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Review: Flavors of Youth

Finally got around to watching Flavors of Youth, an animated anthology film from CoMix Wave, the studio behind much of Makoto Shinkai’s work. Indeed, in terms of its tone, structure, and even themes, it owes a great debt to Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second, though it ultimately manages to stand on its own merits. The three short tales that comprise the narrative—The Rice Noodles, about a man whose fondness for San Xian noodles is inextricably tied to key moments in his formative years; A Little Fashion Show, about a fashion model struggling to balance the demands of her career with her desire to support her younger sister, to the detriment of her physical and psychological wellbeing; and Love in Shanghai, about an overworked architect that discovers a lost cassette tape from his childhood crush, forcing him to reevaluate his priorities—are all thoroughly captivating and compelling meditations on how the regrets of our past can arrest the flow of time, preventing us from moving on and achieving our full potential.

If I had to pick a favorite vignette, I’d say that The Rice Noodles is the clear winner of the bunch. The protagonist’s relationship with the eponymous dish evokes such palpable sensory memories: the searing heat of steam billowing out of a fresh bowl of soup, the smell of cooking grease, the oppressive humidity of a crowded open-air restaurant juxtaposed with the disappointingly sterile and impersonal air-conditioned interior of a fast food joint. Cinema is a predominantly audiovisual experience (by necessity), but The Rice Noodles belongs to that rare breed of movie that appeals to all five of the viewer’s senses, making it immersive, intimate, and absolutely unforgettable.

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