Posted in Movie, Review

[Movie] Wolf Girl and Black Prince

I knew i was shooting myself in the foot by checking this movie out, but i proceeded anyway… again, for the cast. The plot is as typical as shoujo manga material goes, which hardly interests me, so i really shouldn’t bother. But Yamazaki Kento, and more importantly Nikaido Fumi, were in it. I’ve been meaning to watch another YamaKen project, but given his mostly manga adaptations repertoire, the options are neither that diverse nor interesting. As for Nikaido Fumi, she was downright chilling in Nou Otoko i was curious how she’d fare in much lighter movie.

Watching this movie might hence be like killing two birds with one stone. Plus, if the award-winning actress agreed to take part in this, that should at least say something about the movie quality, right? So, i decided to give Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji benefit of the doubt… and as you may have predicted: it didn’t end well.

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I’m not even sure why i blog about this, but anyway, it tells yet another love story between an everyday girl and a popular guy which starts from a fake relationship developing into a real one. Shinohara Erika (Nikaido Fumi) is an average high schooler — not too tall, smart, or overly pretty — who lies about having a boyfriend in order to fit into this clique of sexually active girls in her class. The “it” gang, i suppose. When asked for proof, she produces a snap of a good-looking guy she indiscreetly took on a street, unaware that the tall blondie is her schoolmate from another class. Odd. The other girls are in disbelief, but Erika manages to drag Sata Kyouya (Yamazaki Kento) away before he outs her, explains the situation, and begs him to cooperate. Which, strangely enough, he readily agrees to, on one condition: she will be her pet dog. Because he cannot adopt another animal after going through the pain of loss.

Erika should technically be the dog girl, but nope, she is the wolf girl due to her lies — as in the girl who cried wolf, though we can argue it isn’t the correct term to describe her, but whatever. It’s a no brainer to know why Kyouya is the black prince; cold, aloof, and curt, he’s the opposite of prince charming despite his very prince-like exterior. He bosses her around and sends her away whenever he’s done playing her fake boyfriend part, which got me to wonder if that’s how he treated his late pet, cuz ain’t that some form of animal abuse? At least it explains their DoS/DoM dynamics: him a sadist for his dismissive attitude and her a masochist for putting up with his snides.

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Like any other story of this type, there’s a Mr. Nice Guy waiting in the wings, secretly having a crush on our ordinary girl, ready to whisk her away if she’s willing to walk away from the unhealthy relationship. The bespectacled nerd (Kusakabe, played by Yoshizawa Ryo) may be no match for Kyouya’s looks, yet is the better option than the handsome jerk, logically speaking. But of course girl turns down the boy who promises to make her happy for the boy who doesn’t even treat her nicely, simply because she likes the latter, even when she can’t even explain why.

Sure, sometimes there’s no reason for liking something or someone, and listing off the whys may sound pretentious. I can’t really fault her for seeing the best in him, but there’s a fine line between being positive and foolish. It’s arguably kind of Kyouya to OK’s the pretend game and go on so-called dates with her for pictures, but does he ever mean it? Does she seriously think he’s nice simply based on the things he does for the charade? I mean, he smiles only for the camera, doesn’t look like he enjoys being with her, and puts on this face while saying “i love you”…

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…i’d say, run away, stat!

Yes, he said the magic words, but is that all that matters? Will you actually believe a confession from someone with that expression? I would personally trust action more than words, yet neither of Kyouya’s shows his heart that it’s hard to read his mind. Furthermore, she should’ve learned her lesson, that boys in her world have the heart to say “i love you” for fun (including Kyouya, who laughed at her naivety then) for her to question his sincerity. I don’t expect him to turn all sweet overnight, but at least smile or speak a bit more gently, will ya? Oh well, i guess that’s the charm of DoS guys?

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Time constraints may be the main challenge to movie makers, the more for adaptation project wherein tens of volumes or thousands of pages worth of material must be crammed and translated into two-hour feature. That doesn’t mean we can’t have mapped-out story, fleshed-out characters, and believable romance within that frame. Wolf Girl and Black Prince should’ve selected the most important plots and people to bring to screen instead of including many and ending up half-assing everything/everyone. For example, we could’ve definitely done without Kyouya’s sister, although the cake-eating showdown is one of the highlights. And probably his blond frenemy (Kamiya, played by Suzuki Nobuyuki) too. I wondered what his deal was, approaching Erika just because she’s Kyouya’s girl, then getting all disappointed when she told him about the fake dating. Or they could’ve chosen between Kamiya or Kusakabe — three love interests in a two-hour flick is too much.

As for the romance, while i could point out where the turning point is, i didn’t see or feel why they click, besides the fact that the script says so. My other pet peeve is regarding the directing choice. I’m not sure if it’s the director’s style to use long takes with handheld camera and wide shots, since half the movie was filmed in this manner. I mind the former less than the latter. It’s fine if the characters are on the move; when they aren’t, the shakiness drove me up the wall. The wide shots though; they’re captured from such a distance you could barely see the expressions, and such scenes could last for minutes. It is probably a good technique to use when the cast is bad at emoting, which these leads aren’t, or when you want the viewers to focus on anything but the dialogue. It’s an effective detractor, cuz all i was thinking about was when they’re gonna zoom in.

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YamaKen and Nikaido Fumi are two of a few Japanese stars i’m looking out for, yet this movie left me cold. They aren’t bad actors, yet this movie won’t make a good impression for first-time watchers. YamaKen’s version of DoS Kyouya feels a lot like his L rendition in that Death Note dorama. Nikaido Fumi plays a stock character who isn’t exactly spineless but a doormat nonetheless. I didn’t hate her as much as i did toward the other weak girly heroines yet never warmed to her either. If anything, it proves that one should not judge acting prowess solely from teenage high-school romance.

I read an opinion that this movie was probably made to cater to hardcore fans of the manga which might alienate non-readers, but either way, i guess i’ll forever wonder why stories like this are popular.

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Rating: 1.5/5
Director: Hiroki Ryuichi
Production: NTV, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2016
Cast: Nikaido Fumi, Yamazaki Kento, Kadowaki Mugi, Suzuki Nobuyuki, Yoshizawa Ryo, Nanao
Genre: Teen romance, J-movie

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