I recently found myself intrigued to re-watch something I hadn’t seen in years: Koizora. I’d only seen it the once, and it had been long enough that I’d forgotten most of what happened in it. I recalled enjoying it the first time, so why not give it another spin?
From the get-go, I could tell what kind of film this would be based on the music played and the opening narration given by our protagonist as she begins to reminisce of her first love; this was going to be a somewhat boring film aimed at girls who were in their early teens, with a sad love story but a hopeful ending. I’m not quite sure how, but I’ve found myself to unfortunately watch far too many of these types of films over the years. I kid you not, they all use the same kind of opening music.
There’s a few things about this film that gave me the feeling early on that this was likely an adaptation of a shoujo manga (shoujo being manga and anime that is typically aimed at a female demographic – especially of young girls up to their late teens; a lot are high school based and are most often about unrealistic relationships); the way he returns her lost phone is by putting it on a shelf in the library, saving her phone number and calling her while she’s looking for her phone, only to find that he’s deleted all her contacts because “if someone cares enough, they’ll call you”; the fact that she’s completely okay with him doing this, as well as keeping his identity a secret from her for, what we can presume is, at least a handful of months; any character that isn’t interested in dating is unimportant, in both her friendships and family life – anyone who isn’t looking for or in a relationship isn’t important enough for the viewers to see much of, if more than once; the fact that Hiro, the male lead, has white hair and nobody addresses it at any time. That last point also ties into the fact that the character’s designs are all styled very typically to how teenage manga characters are usually portrayed, from the main characters to their families and friends. No one else is important. That’s why they don’t have cool hair styles.
Because of this suspicion, that I couldn’t let go of throughout the whole feature, as there were too many signs that this was trying to look as closely to a shoujo manga as possible, I decided to have a look when it was over. Sure enough, I was right.
That explains a lot.
While I do enjoy my fair share of shoujo from time-to-time, there are a lot of tropes within it – especially high school based romance series – that I find very off putting, as they’re either too unrealistic or uncomfortable to read. As the base for a lot of these series is to allow the female audience to engulf themselves in a fantasy of “the perfect guy” (because, unfortunately, we still live in a world where almost all media aimed at children and teens tells them that they should be heterosexual), the story usually revolves around the guy whisking the girl off her feet (if not the whole way through, then definitely for at least half, and then again towards the end when they make up), another guy will become involved – whether there’s a love triangle and the protagonist has to choose, or is another guy is simply also interested and won’t leave her alone, or because the protagonist and the main guy break up for a while. The last trait is that it’s always summed up as being a positive ending. Always.
This film (and, of course, it’s manga counterpart) is no exception to this. Because the audience is made to want what the male character has to offer, he has to be made to be every idealistic thing that most teenage girls want. If you’re anything but the main demographic for this film, though, it’s very apparent how unrealistic this is, to the point where it’s almost bothersome. Don’t get me wrong, this is shown a lot in Western media that’s aimed at teenage girls, too (example, the Twilight (2008) saga), but it doesn’t seem to be close to the extent that Japanese comics and series take it to.
While I can’t blame the writers of the film for rushing parts of it, as they’re trying to fit 10 books worth of story into a 2 hour segment, and the whole story takes place over 3 and a half years of her life, it is a little off-putting to have 2 years of our protagonist’s life shown in only 20-25 minutes (as they only show us 2 scenes from each of those years). While it’s clear that the most important part of the story is Mika’s first year knowing Hiro (as this is when they’re initially dating), I think it’s undeniably difficult to become invested in a character who’s personality is rather flaccid, and we very quickly jump over a lot of time periods in her life. If they’d just decided which parts of her school and university years were most important and then focussed solely on those, rather than trying to squish in as much in the time they have, then I’d be able to care more about each of the characters a lot more. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue with a film adaptation of a book(s), and I’m sure it won’t be the last – much to my dismay.
I feel a little mixed about what I should really focus on in regards to the acting. Should I praise it for being good as far as manga adaptations go, or should I disregard that? With anime/manga adaptations (being notoriously bad) aside, the acting is honestly nothing to write home about. I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse, and I’m not going out of my way to watch anything else that any of them have been in. There are times where it’s unbelievable – like when (spoiler) Hiro’s ex hires people to rape Mika, I found the performance from both actors to be highly underwhelming when she tells Hiro considering what I huge and unfortunate situation that is. There’s a couple other times when the performance is a little underwhelming when something unfortunate happens, but otherwise I have no complaints.
All in all, it was a bothersome movie that was frustratingly unrealistic, but has it’s own target audience that it could easily cater for. If you have a friend or family member who is a girl that is between the ages of 10 – 14 then it’s worth sending their way to check out, but otherwise I’d advise you don’t bother.