At 45 minutes, Hotarubi no Mori e is a fairly short movie, about the same length as Garden of Words. As I may have already said at some point, I didn’t particularly like the length of Garden of Words, and watching Hotarubi no Mori e made me realise that I may have a problem with that length more generally as well. That is not to say I thought Hotarubi no Mori e was bad, or that I thought it was disappointing in the same way that I thought Garden of Words was, but there’s just something about that 45 minute length that I don’t like.
In the case of this movie specifically, my problem was that it just didn’t manage to hold my attention, and I feel like that’s because very little actually happens in the movie. Admittedly, considering the length, too much stuff happening would probably have been even worse, but I digress. All of this said, I think that if I were to rewatch this movie, I’d like it a lot more. And that’s because the ending sort of explains and justifies the lack of any significant events.
Hotarubi no Mori e is a fable. It’s a short story involving animals and/or mythical creatures and forces of nature, and it leads to a moral lesson. The entire meaning of the moral lesson is maybe a bit more ambiguous than in classic fables, but it still very much resembles a fable. And I think that sets it apart from most other anime I’ve seen, especially among shorter OVAs and movies. Kino’s Journey comes close, as do certain parts of Natsume Yuujinchou(which was created by the same person who created Hotarubi no Mori e, so it’s understandable), but in general, I haven’t seen many anime tell these kinds of stories. Food for thought, maybe?