Written and directed by Mari Okada (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans), Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou is the story of a young immortal, her mortal child, and their life in a declining kingdom of a low-fantasy world.
And while the film won’t be hitting Japanese theaters for another two months, Anime Now! got to view the film at a press screening late last week.
Sayonara no Asa is the story of Makia, a timid girl part of a race of blond haired immortals living in an isolated village. However, one day, their peaceful life ends in a fiery attack. In the aftermath, Makia finds herself wandering alone. On the edge of despair, she hears a baby’s cry. Finding the mother dead, Makia takes the orphaned child and, despite being little more than a child herself, decides to raise the mortal boy as her own.
The film itself is a thought experiment from that point on, focusing on the troubles that come from this setup. Some of the issues are practical: As Makia doesn’t age, she and her son, Erial, must move every few years. Eventually, his age will near her apparent age, making it difficult to live publicly as mother and son. But most of the focus is put on the emotional turmoil stemming from her immortality.
As an immortal, Makia knows that, unless killed, she will basically live forever. This means she will have to watch Erial grow old and die while she appears the same as she was when she found him. No matter what happens, it will end in sadness. This is made even worse as immortals, in general, feel loneliness more keenly than anyone else—in their home village, everyone was always there and always would be.
On top of this, she may be immortal, but she is also quite young. More than that, Mikia never had a mother that she can remember, and so isn’t sure she is capable of raising a child. Yet, at the same time, Erial has become her very reason for living.
It doesn’t get any less complicated from Erial’s point of view. At first, he is just a normal kid. But soon even he can notice his mother isn’t like everyone else’s. Moreover, once he reaches a certain age and picks up on the clues, it will be impossible to hide the fact that they are not blood-related—something hard for any child to take.
Then there’s the unstable lifestyle that comes from moving from place to place every few years to avoid suspicion. The two are completely dependant on one another yet have anything but a peaceful life. And as it comes from the author of Anohana, it is exactly as dramatic and heart wrenching as you would expect.
When it comes down to it, Sayonara no Asa is a story about familial love—what it means to be a mother and what it means to be a son. The fantasy world and the immortality aspect are simply tools to explore all the ins and outs of this relationship in the most interesting way. It all comes together perfectly in a film that will no doubt be one of the most emotionally resonant of this coming year.
And it’ll make you want to go hug your mom.
Image Source: 映画『さよならの朝に約束の花をかざろう』 on Twitter
Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou will be released in Japanese theaters on February 24, 2018. There is currently no word on a Western release.