I’ve braved the theater once again, for the first time in 2021! I mentioned this series as a highly anticipated one, and it did not disappoint. So now, let’s jump into that synopsis and review!
Kida (Iwata Takanori) and Makoto (Mackenyu) have been best friends since childhood, befriending transfer student Yocchi (Yamada Anna) in elementary school. Neither boy has parents, filling the void with each other throughout their childhood into adulthood. At twenty years old, Makoto and Kida have an event that shatters their tiny world. Through a series of twist and turns, Kida and Makoto end up in the underworld of society, Kida as a ‘negotiator’ and Makoto as a trading company’s CEO. Ten years after their tiny world was originally shattered, it’s time to shatter it once more.
Man. Every once in awhile I’ll watch a film and be so impressed by it that I have some difficulties finding the words to review it. The End of the Tiny World (TETW) being the first movie I’ve watched in theaters this year, and given the premise and execution falls into that category. I was almost considering not reviewing it. Sometimes you just want to watch something and enjoy it all on it’s own but… after putting it in an earlier post it feels like a cruel joke to tease something and then not review it.
I have to give TETW a lot of credit in terms of it’s direction. The way the story is set up is non-standard. There’s some creative license of using flash backs, jumping into the present, and introducing certain events in a non-chronological order. There’s a lot of ways that this style of story telling can go wrong, as it can be choppy and incoherent. However, Sato Yuchi the director walked a very fine line and managed to make this story line still coherent and clear, while keeping the viewer engaged. A lot of scenes had enough beats and logical transitions to lend to recounting certain events, and then looping it back to the present without coming off as abrupt or info-dumping.
Additionally, this is the first film in awhile where I actually noticed a reoccurring motif within a film. I’m usually not the type of viewer who picks up such things, usually because I’m busy trying to process the dialogue and action. If I do pick up on such an object it’s usually due to how poorly incorporated the item is since it’s probably a sponsorship item.
In TETW though, the reoccurring motif is a non-branded object, and it’s used throughout the film in different lights. It was utilized in a really smart manner, helping set many scenes and character dynamics. It’s shown for the first time in a flashback, and it showed Kida, Matoko and Yocchi’s group dynamic and subsequently how that would change. By the time we see it for the last time, it’s practically a UFO, breaking the tension in a way where you anticipate it going one way, but completely pivoting opposite.
About the only thing that worked against this film was it’s marketing campaign. One of the big selling points is “you won’t believe the last twenty minutes!” (which is me simplifying the translation by the way). What I think they wanted that part of the campaign to get people into the theater, blow them away with the story, and have them forget that the last 20 minutes are a huge plot twist. Unfortunately for them, having been exposed to this part of their advertisements and it being one of the main points I fully understood, the last twenty minutes didn’t fully blow me away the way I think the film intended to.
This doesn’t mean the twist wasn’t good, or anything like that. The execution was still incredibly satisfactory, as the set up is spectacular, and has some best pay out I’ve experienced in awhile. However, being primed as I was, the idea of the twist got a bit dampened. I understand the hows and why’s they chose this promo strategy, but having two ads, one with the primer and one without probably would have been a better bet in my opinion.
Of course, I can’t not mention Mackenyu and Iwata Takanori. The bromance between these two was off the charts. You’d think these two had acted together before with how well they worked off one another. I have to say I was more then pleasantly surprised by how much Iwata Takanori has improved over his past few roles. The more subtle nuances of his delivery, body language, and overall how he carried the role of ‘Kida’ was really impressive. I can only hope that he continues these types of roles (his role in Living in Your Sky also being a solid showing) have a lot of promise for him maturing beyond a pretty boy character type, and being a very serious and solid actor.
As for MacKenyu, despite him being a pretty big name (some of you might know him from Pacific Rim); I’ve never actually seen any of his projects before. So for TETW being my first exposure to him, I’m genuinely impressed. MacKenyu worked really well off all the other actors and actresses in this film. Balancing the more whimsical elements of the younger more naive Makoto, and then the latter years Makoto which as you can anticipate is much more focused and mature. Comparing how we first see him, and then the ending which trust me you will feel some things by the end, the transformation over the run time was superb.
I normally take hyped actors with a lot of salt, but Mackenyu has proven at least here, that he’s worth it. I’ve very curious given that his current contract with his Japanese company Top Coat ends April 2021, and he’s pivoting towards a global stage once again. So I’ll be keeping tabs if only to see what projects he ends up taking.
Another note, before bringing this particular review to it’s end roll, is that the location choices were top-notch. Unintentional or not, they really did contribute to the idea of ‘the end of the world’ with the more rural locations and open landscapes of Okayama prefecture. The prim and proper locations in the city also contributed to their own sort of sterile ‘end’ as well. I’m a sucker for those types of details, and couldn’t find a different spot to include that detail.
So The End of the Tiny World, is it earth shatteringly good? Deserving of a recommendation for fans of revenge and suspense dramas? Absolutely. Don’t spoil yourself the novel or proper details of the plot, and just dive into the film. It’s totally worth it, and does live up to it’s hype. Although it might be awhile until it’s floating around someone online to view. But with that, I’ll see you next post!