It might be a bit kind to refer to Graduation as a film. Even with the inclusion of the Hirano and Kagiura short, the length of this item, including credits, hardly exceeds an hour. It might be more accurate to think of this as an extended finale because it also shares the TV series’ slow, vignette-based pacing and visual quality. While the movie’s concluding lines reassure us that Sasaki and Miyano’s romance will last after they graduate, this also serves as a nicely done conclusion to the animated property.
Similar to the TV show, Graduation doesn’t really have a main plot beyond the idea of Sasaki’s upcoming graduation. Given how frequently high school anime approach graduation as a character’s permanent disappearance, you might think it would give everything a sense of gloom, but that’s not the case here. There is no doubt in either boy’s mind that they will stay together even if they are both a little unhappy they won’t be able to see each other every day as they used to. That’s refreshing because it enables the movie to follow our key couple as they simultaneously cross two new life boundaries while also showing the bittersweet transition from high school to maturity.
Each of the vignettes that make up Graduation is linked by that growing intimacy, even though they are not all connected by a common story. Miyano and Sasaki are able to discuss what being a couple means now that they are both mostly over the issues that prevented them from confessing. Sometimes, it simply entails conversing as usual, spending time with one another, and having fun together like they did when they were just senpai and kouhai. When Sasaki has to prepare for exams or when their time together is much more fleeting and valuable, it can also entail yearning. At least once, it meant a cuddling session that abruptly turned into some extremely intense petting in a silent classroom. These scenes stand alone are nice enough, but taken as a whole, they create a warm and beautiful picture of young love. Additionally, there are several significant incidents involving their friends and family, such as when Miyano comes out to his mother, who quickly demands that they invite the nice young guy her son is in love with to dinner, instantly allaying his concerns. The atmosphere at SasaMiya has always been positive, and it nearly never lacks for energy.
The most problematic section of the film is the one that stands out. When Sasaki tells his older sister about their connection, we take a sharp left turn into drama after around 40 minutes of fun. On paper, what follows is a convincing examination of internalized homophobia, which may generate conflict even among loving and supporting family members. When it comes to respecting such a delicate subject, the TV series handles it about as effectively as Miyano’s issues with toxic masculinity expectations. The problem is that it comes across as a cliff notes version of itself, racing through the plot point with a character we’ve only just met and haplessly scattering exposition about Sasaki’s family life in its haste to resolve the only genuine drama in the movie. Even if something similar to this would work in this situation, it would require a lot more time and attention to succeed. As a result, the film would likely need to be much longer than seven minutes in order to introduce and resolve the issue. It’s an undercooked plot cul-de-sac that seems abrupt because it pulls the atmosphere out from under you too quickly as it is.
Graduation is a pleasant return to the close, genuine character exchanges that marked its predecessor, save that one fairly significant misstep. The production is still a long way from being a powerhouse in the animation industry, but its knack for evocative framing and expressive body language is back in fine form. Our leads’ constant displays of tender tenderness, tense desire, and general attractiveness accomplish a lot to convey their feelings without using words. Additionally, they never stop making Sasaki unbearably hot. You wouldn’t expect a man who was unwell and confined to bed to appear as though he had just exited a fragrance commercial, but I’m not going to moan about it.
The featured Hirano and Kagiura short, which introduces us to the spin-off pair and their fundamental dynamic, is well enough. However, rather than being a stand-alone short, it seems more like a sneak preview for a potential TV adaptation. All we get from the titular guys is their endearing dynamic and the peculiar taste of Sasaki and Miyano’s chemistry in their dorm domesticity. For anime-only viewers, it’s more of a pleasant appetizer before returning to the duo we already know and love. Manga fans will probably like seeing these two animated and interacting.
Graduation uses its closing moments to reflect on the romantic journey of our main pair as they exit the school for the last time, even if the manga is still ongoing. It’s quite heartfelt, and if you care about these two, it’s natural to feel a little emotional as you watch them move forward into a new phase of their relationship. It is safe to say that if you enjoyed the TV series, you will enjoy this movie as well.