After working one various anime series, like How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord (2018), Dream Festival! (2016), … etc., Yuta Murano finally attempts his hand at a feature length animation film. For his first feature film, he adapts the highly popular novel Seven Days War (1985) by Osamu Souda.
Just around the start of the summer vacation, Mamoru Suzuhara (Takumi Kitamura), who is somewhat of a history buff, learns that his neighbor and long-standing crush Aya Chiyono (Kyoko Yoshine) will soon be moving. Fearing that he will not be able to confess to her and celebrate her 17th birthday together with her, he suggests to her that they run away from home until her birthday.
Aya immediately accept his proposal and invites, much to Mamuro’s surprise, some classmates to come along. They shut themselves in an abandoned coal factory/museum. One night, they discover that an illegal Thai boy called Mallet (Makoto Koichi) is living at the factory and rescue him before the immigration officers can snatch him away. Their ‘seven days war’ begins.
Seven Days War might start of a romance narrative, but Murano’s story is, more than anything a coming-of-age story, a story about finding, for oneself, how one wants to be an adult. The coming-of-age aspect is most evident in the trajectories of the main character, Mamoru and Aya.
Mamoru complains that no one has any interest in him, but can we not use this statement to unearth the true dynamic of his suffering? Is it not that Mamoru by speaking about history whenever he can he evades taking an interest in the Other/female Other? Is his love for history not the very obstacle that problematizes the formation of any inter-subjective relation whatsoever? In our view, speaking about history – something he does whenever he is given the chance – enables him to hide himself as subject from the female Other (i.e. Aya Chiyono) and allows him to keep the Otherness of his beloved female Other out of play (Narra-note 1).
It is the sudden news of her relocation that urges him to act (on his desire) and forces him to leave his position of outsider, i.e. someone who, continually, puts himself out of play. Via speech, via three ‘simple’ statements – ‘You can’t (go to Tokyo)”, “I want to spend your birthday with you” and “Let’s run away” – he brings himself as desiring subject into play.
Alas, Aya does not hear the subjective desire that underpins his statements, she does not hear that he speaks from the position of lover nor does she realizes that she has, for him, attained the position of beloved – her reaction, in fact, erases the subjective desire he has brought into play. Due to this ‘miscommunication’, Aya starts, much to the annoyance of Mamoru, inviting other classmates to what she calls her ‘seven-day birthday camp’. Will Mamoru be able to turn this dire situation to his advantage and succeed triumphantly in communicating his desire and feelings for her or will he be outmaneuvered and forced to raise the white flag in this ‘war’ for love?
In Aya’s case, the ‘problematic’ relation with her father (…) takes the center stage. Aya’s father is so focused on his own success and image as councilman that he completely ignores Aya as subject. That he fails to listen to her subjective position is not only function of his ambition but also of the rather contradictory idea he has about what a good adult should be, i.e. obedient to one’s elders. But Aya, who has since long identified with that ideal image of a good adult, has in fact never truly attempted to make her subjective position heard. It is only due to Mamoru’s sudden promise that she finds the courage to rebel against his will and make herself, albeit in a highly indirect way, heard.
Utilizing Mamoru’s explicit struggle and Aya’s implicit struggle as a minimal support for the narrative, Murano does not only succeed in touchingly underlining the difficulty for the subject to bring his desire into play and the effect that the misrecognition of one’s subjective position has on the subject, but also explores, in a gripping way, the violent impact social media has on one’s subjective position and one’s relations to others as well as the alienating nature of establishing an imaginary sense of belonging. The true message of Seven Days War is, in fact, nothing other than the following: as long as one is caught within an alienating mirror-palace of belonging, one can never establish a true inter-subjective bond.
Seven Days War is a visually pleasing narrative – environments are, for instance, richly detailed – and has a pleasing dynamism and flow. But despite offering such nicely flowing composition, Seven Days War does not offer anything extra-ordinary at the level of animation. While there are plenty of interesting visual moments, there is, in truth, no sequences that, due to the way movement has been animated, are able to truly impress the spectator. There is, in other words, no Miyazaki, Takahata, or shinkai-moments present within the narrative.
The 3D animated parts, while easy to distinguish from the 2d animation, are fluidly integrated into the overall composition. The reason why these moments attain such fluid integration is not so much due to their quality – the quality is, in truth, similar to other anime films utilizing 3D animated shots, but because these moments are used in a thoughtful way.
Seven Days War is a great animation narrative not because of the beauty of its animation, but because it succeeds to deliver its relevant message in a powerful and touching way. This narrative, obviously directed at (Japanese) youth, urges these youth to escape the alienating and imprisoning mirror-palace of belonging and repressive ideals, come to terms with oneself as subject, and meet the other beyond the deceptive dimension of similarity at the level of subjective difference.