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This film premiered in the United States at Otakon 2023.
It’s not uncommon for people to just think about what could have happened. “If only I could get back what I lost, everything would be better.” Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbye is an animated film that explores this feeling, told through the prism of a summer romance with a touch of magic.
Tunnel to Summer explores the lives and relationships of two teenagers, a boy named Touno Kaoru and a girl named Hanashiro Anzu, who have finally found a true urban legend: the Ryuuguu Tunnel supposed to give you the greatest desire but at the cost of losing it all. Touno has to deal with an abusive father who blames him for all their troubles and hurts. Hanashiro has something to prove and the right attitude—one said, “I don’t have the time or patience to deal with nonsense.” The pair discovered that time passed much faster in the tunnel, and that even a few seconds in it equated to hours in the real world. But they both have wishes fulfilled, so they work together to uncover its secret, while growing closer.
Time dilation is not a new premise in Japanese fiction. Both aim for the top! Gunbuster and Voices of a Distant Star explore how human relationships can be affected by the uneven passage of time in a sci-fi setting. In addition to the anime, the Ryuuguu Tunnel itself is related to the fairy tale Urashima Tarou, about a boy who visits the Ryuuguu-jou (Dragon’s Palace) underwater for three days but is actually 300 years old. As a joke, I actually like time dilation a little bit because of how simple and easy it is to affect our minds—and The Tunnel to Summer adds an emotional dimension. because it is not only about how we are passively affected by it but also about how we are passively affected by it. Positive decisions have consequences. Characters having to consider the past (or future) they long for may be distracting them from finding happiness in the present.
Another thing that stands out to me is how central the relationship between Touno and Hanashiro is because of how equal they both feel. This reminds me of the BL transport in the shounen series, and how often it happens simply because the boys all enter the same competition—this often creates a clear passion. greater than any interaction the hero has with a favorite girl. Here, Touno and Hanashiro feel very much like they are in it together as they learn and experiment with the Ryuuguu Tunnel. As for how this plays out throughout the story, I love how each character is so invested in their collective effort in their own way. The similarities and differences between the two ultimately enrich their relationship and give the film a nice emotional anchor point.
Because of its seasonal theme and setting, Tunnel to Summer, Exit of Goodbye ends with a very nostalgic feeling while also questioning the value of nostalgia itself. Not only is this another summer-themed animated series, but it also has a memorable identity of its own.