This post is a final essay I wrote for the course. Because of the similarities between Hal and Colorful, they both worked well together for my thesis, so much of my comments about Hal are exactly the same as those in the post dedicated to Hal alone.
The plot twist is a commonly used storytelling device in which an extreme change occurs in the plot, betraying the audience’s expected outcome. Oftentimes now, however, excessive focus is placed on the twist itself, rather than the implications of the twist on the rest of story. I aim to analyze what the twists of Hal and Colorful mean for their respective stories, and, thus, reveal the underlying meanings of these two works.
Hal is the best example of how flipping the premise of the plot completely changes what we, as the audience, learn from it. Hal offers an alternate perspective on the issue of loss, acceptance, and self-realization with the use of its twist that Hal, who we are led to believe is an android replacement, was actually the original human. Hal’s mind triggered a defense mechanism when his lover, Kurumi, tragically died in an airplane explosion. He deluded himself into believing he was an android built to help Kurumi cope with Hal’s “death”.
The critical significance of Hal’s twist is that, in swapping Hal for Kurumi as the android, the message is reversed entirely. Kurumi is depicted as a seemingly perfect young woman endowed with purity and modesty, as well as a compulsion to help people around town, including Hal, who she believes she can save from his blackened background. Alternatively, Hal is portrayed as cynical and insensitive; this is seen through flashbacks of him selling Kurumi’s precious buttons and branding Kurumi’s frugality as a lack of monetary ambition. It would seem that, with Hal as an android, Kurumi is the protagonist who must cope with Hal’s death and use “Robo-Hal” as a means to accept real Hal’s past and perspectives. However, this would send a strange message along the lines of “If a close friend dies, you have to learn to accept all of their wrongdoings.”
Thankfully, Hal offers the complete opposite of this message by setting Hal and Kurumi as human and android, respectively. With these roles in place, the message instead becomes “Understand your mistakes from a loved one’s perspective and make an effort to change.” Hal was able to do this because he was under the impression he was a robot, and not the real Hal. He could thus objectively understand the feelings of Kurumi and others around him. Acting as a robot version of himself, Hal became a blank slate from which he could start anew with his life. He uses the memories of Kurumi, as well as the new experiences and insights from Robo-Kurumi to mold his new life as he moves on. We see this in the final sequence of the film.
Hal realizes in his discussion with Kurumi’s grandfather that the dead never leave one’s side, and, with that, Hal releases a water lantern to drift away in the festival — a symbolic representation of Hal letting go and moving on. Hal opens up Kurumi’s modest button shop for business and speaks to Kurumi, who he knows is always by his side, in his memories and her teachings — accepting her death and internalizing her lessons for him in a final, cohesive, and conclusive end to the film Hal. This same twist phenomenon occurs in Colorful.
From the twist of Colorful, we learn that the soul being given another chance in Makoto’s body is actually Makoto himself. With this twist being at the very end of the film, assumptions and understandings we, as the audience, had are upended; the plot and its theme are “rewritten” with the newfound knowledge that Makoto had been occupying his own body the whole time.
As we understood it prior to the twist, the protagonist was an unrelated third-party that sinned in their life, but was given another chance in Makoto’s body. Had this turned out to be the case, it could be argued that Colorful had no substantial meaning. However, with Makoto being the reincarnated soul, a theme of understanding and self-realization emerges, much like Hal.
With Makoto as the reincarnated soul, just as with Hal as the surviving party, Makoto was able to reevaluate his life as a “third party”. Makoto (as well as the audience) was led to believe that he was merely an observer to Makoto’s life, allowing him to truly judge the good and bad aspects of his life.
A component of pre-death Makoto’s despair was his crush Hiroka’s going to a love hotel with an older man. When post-death Makoto, believing he is a soul unrelated to Hiroka, confronts her about this, he finally gains her perspective. Hiroka explains that she merely sees sex as a means to buying things she wants; this is driven home by the fact that she offers to have sex with Makoto instead. Further, however, in his final discussion with her, Makoto learns that Hiroka is actually quite troubled by the lifestyle in which she has become involved. Makoto then becomes a solid figure in Hiroka’s life as a true friend.
Another part of pre-death Makoto’s pain in life was his being bullied. In becoming friends with Saotome, Makoto’s rehabilitation is catalyzed. He learns that survival in the school social sphere does not necessarily entail being popular, which Makoto tries by buying expensive shoes and opting for a more hip hairstyle. He understands that he merely needed one friend that is there for him through thick and thin: Saotome. This also connects to his brother and academics. Prior to meeting Saotome, we can see in his discussions with his mother and Mr. Sawada that Makoto was completely indifferent to what high school he attended. After meeting Saotome, however, Makoto is passionate about choosing a lesser school with Saotome rather than an art school that would suit his artistic ability. Additionally, pre-death Makoto’s belief that his brother Mitsuru did not care about him was dispelled when Mitsuru saved a beaten Makoto at the shrine and collected art school pamphlets for his brother. On top of that, Makoto’s mother went out of her way to each school to see if it really accomodated her son.
Even more lessons are offered to Makoto in this Internship opportunity. Makoto gains some insight into his mother’s affair and the motivations behind it. This, combined with his mother’s efforts to find him a good school, start the process for Makoto’s understanding and forgiveness of his mother’s mistakes.
One may argue that this sentiment is contradictory to the argument for Hal, that Hal’s lesson to learn from his mistakes is a better message than a hypothetical lesson for Kurumi to accept Hal’s shortcomings. I believe that, in Colorful, there are many sides to the issue that make it difficult for such a clear cut assessment.
The neglect Makoto’s mother felt from her husband is what inspired her affair. Makoto is not innocent of this kind of neglect himself. Shouko, a classmate of his, considers Makoto her savior. Makoto, despite being a subject of bullying, remained strong and composed — these were aspects of him that Shouko admired. In this way, she feels strongly about him, but Makoto refused to even acknowledge her presence.
Makoto has come to terms with the devastating issues that drove him to suicide. Along the way, he has also evaluated his own shortcomings as a person. Makoto concedes to Hiroka that everyone, including himself, consist of a variety of colors, some beautiful, other dirty. This same assessment of people applies to life itself — the beautiful colors of Makoto’s life that were overshadowed by the dirty ones. This ties into a recurring question of PuraPura’s: “Was your life really that bad?” There is no doubt that Makoto had endured many pains in his life; with PuraPura’s guidance, Makoto was able to realize the happiness in his life without dismissing the struggles.
Alongside Hal, Colorful’s thematic strength is a consequence of its twist. Makoto’s development and rehabilitation was the product of his own work in the Internship. An unrelated third party did not solve his problems for him — Makoto solved his own problems. Makoto was the one who understood the circumstances of his mother and Hiroka. Makoto was the one who put the effort into becoming friends with Saotome and sticking with him at the same school. Makoto was the one who acknowledged and befriended Shouko. These choices are reflected in the final scene of Makoto discussing his painting and its embedded meaning with Shouko, as well as wearing the sweater his mother bought him as he bikes with his new friend Saotome. Conclusively, when PuraPura anonymously texts him “Are you alive?”, Makoto confidently responds, “I am alive.”
Interestingly, a featured song of Colorful, “Tegami ~ Haikei Jyuugo no Kimi he ~” (“Letter: Greetings to a Fifteen Year Old”) neatly reflects both Hal and Colorful. Hal and Makoto were both able to find peace in their lives by reevaluating their lives as “third parties”, when, in actuality as revealed by their critically important twists, they were the ones responsible for their own rehabilitation. The feelings of this song are those of a person who has no one else to turn to for help, other than their future selves. “Whose words should one believe in? Don’t be defeated, don’t cry. When it seems like you will disappear, believe in your own voice.”