The rigorous city life of China, while bustling and unforgiving, contains the everlasting memories of days past. Three stories told in three different cities, Shikioriori follows the loss of youth and the daunting realization of adulthood.
Though reality may seem ever changing, unchangeable are the short-lived moments of one's childhood days. A plentiful bowl of noodles, the beauty of family and the trials of first love endure the inevitable flow of time, as three different characters explore the strength of bonds and the warmth of cherished memories. Within the disorder of the present world, witness these quaint stories recognize the comfort of the past, and attempt to revive the neglected flavors of youth.
The tripartite anthology "Shikioriori", is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and recent Chinese history, in particular that of China's rapid economic development during the 1990s, so it pains me to read so many reviews that seem to exhibit no awareness and no understanding of the cultural context and demographic to which this film targets.
1) Sunny Breakfast
For non-Chinese people, or those who have not grown up in Chinese-influenced societies like much of South East Asia, you may not know that food is widely recognised as the most important part of Chinese culture. That Chinese people often greet each other with "Have you eaten" and that Chinese
parents will express their love for their children not with "I love you" but "Have you eaten/there is food" is merely one of the many culturally ingrained aspects of Chinese culture where food is often the basis for family bonding and socialising.
In "Sunny Breakfast", Xiaomin contemplates the ephemerality of people and things in life, with his most cherished experiences relating back to his favourite noodles. The whole vignette takes the form of Xiaomin's inner thoughts and soliloquising as we follow his life's journeys as we observe snippets of the memories he looks back to, as he feels his life is nothing more than a tasteless existence, that no longer has the "flavour of his youth" about which he reminisces and from which he begins to learn.
The extended metaphor and the experiences he goes through are very much those that most ordinary Chinese people that live in cities post the late 1980s when Deng Xiaoping begun the process of transformation Shanghai to the megacity it is today. For a short story, "Sunny Breakfast" does well in encapsulating the experiences many young Chinese adults will have gone through and the thought processes they felt. In the whirlwind of time, it is easy to forget the impermanence of that which one grows up with and just that alone is sufficient material for a short story like the first of Shikioriori's to explore.
2) A Little Fashion Show
This is the most straightforward and least attached to Chinese culture of the three and may be more accessible emotionally and storywise to MAL's Western base. It is a short story about cherishing those close to you and how family, as well as recognising the bilateral nature of such relationships. Perhaps the weakest of the three, its simplicity nonetheless means that its narrative is clear even if the experience of viewing it feels a bit rushed as the plot proceeds from one to the next, with little time for the nuanced introspection and characterisation we had of Xiaomin in the previous film.
I consider this to have been the weakest entry as its appeal to pathos is not particularly convincing and could have benefitted from more introspection of the sisters rather creating an antagonist, whose purpose had little value beyond advancing the plot whose message could have been achieved without so I felt it to be more shallow than the others. Luckily, being in the middle saves "Shikioriori" from giving a bad first impression or a disappointing finale.
3) Shanghai Love
Even though it's a homage to Byousoku 5 Centimeter, I think it's more of an indictment of MAL's demographic that this film is being likened to all of Shinkai's other works when really it shares very little with any of his works. That a mere story of 2 adolescents in love that faces struggle is enough for people to liken "Shanghai Love" with Byousoku 5 Centimeter is more of a testament to the lack of repertoire MAL's demographic has surrouding romance as a genre where people view romance as dating and "who ends up with whom" rather than romance as being a medium via which to explore human relationships, emotions, and growth etc. Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that it does not come close to reaching the sheer emotional profundity and character authenticity and complexity Byousoku 5 Centimeter achieved, nor the surgical precision with which Shinkai's film explored its themes.
"Shanghai Love" is more about Shanghai and Chinese culture than it is really about love. The story surrounds 3 friends who through various circumstances end up on different life paths that lead to our protagonist to ponder on his present and future, sparked by a reminder of the past. What I found impressive in this story was the way Chinese familial structure, relationships, and familial expectations are all accurately woven in the context of 1990s Shanghai which faced rapid modernisation, gentrification as well as technological development - themes that were all deftly used as metaphors in this romantic tale.
It is the longest of the three but aptly works as a conclusion to this anthology. Whereas the first focused heavily on one's past, the second on the present, this final film goes one step further using its additonal time to encompass the future and the film's ending culminates into an emotionally rewarding experience that feels like chicken soup for the soul.
Shikioriori is a Chinese production made for Chinese, or at the very least, Eastern audiences. Its audiovisuals are strong owing to its production committee and brevity but nothing exceptional. But crucially, it takes advantage of the time it has to provide a reflective and heartfelt piece about the transience of life, youth and on grasping the future, in a context that is often very ingrained within modern Chinese society. However, these themes are universal and I think audiences from all over the world can relate to the problems and feelings our protagonists hold, in a succinct package that can be digested separately in 3 parts, if you feel you don't want to commit to something long.
I think for a lot of mainland Chinese millenials in their twenties, there is something even greater to pontificate upon and extract from Shikioriori, a film that I personally thoroughly enjoyed, and captured me in its reminiscent and phantasmagorical atmosphere.
With the release of any film as popular and profitable as 2016's Your Name, there will inevitably be cheap imitators shamelessly riding its coattails. What separates Shikioriori from your average rip-off is that it was actually co-produced by CoMix Wave Films, the studio that worked on Your Name. We had a reason to expect quality from this movie, it was even advertised as "from the creators of Your Name". However, the director of that movie Makoto Shinkai had NO involvement in Shikioriori whatsoever. This movie is just another low effort cash grab.
Shikioriori imitates Shinkai’s stories about long distance relationships, it borrows many of his storyboards,
and steals his character designs to fool people into thinking they’re watching one of his films. Personally, I find his movies to be mostly style over substance, but it is clear to see why they are so popular. The stunning animation, detailed background art, and intriguing sci-fi premises. Which Shikioriori has none of. Shikioriori is supposedly about Chinese culture and the mundane necessities of life in the country, yet even with such a simple premise, it fails miserably. It is executed so poorly because it lacks both Shinkai’s impressive presentation and is too poorly written to be anything more than a shallow, boring time waster.
The story is told across three vignettes, unrelated to each other aside from the vague theme of Chinese culture. All three stories feel wildly disjointed from each other, but they are equally boring and fail to teach the audience anything about Chinese culture. The lack of narrative cohesion is caused by the three separate directors who each worked on their own vignette.
Part 1: Sunny Breakfast
You may as well sleep through the first vignette for all it matters, you won’t miss anything. The story follows a nameless man who monologues in a lethargic voice, as if he’s the narrating a twenty minute noodle commercial. He starts by telling us about how much he liked rice noodles as a child. Then a few abrupt time skips later he is a teenager, then an adult, because the director has no understanding of pacing. In each part of his life, he tells us of how the noodles are gradually being made with less love as China advances in technology and infrastructure. Through each time skip, his character does not develop in the slightest. He has no personality, aside from ‘guy who loves noodles’ and ‘has a crush on a random girl for like 10 seconds’.
One-dimensional robots are not relatable enough to be protagonists! He’s just a boring narrator who tells us about how his world changes around him, and the changes aren’t explored in enough depth to be emotionally satisfying and they fail to teach the audience anything substantial about China's industrialization. And oh look, random people are dying. The film makes a big spectacle out of the death and violence expecting us to care. Wasting screentime on an aimless script only to throw in a death at the end is lazy writing and very blatant emotional manipulation. The only appealing part of this vignette is the highly detailed noodle art, which is the best animation in the whole film.
Part 2: A Small Fashion Show
The second vignette follows an aging fashion model, who has to take care of her sister after her parents died. Thankfully there is much less monologuing in this one, but the characters are never developed in a likable way. The model was struggling with becoming too old for the industry shown by a petty rivalry between her and a younger model. Her relationship with her sister is overly saccharin, they rarely share a meaningful conversation other than “You're stupid!” People yell at her, she vomits a lot because beauty standards, then instead of trying to make a point of 'the fashion industry is superficial and treats models poorly' it just ends with her going back to modeling and saying how much she loves it.
Yes, because vomiting to have your face on billboards is a great character motivation. Who thought this would make a likable character? Or was this just a moronic attempt at social commentary on the fashion industry? Either way, all this awful vignette has to offer is forced drama and more boredom. It had absolutely nothing to do with China and could have taken place anywhere in the world and been the same. At least the boring noodle vignette had the decency to stay true to what the film was even about.
Part 3: Shanghai Love
The third story is the most similar to Shinkai’s films because the female protagonist's character design was stolen from the main character's of Your Name! It tells a petty love story about two hollow husks of people, also they have a third friend who hangs around them for no reason. Their friend is chubbier with the sole character trait of 'he's annoying', thankfully the movie doesn't bother to develop him aside from being a reoccurring annoyance.
The main character of this story is an angry high school guy, he apparently has a crush on a girl who is implied to be his childhood friend. She is as one dimensional as he is, occasionally shown to be physically abused by her parents in place of actual development. She's just a cute girl in danger, a plot device for the sake of contemptible emotional manipulation. That facet of her character feels less like a part of her personality and more like shallow shock value and an excuse to separate the two leads. The whole conflict in this vignette is the main guy gets separated from the girl for contrived reasons. Then years later they reconnect and he monologues ”we forgot how to speak to each other”, which would imply awkwardness. But instead, he's just an asshole and treats her like a jerk for no reason, making him even less likable. If they were really friends, they could have just phone called each other while separated.
Then there's a twist at the end that simply nullifies the whole conflict, it's so hilariously stupid that the entire story's conflict is predicated on a contrived misunderstanding. A twist in the finale that nullifies, rather than builds on, everything that came before it is horrible writing. I can't imagine anyone will still care about this mediocre vignette after the final reveal.
[Final Score: 3/10]
If there was a point to Shikioriori, it did not come through in any vignette but the boring noodle one. Really, don't waste your time on it. The character animation is far worse than what is expected of CoMix Wave Films, it's uneven and often times ugly, which makes the awful dialogue stand out even more. The filmmakers do try to distract you from the bad writing by using very simplistic visual metaphors, but they always felt too heavy handed and were ultimately unnecessary to the story besides making it feel more pretentious. All you will get from Shikioriori is forced drama, emotional manipulation, mindnumbing boredom, and cheap shock factor.
As I was sitting down and scrolling through kissanime new anime additions something caught my eye, like a a really pretty bowl of noodles in a fish shop. That would obviously be this movie. Obviously.
Throughout watching the first part of the movie there was a lot of thoughts swirling in my mind. Why is there only narration? Why does this sink look better then the entire movie? Why aren't there more noodles? To many questions were going through my mind. One minute the dude is eating noodles and looking at this pretty girl next second were at his grandma's death bed and I'm like
tf is going on, but it was fine, cause next thing I knew there were noodles on the screen again so it was all good.
Next we have the worst part of the movie. The Not Noodles but Fashion Show part of the movie. If there could be a more predictable story then this I wouldn't believe you. Now having things be predictable is fine to an extent. As long as the pacing is good, it's enjoyable, and there noodles for all to share. News flash it didn't have any of it. Twas just a bunch of forced and random drama that really didn't even need to happen and would of been better without it. If only she wore a noodle dress would she have not lost her shady boyfriend. At least I think that's what he was, i don't know they never really explained what he was.
The third one actually not that bad to an extent, it was actually really interesting and if done right, was the only part of the movie, and had more noodles this movie would of been an easy 8 or higher. Honestly just watch the third part and the first part.
PS: My enjoyment is a 9 cause I watched this on rabb.it with friends so it was more bearable that way.
This is going to be my first review! (LIGHT SPOILERS)
This movie is an anthology that is composed of 3 stories. I'll briefly comment about it one by one.
"A Sunny Breakfast" 6/10
it comes off as an introduction story of an adult lingering the remnants of youth. The story doesn't really progress instead it comes off poetic and nostalgic. But that's just it.
"A Little fashion show". 8/10
A story about two sisters with different careers that separates them from living a kind of lifestyle yet they share the same roof. It's pretty decent to look at it as a whole but somehow it lacked
something. It's still predictable as it is but what brought significance to the 2nd story is that they managed to breakthrough and intermingle their different passionate careers, showing the good side of sisterhood while approaching adulthood
"Love In Shanghai" 9/10
To be honest, the last part made me cry. It's well invested with emotional flares with full of mishaps that breaks the bond between two supposed-to-be lovers. It' starts slow then gradually gives an aching slow burning experience. Cliche as it may sound. The whole execution of the events caught my attention and I felt like that I wanted it to be separate from the anthology because it deserves a movie itself. It can be as good as Garden of Words or nearly good as Your Name.
Overall. It's very decent. The stories are well narrated. The score is deserving enough since it really followed the movie's theme.—the different viewpoints of adults looking back at their tracks from their youth—ranging from familial love, love for career and the love from someone.
As expected, it was from the studio Haoliners and ComixWaves (The one that animated Your name, Garden of Words, 5 centimeters per second etc). I'm never disappointed by their past works so does now. From the city landscapes to the delicate food animation, the color schemes and the tame character designs. The art just gave the movie the realistic vibes. That way, I felt more resonated and connected while watching it.
The sound is very varying from each stories. It was all distinct yet somehow forgettable. But the best part is that the orchestration is so good, it managed to weave out my emotions while the protags narrates their story. And also, for me, the sound always worked with the art/animation in tango. They are always intertwined. And in this movie, they gave us a full-scale combo for a beautiful, radiant and emotional anthology.
The protagonists in every story did their roles properly in every story. Their personalities made them appear more natural and realistic. But somehow, they still lacked a little bit of substance. But I can't really blame the short amount of time. It's hard to read a character when they appear just 30mins or less and nothing more.
Even though some parts felt boring, the narrative is very good altogether with sound and animation that it kept me relaxed and watch patiently until it ends.
It's a must watch!! Don't watch with full of expectations so you could enjoy and appreciate it fully. It's not very twisty like Your Name. Watch it alone in a calm environment with a nice cup of tea. This is a grounded movie anthology with full of bittersweet yet radiant stories of nostalgic youth!