‘Summer Ghost’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Summer Ghost (サマーゴースト, Samā Gōsuto) is a Japanese anime drama short film directed by loundraw (Before You Wake Up) from a screenplay written by loundraw and Hirotaka Adachi (Exception). Featuring Chiaki Kobayashi, Miyuri Shimabukuro, Nobunaga Shimazaki, and Rina Kawaei in the original version with David Errigo Jr., Kyla Carter, Clifford Chapin, and Megan Harvey providing voices for the English dub. The story follows three friends who try and make contact with the “summer ghost,” a spirit girl who appears when fireworks are set off during the summer.

At an abandoned airport, three friends meet and light up some sparklers. They contemplate how long it’s been since they last saw each other and Tomoya (Chiaki Kobayashi, David Errigo Jr.) and Aoi (Miyuri Shimabukuro, Kyla Carter) apologize to Ryō (Nobunaga Shimazaki, Clifford Chapin) for being late. He insists that it’s okay and states he’s just happy they came. After talking about how fast summer arrived, Tomoya looks at his sparkler and whispers the name Ayane.

Short films are very important for up-and-coming directors and writers. Studios look to these to find fresh blood and original stories. While the budgets and runtime are shorter, there is no less effort put into creating a good final product. This is especially true with animated short films. It takes a lot more than just grabbing a camera and shooting. A story has to be written, storyboards have to be drawn, voice actors hired, etc. But the beauty of animation is that the effects budget is practically unlimited. If you want a big explosion all you have to do is draw it. If you want your main character to fly all you have to do is draw it. If you want a meteor to collide with the earth and blow it up all you have to do is draw it. I’m exaggerating a bit as the timeline for post-production does depend on the style of animation. Some projects can take months or years to complete.

Summer Ghost is an awe-inspiring work of art. Everyone loves a good ghost story and the strength of this short film lies within its truly gripping screenplay. Hirotaka Adachi and loundraw are able to get the viewer thoroughly invested in the main characters in such a short amount of time. They also manage to do this while telling a complete story. There are a few things that I wish received more attention and certain characters I felt didn’t get the closure the movie lead you to believe they would. But with the time being limited, none of those missing elements hurt the story being told.

The animation quality isn’t detailed but considering it’s a short film it works. The project gives off an aesthetic of incompleteness. Aoi is a victim of bullying and has attempted suicide multiple times, Tomoya is so busy trying to please his mom by making good grades that he feels dead inside, and Ryō is sick and doesn’t have much time left to live. Each of the main characters is close to death in a unique way that allows them to see and spend time with Ayane (Rina Kawaei, Megan Harvey). Speaking of Ayane, her backstory is truly tragic, and once the information of how she died is revealed the story shifts to become a search for her body.

Lastly, the score is what takes this short film to the next level. Akira Kosemura (A Mother’s Touch) composed the score with additional help from Itoko Toma, Guiano, and Hideya Kojima. Somehow the tone of the music is somber yet heartening. Ever-present throughout highlighting the characters This allows the viewer to leave the film on a more uplifting note considering all the death and sadness present throughout.

This is a well-written emotional short film that is part ghost story, part coming-of-age drama, and part murder mystery. A cautionary tale about embracing the life you have rather than seeking death as an escape. I give Summer Ghost an Excellent 9.8/10. I would be delighted to see this story adapted and expanded upon in a live-action film.

One comment

Leave a Reply