This is a movie I’ve been anticipating all year, but had zero expectations for. You may ask yourself how? Well, it’s pretty easy. It’s been no secret that Katayose Ryota had been cast for this film, and I immediately put it on my plan to watch list. I didn’t bother reading the source material, or watching any promotional material aside from the odds and ends that ended up on various members of Generations from EXILE TRIBE’s SNS accounts. Nothing more, nothing less.
About the only thing I did to build up hype was planning what date and time to go to the theater. After all, it’s quite the winter trek for me to get to the theaters.
So, let’s talk about the basic premise first. Hanazawa Hinana (Hashimoto Kanna) is your average high school girl, who leads a very common life. She gets good grades, takes care of her younger sister, and is relatively active in school. Hinana has one, tiny secret; she dreams of being swept away by a prince charming like in her romantic black and white films. Due to her position as a student council member, she is asked with the other members to be extras when a movie is being filmed at her school. This is where she truly has her chance encounter with a real prince, Ayase Kaede (Katayose Ryota). However, this prince isn’t as picture perfect as expected, but that doesn’t stop a romance from flourishing.
I gotta say, I was pretty damn blown away from how this film handled it’s plot. All the original instances of slow burn romances started. The way the chance meetings were set up, felt very truly by chance with that shojo charm to them. The impromptu dates and Cinderella moments were straight out of the fairy tales. They really managed to add in that wistful ‘I wish that would happen to me’ flavor. I won’t lie, I daydreamed a bit as I drove home, if I would ever find someone like that to sweep me off my feet.
All the romantic flair of this romance was saddled in a fair amount of reality. There was an age gap, and it’s brought up fairly early on. Ayase is at least 21+ years of age. Hinana is all of sixteen. I had that awkward feeling in my stomach of ‘wow, this film is really well directed and written but this age-gap is incredibly off-putting no matter how you spin it’. However, it’s actually addressed in a factual manner within the story without being forced either.
There was a bit of skirting around the issue though. It was certainly intentionally in production, but in execution is felt totally natural that things don’t really pick up until the very end. Ayase and Hinana’s relationship develops naturally. Hinana is that clueless aside from her romance films on how relationships work. Ayase, who by all means I assumed was going to be a cocky asshat, surprisingly wasn’t.
That’s one of the things that really worked in favor for the series. Hinana is our rather innocent protagonist, but she’s not stupid. She’s well aware the world of difference between her and Ayase in experiance and expectations. She expresses that she has no clue, and earnestly asks about things like properly holding hands. However, she also takes Ayase as he is. She never had time to pay attention to him as a celebrity, so she truly has no notion of his ‘image’. Even in the weirdest moments, Hinana accepts Ayase for who he is, and still wants to be with him.
Ayase’s character works really well around this too. At first he comes off more amused by playing with Hinana and her feelings. He tests her by revealing his butt fetish and that their ‘chance encounter’ was just him looking to get a certain bootiful anime figure. When Hinana point blank says, ‘that’s cool’
(more or less) and keeps it moving you can see he’s genuinely surprised. He tries a few more things, trying to push her away. When none of that works, he realizes Hinana really likes him for him, and not as a celebrity. That’s when he realizes his own feelings for her too.
Of course, there is drama around their relationship. It wouldn’t be a shojo without it, and the supporting cast does a good job balancing the chaos and the support the series needs to run. I won’t say all the ‘obstacles’ of the supporting cast are easily conquered, but are really only fodder to make steamier confessions happen. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of sub-context to Hinana’s character, as well as her familial relationships that are sprinkled in quite naturally. (I believe they’re discussed more in-depth within the manga of course.) Those details managed to come together nicely in the end, a rare moment of all these small moments really did actually cumulate into a cohesive plot point. All in all, the whole film does manage to make a lot happen and have it conclude nicely with that shiny red bow of shojo on top.
(The ending theme from the movie. Of course, sung by GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE.)
I’m sure fans of the manga will have more nit-picks then I, but for once I really don’t care to dive into the negatives. For one, because my main concern and worry was actually addressed really well in the story. For two, because this story did the most important thing a shojo needs to do to be good; make a viewer’s heart flutter.
And flutter my heart did! I was blushing and wishing that I to could have a romance out of a movie! The factor of having what girls dream of happening, even if tried and true troupe-wise, and still having it work makes this film a must-watch for shojo fans. I know I’m already waiting for when I can watch it again!