From the theater going experience in Japan, here are impression of three recent Toho theatrical releases. They are for Weathering with You (2019), Kaguya-Sama: Love is War (2019) and Hit Me Anyone One More Time (2019).
Weathering with You (2019)
Superstar director Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to the enormously popular Your Name from 2016 (which beat out Godzilla Resurgence as the highest-grossing film in Japan that year), Weathering With You has been finally released three years later to much hype and considerable financial success. Much like Your Name, Weathering With You also has music by RADWIMPS, a band I have enjoyed for years—though they have far fewer singing tracks this time. The movie itself follows the story of a young man who has recently moved to the big city and is trying to figure out his life, working various jobs and ending up at a sort of tabloid magazine, reporting on weird phenomenon. He meets a mysterious young woman who turns out to be a “sunny girl”—a girl that can change the weather and make it sunny. This is really important since, in the world of the story, for some reason it is raining almost constantly. Various dramas unfold as our protagonists fall in love, a gun is involved, and other shenanigans. As with any Shinkai film, the movie is absolutely gorgeous. Except for a few scenes (a helicopter flying over the city looked cheesy to me), the movie is almost breathtakingly beautiful, with incredible use of color and composition. The story, though, I felt was far less engaging than the one in Your Name; so much is driven by sheer coincidence and “movie logic,” and I just didn’t care about the characters very much.
Kaguya-Sama: Love is War (2019)
Directed by Hayato Kawai (director of a number of live-action manga adaptations, including Nisekoi and Ore Monogatari) comes… another live-action manga adaptation, this time of the hilarious Kaguya-Sama: Love is War anime and manga franchise. My little brother introduced me to the anime some time ago, and I found it a real knee-slapper. Thus I was excited to see this live-action adaptation. The basic premise follows Miyuki and Kaguya, two elite and seemingly perfect students who are in a condition of mutual romantic affection, but both are too proud to actually express their feelings. The story follows their increasingly elaborate ploys to force the other to confess. And the story starts out strong with a really funny sequence in the beginning, with each student’s internal monologue being portrayed during their ludicrous love stand-off. However, for me at least, the joke works better in short-form and it’s hard to sustain over the course of an entire movie. Soon I just got tired of watching, and there is only so much I can watch the two young leads smirk and sneer on the big screen.
Hit Me Anyone One More Time (2019)
The newest comedy movie from acclaimed director Koki Mitani (who also did Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (1997), All About Our House (2001), Suite Dreams (2006), and Galaxy Turnpike (2015), all of which I have reviewed—though he has made many other films besides), Hit Me Anyone One More Time might just be the worst English title for a movie I have ever seen. The original Japanese title, Kioku ni Gozaimasen!, is much better, meaning “I don’t remember,” which is a reference to a common excuse politicians in Japan give when confronted with their corruption. The story follows a much-hated prime minister in Japan who, when giving a speech, is hit by a rock and loses his memories of his adult life, returning him to a more idealized, child-like state. This state of affairs leads to a huge change. He works with several close members of his staff to hide the fact that he has lost his memory, which leads to great hijinks (especially as he must host politicians from abroad, including a female President of the USA seemingly modeled after Hilary Clinton). But things turn ugly when his wife’s adulterous relations with his adviser are revealed, and his rivals are closing in. Hit Me Anyone One More Time was actually a relief to me. I am not the biggest fan of Mitani, but I enjoyed some of his older films, so when I suffered through the abysmal Galaxy Turnpike, I was gravely disappointed. While certainly not a perfect comedy, and many jokes still don’t quite land, Hit Me Anyone One More Time is so much better, and I hope for more quality comedies in the near future from this comedy powerhouse director.