When I finished watching The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, I immediately navigated to a “new post” page to get out all of the thoughts flooding my head. However, as I stared into the white page with the cursor flashing back at me, nothing was coming out. My heart was heavy and I didn’t quite have the words yet to describe what happened to me. I realized I needed to sit with what I had just seen and let it engulf me.
I went to sleep with a few incoherent sentences in my notes app, hoping to wake up with more direction. Amid dreams, I found myself in the tunnel and began to gain some semblance of sense.
About The Tunnel to Summer
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is based on a light novel and manga series by Mei Hachimoku. The movie was animated by CLAP Animation Studio, which also animated Pompo: The Cinéphile. The director, Tomohisa Taguchi, has also directed Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna and Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning. It stars Oji Suzuka and Gabriel Regojo as Kaoru Tono and Marie Iitoyo and Patricia Duran as Anzu Hanashiro.
The movie follows Kaoru Tono, a high school boy who is seemingly living life on autopilot. Haunted by the death of his sister and dealing with an abusive father, Kaoru is a bit of a loner. One day he meets Anzu Hanashiro, a transfer student, and his world begins to change. After discovering the mysterious Urashima Tunnel, which is rumored to grant wishes, the pair decide to explore it together to get what they want.
A Summer of Romance
The Tunnel to Summer perfectly combines the high school romance trope with the eeriness of an unknown supernatural force. As with any teenage romance, Kaoru and Anzu find solace in each other because they are outcasts from the rest of their peers. The intrigue of the Urashima Tunnel initially brings them together but ultimately, it’s the painful secrets they share that create the strong connection between them.
It’s not lost on me how in the backdrop of the typical lighthearted teen dating tropes (an aquarium date, summer festival, cafe date) Kaoru and Anzu are having difficult conversations about their pasts and what is to come in the future. Ironically, these dates are the highlights of getting to know someone yet Kaoru and Anzu are lightyears ahead in terms of intimacy.
A Story of Grief
“Grief can rob us of time” was the first thing I jotted down after finishing The Tunnel to Summer and while I slept on it, that thought encapsulated everything I had been feeling. Time flows differently in the Urashima Tunnel, so much so that 10 seconds in the tunnel is equivalent to 6.5 hours on the outside. But for Kaoru, who desperately wants his sister back, the time lost in the real world means nothing.
When I thought about the pain of losing something, I often imagined the days melting together while in the haze of sorrow. There’s nothing to look forward to and you are stuck in time while the entire world continues to spin. Friends and family can cope and move on, but you can’t. The Urashima Tunnel is the perfect metaphor for the time we spend in grief, unable to move forward, running to get the old days back.
Stuck in the Urashima Tunnel
While I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, I had a feeling it would be impactful. However, I underestimated just how much it would continue to consume my thoughts after watching. I can’t seem to get over how beautifully done it was. The tying together of summer love with the heaviness of the exploration of self-worth and, the pain of losing a loved one was perfect. Not to mention, the musical score and animation are on another level as well.
I don’t think I will be over The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes for a long time. I feel myself stuck in the Urashima Tunnel, revisiting scenes and wondering if things could play out differently. While there certainly are other movies regarding teens in love with time-traveling elements, The Tunnel to Summer has a certain melancholy feel that makes it stand out. I have no doubts this movie will be on our minds for time to come.
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is playing now in select theaters. You can get tickets at tunneltosummer.com