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Review: I Want To Eat Your Pancreas

When you hear the title I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, what do you think of? If you're like me, you thought it was going to be something like Tokyo Ghoul. Actually, it's a tender coming of age romance about a girl dying of pancreatic disease. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a September 2018 film by Studio VOLN, which aired in the USA for the first time since its Los Angeles premier on February 7, 2019 and February 10, 2019. I saw the subbed version on February 7th. The movie follows two teenagers - one, a reclusive boy who would rather imagine what other people think of him than find out himself, the other a bubbly social butterfly named Sakura who is dying of pancreatic cancer. When the boy - unnamed for much of the movie but revealed to be called Haruki - finds Sakura's diary, he finds out this dismal truth. He reacts with indifference, which prompts Sakura to strike up a friendship with him. It's hard to get him on board at first, but she eventually persuades him that there's joy to be found in human connection. Through doing everything from watching the fireworks and playing truth or dare to eating grilled organ meat, they form a bond that can't quite be pinned down as friendship or romance.

I must admit, I was worried that Sakura would be a manic pixie dream girl whose sole purpose was to light up a morose boy's life and then die. Sakura does do those things - but she also doesn't really try to change Haruki. She wants him to be more social not because she has some insightful answer to how life should be lived, but because she wants her friends to get along with each other. She befriends him not to save him, but because his calm reaction to her illness allows her to be honest about what she's going through in a way that she can't be with anyone else in her life. That Haruki comes out of his shell is a byproduct of this - Sakura's life and death are about Sakura. As it should be. Though the movie narrowly avoids this particular issue, it isn't perfect. The relationship between Sakura and Haruki comes to a disturbing boiling point when Sakura pretends she's about to kiss Haruki, then backs off claiming to be kidding. Haruki is so wound up by this - as well as her previous flirtation - that he launches himself at her and pins her to the bed. When he sees that she's about to cry, he runs out of the house into the rain.

While it's nice that Haruki didn't go any further than that, it was alarming and unnecessary - especially since the implications of his near-assault are never addressed. Instead, he's immediately harassed by Sakura's much-worse ex-boyfriend, which both makes him seem tame by comparison and makes erases any culpability he had - in fact, the incident never comes up again. It's not that anime should never deal with issues of consent - sometimes it's necessary - but they need to be handled with more nuance than was at play here.

Despite this issue,the film still is worth watching. Both character's emotional journeys are compelling, the art is astonishing, and the twist ending proved genuinely surprising. It's not the greatest anime movie ever made, but its emotional impact will stay with you long after the movie ends.



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