I Had A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience
When one has, from a young age, access to what society calls “culture”, at twenty years old, they can claim to have communicated with all kinds of arts—they will have polished their sensitivity with the works of the masters, and before long, any work which they lay their eyes upon will be judged on its ability to live up to this canon they have grown so familiar with.
Such a person will, on many occasions, appear somewhat disillusioned to others; they will be said to be too harsh, too demanding, unable to simply enjoy a good time… and perhaps there is truth to this. But this unforgiving sensitivity, once or twice in a lifetime, gives them a treasure: it bowls them over, returns them to their youthful innocence, invades them with all types of oneiric impressions, and colors their world forever with its warm oily hues.
When I went to watch Liz to Aoi Tori in Shibuya, my attitude betrayed the enthusiasm I had tried to contain. Yes, it was the newest work of Yamada Naoko, whom I admire very much, and in Koe no Katachi had already given me something precious; but still, what if I came out disappointed this time around? What if I raised the bar too high for even her to reach? And so I thought away as I walked into the room for the opening day’s second screening, my bag full of merchandise firmly in my right hand.
The movie, in fact, was under worrying auspices. I was surrounded by people munching their popcorn away, one of them fell asleep in the middle, and all of this was forgivable: some sad excuse of a human being’s phone rang in the middle of the movie’s climax!
But the movie blew all these inconveniences away; it imposed itself, so much more precious than anything else in the world at that moment. The spectacle which unfolded before my eyes was unforgettable; somewhere in the middle of it, I became sure of that. There was the sensitivity which each frame conveyed so perfectly; each passing shot sounded the rhythm of life; there was Nozomi’s character, whom I related to as though I’d always known her; and there was the story, whose every line echoed in me, faded away, and left a precious realization behind. And together, they made their way into my heart, formed something there which left me spellbound, trembling, unable to say a word with any meaning.
I was an enthusiastic kid again. Unable to explain what he’d just seen, repeating the same cliché words, but hoping his smile conveys what he feels anyway.
I hurried out of the theater, told the woman at the exit that I gave the movie a perfect score, skipped my appointment with the barber, and instead wrote page after page of notes about what I’d just seen. The next day, I retraced these steps (this time in a better environment).
Notes about all the things the movie had made me feel. Something about the themes; something more about Yamada’s genius; and a little something about comparisons with Koe no Katachi.
But there was a problem—these notes said nothing of the experience. No matter in how much detail I wrote about the movie, I could never say anything that mattered to me. Any insightful observation, any erudite turn of phrase, any conceited conclusion was pitiful in front of what had agitated my heart at that time.
The movie had not simply surpassed my expectations. I couldn’t say I’d simply enjoyed it, liked it, or loved it; no; all these words lied. And all I was left with were types of sentimentalism—maybe there are works we’re fated to meet, and this is one of them; maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life chasing after this one movie, hoping to one day express myself with the same beauty. This is what I was reduced to: for weeks I couldn’t watch a movie, like a teenager who loses his appetite because of his first love; but I like to think of it as a privilege, to feel this way about a movie.
Today still, these feelings well up in me every time I see AT-X promoting its upcoming airing of Tamako Market Love Story. I don’t know what the future holds; certain works we walk with for a while, and eventually part with. But for now I publish this short piece, thinking that it’s written horribly, that it says nothing worthwhile, that I should be crucified for it, but thanking this treasure of a movie for having made its way into my life. I have a feeling I’ll love it forever.