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  • Writer's pictureBen Pivoz

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes

Kaoru and Anzo go on an emotional journey together in The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (Distributed by Hidive, IFC Films and Sentai Filmworks)

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is a sweet, lovely, anime Young Adult fantasy/romance, centered on two high school students who bond over an inexplicable discovery and gradually fall for each other. The animation, like the story, is uncomplicated, simple, with moments of true beauty. There is nothing particularly profound in this movie. Still, it is enjoyable, engaging, heartwarming and just plain likable. The characters are well-drawn (literally/figuratively) and the story is oddly straightforward, considering the fantastical premise. There is no attempt to explain what is happening; the fantasy aspect is used as a way to force these people into looking at things differently. That allows the characters to be the focus. There lays this movie’s strength.

There is something so pleasing about a story focusing on the developing relationship between two relatable, interesting people, who kind of stumble into caring for each other, and what that could mean for their futures. A lot of movies would foreground the titular magical tunnel. Though The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (based on a 2019 light novel, written by Mei Hachimoku, illustrated by Kukka) establishes it in concept, it is far more concerned with what the act of exploring it together teaches these characters.

Some of the dialogue is a bit awkward (a possible consequence of me watching a dubbed version, as opposed to the subtitled version also currently available in theaters) and the ending leaves a pretty major time-travel issue uncomfortably unremarked upon. Otherwise, this is quite a nice experience.

Kaoru has a tragic family history and is living with his abusive, alcoholic, father. Anzu is essentially raising herself following the deaths of her parents. She is the new girl in school and he is immediately fascinated by her. One day, after a verbal onslaught from his father, Kaoru wanders into a tunnel that is rumored to have the power to grant wishes. He returns home a few hours later to discover a week has passed. When Anzu secretly follows him inside on his next visit, the two decide to explore the tunnel together and figure out how it works.

While time-travel is a significant element here, it is used more for its symbolism. Time moves way slower in the tunnel, so seconds in there is equal to a couple of hours outside. Kaoru and Anzu want to walk through it in the hopes that it will give them what they desperately long for, yet how much are they willing to sacrifice for it? Merely an hour in the tunnel could see a decade pass in the outside world (they do calculate the time conversion, but I can’t remember it off the top of my head). If they are really going to find out if the legend is true, it may cost them everything they have. Do they care?

That decision is what Tunnel to Summer is actually about. Certainly, their growing feelings for each other complicates matters greatly. This is expressed in quiet moments, where the audience can see Anzu realizing how much she cares for this boy. It is also shown in the brilliantly vivid colors that accompany every trip down the tunnel. The animators did an excellent job making that location feel alive (there is an incredible scene where they portray the differences in the speed of time using character movement). They make sure we don’t need to understand exactly what is happening in order to know that this place is special.

I knew nothing about The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (79 minutes without the end credits) walking in. I walked out happy I had taken a chance on it.

3¾ out of 5

Voice Cast (English Language Dub):

Gabriel Regojo as Kaoru Tono

Patricia Duran as Anzu Hanashiro

John Gremillion as Kaoru’s Father

Directed and Screenplay by Tomohisa Taguchi


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