It all started that summer day many years ago. A lone child, who came to visit her uncle and aunt’s house, visits a forest up the mountains said to be the home of many spirits. While playing, she tries to find her way back, but is unable to do so and weeps. At that moment, a lone boy wearing a mask approaches her, asking her if she was lost. Easily, she was enthusiastic, for her savior has come, but the boy dodges her merry approach and tells her that if a human were to touch him, he would disappear. Using a stick, he helps her out of the forest, telling her not to visit this place again for she may be able to leave here a second time. It was but a simple encounter, an encounter said to not have any meaning. Yet, on that summer day, neither the girl nor the boy knew how much their lives will entwine with each other. Her name is Takegawa Hotaru. His name is Gin. This is her story to share with us.
The next day, Hotaru visits the forest once more, wishing to thank Gin for helping her out of the forest. To her surprise, he was sitting in front of it, possibly waiting for her return here, even though he stated not to come. Once more merry about his appearance, she rushes towards him, only to be hit by him once again. Gin takes her to the forest once more, accompanying her in her adventures. Every day that summer, the two played with each other every day inside the forest. At one point, while Gin was sleeping, Hotaru wanted to see what was under the mask he wears everyday. He has but a normal face like every other human. The reason he puts on a mask is that many will not see him as a spirit if he does not. But summer can only last for so long, and Hotaru tells him that she will be leaving soon. Gin asks if she will come and visit her next year, to which she says yes. For the two of them, summer would become the most anticipated part of her lives.
The next summer arrives, and she sees him again. Spirits have continuously told him not to get too close to the girl, but Gin tells them that it was alright. The spirits of the mountains care very much about him, as if he was their own child, and Hotaru notices this. Even so, the two continue to play with each other until their hearts content. Two summers past, then three. In one summer, Hotaru wanted to scare him to see his expression, but this cannot happen, for he was still wearing a mask. She tells him to take it off every now an then when he is around her. She falls from a tree, and Gin wishes to save her, but she tells her not to. Hotaru survives the fall, but she tells him not to touch her, for she, too, does not want Gin to disappear. She herself was starting to form a bond with him, a bond so strong that she wishes for it not to wither from her eyes.
More summers have passed, and Gin sees her middle school attire. During this time, she comments that while she was changing so much, Gin has not changed since they first met. She has grown up and experienced many things in the outside world, but Jin still remained in his original form, as if time has stopped his age and growth. Hotaru will continue to change and grow. Gin will forever remain the same. It was only but a matter of time until they reach the same age, and, eventually, she will overpass him. Still, they continued to play with each other, not wishing to think of such matters at the time. Near the end of her stay, her uncle tells her about the dramatic seasonal changes in this place. As a present, Hotaru gives him a scarf to wear for the winter so he could stay warm. Sure enough, that same winter, while Hotaru was at her hometown, she continues to think about Gin, wondering how he was and if he was wearing the scarf she gave him. Hotaru wanted to see him. Even more, Hotaru wanted to touch him, embrace him with all of her heart. Gin is seen on the mountains, and, indeed, he was wearing the scarf presented to him by Hotaru.
More summers have passed, and Hotaru visits Gin that summer once more, this time, in her high school years, making her around the same age as Gin. Hotaru claims that once she has graduated, she will try to live here and get a job here. That way, she will be able to see him in every season, not just summer. Gin tells her about himself. Gin was formerly a human, but was abandoned in the mountain forest as a baby. The spirits of the forest, taking pity on him, played with him and wished for him to continue living. The god of the mountains answered their wishes and granted them the miracle of his staying presence. He is but a weak human, living only with the magic of the mountain god, whom he thanks deeply. He states that if he were to ever touch a human body, the spell will break, and he will disappear from this world. Gin tells Hotaru that it was okay to forget someone like him who is so fragile, yet Hotaru does not wish to. Instead, she tells him not to forget about her, no matter what. Both knew that, eventually, time will separate them. Until then, the two wish to be with each other for as long as possible. The two care about each other much that both are willing to do anything to grant the other as much happiness as they could. A genuine feeling inexpressible and unmatched to all other emotions.
One day, Gin invites her to a summer festival held in the mountains made by spirits for everyone. Essentially, the festival was meant to mimic what a human summer festival would look like. Hotaru at first finds it uneasy to go to, but Gin tells her that even if she was surrounded by many spirits, he will protect her. At that moment, Hutaru states that she would hug him for those words, but Jin tells her to please do so. It seems as though even he wanted to touch her just as much as she wanted to hold him.
That night, Gin and Hotaru venture to the festival. To her surprise, all of the spirits change to look like actual human beings. Gin informs her that sometimes humans sneak into the forest just to take part in the festival. Gin gives her a cloth to tie around her wrist so that she would not get lost from him. Hotaru comments that this feels like a date, but Gin states that it is one. Truly, the two share a love that cannot be described in words. The two venture around at the festival, most likely having the best time of their lives. After the festival, Gin states that he cannot wait for another summer anymore. He tells her that every day, he, too, wonders what Hotaru was doing and wishes to see her. The two wish to hold hands, but again, the fear of disappearing arose in both of their minds. Instead, he takes off his mask and places in on her head. At that point, he kisses the mask, indirectly kissing her. If this is not a form of a deep, true, and passionate love, I do not know what is.
For him to do all to this to her, it could only mean one thing: he will not be able to see her any more. This would be the last day either of them will see each other again. As they were walking, two children ran pass them, one of whom was about to trip and fall before Gin catches him. When the two see the children depart, the hand that Gin used to catch the boy started to glow. Hotaru remembered that there were times when some humans mixed in with the spirits. Those children had to be human. Gin and Hotaru had shocked expressions, not knowing what to do. Instead, Gin opens her arms to him, telling him that she could touch him now. Without a second to waste, Hotaru rushes up to him and embraces him with all of her heart. The two warmly clasp each other into their arms surrounded by the warm light that encompasses them, but that happiness could only last for so long. In a matter of seconds, Gin disappears, and Hotaru falls with nothing but his clothing along with her own tears. How simple it was. How short a time they were with each other. Death happens but an instant. It just goes to show just how fragile a life can be, be it a living being or a spirit. No matter who or what it was, death will always remain saddening. There is nothing one can due to prepare for it, only to learn from it and move on with one’s live, which is just what Hotaru did.
Hotaru leaves the forest by herself with nothing but Gin’s mask in her hands. The spirits of the forest deeply thanked her. All of this time, Gin wanted to be hold by a human. Now that his wish has been granted before he disappeared, Gin would be the happiest spirit in the world because he was touched by the woman whom he loved. Hotaru may not look at summer the same again. If she anticipates it too much, tears may swallow her eyes. However, the memories that she had spent with Gin every summer will always be withing her heart. She will never let go of her love for him, and neither will Jin’s love for her. Summers have passed once more, and Hotaru becomes a fine young woman. She holds her head high, still visiting her uncle and aunt’s home, still visiting the forest every summer.
A highly well-written story about love and departure is transferred into the big screen. There are many things to learn from this short and simple, yet powerful movie: the ability to treasure one’s precious moments and grasp those moments for as long as possible. The story is highly compelling and brings tears down in my eyes. Surely, this is one of the few romance themed shows that makes someone want to go “That is how you treat a romance series.” There was no forced drama; everything was pure down to the last second. Add in some well-drawn scenery and background coupled with favorable characters, and you get a show rarely produced in today’s anime franchise. There may not be something like this for another wait. I encourage anyone, interested or not about this genre, to watch this movie. It truly is a work of art at its finest.