The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbye Screening Review

Kaoru seems to be a regular boy at school but hides a tragic past: five years ago, his little sister Karen died and not long after, his mother walked out, leaving just him and his father. With his father now a drunk and lashing out at his son for all his issues, Kaoru runs out one night and finds a mysterious tunnel. The village has a rumour where if you find the ‘Urashima Tunnel’ and travel through it, it’ll grant you any wish at the cost of dramatically taking away years from you. When Kaoru ventures very briefly in accidently, he comes back to the real world a whole week later, proving to him that the rumours are true. However, the next time he tries, the new exchange student, Anzu, follows him and is fascinated by the power within the tunnel. The pair decide to investigate the magic behind the tunnel to both get what they want…but will the cost be too high?

Based on the light novel of the same name, Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes is a sci-fi romance, of which there’s quite a few of in anime films, especially ones that are ‘summer’ themed or take place in the summer. Fireworks, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Weathering With You and such spring to mind. There’s something fascinating about telling an adolescent story with a pinch of science fiction or fantasy in it, as exploring themes unique to the demographic can be easier or at least more exciting when you have a MacGuffin that draws the characters together and helps them work out their issues, whether it be romance, trauma, grief or more. But that same MacGuffin can also unravel the same story if you’re not careful. If the movie keeps too much focus on the awesome power of said MacGuffin, or if the rules of it become detrimental to the story’s themes, then the audience will wonder why it’s there in the first place. So, does Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes have this issue? Well, I think for the most part it does not, mostly because the movie has a simple focus – both in terms of story and the goal the MacGuffin serves, and its runtime doesn’t outstay its welcome (1 hour and 20mins is short compared to most movies in cinemas today) and sometimes having a simpler story can be better than an overly complicated one.

©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

Let’s look at the MacGuffin itself: the ‘Urashima Tunnel’ is a beautifully animated, mysterious tunnel with no exit, but the mystery of it clings to the audience and main character Kaoru from the start, with the simple reveal of the shoe left behind by his sister. We never see HER in the tunnel itself, or hear her voice talking to him to goad him into walking down a one-way path, just a simple shoe to tempt him to turn away from reality and follow the vague promise of bringing his loved one back. I also really loved the first third of the film, when both he and Anzu attempt the tunnel but only go in part of the way to test the rules of time dilation: how much time passes in real world compared to tunnel, how long it takes to text inside the tunnel then come back in real world, etc. You really feel that not only are the audience learning the tunnel’s rules with them but it sets up the lengths these characters are willing to go to get what they want and lays the groundwork for the heart-breaking finale. Every second counts the moment you enter the tunnel, and because the movie spent time illustrating how fast the time inside takes out of the real world, the lead-up to the finale feels foreboding and nail-biting as intended. I also appreciate that the movie didn’t try to ret-con the tunnel’s powers or give an easy solution to the problem, it has a positive ending but doesn’t try to backtrack on what the tunnel does and therefore doesn’t unravel the film’s message: that grief can take years out of your life, and that’s understandable, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to get out of it, before your whole life passes you by.

But at the centre of this sci-fi summer movie is the romance; Kaoru and Anzu are the main couple. For the most part, they’re the only characters we have, as the students at the school barely get a look in and Kaoru’s father only shows up to remind the audience what a terrible parent he is, so really, if you don’t like the couple, the whole movie falls apart. For me, they were acceptable protagonists; they work well together when uncovering the rules of the tunnel, they have some nice chemistry that doesn’t really hit its stride until the second half of the film, and the ending did hit me in the feels somewhat, so the film must have done something right. I think the downsides fall to two clear issues and one is the Japanese voice actors; just to be clear, I can’t speak Japanese, but I wasn’t blown away by either of their performances. Both Anzu and Kaoru’s voice actors are very new to the industry (Oji Suzuka, voice of Kaoru, has only one other credit and it’s TV drama acting, not voice work) and to my ears, I think it’s a combination of both the actors sounding a bit too old to be performing teenagers, as well as failing to put in the emotion in one particular scene, where Kaoru gives Anzu confidence in her creative passion, that didn’t have the uplifting warmth the anime was going for because both actors just sounded unengaged. They perk right up in the finale thankfully, but a retake of that earlier key scene was really needed. The movie is currently only showing in Japanese with English subtitles, so maybe in a future English dub this can be fixed?  Another issue I have is the score which was provided by Harumi Fuuki but I couldn’t place a single track that stood out to me. There’s also music by eill who provided insert and theme songs, but musically they’re not memorable and if the lyrics were meant to help the themes of the movie, I wouldn’t know, because they were not translated for the screening provided. Sadly, music often aids the emotion of the media, and I think having a stronger composer would have helped carry the lacklustre performances of the voice actors.

©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

The one thing that isn’t lacklustre is the animation; provided by CLAP, this relatively new company has more experience in assisting other productions from BELLE to random Spy x Family episodes. This is the second film they’ve produced (the first being Pompo: The Cinephile movie) and it’s beautiful. The tunnel itself has an otherworldly feel to it, like you’re stepping into a dream, and I liked the ‘off-3D’ effect that was on the trees that looked unnatural but enticing. The character designs are also good; the leads stand out and are well animated throughout the film; the studio really learnt a lot from other films to make theirs as lovely as it can be.

There are a lot of anime films made by more prestigious creators within the same genre as The Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes, but I do think the movie’s simple focus and shorter than usual runtime work in its favour. The animation is gorgeous, the theme of the story is clear with the plot never going off-course, and the characters have their moments that will tug on your heart in places. It’s a movie that shows a lot of promise from the studio and its lesser-known director Tomohisa Taguchi, and one I would happily re-experience in the cinema again. Like the tunnel within the movie, it’s a mysterious journey that is worth discovering, but luckily it won’t cost you in years!

The Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes is in cinemas from 14th July 2023, purchase tickets here

©2022 Mei Hachimoku, Shogakukan/The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes Film Partners

21 JUNE 2023 Anime Limited are delighted to announce that their upcoming Sci-Fi romance film The Tunnel to Summer, Exit of Goodbyes has been awarded the Paul Grimault Award, one of the top prizes handed out by the Jury at this year’s Annecy International Film Festival.

7 / 10


By day, I work in the television industry. By night, I'm a writer for Anime UK News. Twitter: @lilithdarkstorm

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