Told in three interconnected segments, we follow a young man named Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to test the delicate petals of love.
A high-school girl named Makoto acquires the power to travel back in time, and decides to use it for her own personal benefits. Little does she know that she is affecting the lives of others just as much as she is her own.
A young girl is lost in the forest, and rescued at the last minute by a strange boy, who may be a spirit in human form. She returns to meet him every summer, as she grows up and he remains the same; over time they develop a special friendship, but the boy warns her that because of a curse which was placed on him, they may never touch.
Hotarubi no mori e is a sweet little fairy tale, that draws heavily on Japanese tradition and mythology. It's a pleasant enough watch, more lyrical and sensitive than most anime I've seen so far, and the very short runtime (under 50 minutes) ensures that it doesn't overstay its welcome. That runtime also makes it very unsatisfying, though; it's frustrating when you realize that, even if it were only over an hour long, it would get boring quickly, mainly because it has very little to offer. Hotarubi no mori e has some pleasant atmosphere, but no character development, no original design, and no real point or moral at the end.
Hotarubi no mori e seems to be heavily influenced by the master Hayao Miyazaki - mostly because both draw from the same myths and share the same elements. That natural and instant comparison does it more harm than good, though; it's just not as good as Miyazaki's work, it doesn't achieve the same level of audience involvement, it doesn't feel as real, and the animation is far from being on the same level. The animation in Hotarubi no mori e is pretty and pleasant, as is the story, and it's practically impossible to use stronger words to describe it. Pleasant but forgettable, probably worthwhile for anime fans but not much to write home about when we still have the genius of Miyazaki around.
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