Posted in Movie, Review

[Movie] Hanamizuki

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Watched Hanamizuki – failed big time. Which led myself to decide NOT to watch another Japanese love-story movie ever again in the future – unless until someone can really convince me that a certain title is worth watching.
~ a note from August 22 ~

Hanamizuki is a romance movie, starred by Ikuta Toma and Aragaki Yui, which was based on a novel with the same title the 2004 Hanamizuki song by Hitoto You (according to wikipedia). The trailer is…ordinary, meaning that just by seeing it won’t pull the trigger. From what I read prior to watching the movie, it’s about a love story of a couple which is tested through time; it’s a 10-year relationship. Yeah, I guess the Japanese likes the ideas of childhood friendship-turned-loveship and this kind of true love which are pretty unrealistic. Romantic, yes, but such themes are getting old.

So, why bother? I won’t, but the pull is so strong I can’t resist: Ikuta Toma was in it!

I haven’t seen much work of his recently – since that super-ludicrous Unubore Deka – and none of his romance projects. I’ve seen him acting silly yet super memorable character of Nakatsu, pensively gloomy of that Honey Clover character, or helplessly remorseful and guilty character of Serizawa. So, seeing him in romance is a new experience for me. Yes, I was mostly driven by sheer curiosity of this part above anything else (because I disliked Gakki’s act in that ho-hum Koizora movie).

The movie is two hours long, but I withheld. Result: Hanamizuki failed me. Throughout screening time, I checked the remaining minutes for more than half-a-dozen times. I even had to refrain myself from fastforwarding many of its super-slow, few-dialogue scenes. Now I truly believe that great cast cannot save a sinking ship. Toma’s act wasn’t great – possibly his weakest. He may suit drama more since there’s enough time for the character to grow and shape up. Gakki was exactly the same Gakki I had seen in Koizora. Any other character was completely wasted. I feel sorry for them.

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Aforementioned, Hanamizuki tells a love story between Toma’s and Gakki’s characters (I didn’t even remember their names! O.O) – hereafter I’ll just go with Toma and Gakki, then. … Fine! I’ll do my homework: it’s Kiuchi Kouhei and Hirasawa Sae (another thanks to wikipedia). Their story starts back in their high school days in Hokkaido. Kouhei comes from a family of fishermen while Sae doesn’t really have much of a background. First awkward encounter quickly blooms into romance, sealed off with a kiss at the lighthouse.

First problem comes up when Sae decides to pursue her tertiary education in Waseda University, Tokyo, while Kouhei takes after his family business. Long-distance relationship starts to take its toll on the two as communication is kept at minimum as they’re busily engaged with respective life activities. He once suspected Sae of cheating with her sempai, Junichi (Mukai Osamu), but they are quick to reconcile when he visits Tokyo (again, sealed off with a kiss). As the family business goes down, concurrently with the hope to stay close to Sae, Kouhei opts to move over to Tokyo and finds an employment there.

Second problem arises when Dad collapses and dies of heart attack during their last sail. As Kouhei has to assume the role as the family’s breadwinner, he then suggests the two of them to go their own way and pursue their respective dreams. Sae who struggles to find a job upon graduation then decides to accept Junichi’s invitation to move to New York. Her English is pretty smooth and clear, but her rather blank expressions degrade her line deliveries.

Back in Hokkaido, Kouhei marries his female friend to forget about Sae. Yet, the ex-couple reunifies when attending a friend’s wedding. Sparks are still there though they don’t admit it – well, Kouhei is a married man by now, don’t you forget it! Seeing that Kouhei has moved on, Sae then accepts Junichi’s proposal.

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[Ending spoilers ahead. Skip the next three paragraphs to stay out of ’em] Kouhei’s wife definitely senses the change of behaviour her husband shows upon meeting Sae; later on, she files in a divorce paper. In New York, Sae announces the good news to her coworkers (is that the face of a lady who is about to marry?). Too bad, Junichi is killed in the Middle East. So, capturing the smiles of children in war zones costs the photographer his life. This may be set as the third problem, but I see it as a clearout for our ex-couple to get back together again. An easy one, I must say. They’re back to being single and available once again, minus the third parties.

Sae finally gets to that particular lighthouse in Canada, (her birthplace, the place where she belongs) as she has long wished for. Upon her way back, she happens to peek into a shop which displays the boat miniature Kouhei gave her during his Tokyo visit (how coincidental!). The shop owner said a Japanese guy gave it to him with an explanation that the person whom the boat is dedicated to was born in the city. She rushes to the pier, but a ship carrying the Japanese flag has just sailed away.

In the end, Sae settles back into her hometown where she teaches English for young kids. On one particular day, Kouhei finally makes an appearance; they simply utter “okaeri” and “tadaima” (welcome home) to each other in turns.

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Hanamizuki moves in a snail-like pace. The flow isn’t smooth as the scenes look choppy and jumpy. There isn’t much conflict happening throughout the tremendous 10-year span. The story is rather flat and predictable, but the way it takes to get there is exceedingly long and winding. No wonder the duration is two hours. If they paced up a bit and compressed the plot more, it’d be more bearable to watch.

Among other things, I worried a little over the fact that Kouhei is married – marriage tie is harder to break. But then the solution is easy: divorce. Society has become so modernized that people are no longer constrained to one-for-life marriage. Geez.

All in all, I won’t ridicule the plot or people who love this. It’s a matter of preference, really. It’s not anyone’s fault that box office Japanese movies like Koizora (claimed to bring 10 million pairs of eyes to tears) or Hanamizuki (amassed nearly three billion yen) failed to charm me. Some people may be crazed about these stories, but they are simply not my cup of tea.

I’ve watched enough films to make this statement – I may have just chosen the wrong titles in the first place – I’ll stop watching Japanese romance movie for an unforeseeable future. Hanamizuki was the last one – until somebody can thoroughly convince me that a certain title is worth considering.

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_
Rating: 1/5
Director: Doi Nobuhiro
Production: 2010
Cast: Ikuta Toma, Aragaki Yui, Mukai Osamu
Genre: J-movie, Drama-romance

~ images imported from various sources and are property of their respective owners ~

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