotions, in a way you could say that the animators do half the acting. And while there are some well-drawn scenes, especially in the film's more emotionally charged moments, the animation doesn't consistently convey the subtleties implied by the script and voice acting.
This issue is particularly noticeable with the male protagonist, who goes unnamed for most of the film. He's supposed to be a rather stoic and unreadable person for most of the story, but the anime goes so far with this portrayal that his expression never changes at all during extended scenes. This makes the character come across as simply wooden rather than a person “who is fighting himself,” as the heroine Sakura puts it. As a result, it's hard to get invested in the main character or the central relationship. When he finally does start to visibly emote, it may be too little too late.
This problem with expressing character emotion is perhaps connected to the character designs themselves, which strike me as somewhat bland. In the anime's attempt to create realistic-looking characters, it also loses much of the stylistic iconography of animation. Sakura is supposed to be an exuberant girl, but that can't be grasped immediately from looking at her design. Much of that personality must be shown through the animation itself, and sometimes this is communicated well, especially when her individual strands of hair are animated in detail. But it's too much to expect that level of consistency across the entire film, so every other scene may leave us with characters that feel like ciphers.
I was also not impressed with the overuse of filters in some scenes, which had an oversaturating effect. It actually becomes hard to tell what is happening in those scenes because the characters are completely overshadowed by the effects. Egregious use of post-processing effects aside, however, there were occasions where these touches enhanced the impact of the film. One night-time scene with fireworks was a particular standout for me, and it's no surprise that the staff said that this scene justified making an anime.
Although my impression of the film's visual quality is mixed, it's fortunate that the best animation is reserved for the novel's most well-written scenes. This film is at its best when exploring the unspoken tension between the two leads and their “relationship without a name.” Although the film mostly follows the bittersweet love story template, there are some messy emotions on display that defy straightforward interpretation, but will easily ring true to anyone who has struggled with human relationships. In the end, despite all the romantic teasing, I think that I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is more a story about learning how to make friends.
Mind you, the story of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is far from perfect either. Personally, I find it hard to get invested in stories that revolve around a deceptively cheerful dying girl teaching a mopey boy how to live. (Think Your Lie in April.) Things get especially heavy-handed in the latter half of the story, when the inevitable happens and the characters start having flashbacks to happier days. It's particularly flagrant in a scene where the protagonist reads Sakura's diary and finds out her perspective on the film's events, but this is only shown visually through recycled footage from earlier in the film. None of it ends up being new information for the viewer, and the denouement ends up dragging on for so long that it threatens to feel fatiguing rather than tragic.
I still felt a little teary at parts though, and this film will definitely get you if you're a sucker for tearjerkers. Even if it's not consistently great, there is some amazing crying animation in this film, and the voice acting in those parts is just sublime. Even watching those scenes out of context would probably give me a visceral reaction. It's especially impressive that this film made me feel things when this is my third time experiencing the story. For that alone, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is worth recommending.
As a final note, they do explain the meaning of that strange title in the film. Actually, it's explained in the first scene. I still can't help but think that the cannibalism connotation undercuts the symbolic meaning of the metaphor myself, so I want to stress in closing that nobody eats any human pancreases in this film.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Consistently great voice acting, some good character animation and nuanced writing, an effective tearjerker
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