Perhaps the biggest collective success of Flavors of Youth is the way the wistfulness of each short remains distinct. There are at least traces of romantic love in all three, and each provides its own particular memory-soaked longings. The first is an exercise in nostalgia of place and senses, while the second, the modeling-focused "A Little Fashion Show," laments the closeness of youthful sisterhood and parents now gone. The third, the architecturally inclined "Love in Shanghai," is the most blatant romance, mourning a close childhood friendship lost while trafficking in missed connections, as Your Name. did. It’s the closest thing to Shinkai’s work fans will find here, as well as the best-constructed narrative piece of the three. It’s lovely, if a bit derivative.
The weakest of the three shorts is, sadly, the only one to center around a female protagonist, "A Little Fashion Show." It’s the one short directed by CoMix Wave’s master of 3DCG, Yoshitaka Takeuchi, which ideally would have positioned it as its best; Takeuchi was, after all, an irreplaceable part of the Your Name. team, responsible for some of the most stunning effects. And those are here, in spades, both in this short and the others -- in the delicacy of each raindrop, the rippling of water, the ripening of skies. That said, this short is one more story that succumbs to clichéd and sexist portrayals of women, and its setting in the fashion industry does not help matters.
That said, when looked at as a set of loosely-connected, beautiful, animated tone poems, Flavors of Youth succeeds. Maybe it will tide Shinkai fans over until next year. But probably they’ll just get hungry for translucent noodles in golden broth three minutes in. The good news? It’s on Netflix. Just order in before you hit play.