Everything breaks apart sooner or later, literally and metaphorically, in Studio Colorido’s latest animated adventure.
“I don’t want any more goodbyes!”
Time splits people apart. People come and go: it’s an inevitability of life that’s as certain as the tides, and as we grow older it’s something we become more and more used to. But for kids, these shifts in the status quo can feel almost apocalyptic, and it’s these struggles that our protagonists childhood friends Kosuke and Natsume are dealing with at the start of Hiroyasu Ishida’s newest coming-of-age drama Drifting Home.
Despite having been friends for a long time, Kosuke and Natsume seem to be at odds with each other, as their interests have begun to split off, and the housing unit they lived in being demolished is only aggravating the situation. When Kosuke and his friends Taishi and Yuzuru choose to explore the now-derelict building in search of ghosts, they find Natsume there instead who’s been hanging out here with a young boy named Noppo, who also lived in the building. Two classmates, Reina and Juri, also arrive on the scene and when a fight between Natsume and Kosuke over a camera starts, a rainstorm appears and washes the scenery in water. Once the sky clears, the kids discover that the building is now floating in a vast ocean, with seemingly no way home.
Hiroyasu Ishida, of Penguin Highway fame, brings his nuanced and highly skilful writing of children to the forefront once again. Drifting Home’s most important hurdle was in writing kids that interact realistically, while also balancing being interesting, unique and (most importantly) likeable. Drifting Home does that nicely, while also telling a story that is far more mature and refined than Ishida’s – or even Studio Colorido’s – previous work, with plenty of emotional weight to keep it grounded, even when things get a little too over-the-top.
The film’s best twist is in the inclusion of the character Noppo, who represents the other side of the relationship people have with their home. Despite being already hugely fantastical, Noppo’s role in the story ramps it up even more, but adds another layer of connection that people, especially children, have with the places they frequent most often. It’s not just the housing complex either, as each building the kids enter seems to also be inhabited by these “ghosts”.
By making Noppo as important to the story as he is, it allows the two leads (though Natsume moreso) a chance to properly identify their priorities, say goodbye to the past and look ahead to the future. Drifting Home’s biggest strength is in that final clause: it’s not just about the realities of life, it’s also about the hope that fractured things can be made whole. These moments happen throughout the film, but are mostly placed in the final act so it’s interesting that it’s in also in that act that things start to get a little bit much. Thankfully by this stage of the story, I was invested in the characters enough to put up with the dragging climactic action scenes.
I’d be remiss to not mention how beautiful the movie looks. From the gorgeous and sentimental opening montage that rewinds time to when the building complex was full of life and happiness, to the warm colours that ooze nostalgia and sweeping musical overture, the movie’s probably got its hooks in you from the beginning. The architecture of the apartment block is interesting enough to support the majority of the film being set there, which is no small feat for a kind-of ugly post-war housing block. And when the realities of the present hit the protagonists, the colours change with it, giving us a colder palette that is still no less inviting.
While it isn’t always hitting the perfect notes, Drifting Home knows what it wants to say, how it wants to say it and does so with a lot of skill. It might be overlong, and Kosuke might come off as too much of a jerk at times, but the gripes aren’t major. If you’ve ever had to leave a group of friends, or a beloved childhood house, then Drifting Home is bound to, if you’ll pardon the expression, hit home for you.
Verdict: Stunning art direction and realistic, likeable main characters help to sell what might have been overblown and silly, resulting in a film that is touching, exciting and visually beautiful.
Overall entertainment: 8/10
Violence: Natsume sure gets injured a lot, huh
Sex: C’mon, they’re kids
Musical montages: At least two
Noppo: Tall, but a good guy
Kids using walkie-talkies over phones: Times don’t change
Drifting Home (2022)
Also known as: 雨を告げる漂流団地 (the drifting housing block that summons the rain)
Director: Hiroyasu Ishida
Writer: Hiroyasu Ishida
Mutsumi Tamura – Kosuke Kumagaya
Asami Seto – Natsume Touchi
Ayumu Murase – Noppo
Yumiko Kobayashi – Taishi
Daiki Yamashita – Yuzuru
Inori Minase – Reina
Kana Hanazawa – Juri
Nana Mizuki – Satoko
Bin Shimada – Yasuji