“Poor communication is a signal that something is wrong, but it itself is probably not the problem“, Art Markman writes in his article on examining complaints of poor communications. Nevertheless, poor communication is something that aggrandize the root problems. It happens to people regardless of age. But sometimes adults are no better than teenagers in solving their problem. In fact, some teenagers can be better than adults due to the awareness of their own immaturity that brings them courage to fight their weakness.
The heartwarming tale of some teenagers who, despite their weaknesses, fight to express their true feelings is what Tatsuyuki Nagai (director) and Mari Okada (author) convey in their collaboration work, Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda (The Anthem of the Heart)— a tale of friendships that presented in a fairy-tale-ish and musical style of storytelling.
The story revolves around a girl named Jun Naruse, an outgoing girl who likes to tell whatever she likes without thinking of the consequences, until one day when she finds that her words are the reason of her family’s broken relationship. Crying out of guilt, she meets a fairy egg who seals her mouth that she can’t hurt people with it anymore. Fast forward to high school years, Jun Naruse still becomes a person who is unable to convey anything, as she gets a stomachache in every time she speaks. Things get difficult when she’s appointed as the committee member of Outreach Community Event by her homeroom teacher, along with three other students –Takumi Sakagami, Natsuki Nito, and Daiki Tasaki.
The characters and plot development in this anime are shown smoothly in little events between each character, while accompanied by outstanding soundtracks in which many pieces are covers of well-known songs (such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Greensleeves, a Beethoven Pathetique Sonata 2nd Movement and Around the World) that are overwritten into different Japanese lyrics. This movie brings you warmth and shows that there is power in music when the words fail, as long as you have courage.
From left to right– Natsuki Nito, Takumi Sakagami, Jun Naruse, and Daiki Tasaki.
Alert: heavy spoilers!
Meet a lovely little girl who likes to daydream of a castle on top of the hill –Jun Naruse. She dreams that one day she will visit a ball in the castle with her prince. Then she, who doesn’t know that the object of her imagination is actually a love hotel, sees her father drives out of the castle with a woman. Being excited that her father may be a prince, she runs back home and casts the news to her mother.
Her innocent comment thus becomes the trigger of her parents’s divorce.
Knowing that his secret affair is revealed by his own daughter, a father chooses to give an irresponsible statement.
The little girl cries, realizing that her words break her family. That’s when an egg fairy comes, telling her how not to face another turmoils and fulfill her dreams to meet a real prince in a real castle.
Then it puts a zipper on her mouth.
In her high school years, Jun Naruse is still being someone who never talks. However, when she’s appointed by her homeroom teacher, Shimaccho, to be the committee member of Community Outreach Event, she pushes herself to speak up to reject her appointment, giving her a severe stomachache. The other appointed committee members, beside Natsuki Nito –Takumi Sakagami and Daiki Tasaki, also reject the idea of their involvement.
In DTM Club Room, the combination of students that are picked by Shimaccho gets an interesting comment by a class member, Aizawa, hinting that there may be a hidden agenda behind his committee picking.
“An apathetic youth who locked up in his own shell (Takumi), a sulky high school baseball star with shattered dreams (Daiki), an eternally silent girl (Jun), and also a straight-arrow girl who always seems to be in charge (Natsuki). In terms of personalities, that’s east, south, west, and north!” – Aizawa
When visiting Shimaccho’ss room to give the resignation letter, Jun sees Takumi who’s playing accordion and singing random words about eggs. Startled that Takumi sings a song that matches with her life story, she runs away after tossing her letter into Shimaccho’s hands.
Takumi, who initially comes to Shimaccho’s room to resign, at the end can’t sacrifice any of his friends to replace him. He finally gives in to his new responsibility.
In the next series of events, Jun is provoked a couple of times by Shimaccho’s, Natsuki’s, and Takumi’s words on the importance of expressing the true feelings, and how a music can be a good alternative to communicate.
After opening up about her past and curse to Takumi via text messages, she’s wonderstruck by his idea for her to sing.
“Singing or music, I think it always meant to convey something. So, if there’s something you want to say, don’t you think you should try singing? Maybe singing doesn’t count for the curse.” –Takumi
At night, when Jun tries to sing, she’s delighted to find that her stomach doesn’t hurt. Yet when a neighbor gives a visit, still she can’t find any courage to make a voice. Being resented by her mom, she runs away.
Amid her despair and frustation, she bombards Takumi with long text messages that contains an original fantasy story based on her life experience. She then pleads for Takumi to turn what she really wants to say into a song, just like what he did to the eggs.
Unfortunately, things don’t go smoothly when they share the idea to the class.
Everyone is unmotivated and doubting the idea. Daiki even starts the blame game by pointing out Jun’s issue. The apathetic Takumi, triggered by Daiki’s ignorant statement, adds fuel to the fire by pointing back his problem with the baseball team, provoking Mishima. The situation is getting serious when, all of a sudden, Jun starts singing loudly, “I can do it, even though I have anxieties, I’m sure that I can.”
By the sudden singing of a voice they never heard, a breeze of wonder swept through, cooling the heated conflict. After Jun runs away, Takumi and Mishima apologize to each other.
After that, the problems of each and between main characters are shown thoroughly one by one –Daiki with his conflict with the baseball team, Natsuki with her regrets toward her past relationship with Takumi, and Takumi with his apathy that caused by guilt due to his parent’s divorce. Meanwhile, Jun, as she fights to communicate and deal with the relationship with her mother, is somehow caught up in the middle of their problems, like when she shouts to Daiki and his teammates who are arguing, and how she lit a passion in Takumi as they open up to each other.
The progress between Takumi and Jun itself triggers an unsettling feeling in Natsuki since she’s still consumed by her insecurity due to her inability to soothe Takumi’s pain in the past.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and the preparation for the event is continuing, not even once waiting for all the restlessness to relief. The built up emotion peaking, it threatens the event they spend all their time and energy in.
The bitter confrontation is started at night before the event. Natsuki, who’s exploded by jealousy, cries and accosts Takumi for his concern toward Jun. Takumi can’t help but agree though, he confirms, it’s not out of romantic feeling. It then leads the conversation to their ambiguous dating relationship, bringing them to confess their feelings for each other.
All the while without noticing another person’s presence.
Jun who coincidentally listens to their conversation, runs away and once again meets the egg fairy. It confirms that it’s not her stomach that hurts for breaking the seal, but her heart instead. The egg fairy echoes the voice inside Jun’s heart, revealing her romantic feeling towards Takumi.
It finally hatches the egg that’s already full of cracks. It’s a vivid illustration on how Jun’s feeling’s starting to burst out in ugly ways.
In the next day, Jun doesn’t show up.
The whole class members are dumbfounded, knowing that Jun betrays them because of a triangle love. Daiki demands a call of action from Takumi whom he considers partly responsible for the incident. Takumi, who’s still in disbelief of Jun’s betrayal, decides to look for her. Daiki and Natsuki support his decision and ask for the class members’ cooperation, leading to some major changes in the cast.
The musical begins while Takumi goes out to look for Jun. The backstage atmosphere is more uneasy than it would be predicted due to the Jun’s disappearance. Some class members are seemed to be unsure of how they should feel in given condition, until one of them speaks in a casual manner, yet uplifting to those who hear it.
“Whether she (Jun) shows up or not, we’re doing the same thing either way. But if the musical is messed up, I think she would regret it the most. So either way, we have to make it a success! After all that practice, I don’t want it to go to waste!”
Takumi finally finds Jun in the place she used to dream of. Beside an old bed in one of its ruined room, Jun lays. Refusing to go back, she starts to blame her talkativeness, says that “It’s like the egg said, I become unhappy because I spoke up.” Takumi denies its existence, pushing her to the edge, until she finally admits that she needs it to exist, or she’d be lost. It confirms that she uses imagination to cope with trauma, though unhealthily.
It’s heart breaking to see her throwing all her frustrations from her family relationship and feelings for Takumi. Actually, there are more healthy ways to cope with personal problems, but her parents’ treatment disturbs her emotional stability, demonstrating the conclusion of research from National University of Singapore, that overly critical parents lead their children to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Takumi, determined to convince Jun to be more confident, asks her to hurt him. After listening to her shouts out of frustration towards him and Natsuki, instead of getting upset, Takumi states that he’s happy to hear her honest words, for it wakes the feelings he used to forget. This positive validation soothes Jun, helping her to regain composure.
Jun, before leaving for the musical, finally confesses her feeling for Takumi. Upon hearing his answer, she smiles bitterly, uttering a calm response, “I know.”
We finally get to see Jun’s singing in the last scene of the musicals. Entering from the public entrance, she surprises the audiences. While walking slowly towards the stage, Jun sings the song she writes, granting her wish to convey her true feelings, especially to her mom, who’s amid the audience starting to reflect on her mistakes.
When it reaches the closing scene of the musical, I lastly find my most favorite scene from the movie. It beautifully asserts the moral encouragement of the movie by combining the melodies of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Beethoven Pathetique Sonata 2nd Movement” tastefully. I feel no wonder that this movie was nominated in the 39th Japan Academy Prize as the best animation of the year.
Completing the moral encouragement, the movie’s ending gives a hopeful flavor, leaving a sweet aftertaste without failing to appreciate the bitterness, by narrating using Takumi’s and Jun’s voices:
“What’s inside the egg? All kinds of feelings locked inside. Then, unable to keep them locked in, it explodes. And the world that’s created then is more beautiful than I ever thought.”