I Want To Eat Your Pancreas

Haruki Shiga is a withdrawn, isolated high school student who assumes all his classmates think he is boring and don’t want to know about him or his life. One day, while attending a local hospital to have some stitches removed after minor surgery, he spots what he at first thinks is a book that has been left on the waiting room floor. He picks it up and realises that it is someone’s diary; at that moment, the diary’s owner, fellow high-schooler Sakura Yamauchi, appears to retrieve it. Outgoing and popular, she is everything Haruki is not; he returns the diary to her, and is apparently unfazed when she tells him that she is dying from terminal pancreatic cancer. After his appointment, Haruki is surprised to see Sakura waiting for him; though he tries to shake her off, she persists in walking with him to the station where he catches the train home. A few days later, he is surprised to discover she has joined the roster of students who, like Haruki, help out at the school library after-hours. Thus begins a strange relationship in which Sakura tries to prise open Haruki’s buttoned-down life, while Haruki finds himself increasingly bewildered and fascinated by this person who seems determined to like him in spite of himself. But complications arise when Haruki’s classmates – especially Sakura’s over-protective best friend, Kyoko – begin to harbour suspicions about why Haruki and Sakura are spending so much time together; and Haruki himself realises that all the things he and Sakura are sharing are items on her bucket list – meaning that each ticked off item denotes less time Sakura has to live…

Based on the novel by Yoru Sumino (which also spawned a manga and a live action television film adaption), I Want To Eat Your Pancreas was produced by studio VOLN and premiered in September 2018. Animated in a blend of traditional and 3DCG animation techniques that produces a lush visual aesthetic reminiscent of Kyoto Animation’s signature “soft lens” style, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas in some respects utilises the familiar tropes of the coming-of-age genre: the sullen loner; the ebullient popular girl; the clingy best friend. That said, the fact that it doesn’t then follow the traditional narrative arc makes these characters both believable and relatable; and the equivocal nature of Haruki and Sakura’s relationship infuses both the story with power and the denouement with telling insight. The ending, when it does come, likewise doesn’t follow the expected course; this does more than provide an interesting twist, serving instead to infuse the pathos of the narrative with a meaning that skilfully navigates the fine line between tragedy and melodrama. If there is a flaw, it’s in the undeveloped nature of Haruki’s portrayal: we never really get to learn about his background, or unpack the reasons why he became so reclusive and jaded. There is thus a slightly unbalanced feel to the narrative; though, on the other hand, it might be argued that this simply adds to the equivocal nature of Haruki’s relationship with Sakura – the fact that they know so little about one another and yet still manage to engage in an extraordinary interaction. Lovely to look at, engagingly affective, and balanced by moments of light-hearted humour, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is a beautiful story beautifully told, and rightly belongs in such stellar company as Your Lie In April, A Silent Voice, Say ‘I Love You’. and 5 Centimetres Per Second.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.