The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes: The Light Novel That Tries to be a Shinkai Movie But Ends up Being a Ghibli Movie

Okay, so I MAY have said once that light novels are a pain in the ass to invest in and that I would never cover them on my blog ever again. However, that stress factor is almost negligent for standalones; it’s just one and done. I had planned to read The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes for some time, even before the anime movie announcement (that I will probably watch if GKids or Netflix gets it). With a title as weird-sounding as that, curiosity beckoned me into its pages.

In The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, we enter the daily life of resident nihilist Kaoru Tono. He’s got about as much of a hard-knock life as you can get; a dead sister, no mother, and a mentally unstable dad. Perfect for making emotional youth be able to connect with him! Marketing aside, Kaoru finds a mysterious tunnel that can grant any wish, but causes time outside of it to move faster. Oh, and a mysterious girl named Anzu Hanashiro is involved.

The thing that jumps out about this book is that it’s not terrible; something I rarely feel in the light novel market. Its prose isn’t as excessively verbose as its contemporaries, which is likely due to the perks of being a standalone. The story it tells in what amounts, page count wise, to a little over two volumes of a regular light novel, feels more substantial than five volumes of most longer series (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it’s not with the crap I’ve read over the years).

Unfortunately, it falls for the same trap that most supernatural romances fall for: not being very supernatural at all. Most excursions into the tunnel last mere minutes, thanks to its time-altering properties, and the vast majority of the book consists of pretty standard school life drama. There are many little subplots, such as the deal with the school bully, and Kaoru’s messed up family life, but it just doesn’t seem to matter in the end, since we know it’ll end with that final trip through the tunnel.

Naturally, the characters leave much to be desired; a fatal weakness of standalones. Kaoru is, sadly, a lot like me with some of the cynical stuff he says. I don’t like myself when I’m like that, so I naturally don’t like him either. And like I said in the premise, it feels like his family’s divorce is just a marketing scheme to make people sympathize with him.

Anzu is likable at first, because she deals with bullies with force, and looks great while doing it. However, as she gets to know Kaoru, she becomes less of a rebel, and more like the idealized waifu that is indistinguishable from the female lead in a Makoto Shinkai movie. And don’t get me started on Koharu, the aforementioned bully. Her arc is alright, but it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the story at all.

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Final Verdict: 7.5/10

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is not the worst light novel ever, but that’s not saying much. The book is overwhelmingly okay, with its only novelty being that you can say you knew about the movie before it was cool. To be honest, I don’t even know if the movie is gonna do too hot either. As always, there’s better fish in the sea, especially in the world of light novels.