What an extraordinary title. The strength of Flavors of Youth is in nostalgia and rekindling inklings of youth with adulthood closing in. Flavors is the perfect word to describe it.
Flavors of Youth is helmed by two studios: CoMix Wave Films out of Japan and Haoliners Studios in China. The result is an anthology told in three chapters, directed by Xiaoxing Yi, Yoshitaka Takeuchi, and Haolin Li, respectively.
Each chapter stands alone—following three different people in three different Chinese cities, telling three different stories. Refreshingly, none of the people or stories overlap outside of the movie’s overall theme. Where this movie succeeds is how each of the shorts manages to touch the viewer in a completely different way.
Here’s the lowdown on all three:
The Rice Noodles
The first story, “The Rice Noodles” illuminates the glow of youth and the compromise of adulthood through something as simple as San Xian Noodle Soup. Some of our protagonist’s most beloved memories are of him eating those beautiful bowls of San Xian. But those memories can be bittersweet: having all the time in the world versus seemingly having none. It’s a story of craft versus convenience. And I don’t think a more poignant line exists than one our narrator says,
The machine-made noodles were almost too perfect.
A Little Fashion Show
The second story, “A Little Fashion Show” deals with trying to recapture past glory. An established model struggles to find her groove after meeting a young up-and-comer who is quickly gaining notoriety in the fashion world. This short shows the lengths some go to reclaim youth while not realizing what we may lose along the way.
Love in Shanghai
The third story, “Love in Shanghai” is a tale of youthful stubbornness and the inability to rewind time. After experiencing a broken heart, our protagonist decides to repress his feelings and focus solely on his studies, abandoning everything else in its wake. It isn’t until he discovers an old cassette that he realizes the errors of his youth. Even though the ending is clear as day, the intended emotional impact hits true. Maybe I’m just a sucker for these tales, but this hit me in the gooey part of my heart.
These are beautiful, succinct stories, but the star of the show is the art and animation. Along with Kyoani, CoMix Wave Films proves once again they are at the top of their craft. Even more impressive to me is that CoMix was a bit outside of its comfort zone; drawing three very prominent Chinese cities instead of their home, Japan.
Damn near every frame of this movie could be in a museum. Animation of this quality deserves to be seen. Do not let this title pass you by.
Flavors of Youth can be enjoyed on Netflix.