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Review: Anime trilogy ‘Flavors of Youth’ deftly highlights the melancholic hold of the past

Review: Anime trilogy ‘Flavors of Youth’ deftly highlights the melancholic hold of the past
A scene from the animated movie "Flavors of Youth." (Netflix)

Featuring three stories set in three separate Chinese cities, the anime “Flavors of Youth,” produced by the Japanese studio behind “Your Name,” is a sensitively handled triptych exploring the bittersweet understanding adulthood necessitates when confronting the fragility of childhood affections.

“The Rice Noodles,” directed by Yi Xiaoxing, is narrated by a melancholic young Beijing man recalling the way his most cherished emotions — love for his grandma, a romantic crush, compassion for a struggling family — were always attached to the pleasure of slurping down bowls of San Xian noodles. It’s like a finely wrought essay designed to elicit a tear and a satisfying hunger.

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In “A Little Fashion Show,” from Japanese animator Yoshitaka Takeuch, a bond between sisters who lost their parents is tested when one grows up to become a high-end fashion model, and soon learns the impermanence of the job, and the limits in attaching worth to beauty.

And Li Haoling’s “Love in Shanghai,” the most schematic of the three but no less evocative of the past’s hold on the present, sees an ambitious architecture student realizing the mistake he made as a prideful boy afraid of letting the girl in his clique of pals know how he felt.

Though made by different directors, there’s a visual language of urban detail, intimate gesture and expressively animated lighting that connects all three — they’re like sweet, sad pop songs from a supergroup with many lead performers.

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‘Flavors of Youth’

In Japanese with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes

Playing: Streaming on Netflix, Aug. 3

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