Story: A teacher (Shun Oguri) is put in charge of categorizing all books from the school library correctly, because the building is about to be torn down. He is asked to do it, because he developed the index-system for this school when he was a student there. Back then, he was an inconspicuous boy (Takumi Kitamura) who happened to come across his fellow student Sakura's (Minami Hamabe) diary while he had a routine physical examination at a hospital. He reads the first sentences and finds out that she is terminally ill. When Sakura turns up, she asks the boy with a smile on her face not to tell any other student about what he read. He seems unfazed and agrees. Sakura is fascinated about the fact that the boy doesn't make a big deal about her illness and that he remains emotionally distant. She volunteers to help him in the library and keeps doing things with him even though the boy always tries to shut her out. Finally, she found somebody who she can talk to about her illness without him bursting into tears. Amongst their fellow students there is the rumor going around, though, that the two are a couple and not only the male students get jealous but also Sakura's friend Kyoko (Karen Otomo), who gets to spend less and less time with her friend because of the boy. The friendship between the boy and the girl keeps getting stronger and stronger, but the inevitable end is coming...
Review: It was without a doubt sheer calculation that made Yoru Sumino choose this title for the book. How can you possibly not get curious when you hear such an unconventional title for a story. But if you hold on for a moment, you quickly realize that it must be a drama we are dealing with here. Why else would you possibly want to eat an organ if it weren't for medical reasons? And that's exactly it. Nevertheless, the reason why "I Want to Eat Your Pancreas" isn't another boring romantic drama taking place in a hospital most of the time and dealing with an innocent love story, is the way the protagonists handle the big misfortune. This leads to the fact that most genre clichés are avoided and yet the ones, which are necessary for the plot, are used quite wisely. In other words, you don't get any sort of creative new interpretation of the terminally-ill-story, but you do get a movie which manages to find a nice balance between a more or less unique love story and a tearjerker.
It is not easy to walk this fine line, but it is the characters that make this possible. The story's hero does not want to be in any contact with his fellow students and rather wants to be left alone. He doesn't need anyone and he is happy about the way he lives. He is not dependent on anybody emotionally and so it is quite fitting that he remains nameless in the story. Then there is Sakura, who is always carefree and warm-hearted. She tries to tear down the walls the boy has built up around him. But soon you have to ask yourself whether she just chose the boy because she was able to trust him with all her fears and secrets, even though all this happened accidentally. Especially his disinterested behavior makes him so appealing to her. He doesn't judge and keeps his distance, just like a therapist would. But for Sakura it takes some time till she can open up fully. At first, she tries to smile away her fear of dying.
No matter how strong the student may seem, of course she is still scared of dying. At the beginning, the two students manage to talk about this on a more neutral ground, though. The closer the two get, the more the movie is bound to become a typical drama. Their first joint trip, with which Sakura kind of blindsides the boy, is very interesting to watch, because a lot of unexpected things could happen, and you are eager to know whether the school boy will become less reserved. At the same time, you are not quite sure what Sakura actually expects from this relationship. She doesn't want a typical romantic relationship, as she will die soon and the boy is not interested in something like that either. But the sick girl still needs a shoulder to cry on, even if she doesn't do that in a literal sense. The innocent way the two get closer without degenerating the movie into a typical romance, is the engine that keeps the movie running.
However, we are still dealing with one of those Japanese romance movies with a dramatic touch set in school, which we know all too well from movies like "One Week Friend", plus the aforementioned decease-of-the-week element. The inevitable end is near, the tone gets more dramatic, the emotions a little bit more honest, but then there is a little twist, which might be surprising at first. This twist is also the reason why the movie is able to make a pleasant jump in time and the drama doesn't uncomfortably drag on too much. However, the story is told in flashbacks through the perspective of a twelve year older version of the protagonist, played by Shun Oguri ("Terra Formars"), so that you can catch up on the drama later on. To avoid that the audience is left too heart-broken, director Sho Tsukikawa gives his movie a lot of brightness and uses warm sunlight as well as, of course, some nice images of cherry blossoms (Sakura, in Japanese, as you probably knew already). So there is nothing to complain about directing-wise, especially because the alteration between past and present does never throw you off course.
To see all the repercussions of Sakura's fate is also another interesting aspect, which is reportedly not dealt with in the original novel. And even if the ending comes along with a far too obvious life-affirming message and the movie gets a little bit too long with Sakura's letters that are found, you still can't ignore the fact that there also some comedic moments hidden. Sakura's advances, for instance, which the boy unlovingly stonewalls, or the misunderstandings that arise from the fact that the two spent a lot of time with each other but never explain their relationship to their fellow students, so that there are quite a lot of rumors going around about them. Also, Sakura's friend's jealousy of the boy makes the movie more colorful. In the end, you can't create something really new with the story's theme, but the way "I Want to Eat Your Pancreas" presents its story is not as cliché-driven as one would have expected. Therefore, you get a well-done entry into the movie genre, aimed at those viewers who'd like to shed some tears but don't want to fall into a deep depression afterwards.