Updated: Feb 11, 2019
Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat: I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is an extremely bizarre title for an animated romantic melodrama. Because it’s a Japanese production, I initially assumed that this was the result of a shoddy localization. I also considered the possibility that the phrase carries some deeper cultural connotation in its native country. Now that I’ve seen the film, though, it makes perfect sense in context: those words represent a heartfelt promise to honor the memory of a loved one long after they’ve died.
The protagonist is an antisocial (borderline misanthropic) introvert that accidentally discovers that one of his classmates is suffering from a pancreatic disease, and will likely die within the next year. The girl, for her part, is elated that somebody outside of her own family finally knows about her condition; she’s refused to tell her friends, fearing that doing so would alter how they interact with her. Taking full advantage of their lack of any prior emotional connection, she forces her new acquaintance to accompany her as she crosses items off of her extensive bucket list. At first, he finds her energetic demeanor to be unbearably obnoxious; gradually, however, he begins to admire her ability to accept people for who they are, despite (and often because of) their flaws—especially once it becomes evident that her cheerful attitude conceals a great deal of anxiety and anguish. Eventually, they develop a relationship that transcends friendship, or even love: he gives her the courage to enjoy what little time she has left without regret… and she teaches him what it means to truly live.
The narrative occasionally employs some transparently manipulative tactics, but the core theme is so compellingly optimistic that such blemishes are easily forgiven. Like A Silent Voice, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas belongs to that rare breed of love story that illuminates the importance of learning to love oneself—and that makes it very special, indeed.
A quick warning before I wrap this review up: if you decide to see the movie, make sure you stay through the credits. No, a character with an eyepatch doesn’t show up to tease a sequel, but there is a bonus scene that adds a more definitive postscript to the otherwise ambiguous ending… and it absolutely makes a huge difference.