While I was in Tokyo, I had the chance to see the movie based on the terrific, Yuri manga by Yamaji Ebine, Love My Life. I won’t be going over the characters or plot of the story in detail, because if you haven’t read the manga, there’s just about no way you’d see the movie, so if you’re unfamiliar with this manga, please take a second to read my original review of LML. (For folks coming to this blog from Afterellen.com, most of the next paragraph is relevant to earlier posts about my trip to the world’s largest comic market, Comiket. If you want to know the story of the manga – and movie – read the link above.)
Looking at it now, I realize that we were *incredibly* lucky, because the theater we saw it at, N Theater Shibuya was a very few blocks from Bruce’s hotel. I only today learned that it played at like *two* theaters. What were the chances that one would be in walking distance from where Bruce was staying? Oh, and btw, it was immediately above the Shibuya Animate, which meant that the next day, we knew where we were going for that, too. Did I mention “lucky?”
The movie version of Love My Life was very sweet. There were some number of changes from the manga, which I’ll detail below, but in general, it was a really cute movie with an undoubtedly happy end where the girl got the girl. Totally worth having seen for that alone. I sincerely hope that there’s a US release.
The biggest weakness of the movie was something I have encountered over and over and over in Japanese live-action films: the pacing. This movie was almost 90 minutes long and when I saw the running time,I was skeptical as to how they’d stretch the story…especially as the first few chapters of the manga/movie zip by in rapid succession. So it starts off light and fast and happy, and then, suddenly, stops dead. At just about the time any American movie would start wrapping up, Japanese movies insert 20-30 minutes of absolutely nothing. It kills the energy, sucks the life out of the movie and makes my wife get fidgety. ^_^
In this case, after having established how sad Ichiko is, we are treated to 20 more minutes of her being sad. Sad, sad, sad. She’s so sad. And when the end comes, there’s another pacing issue, but if I complain about that I’m just being a hard ass.
Well, I’m a hard ass. Here goes. Eri has called Ichiko after their long separation and instead of calling back, Ichiko starts running. And running. And running. Eri, waits and waits and waits, while Ichiko appears to run across the freakin’ country. *Just* as Eri begins to turn away unhappily, Ichiko comes running up. Uh…wouldn’t a phone call back saying “I’m coming!” have been a good idea right then?
The actress who plays Ichiko is…well…okay. Where the Ichiko of the manga is pleasant, hard working, smart and cute, this Ichiko is dreamy and over-smiley happy. She plays the role like a baby seal you’re waiting to watch be clubbed.
On the completely other hand, Eri is played perfectly. It’s immediately apparent that she, while not being a gabber, has a deep and rich inner dialogue – and you want to be part of it. I think that she was just about perfect.
And the rest of the cast is pretty great, too. The actor who played Ichiko’s father hit the nail right on the crumpet with his portrayal – and Ichiko’s gay friend Take was immediately likeable and real.
There were a few things changed for the movie. For one thing – the hair. In the manga, Ichiko, and later, her mother’s former lover, have dyke-y short hair. In the movie, both have shortish normal cuts. And the bald skinhead girl who piques Ichiko’s fancy is turned into a mohawk-wearing punk. No clue why.
Another thing that was changed, which I thought really odd, was the soundtrack. The manga has a distinctly classic jazz background. You can’t miss it, as jazz music and musicians are mentioned nearly every chapter. The movie was given a peppy, pop music soundtrack by noodles, that was, nonetheless, exceptionally appealing. The opening theme, particularly, was darn cute.
The final thing that I could not help but notice was that Take merely announced that he had nabbed himself a boyfriend. In the manga we meet Joe, an African-American student. I was sort of sad to see that they didn’t show Joe. I was wondering how they were going to handle that – the fact that that they didn’t bother bugged me a tad.
The story is reasonably close to the manga, until the extra inserted bit at the end, as Ichiko kills her Eri-less time by trying to become a translator like Papa. The beginning, particularly, is very, very good. Their relationship is sweet (I know that I wasn’t the only one in the theater holding my girl’s hand during a few of the lovey-dovier scenes) and quite realistic.
Cinematography – A little precious, 6
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 10
Service – 3
If only someone would edit that slow bit, the whole movie would be a real keeper. ^_^