‘Summer Ghost’ AIF 2022 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Summer Ghost” is an animated short (40 minutes) about life and death and three people at the crossroads who band together and seek a rumored apparition who has been named “Summer Ghost.”

The film begins with the closeup images of a twinkler type firework. A year has passed and these three high school-aged people–two guys and one gal–are meeting together after a long time apart. The two boys are seniors. The girl is a junior. Of the two, the one who instigated their meeting, Tomoya Sugisaki 杉崎友也 (voiced by Chiaki Kobayashi), is studying hard for college entrance exams. The other, Ryō Kobayashi 小林涼 (Nobunaga Shimazaki) has recently given up basketball which he was skilled at.

In a flashback, they remember their first time meeting at a kissaten (coffee shop) and bringing a bag of twinklers out to an old abandoned airport, attempting to summon the ghost. The girl, Aoi Harukawa 春川あおい (Miyuri Shimabukuro), is the one who expressed the most trepidation, but in the end, she follows. On the runway, they burn almost all of their twinklers when the yūrei appears. Her name is Ayane Satō 佐藤絢音 (Rina Kawaei) and she tells them, “Only those meddling with the idea of death” can see her. The film then gently explores why each of the three is contemplating death and why Ayane appears and the nature of her death, which was rumored to be a suicide.

There are four things you need to know. First, in Japanese, the apparition is referred to as a yūrei which is a ghost and one that doesn’t change forms. Secondly, that in Japan, according to Buddhist traditions, ghosts return to their hometowns during O-Bon which is in the summer. Thirdly, cherry blossoms symbolize the ephemeral nature of life because the trees bloom for only 3-4 days and then the petals fall like pink snow upon the ground. Moreover, the number four, here four people,  is considered unlucky because four in Japanese (四 is a homophone for death. (死)。Lastly,  fireworks are associated with the myth of the Weaver Maid and the Herder, known and celebrated in Japan as Tanabata. The two lovers were separated by the gods and can only meet once a year.

Besides these cultural cues, there’s the choice of their names. Sugisaki means “cedar” and “steep” or “cape” or “promontory” while Tomoya means “friend” and “to be.”  Aoi’s last name, Harukawa 春川, means “spring river” while her first name suggests a color, blue (but also sometimes “green”).  Kobayashi means “small forest” while his first name means “cold.”  Satō means “help” and “wisteria.” Ayane means “sound of kimono.”

Their names add a layer of feeling to the story, but don’t seem as significant as in other Japanese animation. This is a gentle ghost story about life choices and friendship with a thoughtful statement on suicide.

The film made its international premiere at the Leeds International Film Festival in England on the same day (12 November 2021) that it was released in Japan. The film was shown in Los Angeles are part of the Animation Is Film festival 2022. The film is currently available to stream on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Vudu.



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