Don’t forget the bokeh and lens flares! – Mune-Kimi (the movie review)

Mune-Kimi or Mune ga naru no wa kimi no sei is a movie that I picked up specifically for the main couple casting. Shirashi Sei as Shinohara Tsukasa, our plucky but innocent lead was already a big draw for me. Coupled with Johnny’s Jr Bishonen member Ukisho Hidaka, as our hot and cold love interest Arima Hayato; I was sold. An added bonus was that there was a pre-film live viewing event with no added cost on my ticket. That meant that I got to see the main cast and director walk out, offer the commentary about the film, answer a few questions, and really get a feel for the cast chemistry off-set. It’s the first time I’ve attended one and it was a lot of fun! So let’s dive into the details of the film itself!

While I didn’t know this at the time, Mune-Kimi is another mid-2010’s shojo that wasn’t particularly memorable but somehow got an adaptation. The story itself, is pretty simple. Arima Hayato (Ukisho Hidaka) transfers to Shinohara Tsukasa’s (Shiraishi Sei) middle school, and Tsukasa nurses a crush on him up through high school. Being that their third year is upon them, Tsukasa still has a crush on Hayato, meanwhile it’s come out that Hayato has a previous girlfriend, Mayu (Hara Nanoka) who wants him back. Whereas Tsukasa is being pursued by the school playboy, Hasebe Yasuhiro (Itagaki Mizuki). High school hijinks ensue of course, in the rated-G shojo sort of way.

I’m going to be very honest and succinct. Much like prior reviewed Mairuvich, there was a reason that Mune-Kimi wasn’t adapted when it was publishing. It’s generic as shojo gets, but at least has the courtesy to not over-stay it’s welcome. In film form, it’s only an hour and forty-four minutes, and as a manga, a mere five volumes with twenty-five chapters. If you ever wanted to capture the essence of generic shojo adaptations; Mune-Kimi is it.

I have to say that Mune-Kimi knew how to chose it’s locations as always. It was very scenic and pretty. The shots were well-framed and executed without too many issues. However, this was marred by the very odd choices of constantly overexposing the backgrounds. It made the film have a forced upbeat nature, even when scenes didn’t call for that. From the locations I’m aware of, most of them would have been naturally well-lit so I’m not sure why that wasn’t utilized.

In addition to this forced positivity was the constant use of bokeh, and lens flares in the corners of many scenes. Once or twice would have been alright, and a few times it did really enhance the action occurring giving it that high-school brand of sweetness. However, it made a lot more scenes come across as mixed mood. The biggest one being a confrontation between Tsukasa and Mayu which should have had a fairly serious tone to it. This was obstructed by the constant lens flare, that didn’t match the natural lighting of the scene and just came off as completely odd.

My final moment of confusion is what happened with Tsukasa and Yasuhiro at the beach. The whole film is all about the bokeh, lens flare, overexposed backgrounds whereas the scene between these two looks like they threw a sepia tone on it? It was that, or something happened in the editing room because the quality of this scene took a huge dip. It doesn’t help that this scene is one that establishes the duo’s future dynamics. I had to double blink to make sure my contacts hadn’t slipped out of place or something. It was a huge oversight on the editing team’s part, and the first time in a very long time I’ve seen something like that happen in a theatrical release.

These errors in techniques, does not mean that Mune-Kimi is all bad. I actually liked how the opening of the film, and the ended scene mirrored one another. It was a really cute touch that made the film have a nice book-ended effect to hold it together. Couple with that within the first ten minutes of the film, Tsukasa confesses to Hayato and gets rejected. It really shows that she has some backbone to her, especially since she really did follow through with maintaining a relatively normal friendship with Hayato after. Similarly, I appreciate that she doesn’t force her affection on him, but acknowledges she’s still allowed to like him despite his rejection.

A lot of that rests on the shoulders of Shiraishi Sei, who really carried this story. I’m incredibly biased since she gets very hit or miss roles, but here it was a hit. I liked the nuances in her facial expressions, there was a clear difference between how she reacted to Hayato verses Yasuhiro. She took the time to make all her reactions natural looking, with just a little pinch of that shojo flair to it. It was a really nice touch that the costume department really hit the 2010’s make-up and outfits out of the park too.

Sei was complimented incredibly well by the supporting cast of Itagaki Mizuki as Yasuhiro and Hara Nanoka as Mayu. Mizuki really embodied that in-different playboy type, with natural ease. Yet, you could really see the difference between how Yasuhiro treated Mayu, verses his ‘girls who are friends’ and then Tsukasa, everything from facial expressions, word choices, and especially body language. This was complimented by the two-faced nature of Mayu, who while never outward cruel to anyone, clearly lays out her goals and reminds Tsukasa not to get in her way. I have never seen Hara Nanoka prior to this role, but she shows a lot of promise here where I’ll be on the look out for her in the future.

All this however, does not cover for the fact that Ukisho Hideka, had a very underwhelming performance. I say this as someone who loved his character and performance in last year’s Manatsu no Shonen. It was because of that very role why I even made the trek to see this in theaters. I have to say a lot of this is chalked up to his lack of experience in comparison to all the other actors on set, and most likely poor writing. Hayato has an un-even duality that’s never really elaborated on. He’s Mr. Popular in one scene, getting along great with Tsukasa and friends. The very next scene he will be cold and stand-offish, and even oddly violent for a non-yankee character. He has several scenes where he punches a few different characters, not without reason or breaking the narrative but oddly excessive for a shojo. Nonetheless, Hayato was a very underdeveloped character, portrayed by a rather inexperienced actor. Overall I can’t think of many ways this could have been fixed aside from re-writing certain scenes and re-casting Hayato entirely.

All that aside, the biggest problem was the lack of sizzle between Hayato and Tsukasa when it counted. By counted, I mean the kiss scene of course.

I have to say, that I usually don’t make a big deal about kiss scenes in shojo adaptions for a lot of reasons. The first is the majority of them are aimed at a pre-teen/teen audience so they’re suppose to reek of first love and all that. Secondly, I just don’t place a ton of value in them because of my personal relationship with expressing affection. But when the kiss scene between Tsukasa and Yasuhiro has more spark then the penultimate scene where Tsukasa and Hayato kiss; we have a problem. Which sucks, because Hayato and Tsukasa, despite Hayato’s writing, were set up to have a lot of on screen chemistry. Everything was there to lead up to the moment, especially since this is supposedly the entire pay-off the viewers have been waiting for, that just ends with a thud rather then a bang.

For my final thoughts how does Mune-Kimi stack up as a shojo live-action flick? Well, it’s absolutely the most genric and super-filtered production I’ve seen this year. By no means is it bad, or unwatchable despite my prior remarks, but it’s certainly nothing special. At best, those who are fans of the manga might rejoice in seeing it in motion, coupled with those who are fans of the particular actors or actresses featured. Something to pass the time, but not something you’ll strongly recall. With that I’ll see you next post!


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