Typhoon Noruda (台風のノルダ) is an original anime short film that released in June of 2015 in Japan and headed State-side in May of 2018. It was made by Studio Colorido (Penguin Highway, Fastening Days) and directed by Yōjirō Arai (Control Bear), with music composed by Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII, Super Smash Bros.).
This fantasy narrative takes place at a local school in Japan where the students, along with one of the teachers, must wait out a fierce typhoon that has arrived. In the midst of the storm, we follow a boy named Azuma, who after getting into a fight with a former friend, walks off only to encounter a mysterious girl stealing clothes from an empty classroom. Pursuing her, Azuma is instantly taken by her strangeness and the bizarre, beautiful necklace that she is wearing, and becomes determined to help her in any way that he can.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into the this. From the PV (preview video) that I saw of it, I was mostly swept away but its visuals, which are quite akin to Studio Ghibli’s animation style. Nevertheless, I was worried about how short it was (27 minutes). When I finally sat down to watch the film, I became even more invested by Azuma and this shadow of loneliness that he seemed to be carrying around. But it wasn’t until after I finished watching it that I came to recognise that a twenty-seven-minute-long tale can be just as fulfilling and satisfying as one that spans an hour or more.
The plot for Typhoon Noruda is wrapped in ambiguity. This works as both its greatest strength as well as a small weakness, and a trait that could be off-putting for many people. Personally, I fucking loved it as it’s extremely reminiscent of Japanese literature. The unknown and hazy qualities of the story are rather reminiscent of books written by Natsume Sōseki or Yōko Ogawa. There are just enough details given to help you get a basic understanding of what is going on, while leaving your individual mind and perception to decipher the rest. I truly appreciate when a book or film can engage me in such a way, paving the way for my imagination to do what I shall with what’s provided.
One of the key ways that you will see indistinctness play a part to plot in Japanese literature is via the characters. The emphasis is always placed on their facial expressions or their surroundings, specifically when related to nature. Azuma is a kid who is struggling with internal strife. While it’s not explicitly expressed, you can get an excellent feel for it when he gets into a fist-fight with one of his school-mates, Saijo, or when his need to help a girl that’s wholly a stranger to him is so powerfully desperate. The storm taking place is, in its most straightforward means, an allegory for the conflicts brewing within this kid. A novel that you can see something similar in is The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa.
Remember when I mentioned the ambiguity as a weakness earlier? You see it here as it applies to the storm and its fantasy-infused traits. The fantasy elements that pop up as a complement to the narrative never felt like they were included merely for shock value or as a means of fluffing out the film. It, too, matches the theme of vagueness, but is a bit more direct in its execution. There is a point where it’s bluntly stated what the association between the girl and the storm pertains to. From there, the relevance of it is crafted into the actions taken, the scenery as buildings are destroyed and nature rages with wind and water, and once again leaving your imagination to kind of put all of the pieces together. All of these things are great, however, the reason it becomes a short-coming is because once I became invested in the girl and her sensationally strange situation, I yearned to learn more about her—what happened to her, how she came to be here, why she was connected to certain aspects the way that she was, and more. Honestly, I felt a bit gypped by the abrupt appearance and disappearance of her part in the story. It also weakens the other characters, making them lacklustre by comparison.
The characters themselves—Azuma, Saijo, and the mystery chick—are simple characters. They have elements to them that give them individualistic charm and zest, nevertheless, they aren’t people that have much more to their personalities aside from their specific roles in the film. It’s easy to empathise with Azuma to a point, more so if you have ever felt inadequate in your life with something you once enjoyed, but beyond that he’s rather hollow, and you will see this in the other two as well, making them easy to forget and easy to let go of.
With the Mystery Chick (I’m avoiding her name on purpose), she’s has more depth to her than the other two, yet with the lack of time and the inherent nature of the film’s progression and format, I never got to explore that supposed depth. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to learn so much more about her, yet, alas, I couldn’t. As a person who looks forward to investing their emotions and heart into characters more than anything else when watching (or reading) stories, I ended up being disappointed overall.
Another facet that somewhat disappointed me include the animation. The animation’s aesthetic is an echo of Ghibli’s with soft lines and gentle, semi-muted colour palettes that’s quite sycophantic to the dreary setting. There is a section where Saijo and Azuma are running through the hallway that is a wonderful blending of hand-drawn artwork and computer-generated graphics that I felt was absolutely beautiful. There are moments when the storm is brewing with scenes of twisted clouds and roaring water that is also quite lovely and fierce. Still, it’s inconsistent from beginning to end. Some sections of the film looked like nothing more than choppy illustrations tossed together, not warranting too much attention to detail as it’s a quick flash in a bigger scene. When it’s sandwiched between great animation, it can disrupt the flow of the film and take away from the pleasing aesthetic. Sometimes all you need is ten seconds of a sloppy scene to depreciate the artistry of good animation.
The CGI, on the other hand, never smacked you in the face making it cringingly obvious that it was being used. Its implementation is subtle, like the plot, and well employed. I could tell the film didn’t use much CGI, instead focusing on more traditional animation techniques. I was grateful for this because it fit the style of the film—its atmosphere and ambiance, the character designs, even the music—rather splendidly.
Speaking of music, it was one of my favourite parts about the film. The musical composition is a graceful balance of piano and stringed instruments as the major focus, and wind instruments in the undertones. Music, for me, when incorporated nicely has the power to evoke even the strongest of emotions. I never felt a strong need to break down and sob while watching Typhoon Noruda, but this doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel a tender tug at the heartstrings every once in a while, particularly when Saijo and Azuma had their minor interactions. Music can add layers of depth to an overall singular narrative. I wouldn’t label the anime as one-dimensional, however, with all of the areas that it lacked in, the music definitely made up for it where it could.
Overall, I recommend Typhoon Noruda to anyone who is interested in watching a good anime film with a story that has a nice beginning, middle, and end. It won’t blow your socks off or leave you with the sensation of seeing a masterpiece (unlike the way your name. did for me), but it is not a terrible film by any means. There are some short-comings, but to be blunt, they are rather irrelevant in the grand scheme when I think about how much I enjoyed watching it. Even with it being a half-hour long, it tells a story about what it means to run away from your problems rather than face them head-on, and how facing them can be delightfully cathartic and freeing in the end.