Last weekend at New York Comic Con, the English dub of HIDIVE and IFC Film’s romantic fantasy anime The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes premiered to a crowd on Thursday night. As someone who’s a bit of a glutton for punishment and watching way too many darker shonens back-to-back (to back … ) I was eager to take a break from heartbreak for a moment and step into a softer, gentler world before heading back to the agony that is JUJUTSU KAISEN Thursday.
Kaoru Tono heard a rumor: The laws of space and time mean nothing to the Urashima Tunnel. If you find it, walk through and you’ll find your heart’s desire on the other side…in exchange for years of your own life. One night, Kaoru just so happens to find himself standing in front of a tunnel that looks suspiciously like the one the rumor describes. He finds himself thinking of Karen, the sister he lost in an accident five years ago. To Kaoru’s surprise, he’s been followed by the new transfer student Anzu Hanashiro, who promises to help him experiment with the mysterious tunnel—but what does she want from Kaoru in exchange? And what will he have left to give, after the tunnel’s done with him?
The sci-fi element to the story had me even more intrigued before heading in. Romance paired with a tunnel that can grant you anything your heart desires: count me in. I was pleasantly surprised that despite what seemed like a pretty clear path the plot would take, it absolutely did not go down the easy road. It’s hard to watch at times, the darker themes woven into what appeared to be a lighthearted romance tale took me by surprise. It grounded what could have been a fantastical tale in a way that made these characters’ struggles both more interesting and more relatable.
Although some moments made me cry, more made me smile. The relationship forged between Kaoru and Anzu never felt forced or rushed, which can plague any genre and tale, instead blossoming organically with romantic moments and fleeting chances that built into a tragically accurate climax in their story. It’s got those gentle, tentative buds of love and hope that we crave in stories such as this — brushing hands, firework shows, and gasping breaths as they fight against what we as the audience can see and the pair refuse to acknowledge.
Despite its far-fetched base, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the true message of Kaoru and Anzu — that of missing what’s right in front of you all along. It’s an exploration of grief, first love, and regret paired with finding something worth risking the safety of your own bubble for. The animation is stunning and while I do think the story is best told in its subtitled version for the sake of stiff translations, the dub actors did a great job bringing these characters to life.
Tickets are on sale now. The film releases in theaters on November 3.