Iwakura Mitsumi (Kurosawa Tomoyo) is the pride and joy of the tiny rural seaside village from whence she comes; a whale in a kiddy pool. In Tokyo, where she’ll be attending high school, she’s a guppy in a lake, and the lake is full of sharks. But Mitsumi can’t know that until she actually experiences the big city for the first time.
After a gorgeous transition from the village to Tokyo that flips the camera up into a sky that joins them, she is bursting with confidence as she prepares to head to the school’s entrance ceremony. But then our POV switches to a blonde young man who is late for that ceremony…and he finds her stuck to a wall.
But while all the tunnels and halls and signs made her lost and the crowds made her nauseous (since she’s just never been around so many people before), this country bumpkin is blessed with terrific fortune, as she comes upon a gorgeous prince in shining armor—which is the same sharp blue uniform she’s wearing.
He’ll lead her to school, but he’s in no hurry himself. When he tells her it’s “just an entrance ceremony”, Mitsumi snaps at him, saying that’s something only he can say. But she immediately regrets that, and wonders if Tokyo brought out her “true colors” as a bad person. Of course that’s not the case, it’s just that she’s not used to the pace and the sheer volume of the city.
When she and the lad make a run for the school from the station those impostor syndrome thoughts begin to amass, until she regains her nerve, gets up, slips off her loafers and socks, and runs the rest of the way barefoot. The blonde guy, enchanted by Mitsumi’s moxie, finds his pace quickening, to catch up to her.
Mitsumi makes it just on time, thanks to the principal giving a longer-than-scheduled speech. There’s that fortune again! Then the blonde guy receives a shock: this absolute chaotic mess of a girl is actually top of their class, and even though she leaves her written speech in her luggage, she still delivers a perfect and stirring address…from memory.
It’s a stunning scene when she snaps into focus and makes a strong first impression in front of the entire school. Thanks to tradition, they can’t see her hauntingly gaunt face, only the principal can, and he’s disturbed by her lack of blinking. Mitsumi is at the end of her rope, and ends up hurling onto her homeroom teacher’s favorite blouse and pricey suit…in front of the whole school.
Rising from potentially the very top of her class in social stature to the bottom and gaining the nickname “the Puker” on the first day, is enough of a roller coaster to make anyone nauseous. But Mitsumi isn’t one to be discouraged by some early errors, forced or unforced.
She’s determined to have a perfect high school life, so step one is to make friends. When the girl at the desk behind her blows her off when she introduces herself, Mitsumi is once again discouraged, but then the blonde guy, who is in her class and is named Shima Sousuke, walks right up to her desk, says they should be friends, and exchanges contact info.
Immediately, that same girl who blew her off decides she wants to be Mitsumi’s friend after all. What’s funny is that this sudden change of heart, isn’t played as comically opportunistic as I thought, but instead played fairly straight. I’m going to give Egashira Mika a pass for being initially a bit treacherous to Mitsumi. After all, it’s the first day of school!
Mitsumi finishes her day by unpacking and speaking to her best friend back home, assuring her that her first day of school in Tokyo went absolutely swimmingly. She doesn’t bother her friend with any details of the myriad mishaps that befell her, and there’s a good reason for that: talking to her friend is talking to her family and the village. She doesn’t want to worry them.
They have no reason to worry. Mitsumi may still be trying to keep up with the blistering speed of city life, but she’s ambitious, dogged, and perseverant, and even if she never fully figures it all out, the key is she’ll have friends who’ll help her, just as she’ll help them with what she’s good at.
That brings us to Shima. He’s still in touch with what are presumably his friends from middle school who all ended up at different high schools. Or maybe just childhood friends? I like how their relationship isn’t overly explained, it’s clear this is where Shima feels most himself and comfortable.
But he sheepishly reports that he’s made a friend, and there’s something about her that made him run after her. This shocks his friends, who know how lazy he is, but when they ask if it’s a girl, he makes a quick exit. He’s not yet ready to share all of what he’s feeling right now, he wants to savor it for himself.
With self-introductions tomorrow, Mitsumi wants to repair the reputation she built with her entrance address. I love how the Tokyo night lights are so eerily bright to her. It’s perhaps those lights lurking just behind her blinds that keep her awake long enough that her brain kicks into speechwriting gear.
She doesn’t just write one; but several, depending on the “mood of the class.” She does this instead of, ya know, sleeping. And so when she arrives at the breakfast table she’s positively ghoulish from the all-nighter. No matter. I get the feeling she’s going to do great when it matters.
As she did with Kumiko in Euphonium and Phos in Land of the Lustrous, Kurosawa Tomoyo absolutely kills it as the voice of Mitsumi. She has such a unique-sounding yet natural voice, and a lot of range to boot. Kudos also to P.A. Works for a stunningly gorgeous presentation that looked and felt cinematic more often than not.
I won’t lie—there are times when this show gets almost too sweet and sugary. But as a student of both Disney and Studio Ghibli I’m no stranger to that. There’s the same sweet charm of Whisper of the Heart here, mixed with shades of warmth with the sharper bite of the classic Kare Kano. This is a no-doubter for spring.