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Koi No Mon is an eccentric romantic comedy. Romantic comedies are predictably rubbish, but this Japanese effort is surprisingly good. The use of vibrant colours, much like Jean-Pierre Jeunet's work (shamelessly ripped off by 'Wacky Show' Pushing Daisies), avoids the pastel shades and dreary atmosphere of the typical English-language RomCom. The acting is, perhaps due to its nationality, much more interesting, and director Suzuki Matsuo (whom you may recognise from Iichi the Killer) does an entertaining job; also appearing as passion-competition Marimoda. Also of note is the abundance of celebrity cameos. One of my favourite Manga authors, Naoki Yamamoto (Believers, Arigatou) makes an appearance, as do legendary anime staffer Hideaki Anno and the world-famous Takeshi Miike.
The plot concerns strangely attractive virgin Manga nerd Mon Aoki and mental CosPlay fanatic Koino Akashi. Mon is a confused artist who is bent on artistic merit over marketability; thus doomed never to achieve Mangaka fame. Koino is just weird, and claims to have made 10 million Yen (something like £100k) with her girlie Manga. The two meet, get drunk and fool about. Mon wakes the next day dressed as a character from Soul Caliber 2 and duly vomits. The rest of the film follows his efforts to succeed at love and Manga.
Deadpan acting and a plethora of Manga jokes makes the film, whilst the jibber-jabber of the love story bobs to the surface only when necessary. RomCom it may be, but it certainly isn't Shōjo (specifically for women and feminine males), so I can forgive it.
The comedy style reflects Hunyunyuu's original Manga and as such is unsurprisingly very Japanese. Comparisons can be made with Naoki Yamamoto's brilliant Dance Till Tomorrow Manga in terms of comedy style, and Mon's house-mates bear some relation to the residents of Rumiko Takahashi's seminal Manga RomCom Maison Ikkoku.
The set-piece song and dance at the end is a mixture of a West-End musical and a YouTube parody, but it all works quite well. Nevertheless, the last two or three scenes did make me feel kind of guilty for enjoying the film at all. The jump from the almost first-person, self-conscious style of storytelling to the misty-eyed dishrag outlook was a bit nauseating. The film purports to not take itself too seriously - there are several references to its own cheesiness - but at times it still feels like a film for flannels. Is that a bad thing? Well, yes. But it's still much, much better than any RomCom Richard Curtis has come out with. Whilst Curtis will pretend until the stupid finale that the happy ending isn't coming, and then make a massive show and dance of the Big Kiss between the Successful Composed Woman and the Total Incompetent Tosser of a love interest, the outcome is always obvious here - what is exciting and entertaining is the decoration of the given plot-path. The relationship of the two leads is typical Manga - head scratching and awkward bumblings on behalf of the virgin male - and is more of a background, perhaps, to the talented storytelling and acting, the cameos and very funny moments. Pretty good.
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