“The Stranger by the Shore” Movie Review

The Stranger by the Shore (Umibe no Etranger) has arrived on Funimation, and my heart could not be happier. This Kanna Kii and Studio Hibari animated film premiered in Japan in 2020, leaving me wrapped in a cocoon of emotions.

Based on the manga series by Kana Kii, The Stranger by the Shore follows aspiring novelist Shun (who is cut off from his family after coming out as gay) and the reserved, ocean-loving Mio. The Stranger by The Shore opens with the sea Mio loves so much and a curious Shun as he ponders about the boy on the bench who stares at it.

An endearing and awkward back and forth begins, and it’s evident from the get-go that these two are broken, lonely souls drawn to each other. I have a thing for souls, especially broken ones. Maybe it’s because mine has been broken more times than I can count, only to be bandaged up just enough to keep moving forward. I genuinely believe that, after a while, a broken soul begins to recognize other broken souls. It’s as if the bandages we place on our scars don’t completely hide the injuries. They are like glowing stars that other broken souls can see.

A boy sitting on a bench staring at the ocean night after night screams broken soul.

Mio reminds me a little of a stray alley cat wandering aimlessly until a person (in this case, Shun) offers it something to eat. Like a cat provided food and comfort, Mio returns, and our story truly begins.

Mio and Shun broke me a little in Umibe no Étranger, and while a lot of the focus seemed to be on Shun, it was Mio I connected to the most. He is one seriously selfless character. His relationship with his mother stole my heart.

However, both of these characters touched me in very personal ways.

Viewers discover early on that Mio has lost his mother. Like Mio, I lost my mom (also a single mother) when I was just out of high school. We were incredibly close, and losing her felt like being set adrift on the sea without a lifeline to bring me home. So, I understood Mio and his connection to the ocean in a very visceral way in this film. I was that person, lost and afraid.

“Romantic interest in the same gender is just that–nothing more. How did it get to be considered so strange?”

Shun represents the part of me that never understood why people see same-sex relationships as abnormal and disgusting. From a young age, I realized gender played no role in who I was attracted to. For a long time, I questioned why I was like this. Was it because I was fascinated with souls? As I aged, it suddenly hit me that the only reason I ever questioned my sexuality is because other people did. It is society that seems to need explanations and labels. People aren’t born to hate; they’re conditioned to. People aren’t born to hate themselves; they are taught to.

Which is why Shun makes me so sad.

Because of his family and personal experiences, Shun has come to believe that being gay brings nothing good into a person’s life. He’s been hurt, and he doesn’t want that pain for Mio. He also doesn’t want that pain for himself. Letting someone into your heart also gives them the power to break it.

There’s a lot I could say about this film, especially Shun and his complicated history, but I feel like it’s all about the experience. From the outside, it seems like a sweet summer romance, a day-to-day journey of two people on an island, but beneath the surface, it’s a lot more complicated. It is pain, grief, and coming to terms with yourself.

Each character called to a different part of me. Mio spoke to the young girl inside me who grew to be an adult, kneeling in front of her parents’ graves while speaking to the sky. Mio spoke to the part of me that has a hard time even now looking people in the eyes. Maybe I’m afraid they’ll see too much of my soul. Mio spoke to the part of me longing for something just within my reach but also just beyond it.

Shun spoke to the jaded part of me. He spoke to the loosely bandaged wounds on my soul left by bullies who violently tried to convince me being different is a terrible thing. Shun spoke to the scared part of me backed into an empty classroom in middle school, being accosted because of my sexuality, weight, and appearance. Shun spoke to the part of me that still feels like it can’t be loved. Shun spoke to a part of me that feels running is much safer than sitting still.

THIS above is the reason The Stranger by the Shore should be watched. This film speaks to many emotions, and even if you haven’t experienced what Shun and Mio have experienced, it’s easy to relate. Everyone has been lonely. Everyone has questioned themselves. If not over sexuality, then over other things, such as life and future aspirations. Everyone has been afraid. So, even if you haven’t lived through what Shun and Mio have lived through, you’ve at least felt one of the emotions they’ve felt.

Stranger by the Shore is a story about healing, and in the end, it’s the healing that I got from it. Mio’s loyalty, selflessness, and faithfulness, even when Shun’s raw self-hatred and family issues make it hard to remain close to him, ultimately left me feeling whole and healed. Mio gave Shun room to be himself and to make decisions based on his wants and desires rather than based on the influence of those around him.

Mio is the hug Shun needed. Shun is the home Mio missed.

For those who have been where Shun is, don’t feel gross about yourself. Don’t feel disgusted. The only people who should feel that way are the ones who made you feel that way. You are beautiful. You are you. You are perfect, scars and all.

Sometimes we need someone to tell us we’re not weird.

If you have Funimation, this animated film is definitely worth the watch.

Rating- 4 out of 5

One thought on ““The Stranger by the Shore” Movie Review”

  1. Thank you for the moving film review. Seeing how each character’s weaknesses complement the other’s and result in a beautiful and therapeutical union draws one’s heart, wounded and shrunken as it may be.

    Like

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