Despite dragging a bit before the finale The Anthem of the Heart[1] delivers an emotionally satisfying resolution when it gets there.

The Set Up

Jun Naruse is a cheerful chatterbox of a child who fantasises about the castle on the hill. Alas, the castle is actually a love hotel so Jun doesn’t realise what she’s seeing when her father drives out with another woman, nor does she realise the consequences of chattering to her mother about it.

In the trauma of being blamed for her parents’ divorce, Jun believes that she meets a fairy egg. The egg curses her by sealing her words so that she cannot hurt anyone with them anymore.

Ten years later in high school Jun is still unable to speak when she is drafted into the Charity Outreach Committee for her class along with Takumi Sakagami, Natsuki Nito, and Daiki Tasaki.

From there the film moves on to the production of a musical with Jun cast in the lead.

Curses and Loopholes

On the Grand Tour in Japan our tour leader Brett explained that Japanese mythology is often filled with loopholes to get around bad fortune. In this case Jun’s curse has a similar loophole: attempting to speak will give her a stomach ache[2], but it turns out that she can sing.

And that the words that she desperately wants to say, the truths she needs to tell, can express themselves as stories and lyrics that can be turned into a musical.

The Heart of the Film

The heart of the film lies in each of the four main leads in some way coming to grips with the lies they tell themselves and each other.

After another divorce Takumi pretended to hate the piano and music, and denies that he does like his kinda-sorta-former girlfriend Natsuki. Instead he latches on to supporting Jun in coming out of her shell to avoid facing those truths.

Natsuki still isn’t over Takumi, but is pretending she is. Instead she latches on to Jun as someone who needs a cheerleader like Natsuki to support her.

Daiki is resenting the injury that took him off the baseball team, and isn’t admitting that he’s lost without being in the team. He’s harassing the team to train harder to vicariously fulfil his dream of the nationals.

It’s in this matrix that these four are thrown together by their homeroom and school music teacher[3] Kazuki Joshima to form the Community Outreach committee for their class.

As the film progresses truths are revealed, hurts are healed, and more hurts are inadvertently inflicted in the lead up to the performance of the musical as the climax to the film.

Timing and Pacing

I found that the section just before and during the performance is a bit flabby for want of a better word. There’s about a 10-15 minute sequence where I found my attention wandering, partly I think because of situations I’ve seen before and always question the timing of.

In essence someone has gone missing from an event that they’re supposed to be in. Another character goes looking for them whilst the event proceeds without both characters as best they can.

The problem I have with these scenes is that they rarely take distance into account. It takes time to get from the school to the [spoiler deleted] and then to the [spoiler deleted] before the key conversation to fix the problem and then more time to get back.

Meanwhile the shortish performance is going on without them.

The locations used in The Anthem of the Heart are signposted well in advance, and it’s entirely believable that the searcher doesn’t waste any time working out where to go next.

But there’s still that transit time to deal with, and it did challenge my suspension of disbelief.

An Ethical Concern

I do have one other issue with the story of The Anthem of the Heart: the teacher. Presumably he knew that Jun couldn’t speak, and probably about the problems of the others as well.

Dumping them into a committee like that, particularly Jun, could be seen as an act of cruelty. Yes, it all turns out well in the end, but does that justify his actions when it could easily have gone so horribly wrong?

I don’t really have an answer to this one, but I’m at least uncomfortable with the teacher’s actions.

The Resolution

Those two problems aside, The Anthem of the Heart does deliver an emotionally satisfying resolution. It’s not on the same level as Anohana by any means[4] but there’s still a tearjerker at the end and a real sense that all of the leads are in better places emotionally by the end.

Overall I’m recommending The Anthem of the Heart as a film to see at least once.

[1] Originally Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda which literally translates to The Heart Wants to Shout according to Wikipedia.

[2] Heavily implied to be a “lose your lunch” level of stomach ache.

[3] The teacher is played by Keiji Fujiwara and his voice was bugging me in a “where have I heard this before” way all through the film. It turns out he was Hyakume in Bodacious Space Pirates and his performance here is very similar.

[4] The same production teams did both.