Fireworks is a charming slice-of-life anime film from producer Genki Kawamura (Your Name, Wolf Children). The story revolves around the friendship between Norimichi (Masaki Suda) and a girl he meets over a sunny afternoon: Oikawa Nazuna (Suzu Hirose). The young pair start to become friends with one another and begin to spend time by the sea.
As the pair start to hang out, they discover a magical silver ball which might have supernatural sci-fi powers: events start to blur with Groundhog Day-eque events which give them new possibilities. They deal with their real-life problems (Norimichi's ordinary struggles in school) and Nazuna's acceptance of her mother's divorce. Nazuna decides she might run away with Norimichi because of her problems. The characters also spend time with another friend, Jun'ichi (Shintaro Asanuma), who is a bigger goofball in the story. The film is a slice-of-life coming of age friendship story intermixed with science fiction fun.
The animation in Fireworks is truly exceptional. This is a truly beautifully animated film with gorgeous background designs, interesting character designs, and a terrific color pallet which excels on so many artistic levels. The artwork in the film is a huge reason why this production is so charming to behold. You can almost sink into the animation with it's warmth and charm.
The film has some other strong production elements which help to carry it's many charms. The music score by Satoru Kosaki (Bakemonogatari) is a breezy, fun score which keeps the story appropriately amusing. The cinematography by Takayuki Aizu (Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl) and Rei Egami (Nisekoi) befits the animator's hard work and helps the film have many stunning sequences.
Based on the original teleplay by Shunji Iwai (Love Letter, April Story), Fireworks is an anime adaptation of the original Japanese live-action television production released in 1993. With a screenplay by Hitoshi One (Bakuman., Love Strikes!) , the story is convoluted and all over the place. Yet it's weakness in storytelling refinery is simultaneously complimented with good characters and a charming style which makes the filmmaker's storytelling efforts more affecting.
Directed by Akiyuko Shinbo (Nekomonogatari) and Nobuyuki Takeuchi (key animator on Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle), Fireworks has a way of breathing fresh air into it's routine story concepts. The direction is never dull or rushed; it feels organic and original. The film works largely because of the strong directorial vision of these filmmakers. The end result is an anime film which is entertaining and charming from start to end. It might not break any new ground in the medium but it's charms are bountiful and sometimes that's all one needs to have a worthwhile trip to the cinema.
Fireworks arrives on Blu-ray with a 1.77:1 widescreen 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation. It preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio. It's a very similar ratio to 1.85:1 but doesn't quite fill the edges. This is a lovely presentation of the film with pleasing color reproduction. The image quality is terrific with good clarity and detail for the source animation.
There is minor banding in a few scenes which may be inherent in the source (as is sometimes the case with anime) but for the most part this is a quality presentation which gets the job done. It looks even better on this release than when I went to see a Fathom event special theatrical screening of the film. The film has a colorful energy which is well replicated on this release.
The audio on this release is presented with lossless English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio at 24 bit depth. This is a strong HD audio offering with good dynamic range and clarity. Dialogue is easy to understand. The Japanese dub is my preference between the two dubs as I felt the English dub was not as engaging as the original language version on this film. The film has some interesting surround sound sequences as well and it's a more enveloping mix than expected.
Subtitles in English, English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing) and French
Behind the Scenes with the English Cast (HD, 11 min.) is a short featurette with the English dub voice-director and the two young lead voice actors discussing their respective roles and the film and dub production. The casting director also chimes in with their thoughts on casting the film's dub cast.
Theatrical Trailers (HD, 3 min.) promoting Fireworks release are also included.
Fireworks is a charming slice-of-life anime drama with a romantic coming of age story-line mixed into the proceedings. It's a wonderful delight which is heartfelt, entertaining, and memorable. The artwork on display is fantastic and enriching. It's a sure-fire anime hit which fans of the medium should not miss. Fireworks is worth a watch.