Director: Hitoshi Ohne
Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Masami Nagasawa, Kumiko Aso, Riisa Naka, Yoko Maki, Hirofumi Arai, Satoru Date, Lily Frankie
Set 2 years after the end of the television series, Moteki tells the story of Yukiyo Fujimoto (Mirai Moriyama), a music and comic geek who is unlucky in love. Moteki is a Japanese word used to describe a period of time in which a man finds himself popular with women. Having survived his last Moteki but still looking for love, Fujimoto’s story picks up with him getting hired at an entertainment website, getting paid to report and write about the things he enjoys as hobbies. Enter the ladies: Miyuki (Masami Nagasawa), a cute and cheerful girl who likes the same music and shares the same hobbies; Rumiko (Kumiko Aso), a hard working and karaoke loving friend of Miyuki; Ai (Risa Naka), a cabaret girl with a kind heart; and Motoko (Yoko Maki), a co-worker who is brutally honest. With all these new women in Fujimoto’s life, will his springtime finally come?
Moriyama is great as Fujimoto; he is passionate, confused, cowardly, and so lost that you wish he would man up and just grow a pair. The fact that you find yourself rooting for him and opposed to hating him is a big credit to Moriyama’s characterization. You really pull for him in a way that is surprising and when he finally steps up it is hugely satisfying. Nagasawa’s Miyuki is pretty, cheerful, and played with a lot of humanity beneath the surface. Nagasawa continually surprises me with her performances and it is easy to see why she is considered one of the best young actresses working today. Aso’s Rumiko is vulnerable but still very much desirable and the dramatic moments really give Aso a chance to shine. Naka’s Ai is quite a bit more downplayed but she probably serves as one of the most important scenes in the development of Fujimoto. She is quickly becoming a personal favorite and I am glad to see her branching out into more varied roles. Maki’s Motoko is hilarious as the honest and realistic co-worker who tries to keep Fujimoto centered. Her outbursts and interventions are among the most hilarious scenes in the film.
One of the most striking elements of the film is the incredible music selection. Like the films of Cameron Crowe or Quentin Tarantino, director Hitoshi Ohne chooses not only memorable tunes, but startlingly appropriate music to fit his film. There is an extremely memorable musical sequence that seemingly pops out of nowhere but it is funny, charming, and so ridiculously appropriate, it immediately brought a smile to my face. With a variety of studio and live performances, the soundtrack to the film is something that Japanese music fans will undoubtedly love. Featuring appearances by popular artists like Perfume, Pierre Taki, and N`Shukugawa Boys, the film doesn’t slouch and clearly realizes the importance of music to its story.
The film is not without faults however, mostly from being a continuation of events in the series. Characters in the series show up in the film without introduction and while it is nice to see that bit of fan service, new audiences will wonder as to their importance. Certain character traits are left to the viewer and events may seem to happen out of nowhere, Sumida’s scenes in particular, but it made sense from viewing it as a fan of the original program. The film’s final act takes a decidedly darker tone than earlier in the film, but again this similar to arcs in the TV series. It seems kind of abrupt if taken on the surface.
The TV series Moteki came out of nowhere to become one of my favorite Japanese series ever so it was no surprise that I looked at the film’s announcement with high anticipation. The movie is definitely made with viewers of the series as the intended audience. It carries the same sense of humor, style, and must importantly excellent music selection that made the series so enjoyable. As a film, it does suffer from a restrained running time, compared to the length of a TV series, but it does an admirable job of bringing the feeling of the show to the big screen. While viewers unfamiliar with the source may be lost a bit, there is still enough to follow and take the film as a slice of life romance comedy. Very entertaining.
You may enjoy the film if you liked: (500) Days of Summer, Moteki drama series, SuckSeed, Welcome to the NHK