An Honest Review Of 'Hello World'

It's a visually ~stimulating~ ride.
PHOTO: Hello World/Toho

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

In the year 2027 at Kyoto, a high school student named Naomi Katagaki (Takumi Kitamura) struggles with the timeless straight boy dilemma of approaching girls. One day a crow steals Naomi's book, forcing him to give chase until eventually ending up at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Suddenly, a man appears out of nowhere before him! The suave dude turns out to be a grown-up version of Naomi from 10 years into the future. Adult Naomi (Tori Matsuzaka) has traveled back in time to coach his younger self on the ways of courtship. He will be advising teen Naomi on how to woo one girl in particular: Ruri Ichigyo (Minami Hamabe), a classmate with a reputation for being an unapproachable ice queen.

The older Naomi further reveals that shortly after he starts dating Ruri, a tragic accident befalls the latter that leaves her in a coma. Naomi's adult counterpart revisited the past to team up and work together to prevent it from ever happening. But things get complicated when other factors come into play, such as mysterious masked soldiers tasked with guarding the current timeline and the impending destruction that may follow should the Naomi duo alter the past. Will they be able to save Ruri in time and keep the world in one piece?

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The Short, Honest Plot

The Matrix and Black Mirror combined, but make it an anime high school romance.

The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Takumi Kitamura as Naomi Katagaki

The actor/singer/model is best known for performing with the pop-rock group Dish where he does lead vocals and plays the guitar.

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Minami Hamabe as Ruri Ichigyo

The actress appeared in the live-action adaptation of the rom-com manga My Teacher, My Love.

Tori Matsuzaka as Naomi Katagaki (10 Years Later)

The actor/model's most notable role is playing Takeru Shiba/Shinken Red in the series Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.

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Did You Know?

1. Takumi Kitamura and Minami Hamabe have already played love interests in the 2017 live-action film adaptation of Let Me Eat Your Pancreas. Despite the unusual title, it was quite a tearjerker with the drama revolving around one of the characters suffering from pancreatic cancer. You will have to watch and find out if there will be a more optimistic outcome for their characters in Hello World.

2. Hello World director Tomohiko Itou has previous experience in the realm of sci-fi romance as he handled the first two seasons of popular anime Sword Art Online and was the assistant director for the film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

3. There is both a novelization and a manga adaptation available for the film's original story.

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4. Tomohiko Ito shares in a recent interview that the camera work in the film was inspired by the cinematography in Doctor Strange and Inception.

5. A spin-off anime called Another World was released in Japan prior to the premiere of Hello World. The three-part series follows the older Naomi's life in his timeline.

What My Friend Thinks:

"Hello World reminded me of a cross between Kimi No Na Wa and 5 Centimeters per Second because the drawings seemed pretty similar. I was initially confused by the storyline since everything was so fast-paced, but it all tied up in the end. I liked it a lot!" —Franz Garay

What I Think:

When Naomi Katagaki was initially intimidated by Ruri Ichigyo's standoffish behavior, I really felt that! I have an affinity for defrosting icy exteriors so I ended up rooting for Naomi to win over Ruri. I like that the movie takes its time to establish the relationship between the two and showing their gradual closeness through small interactions, before delving into the rescue mission. It takes around two months for the characters to start dating, which I find surprising in the context of a teen romance anime.

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To prevent spoiling the viewing experience, I deliberately left out a huge chunk of the plot out of my summary. There is so much more to explore beyond the initial premise. As the movie progresses, the plot will take sharp twists and turns that will leave you confused and unsure of reality until the very end. There are certain concepts and theories that make Hello World lean heavily toward hard sci-fi, becoming a great point of discussion after viewing. However, the storyline has the tendency to get way convoluted later on and could have been tweaked to be more streamlined.

As for the setting, I liked the juxtaposition of the futuristic concept against the backdrop of traditional places in Kyoto. The dynamic cinematography amps up the film's action sequences. I can definitely see the influences from Doctor Strange and Inception, as stated by the director in an interview, in the unusual camera angles employed. The stylistic elements can get quite dizzying though, especially when the perspective starts spinning out of control. However, I think that it suits the sci-fi theme well and certainly beats a boring scene.

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While the character designs themselves are appealing, their movements can appear awkward and jarring, distracting me from certain scenes. A point of improvement would be to work on the fluidity of the CG animation.

The identical security army attempting to thwart the Naomi tandem's rescue mission gave me strong Agent Smith energy from The Matrix. I appreciate how their modern look still incorporates a cultural reference as they're all sporting a fox/kitsune mask. The kitsune is known for possessing sly and contradictory behavior, so whether the aforementioned army are antagonistic in nature or just restoring balance is open to interpretation. Nobody is outright evil in the film, but some characters possess self-serving motivations that are a cause of conflict. (A lot closer to the real-world context compared to a mustache-twirling villain.)

I found the interaction between adult and teen Naomi far more fascinating and entertaining compared to the romantic connection with Ruri. Have we not at some point looked back on our past negative experiences, reviewing over and over what happened, and pondering what could have been done differently? We finally get our wish-fulfillment as adult Naomi is able to mentor his younger self in order to prevent the mistakes of his youth, teaching the latter to be more proactive and resilient. However, as the story progresses, it's the older counterpart who ends up learning a lot more from the earnestness, determination, and optimism shown by his teen self. I appreciate the fact that both young and old were able to experience personal growth throughout the film. 

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Hello World shows us that no amount of advancement in technology can provide a shortcut to overcoming devastating heartbreak and loss. However, using the knowledge gained from the experience to help others can get you on the road to healing as well. The animated film is a visually stimulating ride that will leave you with questions that are ripe for discussion. Expect certain reveals that will completely change how you see the entire film.

I'd Recommend It To:

  • Adult viewers who want to reminisce on their impulsive youth.
  • Introverted bookworms who will love the literary talk. (Trigger warning, though, for one of the scenes involving severe book damage.)
  • Anime fans who may recognize some of the voice actors/seiyuu in the supporting cast.
  • Emotionally constipated viewers who can relate to Naomi and Ruri, as they both struggle with properly conveying their feelings for one another.
  • Well-traveled viewers, who have previously visited Kyoto, that will appreciate the detailed scenery, familiar landmarks, and cultural references.
  • Sci-fi movie fans who enjoyed the trippy cinematography and concepts in films such as Doctor Strange, Inception, and The Matrix.
  • Hopeless romantics who enjoyed Weathering With You and want to see another "against-all-odds" type of love story.
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