December 4, 2012 -- Most of these “coming of age” movies make me want to gag. Usually they are about loss of innocence, discovery of sexuality, or some jaded adult fantasy about childhood as it never really was. It is rare to find a coming of age film that reflects childhood in an accurate way, let alone one that combines this with such enjoyable whimsy, sweetness and tenderness. This movie will put a smile on your face.
Koichi (played by Koki Maeda), 12, who lives with his mother and retired grandparents in Kagoshima, wants nothing more in life than to be reunited with his younger brother, Ryunosuke (played by Koki's real brother, Ohshirô Maeda). The brothers, separated by divorce, live on opposite ends, north and south, of Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan. Koichi lives with his mother, Ryunosuke lives with his father in Hakata, northern Kyushu.
A volcano, Sakurajima, constantly rains ash down on the city of Kagoshima. Cleaning up the buildup of ash everywhere is a constant task for Koichi and other city residents. The volcano figures prominently in Koichi's plans to be reunited with his brother. He wishes for a major eruption of the volcano so that Kagoshima will be evacuated and he can move in with Ryunosuke and his family would be reunited.
One day, Koichi overhears a conversation at school in which two children talk of a remarkable theory, that is, when a new high-speed bullet train line opens up, there will be magic when the first two high-speed trains pass each other the first time, going opposite directions. The theory is, there will be so much energy produced by the two trains at place they meet that wishes will be granted to the people standing nearby.
Koichi and his friends from school hatch a plan to travel to the place where the two trains will first pass each other so their wishes will be granted. Each child has a wish to be granted. One girl wants to be an actress, another wants her pet dog to come back to life, and so on. They raise money for train tickets. Koichi gets his grandfather to help get them out of school so they can get to the train station on time. The children create a flag to carry their wishes to the spot where the trains pass.
Koichi and Ryunosuke both start having second thoughts about their wishes, however. Koichi is starting to grow up and he realizes that wishing for the destruction of an entire city is too selfish. Koichi and Ryunosuke begin to think in terms of what is best for others, what is best for the rest of the world. It turns out there is magic at the point where the trains pass each other. It is not the kind of magic some of the children imagine, but magic just the same. This film rates a B.
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