Ryuji Yamazaki (Hiroshi Abe), an erotic magazine editor, meets a promising photographer, Yoko Tsuzuki (Nao Matsushima). Ryuji got close to her for his project but as her photographic subjects are mostly puddles and artistic, he did not hire her. However, seeing these pictures and the character of Yoko herself heals Ryuji gradually and unconsciously. Soon Ryuji and Yoko encounter again and fall in love. Their happy days seem to last forever. But one spring day, they find out that Yoko’s health is undermined by a serious illness. She has only one more month to live. Ryuji decides to leave everything behind and take Yoko to Nice, where she was longing to visit.
It's an assembly line in the way such films get produced and then rolled off for the consumer market. There's very little to expect given that spoilers get plastered all over the DVD cover art, with words like "heartrending", "last moment" and the extremely descriptive synopsis on the back cover, not to mention tell tale signs in the choice of stills too. So if you intend to be surprised, you're probably going to need to get this DVD while closing your eyes and popping it into the player.
The formula works this way: Take two good looking leads, pair them up as lovers, and throw in an obstruction to threaten the longevity of their love affair. If done right, there will be scores of the sentimental who will reach out for Kleenex, taking pleasure in empathizing with predicament of the characters. Do it wrong, then it's just one of the many unmemorable romantic movies out there trying really hard to strike a chord with the audience, being nothing but a pebble on a beach.
Hiroshe Abe plays Ryuji Yamazaki, a Mr Miserable who broods and broods more as the movie went along. He's an editor for the pornographic magazine Erect, and on the recommendation of one of his cover girls Yuka (Hijiri Kojima), gets introduced to aspiring photographer Yoko (Nao Matsushita). A pretty lass with an artistic eye and love for her subject matter - puddles, she gets turned down for the job, because such a magazine isn't looking for art, but more in-your-face presentation of erotica. As the previous editor puts it, their position in the market is to satisfy their target audience once, then be expected to be thrown away.
That sums up how they meet, and as Fate will have it, they will bump into each other more often in their lives. For Ryuji, his love life is messed up because of his ongoing adulterous affair with his friend's wife, and professionally, he's going through the motions in his job. Upon meeting the new girl in his life, surprisingly he's still quite nonchalant with his feelings, though the narrative decided to move in double quick time to have them move in together and spend numerous set romantic pieces together, ranging from meals at home to having ice cream on a park bench, and who can forget that Christmas presents an excellent opportunity to put everyone in the right mood?
Nao Matsushita is the typical female romantic lead, beautiful but coming with problems. It hinges plenty on her part to make you feel that she's totally falling head over heels with a sourpuss, because the little romantic moments in the narrative doesn't make it too credible. A winning note though is when her character explains her fears, of having nobody remember her and forgotten, a fear which I think will be able to resonate with many. Her photographer character also allows for the filmmakers to showcase some beautiful photographs with puddles as the character's theme, and to use them as a transitional device for the passage of time. They're nice to admire, though also nagging at the thought that the filmmakers found an innovative way to be lazy in translating the novel by Yoshio Osaki for the screen.
If this is your virgin experience in watching a Japanese romantic movie, then you're in for a treat, with plenty of picturesque landscapes to charm you and allow for some wistful and wishful thinking. If you're jaded by too many formulaic films of this nature, then you're likely to not want to waste your time with the same ol'.
This Code 3 DVD contains no bonus features.
The disc’s visual transfer is passable and the soundtrack is presented in its original Japanese language.
Review by Stefan Shih