Featured Film Reviews
Kimi ni Todoke
Original title: 君に届け | Kimi ni Todoke | From Me to You
Director: Naoto Kumazawa
Running time: 128 Min.
Cast: Mikako Tabe | Haruma Miura | Misako Renbutsu | Mirei Kiritani | Natsuna Watanabe | Haru Aoyama
Written by: Miguel Douglas
Kimi ni Todoke – Review
by Miguel Douglas on October 25, 2011
Well-meaning, but socially awkward, Sawako Kuronuma is nicknamed “Sadako” by her classmates because of her similar hair cut with the main character from the horror movie “Ringu”. Her life then takes a turn when Shota Kazehaya, the most popular boy in school, falls for her. Shota Kazehaya is classmates with Sawako. Unlike Sawako, he is outgoing and popular with all the students. He is even polite with Sawako, which makes Sawako respect him and even admire him. Meanwhile, Kazehaya has special feelings towards Sawako. He notices the look of respect that Sawako gives to him and suppresses his own feelings for her. With help from Kazehaya, Sawako gets better at interacting with her classmates and even makes friends with Chizuru Yoshida & Ayane Yano. Now being able to express her feelings to her friends, Sawako realizes she has special feelings for Kazehaya. During this time, a cute girl named Ume Kurumizawa, who has been friends with Kazehaya since middle school, appears in front of Sawako and confesses her feelings for Kazahaya and asks for her help.
Based off the manga series by author Karuho Shiina, Kimi ni Todoke is a film that is unashamedly oriented towards a very precise demographic—that of the teenage female audience. Because of this decision and since the source material does indeed derive from a shojo manga, many elements of the genre make their way into this live-action adaptation, where melodrama takes absolute precedence over what many viewers may find as overly exaggerated experiences of youth. Whether this ranges from tearful confrontations, bullying and yes, the obvious first crush and subsequent confession, Kimi ni Todoke is one film that will certainly appease some viewers but ultimately irritate others. Not more so attributed to its rather archetypical characters, the film is simply too predictable to for its own good, which isn’t saying entirely too much given the youth genre in which it subscribes to—one that thrives on a certain capacity of predictability in order to retain a specific viewership’s expectations.
Considering the predictable nature of the above genre, it would be foolish to not say these type of things do happen in a high school-setting, where even the simplest act as confessing a teenage crush can turn into a devastating blow to one’s existence, but given that the film is attempting to go for a realistic premise, the melodrama found here is more suited to your typical television drama more so than a feature length film as it grows increasingly tedious. It doesn’t help either that the characters don’t unfortunately break away from the pattern explored by so many other films—with Kota being the quintessential gentlemen that everyone one in school likes, to Sawako herself, an individual so timid and shy that it’s simply astonishing to see how she made it through school up until this point. The film initially raises the notion of Sawako being an adamant loner, with some insightful narration regarding her plight as one, which offers some credence to her situation. This approach is seemingly dropped after the first third of the film as we slowly begin to view Sawako as not simply an individual who has been unfairly judged throughout her relatively short time as a high school student, but as some one who is simply unknowledgeable to the most basic of human interactions. This significantly diminishes her supposed plight as a character, wherein we begin to view her as an individual seemingly devoid of emotion yet cries at the most insignificant situations. This complexity—or hypocrisy if you will—is expressed throughout the film multiple times, which doesn’t necessarily allow us to sympathize very much given her initially assumed predicament.
This notion further extends to the rest of the cast as well. Even if we as an audience can relate to the idea of teenagers essentially wearing their emotions on their shoulders, it all becomes simply too cliché-ridden to effectively draw us in as viewers. Sawako and Shota have very little connection to one another, yet the film—as most shojo-related material—forces them together for the sake of making ends work out perfectly. Of course, certain individuals who haven’t seen too many of these type of films will certainly view Kimi ni Todoke as a step towards originality, but it will all seem entirely too conventional for even the most inflexible of fans. Many of the themes expressed in the manga and anime series are still present within the film, but as such with many manga to live-action adaptations, characters and plot intricacies are nowhere to be found within the narrative. At a mere two-hours in length, the narrative of the film considerably refocuses itself from delegating a relationship between Sawako and Shota, to Sawako’s friendship with classmates Chizuru and Ayane, which in turn rearranges the film into an odd collection of bits and pieces from the manga haphazardly put together. As also the case with some live-action film adaptations, the manga series has yet to be completed at the time the film’s release. As such, the film concludes on a note that prematurely addresses the relationship between Sawako and Shota, which may annoy some fans of the manga and anime series.
With the obvious slumps found throughout the narrative, the casting of the film is perhaps the film’s strongest elements. With actress Mikako Tabe and Haruma Miura taking the leads—two young performers that I find particularly talented—the appearance of the characters to their manga counterparts is simply fantastic. This is one aspect of the film that should please fans of the manga series, as they’re almost indistinguishable. Director Naoto Kumazawa, whose previous films have usually stemmed from the romance genre—including the excellent Shunji Iwai produced Rainbow Song (2006)—provides Kimi ni Todoke the necessary look and feel of manga series. This is where the film also does an exceptional job, truly enlivening the world in which we find these characters in. Like the manga series, the film is slow moving in nature, a choice that may not benefit some viewers not accustomed to this style of Japanese filmmaking, but it does allow us time to be with these characters, even if it is a somewhat flawed experience. While the approach the film offers may be affective for certain viewers—those mainly within the shojo-range of viewership—the banality of the melodrama is often times too much. Kimi ni Todoke is mostly a film reserved for a young audience, but while its themes may appeal to older viewers, even the most rabid fans of the manga will question its tiresome execution as a film.