Aug 25, 2015
In two short minutes of animation, "Egao" tells a short love story that begins with heart-wrenching melancholy and ends with head-scratching confusion. I suppose Makoto Shinkai has always been a master at manipulating emotion.
Egao certainly does not evoke this confusion through deep or complex storytelling, however; it falls very much on the opposite side of the spectrum. The problem, rather, is that Shinkai just does not say or do much of anything with it. The story starts on a happy note, the unnamed protagonist enjoying the company of her new hamster, and then it decides to suddenly turn things into a story of unrequited
love-- Shinkai's trademark, the same theme that has been present in his stories from the beginning and likely until the day he retires from animation.
To be fair, watching Egao without being able to understand the lyrics would be something of a disservice, as the lyrics are half the story, and, if a bit trite (how many times have we heard Japanese people sing and praise the beauty of the blue sky?), the most emotionally evocative aspect of the anime. The lyrics make it clear that it is not a story about the hamster, but rather about the protagonist being separated from her lover and, by the end, resolving herself to "never give up" again, seemingly ready to give another go with whoever it is she's thinking about.
But so what? Why are we supposed to care? We have no idea why she even decided to change her mind in the first place. It's unreasonable to expect deep characters and storytelling from a two-minute music video, but the least it could have done is use its visuals to detail the protagonist in a deeper way than "I'm sad-- now I'm happy". It comes from nowhere, with her crying in bed and reminiscing about her lover, and somehow ending with a smile on her face despite nothing actually happening. I suppose the hamster lifted her spirits? Or maybe she's just an emotionally unstable and perhaps bipolar person who switches from extreme depression to happiness with the snap of a finger? Your guess is as good as mine.
Even with the song itself being as emotional as it is, it's hard to come away with the feeling that Shinkai was actually trying to say anything of importance with this animation. There's nothing to think about, nothing to consider by the end-- it's just two minutes of nothingness with a sad song playing in the background. It could have been something more if it decided to ditch the whole unrequited love theme and focus solely on the company of the hamster, as a way perhaps of encouraging the audience to appreciate the simple things in life. But there is nothing of the sort here. Not even close. It is an admittedly talented artist playing masturbation, content with just being his usual self rather than saying something to his audience. And that's fine to an extent (maybe his friends enjoyed it or something), but the world of criticism isn't always so forgiving.
Still, it's nice to see the talent of the industry attempting to tell simple, emotional stories with less tools than the typical film or TV series, even if it doesn't always work out so well.
Maybe I'm just silly for expecting quality storytelling from a music video. Hm.
At least the hamster was cute.
What did you think of this review?