A feature-length children’s animation, Summer Days with Coo follows the titular Kappa who finds himself orphaned and displaced 200 years from his time. His father, shortly before dying at the hands of a samurai in the Edo period, warned him to never become friends with humans, so when Coo is found by a young boy and adopted into his family, the transition is difficult for everyone. Human development for the past two centuries has replaced the traditional Kappa habitat of swamps and rivers with concrete and buildings. The hardship of realizing that he may very well be the last of his kind pushes Coo and his human family to change each other for the better, and despite the bitter sadness leaves everyone better off in the end. After the starkly depressing nature of 5cm per Second last week, Summer Days with Coo is a remarkably uplifting tale of a young child who, despite the difficulties presented to him, is able to make strides that his ancestors never did.
As one might expect, Summer Days with Coo has a strong environmental message concerning human interaction with nature. The movie’s stance on environmentalism can be summed up in the following quote from the movie: “Humans control the land, and they control the sea, and they will some day control the sky as well, but in exchange they will lose their souls.” Coo’s transition into our modern era, combined with his pursuit of other Kappa who may still be alive, is a reminder that we as humans must take careful considerations about our actions towards not just the environment but each other.
That’s not to say that Summer Days with Coo is entirely a tale of the environment. Each of the family members have their own distinct wants, needs, and ways of interacting with others. The father is a salaryman working for a television company, but is a child at heart who is even more excited than his son who found Coo in the first place. The mother is a housewife who runs her home with both humor and dignity, knowing all of her family members better than perhaps they know her. The daughter, only a few years old, is a bratty girl whose genuine approach to life and endearing immature selfishness are expected and yet still easily accepted. Finally, the boy finds himself having a crush on a quiet classmate who is being picked on by other girls. His inability to handle his own feelings leads him to make fun of her as well. One of the side-plots of this movie concerns their interactions and the progress they make as friends.
Overall, this movie was simply very pleasant to watch. The only flaws I’ve seen is that occasionally the acting and dialogue seemed very stilted, and there were moments where the artwork had a somewhat noticeable drop in quality, though nothing that really detracts from the movie all too much. As a children’s movie and more, it is a very engaging piece of fiction, as its roughly 150 minute run time did not phase me at all. More importantly, it did not bother the children watching the movie either, which I think is the best seal of approval for it.