I give this wonderful little anime movie...a 93/100!
From the creators (both manga and anime) of the wonderful Natsume Yuujinchou come one of Midorikawa Yuki's earlier works, Hotarubi no Mori e (translated as To The Forest of Firefly Light), which has been made into a 45-minute movie recently. It was only just released, and many of you may think this is just a glorified episode of Natsume Yuujinchou, but by God, this thing is amazing, and I'm so glad I got to see it! To me, it's not nearly as good as Natsume Yuujinchou, but it definitely has a spot on my top 30 favorite anime!
The story's not much. It's about a little girl named Hotaru Takegawa who, one day at the age of six, gets lost in a forest as she goes to visit her uncle for the summer. She's found by a white haired boy named Gin, who is always wearing a mask and, according to him, he can never touch a human being. If he's touched by one, he'll disappear. But the two spend a lot of time together and become fond friends, seeing each other every year whenever Hotaru gets the chance to see her uncle for the summer. Yes yes, this has been done many times before, and sure it may not be the most original, but in my opinion, with the way this story was executed, I think it's done perfectly well, with a lot of heart.
Yes, if you can honestly believe it, like Natsume Yuujinchou, both the animation and music were done by Brain's Base and Makoto Yoshimori. The animation is as simple, beautiful, fluid, and top tier as ever, and there's nothing wrong with that. Considering this is another work by Yuki Midorikawa, the style is the same, with a few little changes here and there. The music...well, it's good, but unfortunately, it does have it's problems. This one particular music piece that had banjo strings playing kinda got played in the wrong scene or context, along with a few others. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the OST is bad. Heck, this is absolutely NOTHING like the atrocity that is the Durarara OST (don't hate me, Durarara fangirls!). It definitely sounds sweet like Natsume Yuujinchou's OST, but some pieces didn't quite fit. That's the only problem I had with the OST and the movie.
Unlike most movies, this anime doesn't have a very large cast, which is why I think the producers made it as short as it is (45 minutes. How were they able to show something of that length in a movie theater?!). But that doesn't mean that the characters aren't properly developed. The movie is very slow placed, and it allows us to both let the beautiful animation sink in, make us relax, and watch the characters grow and innocently interact with one another. The two lead characters are absolutely wonderful. Their chemistry is just perfect, and their interactions are nothing short of realistic and wonderful, even if it's not in the most realistic context. As the movie goes on, Hotaru grows up over time, and you really see how much she's changed since she was a kid. Gin is wonderful too, but why he's the way he is, I cannot spoil that. You need to watch the movie for yourself to learn about him.
Friendship can be a wonderful thing, and it knows no bounds. This is one of the anime's messages. If there's one thing Midorikawa does awesomely, it's tell a story. Nobody can say that she can't tell a story, because really, she's one of the few who actually can without the stories themselves getting all convoluted. Often times, anime don't know what they want to be, and wind up trying too hard (Kannagi), but this, along with Natsume Yuujinchou and a few other anime I've watched, kind of does it's own thing and runs with it, not caring about other things. Hotarubi no Mori e is a fairly simple story, and nothing more, which isn't a bad thing. Heck, I think simplicity wins over complicated anime any day. I wonder if this anime can be shown to kids? I didn't hear any curse words, and there isn't any violence, so maybe?
If you want to relax for 45 minutes, then watch this wonderful little movie. You won't regret it.