Michael Potts | 1/11/2017
To ask ‘if…’ can be to look to the possibilities of the future, or can express regret at roads not taken or possibilities not realised. This very question drives the story of Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?, in a tale of young love and multiverse magic.
Fireworks is directed by Nobuyuki Takeuchi in his first feature length outing, and produced with the animation house Shaft, Inc, known best for its television series like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Bakemonogatari. The film follows high school student Norimichi Shimada, whose friend Yusuke is invited to see the town festival fireworks by classmate, Nazuna Oikawa, after he beats Norimichi in a swimming race. With the discovery of a mysterious orb, however, time begins to repeat with the characters’ desire to change the future, and a romance begins to blossom between Norimichi and Nazuna, the latter of which wishes to escape her mother and soon-to-be step-father.
First and foremost, the animation of Fireworks, for the most part, can only be described as gorgeous. Many scenes take place in, around and under water, and there is a beautiful fluidity to these moments that is eclipsed only by the scenes with the eponymous fireworks displays. The characters are well designed, though apart from the two leads none are especially distinctive. The strength of the animation is marred by the use of 3D CGI to animate certain objects in motion, mostly people riding bicycles. 2D and 3D can and have blended well together in the past, but here the CGI sticks out like a sore thumb and looks ugly in comparison to everything else. Some of the shots in which the 3D appears are also longer than they should be considering how the two styles here do not match seamlessly. This is a minor complaint overall, however, and should not take away from what is visually a lovely film.
There is a moderately sized cast of characters, including Norimichi and Yusuke’s friends, their teacher and Nazuna’s mother and her fiancé. However, Fireworks is Norimichi and Nazuna’s story. Norimichi for his part follows what is, despite the film’s magical elements, a fairly typical first love, coming of age pathway. As for Nazuna, she is a troubled character dreaming of running away and creating a new life for herself. But, as much as she is her own distinct character, she is just as much an object to drive Norimichi’s character forward. This becomes increasingly obvious as there are many scenes littered throughout which show her off visually, which is off-putting and is somewhat of a shame given her character (and her family issues) had much more room to develop and be explored than the male lead’s. The pair’s romance can also be seen as odd, given their chemistry is not particularly obvious. Taken another way, though, this is really in many ways quite a realistic take on teen romance, characterised as it is by rapid infatuation and rash decision-making, but also a healthy dose of care and sweetness.
Through the two leads and a dive into world-bending fantasy, Fireworks at it’s heart tells a meaningful tale of love and seizing the chance to choose the world you want to live in, or to at the very least pursue it. At it’s height, it is a visual delight and, even for its shortcomings, it is worth viewing by any fan of the medium.