I’ve recently watched Colorful, a 2010 movie suggested to me by Shaurya. The movie follows a person who had died but was given a chance to redeem himself. He was reincarnated in a body of Makoto Kobayashi, a boy who killed himself with sleeping pills overdose. After the reincarnation the new Makoto needs to deal with the echoes of the Makoto’s life before the incident, the problems that lead up to his suicide.

I would say Colorful is a serious movie, at least compared to other things I’ve been watching recently. It might be a little hard to watch at times, but it definitely isn’t boring. Makoto’s mother acting is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, I almost want to watch the movie again just to see it again (even though her role is such a sad one). If you like movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Makoto Shinkai, you should check this one out. It would be different, but chances are you’ll like it.


Puru Puru, sort of an angel that guides Kobayashi

Now time for spoilers. Though before the spoilers begin let me make a little detour and talk about stories in anime. Most anime do have a story, and it can be quite complex. The story can be told directly by the characters or a narrator, or it can be acted out; some of the events can be only alluded to without being shown. You can hide your story behind hints and metaphors, tell it through references, and since it is anime you can use words, pictures, sound and motion to construct those hints and references. Though if you aren’t careful no one will be able to decipher what the story was.

With this in mind most shows limit this complexity so the viewer can instantly see what is going on, at least in the more important parts of the film/series. But the possibility to do more than the ‘simple things’ is exciting, and people do go for it. This creates an interesting situation where most of the story is being told directly in a simple manner, but some of it is hidden and requires some effort to discover. And this is one of the things I like to write about, my feeble attempts to search for those additional parts of the story.

Now Colorful is pretty interesting in this aspect. I hope I’ll be able to explain why as we go. Let us start by recounting events of Makoto’s life, in chronological order. The earliest part of Makoto’s life that we get to see is his days at school where he was bullied and apparently didn’t have any friends. Now we jump to the time before his suicide. He lives in a family where people grew distant from each other, and it might have been in this state for a long time. At this time Makoto has feelings for his classmate Hiroka. Too bad for him, he sees the girl walking out of a love hotel with a middle-aged guy, which I guess would be hard on a boy. What’s more he also sees his mother walking out of that hotel with another man. Somehow all this drove him to take his own life.

What do you think, does it sound like a reasonable story? I can’t say that it is unrealistic, but I don’t feel like it makes sense. All of this was told very briefly and we don’t get to see how Makoto was reacting to those events. Maybe that is the reason why I can’t put this together with the Makoto that we do get to see in the movie. I can see how realizing that your crush is selling herself or is in love with another guy would be traumatizing and I can see how seeing that your mother is unfaithful to your father would be painful, but I don’t think this would drive the present Makoto to commit suicide. I feel like Makoto would need to show a completely different side of his character in order to make this story work.

Kobayashi family

Kobayashi family

Alright, now we get to the present Makoto. The guy is a piece of work for sure. He is bad at studying (or at least he doesn’t try to be good at it), he doesn’t have friends except Hiroka, he rejects the only other person who tries to communicate with him – his other classmate Shouko. After learning about his mother’s affair he starts acting cold towards her, refusing to eat her cooking, take things she buys for him. The more she tries to be nice to him, the more rude his actions towards her get. At some point Makoto tells his mother that her presence makes him want to puke. He doesn’t have hard feelings towards the rest of his family though. We see Makoto spending time with his father, and their conversation was at least free from aggression.

Makoto’s attitude towards his mother gradually deteriorates. The climax is reached when he accuses her of adultery and runs away from home. Consequently he is beat up by a gang of older boys and has to stay home to recover. And by this time Makoto and Hiroka had a conversation and Makoto kind of had to accept that she willingly sells herself, that this is who she is. You can notice how this resembles the situation right before his suicide. Both times Makoto was isolated from everyone, gave up on his family and heavy consequences followed.

Kobayashi Makoto

Now why does this happen to Makoto? Well this time it literally is him turning his back on his family. Was it the same the last time then? Or was it his family neglecting him?.. What I don’t like about all of those statements is their simplicity. It feels like I am describing a Naruto episode, not a serious movie. No offence to Naruto, but “family is sacred, period” is the general attitude the show has :P

I will stop there with the chronological order. I’ll stop because there is no way I can fit in the last part, the part where Makoto recovers his relations with his family. Let me explain myself. So far the events made some sort of sense. Makoto killed himself because he wasn’t able to find support from his family before. Now he rejects this support and his life falls apart again. It is a story about the importance of realizing the value of people around you. Makoto’s father even spells it all out for the audience. By the end of the movie Makoto will recognize Shouko as a friend; he also makes a new friend Saotome, who becomes the key stone to Makoto’s change. So, chronologically the story begins in a coherent way, and it ends in a coherent way. But I can’t connect the beginning and the end. Why did Makoto stop hating his mother? Why did he recognize the importance of his family?

To answer this question I would need to throw away the answers we already got. “It is a story about the importance of realizing the value of people around you” – lets forget about it. Instead lets look at Makoto bullying his mother. The more she tries to be nice to him the nastier he gets. One of the strongest moments in their interaction was when they are about to have dinner together and Makoto imagines his mother’s hands preparing the meal, which produces a violent reaction from him. His behavior towards her is disturbing exactly because it is so illogical. He is not just ungrateful, it is as if he finds his mother’s care offensive.



To quote the subs “the more she fulfills her responsibilities as a mother the angrier I become for some reason”

And that is exactly it. He does find it offensive. Look at Makoto. As a person he is fairly grown up, with self assurance and independent thinking. All his actions show that he would be fine left alone, thrown into life to enjoy it or be beaten by it. Look at what the boy does. He follows his love interest around, when he sees an opportunity he forcibly takes her away from a date with another guy; and when he realizes that the love interest doesn’t care much about him he lets her leave. Compare this to his behavior towards Shouko. Being in his room, being expected to behave in a nice manner, being a good classmate and a good boy in general – Makoto protests against all of that. He protests against being treated like child, being taken care of by his mother. And on the surface level the feeling is so illogical that he himself likely doesn’t understand it’s origin. That is why he clings to this made up reason to hate his mother. It shouldn’t matter to him if his mother had an affair, he is broad-minded enough to accept things like that.

Looking at it this way it becomes clear why the movie spends so much time with Makoto and his mother. It is not easy to show this complicated problem, the problem of being sheltered and taken care of too much. Makoto’s mother honestly does all she can to help him. She even recognizes his antagonism and goes along with it. You can’t blame her for anything in this situation. Makoto, on the other hand, acts in an awful way and isn’t willing to do anything to remedy the situation. It seems the only way out was for his mom to leave Makoto alone, to stop worrying about him. Now do you see a contradiction? A few paragraphs above we were talking about how being neglected had lead to Makoto suicide. So which is it?

At this point, it almost seems like the movie can’t decide what it wants to say. Alright, let’s just look at it some more. I will pick up where I left, the moment Makoto recovers from being beat up. Soon after his recovery he starts spending time with Saotome, another guy from his class. They go around the city together, wasting time looking at old train routs. They go shopping together, talk about things, even think about what school they should apply to. Both seem to enjoy each other company, and their friendship even motivates Makoto to study. That is interesting because at this point Makoto believes he won’t be around by the time they go to that other school.

Makoto would later say about Saotome “he is the first friend I’ve ever made”, and the emphasis should be placed on the word “I”. There were other people who kind of came to be close to Makoto, but they weren’t exactly friends, and he didn’t do much to become their friend. In a way becoming friends with Saotome was an independent act, something that Makoto did for himself, without being guided. I think that was important for him. The plan to go to the same school that Makoto and Saotome made together, their decision to study together, them spending time together, it was the little part of independent life that I believe Makoto needed. Well, but how important is this friendship for the story? Why did it suddenly appear out of nowhere in such an intense part of the movie? I’ve said that Saotome is “a key stone to Makoto’s change”. I meant the way this event is placed, it seems like it was what lead to Makoto reconsidering his relations with his family. And I don’t know how it works. Maybe being around Saotome Makoto remembered what it is like to be a normal nice human, not a spoiled brat?.. I don’t know, but I would like to know.

Also there was Makoto going fishing with his father. While his father tried to catch fish he had time to paint, the first time he did it after the suicide. This is an important detail, cause it is an early hint that Makoto is Makoto, that the soul/mind occupying his body are his soul/mind. Makoto’s conversation with his father is one sided, but it does what it needed to do. It tells Makoto that his family care about him together, it isn’t just his mother who does. Later Makoto and his father go to a street noodle shop where Makoto’s father shares his food with him. It kind of mirrors the scene where Makoto and Saotome share their food, probably a metaphor for Makoto becoming friends with his dad.

The highest point of the story comes where the Kobayashi family have dinner together and they discuss a possible school for Makoto. Through the discussion Makoto instead of becoming more and more offensive, as he usually did, went to tears and actually pleaded for his own decision to be considered. His brother also speaks up for the first time. Unlike Makoto’s parents who have unlimited patience, Makoto’s brother seems to be fed up with Makoto and he tells him that up front. It is an important moment too; a fair bit of honesty is an important part of family relations. Long story short, the family seems to reconcile and Makoto seems to stop his aggression towards his mother.

Makoto Kobayashi

We also learn that that time when Makoto was beat up he was in a temple where he used to play as a child. It is the second hint that the soul/mind he has are his own. I bring up this and the other small details in order to sort of demonstrate that this movie does care about this stuff, giving the viewer hints as to what is about to come next. And this brings another question. We only learn details about Makoto’s past at the very end of the film. So are those details important? If they are, then the viewer is forced in the situation where he can only appreciate the story after he finishes the film and either goes over it in his head or watches it the second time. And I don’t think Colorful is this kind of movie, I don’t think it would do that to its viewer. But if Makoto’s past isn’t important to understand what is going on in the film, then what? What is the movie about? The idea that “it is a story about the importance of realizing the value of people around you” sort of relies on Makoto’s past. But the idea that this movie is about an overly sheltered youth doesn’t explain why he suddenly gave in and embraced his family. And it raises a question why they even needed to put that rushed story about Makoto’s past in the film in the first place.

I feel the only answer I can come up with would be repeating what Makoto told Hiroka about people being colorful. It is not a real answer though, it is just saying that Makoto’s ways may be weird and it might be hard to see any reason in his actions, and that this is fine, that is how people are. Maybe we should accept Makoto the same way Makoto accepts Hiroka and doesn’t question her ways of living. I don’t know if I am happy with this answer, but is ties up the film for me. Also earlier I was thinking about those questions I’ve written above I couldn’t find an answer. Then I went to watch certain parts of the movie again, and this dialogue between Makoto and Hiroka came up; and with that awesome vocal soundtrack in the background Makoto spelled out what I was looking for for me. So I just can’t turn down this explanation now ^^/



Sorry if this was a bit too boring to read. Now you see what I meant by “Colorful is pretty interesting in this aspect” – it almost tells you two different stories at the same time =) So what do you think?


10 thoughts on “Colorful

  1. I felt that Makoto having such strong negative emotions towards his mother was weird. He didn’t even know that it was his own life. If we were suddenly put in the shoes of somebody else, their problems probably won’t seem all that bad to us because it is not our life. We won’t feel that strongly about their problems since we didn’t go through everything they’ve been through. Makoto felt betrayed when he saw his mother walk out of that love hotel because he loved her and she let him down. When he is reincarnated, he forgot all his memories. The reincarnated Makoto didn’t love his mother. So the betrayal shouldn’t have affected him so badly. He would have disliked her and looked down on her for sure but being that repulsed about her mere presence doesn’t look all that normal to me.

    I think the talk with his father kind of taught him that he didn’t know his mother all that well. He didn’t know that his mother was depressed and had to take sleeping pills everyday. Maybe he just managed to see a brief glimpse of her as a person for a sec instead of the villain he imagined her to be. I am not saying that it did him much good but it probably played a part in his accepting his family. And his accepting them all of a sudden felt a bit too forced but I am willing to overlook that. Makoto is a kid and kids can get over things pretty fast, he also got to see that his family cares about him. There are moments that felt a little fairytale-like but I like the story.

    • Yes, and that is why I think it was only a pretense for Makoto. Also the position of a son who knows one of his parents is cheating on another is pretty complicated and deserves way more attention that it was given in the movie. But then since I think here it was only a plot device to move the story forward it doesn’t matter too much.

      That may be true. I wonder though. Makoto had to know that he was putting his mother through quite a bit of suffering for no reason other than to abide his own hateful feelings. So would knowing that she had hard times before change his perspective? It might be an easy question, but I find it hard to answer cause I sort of don’t want to put myself in Makoto’s position, try to think as he thought ._.

      So do you like this movie? =) Do you think it was a good story?

      Also I want to ask you why did you suggest that I write about it? Was there a particular reason? =) It was fun writing about it, so I have no complaints anyway ^.^/

      • I think there is no real way to understand why Makoto hated his mother so much and why he ended up getting along with her in the end. But I don’t think it bothers me too much. Makoto is a messed up child and he couldn’t quite understand what was going on in his head. It is an okay explanation for me.

        Of course I liked the movie. I wouldn’t have suggested it to you if I didn’t :P

        Colorful is a complicated movie and it would be difficult to talk about what you think of the movie using messages. They will end up being really long and you might have to cut down on what you want to say to keep the message size under control. What is a better way to know what you think of the movie than making you write a post about it? :3

        • Well you might have thought something like “I didn’t like it, but that weirdo probably would” :D

          Wanted to ask you, what do you think of Hiroka? =)

          That is true ^^/

          • I guess that is probably true XD

            I think to me Hiroka is one of those people who loves things and wants to have enough money to buy all the things she wants, to the point she doesn’t mind what kind of ways she uses to earn the money. I feel like that is pretty much the kind of person she is. I also feel like all her talk about things and her feelings is only because she wants to pretend to be more humane than she feels like, just so that she doesn’t feel like an awful person.

            • :D

              I really like that exchange Hiroka had with Makoto under a bridge. She was able to talk so calmly about her selling herself to earn money, which is obviously not something most people around her would be able to accept. She wasn’t defensive or upset during this conversation, she was just relaying her view on the matter. Was she able to be calm because of her strength of character, or because she doesn’t realize the complexity of the situation, or because her own morals are just tuned differently and she doesn’t see any problems there at all? We don’t get any sort of answer, but I think it is perfectly fine in this case. It was a controversial scene, and a rare kind too. I like that Makoto accepted her so easily after that, it made his character seem a lot more interesting.

              You may be right. Or maybe she really is impulsive and it troubles her, that is possibility too. I think that speech she made in the art room didn’t give us much insight to Hiroka’s person. It was more for Makoto to be able to deliver his great lines in reply =)

              So if you don’t mind me asking, do you like or dislike Hiroka as a person? Are you fine with what she is doing or does it take away from her as a person for you?

              • I felt like it was the third scenario. Hiroka’s morals are tuned differently. I also felt like Makoto had no choice but to accept her. I mean what else could he do? She is her own person and doesn’t have to care about what how he feels about the whole situation.

                I neither like nor dislike Hiroka. She is just another person to me. She has a right to do what she wants. Just because my morals are different from hers, I don’t feel like imposing my views on her and judge her based on my point of view. To me Hiroka’s selling herself isn’t that different from Makoto judging his mother or her mother cheating on her husband. They’re just choices made by individuals. I don’t even think I felt like it was wrong either. It was more like that is just who Hiroka is and I didn’t have any trouble accepting that. It didn’t make her look less of a person. I wonder if that is messed up XD

  2. Oh, Makoto could have done a lot of bad things :D He could have went on to hate Hiroka, he could have started to look down on her, he could have pretend like she still needs saving and just doesn’t know it. There are many way to not accept a person =)

    I like this way of looking at it =) I guess because I never thought of judging Makoto’s mom I didn’t realize that she could be lined up with Hiroka and Makoto. That is pretty cool.

    I don’t know. Hiroka was probably my favorite character in the film, so can’t comment of whether or not that’s messed up :D

    • Sure, he could have done all that but they wouldn’t really have affected Hiroka in anyway right? She doesn’t care about him. So even if he ignored her, looked down on her or hated her, she could have just went about her life as if nothing has happened.

      I guess that makes two messed up people XD

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