I have to do this more often as the last crop of Japanese films I saw was reviewed like last August! I saw a few good ones and some so-so ones too, this time from my flights home to KL as well as my recent spring trip to Japan. Let’s start with the ones I really enjoyed:

Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru [カノジョは嘘を愛しすぎてる, The Liar and His Lover] is my all-time fav on my flights back home to KL that I kept watching it in the three trips home I did this year. Whilst not busy playing an ex-assassin who uses the dull end of his katana, Satō Takeru plays the enigmatic Aki, ex-bassist of the popular band, Crude Play, which he co-founded with his schoolmates. Aki left the band after their debut when he saw the fake nature of the music industry in which bands are marketed as idols whilst the recorded music that is sold to the fans are actually pre-recorded by professional sessionists. Aki nevertheless remained Crude Play’s main songwriter, making music quietly behind the scenes incognito as it were. After breaking up with singer Mari (Aibu Saki), Aki came across Riko, a grocer’s daughter (played by the delectable Sakurako Ohara) who happened to pass by when he was playing with his remote control helicopter.

Riko was captivated by the tune hummed by Aki that would be Crude Play’s next single. Aki’s first lie (hence the title of the film) was to say that his name was Shinya (the given name of Crude Play’s current bass player), followed by telling Riko that he doesn’t like girls who sing. Nevertheless, Aki and Riko began to go out much to the disapproval of her bandmates from school. Later, as luck would have it, Riko and her two schoolmates were discovered by Takashi, Crude Play’s conniving manager, who then persuaded them to be signed to his record label as Mush & Co. as its latest teen sensation. Things start to get complicated from that point onwards with Riko finding out who Aki really is.

What I love about the film was that it had some great tunes in it – may it be from Crude Play or Riko. Sakurako has a great voice and I had seen her once on the 2013 FNS duetting with miwa. Surprisingly, there’s not much in a way of a catalogue under her belt apart from a couple of singles. My favourite scene was Riko singing her fav Crude Play song, 卒業, with Aki on the acoustic guitar at his home studio.

This is a bittersweet love story with an ending that is probably in the vein of the 1st season of the old J-dorama Hana Yori Dango (this doesn’t really give the story away). Most of my fav films don’t have a straight forward ending to them anyway. Full marks for this. The film’s based on a manga and did very well in the box office, grossing 1.6 billion yen early this year.

Talking about Hana Yori Dango, I saw two films with Inoue Mao this year. One was the weird Shazai no Ōsama [謝罪の王様, The Apology King] which revolved around the antics of Kurojima Ryoro (Abe Sadao), a guy in a bowl haircut who specialises in the dogeza which is pretty much the Japanese version of the kowtow ie the ultimate act of apologising. Mao plays Noriko, a third culture kid returning to Japan who seems to have a problem to apologise to anyone and ironically ending up being Ryoro’s assistant in the various scenarios ranging from celebrity scandals to international crises. The film also reveals the actual reason why Ryoro has become an expert in the apology business, which came about from an incident at a ramen store during a time when he was employed as a security guard. The storyline borders on the absurd but it managed to make me laugh. Watch out for the nonsensical catchphrase wakige bobo jiyuu no megami! and the end credits with E-Girls’「ごめんなさいのKissing You」.

Shiro Yuki Hime Satsujin Jiken [白ゆき姫殺人事件, The Snow White Murder Case] was the other inflight film with Inoue Mao I saw, which was one of the films shown at the Japanese Film Fest in KL only recently.

In this flick, Mao plays Shirono Miki, a quiet girl who works in the admin department of a soap factory in Nagano, unwittingly embroiled in a case involving the murder of her colleague, Noriko (Nanao). The story of the murder was picked up by Yuji[1], a director of a TV programme and a right git who publishes everything about the murder on Twitter[2]. Yuji goes to the town where the murder took place, interviewing a few of Miki’s work colleagues, trying to figure out if she was indeed the murderer. As we all know with social media, no thanks to Yuji’s irresponsible tweeting, the whole thing gets blown out of proportion made worse by opinionated netizens.

Unlike her likeable characters in other films/dramas, Mao’s portrayal of Miki in this one came to somewhat disturbing at one point of the film. I thought this was a good story as it dealt with something pretty obvious – we all know too well this oft-played scenario in real life and how perception tainted by prejudice can easily distort truth. At one point of the story, Miki’s devastated parents were almost convinced with the possibility that their daughter had committed the heinous crime. Another one with (almost) full marks.

[1]Played by Ayano Gō – yup, the boyish long haired tough guy from Crows Zero II.
[2]Twitter, as opposed to a fictitious Twitter-like platform made for the story, was actually used in the storyline.