“Words can hurt people. You can’t ever take them back. Even if you regret it, you can never take them back” – Jun Naruse, The Anthem of the Heart.
In life, our most profound moments are often those where we realise the true value of something taken for granted, either through losing it ourselves or seeing the struggles of someone without. A character’s greatest journey isn’t always to save the world, but to find themselves. In that sense, Anime Limited’s The Anthem of the Heart is best described “a profound journey”.
Jun Naruse (Inori Minase) was a little chatterbox, that is until her loose lips unwittingly revealed her father’s affair. Blaming herself for the inevitable divorce, the young girl fell victim to a curse: never shall she speak, lest she be overcome with pain. When she is enlisted into her high school class’ Charity Committee however, the timid and muted Naruse soon discovers expression through song, her friends and the emotions those new-found words carry.
While Naruse’s feelings and dilemmas take the centre-stage of this story, The Anthem of the Heart builds a believable and relatable cast of characters around her, each bearing the weight of their own doubts. For example, Daiki Tasaki (Yoshimasa Hosoya) is the baseball team’s ace marinading in the disappointment of missing the season due to injury. These feelings do more than just fuel a simple character arc though and subtly affect even the most minute of interactions.
Produced by Mito and Your Lie In April‘s Masaru Yokoyama, The Anthem of the Heart‘s soundtrack is simply incredible. Of particular note are the songs created for the in-universe musical, which use arrangements from existing classics (like Somewhere Over the Rainbow) to new lyrics composed by the characters. In regards to a soundtrack’s importance to its film, The Anthem of the Heart‘s arguably provides healthy competition for even Makoto Shinkai’s stellar Your Name.
In terms of the film’s visuals, A-1 Pictures’ work here is perhaps best described as “competent”; the animation quality itself is strong, but the lacklustre art direction leaves no room for memorable set pieces, such as Mitsuha first witnessing the Tokyo skyline in Your Name or the cherry blossom adorned bridge of A Silent Voice.
When combining the visuals with the motions of the narrative, The Anthem of the Heart at times gave me the impression of being a TV anime re-purposed for the cinema. It didn’t feel condensed or as if anything was missing (the story fits neatly into its run-time), but more, it wouldn’t have felt out of place alongside other television anime dramas.
Speaking of Kyoto Animation’s touching drama, fans of A Silent Voice will find a lot to like in The Anthem of the Heart. Both tell the story of a young woman’s emotional journey to find her voice and connect with the world around her in spite of a life-altering impairment.
In conclusion, whether you’re an anime aficionado or a recent inductee in search of their next fix after Your Name or A Silent Voice, The Anthem of the Heart is a soul-searching journey well worth embarking on.
Title: The Anthem of the Heart
Production: A-1 Pictures
Distributor: Anime Limited
Platform(s): DVD / Blu-ray (Combi Pack)
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray
Released: Out Now!
Disclosure: A copy of The Anthem of the Heart was supplied by Anime Limited, the distributor, for the purposes of this review.