Flavors of Youth

A Beijing office worker battles the depressing greyness of the daily grind, taking comfort in the memories of childhood and youth evoked by the rice noodles that were the speciality dish of his rural hometown. In Guangzhou, a fashion model nearing the end of her career struggles with the rise of younger rivals, while trying to repair her fractured relationship with her once-estranged sister. A Shanghai architect who gave up love and friendship in order to prove a point to his demanding father, engages in a quest to recapture both and make up for lost time and opportunity. These are the three stories that make up the trilogy of anime shorts gathered together as “Flavors of Youth”, spanning a time period from the late 80s to the early 2000’s, as China emerges as a global superpower.

Co-produced by Chinese animation studio Haoliners Animation League and Japanese firm CoMix Wave Films (the studio responsible for the animation features of acclaimed director Makoto Shinkai), “Flavors of Youth” was jointly released in Japan and China in August 2018, along with a simultaneous “international version”. Although each story was written and directed by separate production teams, Shinkai’s influence is apparent throughout, from the lush visuals that layer live footage, rotoscoping, and hand-drawn animation techniques, to the wistful, bittersweet storylines that combine melancholy with hope. Along the way, the stories gently and sympathetically explore the themes of memory, loss, love, relationships, the passage of years, the price of experience, and the possibility of new tomorrows. Undemanding and yet engaging, “Flavors of Youth” is short anime film-making of high quality, and serves as an excellent introduction to those unfamiliar with the genre.

© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.