Well folks, it happened. I actually read some of the source material before seeing a live action adaptation for a shojo manga. If you’re curious what I thought about the manga be sure to check out my thoughts here. Between the dubious plot, and my favorite being cast as the male lead I had to see this the day it came out! Keeping my expectations low I still walked out a bit conflicted about this one.
Before that though, a quick run-down about My Boyfriend in Orange (MBIO) the movie. Moe (Nukumi Neru) has moved to her mother’s hometown after the death of her father. She’s about to start smoking on the rooftop at school, unaccounted for when she’s rescued by Ebihara Kyosuke (Iwamoto Hikaru) during a fire drill. This event might not be completely mortifying though as Moe gains the courage to step out of her shell, and even fall in love?!
Despite the still flimsy premise, this adaptation actually did a lot of things right at first glance. It did not re-harsh the entire manga chronologically, beat for beat – which is a huge plus in my book. They took the best and most relevant moments from the beginning six or so chapters, and then worked in some latter details. I think this was mostly done to bring in Himeno Kousei (Suzuki Jin)’s character so there would be a bit more of a flame under Ebihara’s ass to make progress with Moe. There was a lot of in-between fodder specifically with Sayumi and Moe that was pretty eh, but overall a lot better then I anticipated.
In terms of technicalities, to my knowledge MBIO did go on location to the Utsunomiya fire station as stated in the movie’s pamphlet. I would assume they had the actual fire fighters and associated parties on hand to make sure that the drills, training, etc was accurate as well. I mean the cast even did a fire fighting educational but also PR event before the film released so that’s something.
I also really appreciated that the film committed to a more orange based color palette. It’s a bit of a bare minimum thing to do with a movie like this, but it really worked out well in terms of cinematography and a framing device. The sound track wasn’t remarkable per say, but at least it didn’t interfere with any major dialogue. MBIO also understood the importance of letting some scene breathe and not have music playing the entire time.
There were a lot of things that did bring it down a bit. Some of the scenes with the fire fighters, specifically with the re-written river scene was absolutely ludicrous. I get that fire fighters do in some ways act differently then a civilian but the levels of “Kowalski analysis” they ventured into was too much at times. It was funny to me, but clearly wasn’t meant to be the comedy of the film. The ending was also all levels of bombastic and so absurd that I couldn’t stop myself from chuckling a bit. This is the first time in awhile that I could clearly tell that at least Meru was using artificial tears – it’s not a bad thing it just was obvious to me.
Also, I have to give MBIO some credit back since it seems to be the only self aware shojo as of late. The movie commented naturally at several points that Moe wasn’t wrong for having feelings, but that the age gap is just a bit too large. It still didn’t have Moe pursue someone more appropriate, but at least Ebihara is conflicted due this. However given the manga isn’t finished and the movie is… you can anticipate what a shojo like this created for the ending.
Now for acting-wise this was very much a well casted film, but it’s not one that’s really flexing any technical skills. For an Iwamoto Hikaru fan like me, it was chock full of fan service moments showing Hikaru at his best – flexing, literally. There was a shower scene of course, three different work out montages, and even one workout where his kouhai in film and real life Kojima Genki (Ukisho Hidaka) was remarking how cool and manly he was.
Outside of fan service, I have to admit that Kyosuke as a character doesn’t have a lot to build off of. He’s a hardworking manly man, whose emotionally constipated from previous trauma that he doesn’t share with Moe. He did have more emotional pay out then I got from the manga, and I thought Hikaru did really well in those scenes. However, when you’re aware just how much the actor and character have common it’s a little less satisfactory. I could see someone less familiar with Hikaru being impressed though. It was a good choice casting wise to give such a quickly produced film to be more tolerable, but not one that really showed any technical strengths or weaknesses of Hikaru’s acting.
As for Nekumi Meru as Moe, I am doing my best to check a lot of internalized misogyny at the door and make my inner over-protective fangirl of Snow Man back off. Acknowledging those feeling and moving forward, I’m still coming up with a bit of a wash for her performance. This is her first movie as the main character, and only the third production she’s ever been in. Nekumi Meru certainly looks like Moe physically, so that’s a plus.
The film did give Meru a leg up, as they established a stronger personality for Moe from the beginning. Where the manga Moe was one-dimensional and flat, movie Moe is a lot more awkward but earnest in her endeavors. This was highlighted by how she ended up befriending Sayumi, and a lot of her gestures being over-the-top awkward. The way she would kind of tap/hop around Kyosuke at times, and the hugs being very one-sided in delivery, was used consistently to convey this. Which overall proved to be a solid choice. Moe as a character isn’t exactly one you can do much with, so Nekumi Meru had an acceptable performance here.
Overall, I’ll be honest here – I saw this for Hikaru, got a lot out of Hikaru’s fan service, so I am more then happy with my viewing experiance. Looking at this more technically speaking, this is another par for the course hodge-podged together shojo live action film. It’s meant for fans of either the story, or a particular actor, and not really anyone else. So in the grand scheme of things, an easy skip for most, or a decent time filler for someone looking for a light watch.