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Anthem of the Heart Collector’s Edition UK Anime DVD/BD Review

10 min read

Anthem of the Heart UK CoverI think that dust has got in my eye again….

What They Say:
I have feelings I can’t tell anybody hidden deep in a shell inside of my heart. But, really, I want to shout it out my honest feelings like a beautiful anthem is waiting to break free!
Jun is a girl whose words have been sealed away. She was once a very happy girl, but because of a “”certain thing”” she said when she was very young, her family was torn apart. Then, the egg fairy appeared in front of her and sealed away her ability to talk in order to stop her from hurting anybody else. Since this traumatic experience, Jun lives in the shadows away from the limelight. Years later — she is nominated to become an executive member of the community outreach council. On top of that, Jun is also appointed to play the main lead in their musical…
Contains the film on Blu-Ray and DVD with the original Japanese track and English subtitles, presented in collectors packaging

The Review:
Audio:
With this getting a cinematic release in Japan and a limited cinema release in the west, Anthem has a 5.1 Japanese and 2.0 Japanese option (no English dub), with the audio being superb as a rare time I looked at both DVD and Blu-Ray versions and no adjustments were required, the combination of the beautiful music and superb voice work (especially for Inori Minase, the voice of Jun – ironic considering she plays a mute for most of the film), being strong and recognizable as well as understandable for the characters played, it is a great listen on either format.

Video:
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio on a single disc with wide screen and full screen format like a movie styling, the DVD format does not suffer from any grain effect or blurring whilst pausing, making it one of the clearest DVD releases I’ve seen for quite a few reviews. The Blu-Ray version as expect doesn’t have any problems and is gorgeous to watch through considering how flowing the animation is – making it one of the best non-Ghibli releases in that respect for anime movies. HOWEVER, there is a slight issue with the subtitles as there are a few spelling mistakes, and for whatever reason some strange symbols that occur whenever a character is about to get interrupt (usually represented by ‘….’) so whilst only occurred a few times was noticeable.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu consists of a white background with faint leaves and a faint drawing of the city above the menu with leaf symbols – the selections are Play All, Chapters, Set Up and Extras. On the DVD release it is nearly instant, whilst the Blu-Ray it is (with pop-up menu from the movie) with a pleasant tune in the background. Pretty basic but effective.

Extras:
The only extras sadly was very basic as I hoped there would have been some behind the scenes stuff, was the theatrical trailer, some TV spots, some promotional videos, and a clean title free ending.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Anthem Of The Heart (Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterund) is a movie released in 2015 by A-1 Pictures, and I’m always interested in how the non-Ghibli anime movies do and how they appear compared to the juggernaut that is Studio Ghibli. The first thing I noticed which caught my interest a ton was the fact that the staff previously worked on Anohana – which for those who don’t know is one of my favorite series of all time. And I wondered ‘O.K, so how badly are they going to make me cry this time?’

Answer: Not Anohana levels but that was a series and this is a movie, and the dust was definitely in my eyes. It definitely doesn’t cater fully onto certain tropes and can catch you off guard, but the story is gripping and the emotion is hard-hitting, and it makes you think it is something more mystical out there but you realize that it is just a well told trauma based story. And I dare you not to fall in love with Jun by the end of it…

The opening sets the story fully – our heroine Jun as a kid is known as a chatterbox and full of happiness and energy. She goes over to the princess castle in their area dreaming she wants to be one, and surprisingly sees her father come out of it. So she excitedly tells her mom about her father being a prince…

…unfortunately, what young Jun didn’t know was the castle? In fact a love hotel and she saw her father out with another woman. This brings the grounds for them divorcing, and to poor Jun’s head, her father blames her for the divorce, her words hurting. This then brings her to tears, and suddenly, a fairy egg appears to magically seal her words away so she won’t hurt anyone again.

O.K that seems a bit silly but works with me – it does actually become a plot point…

So fast forward to high school and the curse is still in effect, Jun is a selective mute and when she tries to speak it gives her stomachaches. So whilst in her new school, the charismatic teacher Joshima randomly assigns 4 classmates (as no-one volunteered) to become Charity Committee members for a performance to the local community. They turn out to be Jun, a solemn but nice guy named Takumi, the pretty cheerleader Natsuki, and the injured baseball jock Daiki. Needless to say none of them are happy (Jun even objects but suffers a stomachache) so when Takumi decides to try and put his displeasure formally, he encounters the teacher’s room has a piano, and he unconsciously starts playing it and singing. Jun, who was also going to do the same thing, is captivated by the song and via text the two become friends. The movie by the way, incorporates songs from many musicals and genres throughout which gives it a lot of charm due to how Jun will learn how to speak, as Takumi points out that the curse only seems to affect her ‘speaking’ and never says ‘singing’ meaning that Jun can get her words out by singing…including what she truly wants to say to the world…

The other characters also slowly get involved. Daiki seems to be the typical jerk jock, mainly stemming to frustration as their ace player and getting injured so it seems that he now just wants to bark orders but there is definitely more to him as we discover. Natsuki as well seems to be the typical nice girl but when Daiki attempts to flirt with her (egged on by some of his teammates as ‘tradition’ that the ace baseball player gets together with the prettiest cheerleader) it is reveal Natsuki apparently has a boyfriend but doesn’t say who it is…which again, you learn a bit later why…

Natsuki in turn befriends Jun and she, Jun and Takumi do decide on a musical to showcase Jun’s singing skills – Daiki again seems like a jerk as he mocks Jun for her lack of speaking, but then Jun proves she can sing and later when Daiki has a falling out with his teammates, Jun stops them at the cost of more stomach pains. This is the point where Daiki joins them properly as his jerk ways were clearly more anger and frustration, even trying to apologize to Jun (sadly gets interrupted but he gets his moments later) as well as his teammates, and the 4 seem to be on the same page. However, it becomes clear that Natsuki’s boyfriend was rather than is, Takumi, and with him getting close to Jun seems to want to push them together….and Daiki might also be falling for Jun…

O.K, so a love square. Seems clichéd but it doesn’t turn out how you’d expect…

Jun definitely seems to be developing feelings for Takumi, whilst Takumi used to date Natsuki, but via Daiki thinking Natsuki has a boyfriend, Takumi and Natsuki have a talk as she thinks he is in love with Jun and the way it is set up, it seems that way. Yet surprisingly, he isn’t – he cares for Jun and wants to see her get better, but he has always been in love with Natsuki and regretted never really showing that in middle school. Only problem?

Jun overhears this. And with her confidence finally coming back, this shoots her down – combined with lingering issues with her mother (Takumi’s grandparents acting as a go between the family), she breaks down and the fairy egg returns who suggests that her feelings for Takumi are bad because it is expression she doesn’t deserve. This depression means she no-shows the musical so Takumi goes to find her whilst Natsuki and Daiki fill in the blanks of their roles to hopefully come out without a hitch.

Takumi then goes to find Jun and finds her at the love hotel (now shut down) which started this trauma – it is here where we learn how clever the movie is – the fairy egg was basically her imagination creating something from a trauma which convinced her to be mute, as she is able to speak without pain and fully display her emotions (including some hilarious lashings out) and it also ends with Jun not getting the guy as well as she admits her feelings to him but he admits about being with Natsuki. Jun admits she knew but the two remain friends as it is clear Jun also helped out Takumi as he was quite an introvert with a few friends and together they return for the final part of the musical, Jun singing her heart out as Jun’s mom sees her daughter and what she now has become, her words as is the musical, about her past and how her heart is opening with the words and emotions she had to hold in. It ends ambiguously as Daiki confesses to Jun but we don’t know how that goes about…

What I love about this film is that whilst it does seem to go into typical love triangle (or square in this case) tropes is that what you expect doesn’t happen, and the idea that it is something magical in this world is actually all via Jun’s imagination and guilt causing a manifestation as a reason to explain her muteness. The fact she doesn’t get the guy is a surprise (insert Anohana creators causing pain on their leads shock joke here) but whilst the heartbreak caused the drama at the end, it also causes the big moment of Jun getting on stage, happy for all her friends and also in her way finally explaining to her mom all her torment since she went mute. In fact, haven’t mentioned just how strained their relationship is but little moments as she is becoming braver like collecting the money for an organization despite the mother being ‘ashamed’ of what her daughter has become and Takumi later defending her, it is very cleverly told in terms of Jun’s development especially as she is literally called a chatterbox in the opening segment, to put it in your minds that she has become something she hates, but feels like he has to during what she believes is her fault in the divorce…the girl needs a hug surely…

The development is subtle but good with the other characters as well, Takumi being a quiet introverted type with his music buddies but he uses those skills for the musical, befriending Jun and also via that becoming more vocal and talking with Natsuki, Natsuki herself you fear would be the rival but instead is more a girl who likes Jun and whilst feels conflicted still supports their relationship, unaware that she is still the interest, and Daiki by far turns from jerk jock to sympathetic and likeable character, defending Jun, reconciling with the baseball team and even falling in love with Jun, and whilst it is open how it is left, we all hope it is with smiles.

The best thing is just how represented someone with selective muting is shown here, because the pain that her mind sends whenever Jun tries to talk is suggested to be a curse, which is true, but the curse was from her own thoughts and imagination, which locked her voice inside. The loophole that the curse never said singing brings her out more confidence and more smiles, and when she snaps and realizes the curses was from her own illness rather than a supernatural thing, it brings everything full circle by the end. Every emotion out of Jun is perfect, from crying to sadness, to stubborn, to wanting to speak, to smiling, to singing, it is done perfectly making Jun one of my favorite movie heroines of all time.

The only negatives I could say is that if you’re not fond of the romance square aspect it is pretty typical despite the fact the two leads don’t get together (which you may not like as Jun is a very likeable character and you will feel a bit sad for her), and the fact that 2 hours isn’t enough to get all the aspects of Jun’s condition the time it needed but it does plenty in the time it gets. The movie is a great youth drama, a struggle to find oneself and break out of a self-enclosed shell you have put yourself in. With ties of family, friendship and love all discussed, it is one of those movies that you need to get into, but will be upmost rewarded if you do.

In Summary:
The Anthem Of The Heart is a very fitting title as the singing in Jun’s heart is the only way she can say what she is feeling through her trapped emotions, and you’ll be cheering her little heart all the way through. Great animation, the homage to classic music ranging from Wizard Of Oz, Sound Of Music & Phantom Of The Opera, the likeable and surprisingly developed cast, and the not as obvious ending, it throws you for a loop whilst being engaged in the story and wanting Jun to break her curse. Lovely lead, lovely cast, lovely movie.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: June 26th, 2017
MSRP: £24.99
Running Time: 119 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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