This movie is going to be difficult to write about. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas (KimiSui, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas; 君の膵臓をたべたい) is a movie about fulfilling the dying wishes of a girl with a terminal pancreatic illness. But that isn’t what makes it hard to write about. More than anything, this movie is about what it means to be alive. Hint: It’s much more than simply existing. Spoilers ahead.
When you watch movies with a premise like this, you have certain expectations about what you’re going to see. You expect the movie will make you cry. You assume that the main protagonist’s purpose will be as a vehicle to fulfill the dying wishes of the tragic heroine, helping her live life to the fullest. You know the wishes will get harder and harder to grant as the health problems worsen, eventually leaving the protagonist with a bucket list of final items to complete alone. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas does none of these things (except make you cry, of course).
Sakura Yamauchi’s pancreas is failing and she is slowly dying. The reaction of her family is one that creates distance as they try to pretend that life is normal and there is nothing to worry about. Because of this, Sakura decides her best chance to live a normal life is to keep her terminal illness a secret; she even chooses to hide it from her best friend. Instead, she decides to place her feelings into a diary that she has titled “Living with Dying.” This diary is the only place she can be completely honest, her truest self. By accident, the main protagonist Haruki Shiga discovers the book laying in a public place and learns of her illness. Sakura takes this as an opportunity to fulfill a bucket list with the only person her age who knows her secret.
However, like I said, this isn’t really what the movie is about. Sakura has had her eye on Haruki for quite some time. He’s a loner at school, keeping his nose buried in a book rather than making friends. As their friendship grows, he tells her that life is easier when he has no friends; he’s perfectly content observing from afar and imagining what others think about him. In this scenario, nobody can get hurt. Because of this, he resists Sakura’s attempt at friendship, even knowing she’s terminal. Slowly and patiently, she breaks down his resistance (occasionally playing the “before I die” trump card that even he cannot resist).
Haruki and Sakura’s friendship soon begins to deepen into something so unique they both hesitate to even classify it. There is one scene in particular that stuck out to me. In a game of truth or dare, Haruki asks Sakura what being alive means to her. After mulling it over, Sakura answers that it means touching other people’s hearts. For her, life is only life because she can interact with other people. An existence in isolation cannot be called life because there is nobody there to confirm you are living. For Haruki, a self-imposed loner, this strikes a chord. Before Sakura, he had never had that kind of an existence, and he already knew that she had changed him by that point.
But it isn’t just Haruki who grows. There is another scene later in the movie where Haruki tells Sakura that he’s grateful for her existence and doesn’t want her to die. While that may seem like a surface compliment to most, hearing it come from Haruki shows both growth and a lot of sincerity. Sakura marks those words as the first time she ever felt truly unique and special rather than simply another high school kid among thousands. She was able to see a strong physical impact.
There are a lot more moments like these in this movie and they all showcase a truly unique friendship. You see it grow from cold shoulder to witty banter. You see moments of joy and moments where they expose their biggest insecurities to each other. It’s a very special friendship that you as the audience are invited to be apart of. It’s fun, exciting, and occasionally very intimate.
At the start of the movie, you’re presented with two total strangers. By the end of it, it was hard to believe they hadn’t been friends the entire time. If you have the chance, do yourself a favor and watch it. Experiencing all of this growth first-hand is exhilarating and heartbreaking. It’s definitely something you won’t soon forget.