Anime Reviews: Junkers Come Here
Beautifully intimate and deeply emotional, Junkers Come Here is a powerful and immersive film perfect for any audience, even if you're not an anime fan.
Title: Junkers Come Here
Production: Bandai Visual / Triangle Staff
Film Length: 100 minutes
Air Dates: 7/20/1994
Age Rating: 3+ (no objectionable content)
Summary: Hiromi Nozawa is an elementary school student who leads a happy life in an upper-middle class home. While she has several friends at school, Hiromi's best friends are her dog, Junkers, (who has the ability to talk, though they both agree to keep it secret to avoid any trouble) and Keisuke, her tutor (whom she has a crush on). However, as Hiromi's parents seem to be drifting further and further apart, she begins to question her place in the world and worries for the future. Late one night, as Hiromi and Junkers have a talk, Junkers tells her that he is able to grant any three wishes she might have. At first Hiromi is hesitant to believe him, but as it seems the world around her is collapsing and her parents' separation becomes inevitable, she begins to think about taking up that offer...
The Good: Soft, immersive watercolor artwork; memorable soundtrack; gripping atmosphere and character drama
The Bad: May be a little too long
The Ugly: Absolutely nothing
God, I love this movie. This was the first film I've ever watched at a convention--back in Otakon 2003, that is, and I had no idea what to expect from it. The title was just listed on a board with no pictures, and the hype surrounding new shows like Planetes and Infinite Ryvius (which both involve space), along with the film's title, led me to believe this would be something similar. I could never have suspected that, not only was this film nearly a decade old at the time, but it was a mostly down-to-earth family film. And a damn good one, at that. Now I'm going to explain why I feel the way I feel about Junkers Come Here, but just be warned that I have next to nothing but praise for this film.
To begin, the artwork is soft and subtle and sometimes heartbreakingly gorgeous. The film utilizes a lot of autumn colors all throughout, often to great effect, and special attention was clearly given to the backgrounds, which are done in a watercolor style that always manages to make me feel nostalgic. In fact, sometimes the backgrounds fade to white, often giving the impression that the film exists either in a dream-like state or that we're peering into Hiromi's memories, as she reminisces later in life. Either way, the artwork really pulled me into the story, and I have no doubt that it has done the same for others.
You know what else is often heartbreakingly gorgeous? The film's soundtrack, composed by indie-pop songwriter Naoto Kine. It's often minimalistic and unobtrusive, but there are moments in this movie where the music was enough to get me misty-eyed, and then the events on-screen would then proceed to not help. The soundtrack is rare as hell, though, so I don't have many examples to share with you; however, I did manage to track down the two main vocal songs, the insert track "Real You, Another You" and the ending credits theme "Winter Comes Around" (possible spoilers, maybe?). They're both terrific songs, and if Amazon didn't require me to have yen to purchase the soundtrack, I'd have my own copy by now. But alas, my lack of yens will forever be the barrier between me and aural perfection.
On a related note, if you happen to be curious about the soundtrack, you can buy it on the Japanese Amazon site if you have enough yens for the CD as well as a lot of extra for shipping:
My lack of international currency aside, it's time we get to the real meat of this film--the atmosphere, the characters, and the story. Why is atmosphere so important in this movie, you ask? Well, because one of the central themes of the movie is childhood nostalgia and what it feels like to be young again, you see. Characters often talk about when they were Hiromi's age, the maid lapses in and out of childish girly behaviors, and as mentioned earlier, the artwork often gives the impression that the story takes place in Hiromi's memories.
Naturally, it's pretty vital that the film want to make you feel that same sense of revisiting youth and wistful longing for days gone by, and with the use of watercolor art, simple and emotional music, and fanciful plot threads like the fact that Junkers can talk are all quite useful for conjuring up that kind of atmosphere. Most importantly, the end result is a warm and welcoming film that is easy to get attached to.
As for the characters, you may not like all of them, and that's because they're written fairly realistically--after all, not everyone in real life is likable either--but you can understand their motivations and intentions, and it's easy to see how they all affect Hiromi through their interactions not only with her, but with each other. And the genius of the writing is that we see the other characters as Hiromi sees them; Keisuke is upstanding and admirable (because Hiromi has a crush on him), the maid is flighty and flaky (because Hiromi always sees her singing and dancing while working), and so on. Every now and again we get to see them as they really are--without our Hiromi Goggles, so to speak--and the difference is sometimes pretty jarring.
Of course, the dynamic behind these characters is fueled by the story, and while Junkers Come Here may not have the most complex plot you'll find in a movie, I find that its beauty lies in its simplicity. In fact, a good chunk of the film is dedicated to Hiromi doing silly things like tailing Keisuke's female friend for an afternoon to see what she's like (she's female, so clearly they're dating, Hiromi thinks) or getting over an emotional hurdle by ordering, like, 30 hamburgers from a fast food restaurant (to hilarious effect, I might add). These little moments help to ground us in Hiromi's day-to-day life, and thus enhances the punch of the drama later on.
Now, while the film may be largely episodic as far as the plot goes, it's a lot like life itself: Your personal story may have an overarching narrative structure to it, but it never unfolds linearly or smoothly like in most fiction, but rather in brief, intense bursts after long bouts of everyday activity. I hope I'm making sense to you, because it is hard to put something like Junkers Come Here's genius into words. Just watch it and you'll see what I mean.
Now, if I had to pick out a flaw in the film, it would be its hefty length. I personally had no issue with it (I wanted to see more, in fact), but it might be hard for younger children to pay attention to the story for nearly two hours. The material is mature (in the family-friendly, appropriate way) and it's not exactly action-packed, so it's not hard to imagine that some kids will easily lose interest and miss out. Like I said, it's never bothered me, but I can see it being a roadblock for some viewers out there.
And that's about all I have to say, really. Go watch it. Both the English and Japanese versions are great, and they both come with the DVD, so there's no need to worry about subtitles or lack thereof, and you can probably find it cheap on Amazon (in fact, !). It'll probably be the best five bucks you'll ever spend, because you just can't find films this good that cheap very often. here it is
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10. Junkers Come Here is a film that is simultaneously touching, beautiful, bittersweet, and nostalgic, making it a sure-fire hit for adults that love to watch movies with their kids. Or heck, even alone. You can do that, too. I encourage it.