Starring: Taito Ban, Minako Kotobuki, Takeo Otsuka
Director: Li Haoling, Yoshitaka Takeuchi, Yi Xiaoxing
Running Time: 74 mins
Flavours Of Youth is a Japanese film about the stories of three different young men and women living in different regions of China.
This is a film that uses all the strengths of anime to their full potential, but also falls victim to some of the most frustrating pitfalls of the anthology genre. While Flavours Of Youth is a beautifully elegant and visually gorgeous film, its structure makes it feel far more inconsequential than is clearly the intention, with a frustratingly broken-up form that lacks the emotional depth to keep you thoroughly engrossed right the way through.
Let’s start off on the bright side, however, with the animation. In similar vein to the most recent brand of anime, Flavours Of Youth uses a hyperrealistic visual style that follows on from the works of Makoto Shinkai, although the director of Your Name and more is not involved in this film.
In that, this is an exceptionally good-looking film with endlessly gorgeous landscapes and macro-focus imagery, bringing that intense energy and passion to the film that this visual style does so well, and as such helping to engross you at least on a superficial level from beginning to end, as you’re left just as wide-eyed and awestruck as all of the other anime movies that use this animation style.
Another plus in the film’s styling comes from its setting. The whole film takes place in China, set in a variety of different regions and showcasing various different lifestyles. Now, while some of the city life is heavily influenced by the Japanese perspective, and doesn’t quite evoke the unique characteristics of Chinese life, there are some sequences, particularly in the first story, where the film moves a little further out into the countryside, where you really do feel a little bit of a different flavour to the normal anime fare, which I was delighted and rather impressed to see, given it’s a medium that generally stays within the borders of Japan.
With all that said, however, the film’s major issue comes in the form of its anthology structure and stories. For starters, anthology movies are always incredibly difficult to get right, given that you’re trying to achieve the same impact in a short 20 to 40 minute segment as would be achieved over the course of an entire feature film. Couple that with the fact that you’ve got three rather disjointed set-pieces whose relation isn’t overtly clear or powerful, and you get a film that’s just not all that adept at keeping itself together.
That’s the film’s biggest frustration, but when it comes to the content of the stories themselves, things aren’t actually that bad. The opening tale is a little lighter, and as such feels a little inconsequential over its short runtime, while the second tale and third tale pack a little bit more depth and emotion, with the final tale featuring an almost perfect and poignant ending, something that really took me by surprise not having been entirely bowled over by the previous hour or so.
As such a short film, it’s hard to pack so much depth into one story, let alone three entirely separate ones, and that’s where this film falls down for me. I liked its atmosphere and themes throughout, but I feel that it tells stories that are deserving of being more fleshed out over a longer timespan, leaving me ultimately a little unsatisfied with the way that each one of the tales plays out.
Overall, I have to say that I liked Flavours Of Youth. On the one hand, it may fail to bring together three stories under a solid overall structure, but with intrigue and some strong emotion at times, as well as exceptionally good-looking animation, the film is a rather enjoyable and engaging watch throughout, which is why I’m giving it a 7.3.