Hotarubi No Mori E
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A 44-minute anime film with the same title was produced in 2011 at the anime studio Brain's Base and directed by Takahiro Omori. The film starred Japanese voice actors Ayane Sakura and Kōki Uchiyama, and its soundtrack included music by Makoto Yoshimori. The film maintained a strong following for months in Japan after its opening on September 17, 2011. The European premiere of Hotarubi no Mori e was on October 8, 2011 at the Scotland Loves Animation festival, where it won the Jury Prize. It was screened at the Leeds International Film Festival, Anime Contents Expo and Anime Expo convention, and also won the Animation Film Award at the 66th Annual Mainichi Film Awards.
As the years go by, Gin hardly ages while Hotaru physically matures and grows closer to his apparent age. Upon reaching adolescence, Hotaru begins to struggle with their budding romance and their uncertain future together, while Gin wishes he could touch and hold the young woman that Hotaru has become. When Hotaru reaches high school, Gin takes her on a date to a festival in the forest hosted by the spirits. The night ends in tragedy when Gin mistakenly touches a young boy who snuck into the spirit festival, though before he disappears, he and Hotaru embrace and confess their love for one another. The story ends with Hotaru accepting her pain and moving on with her life, though she will always treasure the memories of her time with Gin. The 2011 anime film adaptation of the story follows all of the events from the manga, adding only a few additional scenes.
In March 2011, midway through production, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. Despite the national tragedy, the production crew continued its work, and according to Omori, the team hoped that their work would help soothe the nation after it had time to recover. Omori speculated that this was part of the reason for the strong positive reception and the awards the anime later received.
The setting in the manga was based on a shrine in the Kumamoto Prefecture of Japan, known as Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine, which is dedicated to Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto from Japanese mythology. The animation crew spent two hours searching the location for settings on which they could base their art. Because the story was set in the forest of a mountain god, Omori intended the art to represent a "different world" where the background scenery was obscure and the blue sky was slightly brighter than normal. Omori and his crew devoted extra attention to lighting and coloring, making the forest dim with light coming through the canopy and landing on the characters with the appropriate intensity. The contrast between light and dark was also used during the festival scene to emphasize its bizarre nature, reminding the audience that Hotaru should not be there. Because of the significance of the summer season to the story, Omori deliberately loaded the film with summer scenes, such as rustling leaves and chirring of cicadas.
According to the Omori, the idea for the opening scene was suggested by Yokoyama; following traditional cinematography, the images of scenes indirectly related to the main story were played while the opening credits appeared. Originally intended to show Gin's life before meeting Hotaru, Omori allowed the viewer to decide its relationship in time with the main story. Omori also opted to start Hotaru's narration from a time after the story's main events; showing Hotaru as an 18-year-old who had just graduated high school and heading back to visit her relatives near the forest. By having Hotaru tell the story in retrospect, Omori thought it provided a more human feel and gave more meaning to the final scene, where Hotaru expresses her hopes for the future by saying, "Come on, let's go."
Omori shared a draft of the film with composer Makoto Yoshimori so that he could write music to match the tempo. However, there was some disagreement over the ending theme,