Adapted from a manga, The Stranger by the Beach is a BL anime movie about two guys who live on an island. They first met on the beach as strangers, back when they were still kids. Now that they are older, their relationship takes a more intimate turn.
The Stranger by the Beach is an aesthetically beautiful anime with bright and colourful visuals. However, the storytelling is pitiful, the characters are erratic, and the pacing is totally off. This unsatisfying movie doesn't feel friendly to those who haven't read the source material.
The Stranger by the Beach Summary
Around an hour
Deep and thoughtful
Yes, by Kanna Kii
Yes, Stranger by the Beach has a BL romance.
Shun is a youth who lives on an island with his grandmother, helping her run errands and deliveries at the inn. Lately, he notices there's a quiet boy who sits on a bench and stares at the beach all by himself. According to his grandmother, this boy's mother passed away recently. Shun introduces himself and tries to be friendly, but gets a cold reception from the stranger at the beach.
Although they didn't get off to the best start, Mio eventually apologizes and warms up to Shun. The two of them grow closer, enjoying the blissful island life together. However, there comes a day when Mio has to suddenly relocate elsewhere, and they parted ways without contacting each other again.
Years later, Shun is still living with his grandmother on the island, now working as a novelist. One day, out of the blue, Mio shows up again. Now twenty years old, Mio invites himself to live with Shun and his grandma. He confesses his love for Shun and wants to start an official relationship with him.
However, Shun has become more cynical with age, and doesn't seem willing to pursue this romance with Mio. Shun's life also gets more complicated when his ex-fiancée, Sakurako, arrives on the island. She wants him to return home and visit his estranged father, whose health is fast deteriorating. Shun is torn between staying on the island with Mio and returning home to a past tainted by sad memories.
The Stranger by the Beach Trailer
Shun Taishi Murata (村田太志)
Shun is a novelist who lives on an island with his grandmother. Years ago, he met Mio as a stranger at the beach, getting close to him until they parted ways. Jaded about love, Shun is riddled with self-loathing and self-doubt, until Mio's influence helps him to change his views.
Mio Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (松岡禎丞)
Mio is an orphan who lost both his mother and father at a young age. Years ago, he befriended Shun while living on the island, but they lost contact after he moved away. Now twenty years old, Mio returns to the island feeling happier and more confident. He confesses his love to Shun and wants to be in a relationship with him.
Yū Shimamura (嶋村侑)
Ayumi Fujimura (伊藤かな恵)
Sayaka Nakaya (仲谷明香)
Hana Satou (佐藤はな)
The Stranger by the Beach Review
Anime Review Score: 5.2
The Stranger by the Beach was a beautifully drawn mess. The story didn't flow smoothly, the characters acted erratically, and the romance was severely lacking in depth. Just about the only thing I liked in The Stranger by the Beach was how gorgeous it looked. Everything else, from storytelling to character development, felt shallow and ham-fisted.
As a stranger to the original manga, I didn't know anything about the story, the characters, or the lore behind the franchise. While I was able to follow what happened in the movie, what I saw was just not very good. It suffers from adapting the important events that happened in the source material, but not capturing the emotional context as to why these scenes are special. Maybe manga readers will have the needed knowledge to appreciate each moment, but a new viewer like me is left unguided.
The romance in The Stranger by the Beach does not feel coherent. It assumes the characters have developed intense feelings for each other when we see nothing of the sort on-screen. Their thoughts and personalities also seem muddled, and we are never given enough clarity when a character is suddenly moody or upset. They are frustrating to watch, especially Shun in the second half of the movie, when he wallows in self-pity and internalized homophobia.
All these elements are made worse by the poor pacing in the movie, with awkward transitions and disjointed plots that stifle any momentum in the narrative. The Stranger by the Beach jumps from scene to scene chaotically, introducing sudden conflict at a moment's notice. Even a harmless compliment about Mio's appearance can be taken the wrong way. These misunderstandings feel so juvenile, and it's not cute watching grown adults act like emotionally stunted children.
Visually, this is a gorgeous movie that has a stunning amount of detail drawn into the backgrounds. With colourful and vibrant visuals, the attractive character designs come to life energetically. At least this movie is pretty to look at, even if the exquisite art can't save the hollowness of the characters or the aimlessness of the plots. Sadly, I cannot recommend The Stranger by the Beach, a beautiful shell of a movie that is sorely lacking in substance and coherence.
I feel like there might've been an interesting story in the manga, but it didn't translate that way in the movie. The story jumps all over the place too much for anything compelling to develop. All plots are ultimately diminished by the poor pacing and the disjointed storytelling.
I didn't really care for Shun and Mio together. The movie is too focused on the angst and the conflict between them rather than the romantic aspects of their relationship. With that said, the two characters do share a few moments of intimacy together. There are glimpses of Shun and Mio acting like a couple, albeit a very frustrating and boring couple.
The art is absolutely the highlight of The Stranger by the Beach. The only reason I didn't give this anime movie an even lower score is purely because of the impressive visuals. The backgrounds are especially gorgeous with a high amount of attention to the tiniest details.
Honestly, I would've preferred watching a movie with Eri and her girlfriend instead of Shun and Mio. At least the two of them seem happy and well-adjusted together. It sucks that Eri basically disappeared after the first act of the movie, since she brought a lively spark of energy to the dreary drama.
There's a pretty extensive sex scene between Shun and Mio near the end of the movie. We don't see anything too explicit, but the dialogue is bold and erotic. They go pretty far into describing their actions, including some fun times with backdoor penetration. If you've stuck around such a boring movie for so long, this fanservice is your reward.
Homphobia is present in The Stranger by the Beach, but it's not depicted with particularly much depth. Any representation of LGBT topics feels very shallow. Shun's character is impaired by a lot of internalized homophobia, but he's so moody that I find him frustrating instead of sympathetic.
The sex scene
I picked Shun and Mio's sex scene not because of my dirty mind, but mostly because the rest of the movie is so devoid of highlights. All things considered, the sex scene was pretty well-done. It's a sweet and tender moment that also depicted the first-time clumsiness between the two characters. At the very least, the sex scene had a beginning, a climax, and a conclusion, which is more than I can say about the rest of the movie.
I almost cussed when Sakurako's character was introduced halfway into the movie. The movie barely developed a romance between Shun and Mio at this point, and suddenly his random fiancée comes out of nowhere. Of course, Sakurako only brought more frustrating heterosexual drama and angst into the movie, making it even more boring to watch.
The Stranger by the Beach was only an hour long, but I couldn't wait for it to end by the midway point. I was bored by the flimsy story, the undeveloped characters, and the lacklustre romance. Unless you are a fan of the manga, then maybe you have some emotional context to make the movie feel more personal. Otherwise, there's very little to recommend about The Stranger by the Beach, other than the beautiful art.