iSugio

Love Strikes! – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Set one year after the conclusion of the Japanese drama series Moteki, the film Love Strikes! continues to follow 31-year-old Yukiyo Fujimoto, a man who doesn’t have money, dreams or a girlfriend. He has left his job at a staffing firm and is attempting to start a new life by working as a writer for a news site. Suddenly, Yukiyo experiences “moteki” – a period when a man becomes suddenly popular with woman. Cute magazine editor Miyuki, pure and naive office worker Rumiko, beautiful shop assistant Ai and beautiful, but tough co-worker named Motoko all become interested in Yukiyo. He tries to calm down, but is shaken by the interests of these women. With Yukiyo’s timid character and bitter experiences can he handle his new found popularity?

With the preceding drama series being based on a manga by Mitsuro Kubo, Love Strikes! presents an all-new tale regarding the sexual plight of Yukiyo Fujimoto. With the drama series ending in a rather abrupt and opened ended fashion, there was so much more to the narrative that the series led one to believe, with Yukiyo’s feelings remaining somewhat unresolved. Because of this, and having been a fan of the original drama series, I was a little doubtful as to how the film version would turn out. Would the film essentially be a rehash of the drama series, or perhaps follow the manga’s storyline more faithfully? These lingering questions entered my mind as I sat down to watch the film, with expectations remaining quite mutual. Fortunately, Love Strikes! retains the elements of comedy and genuine honesty that were present in both the manga and subsequent drama series, all the while further expanding upon the emotional obstacles faced by the protagonist Yukiyo.

The film, like the drama series, is centered on Yukiyo’s experience of the Japanese belief of moteki, a time in one’s life in which they become extremely popular with the opposite sex. The film revisits this notion once again, with Yukiyo experiencing it through the likes of four different women this time around, each with their own liking to him. While such a premise has been seen in other films, what makes Love Strikes! an extremely entertaining film is the creative style, appreciable honesty, and splendid acting it conveys. While the idea of one man simply attempting to lose his virginity is hilarious at best considering the situations he gets himself into, the film takes a step back to elaborate upon the idea of contemporary relationships and what it means to truly be in love. Director Hitoshi Ohne returns to helm the film, and brings the same charm he exerted when he directed the drama series, with elaborate musical sequences, sudden moments of hilarity, and tense-filled scenes of Yukiyo’s interaction with women. The film excellently balances between making fun of Yukiyo’s circumstances as well as showcasing his growth as an individual, with each womanly encounter adding to his understanding of the opposite sex as not simply sexual objects, but real people with real emotions towards him. It’s this honest approach that raises the narrative above simply being a comedy film, in turn providing some depth to its characters that is authentic in its contemplation of modern love affairs.

Of course, the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it wasn’t for its cast. Returning actor Mirai Moriyama does an absolutely superb job in portraying the sexually frustrated and emotionally naïve character of Yukiyo. With his internal dialogues ranging from the relentlessly absurd to riotously comical, to the hilariously choreographed dance sequences he partakes in, Moriyama encapsulates the attitude of his character so well it’s hard to believe he is really acting. This also extends to the likes of Masami Nagasawa, Kumiko Aso, and Riisa Naka, all whom are also fantastic in their roles as well. Considering the film’s running time though, Love Strikes! doesn’t elaborate as much as the drama series does in terms of the women involved in Yukiyo’s quest for love. Masami Nagasawa and Kumiko Aso are really the only one’s to get adequate development here as characters, which is helpful considering that they are the one’s recently introduced in the film. Nagasawa’s character of Miyuki is cute, playful, and outgoing; while Aso’s character of Rumiko is shy, reserved, and a little obsessive. Even the remaining two women who get less screen time—Ai, portrayed by Riisa Naka and Motoko, portrayed by Yoko Maki—further reflect some aspect of Yukiyo’s disposition. It’s these diverse personalities that essentially reflect upon aspects found within Yukiyo’s own personality, which again makes it a difficult experience for him. It’s this contrastive approach that one can view within the film, which surmises the possibility as to whom Yukiyo will eventually choose to go out with.

Since the film can be viewed as a pseudo-sequel to the drama series, Love Strikes! does reintroduce characters from that series—which may be a problem for some viewers. Considering that the film is just that—a film—those viewers who aren’t exactly familiar with the characters previously introduced within the drama series may be somewhat confused as to who they are in relation to Yukiyo. While this isn’t exactly a huge problem—as the narrative mostly deals with the characters introduced in the film—it may detract slightly from the way viewers see certain character they have no familiarity with act they way they do. Besides this minor quibble though, Love Strikes! can still be viewed as a relatively stand-alone film for what it brings to the table, with a clear focus on Yukiyo’s struggle to find the right girl for him. The film builds upon the aspect of this choice as a focal point for Yukiyo’s growth as a character, and where we see him battle against the entanglement of having multiple love interests at one time—and the harsh realities that come with it. This is especially seen within the film through the social networking aspect of Twitter, an outlet Yukiyo utilizes to interact with his those around him, including the girls he likes. We slowly begin to see Yukiyo becoming so consumed by his own moteki at times that he eventually slips and people discover things they weren’t suppose to know—which presents a humorous but realistic look into how social media can directly influence the outcome of a starting relationship, for better or worse.

Overall, Love Strikes! is a fantastic complementary film to the original manga and drama series. While it doesn’t attempt to break significant ground in terms of the circumstances surrounding the life of Yukiyo, it does show his growth as an individual just looking for someone to love. This film doesn’t spend nearly as much time analyzing Yukiyo’s past as the drama series did, but the film focuses more upon to Yukiyo’s future in relation to dating, which can be viewed as another element in supporting the film as a stand alone experience separate from that of the drama series. With an extremely good performance by Mirai Moriyama—as well as Masami Nagasawa and Kumiko Aso—the strength of the film is that is realistically addresses contemporary dating issues, even it if is at times exaggerated through the vivid imagination of Yukiyo, brought about nicely by director Ohne. Those who have seen the drama series will particularly enjoy the conclusion that the film offers, with a resolution that will be satisfying even for those who haven’t. Love Strikes! presents a hysterical look into one man’s journey to find that special someone, all the while remaining sincere in its portrayal of contemporary dating.

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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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