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Fu-Zoku Changed My Life – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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One of the current cinematic trends within Japan in the last decade has been its expansive adaptation of popular internet novels into live-action films, usually with the basis of the author’s anonymity remaining somewhat of an illusive quality of the adaptation itself. This has also been a testament of the power of the internet, with the growing ability for amateur writers to be able to have their work become incredibly popular across a spectrum of mediums. In this case, we have an author acting under the pseudonym @Ryotaro – are they real or not? Who really knows, but one has to ponder the complexities surrounding the rights of ownership when such a creative work is adapted, especially since it does stem from an anonymous individual, but that is besides the point here. What we do have here is a film that is surprisingly unlike its controversial title in almost every way, with screenplay writer and director Ken Iizuka offering up Fu-Zoku Changed My Life as a rather candid exploration of the conflicted choices people make in understanding and overcoming the emotional obstacles in their lives.

The film follows two individuals; Ryotaro (who also shares the same name of the allusive author), an extremely timid 29-year-old virgin who also suffers from severe bouts of hyperventilation issues, and the beautiful prostitute Kay, whose life has also been anything but happy. They are played by Shinnosuke Mitsushima and model turned occasional actress Nozomi Sasaki respectively, with both unexpectedly turning out rather formidable performances considering the film’s rather assumptive title. Of course, initial impressions can be deceiving, with Fu-Zoku Changed My Life (with a literal translation meaning “After Going To The Brothel, Life Has Changed”) being but a mere deceptive placeholder for a relatively complex overview of two people learning to become better individuals through their interactions with one another.

The script presents a simple yet unassuming segmented narrative that establishes a focus upon each of the two main characters respectively, providing a lot of exploration into their psyches as we see their lack of success correlating to their current life predicaments when they first meet one another. The opening set up of the film certainly showcases the opposite though, with an introductory focus upon Ryotaro and his fumbling adventures to lose his virginity. If the film would have continued down this path, one would obviously see it as yet another conventional exploration of the sexual misadventures of a confused chaste male, but this approach surprisingly changes when Ryotaro meets Kay. The narrative is graciously unwilling to focus upon the act of sex itself, with the attention veering more towards Ryotaro learning about Kay and vice versa, easing us into their emotional inadequacies as they struggle to improve their lot in life.

Shinnosuke Mitsushima’s Ryotaro provides the film with a comical appeal, with Ryotaro’s rather absurd mannerisms and physical ailments offering some logical insight into why he has never truly been in love. But perhaps the most unforeseen element of the film is Nozomi Sasaki’s portrayal of Kay. Kay is viewed as an individual continually burdened by the unresolved conflicts of her the past, willing to move beyond them but not knowing how to. The film showcases her as a counterpoint to Ryotaro’s character, with Kay appearing as the emotionally perfect female to Ryotaro’s imperfect personality. But while so many similar films have done this before – to the point of it over saturating the genre – it is because of Kay’s imperfections being equal to that of Ryotaro’s that the film truly shines. Speaking of the character of Kay, Sasaki has continued to prove her ability as an actress throughout each of her subsequent films, with Fu-Zoku Changed My Life luckily being no different. While she has often been delegated to stringent roles of the beautiful love interest, her role here is more akin to her performance in Yuri Kantake’s My Rainy Days (2009), providing a cross appeal of emotions and sincerity that showcase her talents as an actress quite well. While there are still some cheap shots at exploiting her attractiveness, they remain at a minimum here and are only used for comedic effect towards Ryotaro’s zany persona.

The overall atypical approach establishes Fu-Zoku Changed My Life as a film at least striving to be more than the standard romantic drama and/or comedy. Iizuka does a wonderful job in creatively inverting elements of the romantic genre as a whole, bringing about a film deftly deciding to explore the imperfections of its characters through the backdrop of a rather conventional narrative setup. We have seen similar film to this before, usually with an accompanying lead character sadly passing away from some incurable disease of some sort – a gesture that fortunately does not happen here – but Iizuka’s film remains fervent in trying not to be too formulaic for its own good. Because of this notion, Fu-Zoku Changed My Life is a well-crafted film that expands beyond what its intentionally misleading title makes it appears to be, playing to, but also against, our own expectations in the most genuine of ways.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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