I'll admit it, I'm a Shinkai fanboy. Though, its probably pretty obvious if you look at my scores and see my high scores for all of his movies. Something about his stories really strike a chord in me, even if he seemingly retells the same story over and over again. He could tell it probably a dozen more times and I'd still love them all. This is probably the biggest reason why I didn't dislike Flavors of Youth, despite it being a little bit lacking in the emotional investment department.
Half of every great anime, but especially anime movies, comes from the visuals and soundtrack. It's an extremely rare occurrence when an anime movie can falter in one or both of these categories and still be considered decent. In the case of Flavors of Youth, it doesn't disappoint in either. The visuals are top notch, as expected from CoMix Wave, from which we got Your Name and Garden of Words, two of the most beautiful anime of all time. Also, big shout out to the San Xian noodles in the first story, Sunny Breakfast. Even now, I'm thinking back on those bad boys and getting hungry. The soundtrack for Flavors of Youth is really good, if not a little reserved. You'll not find anything quite as evocative as "Sparkle" from Your Name or as powerfully emotional as "A Rainy Morning" from the Garden of Words, but I'll cut it some slack, because it's quite a task to measure up to those masterful works anyway. The ending song, WALK by Vickeblanka is easily my favorite song on the soundtrack. The more I listen to it, the more I deeply appreciate it. If those earlier songs are their movies standout song, then WALK is definitely Flavors of Youth's.
Now I can talk about the stories, which is where the main issues lie. I've already alluded to the first story, Sunny Breakfast, a little bit. Character-wise, it's probably the weakest of the three, but that's to be expected. After all, its a story about one guy narrating his youth and how many of his most cherished memories were spent eating San Xian noodles with his loved ones. It's actually kind of beautiful in its own simplistic way. I've heard a lot that this is most people's least favorite story in Flavors of Youth, but it may just be my favorite. At least, favorite based on the story.
The second story, A Little Fashion Show, is probably the weakest in all aspects. I couldn't bring myself to like the characters very much and the story was really predictable. I'm not one to complain about simple stories, as is evidenced by my appreciation of the first story, but I'm a little less forgiving of the completely mundane story of A Little Fashion Show. It was just a mess of cliches with the message of....I'm really not sure actually. I guess you can say it was a coming of age story, but that just makes it sound even more generic and cliched.
The third story, Shanghai Love, is the story that is most Shinkai-esque. In fact, it kind of mirrors 5 Centimeters per Second perfectly until the ending. Personally, I really liked the story and characters outside of the main boy, Limo. I mean, that boy was basically a walking mistake, he deserved neither his best friend or best girl with his attitude. But that's a personal gripe, I suppose.
I feel like it's somewhat pointless to do a favorite character for this since there's only one character who got enough characterization to deserve the title, but oh well, I'll do it anyway.
Favorite Character: Mistuh- I mean Shao Yu
Yeah...Not much to add here, she was the best character by default, since she got the most development and actually has a personality. Also, she's Chinese Mitsuha, so bonus points.
Despite me not loving Flavors of Youth, I'd still recommend it to anyone. It's so short and such a pure story that, even if you have gripes with it, you can still appreciate it for being what it is, a contemplation of short stories that each lean heavily on a different theme. The first on the cherished memories of eating with loved ones, the second on realizing that you must cherish your loved ones, and the third on communicating your feelings. Each of these themes are tackled really well, even if the surrounding story and characters aren't amazing. But if you have any appreciation for Mokoto Shinkai's work, then you'll probably enjoy the Flavors of Youth.