Review: I Want to Eat Your Pancreas26 November 2018
Don’t let the name of this movie put you off.
This isn’t a film about cannibalism, ok? It’s a touching animated film about a girl living with a terminal illness and a boy who learns the value of human friendship and connection.
Shall we get the title out of the way first? The girl, Sakura Yamauchi, is suffering from a pancreatic illness and the boy, who is unnamed for most of the film, is the only one at high school who knows about it. The title connects a few ideas raised by the film. It captures their unique relationship and the idea that if someone eats you, your soul will live on within them. It also ties in with an ancient theory that if you had an illness, like a pancreatic problem, eating a pancreas would help cure you.
This anime is based on a web novel of the same name and was written by Yoru Sumino in 2014. A live action version of the novel was released in 2017. Releasing an animated version a year later was a curious decision—perhaps the creators wanted to cash in on that sweet, sweet weeaboo money?—but I’m glad they did it.
Regardless of the reason, the animation for this film, produced by Studio VOLN, lends itself to some visually stunning scenes. It works especially well for the setting, as the story unfolds itself in the gloriously pink landscape of springtime. The lighting effects are also realistic and mesmerising. However, the animation for the characters themselves seems a bit too simple. Let’s look at the unnamed protagonist as an example. As a character, he prefers to keep to himself. However, because the animation for his face can be quite expressionless, it causes his behaviour around others to come off as really dickish. For example, he has no reaction when he finds out about Sakura’s illness at the beginning of the film. She’s totally cool with his reaction, which is fine for her, but as an audience member, he really comes across as an apathetic jerk. Our perception of him changes as the story continues of course, but this initial reaction would have been different if the animation for his character was developed a bit more.
As the film progresses, the friendship strengthens between the two main characters when they go on adventures and tick off items on Sakura’s bucket list. But if you’re a romance lover—don’t get your hopes up. The film teases you with the possibility of a romance but leaves you itching for more. I prefer it this way. A high school romance story would make this film too simple. Their relationship seems more complex and fragile due to this added will-they-won’t-they dynamic. It’s also more realistic that they stay friends. The unnamed protagonist has a hard time interacting with people, so the fact that Sakura is his first friend ever makes this relationship extra special.
If you’re like me, and you get a bit weepy during sad films, you’ll definitely want to keep the tissues handy. If you don’t want people to see you cry, watch it alone. If you want to share your grief, then gather some friends and have a cuddle. The film lets you know from the get-go that Sakura is dying and that this will not be a happy story so you have time to mentally prepare. However, when the inevitable happens, you still feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. There are also some reveals and surprises that really pay off by the end of the film.
This film had a lot of hype before it was released and I can really see why. It’s worth the watch. Even if you’re put off by the sad story or the weird title, the journey that these characters go on is heart-warming and fun. It’s a celebration of life and friendship. Look past the title and give this film a chance. Oh, and stick around after the credits ;)
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is in cinemas now.