Sometimes a film comes so close to being lovable that it’s a little frustrating when it doesn’t quite manage it, and perhaps unsurprisingly this Japanese musical falls in to that category. It’s a bright, frothy and fun and has some really cute ideas and images, but there’s something a little too lightweight about it for it to deserve cult classic status, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll fall in love with the characters in the way they fall for each other.
At the start we’re introduced to the snobbish bank clerk Makoto Kashiba (Matsuya Onoe) who is sent from Tokyo to work in a small town in the middle of nowhere after shouting at his boss, initially hating life there until he falls for shy piano player Yoshino (Kanako Momota). She’s not rushing in to his arms however, and local bar owner falls for Makoto as well, and can’t understand why he doesn’t reciprocate these feelings, while Yoshino’s close friend returns to town and clearly has feelings for her as well.
It’s sort of a romantic comedy though the main themes are about class and self improvement, and the dialogue is largely sharp and amusing. Every so often there’s a stunning visual moment, such as a sequence filmed through a fish eye lens as Makoto rushes about his day, or a game of catch the goldfish which is captured in an unique way, but the downside it makes you wish the entire film was shot in innovative ways. Meanwhile the songs are a varied bunch, mostly upbeat and perky Japanese pop but there’s the odd ballad too, yet while catchy I didn’t have any desire to own the soundtrack.
It could have benefited from a slightly more complex plot, and the bar owner who fancies him is kind of forgotten about by the end, which makes the inclusion of the storyline somewhat odd, and though the ending works in a certain way it’s not the most satisfying of endings. There’s enough going on here to suggest that director Yukinori Makabe is capable of creating something really special however, and hopefully that will be his next movie.