One of the most heartwarming experiences of the year.
I’ve written already about one anime movie-going experience I had this year. In contrast to the triumphant romp of the Love Live movie, The Anthem of the Heart was a much more personal affair. The movie made its stateside debut to minimal fanfare. I actually wouldn’t have known it was showing if it wasn’t for an off-hand twitter content prompting me to check. It turns out the movie was showing at a theater only a few blocks from where I work (yay southern California). I went down to check it out that evening with a couple friends not really knowing what to expect. This was the first time I saw an anime movie in theaters that wasn’t a spin-off of an existing TV series. I knew that the staff of AnoHana was working on this which promised a certain level of melancholy and youthful emotion but beyond that I didn’t know much. AnoHana, like Anthem, had a promising premise but it had failed to follow through so I tried to keep my expectations in check.
The end result was beyond even my highest expectations. The Anthem of the Heart is a rousing ode to the experience of growing up in a broken home and the difficulties that entails. The characters are fantastically written and their struggles feel genuine. I quickly fell in love with the cast and found myself pained by their failures and cheering their successes. It was such a deeply moving emotional experience that I decided to go back and see it again the following weekend. (driving 90 minutes this time, things aren’t perfect in southern California I guess) More than just my favorite new anime experience of 2015, Anthem was my favorite new anime since at least White Album 2 in fall 2013. I could go on about how well the movie takes its main cast through distinct but intertwined character arcs in just two hours’ time or how beautifully the movie’s soundtrack was or just how pretty everything looked but that’s not why I’m writing this post.
The biggest reason Anthem moved me so much and why I’m writing about it as my number three post this year is because it deals with a topic almost never covered by anime: divorce, and specifically the experience of children of divorce. I suppose it’s understandable since divorce is less common in Japan than in the US and kind of taboo to boot. Still, whenever one or both parents are absent it’s because they’re away for work or dead and never because of divorce. It’s a shame because divorce is a unique experience that presents a host of interesting angles for exploration distinct from what anime teenagers usually go through. My parents got divorced when I was 10 and despite the fact that it was an amicable divorce it was still a harrowing experience. Jun’s experience with her parent’s divorce was much more explosive and seeing what she went through I immediately sympathized with her plight. Divorce completely shatters the very base of what you thought was permanent as a child. And it all happens for nebulous reasons you can’t really understand from your point of view. Anthem absolutely gets this and presents a heartfelt and realistic examination of the experience.
I had never really thought about how anime was lacking in this regard but Anthem turned out to be the perfect anime movie I never knew I wanted. Its cast was immediately relatable because of the theme of divorce and because of that it provided an incredibly personal emotional experience unlike anything I’d experienced with anime before and I don’t expect I’ll see anything like it for some time. The movie’s western theatrical run is over but if you have a chance to check it out once it’s on home video I can’t recommend it enough. The Anthem of the Heart is a fantastic movie and should be immediately relevant to anybody who’s experienced their parents’ divorce in a way few other anime are