「君に届け」 (Kimi ni Todoke)
If you’ve never watched a Japanese live-action drama before (or any Asian drama for that matter), the first hurdle you’ll have to overcome is how cheesy they can be at times. There will also a bit of an East meets West culture clash going on if you’re unfamiliar with Asian mannerisms, which anime can ease you into but can’t truly prepare you for the “real” thing. For a live-action adaptation of a manga, it’s basically the next best thing though. In the case of the Kimi ni Todoke movie released last year, being able to look beyond those kind of reservations about J-dramas may just open you up to a new-found love for them. It worked for me a several years ago anyway, back when I got into shows like Densha Otoko, Great Teacher Onizuka, Hana Yori Dango, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, Honey and Clover, and Nodame Cantabile, Yamato Nadeshiko. For me, the transition wasn’t all that jarring, so what started with one drama led to a growing interest in live-action versions of romantic manga or anime.
First off, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, so much that I watched the full two-hours twice in preparation for this post. I loved how it touched upon a lot of the key scenes from the manga and portrayed them in a way that I found much more moving than its anime counterpart. It took a little while to get accustomed to the actors and actresses playing the cast of characters, but the brief introduction to Kuronuma Sawako (Tabe Mikako) followed by her fated first encounter with Kazehaya Shouta (Miura Haruma) had me eagerly looking forward to a lot of the developments that I already knew were coming. It sounds counter-intuitive getting excited about something that I know is going happen, but watching the same scenes brought to life by real people has an almost inexplicable appeal to me. Part of it is seeing how the various character nuances are portrayed and if I get a true sense of the character I know from the anime. Another is the amount of emotion that’s continually conveyed through facial expressions and eye movements, something that anime doesn’t quite capture the same way.
A great example of this was after Yano Ayane (Watanabe Natsuna) and Yoshida Chizuru (Renbutsu Misako) were introduced, the latter of whom I absolutely loved due to Misako’s ability to bring out her energetic and emotional personality. As the movie progressed, I was stricken with Chizuru, surprising even me since I’ve been all about Ayane and her ability to sense the situation and act accordingly in the anime. Kazehaya on the other hand came off popular and pleasant just like he’s known for, whereas Sanada Ryuu (Aoyama Haru) was a man of few words yet much more perceptive than he appears. Support characters such as Arai Kazuichi, a.k.a. Pin (Arata), and Kurumizawa Ume (Kiritani Mirei) were pretty spot on as well, with Kurumi sounding a lot like Hirano Aya when she called out for Kazehaya in one scene. I even found myself feeling sorry for her, with the only noticeable omission being that she didn’t tell Kazehaya that’s it’s obvious he likes someone. In Pin’s case, he didn’t quite look the part outside the towel, but he sure was obnoxious enough to remind me of the image I have of him. Of all the characters, Sawako was who I had the hardest time getting accustomed to, simply because it didn’t feel natural for a girl to give off such a creepy aura. However, once she cracked that first smile of hers, I found myself turning away from its radiance just like Kazehaya and was pretty sold on Mikako as the sweet yet misunderstood girl that Sawako is.
Watching the conclusion to the second season of the anime made me realize how I prefer Haruma’s portrayal of Kazehaya to a certain degree, mainly because Namikawa Daisuke makes him come off a bit too feminine at times. The same goes for Mikako’s portrayal of Sawako, which doesn’t delve into the overly goofy side of her character that Noto Mamiko uses a deeper voice for. Incidentally, it’s the lack of those more comedic scenes that helped this movie feel more natural as a live-action drama, making it easier to really get absorbed in some of the emotions being conveyed. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the “sappy stuff” if I get wrapped up in a story, but even I was a bit surprised when the that exact same scenes got me teary-eyed on my second time through the movie. In fact, the emotional impact increased after I was more accustomed to the actors and actresses in their respective roles. For the waterworks, there was Kazehaya defending Sawako after she was used in the class’ punishment game, Sawako speaking out to try and clear up the misunderstanding, Kazehaya and the others forgoing the ballot box and sitting beside Sawako, Chizuru heartbroken after learning that Tooru’s getting married, and of course the washroom scene with Sawako defending Ayane and Chizuru against the rumors. At times, I even felt an urge to cry out that my poor heart can’t take it anymore. In case there’s any doubt, yes, I enjoyed this movie that much.
However, that’s not to say I loved every aspect of this movie. The biggest problem I had was with the ending, which felt a bit too rushed given how key events such as the Christmas party were glossed over. The emphasis was clearly on Kazehaya’s inability to get his feelings across to Sawako and the many obstacles that he encountered along the way (e.g. Chizu), which translated to a surge in viewer angst near the end. It pretty much started when Sawako’s father wanted her to start taking the bus home. Before long, it was a combination of misunderstandings and Sawako being torn between missing her father’s amateur orchestra performance and leaving Kazehaya out on a limb that served as the climax to the movie. In execution it wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, as it provided a conclusive ending to the first season of the anime if it were to end at that point — a welcomed change considering how the alternative left very much to be desired.
What I would’ve liked to see is a longer segment on Christmas before skipping right to New Year’s Eve, as the lack of one really gave off the sense that the movie was pressed for time. The eventual confession was far too brief as well, as it didn’t leave ample time to invoke much of an emotional response from me when Sawako and Kazehaya told one another how they truly feel. While I was still content with the ending as a whole, that was something the anime depicted better. In any case, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie for fans of the manga and anime, as J-dramas should be right up your alley if you enjoy series like Kimi ni Todoke. If someone were to ask me to watch this movie again, I’d do so in a heartbeat. Just be sure to keep the tissues close-by. You know, for my sake.